I Stand Amazed

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Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:6, The Message 

As I write this, a bit of the disbelief and wonder still surrounds me at the circumstances which brought about my sudden retirement from the company where I had spent the last 20 years. If you would have told me a month ago I would be sitting here writing this with my career at Intel behind me, I would have said you were crazy. I had been thinking about it, praying about it, wrestling with it seriously over for the past year, and had even set a date for December or January of this year. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

And so many times, I had held this verse in my heart and tried to live it, asking God for a definitive Yes or No, Yea or Nay, some kind of deciding factor that would push me one way or another and let me have the confidence I wanted to know I had made the right decision. And then, this……

We had all heard rumors about the layoffs and cuts at Intel, but of course we had weathered all these before. Yet this time, soon after the announcement was made, the roll-out was swift. Suddenly, people we had worked with for years were gone. Everyone was a bit shell-shocked. And then I got the enhanced retirement offer and I knew it was what I had been praying for just a month before. And it was more than I could have hoped for.

And I stand amazed at how good God is. And not because it worked out for me, but because God is always good. Yet sometimes, He does something that so flat-out astounds you with His timing and how perfect it is you know without a doubt it came from Him. I want to stress that it’s nothing I did. There is no formula ever, to guarantee things will fall in line with how we pray. I don’t believe in that kind of gospel.

What I do believe is that sometimes God rewards the one who clings to His word and hangs on for dear life even when there is no evidence whatsoever that an answer lies just beyond the bend.

Here is what I wrote in my prayer journal today:

Thank you God. You fill me with wonder. You became a flesh and blood God well acquainted with suffering and grief and tears and yet still vast and unknowable and full of mystery; able to create this whole universe with a word. I stand amazed that you died because you wanted to save my life and you thought that maybe if you did that, we could have a chance to be together forever. You removed the intimidation factor that might have kept us apart and you brought me near at the foot of the cross. You confounded the minds of the best and the brightest in your short time on earth and shattered their hearts because when they came face to face with you, they knew what they lacked was not intelligence or religion but love. You made them see that all their efforts were worthless because they were blinded by the pride that didn’t let them see you for who you were. Forgive me Lord for those times when love gets left out of my own actions. You have led me with patience and love and picked me up when I could go no further so many times. Thank you for loving me even in my great weakness and failure and for your grace that is greater than all my sin. I stand amazed.

So now I am on this different path and it’s scary at times, but I know He’s got us. It’s a new chapter and I find comfort in the fact that He will be in this next one as well. He was gracious enough to let me make my personal goal of 20 years with the company and reward me at the end.

I stand amazed.

Hope in every morning.

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God is still in control, in case your’re wondering. The morning bird’s hopeful song ushers in the day, not questioning whether to sing. In joyful exultation, he sings because God made him to sing. He finds reason enough in the birth of the new day.

God put the song there so who am I to doubt? The evening bird assures me as well, with his solitary song at dusk. This small fact astounds me. One bird and one only to bring in the sunrise, and one only to close out the day.

The Master Creator unfurls His sunrise and sunset like a banner across the sky. Genesis repeats itself, it is finished and it is very good. Who am I to say God isn’t in control?

Who am I to say there is no hope?

Lori A. Heyd

And here is a little nugget of truth I found in Proverbs today, I don’t remember ever reading it before:

The believer replied, “Every promise of God proves true;
he protects everyone who runs to him for help.
So don’t second-guess him;
he might take you to task and show up your lies.”
And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things
before I die; don’t refuse me—
Banish lies from my lips
and liars from my presence.
Give me enough food to live on,
neither too much nor too little.
If I’m too full, I might get independent,
saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’
If I’m poor, I might steal
and dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:5-9

Winds of Change

 

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I laid in bed listening to the hum of traffic out on the road. I wanted to revel in the sameness of things the way they’ve been for the last 11 or so years for a few more minutes. To let the cocoon of the wonderful comfortable rhythm of days the way they’ve been wrap itself around me for a little while longer. I am aware that today is different. Today my retirement may be accelerated. The plan might be kicked up a notch. 

Today is the day the email will drop, the one everyone at work has been waiting for. The one that will announce the changes and what if anything it means for us here in Arizona. What it might mean for me. My work phone is on the charge by my bed. Usually I shut it off all weekend. But this morning, I wanted to see the message first thing.

