A Look Back at 2015

The past week or so I have been reflecting on 2015 and all the lessons it has brought. This year flew by! It is hard to remember all that has happened. We have gone through more business changes, added a child to our family, changed cars, endured trials, celebrated with joy, grown in the Lord, and loved time together as a family. I could not be more in love with D and with my girls. What a blessing!  I’m extremely thankful for all the Lord has done, both in teaching us through trials and in successes. As I look back, I wanted to document the three most impactful lessons I learned this year.

  1. This year I believe the Lord placed on my heart the word intentional. I hope that I have grown in this area- striving to be purposeful in my parenting, friendships, and in interacting with the world around me. Intentionality showed up in many ways and I am thankful for the ways I was stretched in this area. One of the biggest lessons I learned this year though was learning my limits. Having H was one of the greatest joys of my year, but her birth also caused me to learn my personality and how much I could handle at one time. Naturally I crave order and quiet. Three children have definitely challenged me in this way! So, I have had to learn how to say no, or to plan out my weeks in more purposeful ways. This has played out by only doing one playdate per week or by saying no to parties/brunches/coffeedates that I used to say yes to or by really calculating if an investment is wise. I have had to learn to balance this lesson with still stretching myself to serve all while knowing that saying “no” really does benefit me and my family. Along with this lesson would be letting my yes be yes. (Matthew 5:37). One of the ways my husband has challenged me the most is by teaching me what commitment looks like. If he commits to something he is ALL in and it’s because he takes what Jesus says seriously even on a small scale. Before we started dating I was used to canceling on people just because I wanted to, calling off work, etc. He has really taught me that if I say yes to something, then I need to follow through unless it is for a valid reason (sick kid typically!). This has changed and morphed as I learn to balance motherhood with three kiddos but I am thankful for the lesson in saying no, but when you do say yes, commit with your whole heart!
  2. Another great lesson I learned this year (and am still learning!) is what it looks like to walk in trust with the Lord. This year brought some really dark days and weeks for me as I got caught up in the news and what was happening in the world around me. I allowed current events to dictate my moods and beliefs and it was not healthy. Through this process, I am beyond grateful for one of my best friends who literally walked me through this trial day by day, checking in to see how I was doing and what I had chosen to set my sights on that day. She taught me how to declare truth even if it took minute by minute of saying “Lord, I trust you.” She also taught me what true friendship looks like- how to be a friend and love people in their weaknesses. She could have easily been annoyed by my constant questions and prayer requests, but she stuck with me, choosing to show me Jesus. I am still in the learning stages of being intentional about what I allow into my mind and heart and choosing to not let fear grip my heart. But, I can stand knowing that God is good, God cares, and God tells me not to fear, so I will choose to walk each step trusting Him.
  3. The last lesson has been a fresh one for me. Gentleness. “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Phil 4:5 My natural proclivity is not to be gentle with my children when things get crazy. When the sink is full of water and the bathroom is soaked. When food gets thrown. When we just woke up and they are already fighting over baby dolls. When they will not sleep….again. When they are loud. I love my girls with all that I have and they are a source of my greatest joy, but when these events happen, I have noticed that I have a hard time responding with gentleness. This verse is not just for interacting with other adults. I think we often forget that children are people too. They are a part of the “all.” If anyone needs to be treated with gentleness, it is probably them. They are moldable and I am imitatable. I want to provide them with a secure home and the tools they need to learn how to live this verse out in their own lives. I desire for them to treat others around them with gentleness- in word and in deed- because it is what they experience at home. I am praying that the Lord continues to give me tools and resources and strength and patience to allow this to play out in our daily lives. Also, if you are around me and my girls and you treat them with gentleness even in their worst moments, you encourage me to the depths of my heart and teach me what it looks like to love gently. I am so thankful for those of you that have done this and in turn spurred me on to do the same.

2015 has been great! These lessons were not always easy and I have failed in many ways, but I am grateful that His love never fails and that He will continue to work on me as my family enters 2016. Happy New Year!!

