Show VS Tell – A New Light

Life and Happiness, Religion

As part of my new year’s goals, I’ve been working hard to incorporate exercise and God into my every day life. As a result, I’ve started using podcasts on my daily walks to keep me motivated. Not only am I exploring new and exciting ideas through the podcasts – many of them Christian-based – it’s also helping me keep up my walking routine.

The other day I began listening to a new podcast, “Exploring My Strange Bible.” This is Tim Mackie’s personal podcast (he created The Bible Project). The podcast focused that day on Hebrews and was labeled, “An Invitation to Rest”. To be honest, I think it’s been mislabeled. I don’t remember much about resting within this podcast.

However, Tim did speak about how our actions often do not align with our words. All too often, what we SAY we believe and what we actually believe are separate things. They may be CLOSE, but not exactly the same. (Check out his podcast for the full story and a great illustration.)

During the sermon, Tim said, “My actions betray my faith.” I was so floored by this statement. I realized that my actions often betray my faith, but not in good ways. You see, your actions could betray your faith in a good way, like you often feed the homeless or you drive a person somewhere because they don’t have a car or you donate half your salary to a deserving organization. But, my actions, especially in the last few months of last year, were not betraying my faith in a positive light. I was getting angry about a lot of things. I lashed out at my husband and some friends. I sheltered myself away from people simply because they were ticking me off with every single thing they did or said.

Sad. I know.

Instead of being the Christian I believe we should be – one that is forgiving, merciful and loving – I was being the opposite. I kind of see it as a little temper tantrum now. And I can blame all sorts of things for it, but it’s really no use now. Now, I’m simply trying to learn from it.

As Tim talked on through his sermon, I realized this concept was a lot like the writing concept of “Show VS Tell.” If you’re a writer, you know what I mean. It’s important, as a writer, to show your audience what you mean through descriptive words rather than simply telling them what you mean. Here’s an example:

TELLING: Tom was tired.

SHOWING: Tom felt his head drop to his chest and his eyelids start to flutter closed. The weight of his late nights seemed to be finally catching up to him.

You see? In the showing example, I’m trying to paint a picture of what Tom’s exhaustion looks like, not simply telling my reader he’s tired.

By thinking about this concept, I thought, “That’s exactly what many of us do. We only TELL people what we believe instead of SHOWING them what we believe.”

This revelation opened a door of thought to me. What if I began showing my faith on a daily basis instead of simply talking about my faith? What would it look like?

Well, using our same way of examples:

TELLING: “I told her I think the church should be willing to open its doors to everyone. We need to share God’s love with the least fortunate.”

SHOWING: I take canned goods to the less fortunate. Or perhaps I make them an actual meal. Or maybe I sit and listen to an elderly person who has no one else to talk to. Or I send a card to someone who is feeling low and needs encouragement. I DO THE WORK. Without looking for attention, without seeking a pat on the shoulder…I simply DO THE WORK God has told me to do. And it SHOWS the people in my life and around me that I believe we should help one another. And I give grace, mercy and forgiveness when it’s necessary.

Doesn’t seem like a real life-altering thing, does it? Except it really hit me hard since I had struggled for several months now with feelings of bitterness and anger. Feelings I didn’t know what to do with and wasn’t sure how to fix.

But God is showing me how to fix it. He put this podcast right into my lap (or, rather, ear) and I’m so glad he did. In fact, I’m heading out now for another walk and another episode of this podcast to see what God’s word might be for me today. I am so blessed that God is growing me in these news ways this year and I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

I hope you have a great week and remember to SHOW your faith, not simply TELL it.

God bless.

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Book Review

Book Reviews, Life and Happiness

This is a new idea I’m going to try here on my blog: book reviews. I hope to pass along some good reading to my readers. Last year, I set a goal to read 50 books and I did it! I charted my progress on Goodreads – it’s easy to do and I can help you if you’d like to set up a goal for yourself this year. I’m going to shoot for 50 again this year, but maybe will push myself harder (I barely achieved the 50 last year!).

Book for review:
Realer Than Real: A True Story of Grace, Hope, and Healing by Ryan Wilkins

Synopsis:
The description on Amazon does little to give the reader a good intro into this book. In a nutshell, this is one man’s story of living through loss and tragedy in his life. Throughout, his faith and relationship with God goes through several incarnations and changes.

