2012 – Thanks For EVERYTHING


I love old stories and books.  I love old movies.  Black and whites, old school techni-color, circa ‘30s, 40s and 50s…I LOVE ‘em all.  All that ‘tragedy to triumph,’ victory in the face of certain defeat and one person can really make a difference inspiration has always warmed my heart. Some of the best stories are fraught with them. One of my favorite movies of all time is an old movie called, “Good Morning, Miss Dove.” Jennifer Jones plays a woman who turned her own personal loss into a lesson in integrity that affected an entire community for the span of a generation.  I watch this movie at least once a year.  She is my hero.  I often look at movies like this and think to myself, “I look forward to the day when I can see that my life has impacted even one person the way this life has a whole town.”

This year, I saw my life in the same framework as some of my favorite old books and movies. To the untrained eye, my life may seem like a never ending tragedy.  Many have watched as my life seemed to be enveloped by loss, disappointment and setback.  But in the presence of fear and failure and loss, I have seen miracles…straight up, honest to God, real talk, MIRACLES that no one can talk me out of or justify away.  I have seen God move on my behalf and on behalf of my family in ways that defy imagination.   I have had the pleasure of being in the unenviable position to see God do things for me that he can only do when all human hope was totally lost.

I lost the only steady source of income for our household in spring of this year.  My sons and I have scoured the area looking for work while trying to put our dreams in motion.  We have laid the groundwork for three different businesses this year by trusting God to lead and direct our steps. Every time we thought that we were on the brink of homelessness (again), God would step in.  God would lay us on the hearts of people and they would just decide to ‘bless’ us just before the electricity or the gas would be cut off.  The car would break down and no one would know about it and just as suddenly a friend would call and ask if we needed anything. 

And then there were seeds that came to fruition.  I would be feeling defeated or disheartened, with no strength left to encourage myself, and my fantastic sons would talk about how I could do anything and tell me that they believed in me. I have a nephew that lives in Virginia that sent me money to pay a bill and let me know that if I needed anything, I had but to ask. He always sends me notes and posts that let me know how much he loves me and his cousins and that he is only a phone call away. But the one that really got me was my nephew Matthew. 

He is one of the two children of my late sister-in-law that we took in after she passed.  Now, Matt really worried me.  I was naturally concerned for my two nieces when they lost their mom, but I genuinely feared for Matt’s life.  We took turns keeping an eye on him for the first 24 hours after Barbara died because we honestly thought he might be suicidal.  In the months that followed, he would often sullen, angry and viciously sarcastic.  I didn’t know what I could do, so I just loved him and always remained honest with him even when it was a harsh truth that needed to be told.  I think he respected me for it. He joined the Army and always kept in touch, even when he was sent to Iraq.  He made peace with his life and with God. He even got married.  And even though this year as his uncle and I have separated and he has divorced, we were messaging back and forth on Facebook and he basically let me know that none of that mattered. He was celebrating that he is still here.  He’s GLAD to be ALIVE! THAT conversation meant more to me than money, more than paid bills, more than my dream job.  It made be believe that my life made a difference!

But WAIT!!! There’s one more thing that blessed my socks off this year.  I had been without the loves of my life for more than 30 years.  The cousins that meant more to me than anyone could understand were mysteriously missing from my life for all that time are back in my life! I have hugged and kissed two of the three rascals.  I keep up with them all thanks to social media and two of them live 10 and 20 minutes away respectively! We’re all grown up and have lots going on in our lives, but it’s the most wonderful thing to know that they are not only in my heart but in my life!  Restoration is a real thing and that gives me hope.

Andraé Crouch wrote a song that says, “I thank Him for my mountains. And I thank Him for my valleys.  I thank Him for the storms He’s brought me through.  For, if I never had a problem, I’d never know that God could solve them. I’d never know what faith in God could do.”

