Misty Garrison » Gathered Fragments

In Traveling Mercies one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, shares this true story that her minister told in a sermon. When the minister was seven years old, her best friend got lost one day. “The little girl ran up and down the streets of the big town where they lived, but she couldn’t find a single landmark. She was frightened. Finally a policeman stopped to help her. He put her in the passenger seat of his car, and they drove around until she finally saw her church. She pointed it out to the policeman and then she told him firmly, ‘You could let me out now. This is my church, and I can always find my way home from there.’”

And every time I read that story, I unravel just a little bit more.

And I can’t help but wonder if we are giving our kids markers to help them find their way. Home. Back to us and the security of being where they are truly known and loved. Back to the One who will never leave them nor forsake them.

Do they have any constants in their lives that will help them get their bearings when they feel lost? Or when they have forgotten who they are and where they are headed and why. And the world gets big and loud. And frightening.

Perhaps a place, or a people, or a slow, steady rhythm to their days.

And I know there are times when I lose sight of myself and of what is truly important. I start hearing too many “voices,” and the noise of the world drowns out the song written on my heart. And I find myself stumbling along in the wrong direction. Frantic for something familiar. And I look around, desperate for someone, anyone, to remind me of The Way. But no one’s home…

Do you have any places or memories that are your north star? Your reset button? That with a simple sound or smell or taste or sight or touch, you are transported back to your roots and the remembrance of home. And what it means to belong and be loved (which may have nothing to do with your place of origin).

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The truth about “reality” is that it is not always as it appears. There is usually something lurking under the surface. And either we have hidden it there out of self-preservation or perhaps we are not even aware of its existence until someone comes along & dares to risk the depths and what they may harbor. Like our true selves and our struggles.

And, lucky you, I’m not so good at pretending. That everything is peaceful & perfect. For instance, to take this picture I happen to be standing upon some of the slimiest mud and moss covered rocks you have ever seen. And more than once, I slipped and almost busted my tail & my camera. But the picture sure is purty, right? Kinda like the lives we display, and the statuses we update, and sometimes even the blogs we write.

Yesterday’s post is both real and true. And it isn’t. At all. At least not in the impression that it gave that I am somehow fully participating in this amazing community in which my girls play and live. Because days can go by without me talking to another adult human being (other than sweet hubby) except maybe to exchange pleasantries or comment on the weather. And sometimes I am crushed by the silence that I suffer in suburbia. And I wonder if you ever feel that way too? And, if I am really honest, a part of me is afraid that you don’t. Because, what if I am the only one after all?

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am blessed and ever so grateful for the help & support that I get in loving and raising my littles, but sometimes a girl just needs to talk to a friend. A fellow worker. In the trenches. Face to face. For more than a few minutes once a month, that is, if we can get it scheduled far enough in advance. (Which, more often than not, doesn’t happen. And what makes me doubt that people will have time to visit us in the country). Scratch that. I would take a few minutes every day as we labored together in our responsibilities as wives, mothers, friends, and daughters. Like this. Or like the day I spent two hours with my sister working a burn pile that we were concerned might get out of hand in the wind. Hard work & so stinkin’ hot. And my best day in a long time even though I had a list of things I “should” have been doing instead. But I get ahead of myself.

And I can’t help but think of what we could learn from the way children (and the impoverished) live and what we have lost as a culture over the years in the name of “progress.” And for the sake of appearances.

When I think of my girls and the people that they love deeply (and why), I am reminded of the characteristics of community that Randy Frazee wrote about in The Connecting Church: “spontaneity, availability, frequency, common meals and proximity.” And I am deeply saddened to realize that we have all signed our names to a different list of rules for living: every minute of every day planned out, overbooked schedules filled with activities taking us hither, thither and yon, once a month coffee (if we are lucky), eating in isolation (even from our own family members) and working & going to school & attending church miles and miles from where we live and away from the people with whom we should be sharing life. And I grieve the death of the neighborhood church, the neighborhood school and the local market. And I wonder how we will ever thrive without them. And, even more importantly, how we will ever survive without each other.

But more on all that next time as we begin to unpack what it means to live in real community. The ache of my soul.

Would love it if you weighed in on your own struggles with & triumphs over loneliness. And your thoughts on & experiences with community.

