Identity: You Are More Than a Writer

Guest post by Michelle Vandepol

 

I heard a keynote at a recent online conference I really appreciated. This author, who had reached the goals many of us are currently setting for ourselves, was saying that he now enjoys his writing more than ever precisely because he hasn’t made it the sum of who he is. This wasn’t always the case. He had to be intentional about expanding the other aspects of his life so he wasn’t talking, breathing, and living only in pursuit of his writing. This is especially important in the digital age when building a writing platform takes time and can quickly overshadow things that are actually of more importance. Not to worry.

 

Here are 5 easy ways to move forward on your goals while not losing yourself in your ambitions.

 

1.     Keep a sense of humour about the climb

Between aiming for growth on word counts, book sales, and social media followers; hyper attention or discouragement are both risks. Adopting self-deprecating humour and knowing that it will happen when it is meant to keeps the writer productive as well as happy. If our identities are not all wrapped up in whether a review is stellar or less so, whether a book takes off or needs a follow up to draw attention to it, or whether someone follows or unfollows us; pursuing the writing life is enjoyable. Humour lets us step back and gain perspective. Check out the hashtag #writerhumor or others like it to indulge.

2.     Think about the expanse of a lifetime and beyond

When the day feels like a write-off  because the words are not coming quickly or if they’re arriving, but you don’t feel like they’re ones you can rave about, know that there are still days ahead in which to polish and have flurries of writing happen. There is an oft quoted adage about examining whether something will matter in a week, a month, a year, or ten. The farther we go out (I recommend thinking lifetime and beyond) the more we realize that it is our small attempts pieced together for bigger use, our relationship building, and keeping our eyes on the real prize that builds something of legacy and purpose.

3.     Nurture hobbies and interests outside of writing

Other interests can complement your writing life (think book reviewing, bookstagramming, journal art, or a side craft business that builds on your bookishness), but it can also be something completely unrelated like a sport, nature, spiritual practice, your day job, or volunteer work. All of the pieces together make you a more interesting multi-dimensional human and in turn lessen the stakes of any one thing in your writing life. This, ironically enough, is what allows the emotional angst that prevents productive writing sessions to fall away and get replaced by something much healthier and much more enjoyable.

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photo by ashley mckinney

4.     Bond with your writer friends about more than who they are as writers

We may meet our writing friends primarily because of our shared interest, but if the friend chemistry is there, it will still be there when we are focusing not only on writing. It is a heart affirming thing to learn more about your writing friends, celebrate similarities and differences, and move forward with intention to be a part of lives beyond word count and market recommendations.

5.     Spend some time appreciating who you were created to be

It takes courage to out ourselves as writers so it makes sense that sometimes our writer identities take on lives of their own. To only celebrate one aspect of oneself though, is to limit greater joy. There are many ways to fill your bucket and thinking about what you’re good at, enjoy doing, want to learn, and would like to make more time for is a good place to start. You were created for more than one purpose. Live like it.

 

 Michelle Vandepol is a writer, editor, and bookish Canadian who loves connecting with other readers and writers on instagram at @michellevandepol. For more articles on the writing life, visit her website www.michellevandepol.com

10 Things I’m Loving Lately

10 Things I’m Loving Lately

 

  1. Southern Savers

Y’all. Guess who can’t make sense of numbers and therefore is super bad at budgeting?! Yep. This girl. But then I discovered two things that help me stay on budget dramatically, and one is this website. LITERALLY it’s every manufacturer AND specific store coupon compiled in one spot – you can print off any coupon and use whenever. (I saved $7 on just 3 items at Target yesterday!)

  1. Paying with cash

I believe Dave Ramsey says to do this…keep all your money in separate envelopes and pay using cash – not card – so you have an idea of how much you’re spending, and if what you’re buying is really worth it to you! I only use this method with my spending budget for the month, and it’s been a game changer.

