Post All the Things...

Post All the Things...

So, second week of school down... only about 37 million to go (not really, but sometimes it feels that way!) Things are still going pretty well; consider this your status report and proof that I am still living and breathing. Don't worry... every class has a grammar test next week so I may be in the depths of despair by then. =)

Anyway, I have wanted to write several blog posts this week but we have had something going on literally every night (plus, you know school and all plus I have a nap schedule to keep) and I know your favorite posts allow my busy life to punish you by combining multiple events into one novella. I live to serve. 

Last week (to celebrate the end of the first week of school!) we headed down 70 to Goldsboro and stayed with Mamaw Friday night. She and I got pedicures on Saturday morning (so fun!) and did a little shopping (obviously) and it was so nice. She is really my favorite person.

And, really? Eggs and biscuits with chocolate gravy? (

What I wore on Sunday: Mint on mint. I got this shirt at Kohl's (odd, since I probably haven't bought anything there since high school) but it was way way on clearance and I knew immediately that I wanted to wear it with this necklace (taking a page from Merrick's book; she wore a monochromatic white outfit that was awesome!) and I liked it a lot. (Also, those split ends? Got ta go. For real.)

I went to a high football game over the weekend and... I didn't hate it. I like football but I don't even pretend to know what it means (no excuse for that, since I've been watching it my whole life. I just don't care enough, maybe? Except about Alabama) But it was really fun and I even found myself jumping up and cheering (at the appropriate times) and getting really into it despite knowing exactly zero of the players. And time with my cousin and uncle and football-loving husband is always fun (especially when I get the urge to repeat everything the announcer says in his "Booooming foooootball voiiiiiice!")

Only my favorite movie and one of the best songs ever... the perfect lullaby. The Sherman Brothers were genius... genius, I tell you! (Speaking of this movie and these composers, I am so excited about this movie coming out!)

I love that I crop all the junk out of a picture (like a trash can and unmade bed... oops, I guess you can still see that.) Anyway, I really wanted to be wearing sweats comfortable at school the other day and this very over-sized cardigan from H&M that I got for $5 (!!!) fit the bill. I know it's kind of Mr. Rogers-ish but, oh well. Won't you be my neighbor? (I really never liked that show... don't shoot me! Sorry, Fred.)

Last one... I spent probably twenty minutes watching this chubby kid jump off the side of the couch onto the cushions ("One! Two! Free!") and then hide behind the pillow and shout out "I'm right here!" whenever I called his name. I also taught him to yell "Geronimo!" when he jumped so that was productive. Also, every few jumps he would rush his fat little self over to the iPad for "Oh, a kiss!" and I would die of the cuteness.

Woah! So little material, so much time! (Scratch that; reverse it. Name that movie!) Happy Friday, everybody! Can you believe it's SEPTEMBER in a couple of days? You know what that means, right? Pumpkin spice? Psssh... try Christmas music! Woohoo!

Jingle all the way...


Linked up with Ashley

Go Bears...

Go Bears...

When I was in junior high, the most exciting activity for a lot of us teenagers (other than hanging out at "the light." Remember "the light," NV friends?) was going to the Bears games, especially on Friday or Saturday nights. Our church's Bible college had a basketball team and watching them was like my favorite thing. Especially since my sister's boyfriend was the (really awesome) point guard, I felt like cheering on the team was my moral obligation. And part of having team spirit for good ol' GSBC was making sure you had on blue and gold (or yellow) at the game. So while I doubt I'll ever cheer on the Bears again (that would be quite an away game!) I thought of those electrifying moments  that thrilled my little 14-year-old heart in the gym when I wore this outfit.

Top and Necklace: Target 
Skirt: Loft 
Curls: Luck and an Alignment of the Hair Planets
Arms: Ice Cream and Exercise Aversion

Why do I make this face?

Here's why. I should fire my photographer. 

So, if I had been able to wear this outfit to a Bears game in high school I'd be looking a whole lot better than I did in the blue and yellow striped rugby shirts I was rocking back in the day (although, in my defense, that look was all the rage. However, I bet that the COUPLES who wore the MATCHING rugby shirts look back on those pictures with some measure of regret. Thank heavens I was single with no one to match but myself.) 

Do you wear "team gear" or just get in the spirit with team colors? I'd say I'm in the middle of the road... I'm not above a team shirt but you will not find me in face paint or a foam finger. Fan, yes. Fanatic? Not so much (until Alabama starts playing football and then all bets are off.)


