Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Journey



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Written September 19, 2010
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The flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa was brutal. My seat was in the middle of the middle aisle. At 5’11” my knees were up against the seat in front of me the entire 15 ½ hour flight. I also had to stow my laptop, jacket and fanny pack under the seat which left no room for my size 11 feet… especially after I took my shoes off and had them rolling around down there too. I feel like a giant. I tower over everyone on our team.
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My seat mates were great. They were both photographers. The man to my right was American and going to South Africa for a photo safari with his brother. He’s been to Africa 4 times and loves it. The sweet girl to my left was an Afrikaaner (white South African) and a photographer on a cruise ship based out of Boston. She was on her way home on holiday.
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The airport terminal was a bit of a trip for me. AC/DC was playing over the speakers and it was all very modern. The names of the restaurants were different, well, except for Kentucky Fried Chicken. We ate dinner in the food court and by the time we got out of there it was dark. I ate a hamburger.
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We were met by a man named Marius. He is an Afrikaaner who is married to an American and they live in Swaziland and are part of AIM (Adventures in Missions who partners with Children’s Hope Chest). Our driver’s name is Elliot and I don’t know much about him yet.
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We are meeting in the hotel lobby at 7:30 am and leaving by 8:00 am. Marius said we will drive for a bit over an hour and then stop at a mall for breakfast. We will be travelling today and going through a debriefing session. I imagine we will be going through all our bags and getting our stuff organized to take to the carepoint. We’ve got backpacks to fill and the amount of stuff we all brought is mind boggling.
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To be continued...

I'm Home!!!

Internet service was difficult in Africa so I didn't get to post throughout my trip as I had hoped. I have got a lot of things that need tending to and am still processing so much of what happened during the trip. While in Swaziland, we met the Schifanos who left a couple days later. Marc has a blog,The Schifano Tribe, and he posted a video that includes our team in some of the pictures. I'm the blond in the orange shirt.

Marc and Jan's Swaziland Trip from The Schifano Tribe on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Whispers in the Dark, Post 5

Written Saturday, September 18, 2010

I’m the first of the team to arrive at our gate for the flight to Johannesburg. In fact, it will be awhile before anyone gets here. I thought I was going to be able to sit in a Starbucks or a bar and connect to the Internet, edit posts I’d already written, and get them scheduled. Nope.

I then went to one of those kiosks and was going to do it from there but after I swiped my DEBIT card it just kept ticking away the money while refusing to do anything. I called Mr. Macchiato in a panic because I was afraid it was going to drain our checking account. Don’t ask me why I used the debit card. That was just dumb. I blame it on sleep deprivation. Anyway, he got it taken care of right away and while he was doing that I got it to shut down. Whew! I won’t try that again!

I then got my Sweetie to post what I’d written for me unedited… I was planning to go through and add links and titles (now done). So much for my plans of having a post every day while I’m gone! I am still going to try but I have a feeling that may not be possible once I am in Africa. (I can in Johannesburg! Don't know how it will go in Swaziland.)

On Thursday night our team leader’s father died suddenly. He was only 57 years old. I cannot even imagine what Danielle and Mike are going through. They made the decision to go ahead with the trip as planned but I know it is going to be very difficult for them at times. My heart aches for Danielle.

It is situations like this that get me sometimes. Why?

I’ve been thinking about Ecclesiastes for a long time now.

I haven’t written on my political blog in months. Prior to the 2008 elections I had a fire in my belly that sent me on a mission to educate first myself and then possibly others. I was most interested in reaching other housewives that were uninterested in politics and didn’t really see how what goes on in Washington and our state governments really does affect our everyday lives. I was very interested in what I was doing at the time. And then it changed.

I still believe that we should be aware of what is going on politically in order to protect our freedoms. In the scope of history women haven’t even had the right to vote all that long. One day it hit me… by being so focused on the politics of it I was missing the heart of it. I believe there are those that are called to a deeper involvement in governmental workings. I’m not one of them. The answers to our problems, our real problems, will never come through our government. We can’t fix things solely through laws. We can’t take our personal convictions and expect that laws made mirroring them will change those who don’t hold those convictions.