And that is why I can say with sincere gratitude, late in the day on the eve of a new year, “Thank you, 2012. Thanks for everything.”  I’ve seen God more up close and personal than ever before. No one can ever tell me what He cannot do. And because of that, my hope is HIGH for 2013.  I expect God to really blow my mind.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, KALEIDOSCOPE KINGDOM!!!

Get R.E.A.L., Part 2, by Monica Guthrie


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E-Embrace The next step is to embrace the word of God, his instructions as well as his promises for your life.  If we don’t read, embrace, his word how can we know what to do, how to walk, how to act? We have become so programmed by the world’s standards by the television shows, movies, and music that we see and listen to.  There’s vulgarity and sex everywhere ever in commercials.  But God has called us to a higher standard.  We’ve even allowed our church language to change.  When someone sings really well we say “She’s a beast” of He’s killin it”.   Even though we mean it in a good way, our minds don’t know what’s negative and what’s positive anymore.  We need to embrace God’s promises and start speaking them over our lives. The only way for us to do that is to OPEN THE BOOK.  If I gave you a piece of paper that was folded up and told you that directions that would lead you to 5 million dollars was on that piece of paper, and you could have it. How would you find out the location of the money?? You would have to open it up right? It makes no sense to run around the city looking for something and never taking the time to look at the direction.  God has an awesome benefit package all set up for us, but if we never take the time to look at our package, directions to obtain them and know what those benefits are, they will just sit there unopened and unused.

A-Align by definition means to place in a line or arrange so as to be parallel or straight. Be into adjustment with. Line up with a group or a way of thinking. Bring into proper or desirable coordination correlation. That’s what we must do. Psalm 119:105(NIV) “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. To get real, the way God intended we must line ourselves up with the word of God and his instructions for us.  How does he say we should behave? What should we do? He’s our GPS! When he says turn right, turn right, stop, stop. He WILL get us to our destination.  I know some times I’ve programmed my GPS in my car, but I thought that the way the GPS had me going was too far out the way or incorrect. So what did I do? I went a way I thought was better.  Most of the times, it took me longer to get there by using my “shortcut” instead of just listening and obeying the directions.  Sometimes it was traffic the way I went, or a detour I didn’t know about. But because I keep my GPS updated it knew and was taking me around it. Same with God, If we stay connected to him and spend time regularly in his presence, our GPS (God Positioning System) stays up to date. He’ll help us to avoid certain road blocks, detours, and other things that may prolong us reaching our destination (our destiny). Following Christ is as fun as you make it. I’m not from the Christian Gloom and Doom school that believes if you’re really saved, you should be poor, and look blah, etc. My God has ABSOLUTELY NO intentions on our lives being boring. The word says that “I come that you might have life more abundantly”. But we have gotten to a point that we can’t tell the Christians from the world because everyone wants to just BLEND IN. Many aren’t in alignment because you are walking around with fake ID’s.  You are not living the ID that God created for your life.  You’ve allowed people like Nikki Minaj tell you that you’re a monster and Lil Wayne to tell you that you’re a goon. Watchin’ this mess on TV saying let me stand on tables and fight because someone said something I don’t like. We have become carbon copies of the world and not God. God wants us to stand out. Not always in a crazy Nikki Minaj way, but so there is a difference, so his light shines through us for others to see. There are things we just shouldn’t do simply because they don’t line up with the word of God.

I’m Cool With That…


Some days I am amazed at myself! No hubris intended. I look at my life and wonder to myself, “Exactly…how did I get here?  Really?”

I guess I’m what you’d call a religious mutt.  I have real old-school Missionary Baptists on one side of my family tree, Episcopal Bishops on the other, my mother took us to a moderate Baptist church around the corner from where we lived until we started going to the Pentecostal church where my paternal grandmother played the organ.  I work for a pregnancy crisis center where I have attended worship services for many denominational, non-denominational and interdenominational churches and was comfortable engaging at most of them.  Yet, I find it quite interesting how many of these people have the hardest time dealing with those who worship differently than they do. Each group has some of the same basic tenants, but get caught up with little ‘isms’ that they fear would prevent our entrance into heaven.  The same separation that has been created in the Body of Christ with all of that religion was once quite prevalent in me. Top that with all of the behaviors (or misbehaviors) that I picked up from the many fruits and nuts in my family tree and you can see why I have often felt like a spiritual schizophrenic.

