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Gratitude for Community

“Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2)

I’m feeling so grateful today. My church community is helping out with my situation and words cannot describe how grateful I am. There’s been an onslaught of emotions: hope, joy, relief…and, yes, even a little shame and embarrassment. The last vestiges of an attempt to hang onto pride…or maybe the adversary’s feeble attempts to keep pride’s hold on me.

But Jesus will always be stronger. God’s got this. So, take that, adversary!

There’s something to be said for community. Maybe that is the lesson He wants me to learn (above and beyond the pride thing…).

I’ve always dreamed of living like a hermit in the woods, the whole “Walden” thing. My dream home is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, and living like it’s still the 19th century. Maybe there’s something to it. Solitude and simplicity are needed for a healthy life balance, but without fellowship with others, what’s the point? And even Henry David Thoreau wrote about visitors to his little cabin in the woods. We need both. If I can hang on to this place, or if He wants me to sock this money away for a potential move, either way, I want my homestead to be a welcoming place: for family gatherings; for friends sitting around a campfire at night; for prayer meetings; for knitting, sewing, quilting circles; for clients to have their treatments; for hosting classes about herbs, 19th century skills, and no-dig gardening…and even a refuge for those caught in the eye of their own personal storms.

I’ve blogged before about how I crave solitude like flowers crave the sun and rain. And it’s true. I’m the classic introvert. Too many people, too often, and I start to feel a little sick at heart. I retreat inward. Not because I’m anti-social, but because that’s how it is for an introvert. For an introvert, too much social time quickly becomes overwhelming. We enjoy time with our loved ones, and even strangers, but the introvert greatly needs that balance between solitude and socialization to keep recharging.

However, over the last decade, I’ve taken solitude to a whole new level. Some of it has been the 2 years of unemployment, followed by 8 years of severe underemployment. When socializing equals an event that requires an entrance fee, I’ve often had to reconsider. Some of it though–most of it–has been the depression that often comes with that same unemployment/underemployment. Due to a lack of steady and adequate funds, the house, the grounds, even myself, have started looking neglected. There’s also a lot of emotional baggage attached from the last “romantic” relationship I was in, that was anything but romantic, that has had me drawing the curtains tight and shutting out the world.

And, boy, does the adversary feed on that!

In many ways, though I’m not living in the middle of nowhere, I’ve allowed myself to become almost as isolated as if I was living in the middle of nowhere. And isolation is defeating. The neglect becomes indifference becomes more depression becomes more neglect becomes more indifference…until the effort to dig yourself out of this vicious cycle becomes so overwhelming, you don’t know where to turn, where to start. That’s where the hopelessness sets in.

And loneliness.

Despair.

Even bitterness.

Thank God, literally, for the fellowship He’s blessed me with! It started with certain friends and co-workers reaching out with a helping hand over the last several months. This time, it was a church member who saw my Go Fund Me campaign and brought it to the attention of our priest. And, truly, though the financial help is a blessing and appreciated, the true blessing is knowing how many people out there care enough to help. I’m overwhelmed…but in a good way.

I’ve been sitting back here, feeling sorry for myself, indulging the adversary with my “cares” and “woes” and getting nowhere in life. Today I’m feeling hope for the first time in a very long time. Yes, there’s still a risk of losing the homestead. I still missed the deadline for the second installment on the modification trial period and I don’t know where that leaves me. However, I’m that much closer to meeting the back payments owed. Or to engaging an attorney who can help me get back on track again. It’s help to tide us over until I’m working again…or to help us start over on a new homestead. I’m leaving it in His hands to decide, praying for His guidance regarding the best course of action.

Our God truly is an awesome God. Thank you! To everyone who has been moved to help, to share, to pass along the information. I don’t feel quite so alone anymore. And that’s the greatest blessing of all.

I hope everyone reading this is as blessed with community as I am.

May God bless you & keep you!

gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave

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Down and Out

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27)

I want to believe those words. I want to believe His grace is sufficient for this particular trial. I want to believe that He has something special planned at the end of it all.

