My Quota of Surprises

This weekend I not one, but two surprises.

I was supposed to have three days off, but it wasn’t going to work out for me to go home so I asked if I could just work one and a half of the days and my mangers said sure. (Cue happiness because I really like my job. I mean, obviously…) Well, Saturday afternoon I was covering a light, five-hour shift and about fifteen minutes before I was going to head home, I looked up and saw my pastor and his wife (from back home) about ten paces away.

Now, I knew there was a possibility that they’d stop in some time because they’re my really good friends and their son only lives about an hour away, but the shock was real folks. I ran out from my station and gave them big hugs, totally delighted that they could see me in my little work sphere.

God had worked it out perfectly so 1) I was at work when they stopped by and 2) I was just getting off work so we could hang out for a visit. They weren’t at the museum to tour it, they were just there to hang out with me. So I quickly went and dropped my till (which is what you call it when you take your money to the cash room), then introduced them to my manager while I signed out for the day.

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We headed over to my camper which was pretty cool because they used to travel by camper a lot, so they were able to give me some tips and tricks about how to keep my place more insulated, etc…

Having them visit me was wonderful and made me so happy. I’m thrilled to be here in Kentucky, but I also left a lot behind in Ohio, so when my two little worlds merge it’s fantastic.

Sunday I worked the last late shift of the summer, then called Mom as I headed home. Right before I walked into my camper my sister stepped out from behind a tree. I screamed, my mouth fell open, and I just stared at her. Then, realizing I had just screamed into my phone then took it away from my ear I quickly asked Mom if she knew what was going on. She did and was quite amused, so I hung up and gave my sister a big hug.

She had decided that some sister-time was far over-due and her husband had helped her work out surprising me.

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She took me to my favorite restaurant (Olive Garden) where we talked and laughed and had enough leftovers to bring home for a whole second meal. (And actually for me, a third.)

Then we came back to my camper and I had a delightful time showing her around. It was gratifying when she commented on how she was surprised that I didn’t really have any clutter. (Yo, folks, when we were kids we shared a room and I was Clutter Queen and my room was a mess. Most of my childhood was spent with my parents and oldest sister trying to teach me to keep my things in order, but instead, I just became an expert at climbing over mounds of stuff in order to reach my bed.) For the last decade, I’ve become progressively more particular with my living space, and nowadays? Well, everything has its place and I’m not able to relax until everything is in its place. That comes in hand when you have unexpected company, I mean, obviously.

My sister spent the night, and we had a lovely time talking, walking around the gardens, relaxing, and me excitedly introducing her to my friends at the museum, and of course, showing her all the stuffed animals. (Seriously, we’ve got some of the cutest ones ever.)

The sister-time we had was exactly what I needed, even though I hadn’t realized that until I was experiencing it. I’m so thankful she came. It was hard saying good-bye to her, but I just kept reminding myself that her visit was so unexpected in the first place that I can just dwell on the happiness of her having been here, rather then miss her too much.

I never liked surprises because I like anticipating happy things. But now? Well, maybe I’m changing my mindset because goodness, getting surprised twice in one weekend was amazingly wonderful.

And now I’ve got to hurry off to work, so bye for now folks!

Question: Do you like surprises? What’s one of the best surprises you’ve ever gotten?

A Life Outside of Work?

Next week the museum where I work is going back to it’s non-summer hours: Nine to Six instead of Nine to Eight. That means that I’ll be working less. Ya know, like a normal 40-hour work week. (Which has only happened once since I started working here, and that’s  because I had to take a day off work due to a family emergency.)

The problem is, I’m so used to working long hours that when I realized I was only going to be working five days a week I had a slight feeling of panic. Like, what am I supposed to be doing now? I’m fairly certain that this means I’m going to have to figure out a life outside of work here in Kentucky.

And, when I stop and think about it the possibilities seem pretty endless.

