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Showing posts from April, 2009

QQC—God Tells Us What He Will Do

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 41

While Joseph is in Potiphar’s prison, the pharaoh has two dreams. When Joseph is called to interpret them, he said, “God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do.” (41:28)

If God did that for a godless king, how much more is he willing to show us, his children, what he is about to do?
Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7

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Please Pray--Speaking at Women's Retreat

Those of you who pray, would you please pray for me about the coming weekend?

I am speaking at two sessions of a women's retreat, Friday and Saturday, telling my story and talking about focusing on God and listening to him. I don't know the women who will be attending.
Pray for safety on the road for everyone coming and going;
Please pray that God's Spirit will come and rest on all of us there;Pray that God use me and what I say to bless, encourage and challenge my listeners;Pray that I can remain calm despite my pre-session tension;Pray that I won't catch the nasty cold or flu that has kept Tom in bed for a second day (he never misses work). I need to be able to do what I committed myself to do.Thank you very much.

Kayaking Sleuth

I am very proud of my third son, Mikael. Of all my boys, he's the adventurer and, in his mind, the more adventure the better. The things he's done would make most parents want to chain him to the bedpost to keep him safe, but he'd find a way out, somehow.

Before the ice had melted on the many rivers here in Winnipeg, Mikael bought himself a kayak. He got a good deal, which helped, though he made a special order for a PDF (personal floatation device, which, apparently is not quite the same as a lifejacket, though they serve similar functions).

As soon as the PDF arrived, he was itching to go out on the river--despite the current flood conditions. His first attempt was doing laps on a creek to get accustomed to the kayak but his second day took him out on the river itself. Before long, he was out kayaking for about three hours a day--a great workout.

This kayak is going to be a lifesaver for him. He's been battling severe depression all winter, unable to work or d…

QQC—Joseph Statistics

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 41-50

Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites sometime after his seventeenth birthday. (37:2) By the time he was thirty, he was in charge of Egypt. (41:46) Reuben would have been 36 or 37 years old (being no more than six and a half years older than Jacob).

Joseph had told Pharaoh that there would be seven years of good crops, followed by seven years of famine. So when his brothers came to Egypt, Joseph probably would have been 38, supposing his brothers came about one year into the famine. When they came for their second visit, and Joseph revealed himself to them, there were only five more years of famine remaining. (45:6) Jacob was 130 years old (47:9), and Isaac had been dead for ten years.

Joseph had been in charge of Egypt for nine years and sold into slavery no more than thirteen years previously, so Isaac was still living when he was taken from his family. It’s quite possible that he never lived at Mamre, near Hebron (the Bible narrative mak…

QQC—Destruction of Shechem

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 34

When Simeon and Levi defended Dinah’s honour (she had been taken and raped), they killed all the men of Shechem but “carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses.”

Simeon and Levi must have had help. How could they have done this alone, especially given their young ages? Maybe it was from the descendants of the “trained men born in Abraham’s household”? They would have had to have help to carry all the plunder and shepherd all the women and children back to where they were living. Why didn’t the women and children run off? What did Jacob and his sons do with all the women and children? Did these women and children go with them to Egypt? In any case, this addition of people would have greatly increased the size of the household.

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QQC—Jacob Statistics—After Laban

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 33-37

Jacob meets Esau and settles in Shechem. While there, Leah’s daughter, Dinah, is "violated." Outraged, her brothers trick the Shechemites into being circumcised and, while they are all healing, Simeon and Levi, the second and third sons of Leah, attack the city and kill every male. How old were they? How old was Dinah?

From Shechem, they move to Bethel (where Jacob had had his dream and set up a pillar to mark the place) and then to Ephrath (Bethlehem). It is during this second move that Benjamin is born and Rachel dies. There was a substantial age difference between Benjamin and Joseph. From Ephrath, they move beyond Migdal Eder (where Reuben, the eldest son, sleeps with Bilhah, Rachel’s servant who became Jacob’s concubine). When they move to Mamre, near Hebron, Isaac dies. Jacob and Esau were, at this time, 120 years old. (35:29)

All this seemingly took place before Joseph was seventeen. We don’t know that for sure but t…

QQC—Jacob meets Esau

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 32

Jacob had run away from home, presumably with very little. When he leaves Laban and begins the trek home, he not only has large flocks and herds, he has servants:
“He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twent rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He put them in the care OF HIS SERVANTS, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, ‘Go ahead of me and keep some space between the herds.’” 32:13-15 NIVHow did he acquire so many servants in the process of working for Laban?

