Selfish Serving (Giving- Part 2)

Selfish Serving (Giving- Part 2)

Whoops… I did it again. Said I would post, but I didn’t. Sorry.  Here is part two of my stories about giving. It is actually two stories- one from myself, and the other from one of my favourite writers, Shannan Martin. (No, not a Mennonite, for those of you whose minds went there.) I felt that these two stories could travel peaceably side by side, so here they are. Mine first, then Shannon’s. 


 

I can see the toll that being a mom, a student, and an employee has taken on her.

Her eyes are less bright, her smile less natural. There isn’t time for the friendly chatting that used to happen.

I cannot imagine being as busy as she must feel.

And so I think, “How can I help this dear woman?”

And the answer is…

French fry casserole.

(It usually is. Along with bread, salad, and dessert. You know how these things are.)

I plan to make a meal for her and her family, hoping that just one night of not needing to think about supper will be a relief.

But before I can execute my French fry casserole, I get a message from the same dear woman that I was so earnestly and selflessly wanting to help, saying, (in short) “I need to send my boys to school on Friday.”

And everything inside me pauses, and then roars, “FRIDAY. FRIDAY! THE SCHOOL IS CLOSED ON FRIDAYS, PLUS I HAVE THINGS THAT I WAS COUNTING ON DOING THIS FRIDAY!”

Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Funny how much I want to lighten her load, but how much I do not want to help her in this particular manner.

Oh, the inconsistency and selfishness of wanting to help, but on my own terms.

I smile grimly, dutifully recite the words, “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver”, and tell her that I will be able to care for her boys on Friday.

Because I am able, and because I do want to help.

Lord, have mercy.


A story that Shannan Martin shared on Instagram. (Used with permission.) 

“A story.

I was recently in a meeting at the elementary school and someone said “You know what we need? Chapstick.” The next Sunday I grabbed the mic at church and shared. An hour later I had $62 and ALL of it came from people who were in work release and have very little. 😭 (Reminder: we all want to live generously!) I reached out to one of my favorite local shops, @thesoapygnome and said “I’ll take as many lip balms as I can get for $62.” She hooked me up (yay, community!) and a few others from church added what they had grabbed to the hopper. When I delivered a giant bag of lip balms to the office last week the school nurse squealed.

Takeaways: ✔️ Ask people what they need. Don’t assume you know. ✔️ Work with the people near you. Support each other. Love your neighbor WITH your neighbor. It’s just better that way! ✔️ Small is big. Small is big. Small is big. On Repeat. Amen.”

Shannan Martin


Sometimes we know what others need… but sometimes we only think that we know. 

Let’s care enough to find out what the right way to serve is. Let’s care enough to find out what the need truly is. Do you have any stories? 

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Money Mitts (Giving- Part One)

Money Mitts (Giving- Part One)

I don’t pretend to understand. I don’t pretend to be knowledgeable. I am just telling this story, with my own thoughts and impressions included. 

Statistics say there are over five thousand homeless people in Toronto.


 

He appeared out of nowhere on the crowded subway platform. In my memory, he was navy blue and unzipped coat and black toque and everything else ordinary. Bundled up, rather like I was. By the time I noticed him, he almost blended in with the group of people he had approached.

I couldn’t hear what he said, but as I saw him move to another group, I realized that he was, indeed, asking for money.

I hoped that he wouldn’t work his way back to us, because…

Well. My wallet was in my backpack that was on my back, and I didn’t even know if it had any cash in it.

And then I remembered that I had a looney in the pocket on my mitt. (Thanks, No Frills shopping cart system.)

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I guess I was watching him, because our eyes connected, and I couldn’t tell if that meant he would come over or go to a different person.

But he came, quiet and ordinary and expressionless. I think that something in me wanted him to, now that I knew I had something to give. 

“Nickels? Dimes?” I forget exactly what he said, but I remember those words.