But, today, I’m down and out for the count.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll find the way to bounce back up again. I hope so. Right now the fear and anguish in my soul is almost more than I can bear. Proof that there’s still fight left in me that I can feel such emotions, such protest, but, if I’m meant to go through this, if there’s something He means for me to learn that I didn’t learn the first time around, there’s a part of me even fighting that.

So much for laying it at the cross. But what other choice do I have? All of my efforts have gotten me nowhere. But where do I go from here? What does He want me to do? To go?

Losing the house, the land, I can bear. It’s potentially having to re-home the animals if I cannot find a farm where I might board them until I get on my feet again…and, of course, for a fee that I can manage in my current situation. My heart is breaking at the thought. And, at the moment, I’m not feeling God’s love. I’m feeling His anger. I’m feeling the punitive “father” that reflects the neglect of my biological father and the abuse of my stepfather. “Father” for me has always implied mistrust. Is He trying to heal this once and for all? Or is this going to cement it once and for all in my heart that the word “father” is equivalent to a dirty swear word?

No, I don’t hate men, and certainly not fathers. There are good ones in the world. I’ve just never known that love…at least not without personal cost. And you’re never too old to need that love–His love.

Right now, I really need a healthy dose of it. And as many prayers as I can get.

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-156707024092-4fb3fb58787b443d&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

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Laying Everything at the Cross

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterwards; and now He sits in the place of honor by the throne of God” (Hebrews 2:12)

After Saturday’s widely-publicized meltdown, I went outside and attacked the giant multi-flora rosebush climbing over the back fence. And “attacked” is definitely a good word for it.

I pruned ruthlessly.

It pruned me of blood just as ruthlessly.

I look like I’ve just narrowly escaped a particularly nasty cat fight but I can now walk under the multi-flora rosebush without losing even more blood…and a thorny branch’s worth of hair. This particular stretch of fence line has been a problem “child” as the ducks and chickens know I can’t get underneath the rose bush to check the fencing. Now I can. I found an almost-duck-sized gap in a low spot underneath; I shoved an old cage in front of it for now and will find something more permanent going forward.

I also found several bird’s nests in the upper reaches of the bush…and delighted in them. I should probably add that this bush has been allowed to climb up and over the 6 foot chain-link fence. Despite its invasive nature, I allow it to stay as it does provide shelter for the birds, shade for my chickens and ducks in summer, and beauty for all of us when it blooms. And my goats had a feast on the leaves I pruned off (Really guys? There’s THORNS!!). It simply needed a good trim to keep it manageable.

Somewhere along the way I lost the anger and angst that so overwhelmed me earlier that morning.

Maybe it was finding those bird’s nests in the bush. Maybe it was watching the new ducklings exploring the world outside of the pen they and their Mama have been in since they hatched for the first time; they’re finally big enough that I don’t have to worry about them slipping through the gate jamb or even the chain-links(!). Maybe it was marveling over the goats’ delight at the new “treat” awaiting them with each cut of the loppers…thorns and all. Maybe it was retrieving a few dozen eggs from the nests and watching Miss Opal, one of my Buff Orpington chickens, streaking across the yard, squawking loudly, in celebration of those eggs. Either way, I found myself laughing often, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, and the warm company of my beloved pets. Such a sense of peace settled over me. It was bittersweet, in light of my current situation but this is home.

And I’m not losing it.

It may not be this particular plot of land in the end but the farm and I will survive, together, intact, some way, somehow.

I may sound determined. I may also sound unrealistic and delusional. But I’m not giving up.

I bought this property with a husband, now an ex-husband. Two incomes can handle it; one income will always struggle…unless I can find a way to pull in enough income to equal what two could do. Maybe that’s out there somewhere. Or maybe He’s giving me a much-needed shove to look elsewhere. If this was where I was meant to be, I’d be thriving.

