She’s 30!

Celebrating our confident, creative, compassionate daughter Erin Lynn

“Is this the little girl I carried?” I don’t remember growing older. When did she? Happy, wonderful, iconic 30th birthday, Erin! I know I speak for Dad that we couldn’t be more grateful for the experience of having you on March 10, 1991. Raising you has been one of the greatest experiences of our lives! I know that you and Chris were merely “on loan from God” for the first 18 years, but we’re still so blessed that we’re still so close today! “Love you forever, like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” Happy birthday! Love, Mom

Sandy’s Song: COVID-19

Since the pandemic started in March 2020, I’ve flip-flopped working from home, then going back in the office, and now back at home until I am full vaccinated. I felt too anxious with co-workers who in a vulnerable building, were not wearing masks, or at least not enough of the time. Some didn’t think COVID-19 was real or that the virus could “happen” to them or their loved ones.

Well, COVID-19 did happen to us. Sean’s mom, Sandy, 74, was living in a small and seemingly very COVID-careful convalescent home of 55 beds. For the longest time they had stayed COVID-free. Precautions were such that we could only visit Sandy while sitting six feet away from her, sitting outside on a porch, wearing our masks. Then the last time I saw her, right before Thanksgiving, the convalescent center was even more stringent. Sandy was sitting indoors, six feet from the open window leading to the porch. She was in her wheel chair, behind a wall of Plexiglas-glass, wearing a mask. Sean and I were outside on the porch looking in the open window, wearing masks. A little much, we thought.

That last visit, Sandy seemed the best I’d seen her in a while. Bright, joking, looking forward. I remember telling her to stay well so when things calmed down she could come and stay more weekends with us like she had before COVID hit. We had hoped that after COVID-19, she and Sean could resume looking into Sandy getting into her own apartment with visiting nurse assistance.

Then we hit a wall. A few weeks before Christmas Sandy and a few others had come down with COVID-19. Rumor was that someone (a doctor?) had come in to the building who was infected, without symptoms. At first it seemed Sandy, who was moved into an isolated area, only had a mild case. We prayed she would be OK, but COVID attacked. Her lungs were in such rough shape; she had COPD, emphysema, and was already on oxygen at times. Her blood oxygen dangerously low, Sandy was sent to the intensive care unit at the hospital. She and Sean, who is her conservator came to the anxious conclusion that she would need to be put on a ventilator. Sandy told Sean she was scared, and Sean did his best to assure her that the doctors said she really needed it.

For 17 days we prayed that the medicines they were treating her with would pull her through. At times it looked like she was improving, ever so slightly, but then Sandy’s regular pulmonologist would worn us. If she didn’t turn around soon, she’d have to come off the ventilator. Being on it too long was causing pneumonia and infection.

We kept praying and and tip-toed through very low-key, half-hearted Christmas. My daughter and her son were down from VT after testing negative for COVID. Sean, my son and I were negative, too. We did NOT see any other relatives.

On December 27th Sean made a hard and heart-wrenching decision, after consulting many times with his aunts and uncles and with the doctor, to have Sandy removed from the ventilator. She was getting worse, not better. She would need to be let go. Sean had found a priest who would give his mom last rites, a priest who was subbing in for the hospital’s chaplain who had contracted COVID-19! We were told by the attending pulmonologist that once taken off of the ventilator, Sandy would pass in about ten minutes. Poor Sean was with his mom and the priest when last rites were given. He said his goodbyes and then he and the priest waited in the family room for her to pass so they could go in and offer “prayers for the dead,” in a half hour or so.

In that time, I reached out to my prayer warrior mamas and some family via text that Sandy was off the ventilator and passed around four p.m. That’s what I had been told would happen. NEVER AGAIN will I make that kind of assumption. About an hour and half later I text Sean asking where he was thinking his mom had passed and if he was alright. I could picture him in his truck, distraught, crying. He might have gone for a beer, but where? No bars were open. After another half hour with no response from my text, I called him.

