Silence the Voices Outside Your Head

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Silence the Voices Outside Your Head

These are strange times.

Recently I heard our governor say that there were one hundred thousand more claims for unemployment assistance in March than all of last year. It’s unprecedented and the system couldn’t handle it. People are frustrated and desperate, tired of waiting and anxious for their future.

There there are the mask wars. Perfectly nice people are making harsh judgment about people who don’t wear them and other equally wonderful people are taking a hard stance against being told they must. It’s crossed the line to religion, with some declaring anyone not wearing a mask in public as not being Christlike.

Others are boldly redirecting errant shoppers who are walking the wrong way down an aisle at Publix, the place where shopping used to be a pleasure but now feels more like a twist up of Survivor and Amazing Race.

I firmly believe that whether you are anxiously awaiting the reopening of your nail salon or think we should shelter in place all summer you are a good person who is processing information and dealing with this “thing that’s going on” as best you know how.

The reason I believe that is I know you. I’ve had conversations with you and listened to your heart. You know who doesn’t believe that about you? The guy on the neighborhood app or the local Facebook page who loves to troll and bait and wait for a reaction.

About a year ago I listened to a podcast by Emily P. Freeman. She talked about the need to assess anxiety triggers in everyday routine. I began paying attention to the things that appeared in my inbox, in my social media feeds and the things I was listening to and reading.

While I couldn’t silence them all, I identified a number that I realized I was choosing to allow into my space. To begin, I followed Emily’s advice and turned off all notifications on my smartphone. I moved social media apps to the last page on my phone, where they were less tempting when answering a text message or using navigation.

The biggest trigger I identified was from Facebook groups. I realized that the level of rude and unkind behavior there was causing me to waver between anger and sadness. I left the groups just like I would walk away from a conversation overheard in a coffee shop.

My next step was to begin unfollowing people. When I encountered a post that caused me to begin to tremble in my spirit, or to feel fussy, irritated or bothered, I chose to quiet that voice. I began to ignore with intention the voices that were outside of my true circle of influence and physical space by unfollowing and unfriending.

Two years later, I still don’t want to argue or watch others argue but I’ve realized that’s become the new normal. So here I am again, doing the work to silence the source of the trembling.

We each have a measure of energy for every day; some more than others, but everyone is limited. In times like these, when taking care of ourselves and those around us is critical, I want my choices, my conversations and my mental, physical and spiritual energy to be for things that matter.

I’ll close today with a prayer for us, my dear friends and readers:

Father God,

We don’t know when this storm will pass (or if it will at all) but we know you, the one who promised to be with us in every storm. Our bodies are tired, our minds are overwhelmed by the data, and our spirits are heavy with the weight of it all. Many are anxious over lost wages, poor health and stressed relationships. There are so many things that cannot and should not be silenced. But in your loving kindness grant us wisdom the silence the voices that we should. You are our God, we are your people. Today, may we hear your voice.

In the name of and by the grace granted to us through Christ,

Amen

Be Well. Be Safe. Be the compassion of Christ. And Beware: if you see me in Publix and I’m walking the wrong way, I am not being deliberately thoughtless but more likely overwhelmed. I’m a nice Southern lady but if you have the nerve to tell me I’m going the wrong way my response may be less church lady and more Tasmanian devil.

By grace alone,

lorraine

If you would like to hear more from Emily P. Freeman, I highly recommend her Tuesday podcast, The Next Right Thing. You can find it on any podcast application.

What Are We Riding Next? ~ In Search of Joy

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What Are We Riding  Next? ~ In Search of Joy

All around them loud, excited screams of riders rose above the roar of the ride. Next to his dad, he was silent but the expression on his face was anything but quiet. Mouth open wide around a huge grin, arms raised with hands high over his head, he was having the time of his life. In those moments, everything was right with him.

As quickly as it had started, the ride screeched to a stop.

Expectant brown eyes looked up at his Daddy. “What are we riding next?”

This third week of advent, the celebration of JOY, brought this memory to mind. It seems that joy can be elusive. We have moments, or pockets or seasons of joy. But it seems that of all the expressions of pleasure or happiness, joy is the one that people seem always in pursuit of.

Perhaps part of the issue is our confusion between happiness and joy. Happiness is a response to getting the thing I want, of well-being or success. Whether for oneself or for others, happiness seems to be the result of good fortune.

Joy is more of a deep sense of satisfaction and contentment, a certain abiding in the present without striving. It’s the result of practicing our faith in God even when our circumstances are not the best. As we remembered last week, we are not hopeless; our Savior came to ensure that we have hope in eternity with him!

