Faith, family, Uncategorized

A Homespun Christmas Part 4

When I think about what Christmas looks like to me, in fact the whole holiday season, it would not be complete unless all the enduring elements which I’ve come to expect are included in the picture.

 

 

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The adorning of the house with all the colors and symbols of Christmas time, digging through the stored-away bins of decorations like a character straight out of Whoville. Somehow, every year it’s still a fond exercise in tradition.

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Then there are Christmas cookies and all kinds of baked deliciousness in which we indulge, forcing back those pesky feelings of guilt and shame. After all, it is Christmas, and our New Year resolutions haven’t begun yet.

So we bake the cookies, we make the candy and fudge, we go to those holiday parties and enjoy this special once-a-year celebration!

 

Lastly, I love to see at least a little bit of snow during the Christmas season. It just feels right! I hang my ‘Let it Snow’ sign in hopes that it will come, at least for Christmas eve.

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Aside from these, there are the things which you can’t buy, or bake. They are the gifts which we hold in our hearts, and the presence of those we love and cherish, when we lay aside the challenges in our relationships and choose peace and goodwill at least for now.

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The most precious of those unseen gifts are the memories of the ones we miss, especially during this time of the year. I understand all too well that the memories are not all good, some are painful and sad and irreparable, and we work through that the best we can, but still…. they are missed.

 

(This is my Dad ‘aka Santa’, several years before he took his journey to heaven)

 

For some of my family, this will be a first. A first Christmas without a brother, an uncle, a friend. I have my list, as I’m sure you do, too.

 

The decorations, the cookies, and the snow… of course all of those things are momentary.

 

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling. How could it be so? It came without ribbons, it came without tags, it came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before, What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more?” ~ Dr. Seuss

 

 

Truly, Christmas is a matter of the heart…. a heart for family… a heart for goodwill……. the heart of a Savior, full of love for mankind, the brilliant star which outshines all the other details of my perfectly painted picture of Christmas.

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” Ephesians 2:8

 

…the best gift of all!

 

(Photos by Robin Abrams-A Song In My Heart)

 

 

 

 

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Faith, family, Home Life, Uncategorized

A Homespun Christmas Part 3

One of the most enjoyable holiday crafts I’ve done is what I lovingly refer to as ‘song trees’.

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My initial goal of 6-8 paper song trees, quickly grew to a couple dozen, as they were so beautiful, and easy to put together, that I gave away about as many as I made for myself.

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Here is one of my best, time-saving, holiday decorating tips: I use quilt batting, torn into shelf-size pieces, in the bookshelves to create a ‘snowy’ background. It can be purchased by the yard or in a roll. Rather than empty the bookcases of the regular, year-round décor, I simply push the items toward the back of the shelf, draping and covering them with the torn pieces of quilt batting. (See examples above) There you have, an instant, simple backdrop for all those festive & beautiful holiday colors!

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As a child, I never realized how hard my Mother must have worked in order to assure that all her children would wake on Christmas morning to the hope and promise every child holds on to during the holidays.

I believe the most precious memories about Christmas are rooted in the traditions which are repeated every year….things that are sure….and predictable. It’s an unspoken expectation that everything which is perhaps unstable about this present life will, at least for a brief moment, come back into order and take the shape of something familiar which we can recognize.

No matter how simple that tradition may seem, it causes the uncertainty which threatens our peace of mind to lose some of its power, even if only for a short time. One of those traditions in our house is waking up to lots of goodies in our Christmas stockings.

I have to say (or confess) though, that a few times over my past 30 years of motherhood, “Santa” has been a little late in filling the stockings before the children woke up on Christmas morning! I think he was too tired from the long night of delivering presents all over the world, and he slept in just a little too long…. or maybe he forgot to set his alarm clock….

The kids were so good about waiting patiently for “Santa” to get out there and magically cause those empty stocking to become overflowing with surprises, never calling him out for his untimely oversight.

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To my recollection, my Mother… um.. I mean Santa… never forgot to fill the stockings of my siblings and I.

