Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

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We are under yet ANOTHER winter storm warning here so it was time to pull out a spring book! This one arrived in the mail yesterday - I love it when I pre-order something for one of the kids and it falls off my radar. Surprise mail is the best.

We were a fan of Kate Messner's book Over and Under the Snow and when we saw that she had a spring/summer volume coming out, I snatched it up. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is a delightful look at the inner workings of a family garden. While on the outside, you might just spot tomato plants and the tops of carrots, there really is a lot more than what meets the eye when you get in close. There are bugs galore (my little guy is all about the bugs right now) and other animals that come around to investigate the garden. These animal descriptions are interspersed with descriptions of how a grandma and granddaughter tend to the garden through spring planting, summer watering, and fall harvest.

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And the illustrations are just delightful.

While reading this book today didn't bring spring immediately, it did give me hope that the sun will come again. In the meantime, I'm going to make some more coffee and go work towards something warm for dinner!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Restricted in Love

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A photo of a boy, eating oatmeal and drinking hot chocolate, and sitting on his toes as only little boys can do.

Very often we feel restricted in our situations, our families, or our surroundings. But maybe the real problem lies elsewhere: in our hearts. There we are restricted, and that is the root of our lack of freedom. If we loved more, love would give our lives infinite dimensions, and we would no longer feel hemmed in.

- Fr. Jacques Phillipe

From the Restore Workshop.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reading Report :: February 2015

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Reading in the winter is just the best. There are very few other (outside) demands on my time, and there's nothing much better than climbing into bed, almost immediately after I've tucked kids in bed, with my own book.

What I tackled this month:
  • The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery (read-aloud), blogged
  • The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, blogged
  • The Love Song of Ms Queenie Hennessy (skimmed) by Rachel Joyce - didn't love this one. I mentioned that I was sent this one for a review and again, language made me want to put this one down.
  • Bliss by Katheryn Littlewood, recommend to me the girls by our friends the Dillows so I snatched up a used copy and sped through it. Sweet, magical and involving baking. It was a great one to snuggle up with!
  • Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin (reread), one I read last year and recommended. Worth taking the time with it again.
  • The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner. I feel like I want to say more on this book in another post. This was one of those books that kept popping up EVERYWHERE I turned. Seriously, everywhere. Every blog I read reviewed it (some that surprised me), it was all over instagram as folks showed off their copies arriving. Just everywhere. Apparently I needed the message and I've already gone out and bought a copy for a friend. So yes, I think (I hope) I will come back and journal some here on this book.
Coming up in March:

My Friday night. I am about 1/3 of the way through this book so far and it's pretty fascinating.
  • Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. Another review book, but I'm about half-way through it and it is fascinating.
  • The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer for the March Reading to Know bookclub. I totally wimped and bailed out on February's book (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Just a couple paragraphs told me that I was not going to put forth my best effort on that one!) But Tozer has been on my list to read for just FOREVER so I really, really, really plan to read this one. Really.
  • my book for Amy's Newbery read-aloud. (I got stuck on my little non-fiction jag as February ended but I'm not giving up on these Newbery books!) 
Happy reading, indeed.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Project Life 2015 :: February, Part 1



It's amazing how you can find time for a little bit of scrapbooking when you don't leave your home in five days. Our area was hit hard with ice the last week and from Sunday night to Saturday afternoon, our little crew was homebound, as were all the area schools and quite a few businesses. There was some snow playing here, but there was also school to be done ... we had taken a couple days off the day before for a winter break that coincided with a break with our Classical Conversations community so we needed to get some schoolwork in this week which we did succeed at, for the most part.

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Last week (before the bad weather) we went to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation's annual convention which was at Opryland Hotel. They had a free family program which we did when N1 was in kindergarten, but they had a much more hands-on kids area this year - or maybe I don't remember our first visit very well. They had quite a few booths with different pieces of outdoor equipement (bows and arrows, bb guns, etc.) that kids could try. As you can imagine, a certain four-year-old boy was in HEAVEN. (The girls enjoyed it as well, but the boy was in his element).

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Another random page protecter that I cut to work for what I wanted. I rarely take vertical photos but definitely didn't want to exclude these pics of the girls at the state park's photo booth.

Tennessee State Parks had several booths set up as well and I am inspired to get us out to some of these parks that we've not visited when the weather warms up. We live in a beautiful state and haven't taken the advantage of it that we could.