Or maybe He’s telling me I need to learn how to thrive wherever I am, however I am.

Either way, God has this. He knows where I am, what’s happening in my life, in my heart, in my thoughts. God has a plan. There’s a reason He’s brought me around full circle to this place of uncertainty and fear. I don’t know what it is. And I haven’t stopped being scared shitless. But I’m surrendering my will to His. He’s brought me to this place one more time; I’m trusting Him to carry me through it.

May God bless you & keep you!

PS I would also be delighted, and ever in your debt, if you would share the Go Fund Me campaign link below in your blog, your social media sites, etc. The wider I cast my net, the greater chances for that miracle I’m so in need of. 😉

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-156682970061-1e1042ab1d164daa&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

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When All Hope Seems Lost

“I waited patiently for God to help me; then He listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God” (Psalms 40:1-3)

I have one week to come up with $989 for the next mortgage payment or the homestead goes into foreclosure. The current job has cut me back to 12 hours’ per week; the previous job wouldn’t have kept me up-to-date either. I had an interview for a position yesterday. It’s another part-time position, but one that I can work while continuing at the greenhouse…provided they don’t decide I’m seasonal and I lose even the 12 hours in the coming weeks. I start training for the new position on September 16th; I don’t get paid until after training. Then the money is decent and will, hopefully, keep us afloat. But it’ll be too late for the homestead…unless the mortgage company is willing to negotiate another modification.

I’m not sure they will.

And, yes, I’ve read “The Secret”. I know about manifestation. Maybe there’s something to it. Maybe it’s “Pshaw!”. Maybe there’s too much angst in my heart for the basic principles of “The Secret” to work. Either way, I’ve also read the Bible numerous times. I know what my faith tells me I should be feeling, thinking, doing.

And I’m coming up empty.

Maybe He has something bigger in mind for me down the road. I hope so. Maybe this new something will be the dream homestead: off-grid; enough acres to grow my own hay; room for more goats to start my brush clearing business; a greenhouse for growing food and spices, such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger and others, year-round for sale. Maybe the new something will provide room enough that I can provide a forever home for animals that have been abused and/or neglected. Maybe the new something will allow me to plant an extensive herb garden that I can teach from…and a backyard habitat to help mitigate the destruction modern-day progress has made of the natural world.

You see, when I’m down and out, I escape into my fantasies (or a book…and endless YouTube videos (sigh)).

I keep thinking, if I could only get back on my feet again, I would be unstoppable. But I’m drowning in debt and doubt and fear and futility.

Yes, futility.

I feel like all of the efforts I have made in the last 5 years to improve my credit rating, to pay down the debt, to build up the homestead to be a working endeavor have been in vain. Granted, the latter has been half-hearted out of fear that any efforts I make might also be futile if I eventually lose the property. The result has been over-grown and overwhelm. I keep spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. I don’t know what to do. I keep asking Him to take the reins, to drive this train wreck of a life, because I have no more fight left to put it back on track again.

I’m down.

I’m broken.

I’m done. Stick a fork in me.

And, underneath it all, I’m scared shitless. I thought I was done with this 5 years’ ago. How the hell, why the hell have I come around this full circle?

And, yes, I’m almost done with the woe-is-me-feel-sorry-for-me pity-party. I’m not so sure about the intermittent crying jag that’s running interference in the background. And I can’t promise there won’t be an F-bomb lacing this post further along…I’ll try to refrain.

I’m asking, but from where I’m standing, the answer seems cruel.

I’m seeking but I’m not finding.

I’m knocking but the door’s not opening.

And, most importantly, I’m angry. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask to fall. I didn’t ask to fracture my shoulder. I didn’t ask to be jerked around by the previous company regarding the necessary time out to heal. I didn’t ask to be backed into a corner so that I was forced to resign…even if, in many ways, it was a blessing in disguise. Despite this desperate situation.

What’s that expression? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I’m just not sure in which direction…except He’s asking me, I think, to go through this. Again.