At the same time, we can’t have a societal freefall into a system that allows anything and everything. Where are the lines? Who draws the lines? As long as there are people in this world they will never agree on what is right and what is wrong. So we have people that serve on the front lines that fight it out for us. Battles rage and wars are won and lost.

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?
One generation passes away and another generation comes; “But the earth abides forever,
The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose.
“The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; the wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit.
“All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again.
All things are full of labor; man cannot express it. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing. Nor the ear filled with hearing.
That which has been will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.
There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.”
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

I don’t know. I guess I’ve just come to see my zeroed in focus on politics as being a distraction from where my focus really needs to be. That is not to say in any way that I think that Christians ought not be involved in our government and that we citizens should not be aware. There are laws worth fighting for and/or against. I just don't see our salvation as a country coming through our judicial system.

Sigh…

A time to be born, and a time to die…
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance…

I’m thinking a lot about Danielle and how the distance between these verses will most likely be shortened over the next 11 days. I imagine she’ll be cycling through these emotions over and over in the course of each day. Mike will be too given they’ve been married 15 years and I’m sure he also loved his father-in-law.

As I sit here waiting I am filled with excitement to be seeing Jim, Elysa and Anna. Oh my gosh they are HERE!!!

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Whispers in the Dark, Post 4



That carepoint is now sponsored...

The statistics for Swaziland are sobering to say the least.

If a 15 year old child from Swaziland only has a 6% chance of making it to the age of 32, isn’t the situation there hopeless? That means 94% of them will die before that age. Is reaching out to a nation on the brink of extinction a waste of time and resources? Would those efforts be better spent on a country with better odds?

You might think I’m playing Devil’s Advocate by asking those questions that you may have assumed came from other people. Those are actually my own thoughts.

As a Christian, I believe that each life is precious. I am adamantly pro-life. How is it that I can have thoughts like that?

It is that nasty specter in my life, doubt. That little niggling that tells me that a God of Love cannot possibly allow such heinous atrocities to happen to innocent children.

What is the purpose in it all? What if there is no purpose? What if it is what it is? Are we just higher animals on the evolutionary chain?

Do we have immortal souls? In light of eternity, what is our life here on earth, a breath?

I’m doing the lessons for our little VBS at our care point. I’m really struggling with it. How do you tell children how much God loves them when their parents are dead, they’re possibly being sexually abused, they are hungry and they have a 94% chance of dying before they reach their thirties.

Our team leader sent something out about how a child was asked what he wanted and he said, “To grow up.”

That breaks my heart and I choke on it each time I think of it.

Being given this trip I have not put in the time and effort the other team members have. It has really bothered me. When I think about how hard they have worked and the amazing things they’ve accomplished I see how God is working through them to reach out to these hurting people.

I think about all the possibilities and it hurts. Is it cruel to go there and show these people love and then leave? What if a child really likes me and then I’m gone? I think about my own childhood and some of the stand out memories of when someone reached out to me with encouraging words, a squeeze on the shoulder, loving eye contact…

I feel myself close around the emotion of it to contain it. I don’t want to do that but I’m afraid of the full impact of what I am about to experience.

To be continued…

Monday, September 20, 2010

Whispers in the Dark, Post 3

Nine weeks ago if someone told me I was going to Africa in September I would have laughed. Yeah, right.

As y’all know, I’ve been looking for a job. Not for fun, I need one. We’ve got a kid in college and another who is a senior in high school. We’ve got medical expenses. Our deck is rotting. Our fence is falling down. We haven’t let our son get his license because the cost of insuring him is just too high.

Reality. You know. It bites.

So, how am I going to Africa? Jim and Elysa, after raising their support, have paid my way. I cannot tell you how humbling it is to have someone hand you a gift of this magnitude. I didn’t want to accept it but Elysa said if I didn’t they would ask someone else. So I did.

I wrote them the following letter (slightly edited for the blog). It is pretty personal and not the easiest of things to share. However, it is real and it is true.

