On fall

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Anyone who knows me knows that this time of year is my very absolute favorite.  I love all of the things autumnal.  The colors make me feel like my soul is exploding!  I mentioned that fall colors were my favorite and one of my children said, “You mean brown and death?”  Basically, yes.  Although there are more beautiful words that could be used.  I love that all of creation seems to shout before it fades to winter.  I feel like God could have made fall to be simply brown and death but instead He made the leaves turn colors no man can ever duplicate.  He made the sunlight become golden and the scent in the air is nothing I can can put into words.  It’s just the best.

One of my favorite memories as a little girl is working up at the woodpile with  my dad.  My parents have an old wood and coal burning stove they use to heat their house, and one of our jobs was helping to stack the wood and then carry it into the wood box during the winter months.  So, fall found me out with my dad-either helping or just hanging out. On the very best nights, I would catch the scent of the homemade bread my mom was making and the beef vegetable soup that would go along with it.  I’m telling you-that’s quite possibly my best childhood memory.  It was always a big deal when we made the first fire in the cookstove.  We would put a piece of foil on the stove and some slices of bologna and fry them up.  Add a slice of cheese to the top and let it get all melty and COME ON.

Fall is such a busy time, with school and sports and church stuff, but it’s the season I want to slow down in the most and just savor every last bit of it. Hikes, campfires, lots of coffee and leaf watching… all of those things to the uttermost, please.

What are your favorite fall traditions?  Do you like fall, love fall, or feel kind of meh about it?

On ironing

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I have a pretty simple system when it comes to ironing.  I don’t.  I know many good women who do.  My mother, for example.  She irons a shirt like nobody’s business.  She has tried to teach me her ways, but I have not walked in them.  My mother-in-law… she just turns on the tv, sets up the ironing board, and goes to town.  I have seen her in action.  My father-in-law is an attorney, has to wear a dress shirt nearly every day to work.  I’m so glad my husband is a youth pastor who can wear fun t-shirts he found at Salvation Army.  Early in our marriage, I tried to get him into wearing polo shirts-those babies are wash and wear.  As a young wife, I went to Old Navy and bought him one in every color.  He didn’t like them.

What happens now is that my husband will iron a shirt if he wants to wear it.  They hang out in a laundry basket until it’s their turn.  The other day, though, I had a strange and random thought go through my head while I was cleaning our bedroom…”Maybe I should iron his shirts.”  HOLD THE PHONE.  STOP THE PRESSES. I believe I received a WORD, you guys.  Our four year old was tired, so I turned on the tv in our bedroom and set up the ironing board.  She watched Paw Patrol and I ironed.

I was going to play it cool and just let my husband discover those fine shirts hanging in his closet but I couldn’t.  When he got home, he asked if I would listen as he ran through his upcoming sermon after the kids were in bed and I said, “How about you just go look in your closet?”  In my mind I was thinking, “He is gonna just tell me to take the rest of the night off.  Let’s order in pizza and give the woman a trip to the spa FOR SHE HAS IRONED THE SHIRTS.”

There was no loud proclamation.  I listened.  I even walked back the hallway to make sure he had seen the sight in his closet.  I was on the receiving end of a really warm hug with some lovely words of appreciation, and then we went on with our night as if the miraculous had not just occurred.  Apparently, he knows wives everywhere do this on a regular basis.

I listened to his sermon that night (you guys, it is GOOD).  I can’t wait for our church family to hear it.  So on Sunday, when you see my man preaching in a freshly ironed shirt, please do not let it distract you from what he is saying.  You wouldn’t be distracted by the sharp creases, just the wrinkled sleeves…I haven’t quite perfected the long sleeve technique yet.  Maybe next year…

On grocery shopping

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Our cupboards are getting bare.  Sometimes life is so busy that sitting down and menu planning and making a list that follows the flow of the grocery store (a little OCD but it’s what I do!) just doesn’t happen.  Sometimes, I quick buy some chicken at the store and figure I can Macgyver the rest.  Sometimes, I praise the Lord for the pancake mix I forgot I had in the pantry (ahem, last night).  And sometimes, Pizza Town.

