Adding More O.O.B. Experiences To Our Lives

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Ron and I watched Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds last night about a wealthy business man who was the CEO of his deceased father’s business. Wesley Deeds was very predictable… he followed the same routine every day & by all practical principles, he lived a perfect life until one day he realized he’s simply not fulfilled and happy. Eventually, he realized that happiness isn’t found in a box and though difficult, he realized he needed to step outside of his perfect box to find true love & happiness. I found this movie outstanding on many levels:

After the movie, Ron and I explored & accepted the reality that our lives are much the same. We are so very routine that we rarely if ever have “out of the box” (O.O.B.) experiences… in fact, we can’t even remember when we had our last OOB as individuals, couple, or family. Routine & normalcy are great, but I think when they becomes so mundane that they infringe upon our zest for life, it’s time to shake things up a bit. I think that is where we are right now… we need to do a little more movin’ & a shakin’šŸ˜€

We have committed to take the remainder of February to add more OOB times to our lives:

  • Ron will do an OOB for himself
  • I will do an OOB for myself
  • We will do an OOB for us as a couple
  • Ron will do an OOB for me
  • I will do an OOB for Ron
  • We will do an OOB as a whole family

I truly believe this time will not only strengthen us as individuals, but strengthen our marriage & our family as well. We are excited to think of ways we can spice up our lives and engage in activities we wouldn’t normally do, or better yet, have never done. I look forward to sharing our experiences with you & if you are inspired to add a little OOB to your life, I would love to hear all about it! Perhaps we can learn and grow from one another as we take that giant leap outside of our comfort zones and into the world unknown… just imagine all of the splendor we will find therešŸ˜‰

Ready… 1, 2, 3… LEAP!

Much love & hugs,

Marisa

Embracing Obscurity

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I am reading a wonderful book titled Embracing Obscurity (how appropriate that the author chose to remain anonymous). It has really been a challenging read for me because all of those times I seek to glorify myself rather than God have surfaced and I’m heartbroken at the many times I vie for the attention…

I recently shared with a friend that I was going to pull away some from Facebook because most of what I do there is to attract others to ME (Look at me! Look what I’ve done! Look how I believe… my way is best you know!). I certainly don’t want to pull away all together because I have many precious relationships that I treasure and keep up with on FB, but by questioning my motive every time I post or comment & lessoning my time spent there aligns my priorities appropriately.

As I look to Jesus as my example to emulate, I’m reminded that He never sought to glorify himself. He wasn’t concerned about being in the limelight. His primary concern was to bring glory & honor to God. He did not come to earth to sit on a throne, but rather He came to serve others.

Let’s face it, I am going to live my life on this earth and when I die, select individuals will miss me, however that mourning will be very short lived and eventually there will be no thought of me at all. The striving for notoriety is fruitless and diverts attention off of what is really important and that is serving others and glorifying God.

Satan is masterful at busying us doing the wrong things, isn’t he?! He sure messes with me all the time… he doesn’t want any of the glory to be given to God. Ponder for a moment about the most famous person you can think of in the last 100 years. That person may be in history books and may be remembered longer than I will be, but there will come a time when that person too will not be known to the present day inhabitants of this earth. I mustn’t allow satan this stronghold any longer… dying to self, retraining to be Heavenly-minded, serving others, & glorifying God in all I say and do must be my daily mission.

When I read recently a list of words that define many of Christ’s followers (proud, greedy, sinful, self-focused, self-sufficiency), I was immediately drawn to the words we so often use to describe Jesus (humble, thankful, righteous, a servant). The characteristics many of us carry around are the very antithesis of who our Lord and Christ is. How did that happen? We’re decent people, right?! Have you noticed it isn’t something that happens to us over night. Satan never sleeps and works diligently & subtly to steer us off track… I know that is what has happened to me.

