Back To School

Ah, back to school. That glorious time when we rise before the sun, guzzle down our weight in coffee and sit through that ever-wonderful school zone traffic. The days when our nerves are high and the anxiety of getting a grab bag of students we’ve never met leads to pre-school-year nightmares about sending children to the office on the first day (true story) and classes running amok.

But then, the first day comes and goes in a blur, the kids are less scary than you thought they’d be and, before you know it, you’re cataloging good moments in the first four days and looking forward to the next. You retrain your body into what I like to call “grandma hours” (you know, in bed before 9pm, awake before 6am) and get back into the routine of lesson planning and classroom management. You and your classes form tiny little gangs (good gangs) and you all get through the school year together. Okay, some of this may be idealistic – I’m still working on my tiny little gangs, but we’ll get there! I just know it!

Being on day 4 of the first week back is pretty predictable. The kids are starting to let down their “angel guard” and show you how they really behave. You’ve made mental notes of all of your “fidgeters” and little ADHD babies and are getting to know faces enough to get remember who not to sit next to each other on the seating chart. You’re dog tired because you haven’t been awake for this many consecutive hours for the last 3ish months and you’ve scrapped tomorrow’s lesson plan because you’re too hoarse to teach.

Sound familiar to any of my teacher friends?

Y’all. This is my life right now, and I adore it. Teaching 8th grade has it’s challenges, and they mostly involve sassy attitudes, but in my eyes the benefits outweigh any of the bad. These kids are impressionable. They are the “big kids” in school and like to be held to that “upperclassmen” standard. They’re trying to figure out who they are while wading around in a pond full of people who are trying to do the exact same – sometimes at their expense – and they’re awkward as all get out.

Don’t you remember middle school? Doesn’t it make you shudder just thinking about it? For me, middle school was flat out terrible. I was awkward, had a bad haircut, and dressed like a teacher (sometimes kids asked if I was one, Thanks, mom!). And I keep a little reminder of this gloriously terrible and awkward time in my life on my desk, to humble me every day, in the form of my 8th grade picture.

You see, teaching isn’t about having power. It isn’t about lording over children and strong-arming them into doing what you wish – it’s quite the opposite. It’s about humility and dying to yourself a little every day when you have to repeat instructions for the bazillionth time to the kid who swore he was listening to you. It’s about helping them through the relational drama and getting them to learn at the same time. It’s about making them better people who know that in order to be “smart” we have to TRY. We have to remember what it was like to be their age and try to appeal to that kid inside of us.

I also keep that picture on my desk to let the kids know that THINGS CHANGE. IT GETS BETTER. Stormye in 8th grade and Stormye at 27 are two TOTALLY different people (I wasn’t quite the babe I am now – jokes!). But seriously, that picture, to me, symbolizes that we can’t ever keep one version of anyone – especially ourselves – in our minds. My students will change enormously from the start of the year to the end just like they did last year, and the year before and the year before.

Anyway, I’m rambling now – I just care for these little stinkers so dang much and can’t wait to see them flourish this year. I’m overwhelmed by how good the Lord has been to put just the thoughts I need to lead these kids well into my mind at just the right moment. I know this year will be full of challenges, but I’m basking in that ever so blissful beginning-of-the-year optimism that is so easily overlooked.

And looking forward to Friday. 🙂

Courage and Celebration

Y’all.

I am BLOWN AWAY by the Lord’s goodness!

I did something scary this week. I took the big leap and opened an Etsy shop. An Etsy shop!! I swallowed all of those nerves and hushed that inner voice that told me I wasn’t good enough to do it and jumped off that big, scary cliff and just DID IT!!!

And you know what? God has blessed it.

He could have totally not blessed it – and that would have been fine – but he DID. I’ve already had my first sale, I’ve gotten 4 requests in one day AND to top it all off, when I went to go get supplies to ship off my order he did something only he could do.