Linking up with Lindsey and Lauren!



Okay, so this title (what is with me and titles this week?) has nothing to do with trashy reality television and very little to do with actual hardship... but, you guys... I made through the first week of school! AND it was actually really good and despite my moments of nervous illness leading up to it I actually enjoyed myself and thought, sappily, several times this week, "I just love this." (What? Grammar doesn't give you a warm and fuzzy feeling? How sad.) And other than the slap back to reality that is spending hours on lesson plans (four English classes? Goodbye, Thursday afternoon!) it was great. Anyway, I survived this week with no mishaps to speak of and for that I am quite thankful. A few highlights of the week...

I bought this wooden M several months ago, wrapped it in twine, and added the flower and bow with the intention of hanging it on the front door. BUT since it rains so much and we live right next to a bunch of trees anything you put on the door is going to get dirty so I decided to make a space for it in the house. And my friend Brook, who should totally be an interior designer =), came over and helped me rearrange my shelves. I love it!

What is Pinterest for if not to find ridiculous memes like this and send them to Rory and Amy? Recipes? Crafts? Pssh. No way.

I wanted an instrumental album to play during my study hall, because a) I don't want to use all my Pandora hours up and b) having my study hall interrupted by a McDonald's commercial is distracting, to say the least. SO imagine my delight when I found a Jim Brickman album of the Carpenters (only my favorite group ever... give me Karen's voice, please!) I purchased it on iTunes immediately and have been listening to it on repeat constantly.

I had to go through one of my school bags and found a bunch of notes from my third grade students... I miss those little munchkins SO much. Hayden (and others!) used to write me sweet notes almost every day and I miss that, I'm not gonna lie. =)

I haven't completely finished, but I have started the process of getting my first play copyrighted. I'm so excited about this step and being maybe, presumptuously a little closer to publishing? Who knows! 

Well, I hope that your week has been as nice as possible. I am off to Mamaw's tonight which will hopefully involve some biscuits and chocolate gravy if I'm a good girl. =) (Be jealous, cousins!)


Feed the Birds...

Feed the Birds...

If you aren't interested in an outfit post, I am more than happy to write several paragraphs about the song of the same title as this post. Mary Poppins was my favorite movie growing up and the Sherman Brothers are without a doubt my favorite composers. And while just about every song in the movie is considered a Disney classic, Feed the Birds is high on my list because, according to Richard Sherman, it was Walt's favorite song and he requested it often. It's sweet and a little melancholy and just beautiful and makes me nostalgic every time I hear it (which is often, considering my Pandora is set to my Disney station most of the time.) 

Anyway... You know me and my compulsive need to overthink even the most trivial of decisions and my outfit for the first day of school was no exception. (I remember being very stressed by this as a child. Which jumper? Which socks?) So, I narrowed it down to a couple of options and with a little prodding (thanks, Grace!) I went with the bird outfit. Because... why not?

Target, Target, Belk
One day I'll learn to take pictures in the morning before the rigors of the school day have worked their black magic and I look as if I own neither an iron nor a single anti-frizz product.

My students already know think I'm crazy... I might as well prove them right by being the "bird lady." Plus, I really do love this shirt. I can't wait to wear it with a cardigan and boots. (Bring on the fall... and no, I am never content with the season in which I am currently present.)

To recap.... I kind of like birds, both in song and on my shirt. However, in real life they terrify me and I may or may not have made a big fool of myself last time I was at the beach, accidentally dropped a dill pickle chip, and freaked out as a huge flock of seagulls converged on my bag like a pack of rabid vultures. It was like Alfred Hitchcock was directing Finding Nemo. Scary stuff.

And so ends the most random of posts ever. (I won't end by saying organized thoughts are for the birds, because that would be lame.)


Linked up here and here.

P.S. I couldn't help but laugh when I compared these pictures... although Emily is far cuter!

I wonder where she gets it? =) 

Taco Stew...

Taco Stew...

So, I've had the recipe for this soup for a while... I guess since we got married, but I just tried it last fall/winter and it was an instant hit in the McNeese house. And while I'm not terribly proud of sharing a recipe that involves mostly canned goods, sometimes I just really need to go with something a little more "prepared," you know? If you enjoy working all day and then coming home and cooking from scratch, my hat's off to you, but I... do not. (I'm not saying I never do, but I'd just rather dinner be waiting for me with as little preparation as possible, because I'm lazy.)

