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Archive for July, 2014

This is the first post in a series, about a woman named Amara. It started as an idea for a short story, and it grew as I grew to love this fictional character. There are 20 parts on my site (linked at the bottom of each segment). This summer I have been re-posting from my first year of blogging, so as to avail my writing time to working on the completion of this story, hopefully in book form. I’d love to know what you think.
CW

As Amara sat behind the steering wheel of her car she got increasingly frustrated.

She looked around her empty front passenger seat for clues as to why she might have driven to this professional building, in the middle of her small town. She could not remember why she drove there, all that she could remember was steering her Oldsmobile into this parking lot. It was as if in turning her wheels towards the lot, her purpose for being there had disappeared completely from her memory.

She tried to look around, hoping to see if something around her might twig her memory as to why she had driven there. Nothing sparked her memory.

Maybe if she retraced her steps, but all she could remember was the moment her front tires turned into this parking lot. ‘Oh, what is happening to me? I cannot even remember any other part of my day, and here it is already eleven in the morning!’ The last thing that Amara could remember was climbing into her bed the night before.

That memory was vivid. The striped bedsheets had felt cool on her skin, as she had climbed into her side of the bed. Her side of the bed … after almost ten years of living without him, she still had her own side of the bed. She started every night there, and she would awaken in the morning, never having passed the invisible center line of the mattress. Once, having given herself a talking to, she purposefully lay in the very middle of the bed … and awoke the next morning where she always awoke, on her side of the bed.

As she pondered thoughts of him Amara’s anxious heart ached for his presence, for his companionship, for his wisdom and laughter in frustrating circumstances like this one. He had a way of seeing a lighter side to the tough stuff of life, and he had a way of lightening any anxiety that she was feeling.

But, he was not here with her, and Amara sat feeling more and more frightened. She wanted to let the tears that were filling her eyes fall down her cheeks, but that would be ludicrous for a woman of seventy-two crying like a baby where anyone could see her.

There must be a sensible reason for this odd bout of forgetfulness …

Unfading – Part 2

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*This is a post from three years ago, but it is one that is relevant to ‘swim families’ past, present and future. I miss such regular reminders of grace and love that swim people show.

Well, like a bowl of bad clams (I just love this saying) we’re back! Back to what? Early morning practices, afternoon practices, wet towels, broken goggles, last spring (where I live there has been little ‘spring’ anyway) and summer weekends … SWIM CLUB.

About nine years ago, our family entered the world of competitive swimming, through our oldest daughter, then nine. With the exception of a year, SHE has been part of the speed swimming community, as a swimmer, and as a coach. Her younger sister, took a longer hiatus … about four years. But she’s back … therefore WE are back.

I was rudely reminded of what I haven’t been missing on Saturday morning, when my alarm went off at 6am … I was so hoping it was just a bad dream! And, really we were lucky … it could have been (and will be in the weeks to come) earlier … much earlier!

So, off we went, for her 7:10am warm-ups! (Yikes, throw me into a swimming pool at that hour and ‘cool down’ might be a more accurate reflection of what I’d be feeling). I drop her off, and go in search of swim meet survival tactic #1 … coffee! And once that essential need is met, I am ready to cheer, towel off, and sign up for timing races (this has two benefits .. one is it makes the time go faster, and two is it gets you involved).

The meet begins … late (I sometimes have thought that is part of the meet … starting late), and the first race is IM (Individual Medley). Now in IM there are four strokes that are to be done in a particular order, and this is how I was taught the order … butter (butterfly) your back (backstroke), your breast (breast stroke) is free (freestyle, or front crawl, for those who are old like me). So, depending on whether it is 100m (one lap for each stroke), or 200m (two laps for each stroke), the number of swimmers, and the age of the swimmer (could be as young as six years old), this race takes a long time.

There was one heat that reminded me of why I love swim club. There were boys swimming the IM, and they were about thirteen years old. When the second to last swimmer touched the pad, to complete his race, there was still one swimmer left slogging away. And he was only halfway through backstroke! So we watched, and we waited …

Watching him swim was … painful! My first thoughts were, ‘he must be a new swimmer … poor guy … how humiliating.’ But then, as I watched his arms and legs flail (and I do mean flail), I recognized how VERY uncoordinated his movements were, and I wondered, if the boy struggling in the pool (with all his might, I might add) might be one with a disability.