  1. Hershey’s nuggets

Because the nuggets give you more chocolate per bite than the kisses. And sometimes you just need more chocolate.

hersheys

image via amazon.com

  1. Half & Half Coffee and Half & Half Tea

If you make your coffee half caffeinated and half decaf, then you can have more cups per day! Because why wouldn’t you want that?

Sweet tea was always a little too sweet for me, but un-sweet tea was too boring, and so when I heard my mom order a “half sweet half un-sweet tea,” I tried it, and it’s now my favorite drink. Especially in the summer.

  1. Beth Moore’s bible study – A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place

The Old Testament can feel like wading through pudding at times. Beth takes Genesis and Exodus and points out the story God is weaving specifically for us as women through these pages. Highly recommend.

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image via lifeway.com

  1. My critique group!

I don’t know how anyone gets published or even finishes a book without a critique group. If you’re a writer….find one! I promise, it’s not scary. Literally, just google critique groups in your city. I bet you’ll find one.

  1. Hoka tennis shoes

Y’all. The people at Big Peach running recommended these shoes to me since I’d had surgery. I don’t know why I ever wore ANYTHING ELSE even before surgery! These shoes make me feel like I’m running on clouds. Or marshmallows. Or both. They range anywhere from $100-130, and they’re worth every penny.

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image via hokaoneone.com

  1. Crockpot Barbeque Chicken

Michael and I make this recipe at least twice a month. It’s ridiculously easy and way too yummy. Make some coleslaw, buy some fresh slider buns, and you’re good to go.

  1. Jergens Daily Moisturizer

I used to only use this on my legs, but I’ve seen the light!! I was just in a wedding with a pale gray dress (lovely color!) but I didn’t want to blend in with the dress and look, like, see-through or something. I used Jergens all over my arms and neck area, and it looked super natural and gave me a “healthy glow” 😉 with no streaks. It was a win, and a lot cheaper than a spray tan.

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image via jergens.com

  1. Making the bed

For me, this is revolutionary. And somehow it makes the whole house feel cleaner!

 

Have a great week, and blessings to you,

 

Robyn

just as friends

“Hey, so I was wondering if you’d like to go to dinner with me.” Michael’s voice on the phone sounded excited and rushed and I was fairly confident he was pacing whatever room he was in.

I, on the other hand, was paralyzed in shock and bewilderment on my bed in the sorority house.

It was our sophomore year in college.

“Who is it?” one of my roommates whispered, probably after seeing my face revert to an awkward shade of tomato.

I answered Michael. “Um, sure! Dinner is good,” I blurted haphazardly into the phone, trying to sound normal.

But I didn’t feel normal. I felt like I just agreed to go on a date with a boy – and boys, to be sure, were currently on my “no” list. I’d written off dating entirely after my senior year of high school, and I’d held pretty steadily to that standard up to this point.

But at least, I figured, this boy seemed like a nice one.

Last year, he’d agreed to carry my large, mysterious trash bag full of something out to my car at the start of Spring Break. The trash bag exploded in the parking lot, resulting in an avalanche of stuffed animals. (They travel with me. Don’t pretend you don’t also have a teddy bear or something. I just happen to have a million.)

Michael had laughed then, and asked me if they had names. (Of course they did.) Unhesitatingly, he’d picked them all up and brushed them off, cars whizzing past.

In that parking lot moment, I had decided Michael was nice. And comfortable to be around. Even if he was a boy.

“Great!” Now, on the phone, I could hear the smile in his voice after I agreed to dinner.

I panicked. My mouth got dry. Then I turned to my roommates. “It’s Michael,” I finally whispered.

One raised her eyebrows and smiled. The other silently squealed.

But I didn’t. I was trying not to faint or hide under my covers.

“So, what’s your favorite place to eat dinner around here?”

“…Moes.”

I was sophisticated.

“Erm,” he chuckled. “I like Moes, too, but how about somewhere nicer?”

I blanched. My mouth had lost the ability to speak without croaking, but somehow we settled on a place called Transmetropolitan in downtown Athens. A pizza place.

It ended up being a great date, I was surprised to admit.

We ate pizza and pasta, then went back to his apartment to watch Chronicles of Narnia while wolfing down Junior Mints.