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Paddington photo from the internet.



Random February moments. (The green card above hides a photo of one of our recent foster girls).

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Random photos from this week. This miscellanous-ness (totally made up that word) of this page makes me happy, but this was a lot of what went on this week. So much reading. Ice. And ending it with a friend coming to spend the night and rescue us from a week of our own company!

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Photos + memories document = good stuff.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reading Report :: What He's Reading Now

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We are on day four of being iced in here at home so suffice it to say there has been a lot of reading aloud. It's been a while since I've documented what the boy has been into reading so it's about time for a round-up of those tiles that I have read over and over and over and ... you get the picture. I've been doing a little searching and looking at booklists for some new-to-us books that might interest the only boy here in the house and these are a few that we've enjoyed:

  • Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant - must get another book in this series because after some initial hesitation, this is the one that has been reread the most this week.
  • A Perfectly Messed Up Story - this one has him giggling when you turn the page and find there is jelly! and peanut butter! in the the book!
  • It's a Tiger! - one of the favorites for bedtime. A little boy is exploring the jungle and everywhere he looks he finds a tiger! Run!
  • Toy Boat - this is probably the sweetest of the bunch. The story of a little boy who makes himself and little boat and what happens when the boat gets away from him one day out on the lake. The illustrations in this one are very sweet.
  • Not Your Typical Dragon - the story of a little dragon who has some unique talents and doesn't quite fit in.
  • Dragons Love Tacos - another one that is repeated quite a bit and might get added to our personal bookshelves. Dragons DO love tacos, but you better not feed them anything spicy!
  • 10 Little Rubber Ducks - one of Eric Carle's that we don't have and that I can't remember reading so I'm glad that I brought this one home from the library. Any books by Eric Carle involving animals are always a hit with the boy.
We are also currently working through A Bear Called Paddington as time permits. (Some nights neither of us have the energy for chapter book reading). We saw the movie last weekend as a family and pronounced it super cute so it was a logical choice to jump into since he was somewhat familiar with the characters. It's a book I've never read so I'm eager to read it with him!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Project Life 2015 Looks a Little Like This



Project Life has been my go-to scrapbook approach for the last three years now and I still love this concept. Pictures that pop into pockets. Cards that have lines for quick journaling. As little (or as much) embellishment as I want ... it still really works for me.

That said, I was ready for a little change in the way that I worked through my album. Especially as we have started foster care, my time is even more limited for scrapbooking and I'm finding that I'm even missing pulling out my camera for moments that I do want to remember which I REALLY don't like!

The plan for now: no weekly layouts. I just don't have a guaranteed time that I can sit down and work on the album as my days change, well, daily around here! For now, I'm printing pictures again at home with a little Selphy printer that Travis got me for my birthday. Definitely NOT as cheap as sending them to Sam's which had been my go to for the last couple years, but having the pictures in my hand in a matter of a couple minutes has made it a little easier to get them in my album.

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This year is about using up some of the PL cards that I have been hoarding. I've cancelled my Studio Calico kit subscription which I enjoyed the last several years and am all about using up my stash.



Line through the bottom right photo because of a speck of something in the printer. I'm embracing imperfection and putting it in there anyway!

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I'm also all about using up the different size page protectors that I've accumulated around here. On the left above is the story of the table that Travis BUILT for us and I stuck a journaling card in behind one of the pictures. The back is filled with miscellaneous school notes.



A recent story by B - definitely needed including.

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Another random page protector that I found. I used the Project Life app on my phone to make some photo collages that I could print as 4x6 prints and then just cut them in half. Super easy.





And the best - the photos from our trip to the zoo on Monday are already in my album so that we can enjoy them.

Still sold on Project Life and it's simplicity for  me and am really enjoying a more laid back approach to it for this year!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Birthday President Lincoln

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My girls asked me yesterday what we were going to do to celebrate President Lincoln's birthday today. Obviously, by taking pictures of our Lincoln books! We don't have the right kind of pretzels to make log cabins and we have lost quite a few of the lincoln logs so this will have to do. Luckily, we are a book loving bunch.

The book in the top photo is the newest Lincoln book we have read (as of yesterday), Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman. We enjoyed her take on our 16th President and her artwork was definitely eye catching.

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We found this book via list I spotted through Facebook which of course I can't find now. It generated a whole slew of new-to-us picture books that we have been working our way through and hopefully I'll have some winners to share soon.