Every year, we knew exactly what we would find… a large orange in the toe of the stocking, topped off with assorted nuts still in-the-shell, lots and lots of old-fashioned ribbon candy, colorful hard candies, peppermints, and yummy old-fashioned chocolate-covered crème drops! Every now and then, the hard candies would stick to the felt-stockings, but it made no difference to us! We just pulled it off and savored it anyway! These little morsels of sugary sweetness kept us happy all day long!

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

~Arthur Conan Doyle

Faith, family, Home Life, Uncategorized

A Homespun Christmas Part 2

Rustic & cozy. Warm & soothing. Outdoorsy & simple.

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These were my goals in creating a wintry, get-away feeling right here in our own home.

 

The next mission was to gather lots and lots of branches to make walking through the house feel like a stroll through a woodland. Now, where am I going to find the branches?

 

Luckily for me, Andy knew someone who happened to have a humongous mountain of branches from their orchard. With gloves and cutters in hand, I sifted through the heaps to find the perfect ones, while my patient husband assisted. Not all branches are alike, and not just any would do! No! I had a vision and they had to be perfect!

 

Once home with our bounty, we sorted them, grouped them, potted them in small containers of plaster, and sprayed them with white texture which, once dried, looked like a dusting of delicate snow. (See picture below)

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The beautiful branches were placed strategically around our home and imparted that warm feeling you get when you sing…”Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…Jack Frost nipping at your nose….Yes, you know the one!

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Growing up, it was always tradition that very early Christmas morning, still in our pajamas with sleepy eyes, and before any presents were opened, we gathered around together and listened as the story of Christ’s birth was read from the big family bible.

 

We knew about Jesus and that this time was a celebration of His birth, and though we tried to listen, our youthful minds were filled with the anticipation of tearing open the colored packages which had our names on them.

 

Andy grew up with slightly different traditions, so we merged many of them and created our own special moments to remember. Taking a few minutes out of the excitement of gift-giving, to honor Jesus Christ and remember His birth was an important tradition that we agreed to continue as our children grew up.

Now, as our grown children bring our grandchildren to our home on Christmas Eve, they are hearing the same story of Jesus’ birth, as we open our big, family bible and read aloud the very same words that I heard as a child, the same words that were inspired by God Himself and were written into His Word, to be read and passed down to each generation, piercing the heart of man with the knowledge that God loves us so much, that He sent His perfect Son to a sinful world!

Here is this wonderful scripture of hope!

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Luke 2:1-14 (King James Version)

 

 

family, Home Life, Uncategorized

A Homespun Christmas Part 1

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It has long been my little family’s tradition that we deck the halls (our home) the weekend following Thanksgiving.

The marvelous invention of more ‘realistic’ artificial Christmas trees has made it more of an achievable goal. My apologies if the thought of a ‘fake’ tree makes you cringe! I truly do love the feel and aroma of a freshly-cut pine but it doesn’t allow for a lengthy, month-long display, which we love.

 

 

 

Midway through 2016, a vision of the upcoming Christmas season began to fill my heart and mind. I felt like the world was in such a state of chaos, and in fact, it still is. The election was in full-swing, all the relentless arguing and conflict in the news and between people in general, everyone shouting to be heard while no one actually listened to anyone else, was just too much for me.

 

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I needed to get back to my roots and retreat to a simpler time, to be soothed down to my soul, and make our home the one place we could all go to escape the madness. Being a simple, hometown girl at heart, I longed to create an atmosphere that would impart a feeling of warmth, comfort, and peace.

 

I wanted to bring outdoor elements into my home and re-create the comforting simplicity of an old-fashioned Christmas. I enlisted my husband’s help to make my vision a reality. Lots of planning and prep work paid off, and the end result rewarding. (Pictured on the right: hand-woven garland. By Robin Abrams)

 

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Over the next few weeks, as we enter the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I’ll be sharing glimpses of how it all came together, along with a few special memories of my past family traditions. I hope it will bring a smile to your heart, memories of Christmases long ago to your thoughts, and inspiration as you create your own traditions and bring your own vision of the holidays into your home, no matter what that looks like for you.

Feel free to use any of these ideas. I hope you enjoy.

