Posts Tagged With: Cullen

Five Years

I glanced at the date at the bottom of my screen, but the glance turned into deeper vision as I fell into that place. May 17 will always be the darkest day for my family, the most unnatural of places, where a father watches his son depart; where an entire family is changed, in an instant, numb and wandering, looking for whys.

Perhaps it’s that point, when we actually realize that we’re numb, that we look around and find ourselves embracing, not clinging to stay afloat, but rather holding each other up.  These are intensely personal thoughts and emotions, but shared as evangelism, as we each hold a piece of puzzle and struggle with how it fits into our own journey.

We place one foot in front of another and choose our paths alone.  At times of insight, we realize that we have chosen to walk with others by no accident.  We are, in fact, “here for a reason,” although sometimes it’s a struggle to know why.  Not in the context of, “everything happens for a reason.”  I stopped believing that a lifetime ago.  But rather, in response this sometimes tragic life, how do I respond?  Where do I go, both literally and figuratively?  Which direction do I look for guidance, to make sense out of any of it?  And whom do I find myself walking with, as I look around, when I finally emerge from the anaerobic depths.

I stopped being numb only when I finally realized that although sometimes those who I walk with are holding me up, and are “here for a reason,” this is my journey, and only I can choose to feel again, to breathe again, to live again.

Four years ago today, after hiking, falling, and crawling 540 miles from France, across the north of Spain on my first Camino de Santiago, I held my wife Sharon’s hand and entered the Cathedral of St. James.  The pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle is life changing for everyone who completes or even attempts it, in very unique and individual ways.  It was here that I began to look around and notice where I was, and those around me.  Somewhere during the month, I began to look at myself from a different lens and realize how my words and emotions were changing.  I don’t think these were my own eyes, this was someone else’s vision of me.

My story was one of great pain and loss, and I wanted to make everyone else know the pain, and cry with me.  I hated this journey, I hated my life, and I hated everyone I encountered because they didn’t feel my pain.  But, as I walked the Camino de Santiago, I began to feel again, to stop hating, to love again.

Somewhere along the path I had stopped enjoying the tears of others.  Clearly it had been a struggle, but I saw myself and my swollen knees, black and blue and bloody from so many falls, struggling up and down the trails, continue to carry me forward one step at a time.  And I saw myself embracing others, from Belgium, France, Germany, China, Morocco, Canada, Japan, Spain, and so many other places.  They carried their own crosses of pain – their own unique struggles and grief.  Others were there for a reason also, and my walking with them was no coincidence. My story began to change from one of death and loss to one of life and salvation.  And the words and stories and memories I found myself sharing were those of love and happiness and support for others who were also hurting and struggling to find some sense in their own lives.

   

Working through grief is hard work, and it very different for each of us.  There is no recovery, no return to the previous path, no “new normal.”  Loss is not something to get past, to recover from, so we can “get on with life.”

In the movie foreshadowing so much of my life, The Way, when “Jack from Ireland” discovers that Dr. Tom (Martin Sheen) has lost his son and is carrying and spreading his ashes along the way, he exclaims, “That’s brilliant! Tragic of course, but brilliant!”

And so it is.  Life is, in fact brilliant and beautiful.  Of course there is tragedy and great loss.  But it’s tragic because of its beauty, and we only see the brilliance of salvation because of the loss.

I don’t love my life in spite of my losses.  Like my son I have things I struggle with.  But struggles and losses don’t mean his life wasn’t beautiful, and meaningful, and love filled for everyone he encountered.  His having lived for 19 years made the world a much better place.  I have chosen to embrace my loves and losses, because they make me, me.  Cullen was here for a reason, and so am I.

  William Cullen Klein  IMG_3615

Each year since that accident have found me remembering the date in remarkable, meaningful places.  Santiago twice, Morocco, Lourdes, and today, on the fifth year reflecting on his beautiful life, I’m at the Trappist Monastery where Thomas Merton wrote his classic Seven Story Mountain.

Today doesn’t have to be about loss.  Many celebrate wedding anniversaries, birthdays, and other joyful celebrations. Please join me in thanksgiving for a beautiful life.

His, mine, and yours.

Much Love.

