WideAwake & WonderStruck: Beauty

Deana Calhoun:

Revisiting the last thing I wrote.

Originally posted on And the rocks cry out...:

It’s a mixed bag, this thing called life. A constant climb to maintain some sense of worth without becoming self-centered; Seeking dignity without becoming tangled in pride. And then there’s dementia.

Yesterday I prayed for God to reveal His wonder to me in a new way. It’s not that I’ve lost that loving feeling, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The trouble with me is that I’ve grown so used to His constant Presence that I sometimes fail to recognize the miniscule in the miraculous that is my life. I’ve seen so many unbelievable things, experienced unspeakable joy, watched waves of mercy crash around me, felt the oil of heaven pour over grief, soaked in grace upon grace upon grace until it is tangibly thick Love surrounding me – honestly, I expect wonder as the norm.

So, in an attempt to awaken to the wonder of God and be wonder…

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WideAwake & WonderStruck: Beauty

It’s a mixed bag, this thing called life. A constant climb to maintain some sense of worth without becoming self-centered; Seeking dignity without becoming tangled in pride. And then there’s dementia.

Yesterday I prayed for God to reveal His wonder to me in a new way. It’s not that I’ve lost that loving feeling, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The trouble with me is that I’ve grown so used to His constant Presence that I sometimes fail to recognize the miniscule in the miraculous that is my life. I’ve seen so many unbelievable things, experienced unspeakable joy, watched waves of mercy crash around me, felt the oil of heaven pour over grief, soaked in grace upon grace upon grace until it is tangibly thick Love surrounding me – honestly, I expect wonder as the norm.

So, in an attempt to awaken to the wonder of God and be wonder struck – I was challenged to “snap a photo of beauty” when an email from Margaret Feinberg popped in my phone before my alarm went off this morning. Where did I find that wonderous beauty? It was a fleeting moment in my morning routine as a caregiver in a dementia and Alzheimer’s care facility (named Grace Village if you can believe that!)

Dementia can steal your peace and today I witnessed a breaking heart attached to a confused mind in a moment of desperation. One of our residents was having a hard time coping with the separation from her loved ones due to the progression of her condition. Her whole life she has been active and involved and surrounded by husband and kids and activity. But today she was alone. She was alone with her confusion, her loneliness, her inabilities, her lack of control of her mind and body. She was aware of her humanity, her brokenness, her longing for relationship, her need to be valued and to be beautiful.

While it would have been easy to look outside at the end of the rocky mountain chain that borders my town and see a spectacular sunrise, snap a picture and call it beautiful, that is not where God chose to show me His wonder today. It was in a moment in an old woman’s bedroom in the midst of her disgust. It was in His Word become flesh becoming Word. It was when He let me see into her heart and how tangled sanity and insanity become and how and what I, as His disciple, am called to speak into the lives of those who need His touch. I looked her in the eyes as I held her hand and sat on the edge of her bed like I’d do if she was my mom or grandmother, and I told her I loved her. I told her all the good things I could think of about her, how her eyes sparkled, how I love her stories, how I thought she was a joy to know. How well I think she is coping with so much change and how I know that she doesn’t need to be afraid, but it’s okay that she is, because God will be there beside her to walk through this uncertainty. Then she cried. And she said I could say those words to her every day if I want to, because she tries to think of and remember the good things about herself, but she doesn’t want to be self-centered. And I told her she was beautiful. And she believed me.

She’s a voracious reader. But rather than mysteries or classics or anything from on the bookshelf, I went to my locker and I got the book I’m reading, WonderStruck, and gave it to her. Maybe. Who knows? She might awaken to His beauty in the dust too. So here’s what beauty looked like to me:

wonderstruck1beauty

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What do you do with a penny?

Kids get it. The more I’m around them and the more I dig into the Word with them, the more evident it becomes that they obviously have shotgun on the joy ride to heaven for a reason.

Yesterday was the last day of a 6 week discipleship class for 3rd through 5th graders that I’ve been teaching at my church. The class is about what it means to be a Christian. We explore salvation, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, bible study, missions and other topics as time allows.