I have three options for grocery shopping.  Over the summer, I did a lot of Costco.  With everyone home and all of the trips we were taking, Costco was great.  Also, it got us out of the house and the kids a cheap lunch.  If we hit it at the right time, they were so full from the samples that we didn’t even need the pizza at the end. Now that we’re back in school, the drive to Costco followed by the unloading and putting away without any of the kids to help just takes too long.  I will make a trip now and again to stock up on what we need for Grandma and Grandpa, but that’s about it. It’s a shame, because I really feel like some kind of big deal at Costco, surrounded by copious amounts of anything I could ever want and everything I didn’t know I need.

Our other option is Horning’s, a Mennonite operated discount grocery store.  I love it there, but I can’t go with a list!  It’s so hit or miss. I like to play a game in my head, where the entire store is like a Chopped basket and I just have to figure out how to make it work.  This has left me with large quantities of turnips rotting in our fridge BUT THEY WERE LOCAL AND ONLY COST ME 25 CENTS.  Also, the deli line.  It can get brutal back there but it’s worth it for my one pound of John F. Martin smoked turkey breast, chipped please.

The option I’ve been using too frequently lately is the BG’s.  I love BG’s.  I love seeing everyone I know there (most of the time).  I love that they have Good N’ Plenty right inside the door.  But I bet they get tired of seeing me three times a week because I forgot the sour cream and then also remembered needing crackers and lettuce and coffee and oh yes, crescent rolls and yogurt.  I mean… geez.  This is why I need the flow chart based list and the menu planning.

Where do you fall in this?  Are you a Costco shopper?  What’s your favorite sample?  (Mine is the Palmetto Pimento Cheese… but I will never buy it because hello jeans I like to wear.)  Do you have a weird way of organizing your list?  Can you believe I wrote an entire post on grocery shopping?  I can…I’m procrastinating because the kitchen needs to be cleaned up.

 

On raising kids in a world gone wild

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The world feels crazy these days.  I guess it’s always been unhinged, but as a child I was fairly immune to it.  The thing about right now is that our children need to be aware.  They know about stacking desks at their classroom doors in case an intruder comes to school to hurt them.  My eldest described this great tool one of her teachers has that attaches to a window and then shatters it with the pull of a string, so they can escape their classroom.  That was a SEAL thing to me, when I was a kid. Until recently, our children have not watched the news. It was our way of protecting them, I guess.  But we’re at a point now where they’re hearing about it from friends and we would rather they hear about it with us.

Our oldest was asking me about the shooting in Vegas, why someone would do that.  We had similar talks after Paris and Orlando and San Bernardino and on and on.  It scares her.  She asked how often this happened when I was little.  Our 11 year old was stunned that mass shootings were not the norm in the eighties.  What a luxury, when tornado drills were the scariest thing.  It makes me feel sad, thinking about this world we’re passing on to our children.

Having sad or scared mom isn’t going to help them, though.  We’re needing to step up in a different way in this era of parenting.  We’ve got screens to pry eyes away from, constant access to peers speaking into their lives via social media, music and television that BEG to be discussed and not just consumed.  We parents have so many things vying for our attention- work, social commitments, our kids’ schedules, keeping up with everyone else so the kids don’t feel left out.  Something has to change or this wild world will raise our kids for us. Our scared kids will see unavailable grown ups and instead of talking to them, they’ll try to make sense of it on their own.

We are far, FAR from perfect in any of this.  We have been guilty of using our phones too much around our kids, saying yes to every invitation they receive because it sounds fun/makes them feel included, over committing them and ourselves, placing church or extended family ahead of the ones who need us the most.  God has recently asked me to be more intentional with our kids.  Even when I’m tired… play that game, read that book, answer that question.  Viewing our kids as a blessing, calling, and appointment instead of an interruption or inconvenience.  Putting the phones down.  Saying no to invitations so we can be with each other.  THIS DOES NOT MEAN I NEVER GET IRRITATED (ask my kids and my husband and anyone who has spent any time with us).  It just means I’m trying, and leaning on the grace of God a whole awful lot!