Cullen’s favorite pose

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Lessons from two Caminos: Time Heals Nothing

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It’s ironic that the reflective solitude that I enjoyed so much  last year on the Camino de Santiago would be what made me feel lonely as I hiked this year.

Maybe that’s not fair, or totally true, because I am a much different person this year. It’s now been two years since Cullen’s accident.

The old adage that “time heals all wounds” is a lie.  But at least the wound isn’t still hemorrhaging constantly. The fact is that wounds do not heal back to normal.  This is simply not true. Another axiom is that one achieves a “new normal,” which is also a lie.  There can be no normalcy when one loses a child.

From my medical perspective, an immune system attempts to repair that void or empty space where living tissue once was only by “granulating” it in with scar tissue.

So when Pontius Pilate asks, “What is truth?”  I can tell him, “The truth is, time heals nothing.”  Recovery through grief requires work.  Yes, lots of really hard work, and much of it continues to be painful.  Reading, talking, sharing, silence, and prayer. Time does create a kind of a “space” where we can put things – good things, positive things, an opportunity for suffering to be redemptive; and the “breath of life” will again come down upon us and we will find life within us.  Or we can choose to not put good things in this space, and the vacuum will suck in all of the horror, and negative, and evil, and we will dwell in this bottomless pit of sewage, where there is no life and no breath.  I witnessed this in a support group, where some members still wallowed in this lifeless sewage after 20 and 30 years.

Like Josie Vander Woude, we must allow ourselves to be pushed up out of that pit, and the “breath of life” to rush into our gasping lungs. Yes, I am much different than I was.  Perhaps last year, I simply needed some alone time.  Time to scream at God, and at Cullen, and at his stupid decision to drink that night, and at FSU for allowing him the opportunity to make such stupid choices, and at myself for not teaching him to be more effing responsible, and at God, and at my ex-wife, and at China, and at his absent guardian angel, and at God, and maybe just to scream.

One of the transitions I made last year, if you muddied through the garbled, mostly nonsensical posts of last year’s Camino, was that I found myself no longer angry.  And no longer desperately needing to tell everyone the horrible story so that they would also feel horrible, and, in turn, feel sorry for me.  And no longer even wanting anyone to feel sorry for me.  And no longer needing to tell everyone about the tragic accident; in fact I found myself actively avoiding telling the story.

I still love to talk about Cullen, and am told that I glow with pride and joy when I get to.  But now it’s the good stuff, and not so much the catastrophic loss.  Because, although it is both of these, the good stuff now allows me to rejoin life. There have been so many amazing “Gifts Left Behind” that allowing myself to dwell in that dark place would make his life here just a waste; his whole life here just a mistake.  And that’s just simply not the case.

So last year I welcomed this “time apart” from everyone that knows and loves me, and it did something to me.  Each evening, I got to see faces of other anonymous peregrinos that were becoming familiar from the previous night, or a week ago, or even from walking together for 10 minutes during that day.  We would share a glass of the local wine crop and tell each other stories of victory and loss, and that’s when I began to see the life a bit more holistically.  We all have lives, with our own losses and victories. Tired of crying, I found so much more joy in hearing others’ stories, and where they are in their lives than in telling about myself.

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C.S. Lewis calls this philia (love for a brother), or even agape love, where you would give of yourself for another.  There’s a certain joy that is so much deeper about caring for someone else and ministering to them than there is in begging to be heard and ministered to yourself. And so life is a repetitive struggle between the two.  We want to be the focus, to be served, for others to make us happy.  And yet we cannot.  We can not make ourselves happy, or whole, or even healed.  Fortunately we also feel this tug towards others, and in that longing is joy.

“It is in giving that we receive.” (St. Francis of Assisi) We are called to serve, to minister to each other, to love each other.

 

Matt Maher says it well in this song that means so much to me:

(It became our theme song in Haiti, and Sarah sang it at the end of the funeral)

 

It’s waiting for you, knocking at your door

In the moment of truth when your heart hits the floor

And you’re on your knees

And love will hold us together Make us a shelter to weather the storm

And I’ll be my brother’s keeper

So the whole world would know that we’re not alone

This is the first day of the rest of your life

‘Cause even in the dark you can still see the light

It’s gonna be alright, it’s gonna be alright

 

At “the end of the day,” this becomes the manifestation of His love.  We take on a servant’s heart, and others see a change in the way we live our lives.  Everyone encountered becomes the living Christ.