Nothing excites me more than to see a light come on behind those eyes when they connect the biblical dots about Jesus being the Lamb of God sacrificed for us during the communion lesson. Or when they truly understand that they NEED a Savior. Each lesson tugs at the heart of a different child and I always leave being so humbled by the beautiful way that He shows up for just the right child at just the right time. It makes me laugh to think He chose to speak through the mouth of this mule.

Yesterday the kids were learning about missions. We talked about poverty and defined the mission field from within their own homes to neighborhood to city to state to national and finally the global need. Because my experience has been with World Vision, it’s easy to bring real life examples and true stories about how to be involved. NOTHING gets their attention like bringing a dirty pitcher of water in for snack time and showing a video called river of death.

As I related stories of child soldiers and Lopez Lomong, or parents making really hard choices and being forced to sell their kids, or the number of kids dying everyday due to hunger and water related causes, the responses of the kids in my class room were nothing short of Glory. It was such a tender way to break their heart – by using the things that break the heart of God. I could see their little Spirits crying out in disbelief at $5 for a child; I could see their little flesh wiggling in its own uncomfortableness at the thought of eating 2 times in 5 days. I could feel the drying of the throats as we watched the video about contaminated water and talked about guinea worm- and I wouldn’t let them go get a drink. It’s all very hard stuff.

But the thing that wiped me out, was when we were talking about how we respond to our broken hearts so that we don’t get stuck in the sadness. How do we put some action behind our belief that God loves ALL people and we should want to serve them. How do we respond as Christians??? That’s when a little boy raised his hand, and said to me, “here is some money. I want to help!” Then he hands me a penny.

I felt like He had given me the world. He did, and so did he…. A penny. If we look at that with natural eyes we see its small value and ineffectiveness. But if we look at it with eyes of light, then we see the heart behind its power. It’s the difference between a million dollars and not. So I accepted it and fought back tears and now I must decide- what do you do with a penny and all the love and power that goes with it? I’m not exactly sure yet, but I feel like I have the world in my pocket.

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44 NIV)

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Windows

Sometimes, I look out my window in the morning and I watch the sun rise with effortless majesty. And I know there is a God who is so big and so beautiful that He can’t be contained in a sunrise- so He flows into the brightness of commanding the whole day.

Then I come to work, and I look through a different window. And I see the faces of countless lost and hurting people who break my heart with their cry for mercy and desperate search for a glimmer of hope. I feel helpless sometimes. But in reality, I’m like the mountains- just standing still and letting God’s light shine over me and around me and somehow, they see strength and God’s glory makes me look like I have something to offer.

And then I get in my car to drive to pick up my kids or go home or go pay bills or whatever calls for my attention, and I look through a window that is spattered with bugs and dust and patterns of the occasional rain drop from days ago. Currently I also see the 18 inch crack that grows a little every day that came as a result of someone else unknowingly running over a rock that propelled into the corner of my shield. They didn’t mean it, and don’t even know they did it, and I realize there’s a lot of stuff like that in life. I wonder how many windshields I’ve cracked?

Finally I’m home. Back in my room with a view. I see those majestic mountains with the twinkling ribbon of city lights laying poetically at their base. The lesser light brings purple peace and I rest in knowing I’ve done what I have been asked to do to serve others for the Glory of God.

The eyes are the window to the soul. If the eyes are good, the whole body is good. If you look into my eyes, and see into my soul- I pray you’ll find the glory of a sunrise, the stability of the mountain, the mercy of a Savior, the peace of a lesser light.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. (Matthew 6:22 (NIV)

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By Faith and Not by Sight

There is a prayer room I go to sometimes in the mountains of Colorado. It’s called The Upper Room. Some mighty, mighty warriors for Jesus built this place and every time I have visited I have had an incredible, almost unbelievable, encounter with God. Inside is the rocking chair where I surrendered my life (the self to surrender blog post) following which at a later date, I had the surreal experience of being nestled, in the fetal position, between the front paws of the Lion of Judah while he licked my wounds (The Lamb of Judah post). It’s a quiet little loft that sits a stones throw from a small lake. It may be a ½ mile across the lake in one direction and ¾ mile across in the other. There is a canoe tethered to a rock by the lake.

