Tag Archives: trials

Be Not Weary

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This momma is feeling weary.

Like so many of you, I feel as though I am sprinting through quick sand. It has been a challenging few months at Patchwork Farm. Those that know us well have probably read between the lines of our summertime posts and have picked up on the strain and struggles we aren’t voicing.

Under normal circumstances the events that have unfolded in our life over the last 18 months would be enough to rock anyone’s world. Looking over the posts from Braden’s adoption day until today (adoptions, graduations, cross country college drop-offs, weddings, residential placements, lost jobs, new jobs, baby announcements, missionary farewells, etc., etc., etc…) , you can see that we have lived a dozen lives in the past 18 months. Each and every one of these major life moments is enough to rock one’s world, but pile them together, top it with a worldwide pandemic, and we find ourselves running on empty. These changes have challenged the family unit as a whole, but has been especially trying for those family members with a more disrupted past. Each change is a trigger and each challenging change leads to challenging behaviors…the compilation of which have left me feeling beat down and weary.

As I talk to friends who find themselves struggling with the unique challenges of living in a Covid world, regardless of what their personal challenges are…

– What school choice is best for my kids?

– When will I safely be able to visit my mother again?

– Is my best friend going to recover from Covid-19?

– Will my husband be able to safely get back to work?

– How am I going to manage working at home while schooling my children?

– Will the activities that feed my soul and bring me joy ever return?

…The feelings are the same.

It is the uncertainty about tomorrow, and the fear of things never getting better, that bring those feelings of weariness.

Whether we are talking about Covid-19 related challenges, or simply life challenges, it is the uncertainty of when the load will lift, or when the challenges will ease, that are the most wearing.

The burdens we find ourselves bearing (health challenges, relationship challenges, parenting challenges, financial challenges, etc.) can be likened to a boulder we are asked to push indefinitely,

Leaving us feeling much like Sisyphus.

In Greek mythology Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra. He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity.

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Sometimes the trials of our life feel just that way…

Like an eternal punishment that we are forced to bear.

A heavy rock that we push upward, only to have it roll back over us when we make it to the top,

Forcing us to begin again.

But maybe instead of looking at the trials we bear as a punishment that we are sentenced to, we should look at at trials as opportunities for growth, as illustrated in the story below.

“Once upon a time, there was a man who was sleeping at night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Savior appeared. The Lord told the man He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might.

Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain. Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture placing thoughts into the man’s mind such as: “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it.” Thus giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. He decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.

“Lord,” he said, “I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?” To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My child, when long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push.

And now you come to me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewed and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard.

Through opposition, you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have.

Yet you haven’t moved the rock.

But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom.

This you have done.

I, my child, will now move the rock.”

When weariness overtakes me, and feelings of despair and discouragement leave me feeling like a failure, I must remember that I was not called to push this boulder to the top of the mountain. I was simply called to faithfully arise each day, and continue pushing forward, trusting that when God has finished the work He is doing through me and within me, He will lift that boulder from my path.

There is a purpose in the struggle.

It is through the challenging seasons of mortality that we have the opportunity to grow, improve, and strengthen muscles we would never ordinarily use…

And in the process become more Christlike.

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Let us not grow weary.

This too shall pass, and we will be all the better for it.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”    – Galatians 6:9

 

Molly’s Missionary Message #8

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Hello!! 

This week has been FULL of new changes and adventures! 

Last Tuesday was transfer day. It is crazy that I am going into my second transfer already! This transfer was full of changes. One of the biggest changes was that I got a new, reassigned companion who served in Chile for 9 months! Sister Tolley is the sweetest thing and has been a huge blessing to me! (I will be helping her adjust to this area and she will continue training me, because I have still so much to learn!) In the end we are learning together and I feel that, because of it, we are all the more unified as companions and friends. We also moved into a new apartment and have a new p-day, which has switched from Monday to Wednesday. Although all of these changes have taken a day or two to get used to, they have also brought new experiences and opportunities!

Sister Tolley and I spend a decent amount of time in quarantine because of Covid-19, but we are trying to find the blessings and God’s hand in each day. Our day to day events consist of: 

Cooking meals,

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 Trying to get into the habit of running in the morning,

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 Buying ice cream and eating it from the container,

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 Going on hikes,

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Studying, seeking, praying, teaching,

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 And all in all, just trying to keep ourselves busy!

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We are seeking to work very hard everyday to be a blessing to others and use our time in a way that is pleasing in the sight of God.

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I love the quote by President Russell M. Nelson (our prophet) “The Lord loves effort!” This quote has been a good reminder because being a missionary during this crazy time has resulted in moments of feeling drained and discouraged, but as I weigh these moments against all of the blessings we have received in return, it is well worth it! 

I am so thankful for the challenges and trials that we experience daily because it brings into contrast the light and love of God, making it shine all the brighter! God never gives us more than we can handle. 

God is good- Always good!

