The Five Senses of Christmas

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The last bit of snow is slowly melting away after what can only be described as a magical & rare occurrence. If you are from any of the states that were affected by the recent Winter storm, then you know things like this only happen every decade.  Friday, after much uncertainty and back and forth over the weather forecast, we woke to a white wonderland blanketing the entire South.  My prayers from the night before had been answered! I prayed that if it be the Lord’s will that He would send snow so that my little ones could experience it for the first time in their lives and boy–did he show out?! I admit it. I became a child again..at least for a weekend. There were snowmen made, snowballs tossed, and the cutest rosy cheeks you’ve ever seen! Have you ever seen a one year old try to walk in the snow? It’s by far one of the cutest things in the world!

Besides making lifelong memories with my family, the best part was the breathtaking beauty portrayed in everything around me. There’s something so peaceful in the stillness of snow falling upon the Earth. As my babes slept in the next room, I sat and watched in awe as my yard was transformed into a scene from a Thomas Kinkade painting. Before, I was only dreaming of a white Christmas but miracles are known to happen during this season if you believe. 

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As I sat alone and watched the snow fall –no television, no phone, no noise- I thought about what it truly meant to be present in the moment we are in. I encourage you to pause and let your senses be filled with all of the wonderful sights, sounds, smellstastes, and feels.  this season of giving brings. 

 

What does Christmas look like to you? 

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In my opinion, Christmas is the most visually appealing holiday there is with the gorgeous light displays and sparkling trees. You know it’s almost here when you start seeing Black Friday advertisements. Then, there’s the big guy in the red suit whose face has become the official mascot of Christmas. But lets look even closer at Christmas time. I see tired and weary parents searching for a place of rest. Their journey has been long and they haven’t been successful in finding shelter for their newborn babe. I see the worried look on Mary’s face and the despair in Joseph’s eyes. I can see the relief once they place Jesus in the manger. Although, not an ideal crib for a baby to sleep in, it would serve as a perfect place with a divine purpose. I see the rough, worn wood of the manger and the thin cloth that is swaddling the little one. I see the star illuminating the way for men bringing gifts to the Lord. I see the real meaning of Christmas..the birth of a Savior. 

What does Christmas smell like to you?

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One of my favorite things about Christmas is the smell of fresh cedar. I love cutting my own greenery and using it in my home. Then, there’s also my favorite Christmas Cookies candle that makes my mouth water just by lighting it. Lean in closely for a second..Can you smell the scent of the newborn babe? I’ve held my own children right up under my nose breathing in that newness of life. There’s no sweeter smell in the world than that of a newborn child. Moms wish it was something that we could bottle up and keep forever. Now breathe deeper. Do you smell the hay that our precious Savior is resting upon?? 

What does Christmas sound like to you?

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My radio stays programmed to the Sounds of the Season station from December 1-December 26. I look forward to holiday tunes all year. It’s a sure fire way to get yourself into the Christmas spirit. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the sounds of Christmas? Jingle bells? The excitement of children? Wrapping paper being torn? While all of these are  wonderful..listen even closer. Do you hear the sound of animals breathing as they lie closely to the newborn King? Do you hear the soft coo of baby Jesus as he spots his mother, Mary standing over him? 

What does Christmas taste like to you?

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At Christmas you’ll always find the best pies, candies, and baked goods wrapped up for giving. Some spend hours slaving away in the kitchen preparing the perfect feast for loved ones. One of my favorite traditions is Christmas Day brunch. My husband and I wake up early to watch our boys open gifts and then proceed to fix the best brunch of the entire year. While we look forward to these festivities and take great delight in the food during this season, our appetites are still never fully satisfied. We can’t be genuinely content in this world because we were not made for this world. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Let’s indulge in His word and fill our hearts with His goodness. Allow yourselves to hunger more and be open to receiving His blessings that are waiting to be poured out on your life. 

What does Christmas feel like to you?

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When does it start to feel like Christmas to you? When artificial trees start popping up in shopping centers and big inflatables greet you in passing, it’s a good indicator that the holidays are creeping up on us. Every year, I hear people say, “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me.” Well, what is  Christmas supposed to feel like? One word: exciting. For children, there is nothing..I repeat..nothing as exciting as Christmas morning. As we grow older, that excitement starts to change. Not because we are losing the spirit of Christmas but because our hearts are being stirred differently. As we mature, we no longer anticipate the same things we once did as a child. Jesus wants us to feel JOY just as those who bowed before  Him did the night on which He was born. He wants us to feel ENAMORED in His precious presence. Let yourself be AWESTRUCK by the birth of our Savior.