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The first part of my plan was to leave all the shiny-gold, fancier ornaments packed away, and to display the rustic, home-made themed instead. With natural elements being my inspiration, I began gathering sticks, twine, and branches. I looked online for inspiration, and then added my own ideas and personalized touches. (All the items pictured here handcrafted by Robin Abrams)

 

I put my love of thrift stores to good use and found gently used ornaments that fit my theme perfectly, plus I already had quite a collection of nature/country inspired baubles. Even my local dollar store had many ornaments that were exactly what I was envisioning. When the time came to put up the Christmas tree, there was no shortage of beautiful, simple, and whimsical ornaments.

(Ornaments by Robin Abrams)

(All pictures by Robin Abrams)

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I still clearly remember my favorite ornaments from my childhood years. The elves, whose long legs bent at the knees, enabling them to tuck underneath its folded arms, and the colorful little glass birds with long, fuzzy tails.

And we adorned the tree with plenty of shining tinsel!

Tell me, which ornaments were your favorite as a child? Which traditions came with decorating the family Christmas tree?

If you would like to take a stroll down memory lane, here is a wonderful resource for beautiful, vintage ornaments!

ThisThatAndChristmas

Uncategorized

Shining a Light & Finding Our Voice

I am treading with an extreme amount of caution here. I do not wish to be misunderstood in the thoughts that I express in this statement. I am choosing my words carefully because for many people that I know, these current events are hitting home in a very real and personal way.

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Most people probably saw the ‘me too’ campaign, which began to re-circulate on social media shortly after many Hollywood elites exposed the abuses which they had kept to themselves for many years. This campaign was actually founded about 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke, who sought to support and amplify the voices of survivors of sexual abuse, assault and exploitations, to bring the magnitude of sexual assault and violence against young women of color to the light, and bring about solidarity among the victims of these abuses.

 

As the magnitude of the long-hidden celebrity indiscretions became evident, new life was breathed into the campaign and the words ‘me too’. Those who had personally experienced these things in any form were invited to simply add their ‘me too’ to the growing list. By finding the boldness to type those two little words in the comments box, we empowered each other to bring the dark silence of sexual abuse and inappropriate misuse of ones’ authority into the light and finally give the victims a voice.

 

I know many women within my own circle who added their names to that list, as did I.  I also know women, and men, whose names rightfully belong on such a list, but who perhaps did not feel comfortable in doing so.

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I commend every one of them, who maybe have never before given anyone a glimpse into their secret place. How frightening, to expose oneself in such a deep, personal way, revealing what is most likely still a painful wound. Although time may have allowed it to  partially heal, we still keep it covered and protected in an act of self-preservation.

 

Dare we entrust anyone with this knowledge? For in doing so, we risk placing our vulnerability into their hands, with hopes that they will handle it with care, and trusting that they will hold, with the highest integrity, the confidentiality of our most sacred, private self.

Dear friends, I sincerely pray you will find that someone to whom you may confide and trust, for it is in giving these things a voice that cleansing and healing begins. As the healing begins, we find our strength… our voice…ourselves…

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As more and more names are dropped into the headlines, and inappropriate deeds finally spoken of out loud, I imagine there are some who are shuddering in fear that the things they once thought were safely hidden and locked away in the shadows of secrecy may be the next to be made transparent. May these exposures bring about justice, the sincerest remorse, and a reformation of character in those who have fallen into that ugly pit.

 

 

Living Life, Uncategorized

Should I or Shouldn’t I

I am not a risk-taker. There are pros and cons to that. pexels-photo-555709

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Growing up, I did have a few moments of carefree adventure. For instance, I spent many, many hours riding our horses, galloping down the dirt roads in the middle of hop fields and orchards, and setting up small obstacles, which my horse and I would fly over.

 

 

I drove my Chevy Nova much too fast down the back county roads, while I’m certain my guardian angels were busy trying to keep up.

 

I will end my confessions of reckless behavior right there!

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There is one phobia which kept my feet on the ground for most of my adult life: the fear of flying. A time or two, I would try to imagine myself getting on an airplane and going to my dream destination, but the thought of boarding and taking off on that plane, would cause anxiety to rise up in the pit of my stomach. However, I’ve always said I would do it if it was for one of my children.

 

The point came in my life where it was time to face that fear head-on and conquer new experiences!