And if you would like a visual of what community “looks like,” please check out the instagram feed of my beloved friend Sarah of Snappy Apple Photography. She is living the dream, but if you read into her story you will understand that you are looking at beauty from ashes, literally. And the amazing power of the blood of Christ to bring restoration, healing and unity. Community.

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  • Tasha - Once again you write as though you are writing my story and not yours. Thank you for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Tasha - Oh, and I LOVE the picture. The details of how you took the picture make it even better!ReplyCancel

So, it finally happened. I missed a day. But surprisingly enough, I think I’m actually okay with it. Maybe. Because there were too many snuggles in mama’s bed in the cobwebby hours of the morning when I usually churn this thing out. Followed by a day of too much good football on TV. And too much time spent catching up on her side of the conversation which is so good, and true and right (you need to sit for a while and let her words wash over you). Then we spent too long at the farm exploring the creek. And finally it was too late at night (and by late, I mean 9:00) for my mind to be lucid enough for the words to come in order. Oh, they are written on notecards all over the house, but I was too tired to herd them into lines and coherent sentences. So, a day full of life with no words on a page. And the over-achiever in me survived. Now we’ll just have to see if I sneak in a double post one day to make up for it…

But, back to the story at hand. Although the dream and the plan stir excitement in my soul, I must still face reality at some point. And while, I like to tell myself that we are merely changing our address, we all know it is so much more than that. Like leaving my beloved neighbors. And I don’t want to. Actually, I have no idea how I am going to live through it. So, in the meantime I’ll keep sending Emmylou and Eliza over to their house while I still can. At least until they start sending them right back or quit opening the door to their home and their hearts.

And I will savor every moment watching 13 year old boys play dress up & tea party at the command of a 3 year old tyrant. And smile at how they love every minute of it. And I will enjoy watching Lou teach one of them to do a cartwheel right after he teaches her how to kick a football off a tee all the while Eliza runs around acting like she is going to catch it. And the countless hours of Minecraft and Disney Infinity. And baseball and badminton. And the sound of big boys giggling like little girls.

And the fact that every time Eliza returns home, she has a fresh mani pedi and more often than not a new toy. And orange Cheetoh crumbs on her fingertips. Her tummy and heart full. With stories to tell. And love lavished upon her. These people love my people, and they love them well. And it will break all of our hearts when it comes time to walk away from that love and the life they have shared with us. Including when they all fight like brothers and sisters, because that is a testimony to how close they are to each other.

And I haven’t even mentioned the leftover pieces of birthday cake or the servings of a new recipe that always seem to make it across the cul-de-sac. And the movies in the driveway. And then there is the rest of the neighborhood and the invitations to swim, the walks to school, and the visiting on “the hill” while waiting to hear of another day’s adventures in learning. And the posse of girls who own the streets (or at least the cul-de-sac) on their bikes and scooters and plasma cars. And Halloween. Don’t even get me started on Halloween in this hood. And the amazing, homemade Christmas cookie creations we receive every year without fail.

And. I. Just. Can’t. Imagine life without these people. And the losses we will suffer, especially the girls, wake me in the night. And I find my resolve wavering. And it would be easier just to stay. Here. With them. Or even in the leaving, it would be easier to buy a house in my dream neighborhood with the high performing schools. Or build a dream home in a “safe” area of the countryside where we might have hopes of actually recouping our money someday. Or continue to close my heart and life to seeking justice for the poor, the widow and the orphan. Or to not worry about building bridges and bunkies. But then again whoever said the cross was easy. Or that it wouldn’t cost us something. Precious. That we might gain Christ. The Precious One. And joy unspeakable.

As John Piper states in Desiring God:

“The Calvary road with Jesus is not a joyless road. It is a painful one, but it is a profoundly happy one. When we choose the fleeting pleasures of comfort and security over the sacrifices and sufferings of missions and evangelism and ministry and love, we choose again joy. We reject the spring whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58:11). The happiest people in the world are the people who experience the mystery of ‘Christ in them, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27), satisfying their deep longings and freeing them to extend the afflictions of Christ through their own sufferings to the world.

