Musings — November 2017

This has been a year of complicated math. With one son having spent a snowy spring semester plowing through an online Technical Math II class (every bit as bad as it sounds) and another presently working his way through geometry, we have had some fairly intense conversations around operations and theorems, but it’s also been a year of family members coming and going, being added and subtracted from the membership. We’ve welcomed a new daughter-in-love and a new baby granddaughter. We’ve said goodbye to my mother.

On My Nightstand

In this season of pluses and minuses, I’m working my way through a small treasure of a book on my Kindle that is teaching me a new math just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the holidays in which we think and talk and even sing about peace and joy. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremy Burroughs is challenging me to add contentment to the holiday equation with stunning wisdom such as this:

“A Christian comes to contentment, not so much by way of addition, as by way of subtraction.”

This is not the message that is showing up in my inbox from Amazon everyday (or in my mailbox either with its daily shipment of multiple catalogs), but the truth is that there is hardly anything I can add to my life without it leading to a desire for more. So . . . Burroughs suggests subtracting from our desires to bring them into alignment with our circumstances.

As a Puritan man firmly planted in the 17th century, Burroughs’ temptation to discontentment certainly would have been different from mine or yours, but even so, he felt the reality of it and apparently, even in his day, “the world [was] infinitely deceived in thinking that contentment lies in having more than we already have.” For those with advanced math skills, he moved on to examining “the proportion between our hearts and our circumstances” urging believers to bring them into alignment.

What strategies in fostering contentment are working for you as we fly headlong toward the Christmas season?

On the Radio

At some point in 2017, the only classical radio station accessible here in Midcoast Maine disappeared from the airwaves, so we are rejoicing in the expansion of Maine Public Radio’s signal to include us here on the fringes! This won’t be relevant news to anyone except Maine readers, but 96.7 FM is now pumping lovely sounds into our lives each day, giving us one more reason to be thankful!

 

On the Blog

It’s been great grace to enjoy the hospitality of friends at (in)courage, The Perennial Gen and SheLoves Magazine this month:

Faith Going Forward for The Perennial Gen encourages readers in mid-life to jettison anything that slows our growth and keeps us stuck in our safe and familiar habits — whether it’s cleaning out a closet or establishing new and healthy habits, there’s always room for improvement here.

For All Who Have Chosen Wrong Roads addresses regret with the good news that, used well and with its sharp edge pointed toward the task at hand like my favorite garden hoe, regret can be a salutary thing. It can be the gift that sends me in search of a better plan.

DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc., has a blogging ministry called (in)courage which is formed around a community which shares the life-giving tools to equip women right in the midst of the chaos. They graciously shared my story about the first Thanksgiving my husband and I celebrated together, a season of celebration and lament that continues to shape the way I give thanks each year. You can read it for yourself here.

I reviewed four books in the month of November. If you’re looking for reading material as Christmas gifts — or for your own heart — you can get a preview by clicking on the titles below:

Fiercehearted is the expansion of Holley Gerth’s manifesto that the true gift of fiercehearted living is the freedom to admit to imperfection, to accept it in those we love, and to live genuine, messy, and imperfect life in community.

In Free of Me, Sharon Hodde Miller invites readers to throw off the burden of self-focus and to find worth and belonging within the larger context of an obedient following that is all about Christ, His purposes, and His glory.

I was thrilled to share the story of fellow Mainer and fellow Redbud Meadow Rue Merrill. Her international adoption of a severely disabled daughter is a story of faith and disappointment; loss and redemption. Redeeming Ruth is a valuable resource for anyone who is learning to trust God’s motives and struggling to live well in the tension of pursuing a dream while holding it loosely. The unfolding of Ruth’s story rebukes the notion that God is made visible only in happy endings

I’m ever intrigued by personality inventories, and Alice Fryling’s Mirror for the Soul is a guide to the Enneagram that encourages a slow and careful pondering in order to understand one’s type and what it means for spiritual formation and transformation.

Coming to the end of Jayber Crow, the discussion group concluded that, among many other things, Wendell Berry wrote a book about love. Our friend, the “married ineligible bachelor barber,” reflecting on the benefit of sacrifice, concluded that the good he derived is this:

“I got to have love in my heart.”