“Where are you?”

“I’m with my mother.”

“Oh, honey, will you be home soon?”

“I am with my mother! She’s is looking around the room. Do you want to talk to her?”

What? At first I thought he was SO distraught that he had lost it. “What? How?”

“She’s here. She’s stubborn.”

“She’s alive?”

“Yes.”

“Um, OK.”

“Do you want to talk to my mother?”

“Yes. Hi Sandy. I love you.”

“I love you.” She sounded so weak. So far away.

“It’s OK, Sandy. I have Sean. I love you.”

Sean said he’d call me a little later.

From the waiting room, Sean told me the attending nurse said this it going to be a slow death. That Sandy could live on a few more days. “The nurse said the other pulmonologist never should have told us she’d pass in a few minutes after they took her off the ventilator. They just don’t know.”

“Could she still turn around from this?”

“It’s not likely, but you know my mother! She has always done it her way!”

All I could think was, Oh, my God. Please. Not that I wanted her to die, but I didn’t want her to struggle. For Sean to be in this agony, too.

After I got off the phone I freaked out. I video called my good friends Bobbi and Jops and just blared, “She’s still alive! She didn’t pass yet like I thought, like I told you …and other people. Oh, My God! I feel so—crazy!”

For the next three days we prayed for God’s Will Be Done, and hopefully meaning a complete recovery for Sandy. She had been on the brink more than once over the past four years or so with extreme pneumonias and infections. It astounded us at first how she rallied in the past. My son had said, “I’ve said goodbye to Grandma Sandy at least three times. ” But here she was, off the ventilator, and still with us. She had always been such a headstrong woman, a fighter. I could just imagine her thinking, “The doctor said I’d die after ten minutes? I’ll show him! I’ll go when I’m damn good and ready!” In the past 37 years of knowing her and all of the hard times she’d endured and survived, I was thinking that she might just overcome this!

For the next 48 hours, Sean kept vigil as the ever-dutify son. He explored every option of medicines that might help that hadn’t already been tried. The doctor explained that his mother was dying and all that could be done was to keep her comfortable, any other medicines would just prolong the inevitable. Sean, in spite of COVID-19 restrictions that originally allowed just one “compassion visit” to loved-one who was terminally ill, was able to suit up head to toe and visit his mom two times. He said they were able to talk, but very little. Mostly I Loves Yous. He told me he asked his mom to say hello to his sister (who passed in January 2020).

At home and every time Sean’s phone rang, my heart raced and I froze waiting for news. Sandy was comfortable, but fading. On December 30th around 3 p.m were were sitting in our living room when Sean received a call from a nurse. She said that she had just gone in with the pulmonologist to check on Sandy. They were in the room when she passed, peacefully. Sean thanked her for the call and then got up and walked down the hall to our bedroom where he made the calls to relatives.

I stared out the window at the subdued afternoon light and felt numb. It was surreal as it is always surreal when someone you love dies. I knew and loved Sandy and all of our crazy ups and downs for 37 years. She never ceased to amaze me. Even up until her passing.

That evening, Sean, Chris and I ended up in our rec room with a fire going in the wood stove, toasting Sandy with Guiness as we listened to albums. The very next day Sean retrieved Sandy’s belongings the convalescent home left outside in bags on their front porch.

He spoke with his aunts and uncles and decided we would hold a celebration of Sandy’s life in the late spring 2021 due to COVID. Maybe by then, it would be safer for his elderly relatives to travel to Connecticut, they’d have their vaccines by then.

Speaking of vaccinations? Two weeks after Sandy’s passing, residents at her convalescent home began receiving the first of their two COVID-19 shots.

Home Haircut: Husband Trusts Me with Clippers!

He’s so trusting!