August 10, 2010

Dear Jim and Elysa,

My goodness… I’m not even sure how or where to begin…

Oy. Last week was a very difficult week for me. I was a candidate for a job and did not get it. I was told that I was a “close second”. I’d been told the same by ** a couple months back in regard to a job there. We’ve been under financial stress and have been counting on my being able to get a job now that I have my voice back. I cannot tell you how hard I prayed for these jobs.

This is actually a hard letter for me to write. I’ve been sitting here staring at the screen. There is just so much…

I just looked back in the journal I started writing in again not long ago. It is a journal that was actually begun at your house the night before Lisa’s memorial. I only wrote in it a few times before June of this year. I wrote in it that you texted me about Swaziland and just said, “I wish.” (July 21) I was waiting to hear about the job when you sent that text and was hoping to be working soon.

The truth is I’ve wanted to write about Africa. I’ve wanted to go there and see things for myself. I’ve wanted to write about the history, the politics, how what is happening in Africa relates to the rest of the world, and our part in things. I don’t even understand all of these things but have read enough to know it is extremely complicated. I’ve wanted to find God in the suffering, if that makes sense. So many non-Christians point to Africa as proof that there is no God. Honestly, looking at the situation for so many all over the world you have to ask yourself where God is in it.

Well over a year ago I told ** God was going to send me to Africa. That was after I’d been told by my doctor that there was nothing more that could be done about my voice. I remember the moment I felt I was going to go. I didn’t write it down but ** does remember me telling him. He has always gotten grumpy when I talk about doing anything like that.

Sometimes we are inundated with support requests for mission trips. It can be overwhelming. We have not been involved in that way. ** did go serve at Camp Barnabas in Missouri in 2007 (camp for disabled children and their families) but she paid for it herself with money she earned babysitting and that she got for her birthday. We didn’t even give her any for it. I figured that if and when I ever got to do a trip of that sort that it would be because we had the money to pay for it. I don’t have a problem with people raising support for trips like that, and ** doesn’t really either, but I don’t think we’d do that for ourselves.

Well, I didn’t get the job. Being told I was a “close second” again brought up some strong feelings. When I was a kid I was on a competitive swim team and swam every stroke. In fact, swimming the butterfly I often came in 3rd or 4th but ended up with the first place ribbon because the others would be disqualified due to their form. There was one trophy awarded per stroke per age division each year. I wanted a trophy, desperately. With each trophy that was awarded someone was given a certificate for being a runner up or “close second”. My last year, I got the certificate for all four strokes in my age division. I never got a trophy for anything ever. It makes me feel stupid and foolish to admit that I felt like I did back then.

The guy that started the homeless ministry I’m involved in on Saturdays wrote a book and his mom gave me a copy. He talks about God speaking to him in it and how he got a tattoo of a cross on his hand as a sort of monument to remind him. God usually “speaks” to me through His Word.

This part is hard for me to tell you… I had been looking at all your pictures on facebook and your house is beautiful. I wish I could tell you that I was happy for all of you but instead I was jealous. Normally, I don’t really struggle that way but every once in awhile I do. It was so bad that I felt like I did years ago…

When we were living in California I met a gal through my bible study that had turned her life around. She had been married before and had three children by two different men, neither of which were her husband. She had been into drugs/alcohol, etc. I really liked her and we introduced her to a single friend of ours who was “pure”. They fell in love. ** went with him to L.A. the day M was going to propose to pick up J’s ring. It was super hot and they were gone hours and hours longer than they said they would be. We were going to watch her children that night and I was grumpy because it was so hot and I was worried about her youngest, who was still breastfed and screamed when his mother wasn’t around.

I’ve never cared about jewelry much but when I saw the ring M had got her I couldn’t believe it. In my inner ugliness I suppose I felt she did not deserve a ring like that. I am never comfortable when I have feelings that I think I shouldn’t… feelings I think are beneath me but I sometimes have. Anyway, when M came to our house later to pick J up he came with the biggest bouquet of flowers I had ever seen (to this day!). J oooohed and aaaaahhhed and then M thrust them at me and told me to take care of them for her.

