Thoughts on My Anniversary // Tips on Doing Life Together

This week marks nine years of marriage for Dustin and I. That’s right, our nine year anniversary. Getting married at nineteen makes those anniversaries get close to the double digits before you know it! Nine years has brought a lot of change, growth, good memories, and of course the normal difficulties that come with doing life beside your best friend day in and day out. We’ve finished college, moved back to Ohio, bought a house, found jobs, had two adorable girls, moved to Africa, fostered another sweet girl and so much more in the in between moments of daily life.

The day to day moments seem to be the time where we learn the most. Those are the moments where we dig in deep and choose love and patience in our home. Where we work to always be honest with one another and apologize when we know we’ve made a mistake. Trust me, I make a lot of mistakes. But in nine years of marriage, I think I’ve gained a little wisdom along the way as well.

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  1. Keep God number one- You can’t have a strong marriage if you are trying to put your spouse or something else above God. It is important that you both turn to God together and look to Him to lead and guide you. It can be all too easy to place your faith and trust in the person you love and who is physically right there beside you, but in putting God number one you place your marriage and your spouse in His hands and let Him take the lead.
  2. Keep communicating honestly and openly-This is something we feel has always been a strong point in our marriage and helps us avoid a lot of unwanted and unnecessary strife. It’s important to let each other know how you are feeling. Of course it’s also important to do this in a respectful and loving way! If you keep the doors of communication open instead of holding everything in side, it won’t unexpectedly come out all at once over something not even that important! Communication is key!
  3. Make time for each other-Once kids come into the picture this one can be hard. Even if you are together in your home in the evening, are you actually spending time with each other? Or are you each doing your own thing trying to get things done while the kids are in bed? Of course you need time to yourself and time to get things done, but it’s also important to set aside time for each other. Time to connect, talk, plan and dream. Just talking together can inspire things you both want to work on or achieve in your marriage and your family.
  4. Encourage and support each other-It means a lot to have your spouse encourage you and support you. To have your best friend in your corner can help give you a greater confidence and allow you to step out of your comfort zone.
  5. Parent as a united front-Having kiddos definitely adds a whole new element, or several elements, to marriage! It’s important that you are both on the same page when it comes to parenting, for your kid’s sake, and for your marriage’s sake. Make sure you talk about things ahead of time and stick together when it comes to parenting, especially on issues surrounding discipline and boundaries.

So as we approach our nine year anniversary, these are a few grains of wisdom I’ve gathered over the years. Our marriage isn’t perfect, but we know that if we continue to pursue God’s heart and will, we can lovingly pursue each other and strengthening our marriage year by year. 

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Every Monday, Keri, and I host a link party specifically for moms to share encouraging posts. We would love for you to link up your posts on motherhood below and connect with some other mamas.  Join us with #mamasharesmonday as we share our moments of motherhood.  

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Wake Up Loved // A Simple Way to Start Your Day

If you are reading this, I just want you to know that you are loved.

There is nothing more that you need to strive for, because your debt has been paid. As a child of God, you know whose you are and who you are living for.

If you are reading this, know that you are loved.

Do you wake up loved?

Do you wake up with this truth nestled deep inside your heart and spreading warmth throughout your soul?

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Do you live like you are loved by the King?

Maybe some days you do.

Maybe some days you jump out of bed, feet hitting the floor and joy and peace flooding your heart. Maybe you feel well rested and well equipped to begin your day.

But Maybe some days you don’t.

Maybe some days you’ve been up half the night with a fussy baby. Maybe you’ve tossed and turned as worries and unknown possibilities and fears have torn at your heart.

Do you live like you are loved by the King?

I’d venture to say that there are many days we wake up feeling groggy, and at best, half heatedly excited about starting a new day.

But what if we woke up each day with the knowledge that we are so loved, and that God is working out our lives for His good!? (Romans 8:28) What if we were filled with excitement,  joy and awe at each new day we’ve been given?