I made sure to sit on the edge of the couch the whole time, on the entirely opposite side from Michael. I was practically perched on the arm rest like an awkward parrot. He didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he didn’t seem to notice. He was actually ENJOYING himself.

Why is he so calm? I wondered. We’re on a date. A DATE. (!!!!!!)

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college babies

After he dropped me off with that big, goofy grin I’d later come to fall in love with, I answered my roommates’ questions about the evening.

“It was a great date,” I admitted. “He even bought me junior mints because he didn’t have any chocolate at his apartment.” This was a big plus for me. Because chocolate.

 

“But…” I continued explaining, my brow furrowed in bewilderment. “I just don’t think it’s the right time. I don’t know why. I don’t want to be any more than friends right now.”

I prayed about it a lot in the days that followed, and I felt certain about my decision not to date him. I couldn’t explain why. It just wasn’t the right time.

And when I told all this to Michael, he shrugged his shoulders with a small smile. “Welp. If you prayed about it, then I can’t argue with The Lord!”

He said this good-naturedly as a joke, but there was tangible disappointment in his voice. I wanted to jump into a nearby bush and stay there a while. But I was also relieved, because boys, in my 20 year-old opinion, made things too complicated.

I wasn’t ready for it.

A few weeks later, I got another call. “Hey!” Michael’s voice.

My stomach dropped.

“Hey,” I croaked. Hadn’t I totally disappointed him? Why was he still talking to me?

“So, I was wondering. Would you come to my fraternity date nights with me? You know, just as friends.”

“Um. Just as friends?”

“Yep. I had such a great time with you, I’d really like to hang out with you as friends.”

Okay. But just as friends!”

If someone were to tally the number of times I repeated the phrase “just as friends” in the year that followed, well, we’d have a lot of tallies.

And so I went on his Christian fraternity’s date nights. Over and over and over.

And every time, I double-checked: “Just as friends.”

He’d agree every time. And every time, we had fun.

But I was stubborn. Like a donkey, or something.

Fast forward to that summer. We both signed up to work at a Christian sports camp in Colorado, literally by coincidence. Neither of us knew the other had signed up or had been hired.

But I quickly figured it out when we showed up at training together.

I was set to shovel snow away from the buildings (we were living at 9,000 feet above sea level), and Michael ambled up next to me and started helping.

“You don’t need to help. I’ve got this,” I said forcefully.

He wasn’t deterred. “Well, I want to help you!”

Gosh, I thought. This guy! Do I need to say “just as friends” again?

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still college babies

But somewhere deep in the pit of my stomach, I was glad he was there next to me. I was a little homesick.

And so we shoveled.

He worked the first half of summer, and I spent the first half of summer at home in Georgia.

When the last half of summer rolled around, I flew out to Colorado in a pit of nerves. Being away from home wasn’t natural for me. I was scared. But I was also excited. I could tell I was right there in the exciting, albeit painful stage of truly growing up.

I arrived at camp.

Then I saw Michael. And I stared. And stared. And stared.

He was really…handsome. And, dare I think it? REALLY ATTRACTIVE.

He politely greeted me with a friendly hug. “You’ll love it here,” he assured me. “Best summer of my life.”

How is he so confident? I feel like I’m going to pee in my pants. And who are all those girls looking at him and smiling at him? Don’t they know he likes me?

 

Does he like me, still?

He went home, and I worked at camp. It was hard and awesome. I grew more than I think I’ve ever grown in the span of six weeks.

But still, by the end of the term, I couldn’t stop thinking about that goofy-grinning boy. Goofy-grinning man, more like it.

I couldn’t fall asleep without thinking about him, and I couldn’t talk without talking about him. (Sorry, Jaime.)

But by the time I got home, I was utterly confused.

God, I prayed. I like this boy. I do. And I’ve been telling him ‘no’ for over a year now. I’m sorry I’m so all over the place, but, if this is something You want for us, could You do something about it?