Funny isn’t it? How you can pray and pray for something and then when it comes down to maybe actually having it answered, you dig your heels in at the last and a little part of you is afraid that it may not happen and also afraid that it will.

This is what I saw when I finally opened it:

“You are eligible to participate in the Enhanced Retirement Program (ERP).” And then a long explanation about restructuring and reinvesting and growth in the company.

All I kept thinking is how amazing God is. Just when I decided to retire at the end of year, this comes in. And it’s a good offer. The timing leaves me in awe once again of how He works. All the times I prayed, and cried and wondered if I was doing the right thing by staying. And later, in prayer in my little shed, this is what my devotional said:

“Circumstances are in flux, and the world seems to be whirling around you. The only way to keep your balance is to fix your eyes on Me, the One who never changes. If you gaze too long at your circumstances, you will become dizzy and confused. Look to Me, refreshing yourself in My Presence, and your steps will be steady and sure.” Jesus Calling April 25

All day long the wind howled between the houses as if to mimic change blowing in. It picked up strength mid-morning and never wavered. My allergies kicked up something fierce. Elaine came home looking like she’d been in a war. She said driving the bus was like wrestling all day. And then she had to wipe boogers off the seat and window…….

At the end of the day, the wind finally stopped. I sat out for a little while on the little deck, wondering about the road ahead. I can relate to Mary in Scripture when it says, she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” I spend a lot of time pondering things in my heart. I guess that’s what writers do before the words make it to the page.

Today, I stand amazed at all He’s done and continues to do in our lives. I may not know all the ins and outs of how it’s all gonna play out, but I know He’s with us. And I know He’ll never leave us. And He won’t leave you either, my friend.

He’s in it for the long haul.

The Reluctant Prophet

 

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It was one of those mornings…….the dawn was bursting over the Superstitions and the birds kicked up their chorus a notch as those rays touched earth.  We had some rain recently and they were celebrating what the earth had brought forth. God always births new days and each one is miraculous. Yet some come and go with little celebration, or I am too busy or overwhelmed to notice. Others however, like this one are like the hosts of Heaven are all raising their glasses in a toast to the new day.

At every turn in this life there are moments that breathe life and death. They reside side by side like the wheat and the tares growing in the field together waiting for harvest at the last day. God in His grace and mercy raises us up to resurrection after sleepless nights of worry, out of those times of deep disappointment in ourselves and others, times where it takes all we have just to get out of bed. Sometimes that’s the greatest miracle of all.

But today, this morning, God’s mercy and love take my breath away. When I opened to the words in Jeremiah tears immediately sprang to my eyes.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

I read the words again and again………”Before I formed you, before, before……….” the words echoed and lodged deep in my soul. I know this verse refers to the prophet Jeremiah, but it also applies to us. Those of us who know Him. There is something of the ancient in that verse. Almost as if I can imagine what it must have been like in the dawn of Creation when the morning stars sang together.

This world and the people in it can do its best to steal our joy, but the joy God gives is eternal. It springs up from somewhere deeper and older than we can imagine. Circumstances might snatch it away momentarily, but this joy that springs up at unexpected places and times is God giving us back what has always been ours. In those moments of extraordinary grace we experience our Redemption all over again.

They called Jeremiah the reluctant prophet. He said he was too young and couldn’t speak well. Aren’t we all just as full of excuses? But God stood by his side and protected him when the news was anything but good.

Like Jeremiah, God wants to use us. He speaks out of the deep eternal today. He says, “Tell others of My joy, give them a reason for the hope that lives in your heart. Be my love for them and my mouthpiece not so much in your words, but in your actions.”

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Seeking the Quiet Place

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It is becoming more and more crucial that I seek the quiet place. That we all do. As the fever pitch of the world increases and the voices shriek for attention, I wonder things. I wonder why the greasy wheels still get the most attention. I wonder why the quiet ones, the ones who work behind the scenes and never ask for any glory are not rewarded more often. I wonder why it seems that some people make plans that never go awry. Then I remember:

You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? Jeremiah 12:1

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Why does it seem that the world is getting crazier, louder, more brash, less graceful? Is it just me? I see how hard people are working as I sit here in the parking lot at work. I see where they park to keep their cars shiny and free from dings. I feel their effort because it’s mine too, the press to keep it all going. It’s enough to make you want just to let it all go and move somewhere simple and raise goats. Maybe that’s just me. All the while, the rich seem to get richer with less effort. Then I remember:

