Thursday, August 29, 2013

11 things I learned in August



At the end of each month, I'm linking up with Emily of Chatting at the Sky to list the things I've learned in August. Be it silly or serious - it's here.



1.  The Dallas String Quartet is blowing my mind. They play grown-up versions of popular songs from the present day and days past. I listen on Pandora - maybe you'll like them too?


2.  They've released the new main image for Season 4 of Downton Abbey. Don't click if you are still getting caught up with the series. Just don't.


3.  Even if it takes a year, it's okay. I started reading the book Little Britches out loud to my kids last September, as our first homeschool read-aloud chapter book of the year. It was to be the first we read last year, not the only.

But as life would have it, it's all I had in me to read a chapter every week or two. I let go of the guilt a long time ago, but was determined to actually finish. And finish we did, about two weeks ago. At one point in that last chapter I couldn't speak, the story was just so emotional. I didn't dare try to read on right then or I would choke and sob through the words. The kids were wide-eyed as I stared at the pages with tears brimming and no words. It was that good. I highly recommend it. (I edited the rare moments of cowboy slang/cuss words as I read for our listening pleasure.)


4.  I still don't get why the whole mustache thing is so popular. Weird is more like it.


5.  Watching your baby learn to walk never gets old.  First baby or seventh, it always takes my breath away.





 6.  I'm uncomfortable with being misunderstood. I've known this about myself for a long time, but it became very apparent this month. But I'm over it now. I've learned that I can't convince a person to understand me or the truth about me if they can't see it for themselves. But I can trust the Spirit to do His thing, working even when I can't see or do anything about it. Some serious peace is found there.


7.  There is a cure for fruit flies. We were having dinner with friends early in the month, when I saw a strange contraption sitting on her counter full of little dead flies. We've had tons of those pesky flies come in with our store bought our produce lately. Yuck.

What you need: a small bowl, about an inch of apple cider vinegar, and some plastic wrap. Pour in the vinegar, wrap it tightly, then poke some fork holes all around. Watch those little flies be attracted to the vinegar and get trapped inside. Gross, but useful!


8.   My first post as a new monthly contributor at The Homeschool Classroom goes live on September 23rd!  Earlier this summer I was brought on as a new "staff" writer for the site. So exciting! I'll be linking to my post that morning... stay tuned.


9.  Fresh air and mountains does a body and soul good. We spent an evening not long ago up in our nearby mountains. I breathed deeply, taking in the wonder of God's creation and the wonder that He knows me by name and by heart.


 
 
 
 
 
10.  Sending two boys off to their first night of middle school youth group night feels a bit like sending a five year-old off to kindergarten (as if I know). These boys who still want bedtime hugs and kisses, are so cool to parent.
 
 
11.  I need to read THIS nearly every month. I re-read this article yesterday written three years ago by Ann Voskamp ... All I can say is: yes to all of it. It's a must-read for us bloggers. 


Well, friends... that's it. I do believe that was by far my longest "things I learned" post to date! Thanks for sticking around to read it.

Now it's your turn, I'd love to hear what you've been learned in August!



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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I could never...



I talk to myself a lot. I do. Not out loud or anything (like someone I happen to love and live with) but I write, take notes, and have conversations with hypothetical people inside my head. 

As a side note, I can also write, take notes, and have conversations with hypothetical people inside my head all while reading out loud to my kids without missing a beat.  If you were to ask me a question about what I'd just read out loud in a moment of mental multi-tasking, I probably wouldn't be able to answer you. I have to focus with all my might to pay attention to what I'm reading. Strange, but true.

Moving right along.




 


Today you have been granted access into one of those conversations I have with myself. It's one I've written about before, so you might recognize it. But it bears repeating. It's the same, only different.

The internal dialog begins whenever I utter this statement myself, or when I hear someone else say:
 "Oh, I could n e v e r  _____________."

That blank could be filled with anything you'd like. Let's look at a few examples, so you get what I'm talking about:

I could never send my kids to that school.
I could never be a public speaker.
I could never love an adopted child like I would my own.
I could never handle my husband being deployed.
I could never have that many kids.
I could never stay in a marriage like that.
I could never be a stay at home mom.
I could never live without running water.
I could never homeschool my kids.
I could never be an overseas missionary.
I could never have a baby in my forties.
I could never leave my kids and join the workforce.
I could never parent a child with special needs.

We get the picture, don't we? I'd venture to guess that you have your own "I could never" list. I know I've had mine.


The thing is this:  You could. If you were called to it.


So maybe doing the things that scare us (because really that's what this is all about) won't seem so scary when we know God is writing the script. He's doing it for us and for them.

Even though we understand the concept of God's call on a person's life, we sometimes still forget that it isn't going to look just one way. We forget that the woman returning to work when she has babies at home might be called there. The friend who decides to put her kids into a public school after years at private school may very well be called too.

We don't need to know the details surrounding every decision people make. But what we can do, is trust our fellow believers have bathed their decision in prayer, and are walking according to what God has for them.

If aspects of another's life looks strange or impossible, it's probably because it would be for us at that time.

But for her? She's super-powered. God is fueling her fire, fanning diligently to keep it burning. The days aren't always rosy, and the glass seems to be half-empty at times.

Even though it's not always pretty, it sure is beautiful. Those women, you, and me walking in faith and moving into the role God wrote for us.

You were not called for my purpose, and neither was I called for yours. And we certainly weren't called to walk in God's purpose for her. The role we're called to play is written just for us. I don't know what could be more inviting than that.


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Monday, August 26, 2013

Don't Forget Your Life Preserver {When Change is Hard}


Since I'm still not finished with the blog post I started yesterday, which I fully intended to have published 15 hours ago, I thought I'd just write about something else to clear the cobwebs.

Sometimes the brain needs to ponder something different to be productive. Though I'm not sure how productive this brain will be at 11:00 pm. But time will tell, right?






Tonight I made a list.

I'm good at lists. List-making is one of my love languages. Wait, that's not one of them?

Well, it should be.

For months, years really, there have been things nagging at me. Things I knew I needed to adopt in my everyday life that I've been avoiding. Like taking my supplements each day. I'm not talking big, spiritual things here. I'm talking small, healthy things that add up to big rewards.

So I made a list and shared it with my husband. And then I cried.

Not only because I'm now accountable to someone, but there's the whole humbling part of it all. I've been lazy, and I know it. I've been hiding behind excuses and fear. And I know it. I also know I can't do it alone.

We weren't meant for alone.

I don't care if you're single, married, young, or seasoned. You weren't meant for alone. That's one reason the body of Christ exists. We're the people that make alone untrue in your life.

A life preserver only makes you float if you put it on. And the people in your life only know you need help floating if you tell them.

Do you have a list of goals or changes you'd like to make that have been in your head for too long?

Get them down on paper, friend, then tell someone. Ask for their help.

Then stick that life preserver on and float like you mean it.



Are you willing to share an item from your list? I'd be honored to pray for you as you seek to make some changes.



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Friday, August 23, 2013

The Mom You Want to Be



There are stand-out moments in time when I am the mom I want to be.

I had one of those moments today. Just me and her. On the merry-go-round.

I was a mom with no distractions tempting me to take my eyes off of her. It was just us, going round and round, up and down.




The world was right for a few minutes. We smiled and giggled, happy to be out of the rain.

But in the real world, I'm the mom of seven of these wonderful people. Moments like these are not possible in the everyday realm. Don't you sometimes wish they were?

But is there a chance they're there, and we're just missing them somehow?

Perhaps we should have let the phone ring while we were in the middle of a conversation about the purpose of a belly button.

And maybe cold cereal should have taken sloppy joes' place on the dinner menu that night. But instead, we put off coloring outside the lines with our little Picassos in favor of browning some ground beef. Everyone cheers for cold cereal. But who cheers for the mama who foregoes coloring for ground beef?

"Don't be so hard on yourself," they say, "you're doing a great job. You can't be everything to everyone."

But don't we mamas know we are easily distractible? Even self-absorbed sometimes and focused on the wrong things?  What if the cure to all of this is one we don't want to admit, nor are we ready to embrace?

Just this.


14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  - Matthew 19:14


Jesus was busy. Let's just say He had a wee bit of ministry going on during those years.
He didn't receive texts, drive carpool, nor was He a mom. But He had so many reasons to be justified in sending those children who approached him on their way. He could have told them how exhausted He was, and that He just needed a little time and space to get His head on straight. He could have even played the "I'm communicating with my Father right now" card. But He didn't. He let them come.

But Amanda, Jesus didn't have little ones pulling on His robe all day long. No, but He did have twelve big ones that followed Him everywhere and asked Him some dumb questions.

But Amanda, He never sinned. It was no big deal for Him to handle those big fellas hanging on His every word and dealing with their immaturity at times. The Bible documents times of temptation that Jesus faced, so we know things were not always rosy.

As Lysa TerKeurst said last month to a crowd of us speakers and writers, "It's time we cut the buts."

"But I need to keep sailing through my to-do list, I can't possibly sit on the floor and have a tea party right now." Sometimes we do, but most of the time our people need us more.

Let's cut the but, and see what that looks like:

"My to-do list can wait until naptime, or maybe I can try again tomorrow and pray for a window of opportunity and silence to make those phone calls."  That's better!

Cutting the buts takes practice. "Buts" have a way of weaseling into our thoughts and slithering out in our conversations and actions if we let them.

Let's see how many buts we can cut today. Giving us more opportunity to be the moms we want to be.





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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It really is well with my soul


Have you ever sung a song a zillion times before truly knowing what it meant?

Like the time I was twelve, listening to the radio in the car with my dad. Unfortunately, I was singing along to a song I'd heard a zillion times before. What was so unfortunate you ask?

It was a song that was popular back then by a group named Salt 'n Pepa. You don't even have to say it. I know!

I knew e v e r y word. Except I didn't know what any of it meant. Not an ounce.

My dad exclaimed, "Amanda Sue, what are you saying?!"

I remember where we were on the road. I remember the mix of disbelief and shock in his voice.

"I don't know." was my answer. And I didn't.

I've thought a lot about this phenomenon of knowing a song, but not knowing a song since that day in 1989. We go through the motions in church too singing song after song, some since we were kids. Never stopping long enough to think about the message the songwriter has laid open for us to hear.






Two Sundays back, we sang the hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul" by Horatio Spafford. (Have you read his story? You really should. It's a must-read.) I have to admit that most of the words just rolled off my tongue since it was so familiar that none of it was sticking to my heart. At least not until we got to that last verse, when I stopped hard and fast at this:

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

When my faith shall be sight?

Oh, yes please. Isn't that what we're all hoping for? The day when those things we're putting our hope and faith into will be seen with new eyes. When it will all make sense. Because it will.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Those souls of ours are well as believers, even in the most tragic of moments. The sorrows that roll like sea billows may mean the loss of a loved one for us, or the end of a relationship. Or any other thing the breaks our oh-so-human hearts. But in the end, our souls are well.

And that's forever.





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Saturday, August 17, 2013

When Your Life is in Ruins {Turn Around}


Lost in thought, a ten-mile stare takes over as she drives.

The kids in the backseat are giggling and joking, ignorant of their mama's flooded mind. She wants out. She doesn't think she can stay married to their dad. It's too hard. And plus, she just doesn't want to anymore.

Ten years earlier, things were easier. But winter has dropped a blanket of snow on her heart. She thinks there's no hope of summer if they stay together.

---------------------------------------

Another woman is living out the devastation of her husband's affair. She has a daily appointment with her own ten-mile stare, as she peers over the back of her couch out the window. The kids are on a visit with their dad and his new wife. She rents a movie again. But she can't bear to watch it. Again.

Lamenting and questioning, she asks, "Why me, and not them?" She watches the rain run down the window pane, each drop representing a tear shed in secret. She's sad, crushed, and mad. She knows God has as plan, but could this really be it?






Pain runs deep. Words are slung. Dreams shattered. Hearts are broken. Things are not turning out how you'd hoped.

The ruins of your once-treasured life are scattered so far and so deep. A way out or the thought of piecing it back together seems impossible.

But you must remember God is a master with puzzles. Where the way is unclear, He spreads open the brush for you to walk through. There may be thorns, but there's a way.

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering.... The love of God did not protect His own Son.... He will not necessarily protect us - not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”


Maybe you're needing to make a choice. Or perhaps a move. A move that God is nudging you to make. A choice to be forgiven or to forgive. A move that may paint you as a fool. A choice that doesn't seem fair.

But none of that matters if it's the right move. Thorns and all. Because integrity breeds a life that worships God.

Be satisfied with little. Because Christ is your gain. Contentment isn't achievable because of the absence of trials, it is possible because of the very presence of God.

Those ruins in heaps before you may still be there waiting for you.

And it may take a while to clean up. But if you stop to turn around, away from the mess, you'll see the beauty waiting for you on the other side of the valley. The ability to find beauty isn't the result of a change in circumstance, but from a change of heart.

Look right behind you. Because it's there. You just have to turn around.



 
 

 
 
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Vlog Episode #1 {Where Amanda Attempts Her First Video Blog Post: Homeschooling}

For a while now, I've been wanting to try my hand at posting vlogs (video blog posts) every now and again. This is my first attempt. I will understand if you never come back.

So goodbye.

It was nice sharing this space with you.  
 
But if you do decide to stick around, I'd love to hear your answers to my questions from the end of the video!
 
If you're a homeschooler, what are you up to this year?
 
What things would you like to see me "vlog" about in the future?

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2013-2014 Curriculum Choices

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The UnWired Mom Challenge starts TODAY!




"The UnWired Mom Challenge is not a stay-off-your-computer-for-two-weeks challenge. It’s a challenge to help you try and break some habits and come up with a vision for living free and whole and un-addicted while still enjoying the benefits of the Internet."

I'm jumping in, friends, joining Sarah Mae's challenge. I purchased her e-book, The UnWired Mom, a couple days ago (it's a really quick read). It's only $2.50 as a PDF, or $4.99 for Kindle.  Click Sarah's name to learn more, find the coupon code for the cheap PDF version, and join in! 

As we prepare to start full-fledged school in less than a month, I've been working to be more intentional with my time on the computer (I've already begun kindergarten with my precious middle one so we can have some good one-on-one time before the rest join in.) I just know I'll need to have my ducks in a row and my heart focused on the important things like caring for my family and schooling the kids. Giving my top priorities the most time. 

This challenge comes at the perfect time!

Comment if you're joining in, I'd love to hear from you. 





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The Gift of Time (Because They're Worth It)


Is there one child in your family that always seems to get lost in the shuffle? 

Or maybe there's one child you wish you were able to spend more one-on-one time with?

In our family, that child (on both accounts) happens to be our middle child. She has three younger siblings and three older siblings. She's in the exact middle spot, and she's just five years old.

She needs her mama too. She's easy-going, but spunky. Adorable and super fun.  Over the last year, I'd been sensing a sadness in her. A new baby was born into our family last summer, and the two-year-old toddlers demanded so much supervision and extra thought that our precious middle child began to feel the sting of not receiving the time she desired from me.

And I knew it. There were nights I cried because I just knew I couldn't be all everyone needed all the time, especially to this one. The sadness in this little girl was breaking my heart. We share a close and special relationship and I knew she was distraught because her mama was pulled in six other directions each day.