God is calling us to love for the sake of Christ and to do that through suffering. Christ chose suffering; it didn’t just happen to Him. He chose it as the way to create and perfect the church. No He calls us to choose suffering. That is, He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him on the Calvary road and deny ourselves and make sacrifices for the sake of ministering to the church and presenting His sufferings to the world.”

And then, “God is gain. God is gain. God is gain.”

That I may know Him. And make Him known. Whatever the cost.

And I have another dream. That these people might join us to play on the farm. Trading the cul-de-sac for the creek, the hill for the porch, and the garage door for the side of the barn. I may be an idealist but I am no fool. And I know in my heart of hearts that it isn’t likely, because life has taught me another reality. But that is a conversation for another day.

For now, what is the way of the cross costing you? And what joy have you received for your sacrifice?

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  • Tasha - Awe yes, counting the cost. I’ve got you there too. I’ve counted the cost of simple things like knowing my way around my grocery store, and being 12 minutes from church. I’ve realized our small group probably won’t be our group forever since they’ll be quite a distance away. I’ve realized that although we do plan to stay at our church through to the spring, I don’t know that we’ll always stay there. The main reason being that inviting our soon to be neighbors across town to a church full of people with a different culture probably won’t go over well. I’ve thought about how my daughters will miss their best friends who are in walking distance now but will soon be a 15 minute drive away. That isn’t much time in the car, but it does take planning.

    And yet, we continue to push forward toward this new home praying that the Lord will use us to bring hope found only in Him to a place often overlooked or deemed unworthy.

    One of my littles is up, and so I’ll have to catch up on the rest of your blog soon. Thank you for continuing to share. It is SO encouraging!ReplyCancel

For those of you who have been along for the entire conversation, you may be wondering why I have waited so long to tell this story. Part of me wonders as well. Only I really do know. For certain.

In the very beginning it was all too hazy. Difficult to describe with words that which your eyes & your heart cannot bring into focus.

And then it was too wobbly. Kinda weak and unstable like my knees & my words when I would truly think about it.

And then it was too wild. Not so easily tamed into words on a page when it was clawing deep wounds in my heart.

And then it was too soon. With festering wounds and fresh doubts, words seemed dangerous before healing and certainty arrived.

And finally it was too real. Or, at least it would be once I gave it life with my words. And with life the possibility of death. The death of another dream. And what if I were the one to kill it? With my doubt. Or my perfectionism. And making it real terrified me the most. With the terror came the silence. Because, what if we didn’t have the faith to follow through? What if we failed in front of everyone?

And I am reminded of a late night google chat with a few kindred spirits in which one of them shared her own fear of public failure. And the paralysis that it causes. And for me, the voice that it steals. Because what if I spoke it and then didn’t do it? Again. Adding yet another scene of failure (or more accurately, quitting) to the movie playing in my head. And even worse than failure or quitting, what if we were just plain wrong (and I hear Ron Weasley saying, “She needs to sort out her priorities”).

And then my friend’s voice again, reminding me that she has indeed failed in front of everyone and lived to tell about it. She was not destroyed by the experience, but instead made stronger, more resilient and ready for more risk. For the sake of the kingdom. And God was honored both in the effort & the fall. Because that is another fear of mine bringing shame to His name.

“What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” (Erin Hanson).

And what if those wings are used to rescue someone from the hell that awaits them or the one they are living here now?

And so I have jumped from the safety of silence into the black pit of self-disclosure. And, on my way down, I see tiny pin points of light and I feel an uprising breeze. And I need you to know that your smiling faces and encouraging words are piercing the darkness & bolstering my frail wings (cue Bette Midler). And God is using this conversation to restore the dream, the faith and the confidence that I lost in the silence.

And it is my prayer that I might return the favor. And that you might receive focus. And a voice for your dreams that it might silence your fears.

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  • Tasha - I was in B town visiting family, but I didn’t forget that you were on this journey similar to mine.