New adventures in this Covid19 climate. My husband has a barber in Middletown. He goes every six weeks or so, usually very early in the morning because the shop fills up quickly. Sean, like many guys has a preferred cut, a fade, or in the summer, a high and tight style. He is pretty particular about his hair.

Though, I told him I wouldn’t mind at all if he let it grow out the wavy way he wore it when we dated in the 80s.

What a hottie! Springfest at SCSU 1985

After Covid19 protocols closed the barbershop, Sean combed the internet for a decent hair clipper set. Hard to find on-line, like rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizers, or fluffy toilet paper. After two failed attempts for home delivery from two different companies, Sean donned mask and gloves and picked up a good set at a local box store.

On an appointed day, Sean who is a very careful reader, laid out the pieces end-to-end and announced,

“Honey, you can do this!”

Trusting Sean.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! The worse that could happen is that I’ll just have to buzz it all off.”

“But what if I cut you? ”

“You really can’t.”

So I read and re-read the directions as he got a chair and towel.

The zzz-zzz of the clipper reminded me of bees. I nervously and lightly ran the clipper guard over his thick hair. Nothing happened. We decided I had to go use a smaller clipper guard. He pushed my hand hard into his scalp with the clipper to illustrate I needed to apply A LOT more pressure to make any hair come off!

I sucked in my breath and felt like I was jamming it into his head. It didn’t shred him so I loosened up and started to play a little.

Ooh, look at me! I’m a hairstylist!

Sean got up and looked in the mirror and came back laughing. Wasn’t what he had in mind!

Embracing the challenge and with even more instruction from Sean, I managed to blend or fade, or whatever it’s called. He didn’t have to shave it all off and start from a cue-ball.

Not bad! He’d tell me or would have buzzed it off!

Turning Double Nickels: Party Like a Couple of Ten-Year Olds

Hollyann and Tanja ready to get silly at their Wonka Bash

Both my husband’s cousin Hollyann and I decided we’d embrace turning 55 this February by throwing ourselves a silly birthday party. We needed fun. We wanted to defy aging. It’s just a number, we reasoned. But I went further. “55 is double nickels and 5 +5 =10. Let’s be 10-year-olds with a ten-year-old theme.”

Hollyann and I went over a few themes. Brady Bunch? Superheroes? Costume? Nah… “How ‘bout Willie Wonka, a la Gene Wilder—Not the freakish Johnny Depp one?” I proposed. Hollyann shouted, “I like Willie Wonka!”

Immediately we began brainstorming. How about a Violet Beauregard piñata! 

A golden egg relay! Bubble gum bubble blowing contest. Guess the number of Gobstoppers! A chocolate fountain! Ice cream sundae bar! Fizzy Lifting Drinks (ginger ale and raspberry vodka!) 

What was the best party you ever went to or have ever thrown?

Rounding the Bases

  “This is where Dad wanted to be!” I called the fourteen of us into a huddle around the pitcher’s mound at Old Yankee Stadium in April 2019.

“Not up at the family headstone in Torrington. So, today we honor his wish.” 

My sister opened one of the sandwich bags of ashes I had given out to my three sibs and spread a copious amount of Dad on the pitcher ‘s mound. He had tried out for pitcher when he was 19 years old right there on that spot now dotted with gray.  Though Dad didn’t make the team back in 1961, we’d always been impressed that he at least tried out. Because of this, our entire family has always been and will always be Yankee fans. 

I quickly looked around the faces of my sibs, our significant others, our children, and nieces the huddle. It was a bit of a miracle that all of us actually got our acts together and converged more or less on time, without any real jangled nerves or bs. 

We four had such a long, painful history of not getting along. So much to had to due to our parents’ ugly marriage and divorce. There was Dad’s 26 years of wandering and then managing him the last 14 years of his life as his conservator caused lots of stress. 

Yet, when Dad died a week before Thanksgiving I noticed that for the time being, at least, something clicked for the good in his four children. I like to believe Dad had asked God on his way to Heaven, or maybe when he got there, to “Please heal my four kids’ relationships,” I hoped it would last.

