a heave-nly weekend

I have come to the conclusion that March is just not my month. At least not March 2018. It hasn't all been bad, but when it's been bad, it's been bad.

I was lying in bed Friday morning, thinking about the fact that Colleen and I had a whole outing planned for that evening for my birthday. I had really been looking forward to it. I knew March 23rd was going to be a hard day. I haven't opened my planner in weeks because I couldn't bear to see our plans written down.

As I was thinking through all of this, Gracie crawled in bed with me. And then she projectile vomited everywhere. On everything. On the bright side, I stopped thinking about Colleen.

I cleaned her up and threw all the bedding in the washer. I figured it was a fluke when she spent the next couple hours running around playing, but she quickly took a turn and it was clear she was sick with some kind of bug.

James came home early from work because he was sick. Not sick with a stomach bug, but some kind of sinus infection/man cold that left him in a cranky state I rarely see. And of course his early arrival woke Gracie, who had just fallen asleep after a rough morning. She didn't go back to sleep. I finally got her to drink some juice, and she promptly threw it up right on the blanket I had just taken out of the dryer.

I've been out of whack since we got home from Iowa, so the only place we had gone all week was Bible Study. There's no other place she could've picked up a bug. Then I remembered, when I went to pick her up out of her class, I saw a tub of cleaning/sanitizing products sitting right outside. I had cheerfully thought they must've been cleaning all the toys. How nice! More like how naive. I can only assume a kid had gotten sick in there.

I spent the entire rest of the day snuggling Gracie, who wouldn't eat or drink and would only cling to me. I hadn't even been able to shower and get the barf smells off me or wash our massive pile of laundry since the washer had been full of barf laundry all day. While we watched It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown for the sixth time in a row (there are no screen time rules on days like this), James opened the four boxes of tiles we had ordered for our kitchen. Every single tile was broken. EVERY ONE. James called Lowes, who told us to lug the massively heavy boxes to the store and they'll replace them, which will take another 2 weeks or so, since our tiles have to be special ordered. And will probably arrive broken again. And we will have to continue to live with 25% tile, 70% asbestos cancer tiles, and 5% carpet kitchen floor and no place to put the kitchen table. Cool.

After this saga, James said we were ordering pizza for dinner. I was waiting for him to come to that conclusion on his own, because no way was I about to cook anything. I thought the day was finally turning around. Pizza! You can't mess up pizza.

He placed the order online. There's only one pizza place that delivers to our town. James' phone rang a few minutes later. It was the pizza place. They no longer deliver to our area.

Don't ask about my reaction. It was ugly. This final blow was almost worse than cleaning up puke all day. They must have heard me in the background, because they suddenly said they would deliver to us one last time.

We all went to bed early, but none of us got much sleep. The cat decided to go crazy and yowl/run around/claw things all night long. I almost kicked her out of the house. At one point, I tripped over my suitcase in the middle of the night and went flying across the floor in an attempt to shut her up.

I had high hopes that Gracie would wake up feeling better, but the first sound I heard was her throwing up in her bed. Once we got everything cleaned up and her favorite blue blanket (a gift from Colleen!) in the washer for the 4th time in 24 hours, I sat down with a cup of hot coffee. Which I wound up spilling all over myself.

Better than puke, though. I'll just add my coffee clothes to the never-ending barf laundry rotation.


my birthday went up in flames, but that's what happens when you share it with Michael Scott

Well, Gracie and I survived another road trip together. My mom told me a couple years ago that kids have to learn to travel well. As usual, my mom is right and that has proven to be the case. I'm less scared of the constant screaming in the backseat and more terrified of imaginary car problems.

Gracie has gone from hating long car rides to only whining if she's hungry or we haven't stopped in a few hours, and I'm always whining by then too, so it's fine. Honestly though, she's turning into such a fun little travel companion, except when we're using a rest stop bathroom and she flings the stall door open while I'm mid-pee.

Not that that happened or anything...

Anyway. I visited my parents for many reasons, but one being so I could relax a bit. LOL. My child suddenly became more high-maintenance than she has ever been. I know that the twos and threes are tumultuous times, but I think we charted some new territories. Something about an hour time change, then Daylight Savings, then being SO EXCITED to be at her grandparents' house, etc. My dad contracted pneumonia while I was there and got progressively sicker every day. I got some weird infection in my foot that left me unable to walk for several days. Super fun times!