Sending hugs and much love,

Sister McCleery

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A Poem written by Sister Molly McCleery:

“The trials I’m given, are they meant to crush me?

My perspective is so very limited to what I understand and see.

But yet I stand firm to the truth that God is my loving Father.

Why do I let fear and doubts seep in to add to personal bother?

Trials may seem heavy to bear, yet they’ll never be more than you can handle,

They are opportunities to grow your faith, adding like the guidance of a candle.

At times our burdens are just heavy enough to get us to our knees,

For this will open doors, because you now have the keys.

God anxiously waits for our acceptance to His hand that reaches out,

Once we do, then everything seems a bit better, resulting in a joyful shout!

If God wants us to have joy, why are there trials in the first place?

Now this can be addressed by breaking it down to the foundation base.

I believe this time on earth is an opportunity for growth and learning,

Where we experience opposition and practice the art of discerning.

I have turned more towards Christ in dark times, for I desire a source of light.

In Him I find comfort and strength, for He is my eyes of sight.

 I’m grateful that through Him I don’t need to feel alone, even for a day.

Because I know Jesus Christ can help us feel more than perhaps just “okay.”

Every time we fall down and feel that we are done,

Remember the love that is testified through God’s only begotten son!

He can and will lift you and clean you up,

Christ’s love and healing is like an overflowing cup.

This is one of the most amazing and humbling experiences to endeavor,

For that is He loves you, today, tomorrow and always, even to forever!”

Spoiled Rotten on Mother’s Day

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My Mother’s Day was full of blessings, despite it being a bit untraditional. Like so many around the world, Mother’s Day was spent at home away from the mothers we love. This Mother’s Day we weren’t able to celebrate our own mothers in person so we opted instead to send a package of love through the mail with the promise of in person hugs and kisses as soon as it is safe to meet again.

I counted myself blessed to have so many of my own children living under my roof during this time of quarantine, as I was able to celebrate Mother’s Day with four of my six kiddos, plus a bonus son (Zach.) Ozzie is still being treated at the residential treatment facility where he has resided for the last 12 months, so he wasn’t with us for the weekend. His facility is still under strict lockdown and isn’t allowing any visits. Braden opted to leave for the weekend, finding Mother’s Day weekend too much to emotionally manage. Instead he went to David’s house (his first adopted father) for a weekend visit.

On Sunday I received the blessed and much appreciated gift of an extra few hours of sleep. After a challenging week it was wonderful to heal under the covers with a few extra winks of sleep.

Everyone dressed for church at home where we enjoyed some thoughtfully and lovingly planned talks about motherhood. It renewed my soul and left me feeling blessed and loved.

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After church, but before the Mother’s Day lunch the kids prepared, I was presented with my Mother’s Day gifts. Each gift was planned and prepared with thoughtfulness.

Each gift was so reflective of the giver.

As is the tradition in our home, we began with the youngest child.

Tyler (with Gracie’s help) bought me a few new candles for the house, saying, “I know you like it when the house doesn’t stink.” It made me smile and touched my heart that he gave thought to what brings me joy (like an un-stinky house!)

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From Rusty I received one of his world famous paintings. I love receiving artwork from Rusty and this Mother’s Day painting was one of his best yet!! There is nothing better than to receive homemade gifts of love from your children!

“Hakuna Matata!”

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Molly also shared her talents with me in the form of poetry. Molly writes beautiful poetry and her gift for me was a Mother’s Day poem she had penned, paired with a matching illustration of her poem. Both were incredibly beautiful and touching.

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Then it was Grace and Zach’s turn. Watching the struggles of the last week led Grace to gift me with a “hyacinth for my soul.” She knows the way I heal the hurts on broken days is through a bubble bath (Calgon, take me away!) so she and Zach gifted me with essential supplies for self care. It was so personal and so perfect!

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The remainder of the day was spent relaxing and being doted on by my family. I recieved a pedicure and manicure.

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Meals were prepared and then cleaned up by my children.

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 I even got a Sunday nap!

My cup overfloweth!

 

 

Aloha!

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In an effort to add some levity and sunshine to our days, we have begun adding a themed dinner into our weekly menu. The idea sprouted with the girls and we decided to run with it. Trapped at home and living the same days over and over like the movie “Groundhog Day” we though a themed dinner once a week might be something fun to look forward to.

The girls led the charge with our first themed dinner. Building the night around supplies already on hand, they decided on a luau.

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Earlier that week we added two coconuts to our grocery pick-up order, thinking it might be fun for Tyler to experience breaking open a coconut. Pairing this activity with food on hand and a box of luau decorations in the basement led to a fun night at Patchwork Farm.

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They girls took responsibility for transforming the dinning room into a tropical paradise, complete with sand, shells, and Aquaman (of course!)

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The finished effect of their efforts were charming and cheery!

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Working with what we had on hand, I put together a dinner of rice, barbeque pork sandwiches and a pineapple melon salad with flower cut-out cookies for dessert.