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Teach Me To Number My Days

It has been over a month now since baby H entered the world. She is a precious gift.

From the moment I saw her, I have wanted to bottle her up and keep her in this stage where she sleeps on my chest forever. The newborn phase definitely is not easy, but I love the snuggles immensely. This desire is magnified when I look at sweet M, who is now three and a half. Time flies and #allthehormones have been contributing to me being super emotional about this.

As I was indulging in some much needed alone time (with baby H) at one of my newest favorite coffee shops, I came across this passage:

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

A heavy “yes” was all I could say.

“Yes, Lord, please teach me.”

And oh am I thankful He is faithful!

Each day I seem to be reminded of the fast pace of life when I look at each of my children. I love each season that I am experiencing with them. But, at the same time, I get stuck mentally. The usual issues I write about so frequently on here- my house is not clean enough, my schedule is too chaotic, I have very little alone time,  etc. All issues that can be valid but most of the time are bred in selfishness and perfectionism.

As I have been dwelling on this verse, I am not only convicted to sit down and actually enjoy this season that I am in- because I do not want to miss it- but I am also calling into question what is actually important.

How do I want to invest these numbered days? 

What really matters?

How am I impacting the kingdom today?

Because the Lord has been faithful to remind me of this verse and to begin working a heart of wisdom, I have tried to begin to create memory markers.

When I am tickling MK and she is laughing so hard I can see all of her teeth- “Lord, help me to remember this moment.”

When M says “Mom, I think I can do this. I think I’m gonna be just fine” before she starts her first solo gymnastics class and yet still wants to cuddle up in my lap every night as we sing the lullaby we made up- “Lord, help me to cherish this moment. Don’t let me forget it.”

When H gives me the biggest toothy grin and when I smell the top of her head as I carry her- “Lord, please engrain this in my memory.”

I am praying that this intentionality allows me to reflect on these moments five years down the road.

I don’t want to miss out because I’m distracted.

I want to love fully and live well and with a heart of wisdom.

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And Then There Were Five…

We have made it to week one! The girls, daddy, and I are all enjoying baby HJ or “baby Joy” as MK calls her. She is such a good baby and we are adjusting well to our new routine. Babies are so precious and I am trying to soak up every moment that I can.

For those who are interested, here is our birth story. I love recollecting what happened and reflecting on the beauty of a life being born!

The last month of pregnancy was SO hard for me this time around. Not physically, but mentally. I was ready to meet this little babe! And even though I have never delivered significantly early before, there was always that hope that maybe this time I would. Well, that did not happen! I was two days late 🙂

At my last appointment with my midwife, she told me that I was 2 cm dialated and that it could be sometime that week. We made an appointment for the next week, however, to discuss induction if need be. I was wrestling with hopefulness and anxiety as I really did not want to be induced. She encouraged me to get on my hands and knees a lot to help the baby get into the right position. So, that is what I did! When my girls were napping that day, I got out my soapy water and sponges, cleared out all the furniture from the kitchen, and scrubbed that floor on all fours. I got some Braxton Hicks contractions that night, but still nothing too strong or close together.

The next morning, I decided to scrub all my baseboards! Nesting and prepping for labor all in one. I started to feel actual contractions, but they were twenty to thirty minutes apart. Again, nothing timeable. But, since they were radiating from my back, I knew labor was on its way. I took the girls to the park where we walked and explored. Still… only twenty minutes apart. When Dan got home, he said he knew it would be that night and that we needed to get to walking!

This is always fun for us. With every birth, we have walked the mall in hopes to get things moving and the next day we have had our babies! So, we dropped the girls off at grandmas, and began walking. We did a few laps around the mall, and the contractions began moving to every 15 minutes! My back began to hurt, so we picked up the girls, and dropped them off at my mom’s house just in case baby decided to come that evening.