One morning after a gentle, soaking rain I sat on the porch swing with some coffee and listened and watched. What I heard and saw was a beautiful sight. The birds in the trees were calling and although I don’t speak bird, it was as if they were talking to one another and praising God for the rain. They were the sparrows that He provides for. Some took flight and were so graceful as they moved over the lake, swooping and rising then swooping again. It was like a symphony of sound and movement – all in rhythm with the Love of God which had a physical and commanding yet most gentle and graceful presence. The colors and the peace had a voice.

God called me to the water and said He had something to show me. I climbed in the canoe and paddled to the middle where He told me to stop. I talked to Him like He was in the boat with me, because though I could not see Him, I could feel Him with me. I turned the canoe to point its nose back to The Upper Room and I just sat in the stillness. I asked Him what I was supposed to do now, how will I know where to go, asking about the here and now but also about my bigger purpose. He told me to just keep the nose pointed where I wanted to end up. First with my physical eyes open- just fix my gaze on that point and keep the nose pointed in that direction.

The wind started to blow a little and I asked Him how I should respond. He asked me what I wanted to do. I told Him I would go wherever it blew me as long as He was with me. I took my paddles inside the boat and I didn’t resist. It blew me all the way across the lake, into some weeds, under a dock. I couldn’t see the Upper Room from my position and worry set in quickly. After waiting there a good 30 minutes, it calmed a little and I decided to paddle back to the middle of the lake.

There was a head wind. It was hard work and I was tired and frustrated. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of some movement. I looked up and there was a pontoon blowing by with its sails full of the wind! It was filled with laughing teenagers who seemed to be thrilled with skimming the tops of the waves! It struck me then… the very same wind that is my headwind, that causes me to struggle and fight and wear myself out, is filling their sails and providing a joy ride. I began to cry. I didn’t want to be alone in my boat. I wanted to be with them. I wanted to be laughing and having fun. I wanted to be hitting the high points. But nooooo. I was fighting and being tossed and driven backwards and alone and tired. I began to tell Jesus how that is SO not what I want. How unfair it was. How I did NOT understand why this is me and that can’t be. I thought, if those kids come close enough, I’m going to ask them to tow me a while! But they didn’t, so I was stuck.

I finally made it back to the middle of the lake and the nose was pointed home. I collapsed for a few minutes in the bottom of the canoe and sat up when I regained my strength. I pouted out loud to Jesus, “Well, here we are. If this is how it is then what do you want me to do now?” He told me to close my eyes and paddle home. Whaaat???? I asked Him how I would know where I was going, and if I could open my eyes to check. He told me to point the nose where I wanted to go; to let my body and being and spiritual eyes lock that position in place. I did what He suggested. As I paddled, a little on the left, a little on the right, I would open my eyes and check to see if I was on course. After a few tries, it got a little easier. He assured me that if i could master this I’d know what to do in the times that I can’t see Him. But then, a gust of wind would come up or the waves would be stronger and tip me a bit in one direction or the other. What He said next, still echoes in my life. He said “you’ll just have to learn to respond to the wind and the waves” .

So I’m in the middle of the lake, in the wind, with my eyes shut, alone, paddling a canoe. Not generally my idea of a good time and I was still a little sad about the implications of it. Around came the kids on the pontoon and I just cried out about the injustice.

“Deana. It is true that the same wind that is your head wind is filling their sails. But look how far away they are from the water” He said. “Now look where you are. You are very close to Me. You have the chance to know Me intimately. You will have an intimate knowledge of the wind and the waves and that is something very few people will ever have.”

I paddled all the way back without the chip on my shoulder, keeping my eyes closed. All the while responding to the wind and the waves as they rocked my boat and tried to blow me off course. My spiritual eyes had me centered on the will and the way of God and I soon arrived at the shoreline the better for it.

