My sentimental journey

An ordinary girl's walk with an extraordinary God.


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The Way We Were

troy 12th bday with me laughing

Climbing the summit to adulthood can be rough and challenging terrain as you mature through various obstacles including awkward teenage years. Childhood to adulthood, from wonder years to blunder years, finding your personal niche with family and friends. We all have stories that inevitablity shaped our character and helped forge us to mature, calling us onward and upward.

For me childhood’s sharp turns began as I carefully wrapped my beloved dolls with crisp white tissue paper preparing them for a slumbering storage. Aware of saying good-bye to my dolls was only the beginning of more farewells to crossover my hearts’ threshold. One of the things I dreaded most was the thought of my brother moving out, I simply was not ready to be left home, feeling like an only child. Sadly, that day  came way sooner than expected as my brother chose to move out at 16 ,  when sowing his wild oats (as so many of us have done) collided with our disapproving parents,  sealing his decision to prematurely leave the nest. Causing plenty of ruffled feathers  due to the intensity of the situation that surrounded his final choice.  Now the unfurling of his resolve thrusted me into a front row seat, watching my family fall apart before my very eyes.Packing away my childish toys was one thing but growing up without my brother’s presence in our home deemed itself unbearable.

Longing for his good nature and playful attitude to grace our four walls again, wanting to hear him call me “Lisgang”, even though to this day I don’t know why. Trying somehow to process my raw pain I gathered extra loose photos of us growing up, carefully cutting the pictures edges with my mom’s pinking shears, unknowingly gearing up for day when scrap booking would be a household word. Because Barbara Streisand was my all time favorite singer, I could think of no better lyrics than “The Way We Were” to gingerly paste into the middle of a poster board; placing photos around it. For those of you young en’s that don’t know this gem it goes like this ,
The Way We Were

“Mem’ries, Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories of the way we were.
Scattered pictures, of the smiles we left behind.
Smiles we gave to one another, for the way we were.
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we? Could we?
Mem’ries, may be beautiful and yet, what’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget.So it’s the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember…
The way we were…
The way we were…”

Securing this collage of recollections underneath my canopy, clothed in pink and white gingham, I uttered prayers for my brother… heart crafted prayers for his speedy return and for our family to heal. A rousing prodigal welcome home ending, with celebration and feasting… slamming the door shut to sever the misunderstandings that caused such a division. After wrestling heartache and a unwavering fight from my parents to get my brother out of JDH, he finally returned home. Though there was a long road ahead of us to work through of regrets and forgiveness, we had my brother back in all his zany glory.

Now 40 years later, I’m preparing myself to go to see my brother again at his memory care facility. My husband’s comforting presence each visit is paramount in enabling me to it make through each overwhelming visit. Bittersweet is woven through nostalgia that  intertwines with harsh reality… my heart pulsating, beating to the melody of the “Way We Were”. This time disease has locked him up, imprisoning his body and placing his mind in detention from the freedom it was created for. Grappling with these restrictions we do what these limitations permit. We hug him, tell stories, share photos, go on walks in the facilities gardens. Tell him we love him and pray with him. Since his speech is difficult we share the powerful and universal language of laughter.

God’s word promises, “A merry heart does good like a medicine”. I’m so thankful for my brother’s good nature and jovial personality in the midst of his extremely trying circumstances. Thank you God that in the end, “it’s the laughter we will remember “. Not focusing on the “Way We Were”, but who we are in the light of eternity. One day we will all be home together again celebrating our new celestial bodies in our heavenly homes. Walls reverberating with laughter, filled with love that knows no measure… once again hearing my brother’s familiar voice calling me Lisgang… What a beautiful reunion!