Post that relates:
- some of our Civil War reading

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reading Report :: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

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Finished! My friend Amy is hosting a Newbery Through the Decades Challenge this year and I finished January's book ... only one week into February. Close enough! I read The Voyages for Doctor Dolittle for the first time and I have to admit, I loved it! Such a quirky story about the famed animal doctor who can talk to animals. The book was chock full of adventure - it would make an excellent read aloud because of the fun storyline (and the shorter chapters).

Hugh Lofting had just the right amount of descriptive language throughout the book. (Since I've just come off reading L.M. Montgomery aloud to the kids, I'm quite sensitive to when too much description is too much!) One of my favorite descriptive sections which I marked:
It was a wonderful kitchen, that. I had many meals there afterward and I found it a better place to eat in than the grandest dining room in the world. It was so cozy and home-like and warm. It was so handy for the food, too. You took it right off the fire, hot, and put it on the table and ate it. And you could watch your toast toasting at the fender and see it didn't burn while you drank your soup. And if you had forgotten to put the salt on the table, yoou didn't have to get up and go into another room to fetch it; you just reached around and took the big wooden box off the dresser behind you. Then the fireplace - the biggest fireplace you ever saw - was like a room in itself. You could get right inside it, even when the logs were burning, and sit on the wide seats at either side and roast chestnuts after the meal was over - or listen to the kettle singing, or tell stories, or look at picture books by the light of the fire. It was a marvelous kitchen. It was like the Doctor, comfortable, sensible, friendly, and solid.
I checked out the book from the library, however, it's free on Kindle. Of note, when you "buy" the kindle version, the audio version from Audible is ridiculously cheap! I've been filling our audiobook library up this way lately with several classics by tacking the audio book on to a very inexpensive, or even free, kindle book purchase.

Up next, I'll be reading a book from the 30's as part of Amy's challenge. Since I'll likely only get to one, I'm trying to decide between:
All three of these are currently in our house which is half the battle sometimes! Of the 30s winners, I have read Thimble Summer and Caddie Woodlawn and enjoyed those some time ago.

If you want to join in, you can read about Amy's challenge here!

Monday, February 09, 2015

On the Menu :: Overnight Crockpot Blueberry French Toast

Crockpot blueberry French toast. Oh, we will be making you again.

We tried this recipe out on Saturday night and it's a keeper. Not one of my better attempts as a faux food blogger because it was (a) winter/dinnertime lighting and (b) not much in the way of leftovers so I could take a better picture in the daylight. We are big fans of breakfast-for-dinner and I seem to go in spurts of keeping it in the rotation and then forgetting about it for a while - probably because I feed the kids waffles for breakfast fairly regularly. However, Travis doesn't get them as often so whenever I pull a full-on breakfast for dinner, I get rave reviews from him.

Anyway, you can view the recipe here - I made it as is with no changes (unless you count leaving out the vanilla because I forgot about it). I even used leftover french bread that we didn't eat with dinner and just threw it in all haphazard. You definitely don't want to cook it longer than the suggested 3-4 hours. We pulled it out at 3 1/2 hours and it was starting to get crispy on the bottom (but I liked the crispy sweet pieces of bread. Yum yum.)

PS. This post from Flower Patch Farmgirl on surviving motherhood by way of food spoke to me. Worth a read.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Read Aloud Report :: The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery

The current read-aloud. One of my favorites!

We finished our first read-aloud of 2014 this week - The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery. This was part of the L.M. Montgomery reading challenge hosted by my friend Carrie at Reading to Know and it is one of my favorite things about January.

This is the second LMM book that I've read with the girls and I think, at 11, 9, and 7 1/2, they have reached an age where they can wade through Montgomery's lengthy descriptions with the best of them and come out the end with the gist of the story. (Obviously, this is with a read-aloud. The little two definitely aren't ready to wade through her works on their own). Our first was Jane of Lantern Hill which just might be my absolute favorite of her books and one that I recommend anyone starting out with when introducing their kids to LMM.

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Our diagram that helped us keep the King family straight during our read-aloud time.

I'll leave you my original post on The Story Girl which explains why I love it, and it's sequel, so much. Some of the comments from my girls at the conclusion of this book were quite humorous, and spot of, after this year's experience with LMM.

From the 7 year old: "I like the stories that The Story Girl tells, but not the other parts of the book."