Some morning are just plain hard. The night has been dark, perhaps both literally and figuratively, and the day seems to come too soon or not soon enough. Jesus knows your struggles, your burdens, your hardships. He is ready for you to lay them at His feet. He is ready for His daughters and sons to realize that they are heirs to the Kingdom as princesses and princes of the King.

So here’s the challenge.

When you wake up, find the joy!

Don’t reach for your phone and check your e-mails, Instagram, Facebook- I promise you won’t find true joy there. It’s tempting to feel like these things demand our attention, but do they really? The answer is no, they don’t. Instead, say a prayer, open your Bible, gather your children, your husband, heck, even the cat, and give thanks for this day! Let us rejoice and be glad in it. For this truly is the day that the Lord has made, and you are so loved.

Remember how simple it is.

You are loved.

Let’s meet back here next week for encouragement and thoughts on waking up loved. I hope you’ll be back and join in! #wakeuploved

Check out these posts for more encouragement! You Are Loved // Spread Some Love

Dear Hellen // A First Birthday Letter to Our Foster Baby

Dear Hellen,

Happy first birthday big girl!

I remember the day we first met you. We had just moved to Uganda and it was one of our first times visiting the babies home. You were only a few weeks old. You looked so small and fragile. All I wanted to do was hold you and let you know how much you were loved.

 

You came into our home when we started fostering you at almost four months old. You had already grown so much! All you wanted to do at first was sleep and eat. As you got more used to us, we started to see your personality and you let us know what you did and didn’t like.

When our family went back to Ohio over Christmas you got to stay with Mama Jia, and she loved on you so well. You two have a special bond and it’s quite clear that you now have two mamas!

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You have always been strong and stubborn.

These things can be used for so much good, baby girl. I pray that you grow your walk with the Lord and that even in these first few years we can help point you to Jesus. Grow strong in Him.Don’t rely on your own strength as you walk life’s journey, rely on the never giving up, always and forever love of Jesus. Use your stubbornness to stand firm for what you know is right. Stand up for the weak and don’t let others look down on you for any reason. You have been wonderfully created in the image of our Savior, for a reason and a purpose. You were made with a perfect plan. You were made to glorify Jesus and be a shining light.

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Your name means, Shining Light. You are a shining light! I won’t deny that even in the short time we have known you, you have tried our patience. You have tested us and we see how Jesus is refining us through raising you. But even in this short time, you have been a light in our lives. Your smiles, head flinging dance moves, and belly laugh fill our hearts with joy. You are loved.

It is so hard and so special that you have a few different groups of people to call your family. You have a loving father and nine siblings! Whenever we visit them we can see how much they care about you and how much they miss you. They are doing what they believe is the best thing for you. You are loved.

You have also found a family in us. Though we won’t be able to be with you forever, you will forever be in our hearts. You are loved.

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And you will forever have a family in the family of Jesus. If you are ever unsure of where you belong, look to Jesus. You are His. You are loved.

Your birthday may always come with some memories that are hard, but we celebrate you sweet girl!

We celebrate your first year of life!

You were made with a purpose and you are loved.

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Passion and Purpose // Penduka Book Review

We ache to live lives that matter, to do work that actually makes an impact on the world around us, and to weave a legacy of love and grace in the way we flesh out our days on this planet. We have an unmistakable sense of being a part of something greater, maybe even an inkling of what the part is that we play in the grand scheme, but so often we feel stuck. Ineffective. Unqualified. Unnoticed. (excerpt from Penduka by Joy McMillan)

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You can find this passage on the first page of the preface of Joy‘s book, Penduka, 21 Ways to Awaken Passions and Purpose in Everyday LifeON THE FIRST PAGE. I read this and immediately all the heart eyes, praise hands, and hashtag AMENS rushed through my mind and a deep and powerful resonation with these words tugged at my heart. These are the very real struggles I deal with on a day to day basis. Of wondering if the work I do is glorifying my Father and trying to find a way to use my passions to help others and show Jesus’ love and light.