“Yes,” I said, and took off my mitts to unzip the pocket that contained the looney.

Except that I had to check the pocket on both mitts, because I couldn’t remember which one it was in, and my initial squish of the mitts didn’t seem to reveal the whereabouts of the looney.

To make things worse, I felt that rush of air that announces the subway’s arrival. PANIC.

There we were, us two humans, standing there with my fumbling, mitt-musty hands between us.

He stood waiting, calm.

The subway came and I managed to extricate the looney (plus a dime) from my glove.

He nodded as he took them.

And then I crammed onto the subway with the masses, and he….

I guess I don’t know what he did next.

I felt ashamed of myself. Of my giving.

Because there I was, gliding along, feeling glad that I had given a looney, instead of just the nickel or dime that he had asked for.

Because we had made eye contact, and I was afraid of what he had seen on my face and in my eyes.I honestly don’t know what was there. What had my face shown?

I wanted to know…

What he actually needed.

I wanted to know…

How the situation had seemed to him.

His face hadn’t revealed a single thing to me.


 

I don’t think that I will ever be able to see a homeless person asking for money without it hurting my heart.

I also don’t know if I will ever know what to do with that hurt.

I am quick with all the usual excuses.

“I only have a looney. It’s almost embarrassing to just give a looney, when the need is clearly greater than that..”

“I only have a twenty dollar bill. We can’t just go around handing out $20. We don’t actually have that many $20 of our own, after all.”

“That person looks a little too… crazy. I’m afraid to approach them.”

“That person looks a little too… normal. Do they truly need the money?”

 

Too much,

Too little,

And there seems to be no “in between”.

 

Oh.

Then there’s…

That good old, holy excuse, “By giving money, I may be enabling this person to pursue unhealthy habits and addictions.”

That excuse has never made me feel truly better, and I’m almost at the point where I think it’s just….

Dumb. 

Here’s where I’m at:

My few dollars probably aren’t going to make or break someone’s addiction. I think it’s better to give.

 

Yes, it could harm…

but it also might help.

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There’ll be a second blog post coming sometime this week with another story about giving. Stay tuned! In the meantime, how do you handle giving (money, or otherwise) to homeless people? What would Jesus have us do? How do we show love?

 

The Truth is…

The Truth is…

People sometimes say that they appreciate my honesty in my writing. Yes, I am honest, but I am usually only honest about the things that I want to be honest about. If I were truly honestly these days, I might write something yucky and choppy like the following.


 

Hello, my name is Jasmine Martin, and the truth is, I am not good at Januaries, Februaries, and/or Marches.

I want to be, but I’m not.

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These months are dangerous ones for me. They immobilize me. I think my body may be trying to settle into a form of hibernation, and it turns out that laws of nature are difficult to work against.

These blindingly white days have a way of shoving me towards darkness, even though I don’t want to go there.

The truth is…

 

Being social feels like too much work.

Untangling myself feels like too much work.

Writing feels like too much work.

Trying to swallow a giant Advil feels like too much work.

Working well feels like too much work.

Making decisions and moving forward feels like too much work.

Surviving feels like too much work.

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Ah.

Perhaps that last one on the list is the real frustration.

Why does living require so much maintenance?

(You mean that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I need to regularly wash my hair, brush my teeth, do dishes, make food, tidy, do laundry, go grocery shopping? And on top of that, I am supposed to be having a job, responding to texts and emails in a timely and meaningful manner, and making life decisions? And I am supposed to read my Bible and pray? And sleep at night? And clear the snow off my car? And have a mysterious, exhausting cold that goes on for almost two weeks? And write and create and have thoughts? Plus I was going to EXERCISE and LOSE WEIGHT? AND WHY DO MY FINGERNAILS NEED TO BE CLIPPED- AGAIN?  How is this humanly possible?)

(But I’ll have you know that I have kept that new year’s resolution to make our bed every day. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health… I have made the bed.)

