Rhoda Lea

Thoughts on the Journey of Life

Archive for the month “September, 2010”

MAY 12, 2010 – DAY 120

http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2010-05-11/story/generations-apart-photo-bonds-parallel-lives-military-wives

Back in late January of this year, just after Richard had deployed, I ran across a contest being held by our local paper.  It was entitled, “This I Love…” asking for pictures and a short little story about what we love.  I posted a pic of Richard sleeping on the beach in Myrtle Beach South Carolina.  I wrote a little blurb:  “This I love because it is a photo of my brave Sailor doing what he loves – sleeping on the sand at the beach.  This was taken on our most recent family vacation to Myrtle Beach.  We are praying for his safe return to us as he is now deployed to Afghanistan.”  It went something like that.

Also around that time a woman by the name of Pat posted a picture to the contest of her husband Bud which was taken while he was deployed to Vietnam during that conflict back in 1969.  Her story was about her life as a military wife and how proud she had been to be an Army wife.  She then proceeded to scan through the other postings and came across my picture of Richard.  It took her breath away and she picked up the phone and called the “Times-Union.”

About two weeks after I posted my picture of Richard I started getting these e-mails from a couple of individuals at the paper.  Apparently some woman who had been a military wife as well wanted to get in touch with me.  Well, I’ve met enough military wives to know that there are many of them I really don’t wish to get in touch with, and being the skeptic that I can often be, I ignored their requests.  Finally I got an e-mail from one gentleman at the paper who explained to me what was going on.

Apparently, this lady Pat had been an Army Wife for over 20 years and she had a picture of her husband Bud taken on the same beach in 1969 that bore an uncanny resemblance to my picture of Richard.  (Click Link above to see Bud’s picture.)  He asked if he could share my e-mail address with Pat.  Intrigued I said, “Sure.”  What’s the harm in an e-mail?  Especially considering all the spam I get on a regular basis.

That same day I got an e-mail from Pat, but being the skeptic, I didn’t answer.  On the third e-mail she imbedded the picture taken so many years ago of her husband Bud.  It was astounding.  I picked up the phone and gave her a call.  She was so lovely on the phone and I was completely charmed.  I suddenly regretted my cynical nature.

I’ll give this to Pat.  She was tenacious.  She had spent the better part of a month trying to get in touch with me.  It was now towards the end of February.  She tentatively invited the boys and I for Easter Dinner.  I said I would need to discuss it with the boys and I would get back to her.  After I got off the phone I told the boys the story and showed them the two pictures.  They immediately said, “Wow, that’s weird.  Yeah, let’s go.”  They wanted to meet these people who seemed so much like their parents.

Easter was an amazing day.  I had coached my boys well on the appropriate way to meet and greet new people, and appropriate new place behaviors.  They shook hands all around like gentlemen saying, “Hi, I’m Adam” or “I’m Sean, nice to meet you.“  They impressed Bud by playing nicely and quietly with his grandsons.  Then when we left, they shook hands saying, “Thank you, we had a great time.“  I was so proud, and we did have a great time.

The company and the food could not have been better.  Pat had also invited her daughter Heidi who has two boys as well, one just older and one just younger than my two.  The boys had a great time together and I really liked Heidi, as well as Pat and Bud.  There was no problem finding things to talk about and the conversation flowed effortlessly.  I was proud of myself as well.  I had made some new friends without the help of my gregarious husband.  It was a good day.

Since that time Pat and I have kept in touch.  We have exchanged e-mails and some phone calls.  I friended her daughter, Heidi, and her grandson, Robert, on FaceBook.  All of us our making plans to do something together once school lets out.  She has been a great sounding board for those deployment blues, especially since I broke my leg.

Recently Pat e-mailed me to find out if I would be interested in doing an interview with a reporter from the paper.  They were interested in doing a follow-up piece regarding how we met and the similarities in our lives as military wives.  I agreed immediately and we met a few days ago at my house with the reporter and a photographer.  We didn’t know if the article would be published or not, but the piece came out today and a link is posted above.

I have a hard copy of the article, one of the boys teachers sent it home with them, to put in a scrapbook at some point in time, for which I am glad.  Mostly though I am so thankful to have met Pat.  This 80 year old woman is one of the coolest, hippest people I have met in a long time.  Her life and her stories are an inspiration to me.  I am truly blessed to have her in my life.