Have you felt this way? Have you felt the call and tug for something more? Are there passions inside of you just waiting to be uncovered? Are you unsure of how to use your passions? Are you scared to start?

We often look at our lives and are so burdened by the day to day responsibilities that we forget to look a little further down the road. To put the trust in God that He has instilled these passions in us for a reason and when we feel His tug to follow, we should go. Sometimes each step seems too daunting. We want to stop before we begin. Our dreams seem too far out of reach. Too hard. Too impossible. But is anything too impossible for God?

Maybe you are able to see the big picture. Maybe you know where God is calling you, but you’re not sure how to get there. Maybe the steps to get there are hard to take. Maybe you’re not sure how to even begin?

Penduka was such a wonderful read and one that fully engages the reader. If I went through all the emotions via emojis and hastags on that first page, you should have seen me nodding along with a smile through the rest of the book! Joy has carefully crafted Penduka to thoughtfully awaken our souls. To carefully begin examining what our passions are, why we have them, and how we can use them to fulfill God’s good purpose for us.

Joy breaks this book down into three parts. Passions, Purpose, and Process. Over 21 days she examines these three parts in a way that allows the reader to reflect on their own life, while entertaining the reader with her own life story. The questions that Joy has come up with for the accompanying journal are straight up amazing!

Are you ready to awaken your soul and start living out your passions and fulfilling your purpose? Do yourself a favor. Read this book! Answer the questions. Get it for a friend, a neighbor or a whole study group. It’s one that I am so glad I had the privilege to read and will most definitely be reading again…it is that good and that thought provoking, friends!

 

Made to Create // Finding Beauty

Last week I posted encouragement on using the unique gifts and talents that God has place within you for a reason. Today, I want to encourage you to create and find beauty in whatever you do, big or small-whatever ways God calls you to uniquely express Him.

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This world is full of breath taking, soul wrenching beauty. There are many times we see a beautiful sunrise, view a piece of art in awe, hear a touching music arrangement,  or read a gripping piece of literature and see obvious beauty. While I talked about embracing our passions and using our unique gifts and talents to bring glory to God, maybe you are still unsure where beauty comes into that picture. The thing is, that when we look through the eyes of God, we begin to see beauty all around and find the unique and creative ways that we ourselves are creating and living in and out beauty every single day.

Psalm 139:13-14 You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.

God made us in a creative way and has made us to express that creativity. We are AMAZINGLY and MIRACULOUSLY made. Psalm 139 expresses that the writer’s soul is fully aware of the miraculous way that God has created him. His soul is aware and in extension pours out the beauty and creativity of God through his writing of the Psalm. God’s miraculous, beautiful, creative work made manifest in man and pointing right back to the One that first knit his inner being.

God made our souls to long for beauty. Long to create and share and revel in HIS beauty.Maybe you don’t feel that your talents, passions, or livelihood allow room to express the beauty and creativity of God handiwork.

I promise you, there’s room.

You may not think that clearing tables at a restaurant or trash pick up sound like jobs where you get to share a lot of your innate drive for beauty and creativity. But what if the way you smile at someone as you clear their table shows the beauty of your soul and brightens someone’s day? What if the way you hum a hymn close to your heart as you clear trash is over heard and touches someone’s soul?

We have a million different ways each second of each day we can create beauty and share the beauty that is within us because of Jesus! Whether it’s in the way we respond to our children when they are having a rough day, cook dinner for our families, play the piano, paint a picture, garden, or teach, He has knit us together in a beautifully creative way and each day we can express that beauty. 

Find the ways you are made to create and express beauty. Find the ways that fill you up and draw you close to His goodness and loveliness.

Don’t hide the beauty that you were made to create.

Find how His beauty has been knit into your life-unravel and share it. 

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Every Monday, Keri, and I host a link party specifically for moms to share encouraging posts. We would love for you to link up your posts on motherhood below and connect with some other mamas.  Join us with #mamasharesmonday as we share our moments of motherhood.  We are pinning some of the posts on this board.