We all have our lofty destinations in the distance. We all have sailboats that distract us from the work at hand with longings that don’t belong. We all have our canoes tethered to our Rock. And we’re all standing on the shore, trying to decide if we’re willing to go this thing alone in the natural. No one else can live your life. No one but God can call you into the boat or tell you to get out of it or empower you to walk on water.

In this world we will have trouble. I’m learning to close my eyes to it and let His Holy wind blow. I am learning to respond to the wind and the waves by faith and not by sight.

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Fellowship of the Unashamed

Sometimes I come across things I wish I’d written because they capture my hopes and desires and perspective perfectly. I don’t know who wrote this, but I’d like to know them- they seem like my kind of person! Be blessed:

I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed.

I have Holy Spirit power. I’ve stepped over the line.

The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His.

I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.

I’m finished and done with low living, side-walking, small planning, smooth-knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, worldly-talking, cheap giving and dwarf goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, position, promotion, applause or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience. I am uplifted by prayer and labor by power. My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is Heaven. My road is narrow. My way is rough. My companions are few. My God reliable. My mission is clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of my adversaries, negotiate at the table of my enemy or ponder at the pool of popularity. I won’t give up, shut up, let up – until I’ve stayed up, stored up, prayed up, preached up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus.

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Today I Choose

Today I am choosing to LIVE on PURPOSE.

Today, I will focus my energy, desire and hope on what the Spirit is willing to do through me instead of what the flesh is weak enough to do to me. 

Today, I choose to silence regret, defeat, grief, disappointment, lack, uncertainty. I choose to silence the voice of anyone who chooses to speak those things to me or those whose life physically, thoughtfully or prayerfully touches mine.

Today, I am humbled at the feet of my Mighty Servant King. Not because I am weak or a beggar. But because that is my God appointed Position of Power. From there, I go where He wants me to go, I stay where He is and I am held mercifully below the schemes of the enemy by the Presence of His Love.

Today, I choose to Live ON purpose. To be ABOUT purpose. Even if I don’t know what my purpose is in the big picture, I trust God to have placed me in the perfect environment to bring His purposes to bear upon every moment of time.

And today, I choose to allow myself to stand restfully still and be loved by Him, because I can’t make time stand still for the ones I love, but I belong to the One Who Can.

Amen.

(Isn’t God just so crazy amazing?) <3

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The Lamb of Judah

You can only walk so far with the limp of independance- because the good leg is in Jesus and the injured leg keeps dragging you back to the belief that you can be self sufficient in all things.  There comes a point in every believers life when we have to trust God with our greatest failings, deepest hurts and the desires of our heart. THAT is just not easy if you’ve ever been wounded by anyone or even self-inflicted some pain along the way.

My journey in trust began when I visited a place in the mountains of Colorado a few years back.  It’s a beautiful place called The Upper Room and as many times as I’ve been there since, God has ALWAYS met me in remarkable ways.  This particular visit happened to be my first however, so I had no idea what to expect.  I was told the Lion of Judah tended to find His way to the den, so that’s where I decided to wait and see if I could spot Him.

On my second morning, coffee in hand, quiet music playing, a breeze blowing gently off of a cool mountain lake through the screened window, I closed my eyes and began to rock in the chair.   With the image of the Lion of Judah showing up to pounce on me as His prey, I was uneasy and yet, at peace. So I just blurted out a question to start the conversation because obviously lions can’t talk- “You know what I don’t get Jesus? I don’t get how you are BOTH the Lion and the Lamb”  and He said, “go on…”   I began to explain to Him how I fully believed that He is the Lion.  He is mighty and powerful and fierce.  He is the God who created the universe and the God of Job who did and does all of those wonderfully powerful things like telling the waves to stop and go no farther.  I get His power, and frankly it scares me A-LOT.  But, I also see how He’s the Lamb. How He is gentle and a comforter. How He was sacrificed and meek and all of those lamby things He is and does.  But I DID NOT get how He could be BOTH at the same time.