Then … it happened … the thing that happens at EVERY swim meet I have ever attended, when a particularly slower swimmer is coming to their finish … the crowd began to cheer. No, the crowd began to chant … his name. The building was booming with the chant of this boys name, over and over … to the finish. The crowd of family and friends and strangers, his teammates and all the team, the officials … everyone in the building was chanting and cheering him on. When he finally touched the pad, you would have thought that Michael Phelps had just broken another world record! The smile on his face said that he felt as though he had just broken a world record (and that he had given it his all). Fellow swimmers were giving him high five, and patting him on the back.

I spoke to the mom of this boy, later in the day. Indeed, he was new to competitive swimming, and indeed he lives (and she, who lives with him) with asperger syndrome. He told me he loves swimming, as he headed off to marshalling for his next race.

It was all worth the early morning practices, afternoon practices, wet towels, broken goggles, lost spring and summer weekends … just to have that taste of being part of the lives of others who struggle … not that we all share the same struggles, but that we are all struggling to give it our all.

And that boy, and all cheering him on that day, gave it their all!

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I know I experience beauty.

I know I experienced joy.

I know I experienced peacefulness.

And, I KNOW I experienced … WONDER.

I know this from a day off I had one spring day. It was on my favorite trail, with my favorite beast (next to hubby), on a SUNNY day (I got a tan … I was beginning to think I would turn green with mold, before I would turn golden brown), enjoying every step I took.

And I really mean that I was enjoying every step I took. Now, most of the time, my walks are walks with a purpose (jiggle the cellulite into submission), but this particular day, I felt compelled, no, insisted upon, by someone much greater, to just enjoy the journey … and so I did. And it was wonderfilled!

There was the dandelion, gone to seed …

How is it that something that, when in flower, can cause me such frustration on my own lawn (and disaster once it’s gone to seed on my lawn), can bring me back to sunny childhood days, when future planning, and dreaming was only a breath away?

Or the tree, bent over right to the ground …

How could such a strong and beautifully created thing, looking so hopeless, from the strong winds of life, still live, and show signs not just of blossoms, but of new life in it’s leaves?

Or the bright, beautiful blackberry blossoms …

How could something so beautiful, so eye-catching (and foretelling of the juicy, sweet berries to come) also be so damaging to the wetlands, to other plants and trees, to streams that it’s ‘mother plant’ drinks dry?

Or the beaver …

How could such a visually adorable, brilliant builder, who really knows how to sink his teeth into his work, be so destructive to forests?

I learned that day that things are not always what they seem. That beauty and evil can be in the same place. That blessing and curse can be wrapped up in the same package. And, maybe even, that good can even come from something that also is, or seems to be, evil.

Ah, so much to wonder …

“I wonder,

as I wander,

                                                                       out under the sky”

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Well this has been more difficult than I had counted on, when I first embarked on a five part series called ‘what women want’. So … if I, as a woman, struggle to know what it is that women desire most, maybe it is unfair to expect that mere men would know what we want.

To recap my five part series, what women want is …

– to be known

– to be pursued

– to be loved … and told so

– walk in my shoes … to be understood

– forever … happily ever after

Really aren’t all of those things desired, yearned for, wanted by men as well? Although it might be easy to write off all males in the stereotype of all they want is sex (and there are a few who fit that box … as there are women, who also fit into that box). I believe that the majority of men do want what women want.

For anyone, to be known (as in knowing HIS most desired success, or knowing HER greatest fear) is something that can only come from being a student of that person. To be truly known does not happen because a person ‘advertises’ his or her deepest desires, it is instead, the one person studying the other so consciously that they can know intimacy with the other.

To be pursued, although I do believe that men are more naturally the ‘pursuer’, is something that both sexes respond positively to. Ladies, send your guy a suggestive text message, one day he is out (at work, at ‘the game’, at a meeting, with the guys), and just see how well he responds to being pursued … just sayin’!