With the world getting wilder, our kids need home.  They need parents.  Most of all, they need Jesus.  We’ve had to reevaluate some things lately to make the space our kids need.  We’ll have to do it again and again as the years go on.  And we’ll make mistakes and so will our kids, but we’re going to keep trying and know that God’s grace will cover the stumbling.  Our kids are worth fighting for-and so are yours.

On getting things done

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This past week has been a busy one.  I decided that this school year, my biggest priorities were going to be home and the school.  Our kids attend a private school and there’s often a need for volunteers, so I decided that would be where I focused a lot of energy.  First of all, though, our home.  First the hubs, then the kiddos, and Grandma and Grandpa.  The immediate needs shuffle back and forth between the last two, and they each take priority as needed.  This was a week when all of the above were needing priority.

Sometimes you think you’re doing a halfway decent job of parenting when BANG-you get a nice little reality check and realize some housekeeping is in order.  It was a week of buckling down and reprioritizing in order to meet the needs of our kids.  Some things have had to shift and change, and so here we are in the shifting and changing.  Grandma also came home from the rehab facility this week, and while in many ways this is a HUGE relief, there’s still the transition of this.  A few new routines are needed to accommodate her, and so here’s we are in the transitioning and accommodating.  This was also a heavy ministry week for my husband.  As was the week before, and next week will be as well.  Extra nights out, not a day off, and supporting him as best as I can.  So here we are in that, too.

I chaperoned a field trip on Tuesday with our 8 year old and her class and while it was fun, let me just tell you that I came home and immediately put on pajamas.  After a week full of changes and people, this introvert is about overflowing.  If you see me and I refuse to make eye contact, please don’t take it personally.  It’s just that I have no more words.  Other than these, obviously.  But you’re not looking at me and expecting a conversation so this works well.  See how an introvert thinks?  I’m sorry for all of us.

I just took a nap.  I’m drinking coffee.  I’m making soup for supper.  These are things that help me.  I went out to get a walk in earlier this week because these are good for my mental and physical health, and my next-door neighbor asked me if I don’t ever sit down.  So I said, “Every night around 8:30!  Unless there’s laundry or Grandma and Grandpa need something or whatever and then it’s closer to 10.”  I don’t think he actually wanted those details.

I really love Mondays, because everyone is ready for school and routine and I’m ready for a quieter house but it turns out tomorrow is some holiday so we don’t have school.  I have feelings about that.

I thought about writing a whole lot this week and was looking for ways God was working so I could be thinking through them and sharing them, but all I got was “SURVIVE.”  So, that’s what this week was about.  Surviving and getting things done.

For my fellow mommas holding down the forts, I raise my coffee mug to you.  Here’s to a good nap or a funny show or a great book or whatever it is that you need today to lighten you up.  School is back in session on Tuesday.

On who our enemy actually is

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I’m doing a study right now on the Sermon on the Mount, reading through the account given in Matthew.  (This particular study is guided by She Reads Truth.) This summer, my husband and I read through Luke’s account and it floored me.  I could read this over and over and not grow tired of the precious words of Jesus found here.  One particular passage sticking out to me this time around is Matthew 5:43-48.  Jesus is speaking directly to His disciples, but others were gathered to listen as well.  He has just gone through several old testament laws, taking them a leap further.  Now we come to this:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

This question was posed…”What is an enemy? What were you taught as a child about loving your enemies?  How has that idea changed for you over time?”  And it made me realize that for a very long time, I thought my enemy was anyone who was different than I was, anyone who disagreed with me or held an opposing viewpoint.  That’s simply not that case.  In verse 43, the word enemy means “hostile.”  Look up the word hostile and you’ll see the words antagonistic, unfriendly.  An enemy seeks harm.  Someone who opposes me is not necessarily my enemy.  Hear that?