While it may not have been as relaxing as I planned, it was still really good. I celebrated my 29th birthday on Thursday. I have a tradition of getting myself a birthday dress. I started it in college, and while I haven't done it every single year, I decided to start it up again this year. I also do the same thing for Gracie. Her birthday and Easter are usually days apart, so her birthday dress does double duty. I'm bad at making up traditions and I tend to overly simplify these things, but this is the one thing I love doing.

So fashion.
We drove to a restaurant on the river for dinner. On the way there, we saw smoke. It's a somewhat rural area so I figured it was a control burn. As we got closer, we saw an old beautiful farmhouse engulfed in flames. I can't even tell you how upsetting this was for me. A house fire is at the top of my list of worst nightmares. I almost lost my house to a wildfire as a child, and ever since even wood burning fireplaces scare me. Not even a year ago, the condo building behind our townhouse burned down, and I saw the whole thing. It gave me nightmares for a long time. Not to mention, the whole This Is Us saga with Jack and the house fire??? It wasn't even my house on fire, but I was traumatized by it. The family was running out of the house, carrying out their personal belongings. The fire department hadn't even shown up yet. Flames were shooting out of the upstairs windows. It was just horrifying. After Colleen's death, my emotions have been so fragile. I feel like I can't handle any more trauma; even watching someone else's unfold just did me in. It didn't feel right to celebrate when a couple miles up the road, a family was losing everything.

Dinner still wound up being really nice even though we were concerned about the fire the whole time. Gracie asked for a plate of goat cheese for dinner. I was so proud. They actually brought one out for her, and she ate it with my salmon and my dad's steak. When we walked out, a red cross vehicle was driving toward the house. The road was closed, so we couldn't see the damage (though I later did, and it was bad). We took a detour on gravel roads way out in the country. Once again, we saw smoke. And more emergency vehicles. We weren't close enough to really see, but it looked like another house was on fire. I don't know what was going on that night, but that's how I'm going to remember my 29th birthday.

I want to make a joke about my 20s going up in flames, but that doesn't feel appropriate. I don't know how to handle trauma without laughing about it.

Wait a second...up in smoke? Up in flames? Which one is it? In the words of Shawn Spencer, "I've heard it both ways."

On Saturday, we left Gracie with my dad. Mom and I drove to Davenport to go shopping and exploring. When I was a kid, my mom would leave me with my grandpa and she and my grandma would go shopping in Santa Barbara. When I was old enough, I started going with them. Our Santa Barbara days were always my favorite days of the year. I think about that every time my mom and I go out, even when Gracie is with us, which she usually is. It's fun to pass those traditions on to her, and I know my grandma would be so proud.

My mom told me to find a place for lunch. I LOVE hunting down funky restaurants. I found a place and literally jumped out of my chair I was so excited. It's only open 4 hours a day at lunch time, and it was located in a very old house downtown. I wasn't sure what to expect when we got there, but I gasped. The kitchen is open, and they make all the food right in front of you. They serve crazy quiche flavors like blueberry goat cheese and sausage apricot. The whole downstairs consists of the kitchen and all the rooms crammed full of tables and chairs. They still had a Christmas tree up, and Frank Sinatra was playing. I had quiche, brussels sprouts soup, and a honey vanilla latte. It was some of the best food I have EVER had. I almost sobbed. It was all just so beautiful. I talked to the owners a bit, and they make and serve all the food. They were SO kind and just pulled up a chair and talked to us. I am dying to go back. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

After lunch, we walked through a St. Patrick's Day festival (both of us are Irish, both of us forgot it was St. Patrick's Day, neither of us cared) and found a used book store. Once again, I could've wept. I bought a stack of old books, one of them a Louisa May Alcott book from 1906!!!! They had tons of old books in great shape for $3-6, including 1950s hardcover Winnie the Pooh books that you KNOW are going to be displayed on the built-in shelves in Gracie's room. I couldn't believe it. I could've bought half the store. I had to force myself to put some back. To say it was the best day ever would be the understatement of the century. Davenport is quickly becoming my favorite city. I had no idea Iowa could be so cool.