As I’ve searched my own heart, I realize that joy can be found when I focus on just a few things. This is far from a four-step process to guarantee joy, but I hope it helps you as you look forward to Christmas.

  • Be still, but quiet the negative voices in your head. Spend some time in God’s Word.
  • Step away from social media, especially if the holidays are particularly hard time for you. And don’t feel bad about cleaning up your follow list if certain people or sites trigger you!
  • Practice gratitude. Keep a journal and write something that brings you joy. It’s a great place to go when you need a reminder.
  • Look for someone who might need someone to come alongside them this season. Visit a local nursing home or pet shelter. Joy bubbles up in service to others.

And the rest of the story? When that little boy looked up into his Daddy’s face with that question, a patient voice responded. “Little Buddy, I’m not sure what’s next, but that sure was fun! Let’s talk about what we liked best.”

Today, friend, I’m not sure what’s next. You may be facing some uncertain days, but I pray that joy will come to you as you settle into focusing on the good rides you’ve taken and the people you’ve shared them with.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news
that will cause great joy for all the people.
Luke 2:10

Wishing for you…JOY,

lorraine

What Do You Say?

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What Do You Say?

Gratitude. It’s defined as thankful appreciation for something received, whether tangible or intangible. Many of us were taught from a young age that the expression of gratitude for something received is polite and even expected, right?

Last weekend we participated in a Trunk or Treat event. As the costumed children approached, their parents prompted “What do you say?” With few exceptions, the child would respond “Thank you” even though the expectant parent was looking for “Trick or Treat!” The children have a conditioned response to the question “What do you say?”

We are entering into a season of thankfulness and I must confess that my conditioned response too often is less “Thank you” and more “Really? Is that the best you’ve got?”

Now, before you decide I’m an unusually ungrateful person, think for a hot minute about your daily interactions. We often fail to slow enough to truly appreciate the many little opportunities each day presents for thanksgiving. We overlook some of the small but sweet moments of our day.

Yet scientific research affirms the positive impact of gratitude, the expression of thanks. In the article cited below, researchers found that for most who participated in a focus group, making a written inventory of things they were thankful for had a positive impact on their overall well-being.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” [i]

November seems to be a great time to set aside a few minutes each day to list the things we are thankful for. I’m challenging some friends to join me in the following, trusting that by the end of the month we will be more positive, feel better physically and be generally more pleasant for others to be around. Here’s the assignment:

  • Daily: List three things you are thankful for – while it might be tempting to jot the same three every day (spouse, children, parents, for example) try to dig a little deeper and look back on interactions, small acts of kindness, etc. that you experienced throughout your day. You can utilize a small journal or even a calendar to make your daily list.
  • Weekly: Act on your gratitude – send a hand-written note, call or text someone who did more than they had to, speak to the store manager about that employee who went the extra mile or write out a prayer thanking God for his blessings,  answered prayers and faithfulness.
  • At least once during the month: Lavish thanksgiving on someone – spend time with them; whether your budget allows a special meal out or having them over for coffee, just do it! Invite them to lunch or meet for a walk with focused time for you to express to them how they’ve made a difference and to simply say “thanks”.

My hope and prayer for myself is that at the end of the month, my conditioned response to even my very normal days will be “Thank you!”. I trust that I will be happier, more content and much more pleasant because of my awareness of life’s daily blessings. Will you join me?

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of your wonderful deeds.”
Psalm 9:1 NIV

With gratitude,

lorraine

 

[i] Excerpt from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

Escaping the Bonds of Earth

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I’m tens of thousands of feet in the air as I type.

For two weeks I’ve been carefully matching clothes to the days we will be away. I’ve planned every outfit leading up to the main event, a wedding.

I laid them all out on the bed in the guest room and finally last night I moved the stacks into the suitcase.

This morning as I went through my morning routine, I carefully packed every lotion, potion and brush needed to ensure I was presentable. Hubby and I checked and rechecked the gifts for family members, the notebook he would need for the wedding and other critical items.

As we boarded the plane and sent last minute texts to my cousin who would meet us at our gate. I noticed a Facebook message from a friend. I read it with a heavy heart. Her mom is in her last days.

On a plane between heaven and earth, I’m thinking of my sweet friend’s mama. She is on the brink of eternity, a journey like no other; in limbo, so close to heaven and yet still very much present on earth.

Waiting at her arrival gate? Jesus.

In many ways, she’s prepared for the journey for years. With intention she’s planned her life around knowing Him, about pointing others to Him and being ready to meet him when she finally arrives at heavens gate.