I wasn’t about to call Michael myself and profess my love because, honestly, couldn’t he get mad about that? Say something like, “Well it TOOK you long enough. Sorry. Too late.”

So I didn’t call.

Instead, he did.

The day after I prayed for our maybe-relationship, Michael texted me. “Want to go on a walk?”

Yes.

And we went.

Three months later I decided I wanted to marry the man.

And I don’t think we’ve ever said the phrase “just as friends” ever again.

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UGA graduation

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when I said YES!

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happy campers 🙂

5 Faves Lately!

Favorites Lately

  1. Coffeemate *Limited Edition* Marshmallow Hot Cocoa creamer = #winning.

Basically, it’s a lot like a mocha flavor, but more subtle and light and…fluffy…like a marshmallow! coffee-mate

  1. Essie “Ladylike” nail polish. After PT one day I convinced my dad to take me to the drug store (Rite Aid seems to have the best polish selection, I’ve noticed), so I could get a new fall color. I wanted something neutral-ish, but lavender-ish, and also feminine. Enter Essie Ladylike! It’s my new favorite nail color. (buy here)
  1. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies…

…made the way you made those easy pumpkin muffins! It’s SO EASY.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (or Muffins!)

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Mix 1 box of Spice Cake mix with 1 can of pumpkin.
  • Fold in chocolate chips (I mean, you don’t have to, but why wouldn’t you?)
  • Fill muffin tins ¾ full OR…
  • …drop in 1½ inch balls of dough on a cookie sheet and BAKE AS COOKIES!!
  • Eyeball the oven time. It took my cookies about 8 minutes.

This is the same beloved muffin recipe lots of us use, but made instead as cookies! Perfect to take to a party or tailgate.

  1. Home Depot décor (and crazy beautiful succulents!!)

Michael and I went to Home Depot to get pumpkins. (We were late to the pumpkin game, thanks to my surgery adventure, so we figured the pumpkin patches would be picked over.) And not only did Home Depot have pumpkins, but they also had great fall decorations, pretty mums, and an AWESOME assortment of succulents.

So…we went to Home Depot for a pumpkin, and I came home with a UGA pot full of cute succulents for my office 🙂

  1. S’more Feet Warmers…I don’t even think I need to elaborate. Why shouldn’t EVERY household in America have s’more feet warmers? They plug into your laptop or desktop while you work. And warm your toes. And they even SMILE AT YOU.

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No matter who wins the election this year, just remember. The real winner is those of us with fuzzy s’mores warming our feet. (Buy here)

Blessings and lots of chocolate and warm fuzzies to you,

Robyn

guest blog: heather nelsen [[embracing the days with your littles]]

Happy Wednesday, friends!

I literally couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to Heather Nelsen. I met Heather years ago through one of my favorite high school teachers, whose son was dating Heather (and is now married to her 🙂 ). My teacher would rave about Heather and her sweetness – and show our class slideshows of her engagement pictures (which were completely every high school girl’s DREAM) – and so of course I thought Heather was the COOLEST.

And, turns out, she is! She totally is.

All my mama friends, Heather is right there with you! She has some sweet words of encouragement for you, and an awesome blog to check out.

Hop on over to her blog and read about my Top 5 Favorite Books, too!

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Hey there! I’m Heather Nelsen and I write over at Notes from the Nelsens. A big thanks to Robyn for letting me share her space today!



In the picture above you’ll see my husband, Matt, who I swooped up in high school, our two kids, Ryan (2) and Natalie (8 months), who have made our lives so much richer, and our dog, Tally, who we refer to as the first born because we made the mistake of treating him like a child before we had real children. 😉



Travel, food, family, and faith are just a few of the things you’ll find me writing about over at my blog, so feel free to stop by, and say hello when you do!

 

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I don’t know how many of you read the post that went viral on Facebook a few months ago called How a Stranger’s Comment Changed the Way I Parent (you can read the entire post here), but just in case you missed it, I’ll give you a brief synopsis:

 

A younger couple with two small kids was spending the day at the beach when a storm started to roll in, so they quickly started gathering their things to head home for the day. 

