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Archive for the tag “death”

Frame Without a Photograph

A few weeks ago when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and it was pretty clear that I would soon have to live without her daily phone calls, I told Mimi that I felt like a frame without a photograph.

Then, after mum had passed on Easter, I was putting together a photo collage for the viewing and there was one picture that mum absolutely loved. It was a picture of her and pap on a cruise. I pulled that picture out of the frame to make it the centerpiece of the collage.

Mum a legacy

And then it hit me, in front of me was a frame without a photograph.

I started to cry, realizing that my words had come true. Was that to be the future? A frame without a photograph? Would that be how each of us will feel as time goes on?

I decided to press onward and get the collage together.

As I put the collage together, I realized that the picture had to come out of the frame; not because of making space for new memories, but because the frame was now too small.

As the collage started to come together piece by piece, picture by picture, the full screenshot of mum became more evident.

Mum burst out of the frame and became a much larger word than picture.

She became a legacy.

If you will allow me to, I would like to go section by section and give to you a little bit of the legacy of my mum.

Mum Younger years

In the upper left corner is mum as a young woman. She was beautiful. We see her high school yearbook picture, graduation photo, and blocked by glare, we see her at the place she loved the most, the bowling alley.

Mum loved bowling and she was really good! She taught me how to bowl. I used to bowl in leagues and she would come to every game. After each game she would give me tips on becoming better. It wasn’t unheard of for her to bowl well into the 200s.

Mum and Pap

Moving into the lower left corner of the collage, we find the history of mum and pap. There are a couple different wedding photos. She is in her original wedding dress in one of the photos. On the far right of this section is when mum and pap reaffirmed their vows. Then there are other photos. We see a pic of pap smoking his pipe, holding on to mum. We see them dancing. We see them at the Westinghouse/Northrop Grumman retirement dinner when my dad retired with over 30 years of service to the same company. They had a picture of them taken that night.

Mum loved pap. A few days before she died, we were talking on the phone and she said that she doesn’t know how she ended up with the best man in the world. You see, mum had a tough past. She was married before my dad. It was a physically abusive relationship that led her to take my brother in the middle of night and hop a bus away. Then she found my dad.

The way my dad explained it to me last night was that she was managing the bowling alley. He would go in there with the guys and bowl on league night. After time, they started talking and hit it off.  They would meet up before league night and bowl a few games together. She would always win. Not because my dad would let her, but because she was crazy good! He would bowl in the mid 100s and she would bowl in the low to mid 200s.

Then it happened.

He won a game.

So, right before the league night started, she got on the loudspeaker and proclaimed over the entire bowling alley that “If Fred Noble’s team wins tonight, he will wear a skirt.” Well, that was it, every team tried their hardest to lose.

After dad told me that story, I realized just how much he loved my mom. In a couple days would have been their 52nd wedding anniversary. As he and I sat and reminisced about mum last night, he would spend almost the entire time smiling.

He was remembering all the good times.

Not once since the death of my mom have I seen him without a smile.

He knows he was a very lucky man. He had an amazing wife.

Mum and gramma

In the upper center of the collage is two of mom’s favorite things: her mother and her jobs. My mom had an amazing mother, which is probably where she learned her skills to be an amazing mom. I know for a fact it is where she learned to be an amazing cook and baker!

When my grandma, her mom, was diagnosed with cancer, she came to live with my parents who took care of her along with hospice. One of the really cool things about that is that the same hospice nurse that took care of my mom’s mom is the same one who took care of my mom. Over 20 years ago, a fairly new hospice nurse named Michelle came to the house to take care of grandma. She was there until the end. My mom would rave about how great she did.

20 some years later, that same nurse walked in the door of my mom’s house. My dad explained it as “an old homecoming.” He said they held on to each other for what seemed like forever and just cried until they could cry no more.

Then there are pictures of her at work. When I was in school, she would work in the cafeteria. Not only was I not really the smartest kid out there (2.2 GPA in high school and 2.6 GPA in college, thankfully I got a 3.5 in seminary), but I was also a little trickster. I liked to have fun. My mom worked in every school so she could keep an eye on me.

Honestly, it didn’t work that well. I still was a trickster.

When I graduated high school, I told my mom that she was not allowed to work at the college that I was attending.

Mum fun

Moving into the upper right of the collage there are a lot of pictures of mum having fun, usually with someone else.

You see, mum loved people more than she loved herself. She always treated others better than herself and lived a servant’s life. But she knew how to cut loose from time to time.