Betty and Little Girl

She Wasn’t Being Rude

 

 

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Klein Family Mission Trip T-Shirt Logo, Haiti 2012

“but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

Much Love

Categories: post - meaningful/life lesson | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

May 14 St. Jean-le-Vieux to Ordiarp to Mauleon-Licharre

 

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Second day hiking the GR78

Look at the mileage count on today’s (May 14) MapMyHike App, it’s nothing heroic, it’s actually embarrassing.  A guidebook for the GR78 apparently doesn’t exist in English, so I splurged and prepaid for a small data plan – hope it is big enough.  Anyway my stoopid GPS lost signal in the mountains (what’s the point, right?), so I walked about an extra ten miles.  This was supposed to have been an easy day so I had planned to go well past Mauleon to get a bit ahead, in case there was a problem later.  Oh well, I’ve done this enough days over the past two years that this stuff just kind-of happens.  No worries.  It’s the Camino, the definition of the unexpected, and God’s providence.  But it was still a “little frustrating!”

The day also began on an embarrassing note.  Reminiscent of Dr. Thomas Avery (Martin Sheen) in “The Way,” we bolted out of the Alberge bright and early, but in the wrong direction. Having just posed with Monsieur Briseteia for a farewell photo, he was watching closely, and redirected.

We got started just in time for a sheep crossing. The shepherd and the dogs are just such an impressive team with their sheep. Every part of the body knows it’s role, does it without hesitation, and without complaining. Lots to learn here.

 

Lost without a shepherd

Lost without a shepherd

Although I took a wrong turn or two, today was just simply an incredible day. As I’m inclined to say it’s not merely the destination, it’s the journey. Why be bothered with frustration from losing my GPS navigation signal; the wasted hour allowed me more time with my son and my God. Sixty degrees ish, sunny, and the most incredible view of the Pyrenees you can imagine. I took a few pictures, but most are for my son and me. Just us.

After about six hours of the most challenging hiking I’ve encountered (by far exceeding last year, except that one day), I was really pooped. I truly needed to stop about every 20 meters to catch my breath, regroup, and focus my motivation. I kept saying, “Give me strength, focus, energy, even some kind of sign.” Almost immediately, over my head, as quick as a wink, a deer jumped across the road. I reached for my camera, and he was gone. Something else for “just us.”

A driver on the road saw I was struggling and asked ( I assume) if I’d like a ride to wherever I was going. Without hesitation, I said “Oui! S’ie vou plais!” But then, as he opened the door, for some reason, I declined and apologetically thanked him, “merci boucou!” Yes, I would do this myself, and then as if walking on air, I seemed to float to the hotel (yes, I splurged tonight, a real hotel!)

I realize it’s just my second day. But last year I almost had to quit on my third day because my knees were shot. Thanks for all your love, support, and prayers.
That’s all the light stuff. If that’s all you’re here for, thanks for dropping by.
More tomorrow! A little preaching after these pictures…

GR78 3GR78 near Mauleon

One of us has to move! Charolais near Mauleon

One of us has to move!
Charolais near Mauleon

Charolais in the way!

Charolais in the way!

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When I saw the sheep and their shepherd, I just couldn’t resist the temptation, and it’s been bothering me a lot since Easter Sunday, when I read someone’s Facebook post.

A friend of my daughter posted, on Easter Sunday, that ” We are not sheep, so we are in no need of a shepherd.” That was breathtaking to me but I crumbled to the floor that it got hundreds of likes, and lots of LOLs. Really?

I do realize that, over the past couple of years, my FB posts, and certainly my blog writings are faith centered. I get it. And I’ve lost a lot of followers, and lots of “friends” because of this. Fair enough. I’m a big boy, and I’ve gotten pretty thick skin after 50 years. But I do find both of these facts so very depressing.

You see, this person that wrote and shared such a popular, funny post also lost a son in a recent unlikely, unbelievable accident. The details or location aren’t so important. My daughter knows this man, who’s about my age, because she knew his son. I didn’t know either one.