The baby was already screaming and I was a bit offended. Right after they left ** told me he was going to work (which happened to be air conditioned) and I had a fit. I was going to be left with 6 kids in blistering heat and I thought he was going to be there to help me. Words were said and then he nastily told me to take care of J’s flowers before they started wilting and left.

I was seething as I was sawing through the stems while holding them steady with my left hand when I noticed the diamond was missing from my engagement ring and at that very moment I heard, “You could have nothing.”

I immediately burst into tears. I was so incredibly ashamed. Who was I to judge? Of course, I repented right then and there. I apologized to ** when he got home. And I was happy for M and J when they came back later that evening. I was the Matron of Honor at their wedding. Sadly, they divorced 2 years later.

Those ugly feelings of envy over your house made me feel like I did when I first saw J’s ring. Reading about JO tattooing his hand as a reminder of when God spoke to him made me go looking for that ring. I didn’t even know if I still had it. I did. I took off the ring ** replaced it with (years after that happened) and put the ring with the missing diamond back on. I was so terribly ashamed and prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for God’s continued blessing in your lives. I prayed to be content with my life. I prayed for God to increase my faith and to believe that our needs will be met whether I get a job or not. I let my dream of going to Africa go…

That happened on Thursday. Friday we left on our camping trip. Saturday morning I was fixing breakfast and you, Elysa, called. The last several days have been so strange. I laugh. I cry. I stare…

I’m still… overwhelmed. I will call you tomorrow to find out what all I need to do.

Love, Kelly

To be continued…

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Whispers in the Dark, Post 2

I’ve not been consistent with blogging since I got my voice back. It’s just been fits and starts and little runs here and there. Being able to talk allows me to be fully engaged in life apart from the computer. Then there’s facebook. For an instant gratification girl like me, facebook has been easier to keep up with.

Back in June I dug out a journal I started while at Elysa’s house in Mississippi (who I’m going to Africa with) in October 2008. It was the night before Lisa’s Memorial Service (I wrote about her here, she killed herself). I wrote in it a few times between then and June of 2009. I decided I was going to start writing in it again and read through it. I was stunned. I was not in a good place in June of 2009. My husband was worried about me and wanting my anti-depressants increased. I’d been on them since the spring of 2008, when I was so distraught over our daughter running away. I wrote that I was worried too. I remember last summer waking up in the mornings and thinking, “God please help me.” It was the only prayer I was then capable of.

The first Sunday in September we made a church switch. Our church was much too large and I could never communicate with anyone there. We decided to try a much smaller church. I had had an epiphany prior to this that while I thought there was something that could be done for my voice I continued on as I would have with a voice. I still participated in as much as I could even though it was hard. When my doctor said nothing more could be done for me I just laid down. I decided I needed to accept my lot and get back to being me. Without telling anyone I started weaning myself off of the anti-depressants.

So much happened this last year… I was so intent on putting one foot in front of the other that I didn’t realize how far I had come. Reading through those entries in that journal was like hiking up a mountain and being so focused on how far I had yet to go but then having my breath taken away by turning around and seeing where I’d been.

In January I posted here about how I ended up with my new doctor in Denver. What I didn’t post about was when I first got involved with the ministry to the homeless on Saturday mornings. I showed up with a sign pinned to my jacket that said, “My name is Kelly, I have wacky vocal cords, I’m not sick.” Below that I had Jesus and You with a big red heart in between. Yeah, I know, cheeeeeeeeeeeeezey.

I walked around with a pad and paper and introduced myself to those in line. We serve breakfast outside near a park and it was bitterly cold that day. A church had set up one of those collapsible open sided tents for people to go under for prayer. I walked over to introduce myself and when the lady I spoke to read my sign she promptly drug me to the center of the tent to be prayed over first. This group was more charismatic than I am comfortable with but I just went with it. I even thought, “Hey God, if you want to heal me this way, go right ahead!” A little crowd gathered round and hands were laid on me. I prayed along with them for awhile. They were looking for a miracle and kept asking me to just start talking. I’d try… someone would say I sounded better… someone would ask me if I believe God can heal me… someone would say I need to just let go and let God. Sigh.