From the 11 year old: while I can't remember her quote verbatim, she picked up quickly on Montgomery's lengthy descriptions of  places and scenery and that many more words seemed to be used that were actually necessary.

From the 9 year old: "When can we get to the part where we find out what is in Cousin Rachel's blue chest?!"

Thanks, Carrie, as always for hosting this challenge every January. The big question, now that we've finished The Story Girl, is do we continue on with The Golden Road or save it for later. One sneaky child looked ahead the table of contents and saw that Aunt Olivia gets married so there may be no holding us back because of course (!) we have got to read about that. : )

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reading Report :: January 2015

Oh this book. I read her first book and it spoke volumes to me about the bed situ and gift of family and this book was no different as she shared her heart on friends and community and her relationship with the Lord, as well as deep thoughts on stirrup pa

I always start January with great reading intentions. I've finished reading everyone's "best of" list from the previous year and I've perused my own shelves, noting the books that I somehow bought last year and missed reading. My "want-to" list for 2014 is already ridiculously long ... I just keep getting sidetracked from the reading by the children that need feeding and educating.

The current read-aloud. One of my favorites!

So far in January, I've tackled:
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I can't remember who's reading list from 2014 I found this on and I wish I could. For my first book of 2014, this one wasn't a winner for me. The story was interesting - a man walked across England to see a friend of his who was dying of cancer. Obviously there is more to the story than that, and it might have been an interesting read if I hadn't constantly been shocked by the amount of bad language in the book. That's one of those red flags for me that really turn me off what I'm reading so I can't give this book a good report, even if it had an interesting premise. I was sent a copy of the sequel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, to review, and to be honest, I'm not terribly excited about cracking the cover based on the first book if the language is the same.
  • The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein. Last year, both the N's and I read the first book by this author, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, and loved it! A really great mystery for my girls (5th and 3rd grade) with literary references scattered throughout. (I think my friend Amy may have reviewed it, but her blog isn't coming up for me right now so I can't link it). N1 has already read this new book with me, and though we didn't love it as much as Mr. Lemoncello's Library, it was still fun.
  • Home is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson. Of what I read in January, this one is by far the winner and best I read. Sophie writes the blog, Boomama, and it is one of the blogs that I have been reading for just forever. Her funny style of writing is some of my very favorite, and when her first book, A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet came out a couple years ago I promptly read it, sighed deeply with great joy when I finished it, and then turned around and read it again. I compared her sweet stories about her family as reminiscent of my beloved Mitford series by Jan Karon and if that isn't one of the highest complements I can bestow on a book, I don't know what is. : ) This book is no different, but instead of spending most of the time sharing about the wonderful relationship she has with her family, she talks about her relationships with friends she has had over the years and this book struck such a huge cord with me on the importance of community and friendship. I also resonated so deeply with her stories of her walk with the Lord. She also has some deep and honest comments about her stint with stirrup pants in the 80's that could have been written about me. (If you are a child of the 80s there are so many references that will have you rolling. All the laughing aloud was really quite disturbing to my kids.) I really can't recommend this book highly enough. I'm already looking forward to my reread, but I'm trying to pace myself. : )
In my "currently reading" stack, I'm winding my way through The Voyage of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting, Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson, and Sweet Tea Revenge (A Tea Shop Mystery) by Laura Childs. (Sometimes I'm just in the mood for a nice clean mystery! It might be time to pull an Agatha Christie off the shelf.) I've also got a couple of read-alouds with the kids in process but hopefully I'll have something worth saying about them later this week. : )


PS. Sophie's first book is free on Kindle right now if you want to snatch it up!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese Success

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(Food blogger wanna-be strikes again.)

Homemade macaroni and cheese has been my nemesis for lo these many years. I can't count how many times I have tried to make it only to be met with a burnt or lumpy mess or something that really didn't taste very good.

One of my CC mama friends to the rescue! She sent me her recipe for crockpot mac and cheese so with trepidation I mixed up a batch and surprise! My kids loved it! The husband loved it! I made it a second time and doubled it and it still was a huge hit! Another sign of success was that my Dad asked for the recipe! (Lots of explanation points because this recipe is really, really good!)

I'm sure the secret is the Velveeta, but I'm not complaining. I wouldn't cook it more than 3 1/2-4 hours in the crockpot, even on low, because it will start to stick, but for something you want to throw in the crockpot late afternoon to have ready for dinner time, this is perfect.