The truth is, I do all these things, and then I just need to do them again the next day, the next week…

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The truth is, I have to learn to be okay with the small, daily, necessary tasks. I have to. That is what life consists of. It is time to accept my smallness, my humanity, and to take delight in the process of nurturing a life of quality.

The truth is, I might not feel like I want to do all these things, but I feel so much more alive when I do.

The truth is, once I start these tasks, I usually don’t even mind them.

The truth is, there are things that I can do to make February a healthier month than January was.

 

Here’s my list.

  1. Go outside and do fun things to combat the mentality that the cold is something to be avoided and fought against. Embrace the cold (before it embraces me).
  2. Get into a regular sleep schedule. This has always been tricky for me because I COME ALIVE between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., and just want to stay awake and do ALL OF THE THINGS. Unfortunately, I have yet to work a job that works well with this.
  3. Leave enough time in my schedule to enjoy caring for myself and my body, so that I don’t need to rush through my morning and evening routines like a madwoman, and end up resenting my body for the care that it requires.
  4. Choose to be okay with the process of making food. It’s a required part of life-  nothing to get all huffy about. It is literally a life-giving task. Embrace it. I like this woman’s perspective on it: http://www.thelazygeniuscollective.com/blog/enjoydinner (I actually like her perspective about a lot of things. If you aren’t yet familiar with the Lazy Genius, you have been missing out.)
  5. Do the next right thing. One step at a time. (If you ever feel overwhelmed, consider listening to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, The Next Right Thing. Her voice alone will calm you, and her words are truth.) 
  6. Hand my phone over to Ricky in the evening so that I avoid mindless scrolling.
  7. Watch my little sister Renee’s videos for artistic and just general life inspiration. (You can count on beautiful and thoughtful content from her. You should definitely subscribe.) Here’s one of my favourites:

“I suppose I thought life was the puzzle. That it was meant to be lived, to be understood, to be unriddled with the help of the ocean and a bottle of wine. But the puzzle isn’t life, is it? The ocean, the wine, the Sunday evening on the balcony- that’s life. It’s enough to be enjoyed, with or without the missing pieces.”

Erin Loechner (Chasing Slow)

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Happy February, everyone! Does enjoying the winter months come naturally to you? What have you learned about yourself in this area? What makes winter wonderful/bearable for you? 

 

Port Hope

I like to see beautiful new places. I imagine that you can identify with that.

Can you also identify with the feeling of being certain that there are beautiful places all around you? Places that are within comfortable driving distance?

Can you ALSO identify with the feeling that sometimes it can feel hard or overwhelming to find these near-by beautiful places? Almost akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, even though you truly believe in your heart of hearts that there must be SO MANY beautiful places near by?

Well, my friend Meghan and I found a beautiful, relatively-close-to-us place.

Port Hope is the name of the place. It is about an hour and a half east-ish of Toronto, right along Lake Ontario.

I gathered from reviews online that people genuinely enjoyed their visits there, but when I looked at photos of the town and lists of activities to do in Port Hope I wasn’t immediately convinced that it was the perfect place for us to visit. It seemed like lots of small shops and restaurants. I’m not great at browsing “gift shop” type stores, and I confess that going to cafes that I’ve never been to before makes me feel rather anxious.

However, due to that searching-for-a-needle-in-a-haystack feeling (and the knowledge that having the absolute perfect location was not necessary for us to have a wonderful trip), we agreed upon a pleasant-looking Airbnb in Port Hope and booked it for one night.

The Airbnb turned out to be absolutely wonderful, with giant beds, many pillows, fresh flower bouquets, and juice and chocolate in the fridge. We spent most of our evening watching The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Netflix. We both loved the book, and felt that the movie captured the spirit of the story well.

The next morning we had toaster strudels, chocolate, chips and salsa, and tea for breakfast. Our Airbnb did not have a toaster for the toaster strudels, but we had the foresight to pack one. Always pack a toaster. You will almost never regret it.