She’s ready; her body is weary of this place we inhabit that Lisa Terkeurst refers to as the space between two gardens. Her life, as I’ve seen it, has been filled with a “longing for the place where we will walk in the garden with him again. Where we will finally have peace and security and eyes that no longer leak tears…and hearts that are no longer broken.”

As I prayed for my friend, as I considered her mama’s arrival in heaven; I thought about my angst over a simple trip for a few days out of town. I realized that in spite of my careful and detailed packing, we forgot something important.

And yet, her mama will arrive at heavens gate with nothing in her hands.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.””

‭‭Job‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

She is ready to receive her reward and to greet her sweet family and friends who have arrived already. Her preparation had nothing to do with gathering stuff and everything to do with sharing the love of Jesus.

Thanks for all you’ve taught us, Memaw. I’m praying for you. When you arrive in heaven, please give Sandy a big hug for me.

With hope in Christ alone,

Lysa Terkeurst quote from “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way”, releasing November 13th.

When Church Doesn’t Feel Safe

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When Church Doesn’t Feel Safe

We tucked ourselves into a row of seats near the back and as we did the anxiety that had begun when we drove into the parking lot swelled. Tears threatened. I gripped my husband’s shaking hand. I knew his heart was racing as his breaths shortened. Fear threatened to overwhelm me.

We were at church.

All around us people chatted in small groups, occasionally looking across the room with a broad smile and extending a wave as they recognized friends or acknowledged visitors. There was an air of excitement as the music started and people began to find seats.

It had not always been this way, but we were in the grips of trauma-induced stress and anxiety. As much as we felt compelled to be there, we couldn’t do it.

We quietly slipped out, gathered our children from the nursery with a flimsy excuse and retreated to the safety and security of home.

The above story is like one recently shared with me. I was overwhelmed with compassion for these dear people.

In the next few days I heard a worship leader say that “we” are the church. It’s not the building that makes church “church” – it is the redeemed of God. 1 Corinthians 12:27 confirms it:

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.

“You are the church, baby girl. Go to them.”

God didn’t speak to me in bullet points, but I think he’s okay with me using them as I share. These are some of the clear instructions he spoke:

  • Invite them into the sanctuary of your home. Break bread and share a cup in remembrance of Me.
  • Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Encourage them with the Word; be honest but don’t you ever put shame on them.
  • Be extravagant in your expressions of love. Use that spiritual gift I gave you for a time like this.

As I pondered and prayed these last few days, He’s also reminded me that wherever I go, I’m taking the church with me. Whether I’m carving pumpkins in a friend’s driveway, visiting a friend in the hospital or listening carefully as a colleague explains a process, I am bringing the Body of Christ to people.

The pastor of our church often encourages us with the promise that if we get our family and friends into the pews he will make sure they hear the Gospel. That’s his job on Sunday, but he has never met my friends who gather as the sun sets over the lake; he doesn’t interact with the porter in my building at work and he couldn’t tell you my neighbors’ or even my children’s names.

They are my friends, neighbors and family; they sell me groceries, postage stamps and iced coffee.

Jesus said “’Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself. These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s law hangs from them.”[1]

The best part of being a spirit-filled believer today is that he has made our hearts his dwelling place. We are the church – let’s go be the church to the people who are too scarred and scared to show up to the building. Love him, love them. Love always.

Loving by His grace,

lorraine

 

[1] Matthew 22:37-40 The Message

One Small Thing

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One Small Thing

She approached the well in the heat of the day, expecting to quietly draw water in solitude and peace. There was a man there, but she mostly ignored him.

“Will you give me a drink?”

It was a small request, so ordinary. She was surprised, though. She was a woman, a Samaritan woman. She would expect to be ignored or even shunned by this Jewish man.

You may be familiar with this Biblical account of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. It’s a well-known and often shared story of Jesus’ compassion and a woman’s response.

Just a couple of days ago, as I sat with a couple of friends, we visited this passage again. It was one of those moments when a familiar passage suddenly reads a bit differently and speaks to me with a new challenge.

The woman immediately began to complicate the simple request.

  • Why are you asking me? You know I’m not the best person for the job.
  • What do you mean you could give me a drink? You have nothing to draw with.
  • Hey, let’s talk about where we should worship.

His confirmation: I am He.

For the first time in many readings and hearings of this woman’s encounter with Jesus, I saw the simplicity of his request and I saw myself in the woman.

How often does he ask us do a similar simple, small thing?

  • Walk outside and speak to the young mom and her children as they pass by on their walk.
  • Fix a plate for the widower down the street.
  • Buy a cup and a snack for that college student studying at the local coffee shop.
  • Send a card to someone who is hurting, just to remind them that someone cares.
  • Walk into the next room and really listen to a child or your spouse for ten minutes.