Reader View:
The book is an “easy read”, which basically (for me) means there are no hard words or real dynamic writing. A young reader (from 9 on up) could read it easily (although I’m not sure a child should read it due to the loss and tragic aspects.) It’s written in a diary kind of style, but also gives anecdotes and stories from other people in the author’s lives. It all fits together, though, to create a pretty deep and emotional book. Having lost a loved one earlier in 2017, I found one part near the end very difficult to read. I had to set the book aside and weep for awhile. I am only bringing that up in order to caution anyone who has recently dealt with a loss – it could be hard, in places, to read.

Conversely, I think the author is a bit too Pollyanna. There is no real struggle with his relationship with God. He seems to preach pretty heavily in some sections about how we can simply rely on God and everything will work out. Yes, God is here for us always, but it is still okay to struggle and feel alone. Although, the author does bring some of this up, I felt like he didn’t want his readers to see him struggle. He quickly moves into how God saves him from himself. If you’re not someone who wants scripture quoted to you, this is probably not the book for you.

Editor’s View:
From an editor’s standpoint, I found very few punctuation and grammar issues. However, it was also a bit boring in some spots due to the diary-like style. Sentences are pretty simple and didn’t always entice me to keep reading. Again, the emotional aspect does keep the reader moving though so there is something to be said about that style.

In the end, I would recommend this as a quick read, but it is not light reading.

And, remember, if you don’t like a book, quit reading it! There is no rule that says you must finish a book. However, I encourage you to expand your reading horizons and read some things this year that you don’t think you would normally read.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear what you thought of it. Remember, in order for an author to do well on Amazon, they need your reviews there as well. I’m off to leave this one a medium review right now.

God bless and happy reading!

God’s Care When We Least Expect It

God, Life and Happiness

About a week ago, I was traveling down a rural road. I kept the speedometer at a cautious speed due to the winding nature of the road. The car ahead of me – several car lengths ahead – began to slow and the brake lights lit up. The driver seemed to be stopped so I slowed my own car to access the situation. Just as I was about to keep moving forward, a deer popped out from behind a building. I pressed my brake harder to prohibit any movement. (Living in north central PA, I’ve been taught to be cautious this time of year for deer.)

I watched as the deer scrambled across the road and was then followed by another deer…and then another…and another. Soon, about ten deer were running across the road a few feet in front of my car. I watched in wonder as they followed one another into a thicket on the other side of the road to my left. When it seemed that the last deer had crossed, I took my foot off the brake. Breathless, I inched forward, continuing to be cautious of stragglers.

Afterwards, I thanked God for the moment. Not only had He provided me with the caution I needed on this back road, but He’d also provided another driver to alert me. Had I been driving faster or had left just several seconds sooner, I would have been hit by not one, but up to ten deer! He’d also provided a really rare moment of joy as I was able to stare, up-close at several of His majestic creatures.

It also broke me of a spell I had been under that morning. It was early (and I don’t arise early much anymore since I work from home) and I had been worried about the trip. But after this moment, my tension seemed to ease a bit as I realized God was looking out for me – as He always is and always promises to be.

Sometimes (or all the time?) we get caught up in the worries of our everyday life and we forget those promises. I pray today that you might have a moment like the one I had to remind you that God is always by your side, always on your side and always looking out for you.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NIV

God bless.

 

Here we go again!

Life and Happiness, Religion

Here it is the end of another year. As I reflect back on all that I’ve accomplished (have I accomplished anything?), I wanted to touch base with my readers.

This year has been a rough one. I’ve lost loved ones both human and dog. I’ve struggled to build my business. I’ve fought my own internal lack of self-worth as well as the negative thoughts I so often battle with.

There have been good things too. I traveled and celebrated the wedding of two dear friends and caught up with family who are simply too far away, but make me feel blessed even though they aren’t really my family.

The world witnessed disastrous acts of nature this year and my heart bled for so many who are hurting and without homes or support.