Along my year long journey, I am challenging myself to ask, “Is what I am doing glorifying to God, or is it rooted in pride?” And, we know how God feels about pride:

  • The LORD detests all theĀ proudĀ of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.Ā Proverbs 16:5
  • The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all theĀ proudĀ and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled).Ā Isaiah 2:12
  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is notĀ proud.Ā 1 Corinthians 13:4

I’d like to clarify here by saying that I believe there is a distinct difference between pride & replenishment. Doing something for ourselves to fill ourselves back up again is very appropriate and Jesus did the same. He escaped to Galilee, a boat on Lake Genessaret, or the Mount of Olives to not only evade the accolades of others, but I’m sure He went off to replenish, reflect, & and to spend time with His Father (sounds awesome to me!). Conversely, pride is defined as a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.

I think sometimes we think that if we do anything for ourselves we are being prideful and I personally do not hold this belief. There are certainly things we do that seek to bring glory to ourselves, but there are things we do as replenishments for ourselves that bring glory to God… Let’s pause for a moment to look at some examples of each:

PRIDE

  • Haughtiness
  • Arrogance
  • Conceit
  • Inordinate self-esteem
  • Vanity
  • Vainglory

REPLENISHMENT

  • Engaging in relationships (Is there anything that brings God more glory than when we love one another?)
  • Giving to others… As John Wesley so eloquently stated: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can.”
  • A pause away to reflect and spend time with God.
  • Meditate on God’s Word.

These lists are certainly not exhaustive and many more examples can be included, but I think we get the idea that when we focus our attention on ways to bring glory to ourselves, our spiritual progress will be fatal (after all, isn’t pride at the very beginning of the 7 deadly sins?). On the other hand, when we focus our attention on others and glorifying God, we will reap eternal & Heavenly rewards.

Won’t you join me in asking ourselves, “Is what I’m doing glorifying to God, or is it rooted in pride?” I think if we answer & act honestly to this question, we will find this world is a much better place to be.

Heavenly-minded = embracing obscurity, serving others, & glorifying God

Hugs & Love,

Marisa

What Satan Intended For Evil God Is Using To Bless Us!

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It was 3:00 in the morning on January 5th when my nightmare became a reality. The phone rang and the police officer on the other end said, “We have your son. We picked him up 2 miles from your home after receiving a call from a concerned home owner, stating he’s been going through cars.” I heard my husband say, “Did he have anything on his person that didn’t belong to him?” The officer said he did not. My husband then proceeded to say that because of Josh’s disabilities, he has no previous criminal record, and he had nothing on him that did not belong to him nor did he have any tools to indicate intent to break & enter perhaps it would be best that he go and pick up Josh and bring him home. The police officer said absolutely not, that he was taking Josh to jail, and that he would be charged with a felony of attempted burglary (a crime punishable of 1-3 years in jail)!

For those of you who do not know Josh, he’s a 6’2″ twenty-one year old who has severe mental disabilities. He has the mentality of a 10-12 year old (and sometimes younger depending on the situation). He tends to live in his own bubble and doesn’t often live in our reality. He has a lot of nervous energy inside and suffers from insomnia. He often wanders day and night and this is something his dad and I both have discouraged him from doing, particularly at night. We’ve told him that if someone were to see a strange guy wandering around in their neighborhood in the middle of the night it would frighten them and they may call the police. Though Josh hears us, living through the natural consequences tends to be what changes his behaviors. We’ve always prayed the consequences are meaningful enough to teach Josh, and yet soft enough to not cause him major damage, especially since he’s older and the consequences for him now are not going to be the same as when he was a young school boy.

Josh is certainly not a thief. He’s never stolen from us and will often ask us if he can have even trivial things that most kids would just often take (like a package of fruit snacks in the cupboard i’ve designated for my students). Now I’m not saying that he wouldn’t jump off a cliff if a peer asked him to, but on his own, he works very hard to do the right things and obey the rules. This is why we are very particular about who he chooses to be friends with because he is so easily used and taken advantage of.