He does, and too often I respond just as she did, denying the power of the love of Christ in me and for others.

  • Why me?
  • I don’t have the resources.
  • What if it’s weird or uncomfortable for me (or them)?
  • I’m just too busy.

But it is in the small acts of kindness that we unleash the power of his love. What if we knew that the small things of every day could be huge in the kingdom of God?

I’m committed to paying attention to opportunities in the mundane and the everyday. Will you join me, friends, as we hear Jesus asking us to do one small thing today?

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10

Share with me in the comments…how have you seen him use your “one small thing”?

By grace alone,

lorraine

 

 

 

 

 

Stuffing is for Turkeys and Taxidermy

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Stuffing is for Turkeys and Taxidermy

She leads a launch team that I’m part of and on that day, she delivered some unwelcome news; many people in the group would not receive a physical advance copy of the book.

I made the cut, so I was reading the complaints and expressions of disappointment with little empathy.

I sent a text to the leader, hoping to offer a word of encouragement, assuming the comments were discouraging her yet impressed by the way she was extending grace to the “complainers”.

“You are such a great team leader. You are managing these poor, bitter people well.”

In hindsight, I see my self-righteousness (hypocritical as it was) in that second sentence. She replied within minutes, so kind, but her statement set me back on my heels.

“It’s okay to experience and express disappointment.”

I recalled that I had surveyed that list of paper copies and was very relieved to find my name. On the other hand, there was another list, for one of my favorite authors, and I didn’t “make the cut”. I internally decided I didn’t have time to promote a book that I wouldn’t get to read before launch.

Honestly, I had to acknowledge I was nursing a splinter of bitterness, disappointed that I wasn’t chosen. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve thought about my reaction and her statement frequently.

I’ve discovered something to be true in my judgement of others. Every single time, the thing I’m most critical of in others is my struggle as well. Perhaps that is why the Bible says in Matthew 7:3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” In my experience, their splinter is from the same “wood” as my log.

In this exchange my friend short-circuited my judgement with a simple, yet profound statement of grace – permission to express disappointment. It was one I hadn’t even allowed myself.

Expression of emotions is healthy. In fact, the best way to diffuse a powerful emotion is to express it. In my culture (family, work, church) there is a lot of freedom to express positive emotion, but we often haven’t known what to do with negative ones.

Just this morning, I read from Philippians 4 where we are admonished and encouraged to focus our minds on true things (among others) so that we can walk with God in peace. Does that seem like a contradiction to expressing negative feelings? Stay with me for another minute or two, friend.

In this case, I was disappointed that I would not receive a physical copy of Stasi Eldredge’s new book. She’s my all-time favorite non-fiction author and her book Captivating changed my life more than any book other than the Bible. My disappointment was a reasonable and healthy emotional response.

After admitting and expressing my disappointment, I moved on to embrace the truth:

  • I have the resources to buy the book, or my library will have the book and I can request it online for delivery to my door (we live in amazing times, ya’ll!).
  • Serving on launch teams gives me opportunities to interact with amazing authors and book lovers while we share new books with our communities.

And just like that…I’m flooded with gratitude and yes, peace. Peace comes with the right perspective, but we only get there by appropriately expressing honest emotions. I’m so thankful for the patient and smart people around me, who continue to extend grace as I learn and grow in the marvelous grace of God.

By his grace alone,

lorraine

The Benefit of the Doubt

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The Benefit of the Doubt

Good intentions. There is a proverb that says the road to hell is paved with them.

I’m not so sure of that, but I’m quite sure that as humans we tend to moralize and justify our actions to ourselves. Phrases like “She meant well” or “He had good intentions” don’t always line up with our behavior.

I love words and the walls of my house often display all manner of proverbs and verses to encourage and remind. However, I cringe when I see the sign that declares “Follow your heart” and that sentiment will never adorn my home. It matters not how many lovely images are attached, the message is frightening because I know this truth all too well:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

The New Living Translation translates the second half of that verse like this: “Who really knows how bad it is?” Honestly, the brief glimpses into the darkness of my heart leave me desperate for the transformative work of the Word of God, by the Spirit of God and the GRACE of God.

Is it any wonder our interactions with one another are at best awkward and at worst misunderstood and hurtful even among friends and family members? Social media has only fanned the fire with moment by moment updates.

What if we agreed to choose kindness? What if we delay our reaction by putting our phones down or choosing to recall the things we KNOW to be true about our relationships?

The easiest and best gift you can offer this week is the benefit of the doubt.