As we begin a new year I’ve decided that I want to start this blog again on a more regular basis. Long story short, I miss it. I miss the interaction with my readers. I miss being able to pour out my sorrows and celebrations instead of holding them all in. But it won’t be a constant, twice a week thing. It might be more, it might be less. I’ll write when I feel led and when I feel like I have something to say.

I hope you will read and comment. I desire your interaction. I want different and shared opinions. It’s how we can connect as a community. It’s how, I believe, God is working in our lives to heal (at least) my little world bubble. I hope I can encourage, inspire and even provoke my readers in the year ahead.

So. Where do we want to start?

I already have an idea for a book review post so be on the lookout for that in the new year. For now, enjoy your families. Eat to your heart’s content all those family tradition foods. Sit for a moment by the glow of a Christmas tree lights and just savor the moment of this season. And above all else, remember your Lord and King for whom we celebrate and be thankful.

God bless and Merry Christmas.

A View of Harvey’s Leftovers from an Outsider

Life and Happiness, life lessons, Uncategorized

Last week, my husband and I visited Texas for a friend’s wedding. After enjoying ourselves immensely in the festivities, we traveled to Houston to visit with family. I wanted very much to volunteer in some way in the Harvey cleanup while there and my husband’s cousin hooked us up with a local church/disaster relief organization. (They, luckily, had no damage in their neighborhood.)

When we first met Teri at Crossbridge Disaster Relief Center, her bright smile welcomed us. I could tell she was full of passion for this cause. As she spoke to us about her many encounters during and after the hurricane, I felt my own passion rising to help. She gave us directions to a neighborhood that was hard hit and asked us to deliver a broom to a man who had lost everything. He’d even been fired from his job because he’d been on the phone with FEMA while at work. She’d given him other things, and will continue to offer other help, but, RIGHT NOW, he really needed a broom to simply sweep out the debris.

It seemed too simple, but we agreed.

Keep in mind that Houston is HUGE and the city itself is in the middle, but everything surrounding it is often referred to as “Houston” as well. However, the multitude of little communities surrounding it all have names and a distinction of their own. These neighborhoods are best described as small “cul-de-sac” type areas, with streets that wind around and intersect – you can easily get lost in this small development. And, yet, soon, you wind your way back out and are astonished that you made it. The houses are set very close together and despite it being set back just a bit from the main road, you sense that you’re in a completely different section of town.

The one we were to visit is called Bear Creek. When we arrived in his neighborhood early the next morning, we saw no one. When we pulled onto the particular street that we’ve been given for Bob’s home, we felt as if we were transported to a ghost town. Houses were boarded up and no one was around. Eerie. As we made our way down the street, we noticed you could see completely through some homes. They’d been gutted.

We parked and made our way to Bob’s house. He wasn’t home and his door was locked. It seemed odd because, well, there was nothing in his home. Nothing to keep anyone away from or to keep from stealing. His door didn’t even really close properly, but it was locked. My husband tried to push it open, but I stopped him.

“But it’s really not locked,” he said. “I don’t want to leave the broom outside.”

“The man still has the shell,” I said. “It’s not ours to go into.”

Despite the home being completely vacant, the walls still stood. This was still a man’s home. It was still beautiful despite the destruction and it was still his to maintain. It was not ours to intrude upon. He’d had enough heartbreak and intrusion on his life. We left the broom and returned to our car.

As we traversed the neighborhood we realized something else: one street would have destroyed homes, with no one around and other streets would not have a single notable item of damage. People were going about their lives as if nothing happened only one block away from Bob’s home. How can they do that? I wondered. What guilt they must feel! And Teri says they do – many suffer from guilt and PTSD. It’s not all about the destruction the water left on their homes, but also the heartache it left in their hearts.

I could tell you much more about Bob and about Harvey’s destruction. I will, I hope, soon. I’m working with Teri to tell their story (again, I hope).

As we drove away, I cried. I could not do enough. We went to Home Depot and bought some supplies we knew Teri needed and left them at her church. It was not enough, but it was something. Now, back in PA, all I can do is write this down. All I can do is help to educate others about what it is really like. A lot of these folks are STILL without – without homes, jobs, lives. It will take MONTHS, maybe YEARS to recoup. Some, like Bob, may suffer endless years of depression due to this disaster. It doesn’t end when the waters recede.