MAY 2, 2010 – DAY 110

I’ve been promising to tell the story about how I broke my leg.  Honestly, I was reluctant to put the whole story into cyberspace because of not wishing to upset Richard.  However, by the time he gets home the whole thing will be old news and I will be able to dance with him in the family room.  All will be forgiven.

Now, what would he have to forgive you may be thinking.  Here it is, it’s my son’s fault I broke my leg.  I had worked on Saturday April 10th and I had promised the boys their first beach trip of the season on Sunday, April 11th.  I went to bed on Saturday with a plan in mind.  We were going to get up on Sunday and clean the house then pack the cooler and head to Hannah Park.  However, I didn’t get up until about 8:30, a little later than I wanted.  I pulled on the clothes I had put on after work and headed to the kitchen for coffee, passing Sean with his bowl of cereal on the way.  Thank the Lord I put on actual clothing and not some kind of moo moo or sarong!  However, on the way to coffee I realized I needed to go the bathroom.  On the way to the bathroom is when it happened.

The house that we live in has been the sad recipient of a series of poorly planned and poorly executed remodels.  It was built in 1958 as a 1500 square foot, mid-century modern ranch with an attached carport, three bedrooms and one bathroom.  Sometime in the 1970’s the original owners added on a Florida room with a fireplace, enclosed the carport and added a bathroom.  The carport and the additional bathroom then became a master bedroom of sorts.

In the 1980’s the owners of my house got married, bought this house as I have just described it and proceeded over the years to “open it up.”  However, the master bedroom, the family room, and the additional bathroom are all about six inches lower than the original house.  This means I have a six inch step down from my sink area to my stove area.  My kitchen is cut in two by a six inch drop.  I understand wanting a bigger kitchen but talk about idiocy.  I can’t move from my stove to my sink without stepping up a six inch step.  Prior to breaking my leg, I can’t count the number of times we all have caught the toe of a sandal or a flip flop on that step and  went flying across the kitchen floor.  I always knew that if we managed to live in this house without me breaking my leg it would be a miracle.

On Sunday, April 11th, 2010 the thing I feared most came upon me.  I stepped off that step in the kitchen on my way to the bathroom and my left leg flew out from underneath me.  I landed with all my somewhat considerable weight on my 47 year old right leg.  I heard it snap.  It sounded like breaking chicken bones; like when you cut up a chicken.  As I lay there screaming for Sean, I thought to myself, “Now you’ve done it.  You broke your leg.”  Sean grabbed the house phone and dialed 911.

He was incredible.  He was calm and answered all the operators questions like a grown person.  He told them his mom had broken her leg in the kitchen and was laying on the kitchen floor.  He confirmed that I could not stand or walk.  He pulled up the leg of my sweatpants and said, “No, there’s no blood and no bone sticking out.”  The kid rocked!  Not a tear, not a quiver in his voice.  He was totally calm and completely mature!

Meanwhile Adam had heard me screaming and had rolled out of bed to see what had happened.  He got the cell phone and started calling my dear friend Kevin.  When he got Kevin’s voice mail he left a message.  Then handing me the cell phone, he ran in bare feet and boxers three houses down to our neighbor, Tim’s house.  All of this he did on his own initiative while his brother spoke to the 911 operator.  He was amazing!  Especially considering Adam is the kid that doesn’t wake up well and stutters!  I was so proud.

Once Sean was off the phone and confirmed with me that the ambulance was on it’s way, I rolled over onto my stomach and felt the area where my left foot had temporarily been.  The floor was wet.  “Sean, why is the floor wet?  The floor is wet.  Sean, why is it wet?”  At which point I heard Sean take a sharp intake of breath and choke out, “Mom, I spilled the milk and didn’t wipe it up.”  I said something very Sailor like at that point which I had to apologize for later, and the poor kid started crying.  He felt like poo poo!

By that time the ambulance had come along with Adam and Tim and a couple of police officers.  The cops show up to make sure that minor children are not left alone in the house.  But, Kevin had called to say he was on his way.  With my purse on my belly and my cell phone tucked into the collar of my sweatshirt I was rolled out to the ambulance yelling at my neighbor, “Tim, don’t let those people take my kids.  Wait for Kevin!”

Kevin met us at the emergency room taking pictures of me there with my cut up sweat pants and my big white cast.  He brought us all back home picking up my prescription for me at Walgreens and holding back my hair while I threw up out the door of his car in the Walgreens parking lot.  Like I said, he’s a good friend.

Since that time my young men have been amazing.  They have managed with very little help to get dinner on for all of us.  They have also kept the house reasonably clean, despite the maggots, and have taken care of me.  They have watched over me while I showered.  Got me some breakfast and made me a sack lunch each day.  Made coffee in the morning and tucked me at night.  They have Taken care of their dogs and kept their grades up.  I love the young men my little boys are becoming, and am so grateful to God for their presence in my life.  Despite the broken leg and the maggots, they have both more than made up for their little mistakes along the way.  No condemnation here, and their father has nothing to be angry about.  In fact, I know, he’s going to be very, very proud!

MAY 1, 2010 – DAY 109

MAY 1, 2010 – DAY 109

Today I had a minor melt-down.  The frustration with limited mobility set in and I just lost my mind.  I HATE being dependent upon others.  I hate living my life in the family room.  I hate sleeping on the couch.  I hate having to have my boys make me a sack lunch before they go to school.  And, I hate waiting until they get home to try and get anything done.  I really do.

The most embarrassing thing about it was I melted down all over my FaceBook page.  I’m sure I will  look back on it and laugh but  it’s impossible to undo after you hit “post”.  Even if you, delete the post right away there’s always one person who’s running around with the app on their phone and, ping, they’ve got it!

The FaceBook melt down wasn’t nearly as bad in my mind as the melt-down I had with my kids.  They have been so great through all of this:  deployed dad, broken mom.  They didn’t deserve to have me freaking out about something as inconsequential as the cleanliness of the house.  However, in my defense, I might have maintained some semblance of calm if it hadn’t been for the maggots I found next to the kitchen sink.

Anyone who is a mother can feel my frustration at this moment.  We don’t have a garbage disposal so all the little bits of food from doing dishes end up in the drain plugs.  The boys were just dumping those little bits on the edge of the sink.  You know, that little spot designed for a bar of soap?  Yeah, right there.  I had been on them for three days about cleaning the kitchen and had been very specific about what cleaning the kitchen meant.  Who knew I needed to specifically say, “Put the little food scraps in the garbage can when you clean the sinks out.“

I hobbled in on my crutches to see how dinner was going and, lo and behold, I find the little food pile.  While explaining to them why we don’t stack rotting food scraps next to the sink, I grab the spray bottle of bleach and a paper towel to remove the pile of food scraps.  That’s when I saw them.  The maggots!

I LOST MY LITTLE MIND!!!!!  And that is putting it mildly.  Clean dishes started flying back into hot soapy water.  The dish drainer got tossed in the sink and sprayed with bleach.  Bleach started splashing all over the counter tops.  Through all of this I’m screaming, SCREAMING, at my poor boys.  “WE DO NOT LIVE LIKE THIS.  HAVE YOU PEOPLE COMPLETELY LOST YOUR MINDS?  DON’T TALK TO ME!  WE ARE NOT NASTY DIRTY PEOPLE!  DON‘T LOOK AT ME IN THAT TONE OF VOICE!”  It was like something from a Bill Cosby monologue.

Meanwhile the whole time I am balancing on one foot and my crutches.  At one point, one of them got close to me and tried to say something.  I think I swung a crutch at him.  Thank the Good Lord, the kid was quick and all I succeeded in doing was losing my balance and almost falling on my face.  Which made me catch my breath long enough to storm (hobble) back into the family room, shouting over my shoulder, “No-one eats until that kitchen is spotless!”

And that’s when it happened; the FaceBook post.  “Lord Jesus, help me not to kill my children during this period of helplessness and dependency on others! I just want to get up and do what needs to be done myself and I can’t and I want to SCREAM!!!! AHHHHHHHHG! oK, I feel better now – much calmer – thanks for letting me get that out.”  All my lovely friends were quick to respond with words of encouragement and offers to help out.  I finally responded to them, “I’ve just had a serious moment of frustration over the cleanliness of my house.  I’m about to call Merry Maids.”  Perhaps I should and take the pressure off the boys, and help me be a kinder, gentler, more happy mom.

All I know for sure is that I don’t think I’ve ever missed Richard more or appreciated him as much as I do at this moment.  One thing is certain, if he were here, there would be no maggots next to my kitchen sink.  It’s for times like this that I have to remember, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger!”  Praying the Lord is gracious, in spite of myself, and that the boys and I all come through this time stronger and better.

APRIL 28, 2010 – DAY 106

When someone is home alone all day, unable to get around, they start finding things to do and their minds tend to wander.  Today as I tried to busy myself and wandered around in my own mind I came to a realization.   I realized I’m weird.  I mentioned in an earlier post that Alaska is the one place in the United States you can see a bumper sticker for the NRA and one for GREENPEACE on the same vehicle.  Even though I understood that seeming incongruity at the time I had to laugh at it’s irony.  Perhaps that’s why I felt so at home with Alaskans.  In looking  back through  my FaceBook profile page I realized that on April 22nd I not only posted a “Happy Earth Day” status message with a link for an organic gardening web-site, but also “Liked” a page entitled “A right to bear arms.”

It seems strange that these two ideas can exist peacefully in a single mind.  At least many people might think so.  However, I can assure you they do.  Like many things in my life my beliefs walk a tightrope and my heart and mind are always adjusting their balance.  I am a pacifist who served in the military.  I am a republican who often votes democrat.  I am an environmentalist who supports industry.  I am a feminist who believes that I should honor and obey my husband.  I am someone who believes in free trade but supports unionization.  I am a Christian who recognizes the need for gay rights.  And the list goes on and on.

I acknowledge that I’m weird, and many of my closest and dearest find me confusing and difficult – including my family and my lovely husband.  I’m sorry for that but in a broken world finding balance is often a hard thing.  Sad to say, I often feel as if the folks most lacking in balance are those from my own faith group.  The most angry, snide, and sarcastic responses I get to some of my postings on FaceBook come from my evangelical friends.  This frustrates me and makes me angry.  But, more than that, it saddens me.

Jesus was a very tolerant person.  Even with the one group He could get a bit combative with, the Pharisees, it took a lot to get Him that way.  However, what I often see in the Church today is intolerance.  Like it or not, fellow believers, we live in a fallen world and even the United States reflects that fallen nature of things.  As a citizen of this great country and as a Christian I need to recognize that until Jesus rules this world “with an iron rod” it is  marred by our fallen nature.  Not one of us has a corner on righteousness.

In looking back at April 22nd I realize I spent a good deal of time discussing significance of Earth Day with one of my fellow believers.  He believes that the whole day is part of “the leftest agenda.”  It was an interesting conversation and he sent me some interesting links with articles about this issue.  I see his point but don’t understand why it’s worthy of so much debate.  When people are unemployed, losing their homes, and going hungry, why do we as Christians spend so much time alienating the lost with political minutia?  I am with Joyce Meyer when she says, “We need a love revolution.”

Yes, I know I’m weird.  I’m too evangelical for my Catholic friends.  I am too Christian for my pagan friends.  I am too liberal for my Christian friends.  I am too conservative for my liberal friends.  And, I am too ecumenical for my evangelical friends.  However, I love the fact that my home has been a refuge and place of hospitality to all of these friends.  I’m just weird enough to believe that it’s not my politics that define me but my faith; a faith provided to me by love.  I hope that love is the guiding principle in my life.  I hope that I am just weird enough to believe, and act as if, the Great Commission is of more importance than politics – or taking advantage of Earth Day to promote a friends web-site.   I think I am glad I am weird.  I am especially glad that I found my husband, another weirdo, who is the one person on earth who gets me!  Thank God for that!

APRIL 26, 2010 – DAY 104

APRIL 26, 2010 – DAY 104

The struggles keep coming.  On April 11th  I slipped and fell in my kitchen, breaking my right leg in two places.  Richard’s immediate reaction was one of anger and his response was to start barking orders.  I call it the drill Sergeant mentality.  The military is a crisis management organization.  The organization is designed to respond quickly and efficiently to the world’s crisis.  It’s people are highly trained to be calm, assertive, and responsive in a crises.  Unfortunately, this creeps into our everyday lives.  It is especially prevalent in the psyche’s of servicemen and women deployed to a war zone.  His response, while inappropriate, was understandable, and my response to hang up on him was equally inappropriate and understandable.  The next day found us both apologizing via instant messenger for our lack of empathy.

I think what broke my heart the most was his confession to me in that I.M. session, “I just feel like we get to a place where we are finding some balance and it’s just another hit.  Where is God and why do things have to be so hard?”  This hurt me because I recognized that he felt my pain and frustration as his own.  He took the burden of my broken leg as his own, while 8000 miles away.  His anger of the day before had more to do with his frustration with not being here.  He couldn’t be my night in shining armor who carried me to the car, and took me to the hospital.  He couldn’t be the strong man who could hold me up in the shower and help me wash my hair.  He couldn’t be the loving, caring husband who cooked meals, did laundry, and managed a household in my place.  He couldn’t help.

However, it also hurt me because he couldn’t see God in the struggles as well as the joy.  I have to say that this negativity he seems to wallow in is my greatest challenge in our marriage.  It truly does suck the life right out of me.  No matter how often I quote Jeremiah 29:11 or the Sermon on the mount the message does not seem to register.  I remember this past summer when we were both unemployed, job hunting, living off drill pay, reserve orders and temp jobs.  It was insane.  However, I look back and see how we survived.  How we, often with the help of others, kept food on the table, a roof over our heads, the lights on, and the internet and phone connected.  I honestly don’t know how we did it and see the miracle in that survival.  Richard just sees the struggle, the despair, the frustration.  This saddens me.

I remember a conversation we had during that time about the book of Job.  I had gotten up ahead of him and was watching Joyce Meyer on the computer.  He got his coffee and went out on the patio.  As soon as the program was over I poured a fresh cup and joined him.  I found him reading his Bible, the book of Job.  It was ironic as that had been what the Joyce Meyer broadcast has been about.  I mentioned this and he started the conversation with some version of that age old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  I responded with, “I think you’re missing the point of Job’s story.”  Joyce Meyer that morning had refreshed in my mind the lessons I had already learned and I got my Bible and began to discuss the following with my husband.

When I was in college my Old Testament History professor sited this scripture in his very first lecture.  “As it was in the days of Noah so shall it be in days of the Son of Man.  What was the great sin of Noah’s days?  It was living as if there was no God.”  What I learned from Dr. Hopson is that God is God and there is no greater insult to Him than for us to ignore Him.  Mankind makes decisions without considering Him and focuses on impermanent things, like careers, money, success, the accumulation of things.  Any recognition of God begins with humility.

We spent over four hours of class time out of a nine hour class on the book of Job.  We learned that the book of Job is a morality tale, written like a fable; much like the stories of Greek mythology, and that the point of Job wasn’t whether or not if he was a real person who actually experienced this tale of woe, but rested in God’s response to Job when Job was at his lowest.  Job has argued his righteousness, his lack of sin, his uprightness within his community to his three fair-weather friends.  He has given examples of his good life and his clean living and has questioned why such calamity has fallen upon him.  He claims not to deserve it and that God has somehow been unfair.  He, like most of us who face difficult times, has fallen into the “woe is me” syndrome.  At which point God speaks, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?  Brace yourself like a man and I will question you, and you shall answer me.”  God then proceeds to list His greatness and the mighty works of His hand for four chapters – phrasing each statement as a question, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand”.  Ultimately, Job’s redemption begins with humility, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  And, his redemption is completed when God calls upon Him to forgive and pray for his accusers.

Job was characterized as a good man, righteous man, upstanding in all his deeds.  It becomes evident that he took great pride in his own goodness, owing the blessing in his life to that instead of the generous gift of a loving God.  However, it is apparent in scripture that the selfish and the prideful will be sent to hell no matter how pious their lives may appear.

Dr. Hobson came into class the day after he had finished his lectures on Job and offered us a wonderful closing illustration on the topic.  He had been on an archeological dig in the middle east some years back and while there had purchased a little wooden figurine that was a replica of one of the ancient god’s that at one time had been worshiped in that region.  He pulled this little idol out of his pocket and placed it on the podium saying, “This is my little god.  I carry him in my pocket.  When I’m stressed out or worried or upset I just reach in my pocket and rub him and I feel better. If I run across a sick person I take my god out and wave him at the person so they can get healed.  If I have a problem I don’t understand I take him out and talk to him and beg him to fix my problem.”  By this time, he had the class chuckling, smiling and nodding.  “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “I think you get my point.  We are like Job and we are like those folks of Noah’s day and those of Sodom and Gomorrah.  We try to keep God in our pockets.  I’m sorry to tell you.  He’s too big and He doesn’t fit.  God is not a big aspirin tablet.  We must pay attention to Him and acknowledge Him for His greatness.  If we do not we are no better than the Pharisees.  We are as Paul wrote to Timothy, ‘having a form of godliness but denying its power.'”  (II Timothy 3:5)

Richard and I spent hours that morning going over these truths.  However, his response and reality remained the same.  “We don’t deserve this.  We’re good people.  We try to do our best and do right by others.  Why can’t we get a break?”  I left the conversation frustrated and broken hearted, and still remain so.  For whatever reason, he’s trapped in the dark.  He cannot see that breaking my leg now, while we have insurance is a blessing.  He can’t see how many people have risen up to assist and help me.  Despite his absence, I am not alone.  He can’t see how blessed we are to have such great kids who have cared for me and acted like men in his place.  Each day that he’s gone this is my urgent prayer. He learns the lessons of Job.  He learns that joy and peace are not about your situation, but about knowing a powerful God.  He learns, most importantly, that God isn’t as concerned about us having an easy life, but about how much we look like Jesus at the end of it.

APRIL 22, 2010 – DAY 102

http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/sex/10-things-men-wish-women-knew-about-them-977369/

Seven days of leave when in the midst of a year apart is not enough.  I would love to say it’s not enough because of not having time for the fun, or the love, or the togetherness, but I can’t.  It is often not enough time to make everything perfect.  You want to your man to leave with images of perfection.  The perfect wife, loving and passionate.  The perfect kids, well adjusted and settled.  The perfect home, clean and organized.  The perfect budget, with room for flexibility.  Unfortunately, perfection and reality are often far apart.

Richard got leave at the end of his training and came home for seven days prior to shipping out to Afghanistan.  I had many images in my mind of how those seven days should play out.  None of those images played out.  I had to accept that perfection is an illusion and whatever issues that may have existed prior are just magnified by the pressure of time.   We bickered a great deal.  Argued about money, and he overspent, as usual.  He was pushy and demanding and I was bitchy and insensitive.  He didn’t respect our schedule or the need for one with me in a new job.  It annoyed him when I couldn’t hang out with him late in the evening and it annoyed me he wouldn’t get up and have coffee with me.  Everything was a big issue.

Now that’s not to say there wasn’t love or communication.  There was.  Lots of long hugs and kisses.  He made it a point to do a couple of cool things with the boys.  We ate out a couple of times and made a couple of really nice meals.  It’s just disappointing when things aren’t as fabulous as you want them to be.  When he left, I dealt with the guilt over feeling relieved that he was gone and we could get back on schedule and on budget.   We both left each other with what we would like the other to work on in the long days apart ahead and lots of love.  This is our salvation.  We never stop working on this thing we call “us” and never forget the depth of our love for each other.

We also recognize this is not our first rodeo.  We are experienced at riding this bull and taming this bronc.  It’s not our first mid-deployment break and each time it’s the same thing.  That desire to make everything that is not perfect suddenly perfect.  Unfortunately, as long as a marriage and a family are made up of  imperfect people, which they always are, many things are going to remain imperfect.  I will always struggle with my weight and Richard will always struggle with his ability to let go.  Sometimes our strengths bolster each other, but just as often our weaknesses feed on each other.  Recognizing this is half the battle to overcoming that struggle.  Keeping in mind that we know who we are, what we believe, and that we trust each other, keeps us grounded.  Our most difficult struggles come from without, not within, and we have learned how be the ribbon winners at the end of the ride.

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