Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Accidental Early Adaptor

iPhoneXR

Yesterday was a stressful day. It happens every now and then. The last one was when Ragnar-the-street-cat ate the cord to the foot pedal on my Pfaff and I had to get it fixed. While I was in the store, I bought a new Bernina (the price was right and it was the machine I had always wanted, very quiet.) The problem with new technology is that you have to learn new ways of doing things. The old ways don’t work. It stretches you and it stresses you.

AdventureMan has been after me to update my iPhone. We are about to travel again, and he wants us to be accessible. He is right; it is my turn to upgrade. I’ve had my iPhone since 2011, and it works wonderfully. I am happy. It does everything I need it to do . . . except it doesn’t work overseas.

I’ve dragged my feet. To me, a phone is a tool and the tool I have does everything I want it to do, including . . . making me not too accessible. But (audible sigh) I know he is right. What if there is an emergency and they need to contact us?

I am also skeptical. When we upgraded AdventureMan’s phone, we went on the Viking Ocean Cruises Wake of the Vikings trip (which was awesome) and his new phone didn’t work, didn’t get texts, didn’t get phone calls, while my old phone occasionally got texts (I believe it was a Wi-Fi thing for me).

But I also know that AdventureMan is wise; things happen. We often take off from the group, and if our connection changes, if the shuttle back to the ship changes departure time and we are not on it, it causes all kinds of complications.

So Thursday night, AdventureMan said “Our travel time is getting close, and what are you going to do about your phone?”

He is a smart man. He knows how to ask me in an open-mannered way so I don’t go all defensive and nasty because I am feeling cornered and inconvenienced and wary of having to master a new technology when I have a lot of other things going on right now.

“I’m going to do it tomorrow,” I tell him. He is satisfied. He knows that when I say I will do something, he can count on me to do it. I didn’t sleep well; I was full of dread.

So I am working at my computer when AdventureMan gets up and says “So when are you going?” and I know that the day has a limited number of hours and some of them are already committed and I really need to do this, so I do.

When I arrive at the store, the door says the store opens at 10:00, but it is 9:30 and the door is unlocked and people are waiting inside for customers, and tell me to come in, it is a special sale day. I get a really great guy, Mark, and tell him what I need. 

He was astonished. “You’re not here for the NEW iPhoneXR?” he asks, like he cannot believe what he is hearing. I tell him what I need, and he says “You need the new iPhoneXR.” He tells me all the things it will do, and then starts showing me how it will work. I tell him what I need is a phone that will work in these countries, and he shows me two ways it can work, both of which I feel comfortable I can do.

And the phone is beautiful. And handy. Within five minutes, I have said “yes” to the phone, have picked out chargers and phone case and protectors, and he is transferring all my phone stuff from the Cloud to my new phone. Of all the things that delight me, at the time, one is that I found a sturdy pink phone case that sparkles; my granddaughter will love it and think I am very cool. It makes me laugh; I am not a woman who would ever have carried a pink sparkly phone in my professional life.

The phone “recognizes” me. I no longer have to put in a code, but I have a back up code for when I need it, like I guess if I’ve been on a four day binge and it doesn’t recognize me, or . . . if I’ve been on an all night flight, which can have the same physical impact as a four day binge (those of you who know me know I am totally joking about the four day binge; I barely drink a whole glass of wine now.)

What I love, having played with it for a day, is that it is so easy. My eyes are really good, except for reading, and the screen of this phone is large and the writing is very readable. There are Tips! They tell me all the things I can do, whether I want to do them or not. There is Siri, whom I don’t intend to use, but I set it up because you never know, I might. 

(Big internal debate – who? whom? Siri is not a real person, but I would say “I don’t intend to use her” which means “whom” but who even uses “whom” anymore?)

So I just tried Siri, “Siri, open Google Maps and take me to Cologne, Germany?” and it took a couple steps, but . . . it’s a miracle! It worked!

“Siri, what is the water level of the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany?” (Blah blah blah blah “take a look!”) and the German website, one among many that she found, showed the water level in Koln to be . . . 74 cm. Hmmm. Not really enough to float a ship.

Our trip no longer shows on the company website. We have heard nothing. I am guessing they are both praying for an extended rain and scurrying to arrange alternatives should the water levels not rise high enough to float the boat along some of the narrower passages of the Rhine, which is experiencing historical lows following one of the driest, hottest summers ever in Europe.