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As dinner was cooking everyone was sent to their rooms to dress for our trip to paradise. Hawaiian shirts were donned and everyone received a lei, including all the dogs.

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We all came to dinner looking festive (at least those who opted to participate in the fun),

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And we enjoyed a delicious dinner while listening to the sounds of the tropics.

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After dinner we headed outside to open our coconuts.

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Toby drilled out the eyes so we could drink the coconut water within,

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And then cracked them open so we could enjoy the meat.

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We ended the night by watching the musical, “South Pacific.”

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We may be trapped at home, but thanks to the creativity and effort of Gracie and Molly we all got to escape to paradise for a few hours.

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Aloha!

 

 

A Dichotomy of Diversion

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It has been an interesting six weeks (to say the least)!

We have lived through an event that will be spoken of in the history books. Upon entering 2020 we had no idea that our world would be changed so drastically in such a short amount of time, as a pandemic swept across the landscape of the world. Like so many, I have found myself trying to wrap my mind around this sudden shift in reality, while trying to carve a new normal out of a situation that is anything but normal.

Through this shift in reality we, like so many others, have gone through a grieving process of sorts as we come to grips with life suddenly changing and so many aspects of what was once predictable, becoming uncertain. I have found myself glued to the news as numbers are updated and the newest closures and policy changes are announced. I find myself riding a wave of ever-changing emotions as I am carried high on the crest of gratitude and acceptance only to be dropped suddenly into a trough of fear and despair.

Our days are reflective of that dichotomy.

In the midst of our new normalcy (Toby home from work, school activities canceled, Grace and Zach living in the bus, Molly’s MTC experience moved to home, and a stay-at-home order issued for Pennsylvania) our days are a melded mix of light and dark.

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We’ve strived to establish routine and predictability in this new lifestyle, with periods of the day set aside for schoolwork, projects, chores, exercise and family fun.

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And from the quarantine that has been thrust upon us many great blessings have come.

It has been a joy getting more time with Toby, Grace, Zach and Molly who normally aren’t home this often.

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We have had the opportunity to work on projects that always seem to be put on the back burner in the midst of the more pressing, time-sensitive obligations.

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Family connections have deepened as more time has been set aside for working, praying and playing as a family.

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Life skills have been learned as the kids have worked side by side with Toby and I on family projects. Braden learned to change the car’s oil as he worked aside Toby. Planting a garden has become a family project and the kids are learning first hand the life lessons of sowing and reaping.

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We have found the extra time has allowed us to more easily prioritize the important over the urgent. This adjustment in our perspective and the blessings that have come from this forced stillness would not have happened had we not all been sent home to heal..

But there is a flip side to this story. In the midst of the light that has come forth during this trying time, there is still a darkness that hangs heavy in the air. With the increase in disruption to everyday life comes big emotions and big reactions to these new stressors. Many around the world find themselves grieving for the loss of a loved one to Covid-19.

Seniors are missing out on the milestones that commemorate their last 12 years of effort. (I have two seniors grieving.)  Many around the world  are counting the cans in the cabinet, wondering how much longer they will last. Others are carefully watching the dwindling dollars in their bank account, uncertain of how they will care for their families if they can’t get back to work. Feelings of loneliness plague those who are social-isolating at home, while those living in violent homes would give anything for the safety of being home alone rather than living in violence..

And in the midst of all this personal angst, there is an ongoing feud playing out online and in the news, as divisions between left and right grow wider and opinions grow stronger. Discord and judgement prevail and rather than humanity coming together in support of each other against a common enemy, we instead are seeing hatred, judgement and dismissiveness take precedent over compassion and connection.

Here is the reality, friends: We are all fighting hard to survive in this circumstance that has been thrust upon us. We are all grieving the loss of things we once enjoyed and mourning the life that once was, all while struggling to come to grips with the fact that life as it was has changed.

We all need to practice kindness with ourselves and each other. Everyone is struggling in their own way, as illustrated in the excerpt below:

WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT …

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“I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.

For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.

With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

Some families of 4 just received $3400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.” –Author unknown

I am watching this reality play out around me…

Even within my own home.

For some this forced stillness has been a great blessing, as family members have used this “time-out” to rest, renew, and refocus.

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For others it has been a living hell as the threat of loss triggers past trauma, and the absence of normal coping skills and therapeutic support brings increased anxiety and anger.

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For my children who have lived through the hell of being trapped at home in an abusive situation, the mandate forcing them to stay at home triggers insecurity. For my children who have known hunger, the dwindling amount of cans on the pantry shelf brings fears that hunger will come again. For my children who have known the loss of loved ones to death, the constant barage of daily death tolls brings great feelings of fear. For my children who find attachment and connection stifling, 24 hours a day of togetherness brings feelings of panic. Anger then boils over into destruction, and past hurts emerge as current hurting behaviors.