Follow Keri @ Living In This Season’s board Mama Moments on Pinterest.


Uniquely Made //Encouragement on Using Your Gifts

You are uniquely made to glorify God.

Read it again.

You are uniquely made to glorify God!

It has been on my heart to truly work at encouraging and spurring others on towards the goodness of Christ through my writing. And though it may be on my heart, my mind often stops me.

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My mind often plays the comparison game.

It says, “Some one has already done that, AND they’ve done it better. Why try when no one will really read it? It won’t make a difference. Forget about it. Move on.”

When I play the comparison game and let the devil’s thoughts stream into my own-well that’s when I’ve gotta immerse myself in God’s word alongside any other encouraging Christian literature I can get my hands on! (Check here for one I’m especially loving. Penduka is available now!) Then I remember that by giving up, by not writing anything, that thinking my gift is too small and insignificant to give, the devil’s wins.

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When I make the choice to use the talents and unique gifts that God has placed inside me, I glorify Him. By shining brightly for Him I may encourage and bring other’s into His light. No matter how seemingly small the gift, no matter how seemingly unrelated to bringing others to Christ or glorifying Him, there is purpose and meaning behind our work.

Whether washing dishes, changing diapers, serving coffee, teaching, filing taxes, or creating art, each work may glorify Christ and draw others towards Him. If we do our work in a way that honors God and says“Yes! I know who I am because of Jesus and where I am headed because of Jesus.” others will take notice. It doesn’t mean that we have to have it all together. It doesn’t mean that we have to live perfectly styled lives that are captured on Instagram with white-light rays of sunshine, flowers, and swirly monogrammed coffee mugs. On the contrary. No way, no how. Not even close! Others need to know that we are not perfect. Others need to see that following Jesus doesn’t mean that from here on out our lives are full of rainbows, fluffy clouds, and flying unicorns. But in our imperfections, and mistakes, and weakness, we can still glorify Christ. That through His goodness He is offering us grace and restoring us to Him.

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You are uniquely made to glorify God.

You have unique gifts, talents, and passions for a purpose.

You can be a light for Christ in both big and small ways.

I can bring glory to Jesus while making dinner for my family, or caring for orphans. I can bring glory to Jesus while scrubbing floors or preaching to the unreached. I can bring glory to God while waiting table or serving food to the homeless. Some of these may seem to be more obvious and noticeable actions that glorify God, but ALL we do can glorify God. When we serve with joy and love as Christ loves, they will know that we are different by our love.

So today I encourage you to remember that you are uniquely made to glorify God and God loves you no matter what. No matter what you do, do it in joy so that other’s may see the grace and the beckoning call of our dear, merciful, and steadfast loving Savior.

Let it sink in.

Share it.

Savor it and know it’s true.

You are uniquely made to glorify God.

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Every Monday, Keri, and I host a link party specifically for moms to share encouraging posts. We would love for you to link up your posts on motherhood below and connect with some other mamas.  Join us with #mamasharesmonday as we share our moments of motherhood.  We are pinning some of the posts on this board.

Follow Keri @ Living In This Season’s board Mama Moments on Pinterest.


The Journey // A Discovery on Loving Well

If you’ve been reading this blog with any sort of regularity, you probably already know that this little space is where I work out the things swirling around in my head. Getting the words out and making them real and tangible often helps me realize things with new clarity or allows me to meditate and organize snippets of thoughts that have flashed through my brain.

So here we go again. Let’s get a peek at what’s been swirling around in this mama’s head.

My thoughts have been coming back a lot to loving well and blessing others. My word that I chose to focus on this year is BLESS. If you want to read more about it, you can check out the post here.

But I’m going to let you all in on a secret: Writing down the words is not enough. Having the best intentions to love well and bless others just isn’t enough. I think the key to actually loving well and blessing others, is simply going for it! Correct me if I’m wrong…but I’m pretty sure I’m right!