I love you is a non-gender-specific phrase! It can be said by both women AND men. Now, I expect it might be ‘easier’ for women to say (maybe because we often ‘give’ to others what we desire to receive) … but guys, we need to hear it! And ladies, you are so not on easy street yet … try a new variation of ‘I love you’ to your sweetie … try saying ‘I so respect you when/for/because …’ For a man to hear that he is respected, is probably the equivalent to a women hearing ‘I love you when/for/because …’

So her shoes have pointy toes, and high heels (which you guys so love I’ve heard, because of how it makes the female leg look) … walk in those pretty babies … So his shoes … STINK … ladies, you will never fully understand why they are in the shape they are, if you don’t get to know how your own feet feel in them! Really ladies, that sullen, wordless, grumpy, male that walks in your door tonight might have had struggles and problems (or maybe he’s happy … TOO HAPPY for you at that moment … maybe he’s experienced the greatest successes, passed the greatest tests) that he will never open up and tell you like YOUR girlfriend would. If you don’t know the details (and oh, how we women love the details) of why he is the way he is, try to understand how you might want to be received if you’ve had ‘a day’. Put those over-sized, smelly shoes on your feet, and start sharing his burdens and joys.

Happily ever after … nope, I’ve never heard a male EVER say, hint or insinuate that he desired that! But the security of a mutually beneficial, mutually loving, mutually cared for relationship … where HE can be the HERO, the STUD MUFFIN, the MAN … now that is something a man could want. But for him to be all of that means that … we (gulp) women need to make sure he is feeling like ‘the MAN’ … and that responsibility, ladies, is on our shoulders. Sure we appreciate what our guys do for us … but do we tell them? Do we sing their praises? Do we pump up their egos? Ladies, if we want happily ever after, we need to communicate that forever with us is not a life sentence, but a lifetime achievement award … and that winning it requires the concerted efforts of two!

And that is really what it comes down to … two very different (often very opposite) individuals, who express themselves, and their needs in very different languages trying to find a place, somewhere in the middle, where both persons needs and wants and desires can all be met. It is a juggling act … and one that (from my pointy-toed shoes) seems to be an awful lot of effort, with no guarantees of success. But, I am confident that when the efforts are coming from both side, eventually they meet somewhere in the middle. And a brand new (often far better than ever dreamed or imagined) entity is formed … and it is good!

And that is what women AND men want …

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Feeling hungry?

This post actually has nothing to do with donuts.

This past weekend I was introduced to a music video that caught my eye and my imagination.

I will leave the video with you, to see if it catches your attention too.

She also did another video of the same song … I just couldn’t choose between them.

“We are not alone with our insecurities”
Colbie Caillat

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Feeling the Heat

Summer has certainly arrived in my North-West Pacific neck of the woods, with hot, hot days and warm nights. I love the heat, but I surely do appreciate a break from it by entering an air conditioned home, an iced drink, or a swim in a pool.

We can all have times of seeking a break from heat, and sometimes it is not the sun, but the difficulties, struggles and problems in our lives that make life unbearable.

In those times we often cry out for refreshment, for relief. Sometimes it comes, and sometimes the heat intensifies.

Recently I was reading a post by Ruth Meyer at wwww.truthnotes.net that spoke of the experience of being in the heat of struggle, and I loved her words.

“Last week one of our lessons for the children’s Bible story time during day camp was the Fiery Furnace. You know the story well- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue, a “crime” which was punishable by death in a fiery furnace. So the three were bound and thrown into the furnace, but God saved them by sending “the angel of the Lord” into their midst, so that not one of their hairs was singed. It’s a wonderful account, one that most of us learned in Sunday school, but this time around what struck me the most about it was the response the three friends gave to the king before they were thrown into the fire. “We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18, italics mine).