I dragged my poor husband all over Denton tonight looking for just the right size box for my first sale (it’s kind of a weird size). Anyway, after finding our perfect box I begged him to take me to World Market. You see, they have this paper – maybe you’ve seen it in Easter baskets? It’s the crinkly kind that’s all shredded and colorful and I just knew it would be the perfect “HELLO!” to really make my deliveries pop. But, our World Market in little ol’ Denton is weird. It’s inside a Bed Bath and Beyond and really is more like an exotic foods grocery store than the World Market I know and love. So, I’m looking around this meager little section of BBB and not seeing my perfect, crinkly Easter basket paper. As the words, “Well, I guess they don’t have what I’m looking for” are coming out of my mouth and going into my husband’s ears, I see it. On the clearance rack. The colorful, crinkly stuffer paper of my dreams. It was 99 CENTS A BAG. I yelled at my husband to get me a basket – not the little one, but a cart – and filled that sucker up. I must have put 40 bags in there. I gleefully made my way to the checkout counter where the manager laughed his head off and asked me if I was a “basket maker” and told me that he was glad I was buying so much so that he could restock. They had A TON of this stuff. To top it all off, I had a gift card. That stuff was FREE.

I know it’s silly but, y’all, that whole thing was so the Lord. SO the Lord. I’ve done this big scary thing this week and my Dad has cheered me on every step of the way. I have wanted to do this for FOREVER and haven’t had the courage but when I did, he was there.

We heard this beautiful speaker at our convocation, Liz Murray, who spoke about her experience of being homeless and then making it into Harvard. Her message was a pretty simple one – just do that thing you’re dreaming of. Stop dreaming about it and make it happen – DON’T LET YOUR DREAMS BE DREAMS! (Okay, maybe that last part was Shia Labeouf)

One of my dreams has become a reality this week and I am so grateful. I just had to give a shoutout to the Lord.

 

 

p.s. I do have photographic proof that I tried to buy the store out of its stock of glorious crinkly Easter basket filler paper but for some reason it won’t upload.

I want to be radiant

Ever had one of those days where you wake up and just feel like you’re fighting the enemy – and your own mind – ALL. DAY. LONG?

That’s today for me.

Driving to church this morning I was overcome with this need to reach out to God and ask Him to help. It’s almost like I forgot that was an option and, upon remembering, halted everything to make it happen. So, I turned off my audiobook and tearfully prayed that he would help me be free of this crippling sense of shame and unworthiness that I feel when I think about my weight and eating choices.

Now, let me get something straight. I try really, REALLY hard to eat well most of the time. And, I don’t feel this way every day! What’s that saying? Something about each day bringing its own new battle? But most days I have a little voice in the back of my mind that sits there scrutinizing and condemning even the GOOD choices I make – “Oh, you shouldn’t have added that coconut milk to your coffee, Stormye, you know that’s just adding unnecessary calories.” Or, “Did you just eat all of that, and so quickly? Tisk, tisk.” Y’all. It’s an awful, nasty little person that resides in my mind sometimes.

And, sadly, I’ve realized that person – that condescending voice – is me.

No one else is shaming me for my eating choices because, honestly, they aren’t bad! No one is looking at me in public thinking, “Oh that girl really shouldn’t be wearing that,” because NO ONE CARES. I’ve said this before but no one is as mean to me as I am.

Today, in church, the guest speaker was talking about shame and how it is a result of us placing our hope in things other than the Lord. And you know what I realized? That is exactly what I’ve done for my entire life. I’ve put my hope in losing weight and that making me magically happier with my life, in eating perfectly, in exercising the amount that everyone says you should, in following and being perfect like these little nutritionists I see on Instagram. And all the while, I’ve made myself miserable.

The verse that he focused on today was Psalm 34:5 – “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve been walking around with the dullest face on the planet. Instead of meeting with my maker every morning and letting him and his mere presence make me radiant, I’ve been hoping to find it in all of my aforementioned hopeless pursuits. I’ve been walking in shame and speaking so cruelly to myself for TWENTY SEVEN YEARS and I want it to be done.

Here comes the hard part. I can’t say all of this and it just be over. This is a long-term battle that I feel like I have constantly lost. I need help in this – I’ve tried the whole “pulling-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps” deal and it doesn’t work. Why? Because this centers around JESUS – putting my hope in the Lord – and not about what I can do on my own. This is one of those battles that I feel like I’ll never win, it’s on my list of “impossible prayers”, but today I saw that it really is possible. This isn’t me missing an appendage and hoping the Lord will grow it back – this is me aligning my heart to his and learning to hope in him and nothing else. THAT is possible. Is it easy? No. It, too, will take discipline, but it is the most worth-it discipline you can have.