What I do know is this. Jeshua ben Joseph truly lived. He is an indisputable historical figure. All three monotheistic religions agree. The other two hold him us a a great man, a wonderful philosopher. He said some of the most mind shattering things for the time. Including lots of clearly metaphorical references to a shepherd and his sheep. I’m no theologian, or bible scholar, I’ll insert the verses later. Jesus also claimed to be the messiah, and the son of God. This is also irrefutable. And all of his apostles (except John), and hundreds of other eye witnesses that knew Jesus were killed because NONE of them would retract or change their story, particularly about having seen Him after the resurrection, and then He disappeared before their eyes.

C.S. Lewis made famous the “liar, lunatic, or lord” argument. Jesus was one of these, and clearly not such a “great man” if liar or lunatic.

What we do with our faith when challenged with tragedy and crisis is unpredictable. It’s all just a bunch of words until we confront such a crisis. Our “profession of faith” is just a bunch of words unless we really think about them. And if we don’t agree, it’s our obligation to dig deeper to discover why not, or have an epiphany to prepare us for the unthinkable. We will stand before our God, perhaps tomorrow. Will He even know you? “He knows his sheep, and they know Him.”
GR78 Ordiarp 1

Categories: hotel - wifi, post - beautiful/visual, post - funny/humerois, post - meaningful/life lesson, post - religious/spiritual, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scallop Shells

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I was caught off guard when a reader asked me about the significance of the scallop shell.  I was a bit embarrassed when I thought about this.   I’d never really thought much about the diversity of readers here. I’ve referenced the yellow arrow pointing the way along the route, however, at least as often, is the image of the scallop shell – most typically as a tile attached to one of the waymarkers along the road, or embedded as a brass plate into the surface of city sidewalks.

When you’re on TV or radio, or simply cutting a youtube video, you don’t see the faces.  You are speaking to an audience of one – the microphone.  Likewise, on a blog like this, I think about the four WordPress members that check-in after some of the posts, my wife, and maybe (hopefully) someday my kids when they are curious about what makes the old man tick.

My curiosity having been piqued, I dug into the administrative section of WordPress, and discovered over 500 people regularly following, and just over 7000 total search hits so far.  Hence my embarassment at thinking I was a ‘child singing a Christmas carol for his family.’  Avoiding eye contact, they would giggle, “That’s nice.”  So I’m certainly humbled to realize the outpouring of interest in my journey and my son.  I also wish I hadn’t been in such a weary hurry on my first dozen posts, trying to text my story on my phone, when I read back and see all of the (often comical) typos.  Anyway, feel free to comment – please do!  I realize you must jump through hoops, or even join WordPress to comment, but I would appreciate it.

I had become so accustomed to seeing the scallop shell, the “Image of Santiago;” it had been so ingrained in what I saw everywhere – now that I’m home, I really miss it!

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A few years ago, I would have had no clue about symbolism surrounding the scallop shell either.  I took for granted all of my readers would also know those things I had learned.  In my most recent post, I mentioned in passing the tapping of the scallop shells against the small wooden box attached to the outside of my pack as I walked down the streets of Santiago, as well as all the challenging trails and paths up and down the mountains on this incredible journey.

The scallop shell has long been associated with St. James, as well as Santiago. The scallop industry is a way of life on the North West coast of Spain, and all of Galacia, for that matter, and has been for thousands of years.

The scallop shell holds symbolism for Christianity itself.  Used in those waters to scoop water to pour over the head during Christening, the shell represents baptismal renewal, the rebirth after washing away the sins.  Although my own church uses immersion for the sacrament of adult baptism, Father Tony does use a scallop shell to trickle a stream of the purifying water over an the head of an infant.  Indeed, an image of this shell is seen all over town on cars, representing well the Holy Name of Jesus Parish as her logo.  Another “coincidence” (remember, there’s no such thing!) is that the symbol of my own faith community is the same as the Camino.