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Brushstrokes of Transformation

Woman On Ladder Painting House

Our house was in dire need of painting, for one, heavy Oregon precipitation had left its’ calling card in the form of algae, firmly imbedding into the crevices of the cedar shake siding. Not wanting to show favorites, the algae blanketed the lower lying hardiplank boards on our 540 sq ft. addition. Unfortunately, unlike the inventive “folks” or should I say “volks” of Hamburg Germany, we were unable to harness the power of algae creating stunning architecture and a reliable energy source.Fearing power washing would harm the delicate 1940’s portion of the house it became apparent that a trip to the paint store was a necessary destination. Finally gathering the materials required for this much needed TLC. Over the years our humble abode had patiently waited as we grappled with finances, illness, loss, depression and grief. Internal storms battered the occupants, while the exterior suffered years of wear and tear.
Now paint brush in hand it dawned on us how much we dreaded this task even more now than 12yrs ago when we last painted the exterior. If our enthusiasm were to be described as a paint sheen we would be labeled as Flat! Relief from our dull and lackluster attitude came by conjuring up mental images of what our completed results would look like. Mindfully staying focused on the goal which felt oh so many gallons of paint away!
What we longed for would take muscle, grit and tenacity. Getting from point A to B usually requires work and it does not help that my painting skills rival Lucille Ball’s clumsy antics. By all accounts it appears that I have been cut from the same cloth; surely Lucy and I share a blood line.
However, if there is indeed no relational ties with Lucy, it goes without saying my mother and I cozily were two peas in a pod when it came to painting. Our expertise (cough, cough) being something to behold. She probably looked down from Heaven elbowing Jesus and proudly saying, “that’s my girl “. Whether it was watching me get my hair stuck in a rose bush, or dropping a paint tray on the one and only uncovered portion of our deck. Most likely, her loudest side splitting laughter came when I gave myself a wedgie not once but twice as my shorts got hooked on a Rhodie bush, while descending the ladder with a paint tray in hand. My only saving grace was behind the large Rhododendron as it somewhat shielded me with its’ prolific foliage. It’s the least it could do after giving me the two biggest whopper wedgies ever!
In the end… no pun intended, as the house stands gloriously completed and the last paint brush rinsed clean… I can almost hear Jesus and mom saying, “Yeap, that’s our girl” all with the familiar tone of love, acceptance and grace.
Transformations for the better… has the potential to get our knickers in a knot making us uncomfortable in the process. Whether it’s chipping away at pesky bad habits, sanding off rough edges of unforgiveness, or rerouting deeply imbedded wrong thinking. We can find ourselves needing to exercise spiritual muscles of discipline, and walking out tenacious faith with God energized perseverance.
Slowly we begin to see the beauty in the process, stepping from one form of glory into a new level of glory. Keeping our eyes on the prize while striking the match that ignites fires of change. Reminding ourselves that the end result will be worth the time and investment it took for radical transformation.
Thank you Lord, for your brushstrokes of mercy over our battered lives… as fresh starts, clean slates and forgiveness wash over our stains of deeply imbedded regret and shame. Thank you Heavenly Father that no matter what has happened in our lives your word has promised that Your love covers all transgressions. That is the best coverage of all!
“Love covers all transgression” Proverbs 10:12


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Door Closed ?… Paint It !

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A refreshing breeze brushed my cheeks as I lounged on our back porch in a comfy camping chair. Birds chirping joyously encircled around and about our property, harmoniously singing their cheerful praises amidst the dull hum of freeway noise in the distance.

Journal in hand I was ready to pour out my heart to God and listen to what He had to say to me. What do you want me to do Lord I asked Him? This seems to be a frequent question I ask Him a lot lately. Kids are grown, mom is gone, brother’s dementia increasing and unresolved extended family conflict… my world has drastically changed as I once knew it.

A few reoccurring questions bounce around, do I go back to work after 22 years of not being part of the work force?; do I need to spend more time writing? What should I do with the extra time I have. Wanting to hear some answers from God to my perplexing questions while my eyes soaked up the garden sites. The end of May never fails to unveil its’ fullness and beauty after winter’s bleak hibernation. Purple and white Irises bloom profusely around the glistening pond while gold fish darted within, pink roses climbing vigorously around our black rod iron abhor leading to our shed; perfectly framing our freshly painted door observed from my relaxing vantage point.

Rather pleased with the new color and eager to see how this “Surf Spray Blue” would one day compliment the “Woodlawn Sterling Blue” house color, of which my husband and I agreed upon. Gazing at the door, thoughts floated into my mind like drifting clouds. One being, how amazing it is that one little jar of paint can make such a difference. My next  thought wandered to this quote:

“When God closes a door He opens a window”. Experiencing mixed feelings twenty-six years ago when I first read it on a wall plaque while working in the gift dept. at Christian Supply. How invigorating the thought of an open window where light and fresh air transforms a space. On the flip side, a closed door can feel claustrophobic and confining.

My immature faith hinged on my limited perceptions of God. Now years later and many “Closed Doors” in between I see the blessing is in, not crossing thresholds I was never meant to. God’s protective boundary lines drawn in pleasant places, revealing His exceedingly great and precious promises. So… what do we do with a door that God closed? I say let’s paint it! Changing the image and how we view it. With a brush stroke of thankfulness that it did not open, covering it with a new coat of fresh perspective, producing a dynamic makeover for one’s soul. Consoled by the truth that God always closes doors for a reason, sometimes we are privy to the reasons, why other times it remains a mystery. While knowing there is one door that God wants to always remain open… and that is the door to our hearts. Rev.3:20 says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone opens the door I will enter and dine with him and he will dine with me .” Being by far the the best “open door” you will ever know …

Psalm 24:9 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.

 

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Memorial Poppies

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A couple of weeks ago I posted on my blog portions of what I read at my mom’s memorial service. Now, I’m going to share the story surrounding her Celebration of Life and how God showed His faithfulness in the midst of it all.

The sun shone vividly the morning of mama’s service, nevertheless my emotions remained engulfed in a deluge of throbbing grief. Wondering if I could hold myself together for the service; let alone muster enough nerve to share the essence of who our mother was. Thankfully deeply embedded within me was a greater desire to honor her, allowing me to override the pain. God filling me with this inner strength to temporarily jump over hurtles of timidity and the fear of public speaking.

As I geared up to head toward that  hopeful direction, I donned myself with waterproof mascara (an absolute must), and still allotted for a potential  backup plan. This crucial plan was comprised of two dear friends gifted in the art of public speaking willing to wait in the wings if things veered south. Still my heartfelt intentions and prayers were earnest to get through the 8 minute time of sharing.

Having countless things my mother taught my brother and I to glean from, I choose a selection of valuable lessons carved through her words or forged by her life. Also, including a sprinkling of her silly antics that made for lots of fun stories to tell.

One of the funny stories that I wasn’t able to share was her first morning ritual, the ceremonial task of opening all the heavily draped windows, giving way to joyful light dancing with the pull of the curtain strings.While simultaneously belting out two silly songs…never deviating from her delightful favorites. Everyday she arose from her bed singing, “Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning, oh, how I hate to get out of bed”, then making her way down the hallway towards the windows finishing off her encore performance with, “Have a Banana, Have a Banana “. We knew mom was up by the sound of her voice caroling down the hall.

Now as an adult I too love to start my day by opening the curtains. Though I’ve taken a fancy to singing little ditties from time to time, I’m sorry to say my repertoire of morning melodies do not include mom’s personal faves… the famous saying “Apples do not fall far from the tree” somehow still rings gloriously true.

So when this little apple opened the shades first thing in the morning of mom’s memorial, my eyes beheld a breathtakingly beautiful red poppy that bloomed overnight. Its’ brightness and contrast to the muted palette shocking me with its’ first vibrant bloom. My mind recalled the field of poppies in the Wizard of Oz, while softly saying yes Lord mom is now experiencing, “There is no place like home”..in Heaven. Profoundly comforted yet still wanting to know more about this new cheery visitor I made my way to the computer, my inquiring mind wanted to learn the meaning of the poppy  more completely. Clicking on Wikipedia my eyes could not believe what I was reading about this flower and their symbolism. It stated that:

“Poppies have long been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death: sleep because of the opium extracted from them, and death because of the common blood-red color of the red poppy in particular. In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead. Poppies used as emblems on tombstones symbolize eternal sleep. And  also a remembrance for soldiers handed out around Memorial day.”

Another interpretation of poppies written in Classical mythology is that “the bright scarlet color signifies a promise of resurrection after death.”

What a perfect hug from God, … soon I would be gathering with others not only in remembrance of my mom but also rejoicing in God’s promise. That she now lives in eternal glory, free from pain and suffering. The poppy has become an ongoing comfort to me as I mourn the loss of my best friend and dear mother.

The very next day after the service, my little family somberly celebrated Mother’s Day and I was graced by a second poppy blooming in our yard. Grabbing my camera to snap a photo of this newly opened magnificent bloom hoping to capture its’ delicate form. Afterwards I counted the remaining buds still cloaked awaiting their brilliant reveal. Two were blooming while three were waiting. Five is the number of grace and was the number of people in our family whenever mom hung out with the Jennings.

As I clung to grace celebrating Mother’s Day without mom, we decided to switch our lunch plans for the day from the China Gorge restaurant in Hood River, to Calamity Jane”s in Sandy, Oregon. Playing out the scenario of the day in my mind I was sure that all of us would be getting burgers served in a cast iron skillet. However, my husband ordered a taco salad making me giggle at the scene that previously ran through my mind. Frankly, it matters not what my husband orders, it just seemed unconventional for him to choose a salad at a restaurant known for their burgers… usually his “norm”. Then it all made sense as I glanced at my husband’s finished meal staring at his now empty plate… amazed to see five red poppies designed on the melmac dish.

I love how God shows up in the seemingly common, obscure places, ready to bless us through the smallest details or grandest design. His plan unwrapping in our present. Only requiring eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear, and hearts ready to expect Him to show up.

One year later  still marveling at how poppies show up in curious places my eyes increasingly  mindful of their breathtaking and heartwarming presence… God revealings Himself again and again through their message. Looking forward to sharing more about that in the future.

 

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What My Mother Taught Me

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Last year, a day before Mother’s Day, we celebrated our Mother’s life as she peered down from Heaven’s glory.  Even though the memorial was to celebrate her life it was the hardest good-bye I have ever faced.   The following, is in part, what I shared to honor my mom’s life on that day.  I wrote this from the perspective of being her daughter.

 

Proverbs 1:8:9 says: “Never forget what you learned from your mother… Wear their counsel like flowers in your hair,like rings on your fingers.

My mother taught me how to laugh at myself …. her unspoken motto was, “Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves for we shall never cease to be amused.”

Because of the many silly things she would do,  Mom was never short of material to laugh about.  During my teenage years I found most of her stories amusing,  while at other times  I was completely  mortified.   However, it did not take me long to realize that I was cut from the same cloth, fighting a battle I could not win…slowly beginning to embrace the joy and freedom that comes in laughing at one’s self.

 

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My brother Troy and his love for wheels.

 

My mother taught me the joy of worshiping the Lord.
I have fond memories of mom and I singing hymns while she played on the piano in our basement.  She had a thankful heart and loved to worship God in song.

My mother taught me to celebrate life ….

Mom was eager celebrate and have fun … when we where younger she made every occasion special and festive, full of life and laughter…. even the simplest things felt over the top because of all the love she poured into it.

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For as long as I can remember, before we ate our dinner she would put a paper napkin on her head as if it were a hat; making sure everyone could see her to get a laugh.  I never tired of watching her get the biggest kick out of that!  I have no doubt that she is feasting in Heaven with everyone joining in her napkin hat merriment ..

My mother taught me to be frugal.

Mom knew how to pinch pennies, get a bargain and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.  Thanks to her I realized how much product is left in a toothpaste tube, or a shampoo bottle if you cut them in half getting every last bit from the container.  Mom would be giddy when I gave her my old plastic grocery bags so she could recycle them for her garbage. Her exuberance would make me laugh and I would say, “Oh mom, thank you but I’m only giving you plastic bags.”

Recently, not to long ago it dawned on me, I to get gleeful when I can reuse a plastic bag… just like my mother!

 

My mother taught me how to love my children selflessly.