At this point in my life, I am not a religious person.  I have a real relationship with an almighty, all powerful, all knowing God.  I call Him my Father and He calls me His child.  We relate very well.  He calls me friend and shares with me the secrets of His heart and I share with Him the secrets of mine.  He calls me the heir to His Kingdom and all of His fortune.  As such, He shares with me ins and outs of his business and I seek His wisdom and share my ideas about what I can do to expand His Kingdom and strengthen His dynasty. It is in that capacity that He has shared with me the insights that allow me to be what I’d like to call Kingdom Inclusive.

I have judged and been judged people only to discover that God can use ALL of us to do work in His Kingdom despite whatever hang-ups we carry about another person’s relationship with Him. We must be able to keep a pure heart. Titus 1:15 says, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Heaven is not mine to secure your seat. Neither is Hell for that matter.

The innocent notion that God wants everyone to be in relationship with Him and will take us all as we are gets so lost in our TRYING to be clean instead of allowing God to clean us.  I’m not trying to be as holy as the next dude. I’m trying to please my FATHER! Everything else is a moot point.

Romans 14:1-7 makes a few very pertinent points to that end.  We don’t have permission to condemn those whose faith allows them to do things that would cause us to stumble.  Nor are we to judge ourselves or others for what we cannot do. Whether it’s eating meat or drinking wine or a style of dress or a topic of conversation: if it is not for you, it is not for YOU.  Holding everyone accountable to the things which glorify God in you is NOT YOUR JOB.  Since we profess the same indwelling Holy Spirit and we cannot see what He does in another man’s heart, we can only trust the same Holy Spirit to keep them the way we desire to be kept.  The ending of that passage in Romans says it all. “ We don’t live for ourselves alone. And we don’t die all by ourselves.  If we live, we live to honor the Lord. If we die, we die to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

I have learned to be cool with the next cat who reads the same Bible I do and is just living his life unto Christ…whatever that looks like.  If we need to agree to disagree, that’s cool too.

In the telling of Paul’s journey to stand trial before Ceasar, it was written that, some came in on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land (Acts 27:44). The point is, they all made it home alive.

We’re all just trying to get home to see Jesus…and since He’s the only way home, does it really matter how we ride?

Get R.E.A.L., Part 1, by Monica Guthrie


 

I’m thinking, I needed to end one year and begin the new one with a positive catalyst. A powerful force that can propel us into wonderful things. I could not think of anyone better.

I have met some really fantastic people on my journey through life.  Every turn in my path has presented me with at least one person that has changed my life for the better.  This is one such person. 

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Monica Guthrie is a rare gem.  Her heart is pure and sweet.  She is funny and outspoken without pretense. She is devoted to her family and friends.  And she can sing her whole face off!  It is an honor beyond measure that she calls me, “Sis.”

 Meet my sister, Monica Lynese…keepin’ it real.

 

 Today reality TV has TOTALLY taken over our airwaves. With shows like The Housewives of EVERYWHERE, Basketball Wives, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Bad Girls Club, Love and Hip Hop etc. Everyone wants to see REAL LIFE! Sayings like “I’m just keeping it real or keeping it 100” “Real talk” and “It’s about to get real” are frequently heard. With all of the foolishness going on in the world, we wonder why children are getting killed senselessly on the streets of Chicago, children are disrespectful and show little to not respect for adults or authority. It’s not about to get real, IT IS REAL. But what should that mean to us in the body of Christ? It’s time for us to GET R.E.A. L.

 Getting real, be real, what does it all mean? After hearing the theme, I wondered, which way to go with this message. Romans 12:1-2 reads: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present you bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is you reasonable service. (2) And be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The Message bible says “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life your sleeping, eating going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you develops well-formed maturity in you.”