We packed up our things and headed out to explore Port Hope.

We started by taking a walk on a snowy trail right beside the lake. It was lovely, although somewhat icy. It had snowed overnight, so there was a fresh blanket of snow to brighten everything up. I carried my camera around my neck, and it was one of those situations where EVERYTHING seems like it would make a good photo.

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She was the very best thing about the trip. Obviously.
We walked until we were very cold, and then we kept walking until we got back to the car.

We headed to the main streets, which were wonderfully empty and quiet.

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Our first stop was a used bookstore called Gryphon Books, where we were greeted in a friendly way by the shop-keeper, but then left to peruse the shelves in  warm, cinnamon-scented silence. There was a lovely wall that was partially covered with bookmarks.

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You can catch a glimpse of the bookmark wall through the window. 

Obviously, I bought one million books there.

As I waited for Meghan to finish paying for her purchase, a young man came in. He looked at the camera around my neck and said, “I bet you  paid more for your camera than I did for my truck.”

I decided to just go with it, and told him that I think I paid around $500 for my camera and its equipment.

He nodded in a pleased way, and said, “Paid $420 for my truck.”

A few more friendly comments were exchanged before Meghan and I headed back out.

Next we went into a dollar/bargain sort of store. It was nothing spectacular, but I found the type of hat and gloves that I’ve been looking for. I went to the front of the store to pay for them, and found the elderly cashier reading what was definitely one of those “Amish novels”. Part of me wanted to rip off my winter hat and be like, “I’m a real Mennonite!” I didn’t.

She looked at me and my camera and said, “That looks like an expensive camera.”

It was a little bit of a strange conversation starter, but it turned out she just wanted to give me tips of where to take nice photos in Port Hope.

We continued on our way and found Dreamers Cafe.

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The menu had many delicious-sounding options, but we both ended up getting a chicken salad sandwich with Caesar salad. This was no ordinary chicken salad either. It had cranberries and caramelized onions in it, and it was SO GOOD. I’ve been craving it ever since I finished eating it.

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When the waiter brought us our food, he asked me what kind of camera I have, and then proceeded to tell me what kind it was before I myself could recall the name of it. (Canon Rebel T3i… Canon Rebel T3i… I’m memorizing it.) He told me about how he’d had the same one, but it’d been stolen, but then he’d bought a new camera for a great price… I tried to sound appropriately appreciative and understanding as he gave me the details. He was very nice.

The cafe itself was whimsical with many lovely details, including French music playing through the speakers. We sat in a lovely corner up by the window.

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The place mats were clever… each one was an article about Dreamers Cafe. It was the place mats that told us about…

THE CRAZY COOKIE.

So good, folks. So good.

Read more about it here, if you are curious.

As we were paying, the same man who asked me about my camera asked us if we are sisters, which pretty much made our visit to the cafe perfect in every way.

We visited a thrift store (called Purpose) before heading back home, although it felt like there were more places that would have been lovely to explore.

Port Hope was an extremely pleasant experience.

I learned that I love winter beaches (always thought I would), a camera around your neck is apparently a conversation starter, and that going on a trip with a good friend is an entirely worthwhile thing to do.


What beautiful places- near or far- have you found in your travels? 

Here We Go

So far, I have broken two new year’s resolutions, and kept one. (I do have more than three ideas of what I want 2019 to hold, but these are the three that have come into play so far.)

The three resolutions that I speak of are as follows:

  1. Do not suggest/hint that we should get food from a restaurant.
  2. Do not buy things that I simply do not need.
  3. Make our bed every day.

At 12:42 a.m. (as we were folding laundry- it was clearly a wild New Year’s Eve), I suggested to Ricky that we should go get breakfast at Egglicious in the morning. So. It only took me 42 minutes to break that one. I also think I may have broken it again this morning when I said to Ricky, “Would it be breaking my new year’s resolution if I said that I’d really like to do a coffee date with you sometime soon?”