Even if he does not. Think about the full impact of those words. What are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego saying? “We know God can save us, but even if he doesn’t, we won’t turn away from Him.” That’s faith, my friends. Faith trusts God no matter what trials you face. These men were literally facing the prospect of death. I may have faced some tough times in my life, but I’ve never been threatened with death for my faith in God. These men were thrown into a blazing furnace for their faith, but they did not recant. And as hard as it may be to hear, there are times when it isn’t God’s will to rescue His people from suffering or death. Many of the apostles were martyred for their faith, and that fact stands as a clear testimony and encouragement to believers today who are persecuted for their faith. God doesn’t promise that He will swoop in and save us from the trials we face in this life. He doesn’t promise us a “happily ever after” on this earth. He doesn’t tell us that if we’re faithful enough, we will be free from worries. But He does promise to walk through it all with us.

So what is your “fiery furnace?” From what do you wish God to deliver you? Perhaps you are experiencing sickness or disease. Maybe you grapple with unemployment or underemployment. Perhaps you’re struggling with a bad relationship or divorce. Depression, anxiety, a rebellious child, bad finances- any of these things can seem overwhelming and lead us to despair. We beg God to deliver us and set things right. And He may do just that. In His own time and His own way, for His reasoning, perhaps He will deliver you as He did Job. But then again, maybe He won’t. Again, for His own purposes and reasoning, maybe it’s better for you not to be delivered. Maybe someone is watching your situation and will be more impacted by a persevering faith through trial than they would be if you were simply delivered from it all.

Maybe you need to be an encouragement to someone in similar circumstances. And it’s likely that no matter what the reason, you may never even know why you need to endure the trials you face. But take heart. Even if God chooses not to deliver you from your earthly trials, there is a much greater deliverance in store for you in heaven, and that can never be taken away. James 1:12 reminds us of that wonderful promise. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” That’s a promise that will be yours in heaven, dear Christian. You can count on it.”

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With summer comes more time together as a family.20140706-071526-26126090.jpg

It is in this season that our school-aged children get to see us more frequently. what do they see?

Years ago, when my children were … children, I had great power! Words I said would be parroted back from their mouths. Things I did became part of how they played house, built towers or treated their friends.

Now, as a mom with a household of teens and young adults, I do not expect my children to mimic me at all. They are all very independent thinkers, and I am a mere mother.

Mark Twain said, “when I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

But, our teens and young adults still watch, still listen to us, and we are still role models … good and bad … for our kids in their lives.

Recently, while reading a post by Ruth Meyer (at TruthNotes) called Copycats, I was reminded again how we are, indeed, role models for our children … at any age, and what a role model we have.

Enjoy her take on the topic of Copycats.

“I’ve seen a few billboards around town that start with the words, “They learn from watching you.”  One such billboard goes on to say, “Eat more fruits and veggies and they will too!’  Another says, “Be active and they will too!”  The point is that your kids are watching you, and what you model for them in your behavior is what they will mimic.  I would add another sign- “Live your faith and they will too.”  If modeling exercise and good eating habits is important to their well being, how much more so is modeling for them an enduring faith.  When it comes to faith, it’s not enough to bring them to church here and there.  It’s not even enough to send them to a parochial school and assume they’re getting all they need from their instruction there.  No, they learn from watching you.

 

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Happily Ever After …

That is what women want.

There is an image (just to the left) that is so representative of that to me. When hubby and I were planning our wedding, we would dream of the future (how is it that it is so easy to dream of the future before you are married, and so easy to dream of the past after you are married?). One of the ways we would speak of the future was when we would talk about many, many years off into the future, when we would sit in our rocking chairs on our front porch … and just sit … and rock … together.

It was the sweetest dream. It was OUR dream, and one that spoke of commitment, of a future of forever together. It said, of both of us, ‘I’ll be here forever,’ and ‘I’ll never leave you.’

Although it might drive young single men nuts, though it might go against our human natures, the stability of forever is what women want. But I’m not talking a ‘life sentence’, I am talking happily ever after.

If there is a ‘face’ of romantic … it’s a female face. I believe it is partly in our nature, but nurture does add to it, as well. We females are ‘fed’ romance and forever, from a young age. But, really, we can’t just blame Disney for force-feeding it to us. Reality is, Disney wouldn’t have made money off of their Princesses, if their customers were not willing to pay for it. And the reason their customers are willing to pay for it? We want it! And we want it, because somewhere, within our DNA we WANT ‘happily ever after. Heck, the picture to the right from the Cinderella book version I grew up with. And that picture, not the ones of her wedding, not the ones of her dancing at the ball, but this last picture in the book, under which, the only words written were “… and they lived Happily Ever After,” was my childhood dream.