 

At the time, I was working for a small but dedicated and growing non-profit organization in my community. As part of the staff, I was to be included in the trip to the annual conference, held on the eastern side of the United States. Although my initial thoughts were filled with apprehension, I was also excited for this opportunity to grow in my job skills, to be part of the growth of this wonderful organization, and yes, I was also ready to conquer the fear that had kept me secluded in my little corner of the country.

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As I prepared for this new experience, I did not allow myself to dwell on fear. I would be in the company of several co-workers, experienced flyers, and the excitement felt really  good!

 

The most difficult moments of the entire adventure were walking onto that first airplane, and the first take-off!

 

As I walked down the corridor towards the plane and it hit me that I was really doing this, I just kept silently talking to myself, “Just breath…Just slow down the breathing, just breath…. Just walk and breath“.

 

Once seated, I was still having that conversation with myself, as my co-worker, who was seated next to me and knew this was a first for me, reassured me and engaged me in light conversation.

I might have appeared to have it all together, but inside, the dialog continued. I did not want to be one of those people who faint. Oh! I could have easily been THAT person!

No, just breath. Slow, steady, intentional… just breath!” And I prayed a lot!

 

The surging power of the airplane during take-off was also cause for my apprehension and calculated breathing efforts, but once in the air, and as I peered out the window, the sight of the earth at that altitude replaced my anxiety with wonder and awe. Once the plane ascended above the clouds, I was certain we weren’t far from heaven itself, as I had never before seen such a thing of beauty as the brilliant sunbeams, shining across the great expanse of clouds, highlighted the texture and depth of each one, and they glowed brilliant white! It was so beautiful!

 

The next challenge involved my short legs moving as fast as they possibly could in order to keep up with my seasoned-flyer co-workers, as they nearly sprinted to the next gate, through these small cities they call terminals, so as not to miss the next flight!

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I’ll never forget it, or all the wonderful experiences as I took in new sights, tastes, and met so many kind and interesting people! This one was worth the risk!

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Risky

Faith, Uncategorized

Can We Learn the Language of Love?

Sometimes, there are no words…. all that can be mustered is silence, words suppressed and trapped beneath cares and trials so heavy, one cannot be rescued or restored by their strength alone.

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How many times have you fallen to your knees, bringing your burden to the feet of Jesus, and no words can come, but only your tears? No words come to your lips, and no audible words are spoken from God himself, yet when you rise, you’ve no doubt that your prayers reached heaven, and that your weary soul has found rest in the presence of God’s loving kindness.

 

It is in these times of weakness and weariness, that God’s strength becomes a shining light! Even without words, His light permeates above, underneath, and throughout any barrier, whether it be man-made or of spiritual origin. There is no place where His light and His presence cannot shine.

 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” Psalm 19:1-6

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Because man was created to not only need, but to thrive in relationships with others, He endowed us with language.

 

Unfortunately, as with everything else God created with specific, perfect purpose, influences of evil took hold of it and distorted it into a weapon…barbaric, course, perverse, and sometimes just ugly. It is manipulated like a sword, striking anyone in its path, cutting into the depths of the soul, beyond mere flesh and bone. Leaving scars in some fashion, leftover reminders of the power of unkind words and accusations.

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The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

 

 

 

If only we felt the pain inflicted upon those who receive our dangerous weapon of words, then perhaps we would never again unleash them so carelessly.

 

 

Yet, are we not all human? Are we not overcome by emotions which cause us to lose control of the most untamed member of our bodies…our tongues?

 

 

They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows. Psalm 64:3

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If only we, as citizens and rulers of this planet, could harness and master this one, small but powerful part of ourselves, what an amazing world it would be for all.

 

For if every word were an instrument of kindness, encouragement, compassion and love, then every person would walk with their faces to the sun, eyes bright with hope and promise, and with their heads held high, not in haughtiness or selfish pride, but because  we would be compelled to seek out others with whom to share the warmth which would be on the brink of bursting forth upon those who need it.

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Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

 

 

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. Jeremiah 1:9

 

I think maybe that was the intent of words after all….

Faith, family, Uncategorized

A Really Good Movie

Today, I’m writing a movie recommendation rather than a story.

 

 

Some movies entertain, make my mood lighter with laughter, some make my eyes leak and tug at my heart. And then there are some which have a longer lasting affect, like this one, for instance.