Whew, that was a lot! I’m glad to get it off my mind and into yours. Maybe you’ve felt this way too? It may not be weight – it could be the lack of a significant other or family or even the job you wanted. Whatever it is, I hope that we can both learn how to overcome these insignificant societal woes and put our hope in God.

Hospitality

It was my high school bible study home group host that first modeled hospitality in a way that stuck out to me. We would go over to her house every Wednesday for home group and there would be dinner and baked treats (and most of the time candy) awaiting us upon arrival. It wasn’t until I was leading a high school bible study of my own that I realized how rare it was to be provided for so lavishly each week.

I knew then that I wanted to be just like her.

Last year, I had to complete a “vision” for my life while working my summer job. It had to be something that you could see clearly and a hope you had for your future. Mine was extremely clear – I wanted to be in my home with my husband and a house full of people that we had loved and cared for continuously over the years. I wanted children running around or playing together while we grilled out and shared the warmth of our little home.

I am blessed to have married a man who shares this vision. It is a passion of ours to be hospitable – to have people in our home, cooking meals for them and enjoying rich conversation. We want to bless others with the blessings we have received from the Lord. We also happen to go to a church that encourages hospitality, both locally and corporately, and even heard a sermon on the topic out of 1 Peter 4 last week.

Last night, we had a housewarming party. It was my first chance to host a large group of people in our home and MAN was I nervous. After a trip to the grocery store, and a little bit of prep, our house was ready for guests! We cleaned (and by we, I mean my amazing husband cleaned while I went to the store) and organized and readied our home and then the guests poured in. It was so refreshing having people in our home to love on and care for. The night was full of conversation and laughs and well worth the time spent preparing for it.

Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was the visit from our downstairs neighbors. Last week we introduced ourselves to each of our neighbors in the 3 surrounding apartments. We took cookies and an invitation to come to our little gathering the following weekend. The only ones to take us up on our offer were an older couple that live downstairs. They have been kind to us ever since we moved in and getting to host them in our home and enjoy some conversation with them was such a blessing.

If you know me and have talked to me in the last few weeks, I’ve probably extended an invitation for you to join us for dinner and let me cook you a meal. And I MEAN it! It would bring me no greater joy than to care for you, have you in my home, and listen to you tell me all about the latest happenings in your life.

 

Celiac Disease, Paleo and Change

Man things can change in 6 months! Since I last wrote I have finished my first year of teaching, gotten married and learned a ton in the process!

A few nights ago I was talking with my husband (still weird to say husband!) about the things that I want to accomplish and where I would like to be in the next 5 years. It is definitely a dream of mine to continue writing but the pressure of having a deep, philosophical/theological post every single time I write is a little much for me.

So, I’ve decided to change it up a bit. This blog is just going to be about whatever I want. There will be Jesus mixed in – oh yes, lots of Jesus – but there will just be life, too. I won’t grow as a writer if I don’t practice my hand (no pun intended). And what kind of English teacher would I be if I didn’t practice writing!

A few years ago I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease – or, as I like to call it, the “Most-Annoying-Disease-You-Could-Possibly-Contract” Disease! If you aren’t familiar with this disease, it’s an autoimmune in which your body reacts (or overreacts, if you ask me) to the presence of gluten in its system. Yes, I once scoffed and mocked those who were “gluten sensitive” and now I, too, have joined the ranks of the gluten-free. Life is funny that way.

Anyhow, since I have become gluten free I’ve tried many things, including the Whole30 (three times, only one of which was carried out to completion) and eating Paleo. These particular ways of eating are neither cheap nor easy but, let me tell you, they’re worth it.

I’ve been eating Paleo for about a month now and my body has felt so much better than it ever has: I’m not as tired and I don’t have stomach or headaches. And while I have felt amazing, I’m also SO sick of cooking every single thing I eat. So, in the last few days I’ve tested the boundaries to see if there are things outside of Paleo that I can “get away with” eating.

Uh, no. Terrible idea.