I’m not even saying it has to be some big extravagant gesture, but the key is to do it! Pray for the person you’ve been intending to pray for, write a friend, or have someone new over.

Friends, sometimes I’m afraid I’m all intentions. I really want to love well and bless, but sometimes I’m just way too comfortable in my introvert bubble. And then there’s working around nap times and feeding the family, not to mention Instagram and Facebook, and let’s not forget Fixer Upper! #kindofinlovewithChipandJoJo

And then there’s this pull to balance loving my family well and loving my neighbors well. Right now I really want to devote a lot of time to the girls. Spending time with them, being at home with them and loving them well is where I want to be and what I want to be doing. I fall short daily and am incredibly thankful for God’s grace, but at home is where I feel comfortable.

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When it comes to loving my neighbors well, I’m not as comfortable. But I’m in Africa for goodness sake, so shouldn’t I be DOING MORE? And this is where that uncomfortable pull between family and neighbors and intentions and doing comes into play.

If I don’t attend the widow’s group or decide not to go to Smile Africa like I planned (though I have no real obligation or formal responsibility to go), I feel guilty. Am I using my gifts? Am I shining His light? I was going to go, but then I napped with the girls instead, or decided to stay home on a day when sass and attitude ran high, maybe we were just having a really good day, or potty training was somehow seeming to get the best of us.

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And right now I just don’t have the answers. I’m in process and I’m working it out. I’m working on following His will with a joyful and willing heart. I’m working on using my gifts and talents the way He wants them to be used. I’m working out following His path even if it’s uncomfortable, because there may be a lot of beauty waiting for me down the road. I’m working on the balance of loving my family well and loving my neighbors well. Of blessing those around me daily and letting my light shine in whatever way He intends.

And even though I don’t have the answers, I know Jesus does. And I know that I’m not working things out a lone. I know that whenever I feel guilty or like I’ve fallen short, He’s working on me. Wherever I feel uncomfortable, or shy, He’s working on me. Wherever I’m trying to find balance and love others well, He’s working on me. 

And if I can remember that through each moment of each day and through each apparent triumph and failure He is working on me and walking with me, then maybe it’s not so much of a struggle, but more of a journey.ephesians1

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Oh Tiny Gifts Joys // Gift List

I’ve been faithfully plodding away each Friday with updates on life here in Uganda and what I’ve been up to lately. Today I want to switch it up a little bit. To get back to the very heart of this blog and update you on my gift list. The list of things I’ve remembered to record and give thanks to God for. The small and big joys that are counted joy because of Him! Because of Him I give thanks and because of Him I am filled with joy! As always, there are many more gifts than those I have recorded, but these are my Oh Tiny Gifts joys and another small glimpse into our lives.

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Lillie “reading” out loud/ Gracie playing with kid’s at orphanage/chocolate chips/going to market alone with Gracie/widow’s group/Gracie singing at smile and kids gathered around repeating/8 year anniversary/Karen babysitting/Anniversary date/Lillie singing/ Lillie saying “coming!”/Dustin’s birthday/safe travel to Kampala/Jia’s arrival/Matoke Inn/Gracie mother Lillie and babies at Smile/Gracie singing to Lillie in bed/Gracie and Lillie sleeping together/ Lillie asking “why?”/the way Lillie say “k!” (ok)/tumbles on the dirt road/essential oils for boo boos and sickness/shop planning with Elly and Jia/friend’s new baby/Gracie asking if I’m thankful for bunnies hopping in the meadow/Dustin’s steadfastness/brushing Gracie and Lillie’s long hair/flowering trees/baby laundry to wash/blogging/God’s word/Helen/am able moving body/fresh fruit/warm shower/a heavy shoe to kill a cockroach/pig tail french braids/revelation TV/dancing/birds singing early in the morning/that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God/Helen sleeping through night/nursing Lillie/Lillie wanting to hold Helen/devotions in bed/sister arguments/ Lillie talk/electricity/a new day/forgiveness/ grace and peace/diapers/cool mornings/food/Grace/free ballet/new friends/Helen rolling over from back to front/dinner outside/practicing yoga hand stands/Lillie’s long hair/Helen’s screeches/Jia’s help/movie night with friends/honey popcorn/3 girls in a bed/having Dustin to do life with/smallness/rubbing Lillie’s back/Helen’s smile/Gracie chatter/early morning book reading/hot coffee/shower prayers/early morning devotion and workout buddies (aka Gracie and Lillie)

The Simple Things

At the end of the day it’s the simple things that seem to make the most impact.