  How can we be real in today’s society?

 R- RENEW First step is renewing you mind.  We can’t allow society to dictate how we live, think, behave. Once we welcome Christ into our lives and ask him to be our Lord and Savior, Our minds, bodies no longer belong to us. We have to allow God to transform us to be more Christ-like to fight this fight and live this life. Oh but you don’t understand! It’s hard out here! It’s different now!!! The word of God has not changed. Having to live go to school in an unbelieving world can greatly influence the mind. By the end of the day, we often find ourselves thinking and even acting like unbelievers due to such close association. Most of us are bombarded daily by backbiting competition, vulgar language, gossip, and all kinds of worldly temptations. If you allow God to transform you His will (What he wants for your life) becomes YOUR will! (Not thy will but THINE be done)! By renewing your mind, you allow yourself the opportunity to become all that God has destined you to be. If your mind isn’t renewed, you continue to go through life under your full ability and potential.  Just like in the movie Transformers.  The transformers on the surface were cool cars, automobiles, etc., but once it came time, for battle, they transformed into these mighty warriors that had supernatural abilities to fight the enemy. It’s the same in your walk with Christ.  On the surface, you’re just a child, just a teenager, human flesh and blood. But once you allow God access to be the head of your life and you follow him and his commandments. Your will, your flesh becomes less vulnerable.  Your mind becomes more like Christ and you desire to please him, instead of your flesh, your friends, or your boo.


Kaleidoscope Perspectives:

I don’t know how many of you read this the first time, but it seems that I may need to post this anytime some ridiculously tragic event takes place. Live, speak, choose LIFE!

Originally posted on Kaleidoscope Perspectives:

DISCLAIMER

Yesterday was a strange and difficult day.  I woke to the very tragic news about another ridiculously random shooting in a movie theater.  12 killed, 58 injured, including one 3 month old baby (at least, as of the time I stopped turning on the news). My heart was broken, as was much of the nation. Some of us are simply numb from over exposure to this type of violence. (Those of us from the Chicagoland area are completely oversaturated by this madness.) I am having trouble understanding what the problem could have been.  What is it about life that can make someone so sadistic, so selfish…so ungrateful for life, however challenging it may be?

I have been sitting and stewing on this subject for months…literally, MONTHS! And then this happens!  I am almost at a loss for words.  On the other hand (Like I said, I’ve been sitting and…

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Big Plans – Big Problems


Some days I am amazed at myself! No hubris intended. I look at my life and wonder to myself, “Exactly…how did I get here?  Really.”

I have never been a particularly vindictive person.  I have had dreams and visions ad nauseum of having the greatest last word (I never come up with them when I need them), I may even think of how the consequences of another’s actions will come back to bite them, but I have never really wanted to see someone get their ‘comeuppance’.  I don’t like seeing bad things happen to anybody.  Sometimes, however, I wonder if they did anything to deserve it.  I think the same thing about me. I’m always checking my situation out to observe whether or not I’ve brought a thing on myself.

There are a lot of things in my life that just plain SUCK that I was simply born into.  Bad patterns of behavior and thinking that have taken a lot to overcome.  And then there are the things that are a direct result of the people with whom I have surrounded myself.  Never think that what you say or do doesn’t have a direct impact on the people who love you.  Each bad decision you make diminishes everyone in your immediate circle if only in their reputation for associating with you.

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But at some point in my life, it occurred to me: some, if not all of these things are MAKING me.  My life is preparing me for the best parts of my big adventure.  Everyone talks about how life is so short and we should live as if today is the only day you will ever get.  I don’t disagree.  ON THE OTHER HAND, you can get so caught up in the YOLO, “live for today,” way of life that you don’t prepare for the next day…or the next year…or the next decade.  What is your end-game?

I’m so glad that God always keeps an eye on the end-game. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Or as the King James version of Jeremiah 29:11 says, “to bring you to an expected end.”  Everything that comes into your life is designed to bring you to a prosperous, joyous, hopeful conclusion. 