  • I could start cooking massive amounts of food to give to my co-workers (Seriously, this is a dream of mine, I just need to figure out the details since I live in a little camper)
  • I could start running again (This would be quite beneficial and will probably become a reality starting tomorrow)
  • I could try and start getting together with my co-worker friends outside of work (Or, ya know, just go hang out with them while they’re working and I’m off duty…)
  • I could finally begin writing again (Yes, yes, this needs to happen)
  • I could actually take up vlogging once more (Especially because a friend gave me a vlogging camera…)
  • I could explore the area (Maybe with a friend in tow?)
  • I could hand-wash my laundry instead of going to an expensive laundromat (This is a real possibility until it gets cold outside)

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Or, I could just go ahead and do what I dreamed about last night: Volunteer at the museum.

I went to sleep last night pondering what would happen if I went to work in my uniform on my days off. I considered the possibility of being able to wander around helping people while off the clock and realized that might not work. I mean, there are certain protocols we’re supposed to adhere to at work – like not doing any actual work until we’ve clocked in (I think this has something to do with liability?).

But! There are a lot of volunteers at the museum, which is probably why I dreamed about setting things up with my managers so they’d let me come in even on my days off and continue doing my normal tasks.

I’m not sure if this is a sign that I’m a very loyal worker, or that I need to work at being less resistant to change?

In reality, I’m pretty excited at the possibility of building more of a non-working life here in Kentucky. It is rather daunting though because I have really enjoyed my over-time working schedule.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to make a lot of friends at work. Now I just need to start inviting them to hang out with me outside of work. I’ve already invited one person over for supper next week, and I think I’ll start working on trying to plan a game night.

That’s it for today, folks!

Exhale

Good morning, folks! It’s time for another book review – this one the first of three nonfiction books that I’ve been reading. It’s so good to be back to sharing books with y’all and I hope you enjoy. 😉

FIRST OFF, SOME STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 240
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Title: Exhale
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Exhale is for the woman who is suffocating under the pressures of being all things to all people. The pressure of filling every unfilled spot at church, home, and work. The pressure of trying to do it all right, make decisions that benefit everyone else, and keep everyone happy.

Rather than adding more to your to-do list, in this book Amy Carroll and Cheri Gregory show you how to lose who you’re not, love who you are, and live your one life well.

This isn’t a time management book filled with how-to lists and calendar tools. Rather, it walks you through a process that releases you from the things that have created unbearable pressure. Then you’ll be free to start investing your life in ways that fulfill the desires of your heart, benefit your people, and bring glory to God.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Overall I’d say I’m good at telling people no. But, that only applies to people who I feel ‘equal’ to – my peers, etc… When it comes to my bosses, managers, or pretty much anyone in a position of authority, I have an overwhelming desire to do any and everything I can to please them.

Thankfully I work with a great team who actually cares about me and looks out for my best interests, but I figured I should probably start curbing my management-pleasing-side now. After all, it’s Jesus I want to please most of all, not just my boss. (Although I’m convinced that if I’m pleasing Jesus, then the right boss will be pretty happy with me, too.)

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

I read this book over about a three week period of time, which considering how short it is means I crawled through it. But, it felt like one of those books that’s supposed to be nibbled at instead of gulping down. That way, I was able to process what I was reading, let it sink in, and figure out what I needed to apply to my life.

The two authors switch back and forth, each writing one chapter at a time. The varying personalities and points of view helped make the book well-balanced and made me feel like it could apply to a lot more people than if it would have had a single author. They also did a fantastic job of bouncing off of each other and building on what the other had written, versus being redundant and/or contradictory. It was clear that they planned the book well and the flow was surprisingly smooth for having more than one author.

As with all books, there were several things I didn’t agree with, and there were a few times that I thought I’d give the book a lower rating, but as I continued reading I was really impressed with the things I learned.

It’s hard for me to read a book that talks about loving ourselves because I feel like that terminology is way over-used and generally not glorifying to God. In this book though, I felt like they had a balanced view of the matter. They talk about how God made each one of us for a specific purpose, and we need to be content with who God has created us to be, instead of trying to become someone else in order to please people. That is a concept I can totally stand behind.

I could relate fairly well to one of the authors and had a few lightbulb moments while reading her chapters. For instance, she talked about how she consistently (starting in school) would subconsciously look for the “most important person in the room” and then try to please them. This meant she was always trying to please teachers, bosses, etc… When I read that it made me laugh – not because I could relate to it, but because it was the first time I realized that not everyone felt that way. Because, as I mentioned earlier, pleasing people in mangament – aka the “most important person in the room” – is my default setting. Realizing that a mindset or behavior isn’t necessarily normal helps me to then stop and think through it and figure out why I do it and pray about if it’s something I need to stop doing.