We understand that we will be his caregivers for many years and we are thrilled to be that for him. We adore him!! When we look at Josh, we see an amazing, very beautiful spirit and we are so proud of him. You can see why we were absolutely devastated beyond words to get this phone call. Our hearts fell into the deepest of despair and all we could do was hold one another and cry until there were no tears left. We cried out to the Lord for answers & help and we reached out to all of you to pray for our son (thank-you so much from the bottom of our hearts).

When we realized we were helpless in this situation, we relied completely upon the Lord for His intervention on Josh’s behalf. We knew Josh must have been scared to death in such a hell-hole and we had to believe God was there with him, protecting & loving him through this terrifying experience. We couldn’t even talk to him for the first couple of days and couldn’t even see him until we went through the registration process and then signed up for a day during visiting hours, which was Tuesday (after he had been there for 3 days)! I will never forget his face during that visit or his words, “Momma, what’s happening to me? I’m so sorry! I don’t want to be here!” We couldn’t even see him in person… we had to see him on a television screen. I felt so helpless!

In the meantime, Ron (my husband) call the public defender on that Monday because Josh was to appear before the judge on Wednesday (the day after we visited him). The public defender, Mr. Geyman, and Ron carried on a very long conversation. They conversed a time or two after that as well. He happened to be a public defender that oversees several courtrooms and as it turned out, Josh was NOT going to be in one of his courtrooms on Wednesday. Mr. Geyman told Ron, “I have been a public defender in this area for 25 years and I don’t normally get attached to a case, but for some reason this one tugs at my heart. I’ll tell you what… I know the public defender that oversees the courtroom where Josh will be and I am going to write her a letter sharing with her Josh’s situation and what you’ve shared with me. I feel very good about this.” God was working overtime on Josh’s behalf and we could tangibly see the results of the prayers that had been lifted for Josh.

Tuesday night Josh called us and said that some guy had called him earlier that evening and stated that he was available for Josh should he need anything and that he was doing all he can do to help him. Ron asked Josh if he remembered this man’s name and Josh said, “Mr. Geyman, I think.” Not only did he write a letter on Josh’s behalf & comfort a distraught father, he also called Josh to ease his anxieties… folks this is one major God-wink!!

Wednesday morning came and it was Josh’s turn to appear before the judge. Josh stood and a lady stood at the same time and requested immediately to approach the bench. You could have heard a pin drop as she was secretly sharing with the judge the letter that Mr. Geyman had wrote. She backed away from the bench and before Josh could say a word, the judge released Josh on his own recognizance & into our care… Oh man!! We were ready to feast and party to welcome our son home! Praise you Jesus!

We also knew this meant some major changes needed to take place conducive to growth and healing for Josh. We knew we had to add intense structure to our son’s activities of daily living, so he can be productive during the day and sleep well at night.

The weekend after his release a friend and I went on a weekend spa retreat (words cannot express how badly that was needed). As we sat in the whirlpool, Carol asked me about how my week was… oh boy! Did she really want to know? The stress was written all over my face and the 2 of us began to share things with one another that we have never shared with anyone else. There was a comfort level and we knew we were there to find release and replenishment. Carol looked at me with eyes of excitement, “Marisa, I have an idea! We have a licensed hippotherapist (horse therapist) living on our property. We have 5 horses, several dogs, chickens, goats, paintball guns, 4-wheelers, and a vast desert behind us that stretches for miles in all directions. How about if Ron and Josh come to my place for 3-4 hours a day… we can keep them busy!” How many God-winks can we handle in a week!! This is Josh’s second week out at the farm. He even has an incubator by his bedside with 10-15 fertilized eggs that are in his care. Josh looks forward to his days on the farm with the animals & and of course… his dadšŸ™‚

There are no words to describe the amazing workmanship of God in our lives over the last few weeks. We have several months before we are out of the water. Josh has to appear in court on March 5th for a final decision, but we truly believe God will carry us through and we will come out stronger on the other side.

Thank-you doesn’t seem to be quite enough to express our gratitude for your undying prayers for our family! We have received so many messages of care and concern and we’ve realized over the last few weeks how blessed we are to have such a strong band of angels around us… we love you all!