“To give someone the benefit of the doubt is to default to the belief that their intentions are honest and not assume malice when there is uncertainty or doubt surrounding the circumstances.” [i]

It’s not easy; I know that. But I have so much invested; there is much value in relationship and until there is a pattern of behavior, a body of work that proves ill intent, I’m going to avoid following my hurting heart and choose to believe the best about these precious souls.

Letting it go,

lorraine

[i] Urbandictionary.com

Dance With Me?

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Dance With Me?

For months, I’ve taken a sabbatical from writing. Words, impactful words anyway, come from the vulnerable places of the heart. The deepest places in my heart are exposed by the truth of Scripture and that’s where the words flow. It’s been a dry season, but I’ve never doubted God’s faithfulness.

Thankfully, words have begun to come again. If someone reads them and finds encouragement it is only because the God of the valley of dry bones has breathed life into them. Perhaps this piece was not meant for me alone, but if it was, He is still a very kind Father.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

Recently, my husband held me close as we glided around a dance floor at a wedding reception. Neither of us is a great dancer, but I know this much well: only one of us can lead. I rested my head on his shoulder, closed my eyes and simply moved with his body. He led us around the dance floor, gently and tenderly holding me. I never looked up, preferring to rest in his arms and trust his lead. It was easy and comforting and I felt so very loved by this man who has been dancing with me for over forty-six years.

A few days later I was reading the passage above from Matthew and I remembered that dance. Jesus whispered “Just lean into me; allow me to lead. I will show you the unforced way of grace living.” He is so gracious, friends, this Jesus who has also been dancing with me for the same forty-six plus years.

There is no heavy yoke, pulling me in a direction when I walk with Him. He promised “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Rest. Our bodies need it and our souls crave it. I hope you got to take a great vacation this summer, but by the time the suitcases were unpacked, the laundry was finished and fridge was restocked you may have already grown weary.

Perhaps you crave rest as you look forward to this next season.

Dance with Him. His steps are sure. Trust his lead, my friend. He will take you to a place of true rest.

Trusting His lead,

lorraine

Jesus Loves Martha, Too…And a Book Giveaway!

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Jesus Loves Martha, Too…And a Book Giveaway!

My sister is named Martha. She always says that my parents made a mistake when naming us; she insists that I am the Martha of the family. It’s true that I am more like Martha than Mary, as evidenced by my resentment toward Jesus when I first read this account in the book of Luke. As a first-born daughter in a large family and a young wife and mother, I owned his words like a cloak of criticism:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42 NIV, The Holy Bible

My thoughts were far from holy as I thought of how I might respond “in real life” given the same encounter.

“Well, that’s special, Jesus, but who do you think is going to whip up some food for these people you brought with you if I take a seat with Mary?”

OR

“These dishes don’t do themselves, you know.”

OR

“So, we are rewarding laziness? I can’t be a fan girl and make sure everyone eats, too.”

In my immaturity, I read the words of Jesus as a rebuke. I am a woman who gets things done. I check them off my detailed list (most likely a spreadsheet) and focus on the task at hand. I am often the one who takes the bull by the horns to come up with a plan and then execute it. I love to entertain and host people in my home. The words stung and yet I felt like I was at my God-given best when serving and meeting the needs of others by doing all the things.

I struggled for years with the notion that my propensity to get things done was from lack of spiritual maturity or simply a flaw in my design. While I’ve embraced the grace of God, I still struggled with this passage. I wrestled with the tension between those two perspectives until I read Made Like Martha.

In the pages of Katie Reid’s first book I found encouragement and reassurance that my bent toward “doing” is in my DNA; God, the perfect designer, made no mistake when he created this doer. I also recognized the natural weaknesses in my “Martha” design, especially the tendency to strive for perfection and approval through “doing”. I asked myself honest questions like “What am I doing that HE hasn’t asked to do?”

The biggest affirmation for me is that the worship I offer up as I serve and work are just as acceptable as Mary’s. I also came to grips with my bent toward finding fault with the Mary types in my life, content to sit at Jesus’ feet when there is so much to be done. Once I was confident in my position I could freely acknowledge and be grateful for hers!

I’m thankful that Katie put these words to a page and I love the book so much that I want to give you a copy! It’s easy to enter the contest. Just navigate over here to Katie’s Facebook writer page and like it. Comment on this post and let me know you did and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win Made Like Martha. Be sure to comment by July 11th. I’ll use Rafflecopter to select a winner on Thursday, July 12th. I hope you win!

lorraine

Note: I received a free copy of Made Like Martha from the publisher in exchange for my honest review of the book. My opinion is mine alone and was not coerced or influenced by the publisher.