So, what does that say about all the garbage in your life? The bigger the problems you face, the bigger God’s plans are for your end-game. 

I like to call God, “The ULTIMATE Economist.”  He is the original spendthrift.  If you’re going through it, He can use it.  He WILL use it.  Somewhere in the course of your existence, it is going to come up in your ability to minister to others or even to minister to yourself.  And if He trusted you to come through it, and He trusted you to help others through it, that means he has plans to bless you BECAUSE of it.  He is using it to make you strong enough to handle the weight of His Glory which has a much more dense per quantity. 

 

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Think about it, now…

 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:15-17)…

The minute you stop freaking out and realize that the sun still came up this morning, you are still breathing and that “crisis” didn’t kill you is the moment you will realize you are stronger, wiser and better than you thought.  And when that thing that didn’t kill you happens to someone else, you will realize that you have just become an asset for God to use to let somebody else overcome.  And it will be easier for them to overcome than you did, because you took the time to blaze a trail, almost against your will, out of the sheer virtue of just, ‘hanging in there.’

 

Look around you.  Does your present circumstance require a dust broom or a back hoe?  If you are in the latter category, CHEER UP!  Look at the end-game for just a minute, and then get back to work.  God is working in you to make you MARVELOUS!  God trusted you with the big plans because He knew you would not break under the weight of your problems. That means you will be more glorious carrying the equally measured weight of His GLORY. 

 

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Kaleidoscope Perspectives:

Just had a feeling somebody needed to read this one again…

Originally posted on Kaleidoscope Perspectives:

So many times, my life has run head-long into a brick wall that I could not have possibly seen coming.  More times than I can recall, I have closed myself into a corner and cried until my entire body reverberated from the bowel shaking agony that poured from my heart.  I have been abused, neglected, berated, betrayed and have done the same to others with equal amounts of regret and revenge in my heart.

Each time I have laid myself bare before God demanding sympathy, requiring His understanding and compassion, I have heard one simple word… “And?”

“And, what?” I would retort.

In His infinite wisdom God would come back, “And WHAT…did you expect?”

“I expected FAVOR!  I expected GRACE!  I EXPECTED to see the hand of God move on my behalf!!!” (I got really indignant, and then…) “I would have settled for a hug.  Some sympathy.  Some COMPASSION!”

So…

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Excerpt from From Test to Testimony: My Memoir, by Sonja Michelle Crockett


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…I guess it was about a year or so into my

 marriage. Jason and I had an argument right

before he went to work, which was quite

 typical. He said something I will never

 forget. For some unbeknownst reason to

me, he said, “Do not be surprised if you see

 stuff floating around here when I am gone”,

 meaning when he leaves for work.

Well, quite naturally I was afraid. That was

 not a normal statement that one would tell

another.

At this juncture, I do not recall if he made

 the following statement during this time or

 if it was another time, but he told me the

LORD told him I was hindering his spiritual

growth and that I would be paralyzed and in

a wheelchair.

Again, these are not normal statements that

one should make to another. As I am writing

 this, I am reminded of Proverbs 18:21,

which reads, “Death and life are in the

power of the tongue”. What could I have

possibly said behind what Jason said?

Absolutely nothing. He left me in awe.

Should I believe this self-proclaimed

 minister, this man of GOD who was

mentally, verbally, and emotionally abusing

 me? I was confused. I was face to face with

Rosemary’s baby.

From Test to Testimony: My Memoir is an

 adult, non-fiction book about physical,

emotional, and spiritual healing. It is

intended to heal the brokenhearted and give

people hope through JESUS CHRIST.

After you have read it, I hope and pray you

 are blessed.

The Blanket Maker’s Quilt: A Lesson in Quality Control


Some days I am amazed at myself! No hubris intended. I look at my life and wonder to myself, “Exactly…how did I get here?  Really?”