As if I hadn’t prayed a thousand times over the 5 years I’d been dealing with Spasmodic Dysphonia. One of them even said that by my saying I had SD I had given it power over me.

What a load of CRAP.

I got away from them as soon as I could without making a scene and went back to writing notes to the homeless people. They started praying over a guy in a wheel chair. After some time there was an uproar and the guy in the wheel chair stood up and faltered through some steps. Two guys in front of me looked at each other and one of them said, “Ugh, so it begins.” The man who was now walking was from their church and no one knew him so they weren’t buying it. I stood there confused. Yes, they were super charismatic but I didn’t think they were liars. I didn’t know what to think.

I continued on my way and at the end of the line was a very tall black man. He read my sign and then looked in my eyes. Most of the homeless that I’ve come in contact with do not make direct eye contact right off so he had my attention. He then said, “Can I ask you a question.” Of course, I said yes.

“Do you believe God can heal you?”

Oh Good Lord! I was highly annoyed and I’m sure he got that. I told him yes, but that obviously God has chosen NOT to. Still holding my gaze he asked me if he could pray for me. I said yes and he put his hand on my shoulder and turned me toward the mountains.

I wish so much I could remember the words he said. It was like poetry and all I could think was, who is this guy? Has he been to Seminary or something? When he was done he again looked very intently into my eyes and said, “I don’t know how or when but, God is going to heal you.”

I believed him.

Of course, I was thinking someday in the future through adult stem cells or something along those lines. It was only a couple weeks later that I was talking through the same treatment I’d been getting all along but through a different technique and a new doctor.

I’ve never seen that guy since. I’ve asked about him but no one knows him. Of course, my Christian family members and friends all think he was an angel. I really don’t know what to think. Maybe…

Interestingly, his name was Edmund. That gets to me a bit. In 2006, I wrote a VBS curriculum for our church using the Narnia DVD. When I was a kid I loved the Chronicles of Narnia and read them again and again. In fact, I remember lying in bed and wishing so much that Aslan was real and that he would come for me. I didn’t know the author was a Christian. I didn’t know that the story contained biblical principles. I just responded to what Aslan represented. For those not familiar with the story, Edmund was a child that Aslan laid down his life for.

Whatever that encounter with Edmund was it shook me.

To be continued…

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Whispers in the Dark, Post 1

Do you ever doubt God exists? I do. As a Christian that is a scary thing to admit. The thing is, I’m human. I have questions that go unanswered. And I just don’t get some stuff. Some times my faith boils down to the fact that when I try not to believe, I can’t. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I just do.

Some of you that make the blog rounds are familiar with Rechelle, a woman in her early forties, who is now a professing atheist after a lifetime as a Christian. I’ve read her blog for a couple years and wasn’t terribly surprised by her announcement. We exchanged a few e-mails and I shared a little about myself. I understand the process she’s gone through. I’ve been there and just came to a different conclusion than she did.

Blogging is very strange in that in enables you to lay down normal barriers. It kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and some of the whispered conversations I had with friends in the dark during sleepovers. It lends an air of safety. In reality you don’t know who is reading what you write.

So why blog? For me it began out of frustration and pain over losing my voice and being home alone all day after 9 years of homeschooling. My first blog, Laughing Always Helps, I made no mention of my personal struggles. It was just a silly blog meant for laughs and served as a creative outlet. It was also a place where I felt some normalcy. No one knew or needed to know what I sounded like. That all ended in the wee hours after our daughter ran away in January of 2008. I got real on my blog and it was no laughing matter.

The outpouring of support through that blog during that time was incredible. However, I deleted the blog after a couple months when someone from our real life stepped into our family drama through seemingly innocuous information they got off my blog… that our daughter had been accepted into a runaway program for teens. Within hours of that post this person tracked my daughter down and made a sticky situation even stickier. It’s not the complete stranger reading your blog you need to worry about so much as it is those who know you. Obviously, I returned to blogging. I missed it. Not being able to speak clearly isolated me and being social by nature I needed to interact with others.