She absolutely loved to go to Ocean City, Maryland. It was her absolute happy place. I can understand why it is probably one of my favorite places in the world as well. Every year we would go down and stay at the Santa Maria, which I don’t believe exists anymore. She would never go down in the summer. She always said it was too crowded. Her favorite time, and mine as well, is early October. She and pap would sit on the deck of the hotel and just watch people.

That was her favorite pastime. She loved people-watching.

She said she would make up stories in her mind as to what those people were doing and why they were doing it. I really think it is because of her that I get my creativity.

I know the picture doesn’t do it justice, but in the top right of the above picture my mom has my dad on a dog leash. I really have no clue what is going on here. If anyone has the story to that, please share. My dad seems clueless (perhaps intentionally) about it.

Then there is the picture of my two kids with them when they were young. My mom loved both Matt and Kenzi. When Kenzi was born, she was the daughter that my mom never had. The first few years of her life, Kenzi spent a lot of time with mum and they bonded tightly. Those two were inseparable.

When Matt came along, even through all of the problems that Matt has had with being lovable, mum never gave up on him. Matt was always the strong-willed and stubborn child. If it wasn’t his way, he would shut you out. He still does to this day. But mum never gave up on him. She continued to love him and pray for him to turn around and have his heart feel again. She always knew how to make him smile, even when he didn’t want to.

Mu and family

The final corner shows what mum loved best, family. On her birthday, April 1st, this year she cooked a full dinner for us even though she was in intense pain. She would have it no other way. She told us it was the last meal she would ever make us, as if she knew.

She loved having everyone around the table.

And she absolutely loved the big family we had become. As a divorced dad with 2 kids of my own and adding a wife and 2 other full time kids and 2 other grown kids to the mix, she loved being able to love on people again. She loved being surrounded by those she loved. She loved my dad, me, my wife Mimi, Ryan, Matthew, Kenzi and Jacob.

Right before the viewing, my dad met with each person in the family individually to tell them words that mum wanted told to them. I have no clue what was said to each person. I just know what was said to me.

And it fills my heart to know it.

Mum collage

So now we are back to the original photo that got me thinking about this. My mom’s favorite picture.

But notice something, it is not a frame without a photograph. It is a photograph without a frame. The picture is framed by other pictures. And each of those pictures are framed by others. And all those photos together are framed by memories that we have of mum.

And what that leaves us is not a single snapshot of a person who died of cancer, it leaves us a description of the legacy of great woman. A woman who deserves to be celebrated and called blessed.

#TheGraveIsEmpty

I am writing this on Easter evening, or, as Christians like to call it, Resurrection Sunday.

Today we had a plan in place. I planned on waking up, going to a sunrise service of a new church in my area and then gathering the entire family together and heading up to PA to spend the day with my parents. If you read a previous blog post of mine, you will know that my mom has stage IV cancer and we don’t really have a lot of time with her.

Well, this morning the call came.

“Fred, get up here. Leave the kids home, come to PA. Your mom doesn’t have long left.”

My heart sank. I immediately changed all the plans and started driving north.

The plan was to move her to a hospice facility where she could finish up her final hours without pain. She was breathing very shallow and, in between each breath, was moaning in pain. When I got here, I was told by my dad that the ambulance to transport her was about an hour out.

I sat down at mum’s bedside and prayed with her. I told her to simply let God have control and stop trying to take that control away from Him. Let Him heal her, whether that be through a miraculous healing of the cancer or through ending her pain through taking her home.

I went to the place we were ordering Easter meal from to pay for it and have them donate it to a local church. After I returned I went back in to check on mum. I told her I loved her.

When I walked in the door I heard the moaning and breaths, but a few moments after walking out of the room, I didn’t hear it anymore. I asked pap and he said that she occasionally does that. This time I went back in and noticed her eyes partially opened. She wasn’t breathing.

I called to pap and he checked her. We were pretty sure she had gone home to her Creator.

We called the hospice nurse. She cancelled the ambulance and came right over and pronounced her dead at 11:45 AM.

My mom knew. She didn’t want to end her days in the hospice facility. She told us that a few weeks ago when she was in the hospital. She wanted to end her days surrounded by me and pap in her own home.

And that is how she died.

The rest of the day has been a blur. We spent time with the funeral home getting her moved and planning the viewing. We went to eat a local diner that was open today (that was such a blessing!). Then back home to go through all the old pictures and reminisce about mum and how much she meant to us.

We are having a viewing on Wednesday and then immediate cremation.

Why no funeral?

Because the grave is empty!