We would appreciate your continued prayers over the next couple of months. We are encouraged & we see the mountaintop just ahead… what satan intended for evil God is using to bless our family immeasurably!

God Bless!

Marisa

My “Serendipity”

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Dear Family & Friends,

It comes with tremendous sadness that I am writing this post, which will be short and bittersweet.

Our family has been struck with tragedy (not the beginning of a new year I had anticipated). As with any journey, I am faced with a decision about which path to take conducive to healing & growth. My heart has suffered an unimaginable blow and the numbness I feel is most likely the protective hands of God as He carries me through the intensity of this storm. Even as I’m typing these words to you, I feel the tightness in my chest struggling for every breath and the wells of salt water in my eyes run so deep I wonder sometimes if there’s an ending to this utterly painful despair.

To all of you who are reading this, I want you to know I love you very much and I would appreciate your intercessory prayers. I don’t have the strength to share details with anyone and really just desire to nestle in with my immediate family to find the comfort I know God has for me there.

Your comments and words of comfort are treasured and needed. At this time along this journey, I must direct my thoughts and attention to where I’m needed most. I am saying goodbye for now, but not for good. As I take this little sabbatical away, please know Ā I will continue to read your blog posts every chance I get because your words are food for my soul.

I am so thankful for my God and so grateful He can take what is intended for evil and create something monumentally grand from it. My hope is in the Lord and though the pain runs deep, I do look forward with great anticipation to see what He will do with our circumstances…

Serendipity… this is my one-word resolution this year. God will take these moments of devastations and turn them into “happy accidents” & “God-winks” to remind me yet again of who holds the control handles of life… Thank-you, Jesus!

Love to you allā¤

Marisa

 

Tasty Tuesday ~ Christmas Morning Cinnamon Bread

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Man oh man is this recipe yummy!! Let me tell you… when this bread comes right out of the oven, you absolutely cannot resist digging your fork smack dab in the middle to excavate the most delectable bite of cinnamon gooeyness on the planet. Oh, it is spectacular after it’s cooled, but eating it warm will leave you speechless… a wonderful start to a perfect Christmas dayšŸ˜€ Don’t forget to use only the finest, organic ingredients whenever possible.

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For the Cake:
3 c. flour
1/4 tsp.salt
1 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. butter, melted

Mix everything together except for the butter. Slowly stir in the butter and pour into a 9×13 pan sprayed with coconut oil spray.

For the Topping:
1 c. butter, melted
1 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients together and pour evenly over the batter and swirl up and down & side to side with a knife. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from the center.

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My family looks forward to the sights, smells, & sounds of Christmas morning and I know that this recipe will not disappoint this year. Complimented with fresh organic fruit & holiday wassail, we’re in for a very tasty treat Ā in just a few short days!

May you and yours have a beautiful Christmas and may the breath of Heaven fill you with love, joy, and peace as you close 2012 and usher in 2013…

Love & Hugs,

Marisa

Satan’s Playground

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I am writing this after much prompting from the Holy Spirit. I would much rather keep my posts upbeat and positive particularly during this season of the year, but in light of the Connecticut shooting I believe the timing for this is probably spot on.

There are many heart cries for the children, school personnel, and their families… there are no words to describe the horror that took place that day. My heart is bleeding… for everyone!

I am a special education teacher. I’ve taught in both the public and private sectors for 14 years. I have 2 adult children… one who graduated high school with academic honors, as well as college with a triple major. She now has a professional career and living on her own. I also have a son with special needs and he will most likely live with us for many years to come. The Lord has blessed me with multiple perspectives and an ability to see events like the one in Connecticut from the eyes of a momma, wife, teacher, special education teacher, colleague, friend, & mom of a special needs child.

Society is heading in a downward spiral and if we don’t have revival soon, satan won’t stop at this incident… he will stop at nothing to wreak havoc and spread evil across this nation.

