Reflections on life at 50 (and the decade ahead)

CakeI am 50 years old today. I was 50 yesterday, too. But, the day before that was the pivotal day that I turned 50. Last week, I was a woman in her 40’s. This week, and for the next 520 weeks, I’m a woman in her 50’s. And I’m okay with that. So far, this decade is off to a great start.

Last week I attended the Texas Conference for Women, an event filled with inspiring speakers who successfully motivated me to reconsider my outlook, my strategy, my approach, my attitude….

I attended a session on goal-setting, “Goals with Soul” by Danielle La Porte. She introduced the revolutionary (at least for me) concept that our goals should be based on feelings. Specifically, we should anticipate how we are going to feel once we achieve a certain goal. She challenged us to list our dreams, then analyze our motivation. Additionally, we should consider how every aspect of our lives influences our feelings. We should ask every day, “What am I doing today to make myself feel _____________?”

During Q&A she highlighted some additional tips for healthy living:

  • Look at your bank account(s) every day. Don’t obsess, but know your financial health.
  • Understand your bliss-limit, and expand your capacity to feel joy.
  • Apply passion judiciously.
  • Be vulnerable with discretion. Give love and healing freely, but maintain a privacy fence. Only allow in those you trust. Keep out those who just come to feed.
  • Tell the truth (fast & lovingly).
  • Be yourself. Resonate.
  • Don’t pursue life balance, but harmony. Harmony is like a symphony, with ebbs and flow, dynamic changes, imbalance.
  • Inspiration is everywhere – look for it. Tap into what inspires you.
  • Confidence requires us to overcome fear. We all make choices, and must control our responses. Anger, bitterness, happiness are all choices. Be intentional. Feel the power that comes with self-control.
  • Take time to rest and integrate your experiences.
  • Regrets are a waste of energy. Worry is misuse of your imagination. Hold space in your thoughts for positive outcomes.
  • Make time for intentional silence. Even 1 minute, in your parked car, as you transition from work to home. Create the time and space to pivot.
  • Rise to every occasion. It’s a decision to be made, to approach an objective full-on. Expand your possibilities.
  • Embrace your unique place in the universe.

The session was rich with golden nuggets of wisdom.

This morning I made a lengthy to-do list of all I hope to accomplish before Thanksgiving. It’s interesting to look at the items on the list and consider each entry as a function of how I want to feel at the end of the day, or whether the activities will help me achieve my greater goals.

When our grandchildren came to live with us in April, I had goals that are no longer practical. I’m not giving up on those goals, but I’m revising my expectations. It may take a little more time to get there, but I’m still heading in the right direction. I’m looking at the big picture, and embracing the joy (and challenges) that comes with each new day. And, I’m looking forward to ongoing progression of this journey, ever-striving for the person I want to be when I turn 60.

Now, please excuse me, I need to go cross “write a blog post about turning 50″ off of my to-do list. Carpe Diem!

Posted in adulthood, child-rearing, children, discipline, education, exercise, faith, family, healing, Inspiration, Is it just me?, support, trust, Wisdom | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Misadventures of a hapless agent: Lessons in Real Estate

For Rent Real Estate Sign(Draft Written April, 2014)

The first time I took a client out to look at homes, freshly armed with my Realtor’s license and the magic “key extractor” gizmo, I was eternally grateful that the client was my beloved Mr. H, because the electronic gizmo I’d been carrying for weeks had a depleted battery, and I had no way to recharge it, so we were not able to enter the property.

This weekend I made two tours of the North Eastern suburbs of Austin, showing two families homes that might potentially become theirs. Rentals, anyway. And, I learned several important lessons.

Lesson 1: Bring the gizmo with you.

I arrived at the first property, 10 minutes before the appointed time, ready to meet my client. I immediately realized I lacked gizmo and called Mr. H to the rescue. Fortunately, the client (due to a completely unrelated miscommunication) was waiting for me at a different house and by the time we’d worked through the confusion, and they arrived at the destination, I had the gizmo in hand. Ironically, there was a “communication failure” error when I tried to unlock the lock box that held the key to the property. But, I firmly (and hopefully) knocked on the door, waking the napping toddler and bringing grandma to the door to let us in. This was the least of my foibles.