But now there we were in the huddle. I asked to my younger brother to give the next instructions to the clan.  As the eldest of the four sibs, my role has often as the leader, or in some rougher terms “The Boss.” Yes, I planned the details of this trip, toted Dad’s ashes in my backpack on the train, and I made the pins of dad we all were wearing. Someone else could share in leading.

Andy announced that each of us take our bags to various parts of the field. Someone would tell when it was exactly 12 noon and we would then release Dad at the same time. 

Giddy and thrumming with anticipation (and also feeling a little like we were being naughty kids), the four of us took various positions in the outfield. My two adult children and I skipped to left field. 

My husband stayed at home plate looking at timer on his cellphone. “Ready, one minute.” Then, “Ten seconds. Then, “Three, two, one.”  
I opened the zip lock top of the baggie and spun around scattering Dad like I was a twirling ten year old. My two children stood back, laughing.  “Go, Dad!” I said.

I glanced over at my brothers, in center and right field. They seemed to be smiling with their families. My sister ran into the infield and sprinkled what she had left in her bag on each of the plates. 

Spontaneously, our whole group amassed together just beyond first plate and I passed around York Peppermint Patties, Dad’s ultimate favorite candy. We held them up making a toast, “To Dad.”

After that, with a bolt of energy, I hustled over to home plate. Pretending to hit an imaginary baseball, I ran, well, jogged actually, to first base, then to second, on to third. When I finally rounded to home, I stomped on the plate and threw up my arms in victory. 

Starting My New Year (#54) I Promise to Listen to My Inner Child A Lot More!

Playing on a giant adirondack chair waiting for my chocolate-vanilla-twist
with chocolate sprinkles!

February 25, 2019: I turn 54 today. I’m cool with it. It’s better than the alternative, they say. I’ve had a lot of major changes in the past nine or so months that have made me appreciate how time keeps on tickin’, tickin’ into the future. Changes, huge changes are making me take stock of where I am and what I am doing. What do I want to do? What do I really need to do?
I keep coming back to “Choose Joy over Drudgery” whenever possible. If it’s fun or going to bring good health and happiness– and I have a choice–why not listen to my ten-year-old self and choose what she would choose? Something fun. I’m tired of being “too serious” and “on.” Now, after major life changes, I want to chill out a little and be as carefree as a fifth-grader!

One of the biggest changes in my life recently was my husband’s retirement from 31 years on the Middletown Police Department this past summer. It’s really been a couple’s career or lifestyle. Both of us experiencing over three decades of the ups and downs of a noble, exciting, gratifying, yet- sometimes-thankless, public-service career. We’ve dealt with changing schedules, unforeseen emergencies—in short, just a little bit of stress. It has often ramped up anxiety in me, forcing me to my knees. Not a bad thing to pray to keep the fear at bay. Still, over the years, I’ve watched in horror, the change in some of the public sentiment regarding police. When Sean first started in the mid-80s, police were highly respected and revered. In recent times, they’ve been hated and even hunted down, killed in the line of duty! I am beyond grateful and relieved he/we made it to retirement.

Sean retired from 31 years of service on the Middletown Police Department in August 2018.

No more second phone going off at all hours. No more dangerous SWAT calls (although I know he misses those kinds of adenine scenes the most!) He took a new, basically stress-less job right away as a resource officer at an elementary school. Now instead of managing 83 cops in the patrol division, he high-fives the pre-K to 4th graders as they come in and out of the building. He makes sure visitors are signed-in and accounted for when they leave. He is currently unarmed (which nowadays I wish he was), but he says he finds it less stressful than carrying. I will keep praying for his safety (and that of staff and students there). It is great to see him come home from work smiling, sharing highlights of his day—something funny or cute a kid said or did. Now he gets 13 weeks off including all holidays, weekends and summers. Not a bad gig!