Good thing we did! Around midnight, the contractions began picking up in intensity and were every 10-15 minutes apart. Even though they were not any closer, they were stronger and I was not able to sleep. Around 4 AM, I woke D up and said I think it’s time to go! We did not want to push it because with MK, I showed up at the hospital and was already 8 cm.

Funny part of the story: Before he went to bed, D told me, “I do not want you to push this. We need to go in sooner rather than later. Promise me you won’t push it.” I agreed and we said good night. Then, when I woke him up, I went out to the couch to work through another contraction. I go back into the bedroom to find him back to sleep!  🙂 I woke him up again and off we went!

When we arrived at the hospital I was at 5 cm and because my last labor progressed so quickly they decided to admit me. I was so excited because it meant baby was coming and because my midwife happened to be on call that day! She has delivered all of our babies, so I was praising God for His timing. Also, my sister was leaving for Haiti in two days, and I was thankful she would be able to meet baby girl.

We headed to the birthing room where we waited for things to progress. I sat on the birthing ball for a while, sat in the tub, and worked through some contractions standing up.

My midwife checked me again at about 9:45 and I was at 8 cm. We decided to break my water to get things moving. She discovered that the baby had pooped in the womb which was funny to us because M had done the same thing! This just meant that when baby was born, a team of nurses would be standing by to make sure she did not aspirate.

At this point, I was pretty tired and hungry and was surprised that this labor was taking much longer than my last one! Mentally it began to be a battle for me. I tried to let go of the fear of what was to come and the anxiety of wanting things to move faster than they were. Thankfully, at this point, the contractions were still not too intense and I was able to close my eyes and rest in between them.

After awhile, we decided to try some different positions to get baby to drop into position. I had only progressed to a 9 and things seemed to be stuck. My back labor was the most intense I had ever experienced which started to become very challenging for me. The most comfortable position I found was standing up while holding onto the bed and my sweet husband stood there and would give me counter pressure while working through a contraction and then would massage my back as I rested. He is such a blessing to me!

Eventually my midwife had me lay on my side and this is where everything seemed to change! I worked through one contraction this way and it was by far the most painful one! This is where we think the baby turned and dropped. I quickly returned to standing after this. My midwife asked me if I would like to deliver standing up, and at this point I did not want to move, so I said yes. About ten minutes later, baby girl was born! This was the coolest part of my labor. I’m thankful for the way God designed our bodies and that I was given the freedom to do what felt best at that stage. I am grateful for our midwife and how she has graciously walked us through each of our labors! (And dealt with all of my “I can’t do this! comments:) )

D and I thoroughly enjoyed those first few hours just loving on and snuggling with our baby. I love those special, private moments we get to enjoy getting to know the newest member of our family. Truth be told, we were pretty exhausted from not having slept and were also looking forward to eating and a nap!

We enjoyed every moment in that hospital. We received wonderful care from the greatest nurses, we enjoyed many cups of Starbucks coffee and the delicious treats our visitors brought us, and we cherished snuggling with our baby while resting and enjoying each other’s company before we entered the joyful chaos of life with three.

We are both so thankful for everyone that played with and watched M and MK, brought us meals, and prayed for us during our pregnancy and labor. We are so blessed to be surrounded by the community God has given us.

Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Psalm 127:3

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You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
    They cannot be numbered!

Psalm 139: 13-17

Full Term- Almost There!

I can’t believe the last post I wrote was in May! How is it almost July already?

The anticipation for summer always feels like forever and then somehow those three summer months fly by.

We are loving being outside. There have been many days spent in some form of water whether it is a pool or a sprinkler and several days spent at the park. I adore watching the girls have the freedom to run and selfishly I also like that the less time we spend in the house, the less messy it is 😉

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Despite the happiness that comes from being in the sunshine, I have wrestled lately with choosing joy in one large area of this season of my life – pregnancy.