When mum passed through the wildwood into the place where dreams come true, she ceased to be mum and simply became a body. The essence of mum is found in the Spirit that inhabited her.

Mum loved God and people. She had a servant’s heart. As a matter of fact, she had the Servant’s heart. She had the heart of God.

So now it is Easter eve. Pap finally fell asleep. The house is quiet. The only noise I hear is the droning of the ceiling fan above and the tapping of the keys on my keyboard.

I am sitting her thanking God for taking her so quickly so she didn’t suffer too long. I am thanking Him for the opportunity to tell her I loved her before she passed from somewhere into elsewhere.

The truth about Easter is just what happened today.

The grave is empty.

Mum will not be in a grave because there is no reason for it.

Christ burst from the grave. He proclaimed to the world His return.

He gave the disciples a mission to accomplish.

Jesus’ final 40 days on earth, after exiting the grave, dealt with sharing the Kingdom of God with everyone.

There is a reason to celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Just like there is a reason to celebrate my mum’s life with my pap through the old pictures.

The reason is simple.

Power.

The power of the Holy Spirit is freely given after bursting from the grave. The power for my mum to live on through my actions and words is amplified after her death. How much more will I look at how I deal with people after seeing my mom live it.

How much more do I want to proclaim the Kingdom of God now that Christ has given us this mandate after leaving the grave.

So, what will I proclaim on the day after Easter?

I will proclaim the Servant’s heart of my mom. She embedded that in me through her gracious living. And I will take that lesson and translate it to my Christian theology and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God places Jesus on the throne. Entrance to the kingdom requires new birth (John 3:5), repentance (Matthew 3:2), and the divine call (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Jesus calls us to seek the Kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33) and pray for it to come (Matthew 6:10). It is joy in the Holy Spirit, righteousness, and peace (Romans 14:7).

So again, I sit here in the quiet of the night.

Thinking about how to live out my mom’s servant heart and how to proclaim the Kingdom of God through all I do.

Tomorrow is a new day. A new day to celebrate the two people I love dearly who have burst from the grave, Jesus and my mom.

Yesterday is Taking Over

This weekend I was able to enjoy some time with my family, including my mom and dad. It was her birthday weekend.

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A little back story here, my mom, a couple weeks ago, was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. She had been fine up until about a month ago and then she went into the hospital because she was filling with fluid.  The doctors in the ER said that she was in the early stages of cirrhosis and not to worry about it but that they would send the fluid off to be tested.

The a few weeks ago she went back into the hospital because more fluid had collected and she got a call to go into the hospital.

The doctor came in and told her it was cancerous.

They did more testing.

After the testing they told her the cancer had spread throughout her body and was in her bones, her liver, her pancreas, her stomach, and other places. It was too much to operate and they gave her 3-6 months to live. We called in hospice, cancelled further testing, and went home.

That was a tough day. Very long as well. We would cry when we were awake and sleep when we could.

But this weekend was about celebrating, not regretting.

Mimi, myself, and the four kids packed into the car and headed north to her house. Along the way, we stopped at Cold Stone Creamery to get an impromptu ice cream cake (which was yummy, by the way!)

Mum decided that she wanted to make dinner for all of, thinking it might be the last time she could do it. She made ham, corn, mashed potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, steamed shrimp, macaroni and cheese, and multiple desserts that she made herself like butterscotch pie and pumpkin pie.

During it all she was in pain, but she hid it fairly well. She wanted to do this labor of love for those she loves and love her.

IMG_20170401_133808

After dinner we sat down to talk about the stories from the past and give her gifts. Mum was in tears because she knows this will probably be her final birthday. My kids got her a framed picture of themselves taken a month ago. Mimi and the boys wrote mum letters thanking her for all the love they have brought into their lives. And then we got her a Precious Moments piece for her mantle.

IMG_20170401_143546

Then mum brought out the tears.

She wanted to give up some of her jewelry to my kids. She has been promising them that they would receive these and she wanted to make sure they had them in case something happened and she wasn’t able to see them anymore. (typing that just brought a lump in my throat)

We ended the day by taking some pictures with mum.

We left early because she was in a lot of pain and very tired. She took some of her morphine and headed to bed for the night and we started down the road toward home.

I got misty a couple of times and had to excuse myself after she gave out her jewelry because I was in tears.

I love my mom. She is, and always has been, such a blessing to me. She lives a Proverbs 31 life. She loves anyone and everyone.

IMG_20170322_152257

She has been blessed.