Another huge life-altering thing is that in the past nine months, I’ve gone to seven funerals. Some were relatives of friends, others distant relations, but some were oh, so very close to home and heart. My mother’s husband Paul died in early August, followed by my sweet Aunt Wanda, who died after a short illness just two weeks later. And then, flooring me to the core, my Dad died very unexpectedly two days before Thanksgiving. I found him in his easy-chair. His passing was and still is so surreal to me. We’ve had such a long, bitter/sweet journey, but he died with so much dignity. I’m doing better with my grief. I just didn’t expect it to hit so hard. I’ve been coming up from it by journaling, taking care to just “be” in moment. There’s lots more to unspool.

Me and my Dad, June 2018

On the upside, my siblings and I have been banded together like never before since my Dad’s passing. That is no small thing, and I am so incredibly in awe and eternally grateful.

So, as I start my New Year (as my Dad would explain that’s what one’s birthday was, a personal New Year), I am in a fresh, contemplative, if not an odd place. I’m not really sure which way I am going, or what’s next. So, maybe it is a good time to just listen to my inner child and follow her lead for a while.

What are some of the ways you play? Have fun?

A Booksom Babe Goodbye: We’ll Miss You, Diane!

Diane had stopped coming to our bookclub soon after her diagnosis. She’d had brain surgery and was on an intense course of chemotherapy. We were at a loss. Diane had been a “Booksom Babe” for 13 years. We loved her wit and her insights as we discussed literature, sipped wine and shared bits of our lives.

She is only 59, we lamented. She just retired from a successful career in nursing.

We felt numb and inadequate as we continued to meet as a bookclub the past 18 months without her.  Care baskets of hand lotions, cards, books, and food were assembled and delivered. Some of us wore tie-dye, psychedelic, cat tee-shirts and brought hand drums to cheer her in her living room. We wanted to make her laugh. We all wanted to forget for a little while.

Because there were few options available, Diane opted for experimental medicines. For a while, the tumor was at bay. We all were a little hopeful. Maybe she’d finally catch a break.

Though she never complained to our bookclub, we were fully aware of all she had endured in such a short time. She lost her husband to lung cancer in 2005. In the past year she’d lost her mother and then very tragically, her son. How did she manage to go on at all? Her wonderful 26-year-old daughter “A” was  her “rock”, she said. We marveled at the young woman with so much tragedy and weight on her shoulders.

The tumor came back with a vengence. Soon Diane was moved to Hospice care.

We kept up with her progress feeling all the more helpless. Some of the Babes brought meals to her daughter to warm up after long days at the Hospice center.

Then Diane died. We knew it was coming, yet I think we were all a little stunned. We’d lost book club members to moves or people opting out, but never to death.

Bookclub was scheduled at my house just two days later. I decided we’d still meet, though I wasn’t sure we’d actually talk about the book. Would we be grieving as a group, too distraught to discuss it? I prayed before the women came over that we would find comfort that night. The five who came over greeted one another with the usual hug, but then we each just shook our heads and sighed. As usual as we assembled in my kitchen around the counter. This time, we raised a glass to Diane.

As we sat in my living room,  we skirted around the topic of our own mortality. We vowed to travel more. Do the things we’ve been putting off. Ever a practical group, we brainstormed what might do in memory of Diane, and how we might help her daughter.

After a while, someone enthusiastically suggested we discuss the book. Everyone was up to it,  so we discussed it late in the evening. I don’t think we were being irreverent or callous.  At times of grief, I think people tend to grapple for normalcy. We’re a bookclub, so it was normal to discuss our book, even though Diane had just died.

After everyone left, I ran the night through my head. It was good to get together for bookclub, but I felt a little odd that no one cried.