I believe satan is heavily targeting our special needs population…

There was a time we didn’t worry as much about this population because many worked in factories on assembly lines and successfully provided for themselves and even a family, with great benefits. These jobs I’m referring to were very simplistic and required very basic skills. Since the factories moved over seas, the economy crashed, & more and more jobs require technical skills, many of these individuals are left to roam the streets.

I remember my boss telling me she had multiple applicants with 4-year degrees & some with graduate degrees applying for a janitorial position. Educated people are willing to take any available job to provide for their families. My husband said that even working as a cashier in a restaurant requires some technical skills that many people with special needs simply don’t have. A friend of my daughter shared with me that she was going to school to be a mechanic… I remember being baffled by that and she said to be a mechanic, you now have to have a 4-year degree because the cars today are computerized and it requires special skills to work on them. So, it isn’t difficult to connect the dots… lack of education, limited intellect, lack of special skills = joblessness, homelessness…

Social Security offers some monthly compensation for those with mental disabilities, but it is a very lengthy & complicated application process and many simply are denied benefits because they can’t make it through these grueling requirements.

Many roam the streets, engage in violence, steal, listen to violent rap music, take drugs, drink… a playground for satan! They don’t know what to do with themselves. In a sense they are “throw aways” because in their minds no one wants them. They learn they have no value… they are good for nothing. People, can you wrap your minds around that? While we’re tucked cozy & safely in our homes with our loving families, there are young people all over our country scraping and clawing their way out of the human garbage can only to find themselves pushed back & thrown deeper into the black emptiness.

Guess what? Society has turned their backs on them, but satan is more than thrilled to steer them down the roads where they are most useful for him. He is taking every advantage of their situation and using them as his weapons… HOW DARE HE!! How dare WE turn our backs on these people and then sit back and scratch our heads in wonderment when something horrifying happens!

This isn’t meaningless babble from the top of my head. I have seen the evil, the horror, & the heartache first hand. We’ve invited some of these young people into our home to live with us… we’ve heard their hearts cries and we’ve seen the damage already done at the hands of satan!

PEOPLE, WE MUST JOIN TOGETHER AND PRAY FOR A REVIVAL… AND WE MUST PRAY IN JESUS’ NAME FOR SATAN TO BE REMOVED FROM THIS DEMOGRAPHIC ESPECIALLY! (When my son is attacked by satan, he doesn’t understand the difference between something cool & something evil… they are helpless and in need of our intercessory prayer.)

They are like little children and they are unable to be left to fend for themselves…

In Matthew 19:14 Ā Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Let us pray:

Dear God,

We know you love and care for all of your children. There are no throw aways and each of us has extreme value to You. We ask Lord that you be with every one across this country as we mourn the loss of precious lives in Connecticut. Father, we know satan is roaming this earth, looking in every corner and crevice for the weak to use as his pawns. We ask in the name of Jesus that you remove satan’s demons from this vulnerable group of people and place your special hedge of protection around them. Please don’t allow satan the ability to penetrate through to use and abuse any longer. Father, You even said in Your word, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)Ā Help us as a society to band together to help one another. Reveal to us ways we can be Your hands and feet to those less fortunate and enable us to open our hearts and our minds to embrace diversity. God, Your Scripture says that with the faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains… we pray for this mountain to be moved and for You to pave the way for restoration. Our country needs a revival! Please heal the brokenhearted, inhabit the hearts and minds of the lonely and downcast, & break down barriers to unite all people as one nation under You.Ā 

In your precious name,

Amen

Friends, as we prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas, let us not forget those who are suffering… perhaps because of a loss, divorce, illness, or perhaps because of a loss of direction or purpose in life. God hears our prayers and He answers each of them. Let’s give Jesus the best gift of all by setting our sights on those things that have eternal value… Let’s LOVE one another!