SO... to the recipe. You need:

-One pound of hamburger, browned and drained
-Two cans of diced tomatoes
-Two cans of kidney beans (I only use one because I'm not a big bean fan, and other beans would work just as well.)
-One can of Rotel
-Two cans of creamed corn
-One packet of taco seasoning
-One packet of ranch seasoning

Clearly I should be taking pictures for Taste of Home. Ha!

Mix it all up, bring to a boil and simmer for a while then enjoy! (Or you can put it in the crockpot... a teacher's dream!) It's actually even better the next day (or two days later, since I made this on Saturday and had it for dinner tonight.) It's really like a Mexican chili... thick but a little soupier than most chilis, and it's REALLY good with a little shredded cheese thrown in there with some crackers or tortilla chips.



Back to School...

Back to School...

It's hard to believe that the summer is over and school is starting on Monday. I know that's so cliche..."Summer flew by! Can you believe it's time for school again?" But for me, it's truer this year I think than ever before. Between vacations and projects and stuff, we've been very, very busy... almost to the point that I feel like school and a routine will be a relief. (Don't worry... very soon I'll be whining for summer again.)

Anyway, as all teachers do, I have been excited, stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, thrilled, and just plain scared at regular intervals throughout this last week of preparation. Basically my emotions have run the gamut come full circle, usually settling on scared. =) Because, let's be honest... what teacher isn't just a little bit afraid of stepping into a room full of every imaginable personality, full of potential, and full of potential problems. (Really? Problems? Yes, imagine it!) But with that potential comes the limitless possibilities of new and exciting opportunities for all kinds of moments. There are the everyday, pleasant moments of a game that didn't get out of hand, or a quiz everyone passed, or an overheard sweet conversation that wasn't prompted by the presence of a teacher. Or those bigger, rarer moments, like a student who opens up and actually asks for advice, or the class has a breakthrough and finally gets a concept you've been pounding for weeks (looking at you, adverbs.) And of course there are plenty of tear-my-hair-out moments requiring prayer and patience, but we avoid them when we can. =) 

So, another school year begins... enjoying the everyday moments, always looking for a big one, preventing the bad ones. And, as I've been reminded multiple times this week, remembering that beyond the grammar and the literature and the spelling and vocabulary and the composition, I am given the opportunity to influence. I don't teach curriculum; I teach students. A few dozen bright, unique, frustrating, wonderful students who make me want to weep and then laugh, sometimes within the same conversation. But I do love them. I saw one of our more challenging ones this week and told a principal that it's amazing that even when a kid drives you crazy, you get this warm, fuzzy feeling at the sight of them (yes, I know... I'm nauseating.) But it's true! You spend hours with these kids, sometimes more than their parents, and for better or worse they become your own. Heaving sigh... Now that I've worked myself into a sentimental mess...

This is the first slide of my first day presentation. If this doesn't scare them I don't know what will. =) 

I've talked recently about how people think I'm younger than I am, and you can imagine how that could translate negatively in the classroom. (My endless wealth of Disney knowledge probably doesn't help the illusion that I'm not actually a grown-up.) And it's easy to feel insecure and self-conscious when you work with teenagers... who aren't exactly known for their subtlety in scrutiny. (I found out about halfway through last year that a few girls were betting on how long it would take me to repeat an outfit. I think they're still waiting... ha! Not really.) And of course there's the pressure... pressure to want to be liked, to want to influence, to realize the enormity of my job that is preparing these kids for literally the rest of their lives. (Yikes! And you wonder why I'm frazzled.) But I know that a) I am certainly not alone in this endeavor and b) it's worth the frazzle, the stress, the long hours, the sleepless nights (and there have been plenty) and the days when all you want to do is pour a big Mountain Dew and shut out the world (subjects and verbs included.) Because teaching is hard. Rewarding? Yes. Fulfilling? Sure. Hard? Absolutely.

So, back to school. Back to early mornings, late nights, lesson plans, bulletin boards, packing lunches, grading, email, conferences, chapel.... over and over and over and waking up one day and seeing you've made a difference somewhere. And when the difficulties come (inevitably), the frustrations, the days when they just don't get it (and neither do I!), I must remind myself that I'm called to this. That I didn't just choose this as a career... God placed it on my heart as a little girl and I'm privileged to be living out a dream of mine. And, beneath the crusty exterior of my cold heart =) I truly, deep-down love these kids. And grammar. Because I'm a weirdo.