This past week I have just felt done. I was focused on my large belly and the exhaustion that it brings, both physically and emotionally. I wrestled with body image issues. I concentrated on every little pain, hoping that it was labor. When it wasn’t, I had to fight discouragement. I nested like crazy. My hormones manifested themselves in the way of tears and an attitude of being on edge. In short, I was not very easy to live with.

I am so grateful for my husband’s response. He finally said to me, ” I am not surprised by what is going on here. You need to have a baby.” He is so gracious with me especially when I am undeserving!

Thankfully, the Lord has gripped my heart once again and reminded me that there is joy to be found NOW. Not just when my five senses would be activated by holding a newborn, but now. In the present.

Here are some areas He has helped me to choose joy in:

Joy in the beauty of growing a baby. Seriously, how crazy is it that the Lord has chosen women’s bodies to grow another life! Every time I feel her move I am in awe that there is a real, live person inside of me! I do not need to look at my body with contempt (although I need to continue to make healthy choices), but rather with a spirit of thankfulness that the Lord is knitting something together in my womb. Right now.

Joy in sleep. Right now both of my girls take about a two hour nap at the same time every day. This means I get to nap too! At night I generally get to sleep all the way through the night. Most mornings, I find little ones in my bed, but I have no idea how they got there which means I did not have to wake up to soothe them 🙂 I am relieved by our current schedule and I am soaking up the sleep I do get right now.

Joy in alone time both with my girls and with D. Every time we have a baby our lives change monumentally, of course, so I want to soak up this seasons without rushing the days by.

Joy in perseverance. I do not want to pretend to know more than the keeper of time, so I am satisfied with continuing to carry this baby even when it’s hard!

Joy in the end. Honestly, I love being pregnant. I have always loved being pregnant. This is the first pregnancy I have wrestled with wanting to be done which is a new emotion for me! It has been good to remind myself of that fact. I am blessed to be pregnant and to carry this child to term. There is so much functionally that develops in a baby these last few weeks, that I am thankful that she is still in my belly, growing and prepping for the real world.

Joy in the Lord. Pregnant or not, I am content because the Lord is good! It sounds so cliche, but I look at the above list and I am pleased that He gently leads my heart. That He reminds me of His goodness and does not desire for me to focus on the negative aspects of life. I am satisfied with where I am because He reminds me of all of these beautiful areas of joy.

What circumstance are you in right now? I challenge you to sit down and ask the Lord to reveal areas of blessing in the midst of discouragement to you, too!

I look forward to meeting this little girl, but until then, we wait, with joy!

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Goal Update- It’s May Already!!

How are we halfway through the year already?! This blows my mind. Life sure does move fast. As a means of accountability I like to glance back at the goals I made and see how I’m doing.

So far, as I strive to live intentionally the biggest area of growth for me has come out of reading. I”m a quarter of the way done with reading through the Bible in 100 days and this is rocking my world! I’m learning so much about the character of God and the way He sees us and desires for us to live. It’s really beneficial to my ability to be intentional in my faith. In addition to this, I have been focusing a lot on reading books that spur on intentionality in my marriage and parenting. This has been great and challenging all at the same time as I recognize the difficulty it is to put into practice what I have been learning. Finally, I have been reading fiction books on my Kindle while rocking MK or whenever I can sneak in time! I have been loving this. It’s so fun to dive into a book and it is diminished other unhealthy distractions in my life like Facebook and television. I’m excited to continue to grow and learn what living intentionally looks like!

1. Living Intentionally Personally- I want to grow this year and be refined in every way.

  • Read through the Bible in 100 days. I’m taking the challenge from http://www.mercyisnew.com/2014/12/26/pray-read-bible-100-days/. Does anyone want to join me? I would love the accountability!–25 days in!!
  • Read in general! I love, love, love to read. But for some reason have chosen not to this past year. So, in order to grow my brain I have made a list of books I want to read that go along with being intentional (and some fiction, too!)
    • Sacred Marriage
    • The Power of A Praying Wife- in process, highly recommend!
    • The Mission of Motherhood
    • Grace Based Parenting- in process!
    • No Drama Discipline
    • Jesus, the Gentle Parent
    • Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again
    • Encouragement
    • The Night Circus
    • The Giver
    • Unbroken
    • Sabbath as Resistance
    • Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are
    • Found in Him
    • Better Than Before
  • Continue choosing joy!