There is absolutely no reason why I should have the wherewithal to raise sons.  I come primarily from a matriarchal family.  And let me tell you…the matriarchs on the dominant side of my family tree were very interesting.  Strong women on the surface, these brilliant, creative characters had some super-lethal self destruct buttons.  I mean, when these things went off, they destroyed everything and everybody around them for miles.  I was trained to keep secrets; trust no man; never let the left hand know what the right hand is doing; remember blood is thicker than water; what goes on in this family STAYS in this family.  I honestly don’t know HOW the men in my family felt about anything…there was no valid opinion that was not first approved of by the women-folk.

By all rights, I should have been the LAST human being with a womb that God would trust with men children. And yet, here I am with two fantastic sons.  These are young men full of vision and purpose, protective and caring; strong, clear identities that do not suffer fools lightly. They are fiercely individual yet, like twins, have their own personal short-hand complete with a library of inside jokes. It blesses me to see them so devoted to one another and to me. They have all the makings of good men.

Top that off with the array of brothers, sons, cousins and nephews I have, virtually none of whom are related to me by blood.  They honor me and I honor them.  I am blessed to have so many good, REAL men in my life.

Now, how did that happen?

I tell you, God is pretty clever.  He has a plan for each one of us.  And he will protect and prepare you for who you are destined to be, regardless of the circumstances of your birth.

PLEASE UNDERSTAND…I know that only a man can make a man. But what I CAN do is point sons and brothers toward examples of what a man looks like, based on my experience. And I can bring a word of loving correction, encouragement or insight when their ends began to fray. For every season in my life, where the enemy would set me up to be exposed, God placed a few good men to cover me – like the swatches that make up a patchwork quilt – leaving sets of standard for me to pull together, ensuring I could identify quality ‘coverers’ and I could assist in making and keeping them strong and reliable.

These swatches of fabric have covered me for a time or two, here and there. Men who have given me inklings of how it feels to be truly covered in a world that left me laid bare and at the mercy of the elements.

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I have three cousins; Eric Derrick and Eddie.  They were some of the first to let me know that it’s okay for a lady to catch a football, dig for worms and go fishing.  They taught me that life is a dance and a lady needs a man to lead confidently without being overbearing.

Another cousin, William, taught me that a lady does not have to throw herself at the object of her affections, but that when love comes, it extends firm arm for her to grab hold of, a friendly smile and walks with her at a comfortable pace through whatever the road ahead may bring.

One of my ‘brothers’, Jerome, taught me a lady is never afraid of what she has to offer. Love will always give her room to be herself.  Real love will always find the fair exchange of melody and harmony to the sound of her song as long as she keeps playing her own tune.

My Pastor/Father, Dan Willis, taught me that love is the same, every day.  Good days, bad days, clear or cloudy skies; love should not change.  The consistency of a man is the mark of His relationship to God and his ability to relate to the woman he covers.

This last swatch is a little tough to talk about and was, at one time, the most sturdy and lush of materials.  My husband, Tracy, covered me as well as he was able, through extraordinary wear and tear.  From the time I was 13, he taught me that both the heart and the body of a lady are precious and she has every right to preserve them. He taught me when the sum of a person’s actions does not equal the sum of their words, it may be best to remove one’s self from the equation.  He taught me that chivalry must be taught and a lady must be taught to expect it or she will never understand why she always feels wanting.

Some of these men have come and gone more than once in my life, sometimes at the same time but mostly in shifts. They’ve always given more than they’ve taken. And anything they did not cover that I have learned to share, I attribute to the covering of Father God through the example of Jesus Christ and revelation through the Holy Ghost.  There will always be warmth and protection in my life because of them. And because of my “Quilt of Many Colors,” I have a wealth of observations to impart to my brothers, sons, nephews and cousins.

I don’t think it strange when I find myself at the café table with a few of the brothers in the choir, holding court.  When I ask them questions and offer up insights, they seem to listen with rapt attention. I am grateful to have something worth imparting, helping to make them covers that others can count on.

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