And then it came to the surface. See, I had scars that came about in unspeakable ways.   For years, I never told anyone, except maybe a handful of people – if that handful was a closed fist with only 2  fingers showing. I certainly never reached out for help.  This is the extent of what I’ll say about it here, except to say, the wounds underneath those scars were NOT healed, and were festering and infecting my life.  With tear filled eyes and an exposed and failing aorta, I confessed to my Christ that I didn’t know how or if I could trust Him.  Because honestly, there had never been ANYONE in my life who had been both strong and powerful and also meek and tender; NO ONE I could trust with being my protector and to love me deep enough to know where my brokenness lived.

That is when He showed me Himself, as The Lion of Judah.  He was this majestic Lion.  Absolutely the most powerful, magnificent creature I have ever seen.  So strong and so stunning.  He was King and there was no doubt about it.  He was laying down in an easy, restful manner with His head upright.  And then I saw me- in my brokenness.  Curled up in the fetal position between His front paws, tucked safely in next to His chest.  What I saw next rocked my life.  He began licking my wounds.

All I can say is that I have never felt so safe.  His tenderness as my Healer, seemed to wash His comfort to my core.  He cared for me with gentle ease.  He knew EXACTLY where I hurt, where I was broken, where and how I desperately needed to be redeemed. All the while, He remained the Lion, He became the Lamb, and He was BOTH, at the same time.  He did not compromise the strength of who He was as Lion to become the meekness of the Lamb.   It was breathtaking and I was healed as I surrendered and trusted and was known by Him.

A few more years went by and many things changed in my life. Time after time He asked me to trust Him with things He wanted me to surrender.  I’ve written about those in earlier posts.  Some things He healed and gave back, other things He removed from my life. I grew in Him and learned to trust and love Him and I let Him continue to heal and love me back.  I returned to the Upper Room where I again, met my Lamb of Judah.  I asked Him to show me where I was in my healing.  He is faithful.  What He showed me this time was Himself as the Lion, again in that same position (He NEVER changes).  But I had changed.  I was no longer in the fetal position.  This time I was more upright.  Like a child when they are sitting on their daddy’s lap.  I was still between His front paws, but I was leaning back against Him with my ear to His chest.  I could hear His heartbeat and I was timing my breathing to His, like I used to do when I was a little girl and would sit in the chair with my own Daddy and lay my head on his chest.

This is where the story ends, except for the glimpse of my future self. I don’t have the details, but I was riding bareback on the Lion as He was running full force and I had my hands in the air and I was FREE.  I cannot wait for that great day.  His promises are true.

Well, it almost ends there… sometimes when my ear is to His chest and I’m breathing with Him, I hear a call to prayer for certain people straight from His heart.  I respond in obedience to that heartbeat by calling or texting or writing a prayer for them and letting them know God called me to pray for them.  On one recent occasion, I helped a friend through a bit of a rough time that He showed me was coming her way, and He called me to love her through it.  In response, I shared a bit of my story with her, and in His grace through her gift, she returned His love to me by painting my healing.  I don’t have too many treasures on earth, but this one, I count as worthy.   It’s called “The Lion of Judah will never let her go”.  I stare at it and get lost in Him and His endless depth.  When I find myself restless or sad or compromising, I return to the Lion/Lamb and lay my head on His chest, and I listen to His heartbeat and time my breathing to I AM-Who I AM.  I AM BOTH- Lion and Lamb- and I will NEVER let you go. Amen.

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Lord? Is that you?

I went to our women’s ministry monthly dinner event the other night and something profound happened to me.  It may seem obvious to others, but it was like a breath of fresh air to me.  Usually our “Essential Connections” is a fun evening of dinner and a skit and a chance to visit with other women in our church and sort of just chill out for a couple of hours- one night a month.  That’s not a whole lot of chill, I know, but you take what you can get right?  This month was different. The program included the first lesson in a Bible study on Phillipians. The Joy book! The Peace with chains book! The Paul wrote this letter while imprisoned in the sewer under the jail book.  Yay. That goes great with chill?