There was one thing even better than our day in Davenport: watching The Office with my mom. I introduced her back in August, but she hadn't watched much since. We stayed up late every night pounding through episodes. They say having kids makes you see everything again with fresh eyes, like you're a kid again. As someone who has watched The Office at least 5 times through, watching someone experience it for the first time is liking watching it for the first time too. I laughed so hard watching her laugh and just experiencing the hilarity of it all over again.

I also realized something very important: Michael Scott and I share a birthday. On my birthday, we just happened to watch the episode about Michael's birthday. He said he shares a birthday with Eva Longoria. I looked it up, and her birthday is March 15th. My birthday is March 15th. Michael's birthday is March 15th, and we watched this episode on March 15th.

And some people say God isn't real!

While I was gone, James started tiling the kitchen floor. I have hated ceramic tiles my entire life, and yet what kind of flooring are we doing? Black and white ceramic tiles. As Justin Bieber once said, "Never say never." My mid-century retro kitchen dreams are coming true. I would show you a picture, but a small portion is tiled, the other 80% is 1964 glitter asbestos tiles, and the last bits are carpet which has yet to be ripped up. Look for my feature on Apartment Therapy any day now!

Our guest room is still full of boxes. No matter how much I work on it, the boxes just seem to reproduce. Our guest bed is here and I have to make the room livable for guests coming this spring. It's so chaotic I'm not even sure where to begin or what to do.

Or, as my birthday buddy Michael Scott once said, "I know exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I have no idea what to do."


life lessons from purple hair

You know how you start noticing something all of a sudden--like a certain car, or a name? You never thought anything of it until something happened and it's suddenly everywhere.

That's how death has been for me lately. I hadn't even realized until the other day that I've known a handful of people who have died just this year, though none closer to me than Colleen.

Last week, every show James and I watched either had someone keeling over dead or had a funeral. It was unreal. My friend's dog died while I was at Colleen's funeral. I was driving to Iowa on Saturday, listening to a song about living with God forever (Made Alive by Citizens) and the emotions hit me all over again. I was sobbing. I looked up, and a truck from a casket company had pulled up right next to me. I was telling my mom about it the next day, and mid-conversation I looked up to see a sign about a crematory. WHAT ON EARTH. Or what in heaven, rather. Obviously death is all around us, all the time, but I've become hyper-aware of it.

It's felt a little bit like death is haunting me. Har har.

In lighter news, I dyed my hair purple. The previous blue, purple, and magenta faded to a lovely shade of swamp water blonde. I had been thinking of dying it back to brown, but then Colleen died and I thought nope, purple it is. I'm finding that dying my hair bright colors is becoming my favorite coping mechanism. It's less permanent and painful than a tattoo, and it gives me license to change my mind down the road.

This might be weird, but I swear I feel more myself with purple hair.

I think other people feel the same way about it. The day after getting my hair done, a server at an Italian restaurant struck up a conversation with me. He saw I have a daughter the same age as his. He told me she was at home with lice. As I was trying to suppress the urge to bolt in the opposite direction, he looked at me and begged "Please help. I've used every treatment I can find and nothing is working. What do I do?" I had no idea what to tell him other than to watch that episode on The Office where Erin treats everyone's lice with mayo, so I texted a friend who battled it and won and passed on the info. He was so thankful he shook my hand. I spent the rest of the day nervously scratching my head.

Later that day, we stopped at a french bakery. The owner, upon knowing me for all of 2 minutes, opened up to me about her eating disorder. We talked for a long time. I love people's stories. I think it's fascinating to hear how other people get through life. But to have two strangers air their dirty laundry to me in one afternoon was a bit of a shocker. Something about my bright purple hair and pink lipstick must make me seem like a safe, approachable person, which is kind of the opposite of what I would think. Not that I'm trying to not be a safe person, but you know what I mean. I'm certainly not complaining.

I think it's a sign that my hair should stay purple. I had told my mom that once I dyed it purple, I was done. I'd let it go back to brown. I think I've changed my mind. The second I walked out of the salon, my brain was abuzz with ideas for next time. I think this is how some people feel about tattoos.

All I know is that if you dye a girl's hair purple, she'll start thinking about new lipstick and drag her mom to Target to help her pick out a new color. She'll wear a hot pinkish red lipstick she normally would never have the courage to wear, and before she knows it, it will lead to gold shoes and a dress she found for 70% off and conversations about french culture and anorexia over raspberry macaroons with a girl who has pink hair.