Hugs & Love,

Marisa

Tasty Tuesday ~ A “Taste” of Christmas

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I enjoy entertaining all of the time, but especially around the Holidays. I also don’t have a lot of time to spend fretting over the planning stages… for this reason, I bundle up and treasureĀ easy tips & tidbits of information to help minimize the workload to pulling off a festive & beautiful gathering! In this post I will share pics & ideas I’ve found to make our homes merry & bright for our family & friends… it is my hope that you will find some of them useful and this time will be especially magical for you and those you hold dear.

Hot Chocolate Bar and a New ChalkboardĀ by Dear Lillie

And here are some close-up shots:
The straws are fromĀ The Tom Kat Studio!
The little spoons are fromĀ The Tom Kat StudioĀ as well. The mugs are fromĀ Burdick ChocolatesĀ in Walpole, NH.

I love evergreen boughs! They make everything look and smell like ChristmasšŸ™‚

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I absolutely love the simple table settings the very best. I think it makes for a more comfortable & inviting atmosphere for both hostess and guest. How about this beautiful look by Biskops garden: (I would definitely add little “red” touches)


I’ve seen this cute reindeer cookie recipe circulating around Pinterest and I find them irresistible! I’m so thankful Whole Foods has the wholesome organic ingredients to make the special goodies we so enjoy during the Holidays especiallyšŸ˜€

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies by Budding Baketress:

I love the chocolate antlers…

… and the adorable fat little faces.

It doesn’t get any more festive or Christmasy than this. They are perfect for taking to a Christmas party if you need something fun, fast, and easy to make!

Christmas candles: Layer the bottom with greenery, and then add a handful or two of cranberries. Pour water into the jar, causing the cranberries to float to the top. Insert a floating candle… very simple and beautiful!

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A stove top potpourri mix is an easy inexpensive way to make your home smell wonderful.Ā  Packaging the mix in a Holiday bag makes a wonderful gift for friends, neighbors, teachers and co-workers. Here is a wonderful recipe by Make It Do:

Holiday Stove Top Potpourri Mix

  • one whole orange or just the orange peel
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1 Tbsp. whole cloves
  • 3 sticks of cinnamon or a small handful of small pieces of cinnamon
  • a bit of grated nutmeg if desired

Quarter the orange.Ā  Put all the ingredients into a saucepan.Ā  Fill pan with water.Ā  Place on the stove on the smallest burner, on the lowest setting.Ā  Refill water as needed.

Itā€™s just that easy!

Another important tip is donā€™t allow the water to completely evaporate. I always refill the water when I turn it on. One mix stays good for weeks.

Stovetop Potpouri

Simply beautiful!

Simply beautiful!

Very pretty & inviting.

Very pretty & inviting.

How about some hot cranberry cider?! Check this recipe out by Paula Dean:Ā 

Hot Cranberry Cider

1/4 cup packed brown sugarĀ 
3 cinnamon sticks, plus additional to use as stirrersĀ 
1 tablespoon whole clovesĀ 
6 cups cranberry juiceĀ 
8 cups apple juiceĀ 
Light rum, brandy, or bourbon, optional

Directions

Ā Put the sugar, cinnamon sticks, and cloves in the basket of a coffee percolator. Put the juices in the bottom of the percolator. Let the mixture perk as if making coffee. Serve with cinnamon stick stirrers, if desired, and with a little rum, brandy, or bourbon as well.

So there you have a few festive ideas I just love! The main thing for me is that I don’t busy myself so that I don’t have time to be present for my family & friends. Far more important a gift for those I love than all of the parties and finishing touches is that I make myself available to them rested & replenished and not as a frazzled remnant from the stresses of the Holiday.

Take time to rejuvenate by taking a time out for yourself. YOU are the present your friends and family want for Christmas!

Take time to rejuvenate by taking a time out for yourself. YOU are the present your friends and family want for Christmas!

And finally, ALWAYS AND FOREVER remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. God sent His only Son to earth to walk as a man, be an example for us to emulate, & to die so we can live an eternity with Him. This is reason to celebrate! Let us not busy ourselves so that we forget to pause and treasure up in our hearts this life-saving gift from God!

Marisa