I think Christians often take this command from Jesus and turn it into, “I’m going to choose to be kind to the pro-abortion people or people from a different faith or those rainbow-flag waving people.  I’m going to show kindness to the Democrat/Republican.  Now THAT is loving my enemy.” That kindness is good, really.  I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t show kindness to those with opposing views.  But I am going to just put it out there that just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean they are your enemy.

You guys, we even make enemies up that don’t exist!  “I’m going to boycott _____ because _____.”  Are those places actively seeking your harm?  Are they hostile towards you?  And really- I mean HOSTILE.  Is there violence towards you?  Marginalization happening because of them?  Guess what.  Even then, Jesus tells us to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Matthew 5:14)  He says, ” If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Matthew 5:18) This even counts on Facebook!  This means that maybe you don’t post the meme, antagonize others, begin fiery arguments…because in doing so, YOU become the enemy that other people are being called to love!  How upside down is that?!

We are so caught up in defending our American rights that we are placing those rights above the call of Christ.  I have done it.  I still stumble.  I think this resonates so much with me because I am in it.

I’m asking us, Christians, to earnestly seek God out on who our enemy is.  And yes, there are real enemies! There are people in this world who are hostile towards believers.  We need only to look to our brothers and sisters across the globe experiencing torture and marginalization because of their faith.  It’s immediate and harmful. And yes, there are those who really do seek to harm us-extremist terrorists,  individuals who set off bombs and walk into churches and open fire, twisted people who would invade someones home and bring harm to those within, any leader who would oppress the voices of those opposed to him/her.  Jesus Himself speaks to this and says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:38-40)

We only need to look to Jesus’ life and death to see the perfect example of how to respond to those who would bring harm. His response to His enemies is breathtaking and so against my own instinct.   I fail regularly, and regularly need the grace of my Father in this particular area.  I need the discernment offered by the Spirit and the direction offered by the Word.  By His grace, I believe that we can change some conversations and be the salt and light He calls us to be.  We remember too, that, “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) We have the mighty weapons to come against that enemy , and praise God that the battle is won.

On getting kiddos into the kitchen

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I grew up loving food, with a mom who made everything from scratch.  I remember going to friend’s houses and salivating over their store-bought mac and cheese because I had never had any.  I believe I was an adult before such a thing ever touched my lips.  Fall meant the scent of homemade bread baking and beef vegetable soup teasing me when I was out at the woodpile helping my dad stack wood.  Apple sauce, apple pies (crusts from scratch made using lard, thankyouverymuch), big pots of chili, and waking up on Thanksgiving morning to the scent of celery and onions cooking down in the big cast iron skillet for my mom’s stuffing/dressing/filling.  Summertime was the garden, snipping beans, weeding, husking corn, and the constant heat from mom’s pressure cooker as she canned all of the things.  Our house was cozy and we had no air conditioning, so it got pretty toasty!

Because all of this was so accessible to me, because I stood and watched my mom do so much of this, the kitchen was never a scary place.  As an adult, this means I love cooking and even baking to a degree.  I like trying new things because I understand what I am doing.  While some of these skills were learned by watching, others I learned by simply trying.  My mom didn’t mind our watching her,  but she didn’t often have us help her.  I remember getting shooed out of the kitchen more than once for trying to season the ground beef we were browning for spaghetti sauce.  As a mom now, I get it!

Something I’ve been intentional about with our girls is allowing them to be with me in the kitchen, a chair pulled up whenever they want to, and giving them a task.  This means measuring the spices and dumping them in, or showing them what a teaspoon looks like if I just dump it in the palm of my hand. They will often make the roux for me when I’m making a sauce, bread the chicken tenders, stir in the ingredients I’ve chopped, etc…   Baking is something I don’t love as much, so pretty much the only way I bake is if I’m doing it for the kids to learn.  I have even begun purchasing inexpensive boxed mixes at a local discount store so that they can have something to bake whenever they want to.  For example, this weekend, the girls each chose something from the pantry they could bake.  From 11 years old to 4 years old, they each did their own thing.  Our littlest cracks a great egg! I’m training them to take over the baking so I don’t have to.