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7

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When you’re in the quiet, you can hear things, but only with your soul’s ear to the ground. The Spirit is on the move.
Just below the unrelenting roar of the world, the scarlet Redemptive thread of God’s Holy Spirit is moving through the people. One church dies, and a people are scattered. Ten more come to life. Where they scatter, they regroup. They meet in bombed out buildings and shelters. The Spirit is moving,  I have read the stories of the Redeemed. People of every tribe and tongue all over the world are answering the call, called out of the darkness into His marvelous Light.
When I enter the Sanctuary, I remember.
Evil can prosper, but only for a season. Satan is having a heyday, for he knows his time is short. And whatever happens in this life, I know that the Hope I have is lasting.
When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Psalm 73:16-17


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The very same Spirit who brooded over the Genesis waters and stirred the healing pool of Siloam is moving in the world today. Even now, He whispers to me in the waves. And once when I stood on a deck in the half-light of midnight I saw water as far as the eye could see. He was there too.

These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10

And the clowns the politicians and the rulers and the whiners and the liars will continue to yammer on and it doesn’t matter, not now not ever. The world whips up its best and brightest but it still won’t be nearly good enough.

I think King David said it best:

One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4

 

The Still Small Voice

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This morning when I went out for my quiet time, I was assaulted by the rush of traffic from the street nearby. It seemed louder than usual, almost as if the cars were angry after the long weekend at having to go back to the daily grind. I don’t blame them. I am so blessed to have 3 and 4 days off in a row. The days I put in are long, but many people put in long days and have few or no days off. Ever.

It was a bit chilly so I lit up my little propane heater and I was reminded of those who have no heat, (thank you God for this warm little place where I can greet you.) I settled into what silence there was against the backdrop of the hum of commuters and I wondered about all the people passing and what things they might be facing. I wondered if they had a good weekend or if their hearts were still trying to recover from being battered and bruised and hurt.

Sometimes the battle we face in life is so loud and angry. We’re desperately longing for that quiet place, that little shady rest stop along the road. Or that little patch of sunlight where we can sit and warm up and lick our soul’s wounds for awhile.

As I was meditating on these thoughts of recovery and rest, I heard the soft coo-coo of a mourning dove nearby. “There it is,” I thought. That still, small voice against the roar of the world outside. Even now, with the hum of the clothes dryer here at my desk in the kitchen, I can still hear him (or her) outside.

How can I turn the world down and Him up? By being intentional. By not letting this world get to me. By minimizing all the political garbage on my Facebook news-feed. By throwing open the windows of my soul and letting some beauty in. By reading and focusing on the Word, His Words that will last long after this old world is through.

By remembering the sweet moments from the past weekend. How we laughed after the movie yesterday, over a glass of wine at the second of my picks (two in a row now) with a story-line involving an elderly mother dying. (Her Mom died this past year) I promised that the next 3 picks would be hers. And before that, in Macy’s after I almost put the jeans back twice because they cost too much and she wouldn’t let me, then finding out they were 50 percent off at the checkout.

We’ve got to hold onto the good moments when they come as if our life depended on it, because in truth, it does. Jesus promises us abundant life and peace in the midst of chaos. It’s crazy but true. Clinging to Him in the storm is the only way we can make it safely to the other side.

I love these verses from Romans 12 in the Message version:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1,2

I pray a day of recovery for you today and of some peaceful moments, knowing that the Lord will always bring us through, whatever it is. He has promised it. This life is a little river flowing out into a sea of eternity we can scarcely imagine.

But it’s there.

 

Days when you feel stuck

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Sometimes, when we are in the darkness or someone we love is, we feel paralyzed. We wonder what to do. When it’s someone we love, we reach back into the wellspring of our own memories and remember how it felt being in the bottom of that well. It’s not a good place, we don’t want to go back there.

I remember that a miracle started my walk back to the Lord, and I also remember that even though He provided that huge first step I needed, He taught me that I needed to keep on walking toward Him, no matter how I felt. In my case, I needed to heal my mind before I could cooperate with God in healing my body. I needed to get up and take a courageous first step.

I remember those early days, exercising in the dark of the morning so no one would see me. Faithfully, I went out, day after day. Finally, my body started to reward me by showing me results. My mood improved, my confidence increased, and I started to attend classes with other people. I traded in my baggy clothes for bright colored leotards (and leg warmers, yes forgive me…….after all, it was the 80’s!)