 

This season is more than tinsel and lights. It’s the greatest story ever told. This year, use all of your senses to experience Christmas. Be captivated by His SIGHT, inhale His sweet SMELL, listen to His lovely SOUND, TASTE His  goodness, and FEEL Him stimulating your heart. Let’s all follow the star to Bethlehem and celebrate the birth of Christ! 

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A Letter To Santa–From A Mom Who Still Believes

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Dear Santa,

I know you probably don’t get very many letters from grown ups but if you have any more room on your list, I was hoping you could slip a few extra gifts into your magical bag this year. You see Santa, on Christmas morning my children will wake up even earlier than usual and run into the living room. Their little hearts will flutter with anticipation. Underneath a glittering tree will be a dozen shiny new toys awaiting two very eager little boys. I can recall being a child myself on Christmas morning and the excitement that awaited as my brothers and I bounded down the stairs at 4 a.m. to see what was under our tree. The house was still quiet and an enchanted feeling hung in the air as we opened all of the gifts you had so thoughtfully chose for us. We made sure to check that the milk and cookies were gone and you had consumed enough fuel to continue on with your flight. Then, we carefully crept up the staircase and drifted back to sleep until our parents cracked open our door a few hours later.

I know you are terribly busy this time of year making sure your sleigh is top notch and everything is ready for your annual journey around the world. But if you don’t mind, I was hoping to add a few extra wishes for my children this year. These presents will be difficult to wrap and won’t come with a big red bow. They are gifts that can’t be found in a store or ordered off of Amazon. They can only be given and received with the heart.

First of all, I ask that you give my kids the precious gift of innocence. As a mother, my greatest wish is to figure out a way to slow down the sneaky thief of time. If you have some sort of moment freezing magic dust to sprinkle over my sleeping babes it would certainly help the condition of my heart. Childhood is filled with simple days and very little worry. Somewhere along the rocky path we take towards adulthood, we tend to lose those innocent feelings and even..dare I say it..stop believing in the magic of this beautiful season. We replace the genuine delight of our youth with hectic, stressful routines and the joy we once felt during the holidays becomes a faded memory. Let our children be little as long as they can and help us to cherish this short time in their lives by making Christmas extraordinary for them.

My second wish is the gift of kindness. Santa, I’m sure you’ve noticed quite a change in the world you are used to seeing as you look down from your snowy perch at the North Pole. It saddens you that the most peaceful time of year has grown into a season of very little peace. May my children know that while it’s truly wonderful to receive on Christmas, it’s even more meaningful to give the gift of kindness away. Help them to be the warmth to  someone’s cold heart. Let them be the candle that lights a thousand others. Show them that caring for others should be a top priority. We can change the world for someone with just one kind deed. 

And lastly Santa, could you give my children the gift of imagination? I vividly remember as a child dreaming of what it would be like to explore your magic workshop or eat cookies right out of the oven prepared by Mrs. Claus herself . A child’s imagination knows no limits. Perhaps the most powerful tool in the world, it can transform them into anything or anyone their heart desires. I hope they turn into treasure hunting pirates, star chasing astronauts, and horse riding cowboys. I hope they jump in mud puddles, climb trees, swim in the ocean, and go on lots of adventures. I hope they stand underneath the vast sky and realize what a big world we live in but what an impact they can make. The spirit of Christmas can be found in the heart of a child. I’m hopeful that my kids never stop searching the skies for you on Christmas Eve. Even after all these years, I still do. 

Love, 

A Mom Who Still Believes

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5 Gifts To Give Your Children That Aren’t Under The Tree

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This year, I really want to focus my time and energy on gifts that can’t be found under the tree. If you’re like us, you’re drowning in stuff.  You have piles upon piles of toys. The most important gifts you can give your children doesn’t neccesarily have to cost anything at all. Most things you anticipate them opening up on Christmas morning normally end up getting tossed aside or broken within the first few months. Here are five things that you can give your children that will last more than a year–they will last a lifetime!