    It has been hard to ask people to pray for us as we plan on moving. People are so excited about us purchasing our first home, and then they are often scared, concerned, or confused when I describe the neighborhood. It is hard for me to be excited all the time since I have my own fears and doubts attached to this adventure. I’m reminded that God equips those He calls. So with that, we move closer to escrow and a stretching out of our comfort zone I expected to happen overseas but am finding is available just 15 minute drive away.ReplyCancel


drawing courtesy of DRM Design Group

Before the doubt came the plan. I have a large print out of this picture hanging on the wall right above my computer. And every time I look at it, I get lost in the possibilities. And the beauty. Because that aerial drawing is a work of art. The real thing, not so much. And then I get overwhelmed by the work before us. And the impossibilities. And the trash (previous owners used creek bank as dumping grounds). Not to mention the uncertainties. But then I look up again and these words flood the crevices of doubt, “If she would just look up and out, her problems would get smaller and forever with me would get bigger” (Jennie Allen, Anything).

And then this, “It is not thy duty to complete the task; but neither art thou free to desist from it” (The Ethics of the Fathers as quoted in The Beginners by Dan Jacobson). And I am reminded that He will complete the work that He began in me as I press on in the work that He has placed before me. What an honor it is to join Him there in that place. Of dirt and dreams. To give our time, money and lives to restoring a sacred piece of history and the beloved ones of God who need to sit a spell and get well.

And my eyes fall on the bunkies or blessing cottages tucked in the woods, and I begin to pray for the ones who will find rest there and restoration. In those moments of intercession, I feel sure and safe. And I want to be there now, but there is much to be done and questions to be answered first. Like, who? And, how? And really, where to start?

But first, the who. Because the one part of the dream that remains foggy is who will live with us on the farm. Oh, we have lots of ideas but I still can’t see their faces clearly. Can’t tell who they are or what they will need from us. Or how their presence will enrich our own lives. The one thing we do know is that God has used our story to prick our hearts for orphan care. So for right now this is the list that we are praying through:

* Orphans aging out of foster care
* Women in a crisis pregnancy
* Moms working a DHS plan to get their children back
* Families in peril of homelessness which could potentially lead to a DHS case
* Respite weekends for foster families
* Missionaries on furlough stateside

And then this message from a kindred spirit introducing me to her friends & another opportunity, “They’re also people of incredible faith and vision. And part of their vision includes what people are calling the Border Children. I’m sure you’ve heard of them…these children who are flooding across the border and then taken to holding tanks essentially to wait until they can go before a judge…which won’t happen for like years. If ever. And so these kids are essentially living in prison, and many of them experienced horrific trauma on their way up. Many of them come from Guatemala. Many of these children have “mamas” who are virtually children themselves. It’s a sad sad situation. Our friends have this vision for a place called Rescue Ranch–a place where these children could experience healing and family. Where the mamas could grow to be good mamas. A place where they could be experience redemption and restoration. But they haven’t found anyone who would want to help them make this vision come to life, and they certainly don’t have land.”

Snot bubbles, again. Because we have land. And we would covet your prayers as we seek His face in search of who we might see standing next to us reflected in His eyes. And we would ask that you might consider standing there too in solidarity, love, prayer and support, but also in your physical presence in the work of fences, bridges, barns and bunkies. And maybe even your life itself, because there is 5 acres for sale just one house down from the farm and a house down the lane that was recently taken off the market because it didn’t sell. Just a thought and another dream. To have friends join us in this place of living for one another and others.

But in the meantime, I need to know that you will at least come play. Please promise me that you will come play on the farm, because I will not survive out there or through all this without you.

And if you’re not sure, how about a few specifics from the physical plan to tide you over until the next time we “talk.”

As the farm stands right now, it has a farmhouse, little old barn, ancient cellar, and two lean to’s (one of which is close to falling down). We gave an audacious wish list to the landscape architect, and he created the plan you see above. The additions & changes we hope to make based upon that plan include (in no particular order):

1. renovating & possibly adding on to farmhouse
2. building a carriage house garage with an apartment on top (which we might live in while renovating or use as a blessing house)
3. converting little barn into a garden shed and chicken coop
4. removing old lean to’s and replacing them with small livestock & equipment barns
5. building a “party barn” by the pond to use for neighborhood gatherings, church functions, friend & family parties and Saturday night guitar pickin’ (including Taylor Thompson)
6. making a rope bridge across the creek to hiking and four wheeler trails in the woods
7. building a vehicular bridge leading to the cottages in the woods (this is where I fall on my face and feel the urge to fly at the same time, but more on that later)
8. and did you notice that little writing/photography studio nestled deep in the woods with the creek on both sides (be still my heart, I could write books there for sure or at least blather on here on this blog)

And then this little wrinkle when we met to discuss our dream with our pastors. One of them has the nerve to ask, “Is this the ministry, or does it fund the ministry?” And both of our minds were blown and we fell back to the beginning of even more questions.

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  • Tasha - Thank you for sharing Misty. I didn’t get a chance to read the blog yesterday as we are in our own “hot mess” of trying to understand how to purchase a home. I look forward to reading more soon!ReplyCancel

The Monday morning after I lost the bid for the land, I called the auction company desperate for a loop hole. Or for the new owners to have changed their minds. Something. I even had this crazy idea that God had orchestrated them buying it, but that they didn’t know why. Only to realize later that He had them buy it for us. That is how much I believed. And, when I called I was actually a bit shocked (again) that the phone call did not reveal my ending to the story. Delusion and faith, it’s a fine line don’t you know.

For those of you not familiar with buying property at auction (because why would you be), the highest bidder owes ten percent down the day of the auction and then has 30 days after signing the paperwork to secure financing for the remaining balance. I smell loop hole. So, when I called on that Monday morning my actual question was what happens if the buyer does not get their financing in time. Cue the hallelujah chorus, baby. If the property is not closed in 30 days, they return to the list of names from the auction to see if anyone wants to buy it. Me, me, choose me. No really, I asked them to put my name on the top of the list.

And then a crisis of conscience. How could I spend the next 30 days praying that another family’s financing falls through? But how could I not? Oh, it was a struggle indeed. Kinda like that moment of silence in the morning when you are so thankful that the children are still sleeping and in the next breath you are in full panic mode and have planned their funeral because you are certain that they didn’t live through the night. And you rush down the hall to check on them only to stop short at the door because what if they really are just sleeping and you wake them up thus ruining your alone time which has now turned into crazy face mama time. What to do? What to do?

That hot mess of madness (not to mention the strife I have already shared here and here) was how I spent the months of October/November last year. Because you know I prayed for them to fail and carried the weight of guilt with me wherever I went.

And on day 30 having endured the pain of a promised unfulfilled, a belief unrealized and a life unlived and that wretched Anne & my guilt inducing prayers, I called the office yet again to see if the farm had closed. And, people, even after all of this a little part of me wanted her to say yes because then I would be free. Since Steven didn’t get me out of this, perhaps God would step in. And, of course, He did. He showed up and showed off as He is prone to do in all His magnificent power.

As soon I asked about the farm, the receptionist gave me the realtor’s name & number and encouraged me to call her right away. Hope was alive. And I was terrified. I know, I exhaust me too. Pray for my poor husband, bless him. So with sweaty palms and an expectant heart, I called the realtor. And got the automated text that she was in a meeting. Oh, the agony. And, I’m pretty sure that I heard God laughing. A few moments later she called me back and in the cryptic code that would not reveal the other party’s business, she informed me that it would not be a waste of my time to meet her and get an offer on paper. So, that’s what we did.

For the sake of the story and His glory, I really wanted our offer to be the original number that we had come up with in our prayers. But she had also told us that they would be contacting all the names on the auction list to see if they wanted to make an offer. Having lost it once we were prepared to go down swinging with everything we had, so we prayerfully reconsidered and offered the same amount as the winning bid. And then we waited. So thankful to be in the game again. Fighting for our dream while resting in God’s providence. And praying the prayer that never fails, “Your will be done.”

And after what seemed like forever, we got the call while we were waiting in the McDonald’s drive thru as we do more often than we should (little has a french fry addiction; its the crack in the salt). And, dear readers, we bought the farm!

Indescribable joy! And humble gratitude. Then a whirlwind 30 days of securing our own financing and insurance and all the not so glamorous stuff that goes into buying property. Followed by a closing in December and with it the start of a grand adventure. And it only took 6 months for the doubt to creep back in…

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Because this is supposed to be a conversation, I envision you really sitting here with me on this quilt. I can see the look on your face, and I know what you are thinking. You think that I am just overreacting (again). That the phrase “soul crushing anguish,like never before” is just me being overly dramatic (again). That this is just some sort of tantrum because I didn’t get my spoiled-rotten-brat way. And in most cases, I would agree with you as I am intimate with my toddler self and her fits. But this was different. I need you to understand that this darkness sent me reeling. I was like a ship in a fierce storm with no anchor or captain. With grief & confusion pounding me from all sides.