 

If you are a parent with small kids and have ever attempted a trip to the beach, you know there are a LOT of things. And because there are a lot of things, gathering those things plus the kids makes for an interesting/challenging game of how much can you juggle before everyone/everything falls over. 😉 

 

So as they started the walk from their spot in the sand to head home for the day, the mom overhead an older man turn to his wife and fondly say, “Those were the days, weren’t they?”

 

Gah, it made me choke up the first time I read it and still makes me choke up as I type it out today.

 

We are living “the days.” Right here and now. We are smack dab in the middle of them.

 

Matt and I like to say that these days are a good kind of crazy. Because they are definitely crazy! But they are OH SO GOOD too.

 

In fact, we moved into a new house just a few weeks ago, so our crazy got REAL crazy for a stretch and is just now starting to settle back into our new normal

 

For various reasons, since moving into the new house, nap times have been a little off and haven’t been coordinating well (as in they haven’t been asleep at the same time for long), so I haven’t felt like I’ve had much time to get things done around the house during they day, let alone have any down time.

 

So early last week, Matt surprised me with text about mid-afternoon saying that he was going to come home early and wanted to give me some time while he took the kids to the park. GLORY!!

 

Let me be clear… I love, love, love getting to be home with my kiddos and would not trade it for anything in the world, but I also recognize that during this stage of life, time alone during waking hours is a rare and beautiful and sometimes needed thing, so I excitedly accepted his offer and started thinking about what I would do with this whole hour of time. 

 

After much thought, I decided that a bath with a glass of wine and a food magazine was exactly what this mama was in the mood for that day. And for the next few hours, that was what I envisioned come 5 o’clock.

 

Matt is honestly great about being home when he says, but on this particular day, he got a phone call from a client that had to handled immediately and texted to say he was so sorry but that he would be home later than he originally planned.

 

So at 5:45 when he got home, he swooped up Ryan, Natalie, and Tally and set off for a little neighborhood walk/bike ride for Ryan.

 

As soon as everyone was out of the house, I raced up the stairs (totally skipping the wine- no time to waste!), filled up the bath, and got my magazine and favorite candle ready for my relaxation time. Ahhhhh.

 

Literally, as I was stepping into the tub, I heard crying from downstairs. Matt, Ryan, Natalie, and Tally soon appeared in the bathroom with a tearful little Ryan asking for mama and saying he took a little fall on his bike (before they even made it off the driveway, poor guy!). I asked him what would make it better, and he excitedly said getting in the bath with mommy would make it better.

 

Matt looked at me with a sweet look like, “I’m sorry!” And I looked back with a look that said, “You tried!”

 

As much as I was looking forward to that little stretch of time, I knew that the window of my little buddy wanting his mama when he’s hurt and being able to crawl in the tub with me is such a short one.

 

There will be many days in my future (okay, maybe far away future, but still) 😉 where I’ll be able to sit in the tub and peacefully read an entire magazine… and in those moments, I may even think back to the years when our kids were little and would ask to crawl in with me. And I’ll probably miss them a lot.

 

So I will keep perspective during these crazy, good days, and remember what that sweet man said to his wife when he was watching the young couple with their small kids on the beach,

 

“Those were the days, weren’t they?”

 

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Thanks again, Robyn, for having me today!

 

~Heather

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a book for all you girly girls

For all you females who want a light-hearted, hilarious read that’s perfect for your bedside table even though you’ll probably finish it all in one sitting and it won’t even make it to the bedside table…I have a book for you!

A few things first:

1) I’m very choose-y about the books I read that are written for anyone over the age of 7.

And by choose-y, I mean, as much as I love a good Nicholas Sparks beach read, I skip over any and all sex scenes. Because they are awkward.

I don’t like books with sex scenes. I’ll just say it. But that’s a whole other story.

I also don’t like books with a lot of curse words. Curse words are not pretty. That’s also a whole other story.

What I’m getting at is: if I recommend a book, it’s “clean.”