Like I said, the purple hair is working for me. It doesn't lessen the pain of death and grief, but it gives me some much-needed joy. I've wanted to dye my hair blue or purple for at least 5 years, but I never had the nerve. After turning down a major TV show, buying a house, the house flooding, crashing my car into the house, and then my mom having a rushed surgery due to possible cancer all while dealing with the holidays and a sick child, I needed to do something to fight the chaos. So I dyed two small strips of hair and never looked back. Then my friend died, and I did it again. A small piece of myself returned. Obviously dyed hair fixes nothing; it's just a placebo effect, but I'll take what I can get, especially if it morphs into the confidence to wear bright lipstick and other such fripperies.

It does have its limits, though. I discovered this when my child threw a nuclear tantrum in the middle of a small cafe. I grabbed her and took her outside as fast as I could while she screamed and flailed. I could see people staring and laughing out of the corner of my eye. I got outside, disciplined, and noticed Gracie was barefoot and had kicked her shoes off under the table. I held her and explained why she had been taken out of the restaurant while pacing back and forth in front of the restaurant. I started to walk back in and noticed my reflection in the window. When I had grabbed Gracie out of her booster seat, it yanked my shirt up and somehow got it stuck in my bra. I had been holding my barefoot daughter while baring my entire midsection and bra for all the world to see. Oh, and did I mention I only had one shoe on? Yeah. Don't ask.

I probably need to dye more of my hair to cope with that one. Because in that moment I wanted to die.

Like I said, dying/dyeing/death is everywhere.

Pass the hair dye.


sorrow & joy

Thank you all so much for the kind words, prayers, and thoughts. There aren't adequate words to tell you much I appreciate it. The love I've felt from everyone in my life has moved me to tears over and over. I've gotten to talk to a lot of people I had drifted apart from, and it's managed to bring me some joy in this awful time. It's been CRAZY to see the way a few chance encounters I've had with people have impacted this week for me. People I ran into randomly 6 months ago and reconnected with or met a few months ago have been integral parts of my life this week. God truly works all things for good, even a chance encounter in Hobby Lobby last fall that led to grieving together at a funeral and lifting each other up.

We found out Colleen died of an aneurysm. It's something she was born with, and she's been living on borrowed time since the day she was born. Even if it had burst at the hospital, they most likely could not have saved her. Something about that news, as tragic as it is, gave me so much comfort. What a miracle that she lived nearly 28 years. What I can't stop thinking about is the way God so graciously let her live out her goals on earth. All she wanted, ALL she wanted, was to get married, move back near her family, and have a baby. All those things came together within weeks of her death. In the past month, she told me at least a dozen times how happy she was, how grateful that everything had fallen into place in life. I had never seen her so happy. Instead of thinking about how she was taken so young, let this be a sign of the graciousness of God. She lived her dreams before she died. I'm so grateful for that, so grateful for the nearly 17 years I knew her. God is so kind.

The past week has been surreal. I could barely bring myself to brush my teeth last weekend. I felt paralyzed. At some point in there, I managed to put a load of laundry in the washer, and it made me feel guilty. It's weird, but I felt like doing laundry was a betrayal. I'm alive and still doing things to keep pushing through life, and she's not. James' boss was kind enough to let him work from home for a few days so I didn't have to be alone. James ripped up more of the kitchen carpet and we ordered some new flooring and a guest bed. Maybe that sounds frivolous to do while in mourning, but it just felt right. Colleen was all about decorating her home and making it an inviting place for others. She was always hosting and entertaining. The past couple months have centered around home talk, with our renovations and her new house. We shopped together for furniture and decorations and talked back and forth about ideas. Continuing to make our house a home feels like a way to honor her.