In this season of serial celebrations and rubbing shoulders with our once-a-year friends and relations, it behooves us to frame our hearts in the direction of loving well and with no strings attached.

Around the Table

Every year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my patient husband makes an early foray into Christmas shopping with all four sons, and he’s done it since there were only two tiny boys, so it’s quite the tradition in these parts. Meanwhile, I make pies, peel vegetables, and prepare for the Thanksgiving feast in lovely peace and quiet.

This has been our first celebration without all four of the guys present, because the two married sons synchronized their inlaw rotation. Even so, we filled the seats with family and friends and gave thanks with gusto, another opportunity to adjust my expectations and to find contentment within the gift of my present circumstances.

I hope you’ll share in the comments about your own season of Thanksgiving and how you are bringing contentment forward into your celebration of Jesus’ birthday. Blessings to you and thank you for the encouragement of your friendship here in this gathering.

//

Image courtesy of Unsplash by Hedi Alija

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

73 thoughts on “Musings — November 2017”

  1. I am so sorry for all of the hard places you have walked through this year, Michele, especially the loss of your dear mother. I know how painful and profound that loss is, and I trust God will hold you close in every moment of grief. Oh, it is so true that the less we want and crave of this world, the more content we become! My little family and I are finding that more and more as we continue to go deeper into our minimizing journey. Having less stuff feels wonderful and is so liberating. Every piece of this life that we cling to only weights us and encumbers us with excess that is far too heavy to carry. Learning to let go of this world and the things in it for the sake of a more eternity-focused life is one of the most freeing experiences I have ever lived through. Keeping on the straight and narrow concerning this is hardest during the Christmas season, but it absolutely can be done. God wants us all to allow the peace of that holy night to keep us grounded every day of the year, even in the midst of the chaos the world tries to inflict as we celebrate His Son’s birth. Sending many blessings your way today, Michele!

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  2. I believe after all the additions and subtractions, it all comes down to trust; trust in God, knowing that He is faithful. He is who He says He is, and He would do what He says He would do – in spite of the contrary things our circumstances try to make us believe sometimes.

    I pray you have a blessed Christmas, this Christmas, Michele.

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  3. It’s sometimes to get clear radio stations when we live out in the middle of nowhere, isn’t it, Michele! I smiled at your discovery.

    And thanks for showing us how to navigate the holidays after the great loss of your mom … and as the kids negotiating holidays with the in-laws. And the baby, oh, the baby. So many huge changes swirl.

    Blessings to you in the midst of it all …

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    1. Yes, I’m so thankful for the soft sounds of classical music — to balance the jolly holiday tunes I play when my kids are home. We’re managing well, Linda, and Thanksgiving was a great test run for “new and different” this Christmas.

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  4. Finding contentment is finding life, isn’t it? Life lived in freedom from expectations and comparison. — Glad you were able to fill those empty seats with friends. I wanted to do a “Friendsgiving” this year, but with my son’s health issues, I wasn’t it would be the right year. Maybe next year. 🙂 Thankful for you, Michele. Happy Holidays!

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  5. My contentment has definitely been found in subtracting . . subtracting us from our home and into our car helped us to remember how important our family was vs stuff . . we are so much more content then I’ve ever known us to be!

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  6. I have heard that book by Burroughs mentioned many times over the years but have not read it yet. Maybe someday! I especially like this: “subtracting from our desires to bring them into alignment with our circumstances.”

    How good to have all four sons home at Thanksgiving! We had one out, the one who lives in another state, but he will be here for Christmas. Thankfully the married son lives nearby and we have one still at home, but I know some day they could all be in different places.

    I appreciated your introducing me to The Perennial Gen. I’m right in their target age bracket.

    I’ve been inspired by you and a few other bloggers to post end-of-month musings, so I just did that this morning.

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    1. I love a good dose of Puritan theology, and Burroughs and Owen especially have a way of slowing me down as I read.
      Glad to know that you’re hanging out over at the Perennial Gen. Me too, and I try to get over there to read often.
      I’ll head over and check out your musings! Fun!