Yesterday was the worst. I had Pei-Wei and their supposed “gluten free” Spicy Chicken left me feeling like I had a rock in my stomach the rest of the day. Then, last night we went to eat Mexican with some friends of ours and I had chips and queso and two brisket tacos – WHY DID I DO THAT?! I was so tired and miserable when I got home that I went to bed at 9, fell asleep reading and had to be tucked in by my poor, concerned husband who didn’t know what was wrong with me.

So, here I am writing. Maybe writing these things will remind me that I should not go eat Mexican food and just assume I’ll feel lovely the next day and will, instead, encourage me to make my own food (it’s usually cheaper anyway). Maybe writing this will help you see the benefits in healthy eating. Maybe no one will read this – who cares! It’s my 5 dollars a month to spend on a domain if I want!

All I know is the blog world needs to look out – there is one more writer coming into your overly-saturated market. And she will be awesome.

Shabbat – REST!

Since I’ve been back from Israel, it feels like life has been busier than ever. I can’t figure out if this is just the perfect storm of appointments and obligations or if life was already like this.

One of the coolest things I saw in Israel was an ENTIRE community of people participating in Shabbat (or sabbath, if you’re unfamiliar with Jewish culture and terms like I was!). Perhaps my favorite scene – the one that made it most real – was a marketplace swarming with Jews who were trying to prepare for the weekend. They were doing their last minute shopping, closing up their shops and getting ready for the siren that rang at 4pm signaling the start of their holy day.

From sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, they rest. They worship the Lord, put their eyes on Him and anticipate their Messiah. They believe that, according to the Old Testament law, they should not do anything that produces something – cooking, working, even pushing the button on an elevator to go to a different floor! This is a time meant to be spent with your family, reconnecting with friends, with yourself and (most importantly) the Lord!! It was incredibly beautiful to be sitting in the dining room of a hotel in Jerusalem with families all around, enjoying each others company and singing songs to God.

In D-Group, they are challenging us to find our verse and word for the year. I have chosen Jeremiah 29:13, which says:

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

While this verse doesn’t sound much like rest (in fact, I’m pretty sure seeking is the complete opposite of resting), I think that a lot of seeking the Lord comes in resting in him and making it a point to do so. Carving out time every week is not something that just happens – you have to seek it out.

So, I’ll really be pursuing this over the next few weeks. It will be a challenge, don’t get me wrong. I think I’ll end up taking a page from the book of those I saw in Jerusalem rushing to get their groceries before the sirens went off signaling the start of Shabbat. 🙂

BUT… it will so be worth it. I will have Him. I will have rest. There will be repair – not just for me but for my family, my friends and those I love. What a prize! All for just doing what he has commanded of us from the beginning.

Won’t you join me in rest?

 

Shalom from Israel!

Shalom from Israel, friends!

I know the new year is approaching and that many are probably posting their end of year recaps or beginning of year goals – but I’m in Israel, its rocking my world, and I feel like I have to write about that instead.

There are parts of my story that you may or may not know, but in July 2014 my grandfather, Milton, on my biological father’s side passed away of stomach cancer. I had only known him for about 12 years but in those 12 years, he loved me fiercely.

Two weeks before Milton passed away, he was in the hospital and as we were sitting in the room with him praying that he would get better, he told me the story of Masada and how the Jews there put up an enormous fight for freedom and how much he loved that place. I watched this man, who I believed to be larger than life, shrivel away due to sickness, but when he talked about Israel there was a childlike glow on his face.

I knew I had to go.

When Milton died, it became my mission to experience the same thing he had talked about so fondly in his last days. In part, it was to pay tribute to him, but I also wanted to gain a deeper understanding of biblical culture and Jewish heritage. I wanted to see that the Bible was more than just a story – that it was a real place with real people and that God really did the things I have always believed.

Let me tell you, this trip has far exceeded anything I could have ever expected.

Yesterday, I experienced Masada. Through tears, I stood there and drank it all in. The desert colors, the gigantic structures, the story of heroic and brave loss. I felt connected to Milton. That alone was enough to take my breath away, but that isn’t the whole reason I came to Israel.

I came here because of Jesus.

Being where he was. Riding a boat across the Dead Sea. Sitting in Caesarea where the Holy Spirit descended on the Gentiles.

It all humbles me and only makes me more grateful to be a part of the family of Christ. It makes me CRAVE the scriptures in a way I never have before – it brings them to life.