This book is great for moments like that. Like it says on the back cover blurb, the book was written to help ladies realize who they are in God, and learn what things in life they need to lose in order to live their one life well.

CONCLUSION

There were a few things in this book – mostly wording, etc… – that I didn’t really like, but when I took it as a whole, considering the overall message I’ve come to the conclusion that I really do agree with most of what the book is saying, just not exactly the way in which it says some of the things.

Also, the tips on how to breathe deeply in this book are seriously good.

RATING

I’m giving Exhale 4 out of 5 stars. This book is a great way to stop, check where you’re heading, what you’re subconsciously believing, and get your life back on track for what God created you for.

Until the Mountains​ Fall {Time for me to gush about another one of my favorite 2019 reads}

June 5th was the last time I posted a book review. (Say what!?!) I’m not sure when I last went that long without tapping out a review, and I’ve missed getting to share my bookish thoughts with y’all. Thankfully I get to jump back into the ring with a book that I really liked, so that’s going to be fun. 😉

FIRST OFF, SOME STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 352
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: July 2, 2019
Title: Until the Mountains Fall
Fiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK
(Which you might want to skip because going into a book blind is so much fun.)

Recently widowed, Rivkah refuses to submit to the Torah law compelling her to marry her husband’s brother and instead flees Kedesh, hoping to use her talents as a scribe to support herself. Without the protection of her father, Kedesh’s head priest, and the safety of the city of refuge, Rivkah soon discovers that the cost of recklessness is her own freedom.

Malakhi has secretly loved Rivkah for years, but he never imagined his older brother’s death would mean wedding her himself. After her disappearance, he throws himself into the ongoing fight against the Canaanites instead of dwelling on all he has lost. But with impending war looming over Israel, Rivkah’s father comes to Malakhi with an impossible request.

As the enemies that Rivkah and Malakhi face from without and within Israel grow more threatening each day, is it too late for the restoration their wounded souls seek?

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Connilyn Cossette is my only 100% auto-buy author – except I’ve never had to auto-buy her books because I’ve gotten to be on the review team for each and every one of her books. Y’all, I can’t tell you how honored I am to be able to say that! Seriously, every time I’ve been chosen to review one of her books I do an internal, external, and internet happy dance. (Just check out my reviews below to see my gushing.)

Miss Connilyn is my very favorite Biblical Fiction author – and I don’t say that lightly. Read more about her other books here:

Counted with the Stars 
Shadow of the Storm 
Wings of the Wind
A Light on the Hill
Shelter of the Most High 

As I always do with this author’s books, I went into the story completely blind – meaning, the first time I’ve read the back cover blurb was just now, as I’m writing this review. This can be a bit sketchy with a new-to-me author, but I trust Miss Connilyn’s writing so much that not knowing what I’m getting myself into is exceedingly interesting.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Let’s get real: When I first opened the pages of this book and started reading I felt a bit of a sinking feeling. I was concerned that it was going to be one of those trite, overly romanticized, mail-order brides type of books. (Remember, I hadn’t read the blurb.) But never fear! We’re talking about Miss Connilyn here – she writes amazing Biblical fiction, not cheesy Hallmark flicks. *cue sigh of relief*

As the story progressed there were twists and turns I did not expect, keeping me reading far into the night even though I was in the midst of a busy work week. I kept waiting for a slow chapter to arrive so I could convince myself to set the book down and sleep but finally had to compromise and put it away when there was a scene/point of view shift.

I’ve only read a few books with an unreliable narrator, and those books are fairly mindblowing to me. Rivkah, the main female character in this story, isn’t exactly an unreliable narrator, but she is to the point where I had vastly different opinions of her depending on who was narrating. It takes advanced skills as an author to pull that character voice off so well.