So, if you see a harried-looking teacher this week, give them a thumbs-up and maybe a thank-you. Maybe a look of solidarity, or a sympathetic smile. Or a cupcake. I think we all love cupcakes. =) Happy back to school! Let's do this, NBCA!


The Art of Aging...

The Art of Aging...

I get told fairly regularly that I look young for my age, or asked if I'm still in high school/college, or mistaken for a teenager. I guess it's something I should be thankful for, but it's actually kind of annoying, especially in situations where I need to be taken seriously. (Counselor? Nope, must be a camper. What are you doing out in the dark, young lady? Student teacher? Nope, must be a student. What grade are you in, sweetie? Um... 17th grade? Ugh...)

I know, I know... "Embrace it! You're so lucky! When you're 30 and people think you're 20, it's great!" Well, I'm NOT 30, I'm 24, and it's NOT that great. SO, when I began teaching I realized quickly that this "blessing" of looking younger was pretty much a curse when it comes to dealing with parents who think you're the same age as their 15-year-old. And while I can be prepared and professional, there's not much I can do to look older short of something drastic like dyeing my hair gray (although I think another year or two in the classroom may take care of that for me.)

Clearly since this a major life issue and I overanalyze every.thing. in my life, I was very concerned about what to wear for our Open House/Orientation for the new school year. Again, I want parents to take me seriously (at least until I open my mouth and inevitably make a dumb joke that they don't find nearly as amusing as I do) and blending in with the students is not exactly what I'm trying to accomplish. So when I was on vacation and found this blazer at Gap marked down from $88 to $16, I knew it was just the thing to add to my collection of "make me look older or at least my age" pieces. I love the details and the bright color, which still say 24? Maybe? But definitely not 15.

Dress: Banana Republic Outlet
Blazer: Gap
Shoes: Target
Necklace: Ann Taylor

I HATE that these pictures are so dark and grainy but it was raining when we left and I really didn't want to have to introduce myself as Mrs. Frizzle so spending any superfluous time outside seemed imprudent AND we got home super late and... you don't care. My intentions were good, I promise.

So, I think it worked. I did have several parents tell me I looked nice, which I interpreted as, "You look like a grown woman who will do a fabulous job educating my child." (Hey, sometimes you have to embellish, okay?) And I liked that it was dressy but not "Good grief, Ashley... are you a teacher or Nanny McPhee?) I really don't want to look old but just not being mistaken for a teenager would be nice, especially since I'm around them all day.

Now if I can just get rid of the occasional acne and the insecurity, I'll be well on my way to standing out from the crowd. =) Happy Wednesday!


Linked up with Lindsey and Lauren!

Happy Birthday, Emily...

Happy Birthday, Emily...

I'll never forget when I found out I was going to be an aunt. It was a little over five years ago, and I was a freshman in college, working at some event a few weeks before our semester break. I didn't have my cellphone with me because a)the event was in the gym and I didn't get signal and b)my phone was broken half the time. SO imagine my horror when a friend came and found me to tell me that my sister had called another friend and needed me to call her. Of course my first thought was that something terrible had happened, so I left my post and booked it across campus to my dorm room, where the number of missed calls on my phone further aroused my rising panic. When I called back, Amanda answered the phone with a chipper "Hey!" to which I answered a huffy, "What's going on?" She casually replied, "Oh, I just wanted to tell you what you could get me for Christmas." Um...really? I snarled back, "Are you serious? You gave me a heart attack just to tell me about a Christmas present?" And she started laughing and said, "You can get me MATERNITY CLOTHES!" And of course I screamed and laughed and cried and told everyone I passed for the rest of the day.

Fast-forward about seven months and a beautiful, dark-haired, perfect little girl was born and I became an auntie to Emily Marie. And I think our whole family can agree that life changed dramatically after that day. (Sometimes I wonder when we're all together what in the world we all did before the kids started coming!) As a baby her little personality started showing immediately (so many crazy faces!) and almost immediately after she began talking we all wondered where in the world the child came up with this stuff. It's been that way ever since... and I don't have kids but it's hard for me to imagine loving any children more than I love my nieces and nephews. 

Look at the little papoose!

Love at first sight!

Various adventures...

Like auntie, like niece...

Um... can you say beautiful baby?