2. Living Intentionally Physically- We have a baby on the way in case you did not know! I need to steward this life well and get back to nourishing my body (and my families!) with the right foods.

  • Eat Better! Cut out flours and sugars as much as possible. Ferment foods. Learn to make kombucha.- EH! This has been a hard one for me. Recently, I have been struggling with eating well and I’m fighting the battle to remain healthy this last month of pregnancy. 
  • Exercise. It is always a challenge to figure out how this looks with two littles, but I would love to take a prenatal yoga class, and I look forward to running again after baby #3 comes.-Yes! I can’t wait to run again! In the meantime, I have been aiming to workout out 2-3 times a week. Simple, short workouts that I find on Pinterest 🙂 My girls have been loving trying to do them with me…for about two minutes until they are distracted again. 🙂 

3. Living Intentionally as a Family-

  • Pray and Read Together as husband and wife. Continue date nights 🙂
  • Start regular date nights with the girls 1x/month.- I would not say we have been great with once a month, but have been intentional with taking them out on mommy/daddy dates. 
  • Be more consistent as a family with devotions.- Still figuring out what this looks like for us! 
  • Do the virtue training Bible with M.- In progress! 

4. Living Intentionally with Money- There is always growth to happen here!

5. Living Intentionally by practicing Servanthood-

  • Serve the Body- Start a Bible study at my house. Grow with other women as we dig into the Word.- Our life group recently started a ladies group and I’m loving getting to dig in deeper with these women and learn what being intentional in this setting looks like. 
  • Simply be intentional in friendship- Pray. Encourage. Call. Text. Email. Whatever it looks like! Just be intentional.- Always room for growth here! 
  • Be intentional with our neighbors as the Lord leads.- This is a challenge because of our neighborhood situation. Good to be reminded of this goal. 

6. Living Intentionally in our Home- I want to continue to purge and make our home beautiful for others to feel loved and for my family to be at rest.- I had my first garage sale ever this past month! I won’t be doing that again 🙂 ha! It’s a lot of work. I’m thankful though that we purged this house and I feel like most everything is useful to our family. There is always a struggle with perfectionism with our home, so I have to continually surrender my ideals to the Lord. 

It is fun to look back at my goals and see where growth is happening and where more is needed. I cannot wait to see what the next six months hold for living intentionally.

There is joy in the Lord, always. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say it, Rejoice!” Phil 4:4

What I’m Into- April 2015

A blogger I follow regularly links up with other bloggers to write a “What I’m Into” post. It’s always fun to read and glean ideas from, so I thought I’d try one myself!

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This month I am most into Spring! I am LOVING being able to be outside with these sweet ladies. I am moving slower these days because of a 31 week belly, but I am soaking up making memories just the three of us.

What I’m Watching

D and I just started watching Blacklist together. He thinks it is “slow,” but I am enjoying the plot. However, I can only make it thru one episode (if that!) before passing out.

Also, if you are close to me, you may know that I kind of, sort of, really love Dancing With the Stars. We have life group on Monday nights, so I do not get to watch it that often, but I make sure to YouTube the dances. M, in particular, loves to put on her high heels and dresses and dance along to the songs. When it’s over, I love to practice my dance moves which D thinks is absolutely hilarious. Here is my latest favorite dance: 

What I’m Reading

The Invention of Wings- This one took me awhile to get into, but once I did, I could not put it down. It is a beautiful story of women fighting slavery while also detailing the life of a slave.

What Alice Forgot-  I am in the middle of this fiction novel. I have to have discipline in putting it down when my children are awake! The storyline is about a woman who hit her head and forgot the last ten years of her life. I’m interested to see where the author takes me.