I have struggled to blog for the last two weeks as so many of these struggles have come to head. The dichotomy of quarantine life is hard for me to wrap my brain around so how do I speak my truth to others?

What has our time at home been like during this worldwide pandemic?

Well, to quote Charles Dickens:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

Over the next few blogs I will be posting pictures of some of our more positive pandemic moments of life. To those looking in from the outside, know that it is but one side of our reality. Like all of you, our life is an unusual dichotomy of positive and negative, happy and sad, hopefulness and hopelessness.

Our life is a rollercoaster of high peaks and devastating drops, as the stress of uncertainty and the grieving of what has been lost, becomes too much to manage.

A family game night is followed by a fist through the television set.

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A luau themed dinner comes on the heals of a visit by the police to calm a child in crisis.

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A hike on a Sunday afternoon is paired with a trip to the ER.

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A family drive might be just that, or it could just as easily be another frantic search for a runaway teen.

This is my reality.

We are surviving, just as you are.

We will get through this, but in the meantime let us all show a little more kindness and a little less judgement, for we are navigating this storm in different boats.

 

 

Big Changes

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When I first began this blog, with the purpose of recording Tyler’s first year with our family, I discovered quickly the importance of recording the moments of success as they happened, because the tides could turn without notice. That first year was everchanging and the atmosphere could turn from calm to volatile with little to no notice. I found if I delayed recording the simple joys they would soon get buried under piles of raw emotions, simmering resentment, or feelings of defeat. If I waited too long to blog about little successes those stories would lose their relevance in light of the bigger issues that had taken hold.

In much the same way I have found myself uncertain of what to record about the last month of life here at Patchwork Farm given the worldwide crisis we are facing. It seems frivolous and irrelevant to post pictures of our latest craft projects in light of a worldwide pandemic sweeping across the land. Much like those first months with Tyler at home, I find myself avoiding blogging, as I don’t even know what to write in light of all that is changing day by day…minute by minute.

It has been a crazy 6 days. On Friday the girls and I made preparations to head out to Ohio to visit my parents for our annual girls’ weekend. At that time my parents commented that it was probably our last visit for a while. It all seemed a bit alarmist at the time.

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Who knew that in a matter of days schools would be closed, food shortages would be seen across the country, restaurants and entertainment venues would be shut down, and gatherings of people would be restricted.

The numbers changed daily.

First we were told no more than 250 people could gather, then 50, and now 10. Day by day new emails are coming through, canceling all upcoming events and regular commitments, wiping my calendar clean. No physicals for the kids, orthodontist appointments postponed, tutoring on hold until future notice, no therapy, no church…no need to leave the house.

Ozzie is currently on lockdown at his facility. None of the boys are allowed to leave the facility for home visits or even day passes, and no family is allowed to enter. My weekly therapy appointment and visit with Ozzie is now happening over the phone.

G.G. is also on lockdown. My Grandmother wasn’t able to join us girls for our girls’ weekend activities, as her home was proactive in locking the doors early in light of this global pandemic. All residents are being kept safe through isolation from any outside visitors. Employees are interviewed and checked for symptoms and fever before entering the facility.

Grace is now out of work, as the daycare she is employed at has closed in accordance to the latest restriction on gathering.

It is all a bit surreal.

Even Molly has felt the impact of the pandemic in her plans to serve as a full time missionary. The Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, where she was scheduled to do her training in the weeks leading up to her heading out into the field, has been shut down. Molly will now be set apart as a missionary on March 31st only to do her training at home and online. Our home will become her MTC. Here at Patchwork Farm she will be serving with a companion across the globe that she will study with remotely through the computer. She will attend classes and devotionals online six hours a day, all while observing the rules and standards of missionary life (no tv, movies, secular music, etc.) She is navigating the mixed emotions that have come with the news, bracing for the possibility that her service to the Lord may be delayed even further in light of the daily policy changes being issued by government and the church, and trying to figure out how to manage it all in a home environment with five other people who are also living a sequestered life.

I think we are all still trying to figure it out, as I’m sure you are too. We are living in unusual times, historic times, times that will alter our trajectory as a nation…

And in the midst of it all we are trying to individually figure out our new “normal”, in the midst of an every changing world.

As uncertain and ever-changing our lives are at the moment, I find myself shying away from blogging. I find myself struggling to find the balance between acknowledging the crisis that is overtaking the globe, while sharing the daily details of life. I am trying to figure out how I do that without it seeming frivolous and out of touch with so many people’s current reality…especially in light of the many readers who are spread across the globe. I don’t want the daily fluff of my life to seem dismissive to those facing true and heartbreaking hardship at this time, so I find myself shying away from writing anything at all.