Lesson #2: Do not go into the back yard. 

When I’m showing a home, it’s natural to be curious and want to check out all aspects. However, stepping through the backdoor is not necessary. In fact, such a maneuver might, in fact, allow the back door to slam shut, leaving you locked in the back yard. Theoretically. Of course, this requires a series of unfortunate events, doesn’t it?

It seems a good practice to leave the front door ajar with the key in the lock. Don’t ask me why. I have my reasons, trust me. On this particular day, the wind was just right for a cross-breeze that left the front door standing wide open, and slammed the back door shut. I’m still not clear about the locking mechanism that allowed us to exit, but that’s beside the point. I’m also mystified by the lack of egress options through the privacy fence. No gate on one side, and the gate on the other side was entrance-only. No way to leave. What’s up with these people? Why have a yard the can be easily entered, yet impossible to escape?What sort of wild animals are they luring in and trapping in their yard? Besides real estate agents, that is.

Fortunately, the potential tenants (also trapped in the back yard with me) had brought their 12 year old son, who was waiting in their car with the windows down. After much shouting, we captured his attention. He was able to walk into the house through the wide open front door and open the back door, liberating us.

Lesson #3: Potential tenants can be full of surprises.

I spent the day showing 2 families effectively the same set of houses. By the end of the weekend, both families had application forms in hand, with the “address” filled out because we’d successfully located homes with which they were delighted. I was beside myself, swimming in the glow of my new-found gift for matching homes with tenants. And yet, by the end of the week, all bets were off; no deals were at play.

Lesson #4: Ask potential tenants where they’ll be later….

At the end of the busy Saturday, one family found the perfect home, and then … returned to Louisiana. They’d neglected to give me a deposit check and had no way of transferring money to me. What were they thinking? What was I thinking? Had it occurred to me, I’d have gotten a money order from them then and there.

Lesson #5: Ask potential tenants if they have broken leases in their history.

No one in this market is willing to lease a house to anyone with bad credit, or worse, broken leases in their background. And trust me, the truth will out. I spent days (lots of calls) looking for 2nd, 3rd and 4th runner-up properties, but not a single landlord was willing to overlook that credit history. The Louisiana family grew increasing desperate (and demanding) as their options ran out.

Lesson #6: Sometimes it just doesn’t matter.

After a few days of not hearing from the other family, I sent an email, only to be told “circumstances have changed” and the potential tenant was now a single mom looking for a much smaller home, on a reduced budget.

So ended an intense, lesson-filled week. My grandchildren moved in and all of my availability for erring and applying these lessons went out the proverbial window. Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to try again. I’ll never forget the elation that came with the client’s declaration, “this is it!” That feeling far outweighed the horror of back doors slamming shut.

Happy hunting!


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Joy to the World!

One of the things that I love best about the internet is the community that forms between relative strangers. People whose paths I never would have crossed are friends. And some of these friends are pretty cool.

One of the best and the brightest, Neil, hosts an annual event that crosses barriers of geography, gender, age, religion, political inclination, etc. In celebration of Christmahanukwanzaakah, I shared this:

In my imagination, building up to this event, at the close of the reading I burst into song. The entire production (in my mind) was reminiscent of Cecil B. Demille. Actually, my first inspiration included a flash mob, but that was back in November. So, really, it just came down to the challenge of Fran vs. camera. It turns out the opening chords of Joy to the World were enough to daunt me. I’m proud of myself for coming up with anything, and I’ll leave it at that.

Joy to the World, and Merry Christmas!!!

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map2There are two exits from my neighborhood. At the west end, you can turn left onto a county road that intersects the main road, RR 1431, with the convenience of a traffic signal. I usually choose the direct route, taking my chances with the unprotected left turn onto the 5-lane road, using the center lane (aka “Suicide lane“) to accelerate before merging into east-bound traffic.

The other morning, as I was driving to work, I pulled out onto 1431 ahead of a large pack of cars heading east. The lead car, in the lane closest to me, sped up as he approached me, breaking free from the crowd, presumably in an attempt to maintain his lead position. Unperturbed, I fell in behind him, and crossed over into the far lane. He then slowed back down, so we were traveling side-by-side at the posted speed limit, about 65mph, with a good-sized gap to the crowd of cars behind us.