I leave here now a few pictures. They do not describe to you the feeling of desolation, heartbreak and utter hopelessness that I felt when I saw them. I took only a few. It’s not for us to gawk and “looky loo”, but I wanted to show my readers that there is still MUCH work to be done.

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If you’d like to help, let me know. I can give you phone numbers to call. It’s far from over and I’ll be helping as long as I can. I hope you will consider helping too in whatever way you can.

 

Well, this is new…

Life and Happiness

I wrote in my last post that I was searching for new ways to increase my brand. I had written that post ahead of time (like I do with most posts). On Friday, September 1st I went about my day until about halfway into the morning I realized, “I didn’t see any post notifications for the blog.” Turns out, I had forgotten to write a post for that day!

Keep in mind I’ve been writing and posting at least twice a week (started off as three times) for over five years. I’ve rarely missed a posting day. But I did. And do you know what I realized?

It was okay. No one really cared. It didn’t affect my business or my brand and, frankly, I felt a little relieved.

As I contemplated this issue a bit further, I realized that while I still like to write blogs, the process has dulled a bit for me. I find myself struggling to find things to write about and wondering if any of it is making an impact at all.

So, I thought, what if I stopped writing my blog posts?

Yes, I know, it may be disheartening for some, but most of you simply won’t care. It’s not harsh and I’m not hurt at all. It might simply be a time for me to explore other things.

So. Here is what I’ve decided. I still might post some things on this blog, but mostly, if I have something to say, I’ll send it out to my newsletter followers. (Haven’t signed up for my newsletter? Click here.) The people who have chosen to follow me via my newsletter, I surmise, are the folks who truly want to keep up with what I’m doing. Usually, I just send things about new books, but those are kind of few at this point (although I’m working on another one…two actually). What I intend to do with the newsletter from here on out is use it for book release news, book updates, editing news and tips, as well as, sometimes, a quick devotion.

In short, like this blog, but less.

If you’d like to truly keep up with what I’m doing, or to support me and my business you can do the following: (Pick as many as fits your life.)

  1. Sign up for my newsletter. My newsletter will come less frequently than this blog has been – only when I send it out. (FYI, you’ll receive a few when you first sign up over the course of a few weeks as an introduction to me.) Click here to sign up.
  2. Follow me on social media. I have a Facebook page here. Instagram here. Twitter account here (I’m really lax on Twitter….). And you can follow me on Amazon here (I NEVER post anything there, but you’ll be advised when I publish new books.)
  3. Buy my books (click here). I have two fiction books and one journal currently available. I hope to have another (a short non-fiction) out by the end of this year.
  4. Send me money via PayPal. Ha. Kidding. But if you’re so inclined….

I hope to see many of you sign up for these in the next few days. I covet your prayers as well as I branch out and try this new avenue.

God bless.

 

But Starting Is Hard

Life and Happiness

Starting something new is way too hard.

Well, okay…it is, but…it isn’t.

When I first decided to quit my office job and work from home, it was the hardest decision of my life. I stressed about it relentlessly (just ask my husband). I knew what lie ahead would be a long, arduous journey and I might fail. Now, almost three years later (where did that time go?), I can look back and see my progress, but back then taking that step of faith was a hard one. I was literally on the fence.

Recently, I’ve been reading this book “Roanoke (Keepers of the Ring 1)” and I realized as I read about the lives of these settlers that a lot of things in my own life are not really worth fretting about so much.

Think about this: The time period is 1587. Let that fact sink in first. There are no telephones, no communication systems other than letters, no steam engines, no electricity, and no construction equipment other than crud shovels and the like. Now imagine setting sail across a vast body of water that had only been traversed a small amount of times (compared to today’s standards) in a wooden vessel.

There was no entertainment on board. There were no live bands, no tequila shots, no pool on the deck or even chairs on the deck. The people had to live in quarters below deck for most of the trip – the venture sometimes taking over several months. No showers. No change of clothes.