And knowing some of her back story about being abused by her first husband, growing up in poverty just after the Great Depression, and having a tough time by watching her own mom die in her arms with the same Hospice nurse who is taking care of my mom makes it even more clear just how blessed she truly is.

And what do blessed people do?

They spend their lives blessing others.

And she has been a blessing to countless people in this life.

So we don’t know how long mum has to live. God only knows that. We will just take it one milestone at a time:

  • Easter on 4/16
  • Her 52nd Anniversary on 4/23
  • And any other milestones afterward

If she passes before then, she will truly be home and even more blessed than she is now.

So here’s to you, mum. Happy 83rd birthday. I love you. I am a lot like you.

And for that, I am thankful.

Bad Things Don’t Always Happen in Threes

Job 1:6 – One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.

You’ve heard the phrase.

“Bad things come in threes.”

Well I am here to tell you that is crap.

The history of that phrase holds origins in Christianity, but a perverted and twisted sense of it. When I researched the origin of the phrase it was that if someone upset the Trinity, then the Father, Son and Spirit would take their revenge on you, thus bringing you bad tidings three separate times.

There is also a war analogy that was used by British soldiers during the Crimean War. In order to save matches, the soldiers would light as many cigarettes with a single match. Part of their training manual said to not light 3 cigarettes with a single match because it would give a sniper time to locate the position of the light and the third man would be killed. After time, it was found out that the creator of the matches they used spread that information to the command of the British troops so that he could sell them more matches.

But I am going to tell you that bad things DEFINITELY can come in more than threes.

This has been a very tough 4 months. Really a tough year. It started with me getting back surgery in May of last year. I needed a second back surgery in December. Then we had troubles with pets. Our diabetic, 15-year-old cat was given too much insulin by accident. Then our dog decided to eat a bag of coffee beans. Then Mimi’s car needed almost $4,000 in repairs. Then my mom went into the hospital. Then the sump pump stopped working and started filling the crawl space with water. And then yesterday, my mom went back into the hospital again, this time she is told she has cancer.

Job 1:21 – And said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

I write this as I sit at the hospital, eating cafeteria food, and thinking about my mom’s life.

By my count, we are now up to 8 pretty big things that have come our way. Seven of those items were in the past 3 months alone! (maybe bad things come in a period of three months?)

So I have come to realize that superstitions are crap.

So instead of superstitions, where should we look?

No matter what after all of this turmoil, it has an effect on people. I have noticed a pretty big effect on myself. I can no longer look at people and give the church morning answer:

Person: How are you brother?

Me: Blessed like the rest brother!

Person: Amen!

I can’t be fake happy anymore.

I find solace in the Bible.

Specifically the book of Job. But not for the reason you might think.

I know everyone says that they read the book of Job and it fills them with comfort. But it shouldn’t.

Job 1:20 – At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.

Job shows how tragedies in our lives change us permanently.

Here is the timeline:

  • Job had it all. Tens of thousands of animals, a large family, a lot of servants. He lost them all at once.
  • This caused Job to fall to his knees in worship to God.
  • After that, Job got sores all over his body.
  • Job praised God.
  • Job is visited by potentially well-meaning friends.
  • He said that even though he is blameless, he hates his life. (Job 9:21-22)
  • Even though he hated his life, he understood that God was still on the throne and in control (Job 12:13-14)
  • Job feels broken by what his friends said about him.
  • God has a discussion with Job. In the end of this conversation, Job understands that there are things in this world that are greater than Job and he would never understand them.
  • Job’s family came to his aid and he ended up with more than he lost before.

But one thing is interesting in chapter 6: Job asks God to kill him.

Job was broken.

He reached such a low point that he asked for death.

Now, just so you know I have known that feeling before. When I got divorced I went through a time where I believed that life would be better if I weren’t in it.

But then I had my “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment and came to grips as to what life would look like without Fred in it.

So today, I sit here numb. I’ve cried some. I’ve felt anger. I’ve even laughed a little.

But, in the end, numb.

The book of Job doesn’t tell us about the emotional impact that his trial had on his life. The last verse says, “And Job died, an old man, and full of days.” I take that to mean that he lived his life and enjoyed it. But still there is nothing there about how this trial affected him.

Job 28:28 – And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord – the is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

I am definitely not as focused on God as Job was. But I know how much these minor (in relation to Job’s afflictions) inconveniences have affected me.

It takes everything I can do just to not be cynical.