Ahead on the left, I noticed three deer walking single file, about to cross 1431. West-bound traffic was coming to a stop. I also slowed down, anticipating trouble. The car to my left sped up, then slowed, then sped up again. Two of the deer crossed safely, but the third was not so lucky. As I slowed, the third deer was struck and sailed across the road in front of me, belly facing me, legs flailing.

The driver finally came to a complete stop. As I eased forward, he turned to the right, to cross in front of me. Thankfully, he stopped again, and I continued. After I passed, he proceeded, pulling off the road onto the shoulder. In my rear view mirror, I watched the chaos as cars veered and swerved in various directions to avoid secondary collisions.

I noted the large dent in the front of the other vehicle, where the deer undoubtedly experienced mortal injury. I’m grateful there wasn’t more damage, on my car or any of the other vehicles. I’m sorry for the driver who thought this was a race. I suspect he applied the same mentality to the deer as for me, “You’re not getting out ahead of me!”

So, he wins.

His hurry was wasted. His aggression was useless. He paid a price, and so did the deer. Perhaps, in the end, this will serve as an invaluable lesson. It did for me.

*NOTE: I do not know if the driver of the other vehicle was  a man or woman. The use of the pronoun “he” is not intended to signify gender. 

Posted in Is it just me?, life, Lingering thoughts, Note to Self, reward, Wisdom | Tagged , | 1 Comment

It’s all happening in the ‘hood

I went for a walk. Nothing too remarkable about that, but as I cruised my neighborhood, I passed a teen-aged girl talking on her phone. Her side of the conversation went like this,

“…it was covered with Sharpie. They told me to clean it, so I covered it with band-aids.”

For the next block or so, I wondered about the other side of the conversation. I wondered what was covered with Sharpie, that could so easily be “cleaned” by a smattering of band-aids. How did her friend respond? I was the sort of girl who found interesting ways to respond to authority, so I regretted that I couldn’t hang out long enough to determine if she was truly a kindred spirit. Sadly, society doesn’t much condone middle-aged women hanging out in front of houses to eavesdrop on teen-aged girls.

Rambling along, I appreciated that diversion as much as I appreciated the great big sparkly pick-up truck that completed a remarkable 3-point turn in the middle of the road in order to back into a driveway, with “Great Balls of Fire” playing so loudly that I could sing along, despite the truck’s closed windows.

Before the last chord of the last refrain finished echoing through my mind, I passed the house where the teen-aged boy was arrested. That was a few months ago, but I happened to walk by just as he was escorted to the police car, hands cuffed behind his back, parents shell-shocked on the porch. I’ll forever think of it as “the house where that boy was arrested.”

Turning the corner, heading for home, passing a neighbor who’s almost always out puttering in his yard or working on his boat (this time on the boat), overhearing his exchange with another neighbor’s teen son,

“Now, why would I kill a squirrel? It’s not like you’d eat him.”

“Oh, yes I would!”

And so goes a walk through my neighborhood. It’s a wonder I don’t walk more often!

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How are YOU using Twitter?

A while ago I had a twitter-exchange with someone that ended with his observation that perhaps we are using Twitter in different ways. You see, he’d stopped following me, and although I’ve never met him in person, I felt (and still feel) a little lost without him.

Like an actor on a community theater stage, frozen in the middle of a scene, slack-jawed, lines forgotten as an audience member leaves. Time stopped as I wondered why and resisted the urge to chase after him.

How is it that Twitter brings to mind so many aspects of school yards and cafeterias and gym periods and locker rooms? Fundamentally, we want people to like us. Following me on Twitter is an indication that you like me, and that you’re interested in what I have to share.

The investment in follower-relations is low. I follow you, you follow me. I don’t have to pay more for the service. It seems courteous to follow back, like a handshake or a friendly wave. Relationships can be awkward if one-sided. For the most part, I’m looking for mutual commitment.