This blog is “anonymous.” However, if you’ve been reading awhile you know my name is Kelly. I’ve also posted videos of me talking. I don’t post my family member’s names or pictures showing their faces. Many people that know me in real life do know of this blog but most don’t. I’m about to change that a bit. This blog will still be semi-anonymous in that I will continue to not use my family member’s real names or post identifiable pictures of them. However, I am going to link my blog to my facebook account.

Why?

I’m not 100% sure. I just feel compelled to do so. It has to do with this trip to Africa. It has to do with Rechelle. It has to do with the fact that too often I feel Christians shy away from the hard questions. What harder question to ask of God then why is there so much suffering in this world? Why are innocent children starving to death? Where is God in all of that?

Someone said to me today that the answer to Africa’s problems is nuclear warfare. This person would never go to Africa. There’s no point.

I am going to Africa in search of answers. I want to share the journey with you which is frightening for me. I want some assurance that at the end of this I will be able to present the answers to you all wrapped up with a pretty bow. At the same time I know that is not going to happen.

To be continued…

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In 48 Hours...

I will be boarding a plane to Atlanta, Georgia. There I will meet up with all the members on our team and we will fly together to Johannesburg, South Africa. From there we will drive 3+ hours to Swaziland.

I've been working on a series of posts to run every day throughout the time I am gone, starting on Saturday. They are my journey before the journey.

I will have Internet access but am not sure if I will have time to post from Africa. I will pop through a few short greetings if I can.

Erica, a fellow team member also from Colorado that I've yet to meet, put up a moving post yesterday here.

In fact, we've got a total of five Bloggers on our team including myself. Here are the links:

Danielle at Moms4Change
Mike, Danielle's husband, at More Than Enough
Elysa at Musings From Graceland
Erica at In the Blink of my Eyes

My goodness... there's a lot to be done before I leave!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Please Join Us in Prayer!!!

Danielle at Moms4Change is the team co-ordinator for our trip to Africa and has daily prayer requests and information on her blog. She also has a place where you can enter your e-mail address to receive the posts.

I can't believe we are leaving in just 11 days!

I have got to get a newsletter out for the medical clinic this week so I am a bit consumed with that. My house is so chaotic that I went and hid in an office at the clinic today for four hours and only got two articles written. Writing is easy for me but I am usually just writing for fun and don't really care about grammar or how things are worded. It is very important that this newsletter inspire people to actually read the content. I just want to do a really good job for this awesome ministry and am feeling very inadequate.

Well, I am off to the library. I need some books on African folklore.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Life in the Fast Lane


Boy... the days just get away from me lately! I just thought to myself, "I'll get back to blogging tomorrow," and realized my days of doing that turned into over a week.
a
My Dad just visited for three days and I didn't know he was coming until a couple days before he arrived. It was so nice to get to spend some time with him!
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Our team to Swaziland is doing a little VBS for the kids at Beveni Carepoint (I learned the proper spelling is Bheveni and it is pronounced Buh Vaney... but Children's HopeChest is spelling it Beveni for whatever reason) and I volunteered to get that together. I worked with innercity/homeless children in Jackson, MS, for 5 years using a curriculum (written by a friend) designed for children at risk. I thought I could just pull some lessons from that and it would be like stepping into an old pair of shoes for me. After going through the materials, however, I've decided to just write one. I wrote a VBS curriculum for our church in 2006 using the Narnia DVD. I just want what we teach to be relevant to their life experience. If it goes well, we can then hand it off to other teams going to other areas.
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I need to get the newsletter out for a medical clinic and am stressing about that. It is really important I do an excellent job for them and am praying that I can write it in such a way that people will actually read it.
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Pumpkin Spice's stuff arrived... Sadly, a kind lady and her husband found a box on the side of the road in Nebraska with my mother-in-law's contact info. It was the box containing her mother's china and most of it was destroyed. The lady is boxing up what survived and shipping it to us. What an angel!!! And what a blessing to know what happened to that box! Pumpkin cried and cried though.
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First football game of the season Friday night!