 

 

My family enjoys watching faith-based movies. Along with great story lines intertwined with core family values, they encourage us in our faith in God.

 

The movie ‘War Room’ is a faith-based story which highlights the value of having a prayer life, likening it to a military war room, where top experts and leaders meet to strategize and develop a plan in order to fight an effective battle against their adversaries.

 

The main characters in this movie located their ‘war rooms’ literally inside a closet in their homes. On paper, they wrote down their petitions to the Lord, the names of their loved ones, bible scriptures written out by hand, and taped them on the walls.

 

Then, within the walls of their war rooms, they went to battle… spiritual battle. Armed with the Word of God, calling out their battle cries of truth and faith. Trusting, believing, surrendering the fight to Him, and upon leaving the war room, they are adorned with a medal of strength and confidence that God is in control. Mixed with a little bit of humor, the family stories in this movie will draw you in as it all unfolds.

 

We have seen this movie twice and loved it both times. I hope you are able to view it and that you will be encouraged. This movie is no longer in theaters, but is available on DVD.

 

I’ve included a link to the movie trailer:

“War Room” official movie trailer

 

Faith, Living Life, Uncategorized

Some Days Are Just Like That

Writing has alluded me as of late. In light of all the major disasters taking place across this country, anything I had thought about writing seemed quite insignificant in comparison.

 

When I began this blog, my desire was, and still is, to leave my readers with hope, inspiration, and smiles. 

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Well, life isn’t always that easy, is it? Mixed in with those good days of joy and laughter, rainbows and sunshine smiles, there are a few cloudy days, mumble-jumbled emotions and uncertainties. I get it.

 

Some days, it takes more strength than what we currently possess to stand up straight and tall and to find that signature smile. I get that, too.

 

Just being real here, I’ve had more of those kind of days in the last couple of weeks than I have in quite a while. It’s been a struggle, which I’ve kept secretly hidden deep within myself. Many people don’t want to hear about those kinds of days, and to share that with you… is scary. But you know what? I know that you, my fellow travelers in this messy, human journey of life, get it. 

 

So, in keeping with my initial objective, this post will not end without hope. Just know, that on those difficult days, when you are feeling alone in your struggle, that you are NOT alone at all. You can remember that at least one person completely understands and can relate. That would be me. 

 

On those days, be kind to yourself, sip on a hot cup of soothing coffee, or tea. Pray, and be a couch-potato if you need to. Go to bed early and rest well, my friend.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

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Uncategorized

Let’s Just Hit the Pause Button

Where is that big, red ‘pause’ button anyway? It’s got to be around here somewhere.

 

Oh yes, that’s the one appropriately labeled, ‘humanity‘. Or perhaps it says, ‘Priority‘!

 

Can we just hit that and take a break? Please?

 

 

Every time I open the news page or Facebook, I see more images of human devastation, the horrendous flooding in southern Texas, and now Louisiana prepares for possible flooding as well. Parts of Montana are being reduced to ash, as wild fires are raging there. And there is more….

So, hey. Media, news networks, fake news, protestors, and ‘anti-whatever or whoever’. Hit the pause button! Stop! Just stop! Put on your humanity goggles!

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Take a break from the pettiness and political agendas, and just be human beings, at least for a while. Please! 

 

Does it really matter what someone’s choice in footwear is? Is fashion of more importance than the men, women, and children who have lost everything, including family members, as a result of these devastating forces of nature? Do you really think that a Presidential visit to a hurricane ravaged city is the appropriate time to stage a protest? Do you really think this is the time to be heard in a legitimate and effective way?

 

No! Of course not! I, personally, am disturbed that this is what it has become. That when I open the internet news page, I am seeing criticism about shoes in the major headlines.

 

Please! Just tell me what’s going on in the parts of my country where my vision can’t reach, tell me the stories of courage and heroism, and of overcoming adversity. Tell me the stories of how these citizens are banding together in a show of unity and finding common ground.

 

Show me the pictures so that I can fully grasp what these poor, fellow human beings are going through. And show me how I can extend my compassion and care to them in even small ways.

 

I beg of you. Please, just do the right thing.