When, after we’ve been together for a while, you quietly ease out the back door, I find myself fretting over what I might have said or done to offend you. It’s silly, really; I know that. I don’t expect everyone to like me, and, when all is said and done, I am not sure what I’m looking for in our relationship anyway. But, why did you leave me?

The next time it happened, I asked. I’m not that good with social graces, and I really wanted to know. Talk about awkward! The poor soul was 100% gracious about it and followed me again, blaming an overzealous clean-up of his account.

There are random occasions when Twitter haphazardly unfollows people. I’ve been on both ends of that bug, and it’s no fun either way. But, that anomaly aside, I’m fascinated by the dynamics of social media friendships. Particularly in a realm where people can follow and unfollow me in the span of an unplugged vacation.

In the past weekish, one friend posted a great piece about the interactions of silence, experienced in person but lacking online. Another friend posted on “Five Ways to Make Yourself Interesting Online,” which I found relevant to life, not just the “online” aspects.  Yet another friend tweeted a link to an article on the foibles of social media. It shouldn’t be surprising that my analytical mind kicked into overdrive and I’m forced to crunch on my thoughts and spill them forth so I can get back to work on the million other things I have to do today.

How do I use Twitter?

  1. Communication with my network: Sharing of myself (i.e. “Hey! Here are some interesting thoughts and activities I’m involved in, if you’re interested.”)
  2. Communication with my network: Learning about others (i.e. “… and what are you up to?” caught in snippets, when I’m able to devote a few minutes to a quick scroll through the folks I follow)
  3. Developing friendships: engaging in back-and-forth exchanges of conversation
When I first signed up with Twitter, creating an account under the moniker @YouGottaWonder, I was there solely to communicate with my sisters. First one, then later the other. In between, I began to grow a network based almost exclusively on people I’d met on-line, through the network of blogs I read. Since then, I’ve continued to grow my network, in breadth and depth, just like relationships “in real life.” 

Although in large part I play the follow-me/follow-you game, if I think you’re just a marketer, or you’re responding to something random I tweeted, I don’t follow back. If I do, and after some time you consider me firmly on your hook and you unfollow me, I unfollow you. Quid pro quo. I doubt we’ve developed much depth in our relationship, anyway.

If, by chance, I followed you because of some connection (which turns out to be the case for *most* of the Trifecta and 100 Word writers) and after a few months I realize you’re never going to follow me back, I have to cut the cord. I mean really? You’re all that?

The notable exceptions have broken through Twitter, crossing over into the *other* social media: Facebook, and occasionally e-mail.

It’s a lot like life with just the social, no media. I have plenty of casual acquaintances, particularly through work. At the broadest level are the people I know by sight, but not by name. We smile and nod in passing, and can strike up a conversation in the lunch line, but we don’t really know each other. Then, of course, there are those I’ve spent more time with, and I might ask about the little ones or the latest project efforts.

Closer still are the people of mutual interest and respect. Most of these people are linked via Facebook, so the bridge from Twitter to FB puts people I’ve never met face-to-face in good company. And in that circle, there are always opportunities for greater intimacy and deeper sharing, through other venues (in person or private messaging). These are the people that beckon me, drawing me in, creating a desire for a shared meal, pitcher of beer or pot of coffee. Maybe someday.

There is one other Twitter-group: those I follow simply because they are interesting, or produce content I find relevant. These are not my friends, but they are “all that.” The cool kids. I don’t mind being a follower, if the leadership is worthy.

In the end, I manage my network by choosing who I’ll follow, passing on folks like 革命姑娘, because even though she’s followed by five people that I’m following, she tweets in Chinese and I’m not likely to get much out of it (and I’m tempted to unfollow the five who are following her, because clearly these acquaintances are not too discerning). This is the same way I manage all of my relationships. I don’t consider a face-to-face meeting a requirement for friendship, and Twitter connections are part of my real life.

So, I’d love to know… how are YOU using Twitter?

Posted in angst, exercise, life, Lingering thoughts, Venting, Wants, Wisdom | 3 Comments

The righteous, the wicked and the watchman

There are occasions when progress demands a change in perspective. For some time, I’ve been traveling a rough road, a journey fraught with danger and threats, surprises, elements beyond my control…you get the picture. Working harder, working smarter, not working, it doesn’t seem to matter what I try, I’m stuck in a quagmire of unpleasant circumstances and I can’t break free.