It’s the cuddles and the tickles.

The silly conversations.

The chocolate chip covered faces.

And the goodnight songs.

The gift list that is made up of the simple, mostly plain vanilla, every day life moments. I wrote last week about our adventures being right here, right where God has placed us. It is here and it is now. The adventure is in the simple moments and the wonder and joy are in the every day. From the moment you rise to the moment your head hits the pillow once again, you have the choice to see the joy. Some days it seems like I’m struggling to find the joy in the simple things. To see the wonder in singing a good night song to the little ball of squish that breaths hot and gentle, nuzzled up close and nursing though the night. Some days I just want to make it to nap time. To breeze past the mounting to do lists and noises and tugs that call me every which way. Didn’t you just go potty? Didn’t we just have breakfast? Didn’t I just clean up the dishes?

I’ve written about it before, but it’s a reminder to myself. A reminder to look beyond the piling of to do’s and see the wonder in the journey. To take Gracie potty one more time and admire how quickly she is growing. To find a snack for the girls and gives thanks for food and growing girls. To clean the dishes and know my family is fed. To see these simple gifts from God and know they are all part of a bigger, joy filled journey.

So here’s to the simple things. The seemingly boring moments that all add up to the things remembered and treasured.

 

A Simple Good Night Song

I see the moon,

The moon sees me,

The moon sees somebody I can’t see.

God bless the moon,

God bless me,

God bless somebody I can’t see.

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Click link for your free printable! owls_in_love

Adventure is Out There…or Here

I love the movie ,Up, don’t you? If you haven’t seen it, you should probably go watch it first and then head on back here and finish reading the rest of this post. It’s a kid’s animated movie, but that didn’t stop me from crying in the first ten minutes! One of the main lines and themes of the movie is, “Adventure is out there!”

Yesterday as I scrolled through pictures on I Facebook I was amazed at all the incredible adventures  people are having. Somehow, in what seems like a blink of an eye, we all grew up and started finding adventures of our own.

Sometimes I stand outside my current house here in in Tororo, Uganda, and think “wow!”. God has done amazing things. He’s called us to move beyond our comfort zone, to follow His will and to start new adventures. But the great thing is, that even if we hadn’t moved half way across the world, we were already in a riveting adventure story, and you are too.

God has a great adventure for each of us, right where we are! Whether you are raising babies as a stay at home mom, have your dream job or not so much of a dream job, have moved to a new town, have moved across the world, or are in a great season or a hard season, there is excitement to be found.

The excitement that you are where God wants you to be for such a time as this.

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
(Esther 4:14b, ESV

You are on a grand adventure, my friend. There are so many opportunities to be a light for Christ and shine brightly. There can be adventure in the every day and so much joy and thanksgiving if we choose to see it. If we choose to see this life as a gift and embark on it with expectancy for what the Lord is doing in our lives.

We can find adventure in the good seasons, hard seasons, seasons of great change and seasons of waiting. They all offer something different, but each can be good. Adventure is here.

Click on the link below for a free printable! Designed by Freepik

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Reckoning group visiting//Solo trip to market with girls//Minion movie with Gracie and Lillie//Lillie’s first movie theater movie that she slept through mostly//Lillie talking up a storm//Good pizza//Cheese//Lillie looking at me when I gave her one cracker and saying “two!”//Pool day with new friends//Laundry drying on the line// Hard talks//Idea dreaming//Strawberries