All this drama over twenty acres and a dilapidated house in the wrong part of town? No, it wasn’t really about the land at all. For I have experienced much greater losses than this. I have watched heartbeats disappear from a monitor. I have agonized for months over shots and emotions only to have my body reject my beloved babies. I have bled my dreams away. For years. And still do. No, it wasn’t about the land at all. For there is better land in much better locations. All over the place. Just last week, I wavered in my resolve and begged Steven to buy an acreage just down from the Dossett’s because who wouldn’t want to live close to Mr. Rick and Ms. Suzanne? (And I really need one of you to buy it so I can visit).

No, it wasn’t about the land at all, but instead what it represented. In both this realm and the next. A promise. Unfulfilled. In all my time alone with Him begging, He never promised children to me. Oh, I knew that He could and I hoped that He would. But I never believed them as a certainty. This time, though, I knew that He would because He told me that He would, and then He didn’t. And I was shaken. Deeply. A belief. Unrealized. I have never felt more sure of anything in all my life or experienced this kind of confidence to move forward in faith. A belief not based upon what I wanted (because you know I preferred something else, somewhere else), but instead what He had chosen for me. And spoken into me. And after putting up a good fight, I finally agreed with Him.

Only now “the promised land” which I believed was ours belonged to someone else. And I didn’t know what to do with His promise or my belief. Because everything that was happening here on earth made them appear untrue. I would have been happy to let it all go. To look for more land. To dream of another place. But I couldn’t. I still believed that land belonged to me only I couldn’t figure out how to get back what I never had but was already mine. And, because I could not shake His promise or my belief, I was stuck in the darkness.

Because not only did this piece of dirt and rotting boards feel like a broken promise and an unfounded belief, but also a life unlived. The life I desperately wanted to share with characters like the ones I loved in the Mitford novels or Anne of Green Gables which I made the mistake of re-reading during this struggle. Talk about salt in the wounds. Every time she would describe her adventures or beautiful surroundings or kindred spirits, a little piece of me died. Again and again. And all I could see was my girls NOT crossing the creek to lose themselves in their imaginations and the deep woods. And NOT surprising themselves by finding a kindred spirit in the most unlikely of places. Like the gentleman just down the lane from the farm sitting on the porch piled high with trash while his house falls down around him. I feel attached to him in some way, protective even, and want to know him and love him and share him with my girls. And we will all be the better for having entered into life together. He is my neighbor, after all. Only he isn’t. And deep in the night, I mourn the loss of these simple, sometimes cantankerous, maybe a little bit crazy and yet beloved characters missing from our lives.

My loss feels something like this: “I miss the village I never had. The one with mothers doing the washing side by side, clucking and laughing hysterically, tired in body but quick in spirit. We’d know each other so well: annoying one another from time to time, but never staying mad long because the truth is, we need each other… I miss that village of mothers that I’ve never had. The one we traded for homes that, despite being a stone’s throw, feel miles apart from each other. The one we traded for locked front doors, blinking devices and afternoons alone on the floor playing one-on-one with our little ones” (Bunmi Laditan, I Miss the Village).

And somehow “the promised land” gave me hope. That maybe, just maybe, as we joined with our neighbors in fence building, blackberry picking, garden harvesting, child raising, quilt basting, and meal sharing I might return to the life inside of me that I have never lived.

And I still believed…

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  • Tasha - I’m looking forward to the next post!!! Thanks for sharing that things aren’t always easy being a Christ follower.ReplyCancel

  • mooncrazy - I love siting on this quilt with you and hearing your voice. Pour me some more sweet tea, wouldya?ReplyCancel

    • Misty - Gladly, girl. As long as you bring along the tonic next time around. And some of your scrumptious fare.

  • Misty - I am also passionate about being real. Life is too short to pretend. And I believe that in our pretending we actually steal glory from Him. It is in my very humanness that He shines.ReplyCancel