Our oldest has made dinner for the family already-hamburg BBQ, homemade mac and cheese, and dessert.  She regularly makes smoothies and is the one who keeps our freezer stocked with chocolate chip pancakes for busy school mornings.  She is responsible for cleaning up the kitchen when she is done, and if she doesn’t she can’t use it next time she asks.

It’s taken a lot of letting go for me-realizing that flour will be all over, the stove will be a mess, or things might not always turn out the way we want them too.  I feel like all of parenting is a lesson in letting things go, so it’s good training for me, too!

Does letting your kids help you the kitchen strike fear into your heart?  If it doesn’t, what are your favorite things to make with your kiddos?  Do you have fantastic food memories you want to pass on to your own littles? What are some tips you have for other parents who want to try this?  Funniest failures?

 

On writing a book

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People sometimes ask me when I’m going to write a book.  One of Josh’s uncles has self-published a few books and has offered to help me do the same.  Others have said they would read it.  The whole process seems daunting, and then there’s the idea of simply starting.  I have no idea how in the world to begin.  But here’s the thing-I know that if ever the Lord wanted me to write a book, I would have a fire to do it and those things would happen.

Bigger than all of these things, though, is my own thought that there is really nothing new under the sun.  There are so many books about so many things, so many words sitting on shelves, waiting to be read.  What more do I really have to say?

There was a time that I read every.single.thing. I could get my hands on.  I read Brennan Manning, Donald Miller, Augustine, John Eldredge, Lucado, Nouwen, Cloud and Townsend, Rick Warren, and scores of others that have not stood the test of time.  I was looking for someone to tell me something that would unlock the secrets of this life, help me along the way, and tell me what it the world I was supposed to be doing. Guys, each of those books were important and helped me and I have recommended them to different people at various times.  It was certainly better for me to read them than Chopra or Tolle or any of those guys.

Ultimately, though, I was looking for someone to identify with, someone whose life experience would match mine and then I’d have a blueprint for how to succeed.  Guess what?  That never happened.  It turns out God has His own unique plan for my life, and while it parallels others, it doesn’t exactly match them.  I can read the stories of those I parallel- infertility, adoption, being a pastor’s wife, mom of all girls-but their’s will never be mine.

My desire to read the stories of others has diminished as my desire to live out the one God has for me has increased.  There is still value to it, and I’ll even be promoting a book for Jamie Ivey in the coming months.  Hers is a story that is parallel to so many women I know, but unique to her-and I think this book will give others a desire to know Jesus more deeply.

I don’t know about writing a book-I have no idea what it would be about, how to structure it, or what I would have to add to the conversations going on.  I would only encourage each of you to dive into scripture before anything else, live with passion the life God has for YOU, and run that race with purpose and power given by the Holy Spirit. I am a firm believer that God has amazing things for us in each day, if we choose to see them.  He’s there in all of it, and has an unfolding story of grace for YOU.

On parenting and discouragement and the good news of Jesus

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I need to confess that this whole parenting thing has left me feeling discouraged lately.  I bet many of you have felt the same way at any given time.  I wanted to share something that the Lord has used to encourage me, and I pray He encourages you with it as well.

I’m doing a study through She Reads Truth on the Sermon on the Mount.  As I was reading through the passage in Matthew, I noticed a lot of “You have heard (insert law here)… But I tell you (insert instruction from Christ here).”  I underlined each of those phrases and wondered at the significance of their repetition.