HNJ logo

The scallop shell is said to be a metaphor on the Camino, its lines representing the different routes pilgrims traveled from all over the world, all walking trails leading to one point: the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela.  Medieval pilgrims often wore a scallop shell attached to their cloaks or hats during their journey to Santiago. More than being just a symbol or a pilgrim badge, the scallop shells also had a practical purpose: they were a handy and light replacement for a bowl so the pilgrims could use them to hold their food and drink on their long journey. Pilgrims would also be given food at churches and other establishments, and a scallop shell scoop was the measure for the food they would be donated. Since the scallop is native to the coast of Galicia, the shell also became a memento, a physical proof of having completed the pilgrimage.

Pilgrims today traditionally attach a shell to the outside of their rucksack as a statement of their faith, and participants on the pilgrimage. I had attached two, one on each side, as I left St. Jean Pied de Port, France, over 500 miles ago.

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I knew viscerally that although I was doing the walking, that many were along with me.  And I will return soon to those I left behind.  My next post will be my final one on this blog, and I’ll say a few things regarding “those that went with me.”

Traditionally, when we return home, we bring special gifts to our loved ones.  But this was not a business trip, with stuffed animals for all the kids, or a vacation with T-shirts for everyone.  Having those things would be worse than nothing at all – they would trivialize this journey.

What would be an appropriate gift that others could hold, to memorialize the Camino de Santiago?

The pictures show that the tapping of the “shells against the small wooden box” could not be those I attached to the outside of my pack for Cullen and me.  It was the others, in the outer pocket with the box, that had travelled these miles with us.  Sharon and I each carried these scallop shells on this journey; they symbolize those at home, who walk with us.  As we have now finished this part of our Camino, we have presented each member of our family one of these treasures that we carried for them.  Much Love.

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Categories: post - meaningful/life lesson, post - religious/spiritual | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Alternative Scenic Route (Dragonte Mountain) – 21st Day, 8 May 2013

In John Brierly, “A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago,” he on many occasions presents two or sometimes three alternative routes to reach the day’s suggested destination.  The grey dotted route is mainly paved, typically the least strenuous, but often reportedly boring, less scenic, and asphalt hard on the feet.  The gold dotted route is that suggested by Brierly, much more altitude, and as such, more strenuous and demanding.  Unlike in snow-skiing, the green route is not the easiest.  The green route is mentioned only for the benefit of the “experienced hiker,” who is in “excellent physical condition and who has the internal compass of a mountaineer,” as he is “likely to presented with many alternative roads and paths that are unmarked, and who will not become disheartened or frustrated if he becomes disoriented or lost for a period of time.”

Sounds like me, right?  Guess which route I ALWAYS took when presented with the options…

Today being no different, I made the responsible decision that (apparently) no one else that I knew had made.  Without hesitation, I chose the green route (a no-brainer) and headed up to Dragonte.  I say without hesitation, not because I’m particularly athletic, or have a death-wish, or even some kind of daredevil.  No, I always chose the highest, most demanding route because I’m pretty sure this is a once in a lifetime thing for me to do.  So really do it.

And kind of personal.  My last trip with my son, time together.  That additional time we all wish we had spent with our kids when they (or we’re) gone.  Lots of long conversations.  Explanations of things I had done and not done – why and why not – and how I really thought I was being a good dad at the time.  Apologies for those things that didn’t work out well or had resulted in misunderstandings, frustrations and disappointments.  And appreciation for being such a really great son, a really great friend to so many, a really great human being.  I continue to be in awe of that person.  On so many levels.

So, and I share this with great hesitation, because it is so very personal.  But if you’re still reading after three weeks, you are undoubtedly a pretty good friend, and have much love for me and my family.  Many have no Idea why I’m doing this, other than to work through some grief.  There are some reasons too personal to share – they are between me, my son, and our God.

But remember, I’ve said many times – I’m not doing the Camino for Cullen, I’m doing the Camino WITH Cullen, but for me, and those I love, who need me back.  I’ve been gone for a while.

So, yes, at the risk of some mental health label, I am walking the Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James with my son Cullen.  And yes, his ashes are in my backpack (no, I’m not spreading them), but even if they weren’t, he’d truly still be here with me.  And I have genuinely felt his presence on many occasions.  In the wind, in the warmth I feel on a frigid day, in the color and the fragrance of the lavender here on the mountains in the springtime.  And although most people would look and say I was walking alone, in reading some of my prior posts, I noticed myself talking about things “we” did or saw.