AdventureMan and I avoid bus travel like a plague. It is too restricting on people who like to move, it is claustrophobic and not-private. On the other hand, you see a lot more on the road, and since we are really going because we miss the winter in France and Germany, on a bus (or two) we will have more actual time on the ground, eating winter food, wearing our winter clothes, more time to walk, God willing.

And . . . I have a new iPhoneXR, and I actually love it.

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October 27, 2018 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Germany, GoogleEarth, iPhone, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Technical Issue, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Cooking Up That Angry Food

I have a friend that helps me keep my house clean. I started out as her employer, and now we have become friends. She lives a very different life from me, and I learn from her. Sometimes her perceptions will catch me by surprise.

As we were talking about volunteers and volunteering in churches, we found our churches to be very similar – and I am betting these experiences are universal.

“I’ve always liked washing dishes,” I tell her, “because nobody else wants the job, nobody is telling me how to do it, and I can just keep my head down and stay out of the uproars.”

“Yeh,” she says, “arguing over the little things, cooking up that angry food.”

“Angry food?” I ask.

“”Yeh, you know, you can taste it. When people are calm and happy, they cook differently, and the food comes out good, you can taste the love in it. When they in a hurry, or upset about something, food come out angry.”

Yep. I’ve cooked an angry meal or two myself. It’s a waste of good ingredients. You might as well just open a can of soup as cook angry food.

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Advent, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Food, Humor, Quality of Life Issues, Survival | Leave a comment

Isaiah: the desert shall rejoice and blossom

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The Lectionary reading in the Old Testament today is from Isaiah, one of my favorite books in the bible, and when I read it, I think of all my time in the Arabian peninsula, in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait. I think of this land, on the route from the rift valley in Kenya where man is supposed to have originated, how earliest humans would have crossed through these countries as they moved slowly away from their origins.

My Qatari and Kuwaiti friends tell me that legends say that these countries were once lush, green and beautiful. They are still beautiful, but the lushness and the greeness is only in small pockets when and where the arid land has water. I think nothing is impossible for God, and how wonderful it would be to see these countries lush and green and fertile once more.

The King is coming, coming as a tiny baby in human form to live with us and turn us away from our wickedness. He sees things differently. He tells us to love one another, to love our enemies, to take care of one another. He makes the blind to see, the lame to leap, and the deaf to hear. Come! Come, Emanuel!

Isaiah 35:1-10

35 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.

3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.’

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,*
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

8 A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,*
but it shall be for God’s people;*
no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
9 No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Doha, Environment, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Kuwait, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Quality of Life Issues, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual, Weather | Leave a comment

The Christmas Spirit at the Pageant

There is nothing on earth as heart warming as three and four year olds at the Episcopal Day School doing a Christmas pageant. The teachers and aides are truly heroes, teaching Christmas Carols and a script to children so young. Getting the children in, getting them in their places, keeping them on track – it was adorable, heart warming – and totally hilarious. The songs were so sweet, the kids so delighted to see their loved ones in the audience (“Hey, Dad! Dad! DAD!”) and their joy in being a part of it so palpable. The little Star of the East who missed her cue and followed the Wise Men, the little girl belting out the Christmas songs, the adorable sheep – I grin just thinking about it.

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Herding cats, LOL!
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Joseph and Mary start their trip:
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Joseph and Mary are presented with a pillow for their trip:
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Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
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The Star of the East:
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The manger, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, all the barnyard animals, and the Star of the East:

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It didn’t last thirty minutes. It is a highlight of our Christmas season 🙂

December 21, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Christmas, Community, Cultural, Entertainment, Events, Generational, Humor, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

John the Baptist and Brood of Vipers

It is a rainy, chilly morning in Pensacola.

Even as I write those words, I smile. Our grandson inherited my cold genes through his father. By cold genes, I mean we are more comfortable being cool than hot. We sleep cool. We need less clothing to stay warm. He told his Baba, AdventureMan, that “chilly is not cold” because he didn’t want to wear long pants, he prefers shorts.