The Mission of Motherhood- I am slowly working my way through this one. It is one I need to read at least once a year as it reminds me of my role as a mother and has been incredibly refocusing for me.

What I’m Listening To 

Honestly, I’m not a big podcaster. I have listened to a few Java with Julis this month- they are wonderful! Highly recommend.

Mostly what I am listening to is the Sofia the First Pandora radio station which includes lots of Sofia, Tinkerbell, and Frozen. It is fun to enjoy music with girls who LOVE to dance and twirl.

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What I’m Loving:

  • Lots and lots of naps!
  • Playgrounds and picnics.
  • Open door for super fun date nights because of the weather being nice.
  • Persevering through life with my sweet husband.
  • The Lord gently teaching my heart about priorities, servanthood, and wise living
  • Feeling baby girl #3 kick- lots!! She moves more than any other baby I’ve had. I’m getting so anxious to meet her!
  • Easy summertime meals.
  • The sun peering in my windows filling my heart with joy.
  • Deeper community connections.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

The Greatest in the Kingdom…

Servanthood.

A word that has been swirling in my mind lately.

Why?

Because I am constantly staring selfishness in the face.

It is so easy sometimes to serve others, but internally, I think I put limits on how often I serve.

“Well, I let him sleep in yesterday….so isn’t it my turn today?”

“I have played with them all morning, I just want a break.”

“I’m almost 30 weeks pregnant and exhausted. I’m going to focus on me today.”

Eek. When I process those things out loud, I recognize how ugly and how foolish that is.

Isn’t it so true that we love being the beneficiaries of servanthood, but have such a hard time willingly serving others without limits?

John 13:1-7 is a passage I have been dwelling on as I move towards serving others better.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Process that for a moment. Jesus, the God of the universe, put skin on. He stepped out of Heaven to love us, to walk with us, and to lead us back to HIm. This passage tells us that He knew the Father had given Him all things and that He was going to return to Heaven. He IS a King. He IS royalty. He IS GOD. Knowing all of this, He rose. He rose from supper to serve. He washed His disciples feet.

He, holding the most important position on earth, chose not to lord his position over others and demand service from them, knowing He was about to be crucified.

Jesus, who knew the weaknesses of his disciples, chose not to stand up and rebuke them or tell them ways they have failed Him in His time of doing ministry with them, but instead, chose to wash their feet. The dirtiest part of their body. He took the position of servant.

Mind. Blowing. Humbling. So, so beautiful.

And here is what He says to us,

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Not only did Jesus wash their feet, He called them to do the same. If the Lord can humble himself, kneel down, and serve others, I think I can, too.

This point is reiterated in an earlier teaching in Matthew 20.

25 But Jesus called them to him and said,“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant. 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

At first, His statement can be a little shocking. The word servant or slave can be seen with negative connotations. Jesus did not mean for this to be viewed in a negative way. Instead, He is simply calling us to follow His example. And isn’t His example what so many people crave?

To be served generously when we feel unlovable or unworthy?

To be put first even when we deserve to be put last?

To be blessed by someone when we have been ugly towards them?

I can think of numerous times when people have served me when I did not deserve it nor ask for it, and it is beautiful beyond words.

I want to be that for other people. For my family. For my friends. A woman who is defined by servanthood.

And not because I expect them to serve me in return. But simply because the God of the universe did this for me and He asked that I follow His example.

And the surprise blessing is that when we DO serve others, our hearts are filled with joy in ways that we did not expect.

To add depth to servanthood, I have also been dwelling on Philippians 2:14 where Paul tells us to “do everything without grumbling or arguing.” Because let’s face it- when I serve while grumbling in my head, it is not really servanthood.  It is mustered up action to make myself feel good or because I feel like I am supposed to. I know I cannot serve in my own strength. It must come from dwelling on what Jesus has done for me.

The question I have been asking myself is, “Whose feet can I wash today (metaphorically?)”

What about you? Whose feet can you wash?