Realizing that, without Jesus, I would NEVER have access to the Lord the way I do – that I would never know him as father or know his true kindness and goodness – it only makes me feel the weight of that gift. I am a part of his family. He loves me.

This family IS the new Israel. We are his chosen ones. He sent his son for THIS.

We have a few days left in this amazing and beautiful country and I am already planning my next trip in my head. I want to soak up every second of this incredible experience. I want to scribble every note possible and record every detail of scripture, history and land that I can find. Let me be a little sponge of this amazing place so that, when I return home, the Bible is a new experience for me – forever.

It is SO MUCH MORE THAN A STORY.
This is real.
Jesus is real.
His death and resurrection are real.
And he is readily available for relationship.

All you have to do is surrender. He is waiting. Join this family, friends. God is a good father and Jesus is an incredible Savior and friend.

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He Is Enough

Well, its been 5 months since I last wrote and I think I’m ready to make a habit of this. Its not really that life has slowed down at all (you could count being on winter break as a bit of a “slow down”), but I think I finally have things to write about and want to get into the rhythm of working that writing muscle.

I was texting with a friend of mine today who just got engaged – still so excited for her!! – and it occurred to me that she and I had been in the same boat for a long time; hopeful for a future that we both deeply wanted and believed that God wouldn’t hold back from us, yet fearful that that future would never become a reality.

I think the thing that struck me the most is that we owe God SO MUCH CREDIT for being not just as good as He’s always promised to be, but better. When we come out on the other end of fear – into his goodness – that should be recognized and shared.

However, don’t misunderstand me here. God is good no matter the outcome. No matter our situation in life. I hope you’ve heard me say that in the course of my time writing this blog. He is to be glorified in the struggle and in the victory.

…but isn’t it fun to give Him glory in the celebration of things hoped for?
Isn’t it fun to say “I knew it!” and tell the world what a great dad you have?!

I think the thing I’d really like to work on is getting past the fear. I feel like fear might stem from an idea that we might be missing out on something – our culture’s great problem with “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) – and that God won’t be enough – like He’s holding things back from us.

I was reading through my Advent study (thank you, She Reads Truth – you’ve done it again!) and one of the days said that Jesus is the true and better Manna.

A. Men.

We lack nothing in Christ Jesus – nothing! We should fear nothing. God will provide for our needs. I’m writing this now because he has been gracious to place me in that beautiful, glorious upswing where I can see his goodness clearly and pinpoint all of the exact prayers he is answering in my life. I’m writing this now because one day, when fear tries to sneak its way back into my heart and tell me that I am not enough – that God is not enough – I can point back to THIS TIME and say, “You see that, enemy?! God IS good. And he is working, even in THIS.”

Friends, I don’t know if you’re basking in his goodness in your current situation or grasping for straws and feeling like you’re out of his reach but let me encourage you in this:

HE. IS. ENOUGH.
HE. IS. GOOD.

Always, and forever.

Let us never cease to celebrate Him.

Action

I have big dreams for the future. Sometimes those dreams are so big and hazy that I can’t make them out quite clearly. Honestly, its pretty frustrating. I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about all of the things I want to do in my life and who I want to be. And then, all of the sudden I feel paralyzed because I can’t figure out how to get there. Does anyone feel me on this?

For the dreams that are clear I have this mental image of the steps it will take to get there and what I could be like – what life could be like! – once I take those steps. I’m pretty sure the frustration comes in knowing what I should be doing but not actually doing it, you know? Like, wanting to have this intimate, deep relationship with the Lord but being two weeks behind on my chronological reading study. Or, wanting to be a writer but not actually sitting down to blog more than once every month or so. I don’t know if the lack of doing is from fear of failing, a need for perfection or pure laziness. But my guess is it probably falls on the spectrum of all three.

The one thing I do know? The not doing isn’t getting me any closer to who I want be or what I feel the Lord has called me to do.

How do I move past that? How do I get past this mediocrity I’m feeling and take the steps I see clearly or even make moves towards the future thats hazy? Well, there’s not much I can do about the foggy vision except wait on the Lord for clarity. (I’m pretty sure the fact that I can’t see it is a pretty good indicator that I should be focusing on what is clear.) But the clear picture! Oh, the clear picture. That one I should be able to do!