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QQC—Jacob Statistics--Laban

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 30-33

Esau was raging mad because Jacob not only bought his birthright but stole his blessing as the eldest son. Fearing for his life, Jacob fled to Paddan Aram where Rebekah’s brother, Laban, welcomed him. After Jacob had been there, working for his uncle, Laban, for a month, Laban wanted to know what he could pay Jacob for all his labour. “Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, ‘I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.’” (29:18)

When the seven years were over, there was a wedding feast for Jacob and his new bride but, to his horror, when he woke up the first morning, he discovered he had been given Rachel’s older sister Leah instead. Laban gave the lame excuse that the younger daughter couldn’t marry before the older one (a custom still held in some countries today) and promised to give him Rachel as well at the end of the week-long feast if he will work another seven years. Jacob starts having a whole pile …

Sensing God's Presence

I have loved God since my earliest memories and been aware of his presence many times. There were several years where I wasn’t following God, yet he was there and I recognized his presence.

I have sensed his presence in times of danger: when my hitchhike ride drove past where he was to drop me off, inviting me to prostitution; when my date for the night starting caressing a sharp kitchen knife inches from my throat; when my car died in the middle of the Saskatchewan prairie and I had no idea what to do; when my trailer-pulling car spun out of control on slick ice on a busy, undivided highway.

I have sensed his presence in times of pain: when my best friend at the time turned against me; when I was deciding whether to pursue my love for Pearl or walk away from her; when marital conflicts have arisen.

I have sensed his presence the most, perhaps, when I have been pursuing God—at conferences, retreats, camps, in the midst of prayer or worship, singing or playing the piano, staring at the c…

QQC—The Food of Trickery

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 27

Jacob and Esau were twins, but Esau was the older brother and, as such, was the son with the birthright. In addition to the financial benefits that came with being eldest, there was also the blessing and Isaac was about to bestow that on Esau. Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, overheard his instructions to Esau, asking him to hunt and then prepare a good meal with it so Isaac could bless Esau. (27:2-4)

Wanting Jacob to receive the blessing instead of Esau, she plotted to that end, sending Jacob to the flock for two goats so she could prepare Isaac his favourite meal. She tells him to bring her two goats. This was a meal for one man. Why were two goats needed? Even if they were newly born, one would have been enough. (27:9, 10)

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Hard to Love God

"Why do you think it’s sometimes hard for us to love God?” asks the study guide of a book by Henri Nouwen I've been slowly pondering through. Nouwen makes the following statements:

Power offers an easy substitute for the hard work of love.It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.The temptation of power is greatest when intimacy is a threat. Much Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead.It’s hard to love God because loving him means yielding to him and often we don’t want to yield. We want to make our own decisions, make our own way in life, find our own solutions for our pain. Sometimes it seems like loving God simply increases the pain. As for being god, that is heady stuff. I was god to Pearl and it felt so good, so affirming. When I was with her, all felt good and right. But had I…

QQC—Isaac’s Riches

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 26

We know Abraham must have been a very rich man (13:2) because of all the herds and flocks he had when he and Lot went separate ways (13:5-9—what happened to all Lot’s flocks, herds and servants who tended the animals when he fled from Sodom?) and because when he rescued Lot and the others from Sodom when they’d been carried off by raiding kings, he had 318 trained men born in his household. (14:14)

Abraham had eight sons, and he gave all his sons gifts before sending them “away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.” (25:1-6) Isaac inherited the bulk of Abraham’s estate so Isaac was a rich man in his own right.

Yet, when Isaac went to live in Philistia, under King Abimelech, to avoid famine back home, we are told that he “became rich and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy.” (26:13) Had he discarded all his wealth back in Canaan? I wouldn’t think so. The mind boggles at the contemplation of all he owned.

Further, Jac…

Indulgence vs. Restraint

I made it down here to my prayer room, God. Sometimes it seems a thing too hard to do. I turned my light out last night at 9:30 and slept through, without waking, till 4:00. That’s an awfully early hour to get up but I had had six and a half hours of sleep, so, when I couldn’t get back to sleep (after reading for a bit), I got up, fixed myself some tea and porridge, grabbed a couple coloured eggs out of the fridge and came down here.

I'm wrestling with my eating. Last week I had a juice and water fast. That is, I consumed only liquids and no milk products for six days. I had absolutely no trouble doing so. When Sunday came, and I could eat again, I over did it. It was as if I couldn’t stop, though obviously I could have if I’d chosen.

So what is it that drives that kind of hunger in me, God? I know that chocolate can keep me awake at night and gives me heart burn if I have more than a little, so I was able to stop after three small Lindt Easter eggs. The mini cream puffs, …

The Least of Us

Written with assistance from Nathan Rieger, pastor of Wininipeg Centre Vineyard.