• The Gift Of Jesus Christ. The greatest gift of all won’t be found under a tree. It won’t be packaged up pretty with ribbons and bows. It will be found in a bed of hay. The very first Christmas was spent in a stable. When we teach our children that Christmas is the celebration of our Savior being born, we are sharing the most important gift we can give them–the true meaning of this special time of year. This Christmas teach your children the reason for the season!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whomsoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

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• The Gift of Presence. Your “presence” is more meaningful than “presents.” Being present means slowing down and taking time to enjoy all of the wonderful things this season brings. Make a commitment to pay more attention to your children and live in the moment. Put your phone away and spend more time focusing on your greatest gifts today. You only have so much time with these little ones. Make it a goal to be all there!

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The Gift of Laughter. Nothing soothes my soul quite like the sound of my children’s laughter. One of the things I love most about the holidays is the fellowship with family in our home. When I look back on my life, I don’t remember what gifts I opened on Christmas. I recall the times spent cutting up and joking with family. Mostly at my own expense! Share in these moments with your kids and give them something to laugh about this year!

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The Gift of Tradition. Tradition is about giving your children something exciting to look forward to each year. It’s about celebrating the joy of the season as a family. There are a multitude of ideas out there if you are looking to start new traditions of your own this year. Pinterest is a great place to find new ideas if you’re looking to create some new ones this year! Make the holidays merry for your littles by surprising them with a new tradition that will last for years to come!

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• The Gift of Joy. Let your children know how happy you are to be there mother. Wake up and be excited for the day ahead. Fill their hearts with gladness and cheer. Be silly. Have a pillow fight. Chase them around the room. Play hide and seek. Make memories. Let them unwrap the joy of childhood this year!

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Being a parent is one of my greatest blessings! Although it can be a challenge sometimes and we can become preoccupied with different things this time of year, remember that your children deserve the best! Give them something money can’t buy this year!

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How To Preserve Your Memories With Chatbooks

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Chatbooks  is one of my most favorite things in the world! Since becoming a mom, I find myself taking pictures of EVERYTHING! From first foods, first steps, birthdays, and other celebrations– Chatbooks is the best way to document memories you want to keep forever.

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What is Chatbooks? 

Chatbooks is a user friendly app that you can download right to your phone from the App Store. By connecting to your Facebook or Instagram , you can compile your pictures into mini 6″x 6″ photo albums that you will cherish for years to come! Chatbooks is very easy to use and pretty much does all the work for you! The app organizes all of your photos into a album containing 60 photos. So, for each 60 photos you post to social media, a new album will print and be shipped to your door. 

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The biggest benefit of this service for me is not having to worry over the hassle of printing and paying for costly photos. I take hundreds of photos and that can really start to add up! And if you’re like I used to be, the prints may end up sitting in a box collecting dust. Chatbooks is super affordable starting at only $8 per book! I mean, that’s the cost of a hamburger and fries! You can’t beat the deal! 

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Getting started with Chatbooks is simple! As a gift to you, I’m sharing my referral link so that you get your first album FREE! That’s a Free Chatbook  –an $8 value! There are no hidden fees or catches. You can sign up for the one free album or subscribe to receive one each month. My excitement explodes when I find the little blue envelope in my mailbox each month! You truly can’t put a price on having your memories right there in your hands. 

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Chatbooks offers soft covers (for $8) and hard back covers (for $13). They also have dozens of gorgeous covers to choose from to customize your books. My series, shown here, is by Rifle Paper Co. . I love the beautiful floral look of these! So classic and sophisticated! 

 

I pay an extra small fee of only $2 more dollars to use these covers making my total $10 per book. There are many different cover options including my new favorite, Kate Spade. However, if you wish to keep your book $8, you can choose to print with your own photo on the cover. 

This service is truly wonderful and so convenient for Moms like me who don’t always have a lot of time. I can’t brag enough about how awesome it is not having to worry about losing precious photos or having them piled up on my phone. They’re perfect for chubby little fingers and my husband even enjoys looking at them. I know that one day we will spread these sweet books out on the coffee table and spend hours reflecting. And I will thank myself for using this company to preserve our memories! 

Enjoy one free Chatbook on me: Free Chatbook

(I am not being paid or sponsored by Chatbooks to write this post. This is just a great app that is too good to keep to myself and I wanted to share with you!)

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20 Ways To Be A Blessing This Season

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The giving season is upon us! During the next few weeks, we will be sucked in to the whirlwind of the holidays. For many, Thanksgiving is completely skipped over and Christmas has taken it’s place. I urge you this season to slow down and remember why it is that we gather and celebrate in the first place. Take an opportunity this season to be a blessing to others and feel the joy that comes from giving of your heart.