Our discussion led to the topic of Joy. And how Paul’s focus was on something other than his circumstances. It’s not about happiness. It’s not about how we feel. It comes from a different place.  I’ve done several studies in Phillipians prior, so this was not news to me as a theme or something we need to do. But there was a question that our sister asked us that broke through that barrier of “I already know this”, and started me thinking.

It seems Paul’s secret to keeping his Joy in the midst of such terrible circumstances came from his ability to keep Christ as his Lord. Jesus was seated on the throne and Paul’s eyes were on Him, and Him alone.  He had made Him his Lord.  So then Debby explained to us how in her daily world, sometimes, she makes other things her lord.  It might not be the obvious things like money or job or status seeking.  Sometimes, it might be anything that takes the place of time that you would/should spend with Him.  Maybe you are an interior decorator wanna be and you look at magazines and become absorbed with dreaming and wishing of rooms you’d like to have.  You make that magazine your lord. (Her example).

She then asked us this question: What have you made your Lord?  As I stopped to think about my circumstances, and where my eyes are, and who is on the throne, it dawned on me what I have done.  Some people seek money or status and serve it as master. I on the other hand, have no money or status, and don’t want it in excess, but that hasn’t stopped me from making it my lord.  I have made my “lack” my Lord.  I have made my “struggle” my Lord.  I have taken my eyes off of the One Who Can end my struggle and fill my lack with provision.  I will even go so far to say that I have made faith my lord and the good I hope to do, as well. I have made serving my lord. When it takes me away from the walk in the garden I should be having with Him, the works have become my lord. Ouch.

So what now? Contrary to how I might have reacted in the past, I feel the Holy Spirit gently leading me with a non dramatic nudge to get back in the Word. To give Him my time and attention regardless of the sewer I’m standing in.   What I don’t want to have happen is for Jesus to come back and I cry out to my struggle “lord! lord!”.  I don’t want Him to turn to me and say, “I’m sorry. Do I know you? You look familiar, but I think you must be talking to your lack.”  That is a different kind of chill.

So here we go, into the book of Phillipians.  Read the whole book and then come back and study line by line chapter one.  Acquaint yourself with Him. Put Him back on the throne. And most of all, make Him Lord of your day. Every day.

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It’s been a while

Some months are harder than others and I think 2011’s hard months all got together and joined forces.  I’ve been evaluating a lot of things. Contemplating my approach to life, family, ministry, work, joy and just about everything else. All I have come up with is, well, frankly, that I just don’t have any answers! And that’s okay.

I started a new job in July. It’s my first outward commitment to being in full-time ministry. Seems sort of crazy from the outside looking in. I took a part-time job for just a little above minimum wage as the Executive Director of a crisis pregnancy center.  It’s a faith-based center that offers the hope and healing of Christ to those women and families facing unplanned pregnancies.  And you know what? It feels completely right.

There are all of the normal challenges of trying to live life as a single income, single parent household on a part-time salary. And those challenges are so overwhelming. Yet, in being overwhelmed, I am completely dependent on Jesus to stand in the gap for me. And He has and He does and He will continue to do just that. He’s always been my bridge.

There are things I’m learning by working with people in crisis that I simply could not begin to fathom, had I not been in crisis a time or two myself.   My circumstances may look different from theirs, but feeling like you are facing overwhelming odds and burdened to the point of breaking because of your lack of options, is quite frankly, familiar territory.

Once again, God proves Himself sovereign.  How He uses these melting pot experiences to boil off the impurities and equip me/us for the work He has ahead.  There are going to be some new posts coming. About making decisions in the face of life’s biggest obstacles. About grieving and healing. About other things too. God seems to be reviving my etching business too, so we’ll talk sandblasting and other fun rock  and small business stuff.

I’ll let you go now, just wanted to check in and say thanks for following along and get ready for the winds of change to blow in a little different direction for a while.

Blessings!

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