I’ve been paralyzed by indecision over the years. Even after I righted the mortgage (or so I thought), I continued to waver. I’ve wanted to relocate. But I’ve got a lot of years in this house. Sure, it’s rundown and needs a ton of work, but it’s home. I have friends and family close by…even if they seldom call or come to visit. I have a church community that I’ve been active in and that I love. I’m close to the current job, even if it is part-time. I have a vet that I also love, who has been kind and caring and has given great care to my animals over the years. This is my world.

It’s familiar.

It’s comfortable.

And I’m not 25 anymore. I am the poster “child” for proof that the older you get, the harder it is to change, to uproot and leave everything beloved and familiar.

Again, He’s asking me (I think) to step out of my comfort zone and trust Him. Really trust Him.

I have trust issues even on a human scale.

So where do I go from here?

The song, “What If I Gave Everything” by Casting Crowns is running a steady monologue in my head. What if I did give everything? What if, despite this seemingly impossible situation, I poured my whole self into building the homestead of my dreams…wherever it lands? Or even if it winds up staying where it is? To hell with the toe in the water. What if I plunged in right here, right now? What if I stopped waiting for the perfect conditions to be that “unstoppable”? And, more importantly, what if I stopped trying to reason everything out with my limited human understanding?

Maybe the only thing really stopping me is, well, me. Somebody, please, push me out of my own way (heavy sigh).

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Casting Crowns (2016). “What If I Gave Everything.” The Very Next Thing. Beach Street Records.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave

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Please Forward to as Many as Possible

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-15665053728-3bbbbe3c7cf54043&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

God bless you & keep you!

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“Elvis” Has Left Living History…Almost

“The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking; He rescues those who are humbly sorry for their sins. The good man does not escape troubles–he has them, too. But the Lord helps him in each and every one. God even protects him from accidents.” (Psalm 34:18-20)

Okay, so maybe not Elvis but The Herbal Hare. And “almost” because, while I tendered my resignation to the museum I had been employed with two weeks’ ago, I have every hope to return as a volunteer before the season is out; I’m not sure my heart could take a permanent separation from my beloved herb garden there…or the many friends I’ve made who, in many ways, have grown to feel like family. But, for now, though the doc has cleared me for work without any restrictions, I have also been cautioned to take it slow as I strive to get back to my usual level of activity.

So, why did I tender my resignation? I mean, there have been a host of glowing blog posts extolling its virtues; I loved what I did there.

Well, the deciding factor for me was the receipt of a letter from them saying they would not be able to hold my position open any longer, which I totally understand. They need my physical presence there. And that has not been something I’ve been able to provide since January’s spill on the ice. However, I had been coming to this decision on my own for various reasons. The main one being the overwhelming stress of a 2 hour commute everyday.

I’m usually a reliable worker. Past employers would tell you that I rarely miss time from work. The one exception would be back in 2002 when I injured this same arm in a car accident; there was a lengthy convalesce then, too. But I’ve missed a lot of time with the museum. 2002’s accident was during a snowstorm; I HATE driving in snow and will avoid it at any turn. And the back country roads from The Herbal Hare Homestead to the museum are not always well plowed. Add to this, the extremely early mornings coupled with late nights because, in order to get the farm fed, watered and out of the barn for the day, I had to be up by 4:30 the latest and lucky the evening I could get to bed by 10, it is safe to say I’d racked up a deficit on sleep. On slow days, I’d catch myself nodding over my knitting…and being startled by the sudden arrival of an errant visitor.