But perhaps what is needed more than anything in the world right now is connection and feelings of normalcy. Maybe the stories of every day frivolity are what we are all craving in the light of so much darkness. At the very least I feel convicted to record this season of life, as it is part of our story. This blog has served as a recording of our family’s history through the high moments and some very low moments,  will continue to share the moments of life here at Patchwork Farm…the good, the bad and what could be very boring moments of self isolation.  I hope that you recognize it for what it is: my efforts to maintain connection with friends across the world, to hold onto some semblance of normalcy, and as a means of sharing light in a season of darkness…

Certainly not a dismissiveness of the tragedy that surrounds us.

So, to my friends near and far:

Be safe.

Stay home.

Wash your hands.

Rise up.

Be a blessing.

Find the good.

Pray.

Share with others.

Hold onto hope.

Much love to you all, from Patchwork Farm!

 

Ozzie is 16…wait, what?!

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As hard as it is to believe, Ozzie is now 16 years old. It is hard to wrap my brain around that fact. In my mind he is forever that awkwardly skinny ten-year-old boy with the chipped front tooth and quick smile. It has been quite the journey for Ozzie to reach this milestone age…

A journey that has been anything but smooth or easy. He has fought hard to get to his today, overcoming a mountain of obstacles along the way…

And we have been part of that climb for the last six years.

I have always felt that one of the greatest gifts God gives us is the inability to see what is coming. He knows what is around the next corner and He graciously protects us from that knowledge until we are capable of facing it. It is a good thing He does. Just consider all of the amazing blessings we would willingly decline if presented with the journey we would have to take to earn those rewards. Instead, He shines the light just far enough ahead for us to feel comfortable taking the next step. Step by step He equips us for the next challenge by placing people in our life to teach us and strengthen us for the next challenge. He builds in us muscles of patience, strength, endurance, fortitude and faith as we tip-toe our way through life, walking just past the edge of where the light shines.

Step by step we move forward, uncertain of our progress until one day we look back and are blown away by how far we have traveled.

It is journey of faithful discipleship that often involves two steps back for every one step forward. It is a journey of faith that is accompanied by tears and tantrums, as we ask God, “Why?” There is a reason that discipleship is referred to as a “walk.” There is nothing passive about Christ’s invitation to “Come, Follow Me.”  It is an invitation to move intentionally. We must make a choice daily to put one foot in front of the other. To not plant ourselves in the middle of the Road to Damascus, but rather to continue shuffling forward even through the weariness of the walk.

This journey of opening our hearts to the hurting has been a deliberate choice and an intentional walk. This does not mean it has always been smooth. Most days are more hard than easy, but most days are also more joyful than jarring.

How grateful I am that when God placed me on this staircase He only showed me the first few steps. I am afraid that had He revealed the entire staircase looming ahead, I would have be paralyzed by the enormity of the climb. He knew that, so He lovingly revealed just enough for me to step forward in faith. He knew the view from the top was a view I wouldn’t want to miss. And he knew that the invitation to climb would be transformative in my own personal growth.

Here we are years later, still climbing, still wheezing from the effort, but enjoying a vista that only can be seen with the effort of a steep climb.

This weekend was one of those moments when I took a break from the climb to simply soak up the view and appreciate the gift that this journey gives. This weekend we celebrated our son. We gave thanks for this monumental birthday and God’s hand in getting him here. We celebrated the healing and the hope and the dreams we have for his tomorrows. Our son is 16-years-old and he got to celebrate the anniversary of his birth into the world surrounded by family that loves him.

Ozzie’s birthday plans had to be adjusted slightly from our original plans. Concerned for his ability to navigate the emotions of the weekend effectively, his therapist felt a day pass, rather than a weekend pass, was a better fit for his big day. Ozzie was disappointed  as he was hoping to attend the International Auto Show in Pittsburgh, but this momma had something even better in the works. I wasn’t going to allow that news to ruin my boy’s 16th birthday, so plans were made to make our Plan B better than his Plan A.

Ozzie’s newest obsession is model trains. I say “obsession” with great love, because Ozzie is a kid that doesn’t pursue any interest or hobby casually. He is an “all in” sort of kid, and his love of model railroads is no different. It is a newly developed hobby but he is already an “expert!” He has researched this hobby extensively, checked out library books, subscribed to model railroader magazine and spoke extensively with model railroad enthusiasts. After spending hours researching the different model options, and sketching out possible designs, he is ready to start building.

His vision is to fill our basement with raised tables and miles of track, a dream we explained we would approach slowly and deliberately after he asked Toby to pick up 30 sheets of plywood from Home Depot so that he can begin building.

Instead, the first purchase we decided on was some track and a few cars, and we decided that would be his birthday gift from us. Rather than shop for his birthday gift online, we decided to make part of his gift the experience of shopping for his gift, and he got to do that at a model train convention that was being held in New York.

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When looking for something fun to do in Erie last weekend, my research led me to information about a huge model railroad convention being held an hour away in western New York. We couldn’t wait to surprise Ozzie with the news of his birthday plans. I knew he was going to be over-the-moon excited…

And he didn’t disappoint!