IF they made it to land, (depending on how skilled their captain was and if whether or not he much preferred to be a pirate than a true captain) there was no way of knowing what they would find. Would earlier settlers still be there? Or would they have all been killed by the “savages”? If they had sailed off course and ended up somewhere unknown, there wouldn’t be shelters set up. The wilderness could be dense and thick with unfamiliar vegetation. How would they know what was safe to eat? What if they had spent too many months on the ship and supplies had dwindled? How would they make it without food? I’m not sure I would have been able to take this voyage. I’m not sure I’m of strong enough stock.

As I traverse this still new work-from-home landscape, I’m searching out different ways that I can increase my brand while seeking out God’s purpose for my life. And sometimes I feel pretty alone in these endeavors and it feels like I’m starting from scratch. However, unlike the first settlers to the New World (Let’s not get into the Native American argument. I know they were here first. But stay with me.), there have been a plethora of writers, editors and work-from-home entrepreneurs who have cut back the thorns and weeds of the landscape in order that I might see a clear path before me. I’m grateful for these forerunners that help me to make my way in this wilderness.

Setting out on a new path for us today can often seem as scary as settling uncharted territory, but if we work together, we can each make progress on our goals.

It is for this reason that I want to help authors pursue their dreams of publishing a book. It is this that pushes me forward in what I do – so that others do not have to start from the bottom up, but can learn from my knowledge, and from the knowledge that was given to me by others.

If you’d like more information about how I can help you move forward in your endeavors, I’d love to chat with you. I offer editing and formatting services as well as writing, marketing and publishing consulting/coaching. Contact me today to learn more.

Let Your Light Shine

Life and Happiness, Religion

Recently, I submitted this devotion to two magazines and it was rejected by both. But I feel that God has a message for each of us within this devotion, especially on this day, so I am sharing with you. I hope it will remind those struggling to find joy to greet each day with a joyful heart no matter what the circumstances. Feel free to share it with your friends. God bless.

************************************************************************************

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

Every morning around four, birds start singing outside my bedroom window. They are ever punctual; I don’t need to look at the clock to know the time. It seems like as soon as they start to see a bit of light touch the sky they are singing their praises for a new day.

I don’t like to be awakened by these birds at four in the morning and I often use earplugs to block them out. Even though their song is sweet, it is interrupting my sleep and irritating to me. But one of my friends told me she loves to hear the birds in the morning. Their song is a bright, beautiful way to start her day. She said it is a blessing to hear their songs.

I realized then that I often plug my ears to what God is trying to say each day too. Even when He is giving me wonderful blessings, I sometimes focus only on the negatives in my life – like birds waking me at 4 a.m.

Instead of praising Him for the blessings of my life, I try to hide away in my warm, comfortable places and avoid the light He is attempting to provide. Instead of singing God’s praises every morning like these birds do, I often hide my own light from the world too.

These birds give us a good example of how we should react when we acknowledge God’s light in our lives. We should sing praises and be glad a new morning is dawning. By doing this we can call on God to shed His light upon us for another day.

Today, I will try to be more like those birds outside my window. I will sing my praises for the light God gives me. I will greet the day with glorious song so all may hear and see the light that shines from within me.

Dear heavenly Father, help me not to shy away from the light, but to be glad for its presence in my life. Thank you for birds that sing and the sun that shines. May I be ever grateful for your many blessings. Amen.

*******

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16 (NASB)

Reading Is What It’s About

Life and Happiness

I’m sure by now you’re aware that I love to read almost as much as I love to write and edit. In fact, probably more. So I was thrilled to find out that today is International Literacy Day.

“Fifty-one years ago, UNESCO officially proclaimed 8 September International Literacy Day to actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.”

I can’t be more in tune with this sentiment.

According to Wikipedia: “Some 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults are still not literate and two-thirds of them are women;”

I’m astonished by these figures! I am surrounded on a daily basis by writers who are avid readers. I’ll admit that I only know a few people today who cannot read or choose not to. I’m also dumbfounded by people who don’t like to read (who doesn’t like to read??), but I recognize that reading is not a skill or hobby that everyone enjoys. (By the way, as a side note, I have a friend who says she only reads the Bible. Although the Bible is a GREAT book and worthy of being read time and time again, it’s limiting to read that work ONLY. I believe God has endowed certain people with the gift of writing so, therefore, He would want us to read more than just His words.)