Several months ago, she was sadly lamenting, "We never get to spend any time together just you and me."

I asked, "What sorts of things would you like to do with me, if we had the time?"

That's when the list was born.

The list of all the things we could do, should we have a few moments together. Just the two of us.
  1. paint
  2. color
  3. bake
  4. take a walk
  5. do each other's hair
  6. play with baby Emmalie
  7. play a board game
  8. play My Little Pony
  9. make a snack
  10. make lunch together
  11. paint fingernails and toenails
  12. read books
  13. do a craft
  14. watch a movie
  15. go on a special date
This list hangs on our fridge. My girl beams with joy when we get to complete something on it. And I try my best to spend that extra special time with my dear girl who loves spending time with her Mama.

Is there someone in your life who is needing and desiring time with you?  Maybe it's not a child, maybe it's a spouse or parent, friend or sibling.  Try making a list of special things you can do together - lay it on their pillow for them to stumble upon, send it in a letter, or present it proudly and see their face light up with expectation.

The gift of time. There's nothing quite like it.   


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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

When You're Overwhelmed By Tomorrow

You will never have this day with your children again.
Tomorrow they'll be a little older than they were today.
This day is a gift.
Just breathe, notice, study their faces and little feet.
Pay attention.
Relish the charms of the present.
Enjoy today, it will be over before you know it.
                                                                                                              ~ Author Unknown
 
 
 
 
 
I am trying. Really I am. To treasure these days.
 
The days home with my kids are so appreciated. Truly, I feel so blessed to get to be home with them. I get to see them grow day in, day out. I'm there when the light bulbs turn on in their minds, and I'm there to have those talks when the struggles boil over in their hearts.
 
But days with kids at home are still days with kids at home. And sometimes those days are Hard -with a capital H. You know what I'm talking about. Oftentimes we're just tired. We don't know how this is going to work.
 
We keep telling ourselves that today is just one day. We can begin again tomorrow. But what if the tomorrows seem eternal? And what if the thought of beginning again tomorrow seems like an enormous task, and not a peace-giving thought? 
 
I'm right there with you.
 
 
 
 
Just today I was feeling overwhelmed by the thought that after beginning kindergarten with my adorable new grade school student, I'll still have three more coming up behind her. And I felt defeated. Completely not cut out for the job.
 
But I quickly realized I was taking too big of a bite.
 
I took a bite, chewed on it a bit, then shoved in a whole 'nother bite I wasn't ready for. Thinking about the future and stressing over the days to come is equivalent to shoving too much food in your mouth. We're created for small morsels of food. One at a time.
 
Chewed up, ready to be digested. One day at a time. One bite at a time.
 
 
 
 
Can we make it through one tough day?
 
Sure we can.
 
Chances are you're familiar with this verse: "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6)
 
It's one of my favorite Bible verses. For the woman who at times jumps right to her ADM (anxious default mode), this is a perfect reminder.
 
But have you ever stopped to notice what comes right before verse six and directly after?
 
The second half of verse five states: "The Lord is at hand;"
 
I REPEAT: The Lord is at hand!!! (aka: He's right there with you, He's got this in the bag, etc...)
 
So let's keep reading verse six again, then on to verse seven:
 
 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 
Let's make this really easy:
  1. The Lord is at hand. He's here. With you.
  2. Do not be anxious. No worrying or fretting.
  3. Pray and Thank God. Let him know your worries and be thankful.
  4. Peace will come. Such relief.
  5. You won't understand how you could possibly be peaceful.
  6. But that peace will guard your heart and your mind. In Christ Jesus.
Doesn't that make you want to place an order for some of that?
 
I've got some worries, I've got some things that are stewing, and I've got some things I keep hashing and re-hashing over and over again in my thoughts.  You too?
 
He's asking us to stop. And remember steps 1-6. Let's do today to the glory of God. Then start over again tomorrow, leaving our anxious hearts at the feet of Jesus.
 