Situated on one of the worst corners in the city, Winnipeg Centre Vineyard has a Good Friday tradition of carrying a heavy cross through the neighbourhood to visit the places around our neighbourhood where some of our people have died of violence in the last year. We remember and tell their stories. Their suffering points us to Jesus' suffering, like a window into His life.

Before we began, Nathan set the stage for us: We are all members, or parts, of one body--Jesus. In a sense, all mankind is connected to each other in a similar way. If one part suffers, the whole body suffers. In the human body, when one part is in difficulty, the whole body knows it and mobilizes to do what it can to bring healing and relief--unless the body has leprousy. Lepers feel no pain so, if a nose, finger or toe is injured, they may not be aware of the infection or wound until it is too late.

As a city and, indeed, as the h…

QQC—Abraham/Isaac Statistics

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 17-26
Sarah was 127 years old when she died. Isaac was 37 years old that year and Abraham was 137. (Genesis 23:1; 17:17, 18; 21:5)Ishmael was 14 years old when Isaac was born. (16:16)Abraham had eight sons in all. The other six were the sons of Abraham’s second wife, Keturah. Their names were Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. (25:1, 2) The Midianites were another nation that oppressed Israel many generations later.Abraham was 175 years old when he died. (25:7) Isaac would have been 75 years old and Ishmael 89.Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah. (25:20)Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob and Esau were born. (That means that he and Rebekah were married for 20 years before they had any children. That’s a long time!) Since Isaac was 75 years old when Abraham died, Jacob and Esau would have been 15. Did they know their grandfather Abraham?Esau was 40 years old when he married two Hittite women. Isaac would have been…

Good Friday Worship Watch

On the night of Good Friday, my church had a twelve hour worship watch. Six bands would divide the time between them so there would be music by which to worship the entire time. One corner of the room was draped with chiffon as a special place to sit, kneel, stand or lie on the floor to soak in God’s presence. In the centre, chairs were set in rows, but most of the sanctuary was clear floor space. Everyone was welcome to worship and pray before God in the manner they preferred.

A large roll of paper was stretched out on the floor with paints, crayons, markers and pens. One woman lay on the floor as she painted. Another knelt. Children in pajamas, nightgowns and housecoats, who were staying the night, sat cross-legged in a circle near a teacher leaning against a pillar, drawing and colouring.

Near the sound booth, a couple had created a nest for themselves with sleeping bags and pillows, worshipping and praying. Other sleeping bags were stowed to be opened when needed.

One man pra…

QQC—The Boy, Ishmael

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 21

Ishmael was 14 years old when Isaac was born, so he must have been somewhere between 15 and 17 when Isaac was weaned. On that day, Abraham held a great feast to celebrate the weaning of his son and Sarah became jealous of Ishmael’s status as eldest son. “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10 NIV)

Abraham was naturally distressed—Ishmael was his son, after all—but God confirmed Sarah’s wish to get rid of Hagar and her son so Abraham gave them some food and water and sent them away.

What’s curious to me is that if Ishmael is somewhere between 15 and 17 years old, he would have been a strong young man, yet he is repeatedly referred to as a boy and it is his mother who carries the food and water, not him.
“When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for sh…

Does my Offender Replace God?

A friend shared the gist of the sermon at her church a couple of weeks ago: “Have you allowed someone or even a church full of folks who have hurt or deeply offended you to replace God?” I’d never thought about it like this but if I spend all my time thinking about such a person and how she/he hurt me, have I not pushed my meditation, praise and worship of God to the side in favour of the offense and offender?

God, let me not be guilty of this!

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea: On Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Timeby Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Greg Mortenson is an avid mountain climber who works night shifts as Emergency Ward nurse, living out of his car and storage locker to save all the money he can for climbing. Coming down from an aborted trip to the peak of K2, Mortenson becomes separated from the rest of his group and finds himself in an isolated village who take care of him and help him reconnect with his porter. When he sees the village children sitting outside in the cold wind, trying to school themselves with no teacher, he promises to build them a school.

The story is of his undaunting efforts to keep that promise and to go beyond, building schools for and gaining trust from the people of one of the most isolated and difficult regions of the world--above the treeline in the mountains straddling the Pakistan/Afghanistan border--even after 9/11. Three Cups of Tea is full of danger and adventure. Af…

Maus: A Survivor's Tale

Maus: A Survivor's Tale a graphic story by Art Spiegelman

Spiegelman makes a number of visits to his elderly, cantankerous father to hear the older man's story of how he survived Auschwitz and World War II. Written in comic format, Spiegelman (both author and artist) tells his story of trying to learn his father's story amidst the father's daily life so that both stories are intertwined into one. It is easy to see how the father's current, penny-pinching ways, which so embarass his son and wife, are the continuation of those behaviours and attitudes that enabled him to survive the Nazis.