Here are twenty ways that you can be a blessing to others this season:

1. Bake a pumpkin pie & deliver to someone letting them know how you are thankful for them!
2. Go caroling to the shut-ins!
3. Invite someone who doesn’t have family to join yours for Thanksgiving dinner!
4. Write a list of reasons you are thankful for your spouse!
5. Hold the door open for someone whose arms are full of packages.
6. Pay for the persons coffee behind you!
7. Remember those that are away from their families serving our country! Send a care package, write a letter, say a prayer, ect..
8. Buy someone a cold drink! Leave some change in the vending machine.
9. Make cards for those in the nursing homes. You don’t know how much this will brighten their day!
10. Leave chalk messages on the sidewalk that says “I’m grateful for you!” Or “Gobble til you wobble!”
11. Lend a helping hand at your local soup kitchen.
12. Donate extra blankets to your furry friends at the shelter!
13. Leave a poinsettia on your neighbors porch!
14. Round up three toys your children no longer play with and give to a child in need.
15. Ring a bell! Be a local bell ringer for The Salvation Army. You get to greet people with a smile and make a difference at the same time!
16. Partner with your church to put together shoe boxes filled with blessings for those in need.
17. Read the Christmas story to those who will spend the holidays in the hospital.
18. Help someone take their groceries to their car!
19. Leave a generous tip on your receipt for your waitress with a note that says “Happy Holidays!”
20. Leave a note on a random car that says, “Have a blessed day!”

Now, that you have a few good ideas to get started– go be a blessing to someone today! Share this list with others to spread kindness this holiday season!

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Easton’s THIRD Birthday (Plus, An Interview With The Birthday Boy)

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I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Our weekend was jam packed from start to finish! Friday, I spent the majority of the day shopping for and creating last minute preparations for the party on Sunday. On Saturday, the boys & I drove down to the Orrville Tractor Show. Easton enjoyed a pony ride and getting to see a parade of vintage tractors passing by. 

 

I chose a “Dinosaurs & Pumpkins” theme for his party this year because from the first time I knew I was pregnant with a boy I always envisioned dinosaurs! There’s something that just screams “Little Boy” when it comes to brontosauruses,   velociraptors, and tyrannosauruses! Easton also comes up to me every now and then and says, “Mommy, look! I’m a big bad dinosaur” in his deepest voice. I had nailed down the theme but wanted something different from all of the other dinosaur parties you see floating around on Pinterest! I’ve really started to gravitate toward modern, minimalist  decor and loved the idea of a monochrome party! I love the clean look of black and white with pops of gold tucked everywhere! 

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Believe it or not, it was really easy finding supplies in these colors! The only issue I ran into was finding black balloons in our town! Apparently, black balloons are the color of choice! Who would’ve thought?! Our Walmart store was out of them and Dollar Tree nor Dollar General had them in black. My sweet mother in law tracked some down at a local florist. 

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I decided to do a small party at home surrounded by our closest family. This year, Easton’s birthday falls on Monday so a simple get-together Sunday afternoon was what fit our schedule best. To me, there’s nothing more meaningful than a homemade birthday cake! I really don’t see the big deal in spending $80-$100 on a cake when your toddler is going to stick his finger straight into the top of it! I bought two boxes of Pillsbury Devil’s Food Sugar Free Cake Mix from Walmart and made a decadent, two layer cake myself and topped it with crushed chocolate chip cookies to resemble dirt! It was SO moist and I may or may not have had some for breakfast this morning! 

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We had pretzel rods dipped in white chocolate and I fixed a s’mores cheeseball that was INSANE! (Recipe coming soon!) Also, I picked up these chocolate cupcakes from the bakery. I already had some glitter pumpkin toppers I had purchased on Etsy and sprinkled the tops with gold sugar. They went perfectly with the party and tasted phenomenal..just ask Easton! 

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I decided to paint little plastic pumpkins and dinosaurs to match the theme. The pumpkins were brushed white and gold. Each dinosaur had their own party hat or banner to celebrate the birthday boy’s special day. These little guys were so much fun to paint! Almost therapeutic!

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Our family blessed Easton with so many sweet gifts yesterday! Our boy is so loved and each person that came has contributed to him being the kind and loving child that he is! 