I’ve found comfort in the words of the Psalms;I’m reassured to know I’m not the first to struggle with life’s perils while trying to stay on a righteous path, confronted with wickedness. I’ve prayed for escape, for grace, for forgiveness, for God’s intervention, and yet, I can’t seem to find relief. I’ve made peace with the possibility that I need further refining, in situ. I trust that God’s got a plan and His plan requires me to stay right where I am.

Then, last week, during my morning Bible study, I had a revelation. A revelation only made possible because I was seeking direction, looking for answers, immersed in the Word. I read two passages, from Ezekiel 33 and Romans 13, that came together and created light in the darkness. This week, two more passages came to mind, from Genesis 18 and the story of Jonah.

Here’s how it comes together for me: Back in the day, Abraham negotiated with God for the salvation of the righteous inhabitants of Sodom, for those who deserved life to be spared from the destruction of the wicked. Abraham’s life was not in danger, but his nephew, Lot, a righteous man, lived in Sodom. Upon hearing of God’s plans for eradicating the evil in the neighboring towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham felt compelled to speak up in appeal. Unfortunately, the wicked were unrepentant and the cities were destroyed.

When God called Jonah to tell the people of Nineveh of their pending destruction, due to their pervasive wickedness, Jonah ran away. He went to sea, spent time in the belly of a whale, and eventually, reluctantly, obeyed God’s call. In this instance, the people of Nineveh turned from their evil ways and were spared by God’s compassion.

God puts people into positions of authority, according to His will. We are to respect authority; authority established by God comes with responsibility. God tells Ezekiel of the watchman’s responsibilities: when the watchman is made aware of imminent danger, he must sound the alarm that offers opportunity for salvation. If the watchman gives the alert and people ignore the warning, their fate is their responsibility. If the watchman sees the danger but doesn’t give the alert, he is accountable for their fate.

And for myself? In my current employment situation, I am in a position of authority. In today’s business climate, my team’s performance is critical for our ongoing existence. We must demonstrate our contribution to the corporate bottom line if we are to survive. I am aware of the danger, and have sounded the alarm. I am astounded by the behavior of some members of the team. But, given scriptural accounts, I shouldn’t be surprised. Sometimes people are determined to maintain their wicked ways, despite all warnings.

May God’s will be done. The righteous and the wicked remain in my prayers.

For more thoughts on this, go here.

Posted in angst, Bible, employment, faith, Leadership, ministry, obedience, prayer, Transformation, trust, Wisdom | 1 Comment

Double dutch

The world keeps spinning; my world keeps spinning. It’s all a double-dutch set of ropes spinning in a counter-cadence, impossible, yet possible…you just have to jump into the thick of it and keep moving.

I have a dream, a passion, a life that awaits me, magically, in the cloudy euphoria of Future. Fortunately, my faith keeps me lifted up on a path that (for the most part) is free of muck and mire. I’m not merely waiting, quietly, patiently. I’m moving and prancing on the sidelines. I know I can do this. I trust.

This post? Just my way of saying, “Don’t count me out!”

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Happy Anniversary!

Today marks one month to the day since my last post here. I *started* a post a few ago. The title? “I may have imploded.”

Here are my excuses:

I blame parenthood!

Prom was May 13th. We had a gaggle of teens spend the night. I can’t even remember the details that followed as we shifted from Prom to Graduation.

My youngest graduated on June 3rd. We had a gaggle of relatives spend the weekend. On Tuesday following, I dropped off the last of the guests on my way to work. As much as I enjoyed the company, it was about two weeks before I recovered.

Just in time for Freshman Orientation at Texas Tech, last weekend (June 17-19). In Lubbock. I give props to TTU for a well-executed 48 hour indoctrination to the reality of pending separation, independence, etc. For all parties.

I blame my work situation!

It’s been almost a year since the wheels came off the tracks, derailing what I *thought* was a decent career trajectory.

Dilbert watching over Novel in Progress

That coincided with the group critique of the first 25 pages of my first novel. I put the novel on hold while I rode the roller coaster that follows career unhinging.