What's unique about the boxed set of two books is that each pane gives the reader visual information in addition to the text--something useful for readers who are unfamiliar with that time period. I like how he depicts the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats. Other ethnic groups are depicted as different animals. When the Jews are trying to hide their identity, the drawings show t…

"Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay

Ten-year-old Sarah's family is wakened in the early morning by the French police rounding up Jews on behalf of the Nazi occupiers. Thinking they'll be gone only a few hours, she manages to hide her four-year-old brother in a hidden, locked cupboard with promises that she'll return soon.

Julia is an American journalist living in Paris. She, her husband and daughter move into a new apartment around the same time she is given the task of writing about a scandalous event sixty years before that few are willing to talk about. Her research leads her to Sarah's story and a passion that goes beyond her journalistic assignment.

It's a gripping story that shows the horrors of the holocaust, what the victims endured and one twenty-first century woman's attempt to find resolution.

Return to Fiction Read in 2009

The Ungodly Knew it was Sin

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 20

Two times, while travelling, Abraham tried to pass off his wife Sarah as his sister. What I find interesting is that at least the second time, he and Sarah would have been old. Ishmael was already born and God had promised that the son of the promise would be born in the coming year. Sarah would have been close to ninety years old and still Abraham was worried that Abimelech, the king of where they were staying, would want her for his wife and kill Abraham to get her. She must have been a beauty, even at that age!

Abimelech did want Sarah and brought her into his harem. One question is, why in the world did Abraham allow this to happen? Was Sarah so unimportant to him that he didn’t fight for her?

What surprises me, though, is that when Abimelech realizes that Sarah is a married woman, he is horrified and chastises Abraham severely:
“What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingd…

The Secret Life of Bees

I have always enjoyed the writings of Sue Monk Kidd, so when I saw The Secret Life of Bees, I was eager to add it to my collection of books to read. I first discovered Sue Monk Kidd in the Guidepost magazines we used to subscribe to and came to highly respect her after reading When the Heart Waits. She’s an excellent writer and I began crying on the first few pages of Bees, continuing as I read it non-stop in one afternoon.

The story is of a fourteen-year-old white girl whose mother died when she was little, whose peach-farming father was harsh, cruel and abusive and who was raised by a black nanny living nearby. The year is 1964 in the American South, the summer blacks were granted to right to vote and racist bullies tried to stop them.

When her nanny is jailed and beaten for insulting three white men, Lily hatches a plan that springs them both from their imprisonment and sets them on a journey to discover what they can about Lily’s mom. When they arrive at the home of three black,…

Henri Nouwen--The Diary of his Final Year

While Tom and I were on vacation, I finished reading Henri Nouwen’s posthumously-written book, Sabbatical Journey: The Diary of his Final Year. I very much enjoy his writing so it was a pleasure to see closer inside the man.

One thing that surprised me was the amount of travelling he did in the span of one year and I wonder how he afforded it. I thought Catholic priests took vows of poverty. Did the church pay for his trips? Was he allowed to keep the income from his writing and he used that? He was constantly flying—twice to Holland, several times back to Toronto where his Daybreak community was, across the continent to visit a friend, to another state to marry friends, trips to speak with his editors, publisher and people who had the wherewithal to give him guidance in one form or another.

I don’t agree with all his theology. Several times he mentions praying to a particular saint, for example, and even to a recently deceased friend, and that bothers me, but I choose to focus on…

How Much Do I Sacrifice?

Back in the middle of March I came across a USA Today news article entitled, “Justice Thomas: Americans Don't Sacrifice as Much.” Thomas is a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who is concerned about how self-indulgent Americans have become.

I’m not American but his words spoke to me. Today’s self-indulgence knows few boundaries and we in Canada are guilty as well. I like my little indulgences and I don’t think Justice Thomas would suggest ending them all, but am I as concerned about others as I am about myself? Am I willing to give up what I want to serve another?

In a recent conversation with someone who read my book, Searching for Love: One Woman’s Spiritual Journey through Same-Sex Attraction, I was asked why I was willing to go through so much pain. Why not grab hold of that for which my heart longed and enjoy some happiness? The answer I should have given didn’t come to me until later: We need to live for something higher than our own well-being and happiness.

I believe this is w…

QQC—Blessed Incest?