That dream was about forever, but it was more. It was the dream the love does not fade, or disappear, or die. It was the dream that the ‘prince’ who would earn my heart … would never break it. And, I don’t think I am just speaking for me, but for all women, when I say our greatest fear is that we will have been wrong, and we will have given parts of ourselves away to one not committed to forever.

Recently, I read these words of a heartbroken, hope vanished, dream stolen woman …

“You broke my heart,

but even worse than that

your actions blew out the last light of hope

for a girls dream of happily ever after.”

She was in mourning. In mourning for the future, that she had dreamed of all her life, of the future that her parents had dreamed for her, of the future that even God dreamed for her. She could, eventually, forgive the one who had blown out the candle of her dreams, and hopes, but the scars left behind would never allow her to forget. Forget the hurt, forget the loss. She would never hear of a 50th, or 60th wedding anniversary and not feel the tugs on her heart, that she would never see, and experience in the joy of such a celebration.

In the safety of forever, women can give wholly of themselves to another. In the security of forever, women can be confident of today, and tomorrow. In the permanence of forever, women are never alone. In the intimacy of forever, women can continue to dream. In forever love, we can do anything we want it to … even create miracles.

Women want forever … happily ever after …

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Women and footwear … they go together like peanut butter and jam! Of course some of us have far more footwear than others. I wonder if skinny women have less footwear? I mean, when I am shopping, but having a ‘fat’ day, I buy shoes … they always fit! But, I digress …

Our footwear tells us so much about ourselves … not the pretty top part of our shoes, but the soles. The pretty part, on top (and I have to say that even my Nike running shoes … that never get to run … are quite beautiful to my eyes, because of the miles of walking and meditating that they represent) is all about the looks, the appearance, the ‘outer’ part. But it is the soles that reveal where we have been, the miles of effort, the wear and tear of life.

There are guy shoes, and girl shoes.

I don’t know about you, but one thing that is not appealing to me is wearing the footwear of someone else. This is ‘not right’ to me, next to using the toothbrush of someone else. And so, for me, to walked a mile in the moccasins of another person is not an easy, or natural action.

But folks, it’s time to do some shoe exchanging, in the quest for what women want!

Three years ago the latest Royal Wedding occurred, full of pomp and splendor. It was a highly anticipated event, with the world watching, as a young couple declared their vows … to love, comfort, honor and keep in sickness and in health.

Man, did I not know what I was vowing, many years ago, when I promised those same things. When my hubby is bent over the porcelain god, and the entire house reverberates with his moans, screeches and other … noises, putting myself in his shoes is not my first response! My first response is to shut the door to the bathroom (after throwing a towel at him … from afar), and hide my head under my pillow, to muffle his ghastly noises. But, I digress … again.

One of the best ‘mistakes’ my husband ever did, when our kids were younger, was to ask me what I wanted for my birthday (for a man to ask this, is similar to a man asking for directions, asking for help …). I told him … ‘an entire day to myself’, and that is what I got. I awoke before anyone else (that was very early, because the kids were very young), dressed, and left … and didn’t return again until I was certain that the kids were asleep that night. It was a beautiful thing! I shopped, I had coffee, I walked, I read … I did only what I wanted to do.

The ‘mistake’ of it was that I loved it so much, I did it again at Mother’s Day, and then started doing it once a season. But, it wasn’t just me going that was beneficial, it was hubby staying. While I was off having fun, he was home, walking in my moccasins. He changed diapers, wiped noses, refereed fights, read stories, made meals (NOT! But he did take them out to McDonalds, or for pizza) … he walked where few MEN have walked before … in his wife’s shoes!

What do women want? We want to know, that our husband, our significant ‘other’, can understand what demands are on her day. We want to know that he is really ‘getting it’ when we are frustrated, or sad, or happy, or crying (because we are frustrated, sad, or happy … or all three). We want to know that he ‘gets it’ in regards to what we do, everyday, for others. Not because it is in our job (that we get paid for) description, but because it is in our nature to nurture and give to others … and, sometimes that leaves us on empty, with no refill in sight.

“Walk a mile in my shoes
just walk a mile in my shoes
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Then walk a mile in my shoes”

Elvis Presley “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”

What Women Want Part 5 of 5

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There are so many ways to say, I love you. So many opportunities to say, I love you. There are verbal and non-verbal ways to communicate … I love you.

The way you communicate ‘I love you’ is not so important, as long as the woman you are communicating it to ‘hears’ what you are communicating. For Buttercup, ‘as you wish’, were just the appropriate words of her Farm Boy, Wesley … until she realized that when he said those words with his mouth, his heart was saying ‘I love you’. Until she ‘heard’ his heart, he was her servant. Once she ‘heard’ his heart, her heart began to beat differently, more intentionally … she began to feel love for Wesley as well, and he was no longer just her farm boy.

That’s kind of like marriage, in reverse. In the beginning, ‘I love you’ is communicated openly, freely, regularly. It is heard from both sides, and you see each other as friend, confidant and lover. Over time, the two parties ‘forget’ to communicate with their hearts, and the person to whom they are most affectionate, becomes ‘my spouse’. And even when the words ‘I love you’ are spoken, they no longer dance in our ears, and in our hearts, as an earthly gift of wonder.

It reminds me of the story of the man, who, after many years of marriage, was asked by his wife ‘why don’t you say I love you anymore?’ To which he replied, ‘I said I love you once, and if it ever changes I’ll let you know’? This, I can assure you, is NOT what women want!

Women NEED to have ‘I love you’, communicated to them. It is the emotional equivalent to our physical need of water (I might add hugs too). It is the last words I say to my parents when we say good-bye on the phone, it is the last words I say when I am tucking my kids in at night. If I could hope for three last words to hear, before I leave this earth, from someone whose mouth they are safe in, it would be ‘I love you’.

When speaking of, not just what a woman wants, but also her needs, I love you is even Biblical!

“Husbands, love your wives,

just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

and to present her to himself as a radiant church,

without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Ephesians 5:25-27

Hum, last line makes me wonder … if, as women, we get wrinkles and blemishes is it because our hubby hasn’t loved us enough? Just a thought to ponder … I cannot quite see a group of theologians sitting around a table discussing this, but, heck, maybe they should! Maybe we wives get old-looking because we have not be cleansed by hubby’s love, and washed by his affections (I never had wrinkles before I got married … of course I was only 20, when I did get married). And, lets face it that whole cleansing and washing has a delightfully erotic sound to it … but, I DEFINITELY digress!

It is a husbands duty to love his wife. And this love is not some light-weight love, like “I love coffee”, or “I love my dog”, or “I love the Leafs” (not necessarily me, but someone in my home), or “I love the sunshine” (more sincere words have never been spoken, by these lips). No, this love is compared to how Christ loves the church, and gave himself up for her … you know, on the cross … Christ died for the church that He loves so much.

Women need that kind of love. Often women ‘hear’ love in a man’s words and actions when we feel that he would love us enough to die for us. We may not know that is what we ‘hear’ through his communications, but our hearts, our souls hear it loud and clear (and sometimes, mistakenly) … because that is what we are created to seek … a man who would love us, even to the point of death.

Now, I am not calling all men to go our and slay dragons, and risk their physical lives for the sake of the love of their lady. I’m just saying, MEN, LOVE YOUR WIVES … IT WON’T KILL YOU TO COMMUNICATE THAT LOVE TO HER. (although some men might think that it will). But, it is risky … communicating love to a woman. She might reject your words, she might reject your actions, and she might do this ‘rejecting’ because she is hurt for the ‘no, I love yous’ diet you’ve had her on! Love is risky, but it is so worth it!

Love is the most wonderful of all all wonders we humans get to experience in this life. It is the essence of life, itself. It is what makes the world go round. If a man risks communicating I love you (even through ‘carrots’), he might even have that love returned. And, it is what women want … the most.

What Women Want Part 4 of 5

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