Molly, Rusty, Tyler and I headed north on his big day to celebrate the big 1-6 with Oz. Braden wasn’t in a place emotionally that he could handle the visit so Toby stayed home with him while the rest of us ventured north. We picked up Ozzie, surprised him with his traditional birthday cupcake and birthday song in the parking lot and then started driving. When we arrived at our chosen destination Ozzie was still puzzled as to our plans.

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That is, until we walked in and he saw what was inside the convention center. Stretching before him were booth after booth of model railroad displays.

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Some were advertising local clubs, others were selling their wares, but all offered what Ozzie was looking for: information!

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He spent three hours canvasing the place, asking questions, and lovingly fondling the miniature trains…

Examining them with his eye for detail and carrying on a running narrative of each item’s history and details.

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When he found out he had the $50.00 we were going to spend on his birthday gift to spend on the starting pieces of his set, he was ecstatic.  We then re-circled the convention center for the fourth time, this time with Ozzie viewing each display through the lens of a shopper with money to burn.

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The other kids were grateful that the convention also offer antique toys for sale, as it offered a break from all the train displays that held zero appeal for the other kids.  It was fun looking at toys from the 1940’s-1980’s. Memories rushed forth as we stumbled across iconic toys from my own childhood.

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Eventually Ozzie made his choices. He used his money to buy three train cars and a bundle of track. If I was really a good momma I’d be able to tell you what train cars he bought and what scale he decided on. But alas, I am not that good. All I know is that two train cars were blue and one was yellow. Next time you see Ozzie, be sure to ask him about his model railroad purchases and he will give you all the details!

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It was an unconventional birthday celebration (as Ozzie’s usually are) but it was a perfect 16th birthday celebration for Ozzie who declared this birthday celebration the “Best One Yet!”

Happy Birthday, Ozzie. We love you!

 

A Visit to Old Nauvoo

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On our journey westward, our first stop was Nauvoo, Illinois.

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“As the Latter-day Saints fled Missouri during the winter of 1838–1839, having been threatened by the governor of that state with extermination, they crossed into Illinois and settled in a swampy area along the Mississippi River that they named Nauvoo. Over the next few years, an estimated 16,000 Latter-day Saints took up residence in the city and its surrounding communities. It became one of the largest cities in Illinois at the time and an important commercial center on the upper Mississippi.

Many in the surrounding communities continued to harass the Latter-day Saints, and on 27 June 1844, a painted mob shot to death Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. Despite the rapidly escalating tension in the area, the Latter-day Saints continued at great sacrifice to complete a temple in the city, even while they prepared for a mass exodus to the West. Between February and September 1846, most of the Latter-day Saints took up their march to the West, leaving their homes, their city, and their temple to the hands of those who had not built and the hearts of those who did not care.

Today Nauvoo is a significant historic district, with many of the buildings in the original townsite rebuilt or restored and open for the public to visit.”

This was Braden’s first time to Nauvoo and I couldn’t wait to share with him this quaint corner of Illinois.

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Nauvoo has a feeling much like historic Williamsburg, with historic and recreated buildings from the 1840’s.

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The sister missionaries and senior missionaries demonstrate life from the 1840’s through hands-on activities in each shop.

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Historic Nauvoo consists of 30 different historic buildings in the village, the visitor’s center and the Nauvoo temple.

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What sets Nauvoo apart from other historical villages is the spirit felt there. I loved the education we acquired at each stop about what life would have been like in historic Nauvoo, but appreciated even more the spiritual messages and sweet testimonies born by our tour guides.

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Here are some of the favorite stops we made as we discovered Historic Nauvoo:

“Visit the Scovil Bakery to experience a baker’s lifestyle before the days of electric and gas ovens. See the baking equipment of the 1840s, original Temple Plates, and many other items used for baking during the Nauvoo period. The Scovil Bakery was one of several such establishments in Nauvoo in the 1840s.”

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Here we enjoyed a homemade gingersnap cookie!

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Next stop was the blacksmith shop:

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“Chauncey Webb, along with his father and brothers, owned and operated this blacksmith and wagon shop. This shop has been reconstructed on its original foundation. When you visit, you will learn how wagon wheels were constructed, and you will see a wagon, loaded with supplies, ready to cross the plains. Everyone who visits receives a “prairie diamond” ring, made from a horseshoe nail, to take home as a souvenir.”

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In addition to everyone receiving a “prairie diamond” ring, each family received a souvenir horseshoe.

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“Tour the Jonathan Browning Home and Gun Shop and learn about the humble beginnings of the worldwide Browning Arms Corporation. See authentic rifles, handguns, and shotguns from the early 1800s and their present-day counterparts. In this shop, you’ll see a fine display of firearms made by Jonathan and his descendants.”

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“Brickyard: Many early settlers lived for years in log cabins while they built their brick homes, only to enjoy them for a few short months before they left to begin their trek westward. By 1845, Nauvoo was home to seven brickyards, supplied by local red clay and kept busy producing bricks for the growing population.

The brickmaker will demonstrate how bricks were formed, dried and baked here in Old Nauvoo.”

As we left the brickyard we were given a souvenir Nauvoo brick to help us remember our visit. This was Rusty’s favorite stop of Historic Nauvoo.

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Stoddard Tin Shop: In this restored tin shop, see a demonstration of how Sylvester Stoddard used patterns to make a variety of essential household tin goods. Step into Charity Stoddard’s sitting room and gain insight into frontier life. Innovation was key.

Here we enjoyed the unexpected surprise of running into someone we knew. As we entered the tin shop, greeted by the sister missionaries, recognition came over us when we realized we knew one of the sister missionaries. It was Rebecca Doud, one of my 7th year campers from last year’s Girls Camp!

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What a small and wonderful world!

After touring many of the historic shops we headed over to the Family Living Center, an area geared toward children, where crafts and trades of the 1840’s are demonstrated. 

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The highlight here was getting to learn about how homemade bread is made and getting to sample the homemade bread!

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At 5:00 pm the shops of historic Nauvoo shut down, so for the remainder of our visit we visited the outdoor areas that were still open to the public.

We headed up the hill to walk around the grounds of the beautiful Nauvoo temple,

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And to see the Joseph and Hyrum Smith Memorial:

“Joseph and Hyrum Smith Memorial: Overlooking Historic Nauvoo and the Mississippi River, this statue commemorates the departure of Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, for Carthage on June 24, 1844. Not far from this location by the temple, Joseph turned to Hyrum and said, “This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them.”

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Molly’s  favorite location in Historic Nauvoo was the women’s garden:

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We concluded our visit to Historic Nauvoo with the powerful and moving experience of walking the Trail of Hope down to the river where the people of Nauvoo crossed, driven from the town they loved into an unknown future.

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Trail of Hope: Stretching along the western leg of Parley Street are 30  markers with journal and letter quotes from Mormon pioneers preparing to leave Nauvoo. Read their words of hope, sadness, faith, and courage.

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As we walked the path, reading the plaques, we listened to the music of the Tabernacle Choir on Molly’s phone as they sang the words to “Come, Come Ye Saints.” It was an incredibly powerful and moving experience.

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Our visit ended with a visit to the final resting place of Joseph, Hyrum and Emma Smith. This was Braden’s favorite stop.

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It was an amazing day with my middle kids. What a delight it has been creating special memories with these three and sharing with Braden some of the experiences he missed out on, having not been our son when we took our cross-country road trip three years ago.

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May the adventures continue…

On the road again!

 

The Calm After the Storm

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The return home from the heightened frenzy of vacation living is always a mixed bag. After 2 1/2 weeks of early mornings, late nights, high stimulus fun, 10+ miles of walking each day, A LOT of junk food, and little in the way of routine…we were all whooped!

The excessive togetherness left everyone craving the quiet and solitude of their own bedrooms and all of us were missing our animals.

As much as we hated to see our amazing vacation come to a close, I don’t think we could have extended our trip a day longer without soldiers beginning to fall left and right. We were all tapped dry.

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We arrived home on Monday night, unloaded the car, left to pick up the puppies from the kennel, and were in bed by 9:00.

The early bedtime was a result of two determining factors: 1. It was desperately needed by all after two long days of driving in a very packed car and 2. Our house was freezing!

It is “family tradition” to return home from vacation to some sort of crisis. It happens every time. Some “welcome home” surprises have been more devastating than others with lost pets or a deep freezer dying early on into our two week trip and coming home to a home that reeked of 50 pounds of rotting meat.

THAT was a FUN night!

I guess we should be glad this mishap only involved lack of heat.

We arrived home to find the house extra nippy. Upon checking the thermostat, we discovered the house was a frigid 43 degrees. It turns out we ran out of propane while in Florida despite our tank reading 30%. It turns out the device that measures the amount of fuel in the tank was broken and that 43 degrees felt all the more chilly after the 80 degree temps we had been enjoying for the last two weeks!

There was nothing to do except start a fire in the fireplace and add extra blankets to the beds. Some chose to sleep in the living room, near the fire, while other chose solitude over warmth. They were excited to sleep alone and were willing to endure the cold to get some quiet time.

But regardless of where each family member fell asleep, there was no real rest for the weary, for life began the next morning at full throttle when kids were shaken awake at 6:00 am to catch buses or prepare for work. Vacation was officially over and we jumped right into the craziness of life as we know it at Patchwork Farm with three appointments on the calendar that day. In the midst of beginning life again at full speed, we scrambled to get heat in the house. This wasn’t accomplished until Friday, when rain had finally cleared all the snow and ice off the driveway, making it possible for the propane truck to drive up.

It was a cold four days at Patchwork Farm!