Malakhi, the main male character, had far more depth than I first expected him to have. I wasn’t anticipating liking him – especially not after the first part of the book, but as his story went on I found myself cheering for him. He was thoroughly written and felt extremely real. He wasn’t perfect by any means, which of course is the mark of a good character. His character development was intense at times and was well-paced.

There were a host of side characters who captured my attention and at times my heart. Seeing their story, watching the way they weren’t simply put there to progress the main character’s stories, but having an arc of their own reminded me of what a skilled author Miss Connilyn is.

The plot itself wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I think I figured it would follow some of the same guidelines as the first two books in the series, but instead, this one had a few new elements.

One thing that generally bothers me in books, but in this case ended up working out well, was a time jump. There’s about a five-year gap between the first part and second part of the book. I’m not a fan of this plot device, yet in Until the Mountains Fall Miss Connilyn pulls it off exceedingly well. The characters are the same but have changed as much as you’d expect during such a time period. The world is different, yet I didn’t feel jarred or like I’d missed out on life due to the missing years. The jump did exactly what it was supposed to – it made us totally skip a boring, listless middle-of-the-book-filler section – and kept the plot moving.

CONCLUSION (With Vague Spoilers)

There is some content in this book that isn’t suitable for young teens – war, violence, mention of some of the evil practices of pagan worship, mentions of inappropriate behavior, characters who are taken advantage of, etc… Everything was written in a vague way and is probably less graphic than if you’re reading some sections of the Old Testament, but still, I’d recommend parental guidance for probably anyone under 15.

I came away from this book with the feeling that Miss Connilyn did it again – wrote another winner and once again made the time period of the Bible leap into life for me. I can’t hardly wait to read her next book!

This summer I moved out of state and wasn’t able to bring most of my books with me. That means I’ve never seen all three books together, but I can’t wait until I have them all with me. The covers are amazing together, right?

*Note: This is the third book in a series. They can be easily read in any order, but you’ll get to know the supporting characters and surroundings a lot better, and avoid spoilers if you read them in order.

RATING

I’m giving Until the Mountains Fall 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve already loaned the book out to a friend, and am planning on requesting it for my library. Y’all should do the same. 😉

Oh Hey, Yeah, I’m Still Alive

The routines in my life have undergone some big changes recently, and it feels like I’m laughing and stumbling along, trying to catch up. I’ve finally decided that catching up might not be a reasonable expectation, so giving myself abundant amounts of grace and the permission to let some things slide in order to focus on the most important things has been exceedingly helpful.

Unfortunately, one of the things that has “slid” recently has been blogging. Not only have I missed spending time with y’all online, and processing my thoughts through writing, but I’ve had to contact publishers because for the first time in history I’ve missed review deadlines by a longshot. #oops

This is mostly because of health problems some of my family members were dealing with. As y’all know I’m currently living in Kentucky, about four hours away from the rest of my family… But, for over a month I was traversing that drive once a week to help out at home before zooming back to Kentucky for another full work week. The schedule I was keeping was a bit more intense than what I’m used to (including working overtime during a four-day workweek multiple weeks in a row), hence my absence from here.

Thankfully, the publishing companies were kind and full of grace, offering me extensions as needed. Even more wonderful is the news that my family is doing a lot better and although I’ll be visiting them of course, they don’t need my help like before.

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That delightful news means I can finally sit down with my computer and try to catch up on life. A July Review is probably not going to happen, because let’s be real – that month has been lost in the haze between June and August. But! I do have some great reviews ready to grace the keyboards of my laptop. (The same laptop that I’ve barely touched for the last six weeks.)

So, what books do you get to look forward to being reviewed in the near future? (Maybe this week if I can stay on top of things…)

Until the Mountains Fall by Connilyn Cossette
Exhale by Amy Carroll and Cheri Gregory
The Cranky Mom Fix by Becky Kopitzke
The Most Important Stories of the Bible by Christopher D. Hudson and Stan Campbell

I’ve already read the first three books, and I’m nearly halfway done with the fourth. (Because let’s be real, even when I don’t have the brainpower to pull out the computer and write, reading still happens.) I would give y’all a little blurb about each of the books, but that would kinda spoil my review, and who wants that?