Pain is part of this life. If you don’t believe me, read the Psalms.  I believe there is a reason Proverbs comes after Psalms. The Psalms show God’s glory in the pain of this world. The Proverbs give us wisdom, most likely acquired through years of pain.

I know that when this season is over, the wisdom that will be gained, if I can stay true to God’s Word, will be used to help others going through adversity.

In the meantime, I feel numb.

In the meantime, don’t expect me to give you too many nice answers.

In the meantime, even if I make you so angry that you want to punch me, just flash me a smile.

This is a season that everyone goes through. It isn’t easy, but it is part of this broken world.

But even though this world is broken, God is still sovereign. He is on the throne. And one day soon, and even sooner for my mom, there will be no pain, no disease, no tears of sadness, no cancer, no bitterness, and no one but God.

And for that, I will wait.

Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Change of Plans

Psalm 90:12 – So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

This week I turned 45.

I planned on sharing tidbits about what I have learned over the course of 45 years. It had all the ear-markings of my shortest post ever.

But then reality hit home and I was reminded on one thing that I have learned…we all have a change of plans.

As a single guy (for the next 36 days), my birthday started as pretty much any other single guy’s birthday. You wake up.

But I was reminded of something today.

A good friend of mine didn’t wake up. At least not in the human sense of the word.

A good friend of mine, and an elder in the church I attend, went home to be with the Lord a few days ago.

Tonight, I attended his viewing. Tomorrow I will attend his funeral.

I haven’t known him for too long, maybe a couple years at most. But Eric had a vibrancy to him and a calm demeanor that was infectious. He was quick with a smile and filled with wise words.I am blessed to be able to call him friend.

But tonight as I was entering the church and everyone I knew was wishing me happy birthday, I was reminded that we don’t have an eternity to make the choice.

If you believe much of humanity, you believe that there is no afterlife, and, that once you are in the dirt, that is the end of you.

Matthew 25:46 – And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

To me, that simplifies life way too much when I know that there must be a billion things that go right in our universe every day just so you can take your next breath. There must be something more.

This week is a great example of that.

I don’t believe in coincidences. And this week was filled with what the world would call coincidences.

At the beginning of the week, I was blessed by my church to be able to attend a conference for pastors and church and leaders. In it, there were back to back presentations on the eternal aspect of our lives.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The first presentation, by Charles Nieman, explained something that I knew from studying my Bible, but never really grasped until he discussed it in further detail. He explained that this life is simply a continuation of the John 3:16 life. We think of death here in terms of ending and eternal life in terms of beginning. But that isn’t it at all. This life is simply part of the greater whole. Death is not the end of this life or the beginning of the next. It is, if can be so crass to use worldly terms here, the evolution of man into the eternal. It is our next step in our humanity. Not the end of it. Not the beginning of something else. It is the continuation of it.

Jeremiah 1:5 – Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations

Jesus knew us before we were even born. This means we existed even before we were in the womb. This short life here is simply part of the greater plan.

The next presentation was by a man named Dale A. O’Shields. He shared a visual that showed the three aspects of our humanity: Spirit, Soul and Body. The spirit is that inner core of your being that is sensitive to God. This is what we humans like to call our conscience. The body is the physical shell that covers the soul.

It is the soul that defines us. This is made up of our mind, our will, and our emotions.

When put together with the first presentation, the eternality of the soul (past, present, and future) combined with the second presentation, the definition of the soul (as what defines our character), shows us a more complete picture of this humanity.

Fast forward to Wednesday when I learned that an outreach we did through the young adult group I help lead touched the lives of 500-600 people over a 4-day period. Those were souls, at very similar points in their eternal timelines, who were provided physical needs in order to have their souls refreshed. And hopefully it will reap spiritual rewards in their lives.

And then today happened, where I was able to see my friend one final time. Where I learned that this beautiful man of God had finished his race strong and was simply moving on to the next stage in eternity.

2 Corinthians 5:1 – For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

But it put my past 45 years in perspective. What would have happened if I would not have waited until I was almost 40 to surrender complete control of my life to God? How many more souls could have been affected? What would it look like to Christ if my eternal pace was quickened 20 years ago and not 5.

None of us know what kind of time we have left on this planet in this physical form but one thing is for sure: we need to spend our time trying to figure it out.

That is called discipleship.

If you are not a Christian, I would like to urge you to reach out to me at fnoble777@gmail.com. If you are a Christian but feel weighed down by the world and don’t know what your next step should be to get closer to God, use that same email address. I would like to speak with you.

As long as you take that first step, Christ will run toward you the rest of the way.

1 John 3:18 – Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

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