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Charles Lamb said:  “A mother’s love grows by giving”

 

My mother taught me the power of prayer…

My mother’s prayers for me and my family brought comfort, strength and joy. Having a deep and rich reservoir of answered prayers within my spirit to remember God’s goodness with.

Abraham Lincoln
“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life ..

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Kevin and I renewing our vows on our 25th wedding anniversary in 2011, with our pastor and our two sons.

 

My mother taught me to Love God …..

By far her greatest hope and desire was that her family knew Christ as their personal Savior, living daily staying close to His side. To love His word and putting their trust in all His promises.  Knowing for themselves He is good all the time. Walking by faith even when life seems difficult and disappointing.

Displaying this so beautifully throughout her life even to the end. Even during the eight hospital stays in less then a year, and in the midst of rapidly declining health.  One particular day after telling her I loved her, I finished by saying God is good. Mustering up enough strength she replied boldly, “Oh you better believe it “.

One time while visiting my mom at the hospital I read to her this verse.
Psalms 71:17-18 “O God, you have taught me from my youth, and hitherto have I declared your wondrous works. Yes, even when I am old and grey headed, O God, forsake me not, but keep me alive until I have declared Your mighty strength to this generation, and your might and power to all that are to come.”

Thank you mom for your shining example in human frailty.  Your love, sacrifices and unwavering faith accompany me as I mourn your loss. Thank you God for reassuring me and all of us with your promise, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Though I miss you something terrible, I know your having the best Mothers Day ever in all of Heaven’s glory. I love you

 

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Feathering the Empty Nest

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It seems like only yesterday that Kevin and I filled  the air with excitement as we delightfully  prepared a room for the arrival of  our first-born son. Fueled with anticipation and joy, more animated than the Daisy Kingdom wallpaper that paraded around the walls of his soon to be nursery.  Light danced on the now glossy white crib positioned beneath the window, each intricate spindle sanded and painted,  a labor of love by my husband. Transforming the worn hand me down wood into a crisp, brilliant white. The closet brimmed with an assortment of  adorable clothes in a variety of styles, and sizes, for every season.  A handmade wooden Noah’s ark nestled in the far left corner, my thrift store find just days after the thrilling news “it’s a boy! “,  was confirmed by the ultrasound imaging.
While waiting for Derek’s birth you could either find me waddling around (did I just admit that?) adding feathers to our nest or propping my swollen feet up to read the latest How To parenting book. As each day drew nearer to the delivery date, so did my joy and optimism; confident my husband and I could do this thing called parenting.

Apparently there is no prerequisite to mastering this skill before you give birth to your first-born or even your second. For lo and behold two and half-years later we welcomed our second son Trent. Doubling our happiness and compounding the realization that books give you only limited training in the true art of being a parent.

Now twenty-two years and far too many mistakes later, we stand in awe at the honor of raising such wonderful sons in spite of our flaws and brokenness. Gloriously tallied into the raw equation is God’s grace equaling the sum that otherwise seems mathematically impossible.
And while the clock ticks away and within a few short hours, this stay at home mom and former homeschooler, will become an empty nester. No stranger to the knowledge of this incurring reality,  lingering in the far recesses of my mind ever since our boys entered this world. Aware of the fact  just as the appointed time led them to leave the womb, so also one day they would leave the nest.   A familiar quote by Reverend Henry Ward Beecher comes to mind, “There are two things we should give children, one is roots and the other one is wings.”  Today our son Trent takes flight, propelled by wings of independence gilded with freedom. Soaring to new exhilarating heights and rich depths, fulfilling all God has called him to be. Whether finding themselves aloft over mountain top successes or thrust down into canyons of failures, character and destiny still forging with every flap of their pinions.

Concluding this chapter in my life has gone all too quickly.  Now my heart waits for the dust of bittersweet memories to settle, and the echo of an empty room to begin to pulse with life once again.  Asking Papa Daddy’s (God’s) help transitioning into whatever He for me next as He re-feathers my nest with His promises.