One of my favorite pictures from my wedding day. However, this tender moment was shared BEFORE she tried to throw my whole ceremony into upheaval by running around the stage... oh well. Forgive and forget.

First birthday!

At Magic Kingdom... our favorite place!

Sweet girl.

Princess Emily (just ask her. =)

Sweet sister...

Sweet (and sometimes bossy =) oldest cousin...

This girls LOVES her Uncle Jonathan... and I'd say she's got him wrapped pretty tightly around her fat little finger.

Just last month on vacation... best buds! 

Oh, this girl... Emily has been described by more than one person as my mini-me. She is certainly precocious and talkative like I was as a kid... not to mention smart and adorable. =) Really, though... she is just about the most unique child I've ever met. So funny, so outgoing, so creative, and so able to remember just about any line or song from a Disney movie (obviously, my sister and brother-in-law are fabulous parents.) She is so sweet, so loving, so stubborn, and makes me laugh almost every day. And the fact that she is turning five today and starting kindergarten soon makes me want to weep.

What a beautiful, sweet, smart, funny five-year-old! Auntie Ashley loves you and is feeling very, very old today. Happy birthday, poppet.

(Auntie) Ash

Friday Five...

Friday Five...

You guys... there is only ONE more Friday before school starts. I demand to know where my summer went! (Sigh...) Oh well, as busy as things have been, I truly am looking forward to being back in a routine. Back to getting up at zero dark thirty every morning? No thank you. 

Anyway, this week has been a flurry of lesson plans and classroom stuff that you really don't care to hear about but there were some breaks in the boring that I will gladly share.

1. Another VBS is in the books... it went really well and I was/am so proud of Jonathan for making it happen and organizing things to run smoothly. He's the bomb. And I taught 30+ 6-8 year olds five nights in a row and survived, so there's that.

2. Last Saturday, I mentioned to Janssen that we'd be in her neck of the woods and she invited me to come say hi (provided that I was not actually a murderer... her words, which made me laugh.) I showed up mid-morning (cookies in hand that of course I did not make myself... I would have sooner arrived with a book recommendation!) and spent about an hour chatting with her and  "helping" Ella (who is too.cute.) with a puzzle. And right before I left Ani woke up... it looks like she's a little grumps here but she had just smiling her head off... I think the sun must have been in her eyes. Oh, those girls... they are adorable! 

And it's a funny thing, this blogging world... of course I don't know the people whose blogs I read, but I kinda do. Janssen was so nice and we never ran out of things to talk about it and of course I was totally nervous (because she is an Important Awesome Blogger and well, I'm me.) Of course Jonathan thought I was crazy to invade the home of someone who is practically a stranger but it really was lovely. Thanks again, Janssen!

3. I got to spend a little time with these two crazies on Monday. Miss them. Love them. Not opposed to stealing them sometime.

4. My sisters had profesh pictures done of their kiddos which is great because a) they are beautiful and I love looking at them constantly and b) I have something better than blurry Facetime screenshots to show people. Seriously, though... how gorgeous are these kids? (Also, can we talk about how Emily is pretty much looking like a teenager all of a sudden. Stop growing please, poppet.)

5. Today my cousin and I took what I am (sadly) pretty sure will be my last beach trip for a while. It was so HOT but the water felt great. And you can't see much of it but my striped beach mat was a birthday gift from Brookie and it has a built-in pillow and I adore it. 

I hope you've had a fantastic week. I don't say it enough, but thank you SO much for reading, commenting, sharing, liking, sending happy thoughts, etc. Ya'll are too kind and well, why blog if no one shows up to read it? You guys do and I'm eternally grateful. (sappy, I know.)

Happy Friday! (That's redundant, isn't it?)


This and That...

This and That...

I am taking a breather from the most mind-numbingly dull task in the history of humankind (collating tests and quizzes) to talk about something far more interesting... clothes, of course. Also, these two outfits have nothing whatsoever to do with one another. They were chosen at random from this week's lineup (in other words, they are the only two outfits that I photographed.)

Seriously, have you ever collated tests? It is INSANELY boring. Like, I'm coming off the adrenaline rush of watching paint dry in comparison.

SO... the outfits. You've waited so patiently. 

Dress: Tarjay
Cardigan: Old Navy
Belt: Stolen from another Target dress
Wedges: I'll let you guess...