Our house flipping efforts have been epic, and that post (those posts) have been long overdue. For a few weeks I spent every spare moment helping Mr. H paint, clean, run errands or do whatever was necessary to get the Lodestone property listed. We’re finally there.

In parallel, I fantasized about life-as-a-writer. I participated in a webinar hosted by A-list blogging and Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing. Danny is both inspirational and helpful. Technically, his engagement should *not* fall under the list of excuses. But, the inspiration was a contributor to the implosion.

And, for the sake of inspiration, creation, and bohemian appreciation, I founded the Humans of Austin page on facebook. Periodic expeditions to downtown Austin (Congress, South Congress and the East UT Campus areas) to capture images of the beautiful people of Austin. This trips are invigorating, and, although taxing, always encourage me.

Last week I signed up for an on-line course in pursuit of my real estate license. Why? Why not. If we’re going to make a serious go of the real estate business (we could be moguls some day!), we can be more profitable if one of us is the agent, and I drew the short straw was the better candidate for continuing education. It seems my BS gives me a leg up, no double entendre intended.

It seems that while I dream of writing, I manage to pursue many other exhausting endeavors that preclude my having the energy or mental capacity to sing a note write a word of coherent thought.

Enough of those lame excuses! Tonight, I squeaked out a post. May it be the first of many (more).

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Book Review: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Occasionally, I stumble across the same message so often that a flashing neon sign, with bells and whistles, couldn’t be more effective in getting the point across. Most recently, I keep slamming into “follow your dream.” A few months ago, Mr. H and I watched The Secret (achieving your goals). A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter visited, and we watched Man of La Mancha (“Dream the Impossible Dream”).

And, I recently read The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, a fable about understanding and pursuing one’s destiny, with the universe firmly conspiring to help. The theme is similar to The Secret and Man of La Mancha, when Destiny calls, you must faithfully go. Although The Secret is New-Agey, and gives too much credit to individual willpower, the starting point is the same. Each individual must discern his destiny, then dare to dream his dream, no matter how impossible it might seem.

The Alchemist is the story of an Andalusian shepherd boy who dreams of traveling to the Pyramids of Egypt to find a treasure. He sells all of his sheep and leaves his life behind, in pursuit of this dream. On his journey, he is joined by an Englishman who dreams of becoming an alchemist, and he is helped by a centuries-old alchemist who dreams of an apprentice.  The tale, as told, is well-founded in Christian principles.

Here are some of my favorite quotes, with links to relevant scripture:

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.” Romans 8 tells of living our lives according to the Spirit, pleasing God. In Luke, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear, and obey, God’s call.”

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” The Spirit intercedes on our behalf.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” If we rely on ourselves, failure is a valid concern. If our goals are aligned with God’s plan for us, such fear is misguided. Jeremiah 17

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” (Proverbs 24:16)

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” One of the most frequent commands in the Bible is “do not fear.” Although it is in our nature to fear, it is a blessing to suffer in our Godly pursuits. We are called to walk humbly with God.

“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” (Matthew 6:21)

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” We are inherently dreamers. Abraham was well over 100 years old when God gave him the son he’d promised.

The message is: identify your calling, your dream, your goal…and the universe will respond. If what you pursue is in obedience to God’s will, then of course you will be able to achieve your goals. To doubt would be foolish. After all, God is, well…God.

The Alchemist is a tale well told; it’s an enchanting parable of a young man, a dream and the obstacles he faced in order to achieve his goals. He heeded the universe, the guidance of God, and the magnetic force of his destiny, overcoming all interference and distractions, such as the love of a woman or the theft of his savings.

Each of us has an obligation to discern God’s will for our own lives, day by day, and to set out to obey, trusting that if it is God’s will, it will be done. We must learn to trust our hearts, to pay attention to the world around us, and to respect that while we search for our dreams, our dreams are searching for us.

I recommend this book to anyone who is ready to face the challenge. What is your destiny? Are you ready to pursue it? Do you dare to achieve it?

Posted in Bible, faith, Fiction, obedience, reading, Review, reward, trust, Wisdom, Writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment