Category Archives: motherhood

Unconditional

steamboatThe semi-circle of peaks wraps around me, too distant to hug, too soft to stand sentinel. But they do both stand guard and comfort. It is November. Their sides are dry and brittle, beige and grey. The slopes are dotted with rust–almost a pop of color in this season. And dark brown. Even brown is color now. An evergreen rises past this bank of third story windows, reaching past the fourth floor above, a deep green reminding me that the ever-living part of us takes time to reach to the sky. Here and there the miracle of modern sprinkler systems create little circles and squares of green grass, but even that color is November-muted.

All of this has nothing to do with what is on my mind.

Or does it?

I’m thinking of love.

Our youngest son and his girlfriend spent the weekend here with us. We took them to a glorious hot springs nestled among the rocks and slopes, hiding at the end of a long, bumpy road. The natural pools form little ponds of steaming water. At one side the scalding waters flows over tiny falls into the pools. On the other flows the river. Cold, cold river. In the middle we play. Float. Rest. Choose our temperature.

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Jerry and I watch and smile as they dance the dance of young love. He splashes in the cool, river-fed pool, colder because it is November. Freezing because our bodies have been in the hot springs. He splashes and dives. Brings her rocks. They toss them. Skip the flat stones. He begs her come over the wall. Leave the perfect temperature and adventure in the river side. She resists. His eyes soften. Call. Emboldened, she stands first on the dividing rock wall. He counts to ten while she gathers courage, then with a shriek and a splash they are no longer separated.

Young love. Push. Pull. Can’t-bear-to-be-separated love.

They tease. Comfortable enough to be goofy. In love enough to be sappy.

“Momma, isn’t she beautiful?” he often asks.

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Of course she is.

I am fifty-one. Jerry older. These nights we can’t bear to be separated, even by pajamas or space in the bed. We wrap warm bodies around each other as we sleep. Wrinkles are forgotten. Bulges in wrong places of no consequence. We are flawed inside and out, but it doesn’t matter.

Love is unconditional.

We’ve weathered years. Hardships. Joys.

Forgiven each other our weaknesses. Our faults. Our bad choices.

They asked us about marriage, these young ones. About what parts are hard and what parts are not, and now, two days later I panic at all the life they must someday navigate, at all the experiences they’ve not yet had, at the cost they do not yet understand.

And I pray.

And Jesus reminds me I too was once young.

And that He was there. Is there still. And will be for them.

That His unconditional love will teach them how to love, how to weather the hardships and the pain and the unexpected difficulties. That He does this for all who ask. And that we learn, over time, the cost and joy of love.

How to let it be unconditional.

Jerry and I came here to heal. I feel soul weary, the last book demanding more of me than I ever dreamed. I left it in the hands of the editors and formatters and proof-readers and came to this place seeking.

Refreshment. Companionship. Mountain views. Hot springs. Time alone with Jerry and Jesus, surrounded by those two from whom I receive unconditional love.

They take me.

Always.

Flawed. Healing. Joyful and sad. Strong and weak. Tired and energized. They choose me. Accept me like this. Without mask. Without decoration. When my colors are bland.

The pale blue sky, not yet winter, but no longer the bright cobalt of autumn, dims outside the window. A pale line of color clings to the mountain peaks, not orange. Not bright enough to be peach even. Just a dusting of color over the grey peaks which have yet to be decorated with snow.

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All is muted.

At peace.

Accepted in this state of quiet.

Nothing expected.

But beautiful.

Unconditionally.

I sip my Merlot and watch as dusk becomes night and lights come out to twinkle against the mountainside.

(Thoughts from November in Steamboat Springs . . .)

Until next time,

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Giving Away a Book!

rsz_pmapprov3-01To date I’ve not published a book that is as vulnerable and near to my heart as Soul Scents: Bloom. It’s a book about discovering Jesus as peace and hope during times of on-going trial. It explains some of my years of silence as a writer, times when life required too much for me to write outside the pages of my journal.

One Amazon reviewer said, “What sweet truth Paula shares on each page of this devotional. God’s love and his extravagant grace toward us is shared through Scripture, the beauty of nature and the author’s personal stories of pain revealing God’s ever present care and commitment to our “blooming.” I loved the prayers at the end of each day’s reading and found myself saying, “Yes, Lord, Yes! Do that in me!” I came away from the pages yearning for more intimacy with Jesus, to know him better and more. Paula clearly knows her Lord and her honesty and vulnerability are so healing.”

Words like that help me share the tender spots, giving me hope that the message which pours forth from me has a place in my readers’ journeys.

I’d love to *give* a copy of Soul Scents: Bloom to a reader who comments either here or on social media. If you comment more than one place, I’ll put your name in the drawing for each place  you comment. In your comment let me know whether you prefer a Kindle copy or a paperback.

My daughter has a different tender place, and I invite you to help me help her as she serves. For the July pay period on Amazon.com, I will donate 50% of my Soul Scents book profits to the effort below. 

In 2015 our daughter, Sarah, fell in love with the women and children of another country.
She traveled there to serve with a NGO (Non-Governmenal Organization) which provides education, health care, and economical support in a war-torn region. At present over 500 children receive education and healthcare, as well as one solid meal each day. The folks at the NGO also work with the families from the school and look for ways to help them gain income. Last year Sarah taught the children and visited in the homes, where she met with the mothers and helped identify needs, whether it was a micro-load to get a sewing machine so the mom could start her own business, or immediate access to food and other resources when the needs were urgent.

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This year Sarah and her husband, David, are returning to the people she loves. They have raised more than half of the funds needed for this service trip.

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Sarah and David advertise for a garage sale to raise funds.

Please consider buying one of the books below and help these precious children! (If you’d like to donate directly to this effort, email me, and I’ll get you the proper information, including how the donation can be tax deductible.)

And don’t forget to leave a comment for the drawing for a free copy of Soul Scents: Bloom!

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Awaken to a more intimate, peaceful relationship with God. The Soul Scents devotional series invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of Who God is and how He interacts with us. Bathed in grace, this collection of thirteen week devotionals is down-to-earth, offering spiritual insight gained from Scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom. Soul Scents: Awaken, the first in the series, features week-day readings which include Scriptures and prayers. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.

 

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Become rooted in your identity as the beloved! Soul Scents: Rooted, the second book in the Soul Scents devotional series, includes topics such as worthiness, spiritual battle, and destiny. The week-day readings include scriptures and prayers.

 

 

 

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In His presence we bloom in sunshine and storm. His Spirit carries us through the struggle, offering the love, strength, and wisdom we need for the times of trial. In the joyous seasons, His smile deepens our pleasure. Bloom in season and out!

The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes, Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish, offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself. (Watch for Soul Scents: Flourish coming in September!)

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Soul Scents: Bloom!

Grandma’s Recipe

There’s something satisfying about being bonded through food to someone you love. Several years ago I happened upon a recipe for banana pudding in one of my cookbooks. It delighted me to see adjustments written next to it that said, “Grandma’s way.”

20160528_140939I started making the pudding. First it was a Fourth of July tradition, then the kids started asking for it more often. Pretty much every time I made it I thought about how happy it would make my sweet grandma to know her great-grandchildren loved one of her specialties.
Time passed. Our family is growing. Soon after our daughter, Sarah, married, I found out banana pudding is one of her husband’s favorites, and my making of the treat increased in20160517_153924 frequency. That’s why our youngest son’s girlfriend, Ariel, discovered it. It delighted me when I offered to bring it to her graduation party, and her eyes lit with pleasure.

Again, it’s that connection thing. My grandma loved people through food. The family even teased her that she had some kind of a disease that required her to keep people feed. She was a good-old-fashioned-homemade-simple-country-kind-of cook. Nothing was fancy. Everything was GOOD. And there was always PLENTY of it.

Now those who are part of us get a little of Grandma’s lovin’ through my cookin’. (Hear the southern click in? I am from Oklahoma originally.)

As a mom of three boys, I soon discovered there is something to the old adage that food is a way into a man’s heart. My husband loved it as I learned favorite recipes from his side of the family, too. Traditions have grown from that–like homemade cinnamon rolls to start a holiday morning (or just because it snows).

For the gluten-free set, I’ve found my mom’s apple crisp to be a hit. For birthdays it’s a toss-up whether the one celebrated wants the “famous” Moldenhauer chocolate cake, a recipe from Jerry’s mom, Fencine, or my famous banana cake, a recipe from my mom. (Then again, David still votes for banana pudding no matter what!) When I make Grandma’s chocolate gravy for breakfast, I make homemade biscuits from a recipe from my brother, Curtis.

Then there are my own discoveries. Like the “holly” (Challah) bread which I learned to make, in part, because it pleased my Jewish neighbor, Bernice. It was a childhood favorite for her back in New York. My daughter, Sarah still loves to braid the dough, something she’s delighted in since childhood.IMAG0704

My grandma was well-known for her pies. Sarah and I spent hours covered in flour when she was little. I showed her how to feel the dough to know how much flour was needed, and how to “work” it as little as possible to keep it flaky. She now claims to make better apple pies than I do. (Her brothers agree; her father doesn’t. Smart man.)

Isn’t it all about relationship? I love making food that triggers a memory of someone I love. Grandma, Fencine, and Bernice are now all with their Lord, but I love watching the new people in my circle of love as they connect to a circle of those who have passed on and left their recipes of love for me to share.

Now . . . for those of you on Facebook who requested the recipe, I share this family treasure. (For more on the step-by step process, visit this post, which doesn’t have ingredients, but does show pictures and further explain the process.)

Grandma Eunice’s Banana Pudding

In large serving bowl:

Layer vanilla wafers and bananas

Cream together in medium sauce pan:

1 C sugar, 2 eggs, 3 heaping T flour

Add the following and place on medium heat:

3 C whole milk

Stir pretty much constantly!

When pudding thickens and begins to boil, keep stirring and add:

1 t real vanilla, 2 T real butter

When butter is completely melted pour over wafers and bananas. Crumble some wafers on top and line round wafers around the sides if you want just ’cause it’s pretty.

(If you’re making this for Ariel, Sarah, or David, go for more cookies and less bananas. If you’re making it for Stephen, go lighter on the cookies and heavier on the bananas. Then again your special people might like it however you do!)

Confession: Grandma used margarine and imitation vanilla, but even the best recipes can use a little tweak. ;o)

My 2015 Christmas Miracle (Part 2)

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Releasing the week of Christma

God woke me in the middle of the night.

“I said fiction and non-fiction.”

That was it, but I heard Him loud and clear. The next morning–sometime early in 2015–I awoke realizing I’d focused on a fiction project I was writing, but hadn’t thought about where to go next in non-fiction writing even though during some journaling time with the Lord He’d shown me He wanted me to write both fiction and non-fiction. I sat and my computer and stared at multiple files full of ideas. I had no idea which non-fiction book He wanted me to focus upon first.

As I prayed I sensed He wanted me to compile devotions I’d written over a span of ten plus years. I opened the documents and began thinking about what that would look like. The workload felt overwhelming, but I began cutting and pasting and editing and dreaming.

The phone rang. “I’ve been studying software and programs to support authors in the publication of their books,” my friend, Carmen, told me. “Ever since I read your Titanic book it’s been my dream to start my own business helping authors. I’m not a writer, but I’m a reader. I want you to be my first client.”

Stunned, I asked questions, realizing Carmen had the software and systems to take the overwhelming, seemingly impossible task to doable reality, including organizing my multiple files so I could concentrate on writing and editing. We agreed to meet and see where God took us.

Then I called a friend who’d long encouraged me to compile my devotionals into a Soul Scents book. I thought she’d enjoy knowing her friend Carmen and I were dreaming together.

I love God’s timing.

“Just this morning God and I had a talk about you,” she said. “Actually, I was mad. Asking Him why He wasn’t moving you forward with all that content you had already written.”

I’m pretty sure my friend asked the Lord to kick my you-know-what and get me going, even though she didn’t tell phrase it that way. The fact she’d prayed about this particular project that very morning was another confirmation the Lord, Carmen, and I were on the same page.

That was the beginning of the publication saga of Soul Scents~A Spiritual Journey in the Son’s Embrace. At the time it seemed logical and doable, especially when Carmen organized my many files into new software that allowed me to move files more easily as well as work in bit-sized chunks. As time went on, however, I had several set-backs. it looked like my dream for a devotional to release for 2016 was impossible.

My vision for the book was to edit the devotionals I’d written long ago and add to them devotionals from the more recent insights I’d gained. I had my own devotional website in 2004, mailing a weekly devotion to a growing list of subscribers, but when my family went through multiple crises in 2008 I had to take a break.

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My website banner back in 2004

The season which followed was long and difficult. I felt to truly express spiritual insights that weathered the test of time I needed to not only do a deep edit on the content I had already produced, but to also write content from the insights I gleaned in the incredibly difficult years.

My work was start and stop. Sometimes the grief over the struggles we went through would halt the flow of my writing as I sat at the computer and sobbed. Eventually, the LORD asked me to rest. Instead of being productive on the project of my dreams I surrendered to another season of healing. Long walks, caring for my flowers, and visiting with friends and family replaced computer time. Instead of writing devotions most of my writing was once again in my journals. Deep and personal, this writing was about the Lord and I working through the pain together.

Then the Lord asked me to do some brave things that took me into deeper healing around issues not related to those struggle years, but to trauma before that.

Mixed in with all this deep, inner work were multiple get-a-ways. Lovely moments of travel, peace, and joy.

PMApprov1-01God is good at this healing stuff.

But when autumn arrived without progress on the Soul Scents book, I gave up on my dream. Comforted by the knowledge I’d rested in God’s plan and direction, I didn’t even grieve too much.

Who knew God still planned to see it through?

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what happened next!

 

Blessings,

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PS This is an on-going saga of the publication of Soul Scents~A Spiritual Journey in the Son’s Embrace. Click here for part 1.

Why Does Empty Nest Last So Long?

Blueberry wholewheat pancakes for Dad, Stephen, and me. Chocolate chips melting in Sam and20140630_084216 Seth’s. Even after Dad left for work we lingered at the table. They teased me for offering hot drinks from the Keurig. Said I always pushed it on them these days. I’ll never understand why the men of this family can’t fully appreciate the joy of a steaming cuppa.

Seth needed to get on the road, but still we lingered. Stephen commented on how it would be Thanksgiving before he had time at home again. Sam said he needed just a little bro time before everyone scattered, so the three of them donned tennis shoes and played football in the cul-de-sac like they used to when they were little.

I didn’t watch, but my ear was tuned to their return, the creak of the screen door, the deep voices bantering about their “perfect” plays.

All three of them teased me about the food we loaded into Seth’s ancient red car, but it will save him grocery money, and I have plenty to share. Seth tells me it’s enough. No more. But he’s been on his own long enough to see the value in dollar signs.

Healthy food. At least that I can give.

I don’t know where I got the idea that empty nest was a one time event. That once the last left everything hurt for a while and got better.

It’s not an event. It’s a season of marathons. The first leaves, and it hurts. Then the next and next, and they all hurt. And then before someone else leaves one comes back, but not to stay. And when you just get used to the latest transition, there is another. Sometimes one moves out the week (or day!) another moves in.

Then suddenly the house is empty.

I was excited beyond reason to pick Stephen up from college a few weeks ago. A mom anticipates with such fervor! But soon he leaves for his summer job, which ends the day before his fall job at the college starts.

Thanksgiving break is an eternity away.

Fleeting. Every moment flies abroad. You can’t hold on so you try to live inside the moments. To fully embrace the treasured gifts of time.

But as the moments flee you are caught inside, reeling, turning, turning, turning inside time’s bubble. And you have to find a way out.

To set your feet in the new now.

Lounging in the family room, daughter and husband reluctant to leave despite their exhaustion. But it’s hard to leave when we’re all there.

It’s so rare we are all there.

family shotIt is difficult to be productive. A few times last week before Sam’s graduation I got that feeling I had right after Bernice died, when the energy inside is suddenly gone and you can do nothing but sit for a while and stare at the walls.

Everyone acts like I should be fine because the youngest will live at home another year to take advantage of free local college.

But he is a revolving door, to work, school, friends, activities. This homeschooling momma isn’t needed for academics or much else, her input more interference than help as he steps into manhood.

And when they are all gone, whether for a day or a semester, the house is quiet.

So quiet.

Jesus whispers that He doesn’t want me to think of it like I’m alone. That I’m never really alone.

But I miss the Jesus arms that hugged me through the arms of my sons, the Jesus eyes that met mine through those big green ones of my daughter.

Sometimes I wonder if hubby will ever get home from work. His Jesus arms heal, too.

I want them to go. To grow up healthy without their mommy hanging onto them. I want them to20131228_112151 fly free and conquer their worlds. To find meaningful relationship and grow into adults and new families of their own.

I want to conquer my world, too, this new world where they don’t need much from me. Where I have expanded space to pursue my dreams.

But that, too, is slower, harder than I thought it would be.

At least so far.

Sometimes it’s actually fun when hubby is home. We find we can do whatever we want. Two. Without responsibility to anyone else. The kids call us teenagers when we curl up in our own bed, hooked on a Netflix series they wouldn’t watch.

But while hubby works that pesky quiet invades. It’s not just in the walls it’s roaring in my head and in my heart.

I’ve given myself permission to grieve. Maybe it’s time I give myself permission to stop grieving.

But I’m not sure I know how.

A Momma’s Heart for Her Graduate

1As a little boy you told me, “I’ll always want you to hug me, Mom.” You were frustrated because your big brother had just said I hugged him too much. Not only were you concerned my feelings had been hurt, but you couldn’t imagine not wanting hugs.

I said I wouldn’t hold you to the promise once you were 11 or 13. But you never changed. That sweet little boy who loved his momma’s hugs let me hug him through those insecure preteen years. Even in front of friends you’d hug me good-bye. You were never too cool for love.

Recently as you watched (and grieved) your older siblings leave the nest, you promised to hug me at least once a day. It was your remedy for my tears, I think. And you’ve kept your word. You’ve always been good at loving, Sam–and letting others love you, too. Some people have to learn to love, to say kind words, to hug, to lovingly tease, but not you. You make loving look easy.

20140718_165152Your faith, too, seems as natural to you as breathing. I’m sure during the hard times you were like anyone else, questioning the pain. Two hip surgeries and the struggle to return to your passion as an athlete tested it for sure, as did the times money was tight, and we didn’t know how to give you what you needed. But I don’t remember you having deep questions or anger. Mostly I remember you speaking faith to me when I struggled with my own. Fear would close in on me. I’d wrestle with God, reminding Him of the needs I couldn’t meet. Then you’d waltz in with your natural smile, put your arm around me, and say, “Don’t worry, Mom. God has this.” It makes me grin to remember the twinkle in your eye when God would solve the problem, and you’d say, “I told you everything would be okay.”

It’s delightful to see you hit a home run, write a creative story, or earn academic awards, but it’s your passion for God and people, your faith, your love, that bring me the most joy. Your favorite time of the week is volunteering in kids’ ministry at church. I love that you’re considering this as a career. I love that you chose to raise money to go on a mission’s trip this summer. I can’t wait to hear all about everything God does in and through you.11083920_10153255545128179_7517803830470359130_n

This year you have truly stepped into a new place, successfully completing two semesters at college while still in high school, working an insane amount of hours at your new job, and keeping up with a demanding varsity baseball schedule. I worried and fussed about all the demands upon you, but I shouldn’t have. You handled it. There were times you were exhausted. I wanted you to quit work or at least ask for time off, but you persevered, building a savings account and enjoying paying your own way. Just another part of manhood you’re stepping into. I’m proud of you. Of your perseverance, hard work, and determination.

As I prayed about this special day, this day when you are honored as a high school graduate, I asked the Lord what 10He saw. My pen flowed across journal pages thinking about how you bring such joy and love into this world. How you notice beauty. Offering uplifting words. (It’s a good thing you also have your daddy’s ornery streak and quick humor to help balance all that sweetness!) Love making people happy. I felt like the Lord told me to let you love life and help other love it and not impose upon you my hyper-active need to work and succeed. That you would be one of the lucky ones who could be productive without having to first get stressed out. That’s pretty cool. He also reminded me that you are becoming a wonderful communicator. I can’t wait to see where that goes.

Then He brought three men from the Bible to mind, all communicators. The first is your namesake, Samuel. Like Samuel you have been learning to discern God’s Voice from a young age, and like Samuel God will increasingly speak to you, and you will be able to share hope and wisdom with others as you listen to what God says and speak when He nudges you to speak.

The second one who came to mind was King David. Like you, he was a worshiper. He was passionate about God and God’s people. He noticed and celebrated beauty. He was creative. Somehow David was a fierce and manly warrior while maintaining a tender heart that produced the Psalms, some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. You have a heart like David, and the Lord is making you a strong, mighty man while protecting that heart that bring Him and others such joy.

The last name I wrote in my journal was Paul, again your namesake. Paul was passionate about God’s grace. His understanding of grace continues to affect how we see God and ourselves over 2,000 years later. Though one of the most powerful leaders of the new church, Paul struggled with a weakness. He asked God three times to simply take it away, but God told him to look to Him, that His grace would be sufficient for him. Like Paul you are passionate about grace. You long to see yourself as God sees you and to help others see themselves the way God sees them. Like Paul you have weakness (don’t we all?), and God said this was okay, that your struggles help you look to Him and rely upon Him in ways you wouldn’t without them.

As I finished my prayer time yesterday I felt the Lord remind me that David was the youngest of his brothers. As the youngest I know you sometimes struggled to find your own place. You had three awesome older siblings you looked up to. You wanted to excel as each of them had. In life. In character. It had to be hard sometimes to forge your own path. You loved them so much and wanted to be yourself even as you wanted to be like them. But you have succeeded, my son. You have stepped into manhood uniquely you even as you share many of the same traits I love about Samuel Moldenhauerthem. And as I prayed yesterday I feel the Lord gave me a promise for you, that He has seen your heart, and He is pleased. That though you are the youngest, like King David you will not be overlooked. He is raising you up to be a man of influence who will impact this world for good.

And so I release you to it, Sam. With pride. Joy. Confidence. I know His plans for you are good, and like God, I trust your heart.

My Girl in Afghanistan

sarah and childrenThank you to all in the blogging community who offered this momma emotional support as her daughter traveled to a war-torn country. While she was in Afghanistan she sent me a picture of the street where she stayed–blocked off with coiled barbed wire and guarded by a strong man with an AK-47 and grenades.

Sarah’s intent was to show me how safe she felt. When she returned her husband pointed out that the picture only accented to me her NEED for such precautions. It didn’t help that her trip there was postponed twice due to political unrest and the murder of a family staying on a guest compound in a city not too far from the one where she traveled.

But despite the scary delays what my girl found in her time in Afghanistan was a vibrant country recovering from 1,000 years of war. Honorable men who pledged to protect her with their very lives. Resilient women full of spirit and kindness and courage. A culture of loving hospitality with high hopes for the recovery and growth of their country.

Sarah longs to return to this place and people who captured her heart, and daily she grieves the distance that separates her from her “second home.”

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She was recently interviewed on this free podcast. You’ll be glad you listened.

http://www.adventuresportspodcast.com/2015/04/ep-017-sarah-grundy-adventure-travel.html

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(PS Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. I’ve been called to some deep times of introspection coupled with graduating my last homeschooled senior! It’s breath-taking to think that after 24 years of parenting and almost that long homeschooling a new season is truly beginning for me!)

Until Next Time,

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PS If you fall in love with Afghanistan through Sarah’s interview on the Adventure Sports Podcast, you can find out how to get involved by contacting my girl at: https://www.facebook.com/GrundyAroundTheWorld