I love Psalms 91:4 assuring truths:
“He will shelter you with his feathers; you will find safety under his wings. His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall”

Thank you Lord for your faithfulness, a love that is never-failing and generous compassion, even mindful of every sparrow that falls to the ground. Your attention to the smallest detail brings a reassuring peace. We stand awestruck gazing at your unfathomable love that comforts to the core and covers every human condition. We long to trust in you Papa, grounded in the roots you have given us while we soar victoriously with you providing the wind beneath our wings.

“But those who wait on the Lord
shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Hide me now
Under your wings
Cover me
Within your mighty hands
When the ocean rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still and know you are God
Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know His power
In quietness and trust
When the ocean rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still and know you are God

“Still” By HillSong


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A Bunny Tale of Unconditional Love

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Deciding to join Facebook in 2009  felt as if I  plunged headlong into  uncharted and  thrilling waters.  Butterflies danced wild and free within the walls of my stomach, as unexplored  territory loomed on the horizon.  Face  aglow with excitement embarking on this recently acquired adventure, only  to enhance to a greater depth my  already  delightful run as a  longtime  stay at home mom.
A  bold  new avenue to broaden my  connections with the outside world  while still  enjoying  the comforts of  home was  carte blanche to “having my cake and eating it to”.  Fork in one hand, cake in the other  savoring  the leisure of reconnecting  with  friends, family and classmates, rejoicing with the freedom and readiness Facebook had to offer.  No longer having  to wait until   family or class  reunions to get caught up.  Also, pleasantly surprised at the ease  this network made  connecting with  those you never had the pleasure of knowing very well before; so it was with a group of  high school ladies from the Reynolds Lancers.   Birthed from  casual  Facebook interactions eventually  leading us to be  cleverly dubbed  “The La La’s”,  short for Ladies and Lancers. This freshly brought together group met over  dinners and gatherings  all a buzz as we  took  our trip down memory lane. You would never know we were on the cusp of all turning  50, for memories of  teenage years flooded our memory banks, spilling over into the present whenever we conversed .

One day such a  moment happened  when someone started a  “thread” to chat back and forth on the internet.  The conversations poured in  about life, kids and of course high school.  That particular day  someone  casually  mentioned one of the teachers,  triggering my memory to begin typing out his thirty year old nickname he held back in the day.  Is if that was not enough I continued  trying hard to be witty as I expounded on this thought.  Wrapping up what I thought was  comic stride I stepped away from the computer…  however, instantly  a  strong conviction came over me as I started the treadmill.  What was I thinking?  I asked  myself , “I’m not sixteen anymore and what I did was wrong.”  Quickly  turning off  the  exercise machine  I went back and positioned myself in front of my computer eager to type out a full apology for my immature behavior.  This is when  hunt and peck method is at  a sore and  painful  disadvantage.

Reopening the  computer I was horrified  to  realize that very teacher I had just  poked fun at, had  unbeknownst to me been on the  thread the whole time.  Red faced and mortified I poured out my repentance for all  to see, asking Him to forgive me. Truly sorry for hurting him  and ashamed of my willingness to get a cheap laugh at someone else expense.  After finishing my deepest regret and taking ownership of this Epic failure something beautiful happened…

Forgiveness poured in spilling unconditional love over my shame.

Not only was I forgiven I was given a new nickname … Bunny

I saw myself as a foolish child, having the sting of an adder.
My friend Lisa saw me as a soft cuddly and sweet bunny.  No way on earth did I  feel  deserving of  that name… and yet isn’t  that  what unconditional love is all about.
Throughout the brief time  our group stayed together,  there was not a time that went by that being called  Bunny  did not touch my heart and cause profound gratefulness, grace, forgiveness, and a clean slate.  Even though I made a major  Loo Loo of a Boo Boo… I was  still  loved  unconditionally.  Making this Bunny extremely Hoppy  !!

Dear Lord , What a comfort to know nothing takes you by surprise, not  even the word that rolls off our  tongue.  Thank you for  unconditional love and grace displayed so beautifully through you and all those  that follow your precious example.

To the choirmaster: A Psalm of David. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”
Psalm 139:1-24 ESV

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Ephesians 2:8 ESV