I went to her calling hours Thursday night. I'm finding that calling hours/viewings/wakes are very regional things, which is kind of fascinating. We have calling hours here, and unfortunately the norm is to have an open casket. In high school, a good friend of mine died in a car accident the week before he graduated. They had an open casket at his calling hours, and it absolutely traumatized me. I've been reliving that all week. Colleen's was almost as traumatizing, but thankfully I was a little better prepared this time. It was like a mini high school reunion. I saw dozens of people I never thought I'd see or speak to again. A lot of people I had just been celebrating with at Colleen's wedding not even two years ago. I made awkward small talk with people I hadn't seen in nearly 11 years, asking about jobs and living situations just feet away from our friend's dead body. I made me want to laugh like a maniac, like WHY are we doing this? This is so weird, so uncomfortable, so awkward for everyone. So much nervous laughter in the form of coping mechanisms. It goes down as one of the strangest, most surreal and bizarre nights of my life. At one point I said out loud, to no one in particular without thinking, "I have to text Colleen about this!" thinking about what a kick she'd get about some of the people who showed up and how some of them had changed so much.

Her funeral was sad but so sweet. I sat between two old friends of mine. We hadn't spent much time together in nearly a decade, but their presence was such a comfort and a balm to my soul. When it was over, we gathered outside around the coffin, in the frigid wind and occasional snowflakes, and let go of 150 balloons: 60 for Colleen's remaining birthday parties she would've loved to plan, and 90 for her daughter Marla. It was one of those moments I'll never forget. She would have loved it. We laughed, thinking about how she would've wanted us to wear bright colors and play inappropriate music.

I've been laughing all week over her crazy antics. I went to visit her at work on a break from school, and I couldn't find her. All of a sudden I heard "Michelle! Miiiiicheeeeellleeee! I'm in the dog! I'm sweaty the dog!" The time she yelled out "MEATSAUCE" instead of cheese during my wedding photos, making us all laugh hysterically. The time my mom and I were fighting, so she brought up Jersey Shore and Pauly D, the one surefire way to cheer my mom up. Jumping on the bed listening to The Backstreet Boys before her wedding. Making fun of essential oils, just last week! It's been impossible to be constantly sad with all these hilarious and fun memories of her.

I walked out of her funeral with a smile on my face. I hugged my old friends, and we talked about how nothing would have made her happier than to know that we all reconnected and supported each other through this. I've spent the whole week talking about her and to her family, so it hasn't really hit yet that I haven't been talking to her. I'm sad, but I really am ok. I have so much peace. I have so much joy remembering her and sharing those memories with friends. I am so inspired by the way she lived her life. It sucks, but it's going to be ok. Gracie and I are getting out of town for awhile to celebrate my birthday and reset. I hate being away from James at a time like this, but I'm really looking forward to a change of scenery as I start life without her.

Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting?



{written Saturday, March 3rd}

I lost a best friend today. She passed away, completely unexpectedly. Out of the blue. Not only did I lose a best friend, but I lost a best friend and her unborn child. My grief is nothing compared to the grief of her husband and family.

I don't know if anyone has ever been more loyal to me than Colleen has. I've had many friends come and go, but she has been a fixture in my life for nearly two decades. I met her when she was starting 5th grade, and I was starting 7th. Our Sunday School teacher introduced us in the church foyer. "Colleen wants to be a singer someday," she told me. 6 years later, I passed my character shoes onto her when I graduated and she took my spot in show choir.

We rode the bus together to school every day. We sat together in choir class the two years we were in high school at the same time. We got in trouble nearly every day for laughing until we cried. We had weekly phone dates in college. We knew everything about each other's boyfriends. Every break we had from school, we'd spend together getting coffee or lunch. We always talked about the day we would live near each other again, all the fun things we'd do. We were in each other's weddings. The week before mine, she flew to North Carolina to help me prep. We took a trip to the beach when we should've been doing wedding things, because she had yet to see the ocean. We prank called people the night before my wedding. They're some of my favorite memories with her, some of my favorite memories of my life.

After college, we lived two and a half hours apart. It wasn't unbearable, but it wasn't ideal. Every few months we'd make a point to get together. She would always bring me coffee, or we'd meet for ice cream. We talked every single day. We talked about serious things from marriage expectations to the food we were craving. I knew she would share my outrage at every little annoyance, and we all need a friend like that. "I have a headache and I'm tired and everything is the worst," one of us would say. "It totally is. You should probably get some ice cream and go back to bed," the other would joke. We both knew we were insanely grateful for our lives, but we'd egg each other on in our misery until we cheered up. But she was always quick to encourage me, always making sure I was doing alright. She would question me until we got to the root of what was really upsetting me, and she would always give me a game plan to help me fix it. If one of us was having a bad day, we would send each other the clip of Oscar talking in a southern accent from The Office, because it never failed to make us laugh hysterically. We shared recipes, she always knew the best coffee shops and restaurants, and she never came over without bringing presents or food. I've never known anyone as loyal and generous and caring. She was always the first to pray for me, the first to check on me.