Stephanie's Crockpot Mac and Cheese (not me, another Stephanie) : )

3 Tbsp. margarine, melted, put in crock pot
2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Velveeta, cut in cubes
4 cups milk
 
Mix all ingredients lightly.  Cover and turn on high.  Do not remove lid or stir for three hours.
 
Note: you could mix in all sorts of stuff and make it a meal. Precooked ham, peas, taco seasoned meat, etc. I served it above with the Pioneer Woman's Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork for a recent Sunday lunch with family (cooked in my cast iron dutch oven), green beans in one crockpot, and mac and cheese in another crockpot. We ate well.

Two six quart crockpots on the counter plus the Dutch oven in the oven since a little after 6am. It can only mean one thing - Sunday lunch is coming!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Currently :: January 2015

Evening read aloud.

Reading: currently reading aloud The Story Girl and Heidi. I just finished reading Home is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson (more soon on this, I hope).

Watching: Toy Story 3 with the boy upstairs while the girls are having music lessons downstairs. It's the one time during our school week where he gets to watch a video and he (and I) look forward to it immensely.

Trying: to make time for 30 minutes daily on the treadmill. I haven't been successful this week so far.

I have been thinking about these leftover chicken and dumplings for two days and have been very thankful no one got to them before now.

Cooking: crockpot chicken and dumplins for dinner tonight. Yum.

Eating: Pioneer Women chocolate pudding. So good. N1 did her CC presentation on the history of pudding and as part of her "research" she made a batch of pudding from scratch. One of my favorite topics that she's picked - ha.

Drinking: all the coffee.

Calling: no one - yay. Texting and email are my friends.

September and October 2014 caught up in my #projectlife album. July, August, and December to go.

Crafting: working on finishing up my 2014 Project Life album. Last weekend was productive and I got two months knocked out. Hoping for another good stretch this weekend. It's not hard to get done - I've got the pictures in there, it's just rustling up time to work undisturbed. That is in short supply.

Doing: lots of afterschool pick up runs. One of our fosters is in tutoring afterschool everyday so that is a run to get her at that point in the day where I am ready for comfy clothes and not leaving the house. We have been spoiled by homeschooling and not having to schedule our days around bus pickup and dropoff.

Going: this week has been slow(er). CC one day. Bible study another. A quick run to Walmart this morning for guinea pig bedding so that a cage can be cleaned. Plus the aforementioned retrieving of children from school.

Loving: going to bed as early as possible as I can lately. Several nights I've crawled in bed as soon as I've gotten children tucked in. Days are long and full right now and by the kids are done in the evening, so am I.

Hating: when I forget about the holiday schedules! I knew that Monday was MLK Day because our fosters were out of school. However, that didn't include factoring in that the fun library trip I had planned wouldn't work out because the library was closed. Or an afternoon trip to the park that didn't work out as planned - it was 65* on Monday (yay!) but with school being out, EVERYONE was at the park when we headed over. Oops.

Discovering: the Great Artist / Composer series of books. A little late to the game on these, but they have been a great addition to our artist studies for CC this cycle.

Hoping: and praying for a friend who is quite ill.

Celebrating: someone turning nine in just a few more days!

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Thanking: a friend for a surprise gift last week. A sweet mama friend gave me a beautiful scarf for a belated birthday present. I would never have thought of myself as a scarf person, but it matches my favorite sweater perfectly and makes me feel a bit more dressed up when I leave the house. (Also, PS. I do not take good selfies.)

Considering: how much better our days have been going since we started back up on January. We have made a few tweaks to the day - nnotably, starting earlier (not the kids' favorite) and our spiral notebooks (my favorite). We are tackling our days head-on and there is no excuse to not getting our work done because I actually am taking the time to right down each day's work. Yay us.

Starting: to think about 2015-2016 plans for school. It happens every January.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Romans 8

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For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (v.18)

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Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (v.24b-25)

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Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (v.26)

Tuesday's are our long day. When we get home from our co-op I'm done but fostering means it's time to do homework with them. And homework with them is a whole 'nother story. Real life right now. #itssimplytuesday

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (v.28)

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Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (v.35)

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For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (v.38-39)

"If we are to embrace the power of the gospel and become free, joyous, and zealous servants of Jesus Christ, then all the work has to be done by him. Why? So that all the glory will go to him, so that we boast in the work of Jesus alone." -Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comfort from Romans.