My homework assignments (I am also a middle-aged college student; due to graduate October 2020) are always due Sunday nights. Thankfully, Mondays and Tuesdays were usually my days’ off but I’d start them so exhausted from staying up–often past midnight–to complete those assignments, that I’d be a near vegetable, dozing in the easy chair while watching YouTube videos and never getting anything done. The farm, the gardens here, all started to look a bit shabby and neglected. Even the animals, who are like children to me, received only the most basic of care: food, water, mucking out/cleaning of their areas and, maybe, if I wasn’t literally running through feeding time, a scratch or two on the head. I’m still playing “catch up” on some of the bigger chores that have been neglected these past 18 months. And, for those who have been following this blog since its inception, I’ve certainly blogged about rising at 3:30 a.m. to write. That also went by the wayside. I still got up early but there was no time to write, seldom time to hit the yoga mat and, by the time I returned home in the evening, no time for either then. I was ripe for catching every malady that crossed my public path…and I did.

All of this leads to feeling beaten down, depressed, anxious. Overwhelmed. And I’ve definitely blogged about that, too.

The last few months of convalescing with this injury forced me to get the rest I was so desperately in need of. And with that rest came the realization that I was, in essence, eating, sleeping and breathing the museum…even if I was often physically absent. I was an empty shell. The things that make me, well, me kept getting put on a back burner: writing, homesteading, my animals, drawing, painting, yoga. I seldom saw my friends or family. And there was a tremendous guilt growing because Mom was also missing time with family as I am her only means of transportation and we are open most holidays.

Before I continue, this is not an assault on the museum where I worked. This is more a recounting of a lesson hard learned. While I love the museum, love spinning yarn, weaving cloth, planting, weeding, and cultivating in the herb garden, cooking and baking on the hearth, and braiding straw, I also love doing these things at home. (Okay, I don’t have a hearth (I did look into it; $40K was the quote…probably won’t have one anytime soon…(chuckle)) or a loom; the latter is coming in some indeterminate point in the future). And none of it has any meaning, here or there, if you cannot share time with those closest to your heart. By spreading myself out so thin, and depriving myself even of necessary sleep, I short-changed the museum. They never saw the best that I could be. And I short-changed my pets, my family, my friends…even myself.

Mom and I went to Easter dinner this year. It felt so good to be with family again, to share a meal and some laughs…and I wasn’t nodding at the table this time, as I had been at Christmas (one of two holidays that I didn’t work). In the last few days, we’ve done a bit of shopping–not the necessary kind like groceries (though we’ve done some of that, too) but fun stuff. We went to Hart’s Greenhouse and purchased flowers and herbs. We bought mulch for the garden walkways. There’s even a new wind chime. I’ve missed that…which has been more of an eye opener at how much such a little thing can mean to one’s well being.

Of course, I knew all of this. I knew how long my commute would be. I thought I could handle it. As the museum closes at 5, I thought I could get everyone–goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits and cats–settled for the evening, complete some homework, etc. by 8:30 so I could continue getting up at 3:30 and write this blog, write some scenes for my book, do some yoga, care for the animals, squeeze a little weeding in before (or after) work and still get to work on time and be on top of my game there. (Yeah, phew!)

Nobody can sustain that level of activity for long, especially with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome…and on some nights, with only 4 hours of sleep (and don’t ask me about the mornings after an evening program…lol!).

This convalesce has been an eye opener as to how greatly I miscalculated. Sadly, in miscalculating so greatly, I let the farm down, I let my family and friends down, I let the museum and my co-workers down, and, most importantly, I let myself down.

Lesson learned.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Longings

“As a hungry man dreams of eating, but is still hungry, and as a thirsty man dreams of drinking, but is still faint from thirst when he wakes up, so your enemies will dream of victorious conquest, but all to no avail” (Isaiah 29:8)

Nope. No enemies that I know of, though I could be mistaken. And, despite the financial destitution I find myself in at the moment, I’m neither hungry nor thirsty–at least not physically. However, I am hungry in other ways.

I have a favorite quote by Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

That’s where I am in life…and have been for some time now.