God has never let me forget how it felt to be in that place of darkness and I am grateful for that, for now I can be empathetic to those who are there now. My advice might seem meager and overly simplistic, but there is great power in it. Because I’ve been on the road, I know the road out.

These days when I feel paralyzed, I stop and seek the Lord. I pray. The beauty of prayer is that you can stop and pray anytime and anywhere.

Then I thank God for the new day and I thank Him simply because He is with me in it. It’s a process of reaching for the light, sometimes over and over again throughout the day. That process alone is a conscious effort of choosing joy. Light over darkness. There is plenty on any given day to feel hopeless about, all we have to do is watch the news.

After I pray, I open the Word and ask God to reveal the power and hope in its pages. I always find what I need there. Satan will try his best to keep me from doing that, because he knows once I start giving God gratitude in the midst of my circumstances and opening the Word, he knows he has lost the battle.

Then, I just start moving around in the day, starting with little tasks like cleaning the cat box, starting the laundry, emptying the dishwasher. I have found that Holiness resides in little tasks when it costs you an act of faith just to take that first step.

Then I start looking for the light. In every little thing I can find…….from the frozen bird bath, to the sun shining through Mr. Briggs whiskers……….

There is a darkness called depression and it’s very very real to many people. When you are there in that place, there is nothing anyone can say that will make a difference. Those easy platitudes will only make a depressed person feel worse, almost like its their fault. Believe me, they are usually kicking themselves around the block and back, wondering what is wrong with them.

In those instances, it may be that medication is needed, or counseling, or both. But in all those situations, God is there ready to meet you. If someone you love is in a dark place, pray and keep praying. If you are that someone, know that hope is near. And it’s for you, not for everyone else.

Look to the Light today, take just one step forward and I will stand with you. Together we can walk out of the land of the shadows.

Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us   from Heaven…..Luke 1:78

 

 

His Peace…..

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“Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think they’ve got it coming
Well I know that I don’t deserve You
Still I want to love and serve You more and more
You’re my one thing…….my one thing
And the pure in heart shall see God.” Rich Mullins, “My One Thing”

“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.” King David, Psalm 27:4

Sometimes we need a reminder of who and what our One Thing is, for there are so many other things that compete and clamor for our attention. Like all those turbulent thoughts from within and without. Sometimes the decibel level in our own heads is frightening. When the weight of stress or grief or just the weary world assails from outside they demand an answer……..

What are you going to do???? They shriek. Like a house of cards flying madly awry in the wake of the Red Queen’s wrath our thoughts fly every in direction. 

Then, just when you need it most, God or an angel or one of His representatives leave two pieces of paper in a parking lot. Partly hidden under a tire, they could have easily been missed. Unlike myself, Elaine is always keenly aware of her surroundings and she saw them right away.

It was one of those particularly difficult days before her Dad passed away, and it was around Easter time. She picked them up in the nursing home parking lot; these two Heavenly missives, and they provided her with great comfort that day and even now to me when I read them again. More than likely they came from the Pastor who was preaching there at the care-home, but God working through people makes it no less of a miracle to me. He simply knew she needed them that day.

Out of all the hundreds of things we worry and think about on any given day, only One thing is really necessary to focus on. Jesus addressed this with Mary:

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Sometimes I think God is allowing me some sleepless nights so that I will learn to silence those nighttime thoughts that run rampant by simply calling on His name. There are Bible verses about finding peace and safety in the name of the Lord. A few nights when I have been exceptionally troubled, I have calmed my thoughts by just saying, “Jesus……Jesus……Jesus” like a one word prayer over and over. And I can tell you that this works. He works. One night in particular I actually felt as if I was lost in a forest and I found one of those red phone booths like you see in the UK. That was God’s way of giving me a visual of the safety of His name.

Now when I lay awake at night and say my Jesus prayer, I see that red phone booth. God knows we are a visual people. We need a sign, and sometimes it’s a phone booth. What else can I say?

If you try to put your ultimate trust in anyone or anything else to give you the peace that only Jesus can give, you will be disappointed every single time. People, places or things just can’t do that and it’s not fair to expect that of them. Only Jesus can calm the stormy seas in your heart.

Peace for your day today and may calm rule your heart……Lori

******If anyone would like me to send a copy of these via email, give me your name and I will forward them on………I would like to give credit to who wrote them but somehow I think they would be happy knowing that their words are still bringing encouragement.