In the midst of addressing the calendar obligations, much of our energy that first week home went into helping everyone navigate the post-vacation crash that inevitably hits all of us when we have to return to the grind of everyday life after being in vacation mode. For my trauma-affected children this crash is far more impactful. There is an ongoing fear that every good experience will be “the last,” having lived a life full of loss and final endings. For one of my kiddos there is a great deal of discomfort and guilt over creating memories and feeling connected to this family, feeling that they are somehow betraying their birth family by feeling love and connection with us. With these hard feelings inevitably come hard behaviors as he tries to “right the wrong” of letting down his guard and showing love, by lashing out with hurtful behaviors meant to distance us from him.

This led to us taking an unplanned trip to the ER for suicidal ideation. It breaks my heart how hard it is for my boys to feel worthy of love and to believe they deserve happy moments. The self punishment and distancing behaviors that must follow such a wonderful trip is so hard to parent and even harder for that child to live with.

Now that we are into week 2, since our arrival home, everyone has stabilized. We are back into a routine and all are in a much better place emotionally. With the “after vacation crash” we got hit with a nasty flu that led to half our family falling ill over the weekend. I think extreme physical and emotional fatigue created the perfect hotbed for the plague to hit. I was the first to be hit with the bug on Friday afternoon. On Saturday afternoon I lay down for a nap and woke up Sunday afternoon at 3:00pm.

I have never slept that long in my life. It was wonderful and so needed. The cough and headache lingered another two days but the fever and nausea were better upon waking up from my Rip Van Winkle nap.

I now find life almost routine again. The vacation laundry is all washed. The fridge has been filled. The vomiting has ceased and school is back in session. Now that life is back on track I will hopefully be able to catch up you, my friends, on the non-vacation happenings of our crazy crew at Patchwork Farm.

The next few months promise to be eventful!

The Transforming Power of Heat

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 It has been a rare treat to have an entire week to connect and make memories with just one of my five children. The last time Grace and I had this much uninterrupted bonding was 18 years ago in the days leading up to Molly’s birth. It has been a rare gift, one that I will probably never have again, so we are making the most of it and are filling our memory banks with a bundle of special experiences.

Our next adventure was to Kolor-N-Kiln, a paint your own pottery studio at Robinson Mall, that I discovered when we were there for the Sign-A-Thon in May. I was thrilled to stumble across this creative gem after losing our favorite “paint your own pottery” shop in Cranberry. When the older kids were young we frequented that studio often, enjoying the experience of creating permanent and treasured works of art with Grace, Molly and Rusty. We were all disappointed when it went out of business, so when I discovered Kolor-N-Kiln I knew it must be one of our girls’ week activities.

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Grace and I arrived at the mall early.

We were greeted by a sweet gal who walked us through the creative process…

Step 1: Choose your pottery piece. There were dozens of options including mugs, plates, piggy banks, cookie jars, etc.

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Grace decided on a vase with the thought being that it could be used and enjoyed in her room now but then also be used for decades to come in her future homes.

I decided on a butter dish, having recently lost mine to an enthusiastic and energetic “dish washer.”

Once we had picked our pieces and paid for them it was time for the next step.

Step 2: Wipe down the pottery with wet sponges, removing all dust.

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Step 3: Pick out you paint colors. This was by far the most challenging step as the choices were abundant and the colors were all beautiful. Grace and I both finally settled on  Jungle Gems; paints that contained metallic flecks that burst into spots of color in the heat of the kiln, creating a mosaic look.

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Step 4: Begin painting.

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The interesting thing about the paint Grace and  I both chose is that what you paint on your piece looks nothing like what the finished product will be. Gracie’s chalky and grainy green paint will transform into a marbled jade in the heat of the kiln. My dark grey paint will become a mosaic masterpiece of creams, browns and robin egg blue when exposed to the intense temperatures of the kiln. As a result there is a certain level of faith needed as you continue painting what seems a mess, trusting that the mess before you will transform into something beautiful when exposed to heat.

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I couldn’t help but take note of how much the process resembles our own mortal journey. Here we stand, unfinished and raw works of art. Messy and grainy, certainly not “mantle worthy.” But if we trust the potter and submit to His vision, despite the fact that the process seems messy and grainy, His process will transform us. He will take that mess and create a masterpiece.

But to do so heat is always needed.

It is within the intense fire of the kiln that we, the clay, are strengthened.

It is within the intensity of the kiln that the mess transforms into something beautiful.

That sort of transformation never takes place in the cool, comfortable seasons of our life…

Only in the seasons of fiery testing.

As Grace and I finished our projects and stepped away from the finished mess,

Surrendering our finished works to the master of the kiln,

Trusting that the added heat might turn our mess beautiful,

It was a powerful and poignant reminder of the greater purpose of each of our “kiln seasons” of life. They are hard seasons to live through, and we are grateful when the furnace cools, but no season of life is:

More transforming,

More affecting,

More essential,

Than the “kiln seasons” of mortality…

When we humbly submit and surrender our mess to Him and let Him transform the broken into the beautiful.

The finished projects:

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