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 19

Abraham had tried to save the city of Sodom from being destroyed, for Lot’s sake, but there simply weren’t enough righteous people in the city to meet the deal he had struck with the Lord. Lot, his wife and their two daughters were escorted out of Sodom just before the city went up in flames. Lot’s wife turned into pillar of salt, but Lot and his two daughters eventually wound up settling in a mountain cave.

They must have been far from any population, because the girls realized they would never marry and have kids so, for two nights in a row, they got their father drunk and “laid with him,” one daughter each night. The daughters each conceived and gave birth to a son—Moab and Ben-Ammi the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites.

I have several questions about this. If Lot was too drunk to know he was having sex with one of his daughters, how in the world was he ABLE to have sex with his daughters? Further, why did God honour this incest by al…

One Disabled Woman’s Ministry

She types with a mouth stick and requires attendants for nearly all she does—a woman whose heart was crushed when a man she loved told her he “struggled with homosexual tendencies” and walked away. She carried the hurt a long time, telling no one because she feared people’s reactions if they learned this severely handicapped woman had fallen for a homosexual. Surely she must be some sort of sexual deviant.

When she overheard Lori Thorkelson, of Love in Action, a Christian ministry to those who don’t want to be homosexual, confessing to someone that she had been engaged to a man who struggled with homosexuality, DebbieLynne found the courage to confide in her. This led to a special connection with Love in Action where she “saw unexpected similarities between [her] disability and homosexuality.” After several years of association with LIA, she became a correspondence counsellor with the organization—this before computers were common and she required an attendant to feed each sheet of pap…

Quotes from Promise Keepers

Monday, March 30

Tom and I are in the Whiteshell at Pinewood Lodge. He's painting at the kitchen table and I'm sitting with him, reading and writing. I opened all the blogs I follow before we left because there is no internet connection here and I've started to read them with an eye to writing comments I can post when we return home.

When I read Tom's most recent blog post called "Too Proud to ask for Direction," I found a couple of statements I really like. He quotes Nate Larkin, speaker at the recent Promise Keepers in Winnipeg as saying:
"I wanted a private solution to my private problem. No! It didn’t work until I gathered the guts to confess them to others and invited them to hold me accountable.”This "guts to others" and making oneself accountable to them is the solution. Until then, it is far too easy for us to rationalize our sin, conclude that it's not that bad or give up thinking change is impossible--exactly what I …

QQC--Slow Cooking

Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 18

A number of years after the birth of Ishmael, Abraham received three visitors—visitors who came to confirm the promise of a son to Abraham through Sarah and to warn of the impending destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah and several other towns. As was common at that time and in that place, Abraham offered them a meal. In our age, with all the conveniences we have, most homes can put together some sort of meal in about an hour but look at what Abraham ordered for their meal:

“So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and kneed it and bake some bread.

“Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them.” Genesis 18:6-8a NIV

Have you ever thought of the time it would take to prepare all this? Three seahs of flour is about 20 quarts (22 litres). T…

Pinewood Lodge--Day Two--Unite us Lord!

Tuesday, March 31, 7:50 a.m.

Good morning, God! I slept well, for a good nine hours. It feels nice. Tom’s still sleeping and will probably sleep till noon so I have a nice chunk of time to spend alone with you.

Thank you for the beauty of this place and for the simplicity of living here. There are no demands on time, we can do what we want and don’t even have to clean. I didn’t need a nap yesterday, either. I wanted one, I was so tired, but I made it through. I need to find a way to make it through today’s tired hours. Being aware that I am tired in the late afternoon will help me to push through that tiredness so I can go to bed at a decent hour and get a good, solid sleep at night.

Please knit Tom and I together, closer and closer. Take down the barriers we’ve built between us, God, and unite us as one. May our marriage become a song of praise to you for all who know us. May we both draw closer to you as well, God. I want to be in tune with both you and Tom and Tom with me…

Pinewood Lodge--Day One

Monday, March 30, 9:14 a.m.

It’s a beautiful morning, our first here. The sun is bright, the sky is clear, the trees are whitened with hoar frost. Tom is still sleeping but I don’t want to sleep my day away. There are lots of trails on the frozen lake—footprints, ski and snowmobile (I’m presuming). I have water boiling for tea and porridge cooking on the stove.

Last night it was almost too warm in here to sleep (we’re in the loft with the king-sized bed) but at some point it became cold and I snuggled under the blankets. Tom must have found it too cold because when I got up, the gas fireplace had been turned back on. The hand-sewn quilt on the bed is gorgeous. Made in China, I’m guessing, because it has the same sort of embroidery with ribbons that a friend has on her shower curtain. I wonder if those who did the work got paid enough. It’s a very great blessing to be able to buy such beauty for so cheap.

So far our time together has been good, despite how angry I was Saturday ni…