In the Sermon on the Mount, we see Christ dismantle the way of the Pharisees.  We see Him make clear that there is no way we could ever fulfill the requirements of the law.  Our hearts are sinful, and we will sin.  This is a truth.  Katie Stoddard writes this is the devotional I read…”Jesus greatly raised the bar of expectation on how His followers are meant to behave in regard to anger, purity, divorce, honesty, generosity, and love.  Christ was showing that God requires righteousness that surpassed even that of the scribes and Pharisees.  Who can possible live up to this standard?  No person other than Jesus Christ, of course.  And so Jesus calls us to aim higher, but also realize our need for His mercy and grace.”

Our kids cannot measure up to God’s standard, and neither can we.  But praise God for the work of Christ! So, let’s not be surprised when our kids mess up.  I’m preaching this to myself, even as I type! Our kids are simply learning.  They are not an interruption to our lives, but one of the greatest callings we could ever be given.  Soldier on with me, mommas (and daddy’s too, if any of you read this).

Let’s love our kids through their mistakes-the seemingly small and the embarrassingly large.  Let’s remember it’s not about us, but all about the redemptive work of Christ in all of this.  We are ambassadors of Christ! 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

Paul Tripp says this in his book, Parenting…“The ambassador doesn’t have any authority in and of himself. He has authority only because he represents a king who has authority. Here’s God’s amazing plan. He makes his invisible authority visible by sending visible authority figures as his representatives. This means that every time you exercise authority in the lives of your children, it must be a beautiful picture of the authority of God. In the lives of your children, you are the look of God’s face, you are the touch of his hand, and you are the tone of his voice. You must never exercise authority in an angry, impatient way. You must never exercise authority in an abusive way. You must never exercise authority in a selfish way. Why? Because you have been put into your position as parent to display before your children how beautiful, wise, patient, guiding, protective, rescuing, and forgiving God’s authority is.”

Today, know I am praying for you and yours.  Pray for ours too?  We’ll get through it all together with the help and grace of Jesus leading us on.

 

On listening

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Sixty years ago, nine teenagers braved Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.  These nine teenagers were walking into a school that did not want them.  There were, in fact, members of the National Guard keeping them from entering high school.  Because they were black, they were not welcome.  They were surrounded by chants of, “Two-four-six-eight! We don’t want to integrate!”  They were spat upon and verbally abused.  Throughout the year they were subjected to physical attacks and witnessed the burning of a black effigy. But the law…now, the law said they could be there.  It says they had a RIGHT to be there.  The law, though… it doesn’t change a person’s heart, does it?

I’m looking today, but I’m not seeing much about them in the news.  I wonder if our kids will hear about it in school. Probably not.  There’s a lot of talk about a president tweeting and some sports figures taking a knee, but nothing on these nine teenagers.  See, rules don’t change a heart.  They can give the appearance of a changed heart because behaviors change, but that doesn’t mean there has been a change of heart.  I can tell my adolescent daughter not to listen to certain music but if she wants to listen to it, she’ll just find another way to do it.  If a body doesn’t like a rule, it just finds sneaky ways around it.  A little less obvious, but still just as devious.

I’m praying for our people, for some hearts to be changed.  I’m praying some hard but necessary steps of self-examination would be taken.  I’m going to be real honest here…if you’re reading this and thinking people are overreacting but have not.even.once. read a book/had a conversation/listened to a story from someone with a different life experience, your judgement is faulty.  Would a man who has sat with a woman through childbirth tell her she is overreacting? Even though he doesn’t physically feel the pain, he is (hopefully) aware of it’s presence and empathetic.  Would a friend who sat with a woman through the pain of infertility tell that friend she just needs to get over it? Hopefully not, because seeing that pain should make you pause.  When someone around us has had a different life experience, the best thing to do is listen.  Before you judge, listen.  Before you speak, listen.  Before you act, listen.

I’m only in the beginning stages of this  listening and I’m still figuring stuff out.  I’m going to make a mess and likely screw up a whole bunch.  But I want to listen.  I’m going to try. I’m praying for others to fumble through this with me.