In addition to the bookish part of my life, I’ve also been having fun trying a few new things this month. One of my most fun “living on my own” experiments this month is trying to figure out how to spend the least amount of money while still eating healthily. So far this has included a lot of relief at not having to decide if I should buy a certain item or not because I just don’t unless it’s something I really need. (And yo, asparagus and lettuce are apparently justifiable necessities in my life.) Also, this has been a great way for me to get into the mode of cleaning out my freezer and pantry. Who knew so much food could accumulate in just a couple of months?

When it comes to work, I’ve been enjoying it so thoroughly that I regularly ask if I can stay late which is generally answered somewhere along the lines of: “Nope, go sleep.” Huh, my mom would be very proud of my mangers, especially considering the fact that they’re totally correct and by the time I actually do get home I’m often too tired to do anything except slump onto the couch. It’s just when I’m at work, I’m riding on the high of doing something that I am passionate about, know makes a difference, and am surrounded by amazing people, so who would want to to leave that?

Even on my last day off after sleeping for twelve hours (it had been a long couple of weeks), I headed back to work just to walk around a bit. (Cause y’all, we have amazing gardens to walk through and who wouldn’t want that?) One of my coworkers inquired if I was always at work because I “Didn’t have any other life” to which I replied that was probably the case… But with such a great work-life, it’s kinda hard to see the need to get involved with something else, ya know?

This week is the last one that the Museum is open late for the summer, so I have all late shifts. That means I leave home after 10:00 each morning, instead of around 8:30. Hence the beauty of catching up on blogging, restful mornings, and attempting to sleep in. Also, I’m delighting in the luxury of having a second mug of coffee this morning, and who wouldn’t be excited about that?

In addition to the book reviews coming up, I have a list of blog post ideas rumbling around in my brain including:
– Explaining what Fair Trade is (per the request of one of my blog readers)
– My plans for the rest of the year
– An update on my writing (or lack thereof)
– A list of the best books I’ve read this year (aka, recommendations)
– A tour of my lovely little camper
– A break down of what all I buy in August (aka, how much living on my own does or does not cost me)
– Attempting to take Instagram Book pictures while in Kentucky, instead of back in my little picture-taking studio. (Seriously, I’m not sure how to do this.)
– A Q&A post if y’all end up having any specific questions about my new life in Kentucky

And there you have it folks, one of those long, rambly, lifeish posts where I throw scads of information at you. If any of these blog post ideas look particuarlly interesting to you, please let me know and I’ll try and make sure I cover them.

Thank you so much for everyone who comments on my posts – either on the blog itself or directly to me. Y’all make me so happy with your encouragment, how you take an interest in my life, and the help you offer me.

Blessings to you all!

A Thing of the Past

When I tried to turn on my laptop this morning it took me a moment to realize the battery was completely dead. By the time I’d plugged in, turned on, and connected to my phone’s hotspot the clock had turned to 8:00 and I gave a slight eye-roll at the secret hope I’d harbored to be able to sneak a book review into the morning itinerary.

Recently, life has been busy. For most days this week/week and a half I have approximately three and a half hours a day that I’m awake and not at work. And somehow, those 210 minutes seem to be swallowed up rather quickly. That means I’m behind in, well, basically everything.

But the crazy thing is, I’m okay with that.

I’m actually kinda in awe. I keep wanting to pinch myself when I think of the energy I now live with. When I think of the things I can accomplish. When I realize I’m living a normal(ish) life.

Five years ago I was struggling to be out of bed for six hours a day. That, my friends, was litereally my goal – to be out of bed six hours a day. And I’m not talking about being productive for six hours a day. I’m talking about sitting on the couch, leaning back on the recliner, doing anything other than lying flat in bed.

For those of you who don’t know I had undiagnosed Lyme disease for five years, then embarked on the long journey to battle the disease from my exhausted body. My teen years were consumed with searching for answers, going to doctors, and being disappointed. My early twenties were spent expending nearly all my energy on trying to rid my body of the sickness. My life was spent measuring time from one herbal cure to the next, mixing up asparagus tea, sleeping unseemly amounts, and begging God for energy.

Through those years I learned a lot. I learned that I put my identity in what I could accomplish, rather than who I was in Christ. Those years were hard.