Saint-John-the-Baptist-web

(There are a lot of images of John the Baptist, but this one made me grin; he looks a little Rastafarian, and I hadn’t thought of him as so long haired and skinny, but he was living in the wilderness and eating locusts and honey . . . )

I can still feel the air grow still as the British Ambassador to Kuwait read a very odd scripture about John the Baptist. It was odd because while it talked about John, it was unfamiliar to me. At the end, he said “A reading from the holy Qu’ran” and I was astonished for two reasons. First, I didn’t know that the Muslims recognized John the Baptist (they do, he is called Yahya Yahanna, and they have a beautiful tomb to him in the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, where many visit and pray) and second, I didn’t know I belonged to a church that would allow the Qu’ran to be read as Holy Scripture.

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Life is long, and full of surprises. I love it. I think the ability to be surprised, and to ponder those quick flickers of perspective keeps us young in heart, and young in spirit.

Today, John speaks to us, each and every one. The true path is coming, the word of God embodied in a human being, born a tiny baby, a human baby, God come down into flesh. (My Muslim friends are quivering with fear at this point, waiting for me to be struck down for such blasphemy. They don’t believe Jesus was the son of God, but that he was a messenger, like Mohammed. They also believe Jesus will be the judge at the end of times.)

Life among the Moslems. Bible study with the Baptist. My very Mormon friends. My own very Episcopalian faith. All these influences – and my Alaskan heritage – mashed together with smatterings of others, have gone into making me a very odd sort of Christian.

I’m OK with that.

Luke 3:1-9

3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler* of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler* of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler* of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Alaska, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pensacola Christmas Parade

Why do they groan? Why do they grumble and look annoyed when I say it’s time for the Christmas Parade?

 

Once they get there, they have the best time! Who wouldn’t? It’s all noise and flash, great floats and loud bands, dancing in the street, dancing on the sidewalk, seeing all our friends from church and school and waving to friends on the floats – throwing BEADS!

Even 1 year old baby N totally gets into the beads! “Beads! Beads!” she shouts and holds out her hands. She marvels at their sparkle as they hang around her neck.

Here is what I love about Pensacola. It’s been a bad month, with Ferguson, with New York, and in Pensacola 50,000 people gather peacefully and party on the streets. It’s New Orleans with our clothes on, it’s Christmas/Mardi Gras Family Style. We dance, we party, we jump for those beads – and then we pass them along to the children. It’s a long, happy parade, with every school marching band and Mardi Gras group, a local radio station or two, the homeless, the counter culture, drinks in open containers, church groups, neighborhood meet-ups, Jesus is there, with Mary and Joseph – it’s all cool.

When the parade ends, we all go home. Peacefully.

Some may grumble, but for me, they show up, every year, and we celebrate a family tradition, the Pensacola Christmas Parade.

 

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AdventureMan and his helper went down early Sunday morning and pulled a great Bead harvest out of the trees. Little grandson Q carefully sorted them into piles for his friend Chris, his mama and daddy, his two other sets of grandparents and for his room upstairs in our house. 

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December 19, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

The Season of Isaiah

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Advent started yesterday, and our readings in The Lectionary begin with Isaiah, that prophet of sorrow for our sinfulness, and hope for a future redeemer:

Isaiah 1:10-20

10 Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.

12 When you come to appear before me,*
who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
13 bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.

18 Come now, let us argue it out,
says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

December 1, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas . . .

I’m not a person who likes to be rushed, and I am a person who front-loads, who gets things done early, so as not to have to make decisions or preparations in a rush. If I can plan, and execute early, it all falls into place.

So when we had another early cold spell this week, our second ‘unseasonal’ cold spell, so cold we had to cover our more sensitive plants and bring others into protected areas, and with Thanksgiving coming so late this year, I decided I could let myself do a little early Christmas prep.

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No, no tree, not yet, and no lights outside. Time enough for all that, just a little sparkle to get us started. As much as I love real greenery, real garlands, the temperatures here are too high for it it stay green longer than a week, so I use the artificial kind. You’d think the benefit would be no dropping needles, but this stuff also drops ‘needles’, and we laugh at where we find them hiding in August.

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We bought our crêche many years ago in Germany, and it has gone with us everywhere we lived. It has lost a lot of its Germanic moss through the years, but I wouldn’t dream of replacing it:

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The normal crêche occupants through the years have been supplemented by extra sheep and camels, and actually, by French santons, extra wise men, an angel ornament . . . hmmm, maybe it’s getting a little kitchy, but we wouldn’t sacrifice a single thing. One of our Saudi friends contributed a line of camels 🙂

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In France and in Germany, crafters make the cutest sheep, and we found ourselves buying them at Christmas or crafts markets.