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  7. Dear Michele,
    I am so thankful that you have allowed us to share in the process of God walking you through the hard days of change this year! You have been in my prayers through it all. I appreciated your opening quote so much: ““A Christian comes to contentment, not so much by way of addition, as by way of subtraction.” Truly, we cannot have more of HIM until we have less of ME. Thanks for the beautiful encouragement you share! Blessings to you!

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  8. Michele,
    I always enjoy your musings! It’s been a year of loss of your mum and a year of addition to your beautiful family! I wholeheartedly agree that subtraction of desires adds to our contentment. I find that has I shed the “stuff” and live more simply I am more content. Look at how Christ lived….He traveled light. Would I not be smart to do the same. The book “Free From Me” is one I ponder about giving to my kids?? Getting our eyes off self and onto Christ frees us of self absorption which plagues so many of the younger generation.
    Blessings to you,
    Bev xx

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    1. Sharon has such a winsome way of sharing the truth, I can really see it appealing to your kids. (She’s probably their age.)
      I’m wondering how you’re getting around these days — is everything healing as it should?

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  9. Michele, I love and need to write on my mind and heart that quote about contentment. And can I say again how much I treasured your (in)courage piece in November as well? Blessings, now, on all your December days! Stopping by from #Grace&Truth.

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    1. Elizabeth, as a blogger, you know that there is no statute of limitations on someone liking our work. 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement — that bigger platform felt like a bigger risk, so it’s good to have the support of friends.

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  10. I’m not particularly good at math, but I do know no matter what we add or subtract, we can never lose the love of God in Christ. I’m holding on to that promise. Love this line… “subtracting from our desires to bring them into alignment with our circumstances.” Blessings, friend!

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  11. Hi Michele! Thought I’d comment on the thoughts you shared about contentment. I’m working on getting in the habit of stopping when I find myself complaining about ANYthing, and replacing it with a praise. So instead of complaining (once again) of “having” to get to the store for groceries, I’ll replace it with “Thank you, Lord, that I GET to go to the grocery store; that You’ve provided for our needs with finances and a car and gas to get there, and that You’ve given me health and the freedom and ability to feed my family which will help us all strengthen the bodies You gave us to serve You.” Yes, I know that’s a tad wordy, but I’m finding that to curb my developing propensity to grumble, I kinda have to “go overboard” on the praise side!

    Anyway, so far it seems to be working for me! lol

    Grateful for you during this Thanksgiving season…and hope you’re headed for a truly blessed Christmas holiday! 🙂

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    1. Hey, how did you know I was going to the grocery store today???
      Thanks for giving me the right words to frame the right way of thinking as I push that loaded cart around the aisles today.
      And thank you for taking time to share your own struggle with contentment — and your successful moment! So good to hear from you.

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  12. Love these “wrap-ups” and plan to do mine December 6th. Contentment – I’m working on it. This is a tough one for me as I fight isolation in these har mountains during this season of my life. One day at a time. Choosing joy and contentment as banners over my every.day. xo

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    1. I’m sorry you’re feeling isolated there in your beautiful mountains. You work at home, too, so you don’t even have the routine of seeing others at work — quite a challenge for a people-lover like you. So glad that you are trusting for grace to CHOOSE joy and contentment. It can certainly be a challenge.

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  13. Words I’ll be pondering, Michele: “subtracting from our desires to bring them into alignment with our circumstances.” Contentment is a challenge this time of year when we’re even bombarded with things to buy to make this Christmas a simple one. My plan is to make Christmas a celebration of Christ.

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  14. Glad you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your fellas, Michele. You always highlight the most interesting read here. I’d love to meet for coffee one day just to chat about family, books, and Jesus. I am thankful for you, friend. Hugs

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  15. I have much enjoyed reading this. After an afternoon of sorting through stuff in my garage and trying to clear what I don’t need away, I’m almost too tired to write a coherent thought. I so want to get rid of the stuff left from other stages of my life and the lives of my mother and mother-in-law that is filling my living spaces. I’m thankful for all God has given me, but I’d like to find homes for most of it in the homes of those who need it more than I.

    I wish I could invite all the homeschoolers in my area for a fill your bag party. I have literally thousands of dollars of inventory bought new for a discontinued business filling all my storage areas, but every bit I give away I have to list and prove and price for the IRS, and it has to go to a non profit organization. So it sits while I deal with more urgent issues.

    I’m thankful I got a start today on clearing some garage space and I’m thankful a sister from church was able to help and will continue to be able to help. I didn’t know she was a homeschooler, but I think she will be able to use many things I have. Things I can just give to thrift shops will be easier to deal with, since not so much record keeping is required.

    As I look back, it’s hard to believe that twenty years ago I used to regularly exhibit at homeschool conventions with so little help, since I no longer have the energy to set up and tear down even a book table, let alone a 30 x 10 foot booth packed with books.

    Now that I’m approaching 75 rapidly, I need to learn to let others help me make some of these decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of. My friend was a great blessing today. I’m glad to pay her for her time and energy. She carted away a full SUV full of stuff to recycle today that I will not have to deal with myself in a smaller car. With every box that leaves, I feel my spirit lift. I can testify that accumulating more stuff does not make people happy. I have learned to be content with what I have, and I get even more content when I see some of it leaving. When I finish this project, I’ll have much more time to read all those Puritan and other books sitting on my shelves.

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  16. Many years ago, at a family gathering, Mama silently sat on the fringe of the group. When asked if she was alright, Mama said she was listening to and soaking up the love. What a powerful lesson she taught me about being more of a Mary than a Martha (which was actually Mama’s name), whether spending time with Jesus or earthly loved ones. Blessings on you and yours, Michele!

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  17. Our lives are full of ups and down but we must somehow manage to travel on in this life of ours. So sorry about the loss of your mom. Congrats on your new grandbaby and daughter-in-love! Thank you Michele for linking up at the #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty #22. I shared your post on Fb, G+, Pin, and Tw.

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  18. I’ve read The Rare Jewel twice now, and each time it really challenged me, too. But in the best possible way. The language was a little tough to get through, but the message is critical for all times. Glad you had a good Thanksgiving with a full table, even though it wasn’t all from your original family.

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  19. I so enjoy reading these monthly posts. Every month I think, “Such a good idea and I should so do this.” This morning was the first time it hit me – – It is a wonderful idea and perhaps I should just enjoy the posts of others 🙂 Yes, freedom. Not every good idea must become ours. Thank you for bringing these wonderful roundups each month!

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    1. What a great conclusion, Joanne. There are a number of things in this blogging world that I just can’t manage.And I’ve never thought of it in terms of “freedom,” but you’re so right!

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  20. I don’t know what I would do without NPR. I really don’t. I’m so glad you have it back!!!! Our Christmas season will be spent out of town, at my husband’s family (we rotate like your sons) and so it is always strange to spend this time “on the road”, but it will be good too, to switch things up and see what God does when He gets me out of my comfort zone.

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  21. Contentment. I’m not sure why, but for some unknown reason, contentment was a gift from the Lord throughout most of my Christian life. I certainly don’t deserve any credit for it, but contentment was something I usually felt – even when thrust headfirst into some of life’s most gut-wrenching human experiences. Maybe it boils down to trust? Somehow, my heart (and mind) usually remembered that I could trust the Lord for every part of my life. That certainly didn’t make some circumstances easy, but it caused a lot less worry!

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  22. I’ve been thinking a bit about contentment too and I love that thought that it comes not from addition but from subtraction.
    I’m glad you have a radio station that works for you now- music definitely helps my contentment level!
    Thanks, Michele, I always enjoy reading your reflections!

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  23. Congrats on all of your guest posts! Those kids that grow up and graft into other families and bring grafts into ours make the way we celebrate holidays richer, don’t they (while at the same time, a little sadder).

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  24. What a great quote. The older I get, the more minimalist I’m intentionally becoming. I did an experiment when I moved 6 weeks ago, and still haven’t unpacked everything. The experiment was to see if I would miss the things still in boxes, and after six weeks I’m surprised at the things I have decided I can be content without. We are such fickle creatures!

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  25. Finding contentment in what we have is what I’ve been working on. Last week was a horrible week and an easy time to fall back into complaining – after all, I had good reason. But baby steps forward – I kept reminding myself to give thanks anyway. Today I have extra reason to give thanks, but even if I didn’t, I hope I’m training myself to look for it! Thanks for linking up at #InspireMeMonday.

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    1. Wow, I’m sorry about all the ups and downs you’re experiencing. Thanks for sharing your internal struggle and the process you’re finding success with. It’s always good to hear from you.

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  26. Always love your musings, Michele! AND I went right to the Kindle store to download the book. As you know, we are in a season where nothing about Thanksgiving and Christmas is the same and even though the changes aren’t really bad, contentment can be harder to come by. Thanks (as always) for pointing to a great read!!

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    1. I’m very hopeful that you will share some thoughts on the book once you are into it. The style is challenging, but it forces me to slow down. And fortunately he practices the “say it and then say it again” method of developing a thought so that does help.

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  27. I love that quote, “A Christian comes to contentment, not so much by way of addition, as by way of subtraction.” That’s a whole post in one concise sentence. It sounds like a busy month with both joys and sorrows. Praying your December will be full of special memories.

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  28. I didn’t get here until late, and everything I’m thinking has already been said. I always enjoy your posts, and this round-up is the best of the best. Praying you find joy and contentment during the Christmas season. You bring joy to me with every post.

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    1. And you bring joy to me with every visit. It’s so good to know when my words land on ears and hearts that are receptive and resonating. As you know, this blogging gig can feel a bit like sending a note off in a bottle.
      Blessings to you!

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  29. Michele, I’m always blessed by your wisdom. It sounds like your year has been sprinkled with highs and lows. Thanks for passing along your insights, sharing the resources that have helped you, and writing truth, as always. May the Lord make his face shine upon you today.

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  30. Your blogging home is always a favorite to come visit. I love your Musings and feel like a get a closer look into you and your family.

    I know you are experiencing the dance of the empty chairs too. I love having people around my table and I know you do too but it makes me pause when I look and see different faces. It is a whole new rhythm to learn.

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    1. I feel the same about your place, Mary. We really are walking a very similar path — except that I may never retire!
      I think our challenge is to find our way into gratitude, even for the empty chairs and for the names missing from our gift and card lists in 2017. I’m finding this to be particularly jarring right now, and yet there are so many people who need us, and I want to be available in Christmas present without allowing memories of Christmas past to slay my joy.

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  31. What a sweet term “daughter-in-love.” I’m going to have to borrow that. We’ve also had to adjust our holiday expectations over the years as the family grows and changes, but I’ve made my peace with that and am really enjoying what is this year. I found this post on #WonderfulWednesday. Thanks for sharing it there.

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  32. Oh, Michele, I will have to read The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment! It sounds so challenging and full of truth. Thank you so much for sharing about the book and for joining us at Encouraging Word Wednesday this week!

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  33. Wow, you’ve been busy Michele!! Some of your work that’s my favorite are the book reviews. I’ll be spending some time on those shortly. I always like another perspective before I spend money on something new. I hope your Advent has been full and wonderful so far.

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    1. That’s good to know, Meg, because I get comments in the other direction, too: “Why don’t you write more stuff about your life and your thoughts from the Bible?”
      I guess I’ll just keep doing both, and I’m so glad to know that my reviews are helpful to you. And Yes to having a sneak preview before you invest in a book!

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  34. Hi Michele,
    This sentence made me stop and read it again, “the world [was] infinitely deceived in thinking that contentment lies in having more than we already have”. There is so much here in the art of being content… it is not in the “having more” but in the “more of having”. When we appreciate what we have we never fail to understand the abundance of enough, and more than. My grandmother always reminded me that what we have is more than enough to share with the people who have been put right in our midst. What I have can be a treasure I hold on to, something I validate and value with numbers and assessment, but it can also be an avenue to multiply the true treasure that I think we are supposed to glean… more opportunity to connect with people, the image bearers that capture His heart and ought to be our pursuit after Christ. Thanks for always reminding me of the necessary things.
    Blessings,
    Dawn

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  35. Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your comment on my review of ‘The Hunchback’.

    You have such a lovely blog! What beautiful words of truth you’ve shared here, about your November. My next stop this morning will be visiting the (in)courage blog to read your story there.

    By the way, if you’re going to be blogging about any Christmas books this month, I hope you’ll visit my blog event ‘A Literary Christmas’ where you can link up and share holiday-themed reviews and posts about books.

    Blessings of the season!
    Tarissa
    http://inthebookcase.blogspot.com/

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