The next couple of years of my life were so much better. I began to regain a smidgen of energy, no longer dealt with ceaseless pain, and could actually stay awake long enough to hold down a job. It was delightful.

But still. Still I slept an incredible amount. My days were dogged by constant tiredness. Even though I lived a fulfilling, excited, happy life I would often crawl in bed for a nap and be so exhausted that I didn’t want to wake up, because my energy was always expended.

Then I began to notice gradual shifts and changes. Near the beginning of this year, I would stop and ponder how I felt and be thrilled and amazed that I wasn’t tired twenty-four/seven. Sure, I might have been tired more than the average person, but compared to former me, I felt so energetic that I wanted to dance from the rooftops. (I compromised and danced in the grass instead.)

One day I was talking to my dad about what I wanted to do for the summer and he just casually was like “Well, what about moving to the Creation Museum?” My eyes widened at the suggestion – that was something I’d long dreamed of and had talked to him about years before, but he had said I wasn’t ready at the time (and I wasn’t).

But now? Now I was ready.

And so I moved. And sometimes I’m at work for twelve hours a day. And it’s delightful.

Recently I’ve come home from work exhausted, but it’s a good exhaustion. It’s the exhaustion that comes from hard work, not from a body full of disease.

I still have to be careful about what I eat, take my vitamins daily, and get enough sleep at night. (But really, everyone would benefit from those things.) I still have to consult with a doctor as we keep building my thyroid and adrenals which were pretty destroyed. I still sometimes get a little more tired than the average person would.

But every day now I know I’m living with the delightful answers to what I prayed for for so long. Every day now I see my health returning one little smidgeon at a time. Every day now I’m amazed and overwhelmed and endlessly thankful for where I am and what I’ve come through.

Lyme disease is now a thing of the past – something I don’t think about every day, something I don’t feel like I have to explain to others.

Today as I head into work I’m slightly tired, but more than that I’m excited, happy, and know that I’ll have plenty of energy to get me through the day.

It’s been a long road, and I’m not at the end yet, but I couldn’t be more excited about where God has brought me.

And now folks, I’m off to an eleven-hour shift my dream job.

(Who would have ever thought I’d get to utter those words!?!)

Oh, Hello Summer

As silly as it sounds, I kinda forgot that it was summer.

My life is totally different from what had become my normal, and everything feels new and unique and it’s almost as if the common things like weekdays and seasons and holidays faded into the background.

Y’all don’t even know how many times I have to stop and really ponder what month it is before coming up with the correct answer. It’s weird. I guess I give most of the credit of this strangeness to the fact that I work inside now. I’m in a building for nearly twelve hours at a stretch, and that’s just when I’m not home.

I work in two main places in the same building – one doesn’t have any windows and therefore it’s quite easy to seriously not know if it’s December, February, or July. (Okay, writing this makes me realize how weird I am. Maybe this has to do with reading books that take place during different times? Or maybe it’s my epic imagination? Or maybe I’m just really that clueless when it comes to paying attention to what’s going on around me. Do y’all have this problem?) The other setting where I work has big, beautiful, tall windows that wrap around the whole wall and make my life incredible. But, they’re tinted, so once again I kinda forget what season it is as I peer out them.

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And then I went back home for a few days. (I’ve gone home for part of the week for the last three weeks to help my family out due to some health things they’ve had going on.) And bam summer was all-compassing and delightful.

Seriously, watermelon was in demand, hay was being baled, I GOT TO CUT GRASS FINALLY (yes, my happiness is complete), and everything was vibrant and beautiful and just like past years.

While I was home I soaked in the summer. I delighted in the normalcy of seasons, and I thought about climbing on the newly-formed haybales because that’s pretty much the best thing ever. (But I refrained, which was probably for the best.)

My sister came over one evening and brought a bundle of fresh produce and cooked us supper. Another sister brought over her new little babe and let me cuddle her. More family members dropped by and we had an impromptu prayer time, then laughed with delight as my little nieces spun themselves silly.

And it finally hit me that summer is really here.

Which…come to think of it, the sauna-like atmosphere of my camper when the AC was broken for several days last week should have done the trick… But, what can I say? Sometimes it takes watermelon to convince me.