 

It doesn’t feel like it’s been three years since this precious child was placed in my arms. We have made so many memories in these few years and I look forward to making many more in the years to come. It is such a privilege raising both of my boys and I will always consider them to be the greatest joy of my life. I don’t know if Easton will be able to look back one day and see how much time or love was poured into his birthday party. But I do hope that he will know how much love I felt the night of his actual birth. It’s a feeling nothing can ever compare to! 

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I thought it would be cool to start doing a fun “Birthday Interview” with the boys to see how they change over the course of each year. So, I’m going to let Easton take over from here and answer a few questions and tell us what it’s like being three! 

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How old are you?  I’m..well..thwee! This number! (Shows me on his fingers!)

What makes you happy? Cookies!!

What is your favorite toy? All of my toys make me happy!

What is your favorite animal? Cows and pigs!

What is your favorite thing to sleep with? Dan Dan! (His Tiger pillow)

What is your favorite color? Red and Blue..lots of blue!!

What is your favorite fruit? Apples

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Cinnamon rolls and donuts! I like them both!

What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Pizza

What do you want to eat for your birthday dinner? Chips 

What is your favorite drink? Chocolate milk

What is your favorite dessert? Scooby snacks

What food doesn’t taste good to you? Peas and carrots don’t taste good.

What is your favorite thing to do? Playing with cars and racetracks

What is your favorite tv show? Paw Patrol and Dugee

What is your favorite movie? Scooby Doo

What is your favorite song? Holy holy holy..

What are you really good at? Doing puzzles.

Who is the coolest person on Earth? YOU!!!

What do you and Mama do together? Clean the house

What do you and Daddy do together? Cutting grass

When you were a baby, what did you do? I wasn’t a baby! I was a big boy!

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? The chocolate chip place to drink and eat!

Who is your best friend?  You are! And I’m your best friend! 

What is your favorite thing to do outside? Cut cut with my lawnmower!

What is your favorite book? Lots and lots of my books!

What do you want to be when you grow up? Work with Daddy! 

 

So, happy to have the answers to these sweet little questions to look back on! We’ve made it through the twos! Now, time to put our seatbelt on and get ready for the threes! 

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The Hands That Rock The Cradle

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Today, while folding the babies clothes, I stopped for a moment and just stared at my hands. My fingers are awkward and tired. They haven’t seen a manicure in I don’t know how long and I’ve basically given up the thought of getting one anytime soon.

Today these hands have:

• packed my husbands suitcase for an overnight trip.
• changed the babies diaper and helped my toddler go potty.
• fed the baby and toddler breakfast.
• cleaned up spilled milk.
• played pat-a-cake.
• got the baby’s bag together to for a visit with Grandma.
• changed another diaper.
• bathed, brushed hair and teeth, and clothed two wiggly boys.
• semi-dressed myself.
• put enough makeup on to appear alive.
• dropped one child off at Grandparents.
• loaded laundry into the washer.
• folded clothes.
• took out trash.
• fixed lunch.
..and that’s just the first half of my day. Should I go on? Chances are if you’re also deep in the trenches of motherhood then our day probably looks very similar!

Picking up toys, wiping runny noses, washing dirty dishes, changing poopy diapers, and cleaning crumbs out of every nook and cranny is inevitable..unless you are “Supermom”.. and just in case you are, please tell me what your secret is! It’s easy to pick a mother out of a crowd…just look at her hands. She’ll be the one with the chipped nail polish that’s pushing a buggy full of things that are for everyone other than herself and has the cutest baby boy who is screeching loud enough for everyone on the other side of the store to hear! I may or may not have been describing myself just then.

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By looking at the palms of a mothers hands, the daily demands that her hands face are evident. Yet, what some may fail to realize are the willingness that God designed these hands with. You may see dirty bottles and dishes, I see that I am blessed to be able to feed my family. You may see the toys scattered and the laundry mounting, I know I’m blessed with a place to call home. You may see my husbands dirty work boots by the door, I know I’m lucky to be married to someone who provides for his family and leads by example. 

Mothers, somehow we find the strength to pick up just one more toy. We possess the quick ability to pry a foreign object from the grips of our toddlers crocodile jaws. We summon traits we didn’t know we would ever even need. These two hands are the ones that reached down to feel every butterfly kick when my baby was still being formed in my womb. They’re the ones that rock his precious soul to sleep at night. The palms that held my husbands tight as we said “I do” and began a life together. The fingers that pick fresh flowers to grace the table we gather around as a family. If you look at your hands, you may see rough around the edges. I encourage you to look closer. Because the two hands that rock the cradle are the hands that change the world.

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