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And, from Doha, The Church of the Epiphany, our “Aboona” or Our Father, the Lords Prayer written in Arabic calligraphy, one of our treasures.

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Last, but not least, time to change the hallway quilt, and The 12 Days of Christmas will reign for more like 40 days 🙂

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November 20, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Christmas, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Holiday, Living Conditions, Middle East, Pensacola, Weather | , | 2 Comments

Ghost of Christmas Past

I remember Thanksgiving. It was yesterday. The season has never gone so fast, with Thanksgiving being so close to Christmas. Taking care of my sweet little granddaughter in the afternoons was a wonderful, quiet interlude in an otherwise swirling-with-events December, complicated by AdventureMan and I both catching terrible colds and lacking energy during the middle part leading up to Christmas.

I wouldn’t pass up the babysitting part for anything. My little granddaughter is the sweetest little baby ever. If she fusses, she doesn’t fuss much, and it is easily covered by “change my diaper” or “feed me” or “I really need to sleep” or I’m bored, walk me around a little until I fall asleep” or “Now I really really need to go to sleep!” Every now and then she fools you with an “I’m too hot! Take some clothes off!” but that makes me laugh, because once you do she is so grateful she just gurgles and coos. She is also beautiful 🙂

We had a wonderful Christmas, colds gone, great houseguests, fun family times, including taking our grandson to his first Nutcracker. Just after Christmas we rushed off to a family wedding in south Florida – a horrid 13 hour drive down – so I grabbed a few Christmas photos before it all gets taken down:

Here’s what I love. We have so many decorations loaded with Christmas baggage – you know the kind. “Oh! We got those candlesticks the year we moved to Wiesbaden!” “Oh! Remember that palm tree from our CENTCOM years?” “Look! Our creche!” “Oh! Our Damascus ornaments!” It is wonderful, and it is time consuming, and with a short Christmas this year, and a lot going on, I did something I have never done before. I saw some ornaments in WalMart, I call them “bang-for-your-buck” ornaments, sparkling snowflakes and stars, 20 for $2.98.

I bought a lot. Maybe about $25 worth. A lot of twinkling little stars and snowflakes.

The tree was all silver balls and silver stars this year, with an ivory cross on top.

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The stairwell was all silver snowflakes. It was magical. It was also quick and easy and inexpensive – I grinned every time I saw it.

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I did pull the Nurnburg angel out; I don’t think I can do Christmas without her and she provided a pop of red against all the greenery and silver and white.

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The little silver reindeer are easy; stored all together in a box that says “Early Christmas” right along with the suction cups that hold them up – if it takes me five minutes, it’s a slow year, LOL.

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December 30, 2013 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Christmas, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Shopping, Survival | | Leave a comment

A King is Given

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It is the sweetest, quietest morning in the year; the Qatari Cat awoke me early – well actualy, he awoke me often as the temperatures have dropped dramatically and he wanted my body heat. He is a BIG cat, and takes up a lot of room wherever he stretches out, so I end up sleeping cramped much of the night, LOL. He is such a sweet cat, who can complain?

Yesterday, our church started a new service, a noon service, to help drain off some of the 4:00 and crush of good Episcopalians wanting to start Christmas with a moment of holiness and order before the chaos. Noon was a perfect time for me, and it was a perfect service, full of great readings and music, a goodly crowd, many people I know, and cold enough to wear one of my vintage German coats, coats I considered ‘investments’ when I thought we would be living in Seatte after retirement. If I get to wear them one day each year, they still look new at the end of this century.

A little later in the day, the festivities began, friends arriving from out of town, a family gathering and Christmas Eve dinner where my beloved daughter in law made some of the best crab cakes with Remoulade sauce I have ever eaten, the children were adorable, and the conversation full of laughter and memories. This morning has dawned clear and cold, the Qatari Cat is fed, AdventureMan still snoozing, and I have a few minutes to share a Psalm from today’s lectionary with you. Life is sweet.

Happy, happy Christmas to all!

Psalm 2

1 Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
3 ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.’

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 ‘I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.’

7 I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, ‘You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
with trembling 12kiss his feet,*
or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are all who take refuge in him.

December 25, 2013 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Pets, Qatteri Cat | Leave a comment