I’m optimistic though. I think I’ll get the hang of this “not hinting” thing pretty soon.

This afternoon, I bought a set of mugs from Indigo. It’s just that they were so cute (true), and so on sale (true), and we need more mugs (not true). Here’s the link if you want to try resisting temptation yourself (or if you actually need mugs): Mugs too cute for their own good. They would make lovely gifts, I think. I also bought special highlighters from Amazon that are supposed to be perfect for using in your bullet journal. As a beginner bujo-er, I figure that I need all the help I can get. (Excuses…)

As for the resolution that has been kept (making the bed)… here’s how it happened.

My phone was charging in the living room overnight, which meant that when the alarm went off this morning I had to stumble out to the living room to turn it off. Once the alarm was turned off, I found myself snuggling up on the couch, all comfy with my fluffy housecoat and our giant fluffy blanket…

Before I knew it, I had fallen asleep on the couch.

When I woke up, Ricky was back from his run and all dressed and perky. I should mention that he knew about my “making the bed” resolution. When I got up and went into the bedroom, I saw that RICKY HAD ALREADY MADE THE BED.

I was quite annoyed (in a good way), because here it had been this nice, simple resolution that I felt confident I could get off to a good start with, and now that feeling of success had been stolen from me. I expressed my annoyance to Ricky (in a nice way), and he said, “Well, I didn’t make the bed very nicely.”

And it was true.

So I tucked and plumped and felt quite accomplished.

But I admit that I am afraid that this is how it’s going to be- Ricky being the one to beat me to making the bed every day.

The only thing worse than not keeping a new year’s resolution is having someone else keep it for you.

(Except that in this case, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who makes the bed, you know? So it’s actually okay with me if I’m not the one to make the bed every day.)

In all seriousness, I am very excited about 2019, and I have loved this sunshine-y first day of it. I haven’t taken time to formally think through/write out my resolutions yet, but I’m hoping to do that sometime soon, as well as reflect on the highlights and hard parts of 2018.

Here we grow!

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Any of you have new year’s resolutions that you’re excited about or intimidated by? Big ones or small ones? I’d love to hear them! 

Christmas 2018

Christmas 2018

Well, Christmas 2018 has come and gone.

And it was lovely.

I keep looking at pictures and going over the memories and smiling to myself. Ricky and I had a lovely drive home to Toronto last night, reminiscing and reflecting.

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In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I felt much more relaxed and had a lot more time to prepare for Christmas than I have in other recent years. I loved putting a bit more thought into the gifts that I bought, buying them in a more relaxed frame of mind, and wrapping them up NOT at the last minute.

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Although I confess that my heart ached a little bit to miss out on the Christmas activities at Countryside School, I did enjoy celebrating Christmas with the little kiddos who I work with now. There are many moments where I forget how very “new” to this life my current kiddos are, but I was reminded of it when I gave them their Christmas presents from me.

They did not even know what to do with those wrapped packages. (After all, they have only experienced one or two Christmases.) So I got them going and they soon caught on to what they should do. A favourite moment of mine was when one little boy had his gift partially unwrapped and realized what was really going on here.

“Hey! HEY! There’s something inside here, Auntie!” That’s what he said. I imagine that Christmas Day was pretty exciting for him.

I gave them each a book as their Christmas gift and found it amusing that they did not realize that these books were theirs to keep. They kept trying to put their books on the bookshelf in our library area. Apparently, I have ingrained in them that books belong on the bookshelf.

On Friday, Ricky and I spent the day preparing for Christmas. In the evening, we had our own lovely little Christmas dinner, opened presents from each other, drank coffee late into the night, and also watched Netflix movies late into the night. (Those last two things may have been related.) Ricky gave me a letter board and a bullet journal. I am very excited about both of these things.

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He wants to be a #lifer with me!!!