You know, I once read this study about people that visualized their success beforehand actually being more successful because they had mentally envisioned it first. Can you believe that? Apparently its that easy! Something about being able to see yourself accomplishing what you’ve set your mind to allows you to actually do it.

So, I guess thats what I’ll do. I’ll eat that elephant one bite at a time and not just mentally see myself taking the steps to get where I’m going, but do those actual things – what a concept! Instead of sitting still, paralyzed by an overwhelming feeling of needing to do something, I’m going to actually DO it.

Maybe you can, too. Find those things that you can see yourself doing and do them! Make a list, cross them off – dream big! I have a sneaking suspicion that we are all a whole lot stronger and more capable than we think and that when the Lord gives us a clear picture for our lives it means he probably wants us to act on it.

I would LOVE to hear what some of your dreams and visions are for your life and help encourage you in them. Some of mine include writing more, honing a craft and taking more action in applying for teaching jobs.

We can do this! Let’s get going.

 

 

 

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Extended Family

Last week I had the opportunity to meet up with a friend I hadn’t seen in 7 years. We had worked together on the mission field after my freshman year in college but hadn’t seen each other since. She and her husband were in town for work and had some spare time to grab dinner and catch up on old times. We had been trying to get together for months so I jumped at the opportunity to meet up.

In the couple of hours before our meeting my nerves started to get to me. “Will she notice I’m different than my silly 19 year old self?” “Do I have anything to worry about?” “I wish I were at this place in life instead of where I am so that I could impress her.” – these questions and thoughts riddled my mind. None of which came from the Lord.

Dinner time came and spending a meal with her and her husband proved to be a complete joy. We shared the highlights of the last 7 years, laughed about memories (one in particular where I apparently “coached” her in storytelling) and reconnected over our mutual love for the Lord. It was so life bringing. Because I had so enjoyed our time together, I invited them to my favorite little coffeeshop to grab some espresso and a little deeper conversation. 4 hours later we were saying our goodbyes, praying over one another and promising not to let another 7 years pass before our next reunion.

I left that night with an overwhelming feeling that I had just experienced life-bringing conversation with people I would see for eternity – they were my family, my brother and sister in Christ. Seeing them and talking with them was like seeing family that I hadn’t seen in forever – their care for me and my life and their willingness to be open and honest – it was all so refreshing and something I had been craving. I’ve always known that other believers were my family, but for the first time that really meant something. While driving home I thanked the Lord for such rich and beautiful conversation centered around him and for my “extended spiritual family.”

They aren’t the only “extended family” I’ve heard from in the last couple of weeks. I saw one of the women I aspire most to be like at a wedding in Houston this weekend and reconnected as if no time had passed. On the same night I heard from a sweet sister from high school who was passing through the area with her husband and wanted to reconnect – again, I felt the Lord giving me chances to see my family and walk with those I felt I had lost.

I’ve been trying to figure out what about my encounter with that old friend and her husband was different than others – what made it feel so sweet and opened my eyes to that familial aspect of community? I have to believe it was their vulnerability, their willingness to walk alongside me in my life and spiritual walk and their need for support in theirs. Their care.

I have this deep desire to be a woman known for her love and hospitality (much like the woman I mentioned seeing this past weekend). To have an open house that is always full of people and to care for others and love them so well with the Word. To pray over them so fiercely that their hearts open up to Him. To have this big, spiritual family – and that starts now.

It starts in reconnecting with those brothers and sisters that I have lost, or maybe even hurt, along the way. It starts in loving those around me, Christian or not, with a love and care so fierce that they can’t help but see the Lord. It is about creating community by inviting others into my home and giving my time freely when they need it.

It is about family. It is about Jesus.

So, I’m going to try something a little different this post. If you are in my “extended family” and we’ve lost touch – would you let me know? I’m going to try my hardest in the next few months to reach out to you and find time to hear more of your story and how I can care for you (especially if you’re local), but if you get to me first I would love it. I can’t wait to hear how you, my brother or sister, are doing and what the Lord has done in your life. If I’ve wronged you, I’d love a chance to humble myself to you and make it right. If there is some way I can help you, I want to try.

You are my family. This is a forever deal.

I can’t wait to see what this season brings and I can’t wait to reconnect.