The Power of Memory

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Prayer for today: Oh Lord, help. I have no idea how this year is going to go, but thank you in advance for blazing a trail before us…….You have never let us down yet. Amen

This morning in prayer it struck me that one of the best gifts we can hand down to our children and others in our lives is to provide them with good memories. Kids will forget the gifts they unwrapped in a few days time, but they will never forget the times you spent together whether good or bad.

This weekend, I had an occasion to relive some old memories and add some new ones to the collection. My cousin and her husband came for a visit, and so did Elaine’s nephew. We had a great time reliving all those old times, in fact they surrounded us as our companions as a backdrop as we laughed and talked and filled each other in on the past few years.

I guess maybe you don’t think too much about memory until you care for someone who has had theirs stolen like Joyce had. What would it be like to lose those memories that make up a life? Wouldn’t it be like losing your life? Memories make up so much of who we are. Memory is the sum of what makes us individuals in many ways. You and I might hear the same song and that same song conjures up altogether different images in our minds.

While you might think of a pleasant time growing up in a little Spanish village, maybe images of little old men and women opening their shops, sweeping in the warmth of the sun. I might borrow a memory from my Mom in the 1940’s when she told me about going out to meet the trains and wave to the soldiers as went off to war. And what a powerful thing, when we share those memories, they mingle together like a little bit of magic and yours become a little of mine and vice versa.

If you share a life with someone then you share a wealth of memories and moments where you might look at each other at the exact same time and say, “Do you remember that time?” Those same memories that can bring such sharp grief after they’re gone, can turn soft and healing with time and provide great comfort.

Memories have tremendous power to grip us for good or ill. Sometimes holding us hostage for years. Sometimes sending us to rehab or the psychiatrists couch. Sometimes they’re the only thing that keeps us from losing our grip.

A further thought is that worry is like a perverted form of memory because worry conjures up things that haven’t even happened yet. It’s borrowing negative from a future that may or may not even come to reality. It is tiresome and burdensome and renders you useless to the present and unable to be fully there for those around you.

It’s why Jesus cautions us so often about worry. He knows how destructive it is. It never leads to peace. He beckons us to turn and look back down the road He’s already led us, so our minds can settle again. He has promised everything we need for today, He only asks us to keep walking in His direction.

I am thanking Joyce today for the gratitude I have for my memories. Elaine has her remains now. It’s a very odd thing to see them on her shelf, someone I knew so well even though I know she isn’t there. I also know that someday I will come to the same state, unless Jesus comes back before that happens. And I hope that I will still be teaching someone something, like Joyce continues to teach me.

We are all in this together, thank God.

The Afterglow

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One day into the New Year and my mind races ahead plunging full speed into it, that is, my mind and not much else. I am already borrowing trouble and worrying about events that have yet to happen, but I am getting better about that. Now when I sense myself doing that, I pull away and find that quiet place in my soul that’s been hollowed out by His Spirit and I try to rest in Him until my mental wheels slow and eventually stop. Most of the time, I have a peace about the coming year.

I was reading something yesterday that said none of us are made to stay the same. God made us and everything else  in this universe to change, to transition into something else. New seasons, new growth, parts of us die and are reborn. Change is good. It keeps us alive, on our toes and yet I am a creature of habit and I don’t like being out of my comfort zone. I have found security in my routine, my job, my little corner of the world. But true security is found in Christ and nothing else. As my old Pastor used to say, it’s Jesus plus nothing.

So I take a deep and thankful breath as I look back and see where God has taken us and brought us. And I look even further back and I know I have no reason to fear anything. He has always been there and He always will. That part will never change.

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Sometimes you just need to take a step forward in the fog, and soon things will begin to take shape. You’ll see the splashes of color and miracles along the way if you just keep walking.

It’s the last day of  four 12 hour shifts and I feel a little like how Tolkien so aptly described it when Bilbo Baggins said: “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” Yep. That’s the feeling. I am looking forward to being huddled in the shop tomorrow in the early morning darkness folded around me.  I need my battery charged and that’s the best way I know to do it, that and being in nature.

This is a new stage for Elaine, and I want to help her through it. Before, every spare minute was filled to overflowing when her Mom was still alive, especially at the last stages. Now she’s finding big pockets of time and feeling like something is missing. When you have been a caretaker so long it’s hard to know what to do when it’s over. No one ever prepares you for that.

I am ready to close out the week, and start a New Year.

I will end with one of my favorite poems of all time……..

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening 

By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.