Today, the green route was the most physically demanding, albeit exhilarating thing I’ve ever done.  I did post a few pictures on FB.  Here’s a few more.  Today was the Camino in a nutshell.  Time alone, lots of prayer, fascinating history, indescribable beauty.  Anyone who denies the existence of our God has clearly never seen anything like this.  And yes I was lost once for over an hour.  Don’t believe in angels?  I didn’t either.  More to come regarding that.  Much Love

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Categories: hotel - wifi, post - beautiful/visual, post - meaningful/life lesson, post - religious/spiritual | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hospital de Orbigo, 4 May, 2013

There´s a saying while walking here, anytime an uncanny coincidence occurs, any time you were thinking or talking about something and it happens immediately, you run into someone you met days, if not weeks ago, expecting to never to see them again. “It´s the Camino!” just seems to explain it in a nutshell.  So many really, really interesting, if not strange things happen here.  I´ve heard reference to the literally millions over the past thousand years who have made the pilgrimage, often with a troubled or heavy heart, filled with a loving, if not healing spirit.  “The place is thick with God´s healing grace, you could cut it with a knife,” a priest from New York, who had been a missionary in Africa, said to me.  “Think of the tens, if not hundreds of thousands who died here, struggling to make the journey.  Think of the saints, such as your St. Francis of Assisi (knowing I was a vet) who walked these very same footsteps.  Don´t be surprised when surprising things happen!”  I have not been surprised, but I am in awe.

Tonight, I stayed in Hospital de Orbigo in an albergue, sleeping in the same room with about 60 really good friends.  Let me comment on that atatement.

There are lots of “Hospital” named towns.  Remember the millions going before me didn´t have high tech hiking gear like us.  Girded in a sack cloth and a stick, many (esp in medieval times) made this journey of atonement and indulgence, knowing they may not make it home, or even to Santiago.  Hospitals were set up along the way to treat injuries, as well as infirmities.  The plague, scarlet fever, and tuberculosis, as well as dozens of other maladies claimed many before they could place their petition at the feet of St. James for his intercession to his close friend, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  There are many medieval headstones behind towns called “hospital.”

Sixty really good friends.  This feels like the fraternity days, with “Hell week,” just prior to initiation into the “club.”  It really is inconceivable the pains and struggles associated with a pilgrimage  I´m really not complaining Donica, I knew this stuff was part of the package.  As a natter of fact, it would be a really beautiful holiday if not for the discomfort.  That may well be part of what of makes it a pilgrimage.  The sprains, strains, bloody torn nails, the blisters, destroyed knees, pulled backs, and even heart attacks.  The cardiovascular workout involved in ascending a thousand meters in a just few kilometers is both exhilarating and body breaking.  Anyway, those who toil together, especially for a common cause tend to grow very close.  So I am serious when I say “close friends.”  Imdeed I was in a big room with 60 others stuffed into bunkbeds.  But as I looked around the room, I had walked for miles with most of them, and the others had made the way with those I did know.  A common kinship.  A royal priesthood.  Each perigrino has their own story, their own Camino.  More on that later.  Much Love.

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by Jenny Uebbing

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Mama Needs Coffee

by Jenny Uebbing

Mama Needs Coffee

God | Family | Coffee | Books | Gilmore Girls | Harry Potter | Photography | Music

theological pipe

Put that in your theological pipe and smoke it...

Jonathan's Blog

Reflections on the glory of God

Some Days in My Lives

Loving Pets and Their People

trekker2013's Blog

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

dogtorbill

“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Movin' it with Michelle

Running, Recipes, and Real life adventures!

this is... The Neighborhood

the Story within the Story

gidivet camino

learning the unforced rhythms of grace

The Cereal Bowl

Taking life one spoonful at a time

St. Val the Eccentric

Contemplative musings on life and faith from a creative original

howsyourlovelife

Improving my love of life.... through loving God, self and others

Thinking Out Loud

Children Matter

sharsharklein

This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas

Positively Sober

I'm just a girl from Boston living with AIDS and addiction. Two diseases, one slogan: Silence = death.

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