However, today is a day to celebrate literacy and to share it with those who have not had access to it or have not had to educational opportunities to learn how to enjoy it.

Ever since our first god daughter was born, we’ve bought her books. And when she was young, we’d visit her and my husband would always have to (by her request) read at least two books to her before we left.

Now that she’s older, we can barely get her nose out of her books! And I love it!! She reminds me of myself – I read everything I could get my hands on when I was young. I even liked to read my dad’s Encyclopedia Britannica collection!

Sharing books with the young children in your life is a great way to celebrate this day. But, more importantly, begin to share books with all children, every day of the year.

Do you know a family of lower income that can’t afford to buy books? Introduce them to the local library and help them obtain their library card.

Do you know an adult who can’t read? Offer to teach them and do so without judgment.

Do you know a college student struggling with their work? Maybe they have a learning disability. Perhaps it’s not easy for them to read. Maybe they were never taught how to study a book properly. Offer help or become a tutor.

Literacy is a skill that every person needs. Even with the onset of emoticons and symbols for language, there still needs to be a basic understanding of what those symbols represent. Reading is essential to daily living whether you like to read books or not. A job application requires reading. A desk job requires reading. Even factory work requires reading – you need to know how to stop the machine!

Today, think of ways you could spread literacy in your community. Maybe just go spend time at the library or give away some books. (We all have too many, let’s face it.)

Happy Friday and happy reading!

Labor Day Thoughts

Life and Happiness

Usually I just give you a quick little “Happy Labor Day” blurb on this holiday and I move on to the next post. It’s an easy out for me – I’ll admit it. But, this year, I decided I wanted to discuss this holiday a bit more.

You see, I am proud of the history of our nation. Yes, there have been mistakes, horrible injustices and a lot of wrongdoing. But in the end, our nation was built by men and women who came here seeking to forge their own paths. They fought against dictatorships and royal rulings to travel vast, uncharted distances in search of a better life. There was no GPS then, no maps and no way of knowing if they would survive the journey.

As our country grew, we began expanding and inventing. Labor unions formed in order to keep industry safe and productive. (There is a lot more to it – read here.) The country began to recognize just how important labor and industry was to our nation and in 1894 President Grover Cleveland signed a Labor Day holiday into law.

My dad worked in a factory to put food on our table. He came home every day smelling of sweat and food byproduct (he worked for Chef Boy-ar-dee) and was often too exhausted to do anything else once he got home. (In a food manufacturing plant, at least back then, there was no AC because it could bring in germs to the food products. Conditions in the heat of the summer would raise the temp in the factory to well above 100 degrees.) My mother worked in a garment factory, inhaling fabric particles and a television manufacturer, staining cabinets, both of which eventually ruined her lungs. My grandfather worked in a munitions factory during the war. He was around nuclear waste on a daily basis with no thought to what it might be doing to his body.

I think all too often today we forget about the sacrifices of our ancestors. We forget the struggles they faced to make this nation a great one and to keep food on the table. We forget the blood, sweat and tears that were shed to build up this country. Labor Day has become a day set aside for barbecues and vacations instead of a day of remembrance.

Look at these photos. I was astonished when searching for photos to use representing labor that so many had young children toiling beside their parents’ or other adults.

 

 

 

 

 

We forget how hard it used to be. We forget the sacrifices made. Today, we’re so wrapped up in being offended or wronged by small injustices and, yet, your ancestors worked at VERY young ages right up to the point of death to simply put food on the table for their family. They weren’t offended. They worked. They did what had to be done.

I’m not trying to rain on your Labor Day parade. I simply want us to reflect and remember. Things were not simply handed to our ancestors. They fought, scraped and some died to keep their families going through good and hard times.

So, today, as you kick back with your hamburger and beer, remember how these people worked to give you that luxury. Remember how blessed you are to live in a country that is now afforded with safe labor practices and companies that provide for their employees.

Yes, we have taken a step backward lately, and, yes, we have still more to fight for. And, yes, it’s okay to take a day off and enjoy yourself – I will be, too. But remember, even for a moment today, what this holiday means and be thankful for those who have come before you to provide it.

God bless.