You see, I like that false sense of security. You know the one. It’s a “security” in having some clue about the outcome of something, not stepping out in faith. It’s a “security” in commonsense dictates. It’s a “security” in following the status quo, a status quo that assumes debt is normal…even if it does hurt. It’s a “security” in that college degree, that 9-to-5, that happily-ever-after marriage with 2.3 kids and a white picket fence costing a fortune to keep and maintain. In striving towards the goals of this “security”, I’ve had two marriages fail without any children ever being a part of the equation and have struggled for 15 years now to pay a mortgage that two people once struggled to pay. (And before anyone asks, it is a fixer-upper; it’s been on the market before with barely a glance). I’ve had the big 9-to-5 corporate job…and had it shipped overseas where the company didn’t have to pay benefits and the minimum wage is much, much lower (if there even is such a thing as minimum wage in these other places…). Even the present position, in light of last January’s fall and subsequent injury, isn’t entirely secure owing to my inability to actually “work”. Kudos! because my employer has been wonderful in regard, though I cringe at how short-handed they must be in early spring with a horticultural lead missing in action. As for the college degree, well, I won’t graduate until October 2020…with a mountain of more debt. And how many college students find even a supplemental income in their chosen field? (Yeah, sometimes I question the wisdom in signing up, too, but I’m determined to see it through…).

I’ve been putting my faith, my “security”, in the wrong things. Though that may be how life has been set up for most of us, though that may be the “normal” in our modern society, we are not cookie cutters of each other. Part of what makes life interesting is diversity. Yes, we all need a place to live and a means to pay our way through life that doesn’t burden others over long (eh, we all need a helping hand once in a while; it’s called community), but, in the end, this is not what carries us through. For me, I have my 9F philosophy: faith, family, friends, farm, fiction, flora and fauna, fiber and frugality. The first three are pretty straight-forward. “Farm” refers to the myriad creatures who share this life with me. “Fiction” is my writing (though I write both fiction and non-fiction). “Flora” and “Fauna” are the herbs, veggies, fruits and flowers that I love to plant and cultivate, harvest and preserve. “Fiber” is spinning and weaving. And “frugality” is a minimalist lifestyle that uses the least amount of resources to sustain. It’s what’s most important in my life, what matters most. For others, it may be entirely different.

My deepest longing is to live completely off-grid. I work at a 1830’s museum; I would love to live that way. Yes, I know I am typing away on a modern computer. That would be one of few concessions to modernity if my dream homestead ever becomes a reality: there would be at least a few solar panels to power the laptop, the wi-fi unit, and charge the cellphone. During harvest season, I might use it for operating the food dehydrator. And maybe a small refrigerator but even that’s negotiable. I dream of growing and preserving my own food, spinning my own yarn, weaving my own cloth, sewing my own clothes, using a bicycle, or shanks’ pony (legs), for most of my journeys, and making my own herbal remedies (albeit, I do a lot of this already on a smaller scale). My dream homestead has a rainwater catchment system that is gravity fed into the house; no well-pumps or water softeners. It has a graywater reclamation system. My dream homestead has a couple of galvanized tubs with a wringer attached to the side and an old scrub board for washing clothes. My dream homestead has a clothesline for drying those clothes. I even dream of a composting toilet. I’m looking at the lowest impact possible to our earth. I’m looking at a return to a back-to-basics’ lifestyle that is, in my honest opinion, way more healthier than our modern way of, well, existing.

At this point, I’m can’t see exactly how I’m going to accomplish all of this; I’m putting it in His hands. And, looking at today’s scriptural quote, there will certainly be the “enemies” dreaming of conquering me: the naysayers who think I’m either crazy or simply tell me I “can’t” have all that I dream of. To them I say, it truly is “to no avail” because this is the dream He has placed upon my heart since I was a very young girl and I cannot ignore it anymore. If that means a few sacrifices, then so be it. Because it has become more painful to “remain tight in a bud” than to “blossom” and grow. I am a free spirit; always have been. This cookie cutter way of life has never fit, like a too-small shoe that pinches and blisters the soul, rather than the feet. For now, healing and getting back to work is the main priority but my dream homestead is just looming over the horizon. It’s time to walk by faith, not by sight.

May God bless you & keep you!

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