Less than a month ago, her husband got a job close by, and they moved into a house not 20 minutes away. We were THRILLED. We haven't lived close to each other in 10 years. We had already planned double dates and coffee dates, and she was about to get a membership to my gym so we could work out together. She came over and sat with me in the evenings while James was on a work trip, because she knew I was nervous, and she brought me my favorite Chinese food. I went shopping with her and helped her pick out decorations for her new house. Only a few days ago, I helped her decide which curtains to hang in her daughter's nursery. Exactly one week ago, she was sitting in this room, babysitting Gracie with her husband so James and I could go see a movie.

Her baby shower is on my calendar. I was planning to start knitting a baby blanket for her this week. Her house warming party is supposed to be next weekend. She had already planned a night out for my birthday in a couple weeks. The night before she died, she texted me to say she was exactly four months from her due date. It was the last conversation we had. We've been dreaming of our girls growing up together, friends, just like we did. I texted her today at 12:17. I had been meaning to text her all morning that I woke up with a cold and started my period all on the same morning. I knew she would share my outrage at this great injustice, and we'd laugh about it. Instead, she had passed away at 12:16. I just hadn't known it yet. It makes me ill to think what was happening when I was lamenting my stupid cold. But I know she would've laughed about it with me.

She was the very definition of a friend who shows up. She's talked me off the ledge more times than I can count. She's come over to sit on my couch when I needed someone. She gathered everyone in the room with her to pray for me one night recently when I was scared. She offered so many times to drive hours to my house when I was having a hard time. I never let her do it, but I know she would've in a heartbeat. She offered her family to me when mine moved away. Everyone in her life received a handwritten card in the mail on their birthday. She was always, though unintentionally, convicting me to be a better friend. Her generosity and selflessness has completely changed the way I view friendship, and I have been striving to be the kind of friend she was. Just ask my husband how many times I've been in awe of her friendship to me. We didn't always see eye to eye on politics or religion, but it never came between us. We loved each other dearly no matter what.

It's funny the memories that suddenly pop up when someone is gone. When I was engaged, she joked about standing up during the reception, announcing that she needed to make a toast, and then actually pulling out a toaster and standing there awkwardly while toasting a piece of toast. We laughed hysterically over that for a long time. In college, we would watch those crazy TLC shows and text them in detail to each other late at night. She was always throwing a party because she wanted to celebrate everything in life, even the change of seasons. She always had a beautiful new dress, a different color in her hair, and killer makeup. "I want taco bell and then mac n cheese and then probably some Jeni's and definitely some chicken nuggets" is a common 8pm text to each other. We would dissect our wild food cravings in great detail. These are silly little things, but it's the inane details like this that make up a friendship, that make up a life.

We've texted each other almost every day for 10 years. Every morning, there was a 50/50 chance I'd wake up to a 6am text from her, telling me about her crazy pregnancy dream, or I'd tell her I dreamed about that person from high school again, and we would start the day off laughing together. So many times I've reached for my phone to tell her how I've been feeling, only to realize it's all because she's gone. I find myself constantly wanting to tell her little tidbits about my day, realizing I can't. I could tell her the most serious things to the most trivial, and she never once judged me, but she also had no problem telling me when I needed to get over myself. Continuing through life not having her as my sounding board is going to be the adjustment of a lifetime.

I've lost a friend before. I've lost grandparents. But losing someone so near and dear to me, someone so young to a complete freak thing? It's traumatizing. But I am so thankful for the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit. It has been so palpable. I'm thankful for the hope of heaven. I'm thankful that this is not the end of the story. Life feels so fragile right now. So scary. It's hitting me so hard that we are not promised tomorrow. I'm drained and unable to put into words what I want to plead with you, so I'll say this: run to Jesus. Know that your future is safe with Him.

For anyone who prays, I beg you to pray for her family. Her husband especially. He lost everything in a matter of seconds.

"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'" Lamentations 3:21-24