2) This is a book whose target audience is teenage girls, the same way Harry Potter was targeted at youth. I still love Harry Potter, and I’m 26. So even though this book is targeted at teenage girls, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think you might, too.

It’s called, “I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You.”

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The title sounds ominous. But it’s not.

The basic plot is about a 15 year-old girl who attends a secret boarding school for spies. And she’s hilarious. Her problem is that, and I quote, “Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man seven different ways with her bare hands, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl” (Ally Carter, Hyperion).

The book has also been optioned for a film by Disney. So basically, you know it’s good. (Think “Princess Diaries,” which was also picked up by Disney.)

Best part? It’s a series! So you can just keep reading about girls kicking butt using lipstick as weapons and it’s awesome!

Blessings and Happy Reading to you!

Robyn

a camera up the nose (& some other normal blessings)

I started 2016 with a camera up my nose.

But only after I reassured the doctor that I could handle it.

I think he was afraid because at the sight of some nose-vacuum thingys to my right I broke out into a sweat and started breathing funny.

But victory! I did it.

But then boo! The camera didn’t show us enough.

Because the sinus infection is probably all in my head, we think.

Which means, third round of antibiotics in a month.

We don’t know if they’ll work.

But we’ll try.

And then we’ll see what the CAT scan shows.

And then we’ll keep trying.

Erm…2016 didn’t exactly start with a bang. And I’ve cried a lot because ALL THE HEADACHES.

MyLANTA the headaches.

And then there was that time the second doctor asked me “When did the pain start?” and then I recalled “Um..um…oh gosh…December 10…yeah..” with a sniffle that wouldn’t be stifled and then embarrassingly turned into a sob.

You know, not the cute kind. The ugly kind where you CRY.

And the sweet doctor. I will forever be grateful for the fact that she hugged me close in kindness and didn’t recoil in confusion at ALL MY EMOTIONS. Because I have many. All the time. Especially when my head is throbbing. Just ask Michael.

All that to say….I want to complain way more than I should need to count all the ways God has been good to me in this season of my bowling-ball head. (Definition of a bowling-ball head = a head that feels like a bowling-ball).


 

  1. I’m writing this on the laptop Michael surprised me with — because he believes in me.
  2. Michael’s patient heart, picking up the slack around here
  3. Disney Channel
  4. Our well-loved couch
  5. Somehow I felt great on Christmas. Thanks, God!
  6. The gift of working with a family who would rather me have all the doctor appointments I need than try to make a perfect schedule
  7. Tucker 
  8. Mom & Dad checking up on me
  9. Hey. If I have to be stuck on the couch resting, I’m glad I have a bag of Christmas candy to keep me company! Hey-Ohhh!
  10. Books. Alllllllll the books.
  11. Ibuprofen. I love you. 
  12. The blue-gray walls in our living room have surrounded me with so much joy.
  13. God’s Word. I never realized before how wonderfully, perfectly, and really human Jesus was until I read through – really read through – the gospels for myself.
  14. Time.
  15. Prayer. Even when I’m frustrated with circumstances (and even with God) He’s still there.
  16. The truth that God loves us unconditionally. Even when we doubt.
  17. Hope
  18. Doctors who try their best to solve our health problems.
  19. The doctor who hugged me when I cried.
  20. The doctor who stuck a camera up my nose (someone had to do it. I for one am glad he knew how and didn’t accidentally hit my brain or something).
  21. The fact that nowadays we have CAMERAS that can see into our HEADS to help us. (Crazy!)
  22. Strength to still try my best to do the things I love: writing, playing with kids, cleaning the house (did I just say I love cleaning the house?)
  23. How all of a sudden I appreciate cleaning the house because for weeks I didn’t have that strength.
  24. How I know God is working good from this month in my life even now, because He promises.
  25. How giving thanks changes everything.

 

All right, y’all. Here goes nothing. Maybe third antibiotic’s a charm. 

And yet, no matter what, all the while, God is good. 

“I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” Deut 32:3-4.

Blessings and health and God’s abounding love to you,

Robyn