You know I've been known to mix patterns a time or two. I had this dress out to wear on Sunday morning but was struck down by the unreasonable monster of nothing to wear! nothing to accessorize! why do these difficult decisions plague me! (I know... your heart breaks for me.) SO anyway I knew I'd be freezing to death in church (a-hem... why is that always true? Who doesn't love to shiver their way through the choir special?) and wanted a sweater so I happened upon this one and... bam. As I told some friends at church, it's amazing what outfits are born in moments of desperation. I liked it though... definitely seeing a repeat during school.

Skirt: Loft
Top: J.Crew Factory
Necklace: Caroline G (google discount codes... a bunch of blogs are doing 50% off!)
Wedges: Belk

Ah, the midi skirt. I've seen/tried on a few, but they hit at that awkward, this-is-the-fattest-part-of-my-leg place most of the time so... pass. However, when I was on vacation I found this one at my favorite Loft store (does it mean I shop too much when I have pet stores? maybe.) It was on super clearance and I loved the color. (It's not as bright as it looks here... more periwinkle in person.) Actually, I feel like my wardrobe is made up mostly of this royal blue/cobalt all of a sudden. How I go from having very little of a color to a bunch of it is a mystery.... as is my inexplicable number of striped pieces. Not that I'm complaining...

Find any great deals lately, on anything? Skirts? Shoes? Lunch meat? I'm all ears. 


Linked up here and here.

Canceling My Pity Party...

Canceling My Pity Party...

This is a crazy time of year. School is around the corner, our church is hosting a men's conference this week, I'm buried in lesson plans and classroom decorations, and our new school building is still under construction which means I can't even get my room ready right now. (Have you met me? Do you know how OCD I am about my bulletin boards?)

I had stayed pretty cool about all of this until today, when I just about came undone. I'm teaching four English classes, and I'm not sure how I'm going to go about that. This time last year my classroom was completely decorated. Right now, I don't really have walls to decorate. And I've been at the school every day trying to make sense of the mountain of curriculum I'm responsible for, so my house has been slightly neglected to say the least.

But, as always when I start hanging streamers for my pity party, something or someone (the Lord, no doubt, and maybe Jiminy Cricket?) turns my thoughts to people with actual problems. Most of my so-called troubles right now can't really be called "trials" or even much to be endured.... most of it will be solved by time. I have looked around at dear friends of mine who are struggling with ACTUAL difficult circumstances, not mere inconveniences. It won't take chemo, or medication, or a huge sum or money, or counseling, or a miracle to make my problems go away. Yes, they are my problems, and they're stressing me out to the point that I've had a couple of really nice zits on my forehead lately, but in comparison, I really don't have much to complain about.

It's hard to find a balance in this, isn't it? Of course there is always someone having a harder time than I am, but that doesn't necessarily make me feel any better when I am feeling completely overwhelmed at the idea of new classes, new students, an unfinished classroom, a new set of discipline issues, etc. On the other hand, do I really have any right to complain when people are dealing with serious illness, loss of loved ones, betrayal, financial strain, or any myriad of other problems that I have yet to face?

I suppose the best way to go about finding this balance is to be thankful for my relatively light load right now and look for ways to encourage those whose burdens are far heavier than mine. I'm certainly not naive enough to think that things will always be this way- that no sickness or pain or death will befall me or my family. It's like the old cliche says, "It's not a matter of if you face a trial in life but when." If I fall apart when things are just annoying, I'm sure to be a mess when life really does get tough. (Again, I know tough is relative and what's hard to one person is a piece of cake to another.)

Then again, who among us can complain at all when we compare our trials, even those that seem great, to what Christ suffered at Calvary? It's hard to think about that because it really does cause our suffering to pale in comparison, but when we take a long, hard look at it and refuse to gloss over the uncomfortable details, it makes complaining about my problems seem petty. Not only should it give me a sense of perspective (real suffering versus perceived, usually exaggerated suffering) but it should give me a sense of joy. Isaiah 53 is one of my favorite passages (though terribly convicting at times). It tells us that His suffering ("He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities") ultimately made possible our redemption ("with His stripes we are healed.")

Wow. That's a slap in the face, eh? And fairly deep for me considering it's Monday and I spent three hours cutting out letters for my bulletin boards today. =) Just something to think about, even if I'm the only one thinking about it! (I know you just love it when I talk myself through something in a post. Don't mind my self-therapy here... sometimes I just need to talk, well...write, it out. Thanks for allowing these occasional sermons.)