I made ginormous peanut butter balls at some point. I forget when it was exactly. I made them ginormous for two reasons. 1) Because I love them and bigger seemed better. 2) Because I am not a patient person with any sort of fiddly job and rolling larger peanut butter balls meant getting done faster. I thought that they couldn’t possibly be too big. But they kind of are. Whoops. They’ll last us awhile. And if you’re ever in need of an overwhelmingly large giant peanut butter ball, you know who to come to.

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Please take note of my “keeping the chocolate melted” invention. It got the job done.

On Sunday after church, we went to Ricky’s family’s house, where we started our Christmas celebration with a delicious meal. Other activities included the annual book exchange, playing games (boys against girls, often), delightful and thought-provoking conversations, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, and reading. I failed to take a single photo of these things happening, and I feel sad about that, and will do better next year, I am sure.

On Monday evening, we headed to my family’s house for the traditional Christmas Eve pizza. We also caroled for some neighbours and watched a Christmas movie. Christmas Day included aunts and uncles, a dog named Bonnie, a puzzle, lots of food, two ukuleles, and three diffusers. (Mom gave me a diffuser, Wendy gave Mom a diffuser, and Uncle Mark gave Wendy a diffuser. As far as I know, no one gave Uncle Mark a diffuser. The two ukuleles belong to Wendy and Renee.)

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Don’t let Kenton’s grumpy face fool you. He made many hilarious comments over the course of Christmas and seemed to be in fine spirits. 
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Look at that cute husband who’s so pleased with his shirt from Renee. 

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All in all, it was a

Perfectly

Lovely

Christmas,

Sprinkled with bits of

Heaven

And

Humanity

All the way through.

 

And what to do with the feelings of being unfairly, undeservingly blessed?

The food, the family (not just one, but TWO), the friendships, the freedom.

I am so grateful for what I have and for what I know to be true.

So many people all over the world don’t have this.

It just doesn’t seem right, and I don’t know exactly what to do about it.

 

But onward I shall go.

(Bullet journal in hand.)

Pieces of Advent

This post is a random collection of thoughts, questions, and songs, each piece separated by a mere horizontal line.


 

Jesus is my future.

(No matter what does or does not happen here on earth in my lifetime.)

 

Jesus is my future.

 

My beginning and my end,

And with me for all the in between.

That makes everything

a lot

more

okay.

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Questions:

Was Jesus absent from heaven in those 9 months while his body grew inside of Mary? If so, did God miss Him? Were they still one as Jesus grew a human body? How did God feel as He watched His son slip into the world? Did he burst with joy? He must have.


 

This song.

“Noel”, by Lauren Daigle.

The invitation to “come and see what God has done” is so beautiful. And isn’t that exactly the invitation that we should offer to our fellow humans… to come and see what God has done for humanity? For us personally?


 

Jesus was born into the messiest of circumstances and the most unstable of times, but God made celebration and rejoicing a prominent part of the story of his birth.

 

God knew the pain that the years ahead held,

but he rejoiced in the beauty of the moment.

 

We don’t have to wait for perfection to rejoice.


 

I love hearing Handel’s Messiah, whether it’s a live performance or simply a Spotify playlist while I’m driving. This Christmas, I stumbled across a song by Jenny and Tyler (first time hearing of them!) that combines several bits and pieces from Handel’s (much) larger work.

I love it.

It’s completely different from the real thing, so you’ll have to be a bit open-minded if you are a loyal lover of Messiah. 

It is different.

It is simple.

It gives me chills, especially at the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God” line.

And you know what the best part of all is?

It’s perfect for singing along with, should you happen to be one of those people with a softer sort of voice. Ahem.


 

Advent.

This is the time of trusting Jesus to be here.

This is the time of trusting God to fulfill His promises.

This is the time of wild hope.


 

Come near to Him.

Come

and be warmed

and be found.

Come and see. 

 

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What has God been showing to you this advent time? 

What songs speak to you? 

What questions do you ponder about the events of that first Christmas?