 
Whatever will come our way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we'll rise and sing
That we won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken
 "We Won't Be Shaken" by Building 429




 
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Friday, August 2, 2013

Amanda's top influencers list


So I have this list.

I have this list of women who have been crazy influential in my life. As a woman of God, wife, mom, friend, and writer. (There, I said it again. I'm a writer! It's about time I admitted it.)

Some of these women I've met in person. Giving me the ability to check the box on my favorite influential women I'd like to meet and thank list. I've been in the same building with three of them, but they're always surrounded by other women who feel the very same way about them. So there's no time to say just how important they've been to me. To my faith and to my growth. I'm just a face in the fan club.

So here's my tribute to the women who've helped shape and teach me. I realize they may never see this, but I just feel better getting it out there. It also feels good telling you, so maybe you'll let them influence you too if they don't already. Their books, speaking, and music have encouraged the God-ward visionary in me to seek God even more.



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I first heard Priscilla speak at the MOPS Convention in Dallas eight years ago. She's funny, a gifted communicator, and an amazing Bible teacher. Goodness, she's a good Bible teacher. I look up to anyone who's doing their thing well like she is, while having young children at home. It's inspiring to me. A few of my most memorable moments studying the Bible have been under the tutelage of her video led studies. They're really so good.
 
 

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I first read one of Lysa's books eight years ago when I was on a youth group trip to Wheaton College. Jeremy and I were staying in the dorms with our group of teens attending a conference. I picked up Capture Her Heart (yes, the ones for husbands to read - I think I was trying to figure myself out back then) in the campus bookstore and read through it in one sitting alone in that dorm room. Lysa has continued to inspire me with her honest words and work toward "imperfect progress" in those areas of life we struggle most. I get her, and consider her my long-lost (other) big sister.

 
I met her last week for a brief moment at She Speaks, and had my picture taken with her... but I didn't get the chance to say what her words and heart have meant to me. Honestly, I'm glad her assistant had to rush her away from the conference room, because I was bound to choke the words out with tears streaming. I think I said thank you, and that was about it. So Lysa, if somehow you ever read this: THANK YOU. Your ministry and writings have been the source of key turning points in my life, so thanks, big sis. From the little sis you never knew you had. 
 
 
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It goes without saying, but Beth Moore just rocks. From her unmistakably Texan accent to her personal way of making you feel like she's just one of the girls. She doesn't act like she's a rockstar in the land of Christendom, but she is. Her books, her Bible studies, and her blog are there to serve us women, and I so appreciate her.
 
 
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Ann has a gift of speaking and writing like no other I've encountered. Her way of communicating is very calculated and poetic. Her book, One Thousand Gifts is one I treasure and plan to re-read many more times. She helps me see the beauty all around, and the gifts that are well-hidden. She's a fellow homeschooling mama of a large family, and I LOVE the fact that her husband built her a little cabin just for writing. (Plus, I love how she creates time for writing... intense, but inspiring for sure.)

 




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If I was able to pick my own singing voice, I'd pick Christy's. If I could pick music to worship along with, I'd choose Christy's. How does one walk around like everything is normal when you have a singing voice like that? I will never know. Her songs have held momentous meaning in some very intense and questioning seasons these last couple years. Waiting Here For You took the words out of my mouth as we were waiting for both of our adoptions to finalize. (This live version is my favorite, I love me some Passion worship!) Standing in my kitchen with my arms stretched to the heavens vowing to wait on the Lord in those times was hard, but Christy's song blaring in the background gave me courage. She also has young kiddos and is living out her God-given mission. Inspiring. I have two favorite car songs right now, and Ever Lifting is one of them. Jeremy says, "It's just so you." (What's my other favorite car song? Definitely God's Great Dance Floor. See if you can spot Christy sharing the stage! So cute in her plaid shirt and boots.)
 
 
 
So tell me, who are your great influencers?


 


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