A week later, four of us Babes attended Diane’s Celebration of Life. The priest remarked to the full church that we all “showed up” because Diane had showed up for so many throughout her life. Her daughter reinforced this in her eulogy giving poignant examples of Diane “being there.” Diane was there for A’s long recovery after her life-threatening ski accident.  Diane had argued with reluctant doctors that they needed to perform yet another surgery on A to alleviate her daughter’s constant pain. One time Diane called the high school where her step-daughter attended and demanded the girl be assigned a new partner to walk with in her graduation procession. The kid with whom she was originally paired had bullied her. As a Girl Scout leader, Diane jumped off a bus in Boston on scout field trip so she could apply her medical skills to a bicycle courier who was hit by a car. The list went on and on.

We Babes sat in renewed awe of this strong, vigilant woman we were proud to know and privileged to call a fellow Babe. Our hearts were burning at the total unfairness of her untimely death.

At the end of the service, people were filing out of the pews in an orderly fashion ahead of us making their way to the back of the church.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye to Diane. She had been cremated and her beautiful pearl-colored urn sat on a small table surrounded by purple Irises at the front of the church.  I leaned to the Stacey on my right and told her I needed to go to Diane’s ashes.

“Do you want me to come with you?”

I said it was up to her, but I had to go. As I approached the table, sunlight streamed through the ceiling windows casting bright rays around Diane’s island-altar.

I rested my hand on the cover of the Diane’s cool, smooth urn and closed my eyes.  I thanked God for the privilege of knowing this awesome woman. Then I whispered “Goodbye.”

At that moment, I felt a warm hand atop of mine. I opened my eyes and saw it was Stacey’s. She had decided to go against the tide and join me. My throat tightened and I started to shake.

I opened my eyes a second time and saw that Ann and Theresa had now joined us. Through bleary eyes, I gazed down at the pile of Babes’ hands stacked on Diane’s urn. Ann’s hand was on top of  Stacey’s, and Theresa’s hand on top of Ann’s. This impromptu gesture of solidarity, collective loss and admiration hit us hard in our hearts, right then  and there at Diane’s urn.  We were crying as we turned to make our way down the aisle toward the receiving line.

The Hardest Part of Parenting: Realizing Our Kids are Only On Loan To Us

OH MY! Chris Moriarty just moved up to Burlington, VT on Sunday to start a new job. I can’t believe what a gut punch that was. Thought I was ready for it—didn’t even think about it leading up to it, really. Erin Moriarty has been out of the house for three years. We see her almost every month and we’ve gotten accustomed to this. She loves where she lives. Now Chris is going to check out Burlington, too.

Yet, after he pulled out of the driveway I was a mess. I know it is so good for him to spread his wings, so good for all, but those first few hours after he left were almost unbearable. (A weird kind of birthing process?)

It is NOT written in any of the baby books how fast childhood goes or how bittersweet (translation, “wrenching”) it is when they fly out of the nest. It can be mind-blowing to realize that our children really are meant only to be “loaned” to us. In time, they should be encouraged/let go to have their own life to probe, discover, embrace…

I am proud beyond words for him for taking this step. My heart is so full that he and Erin have such a good and solid sibling relationship that they are there for each other.

I know I speak for Sean Moriarty when I say we are so grateful for the many blessings we’ve been given in raising both Erin Moriarty and Chris Moriarty. God has granted them and us two decent (not saying perfect), but two (plus) decent decades growing up as a family. Because of this, every time we get together it will be richer and more precious still. God is so good and merciful…and is watching over them.

e-c-in-ireland
Chris 23, Erin 25, in Ireland 2016

Life is Beautiful by The Afters :

Tann-ya! Tahn-ya! Banana! Bah-nah-nah!

What’s in a name?

TanJam

Welcome to my website!  I am  Tanja, pronounced “Tann-ya.”  (Nevermind the “J”, it’s silent. Think Scandinavian, like “Yumpin’ Yiminy” for “Jumpin’ Jiminy”.)   It’s  “Tann-ya”, like “Can ya?” not “Tahn -ya”,  that rhymes with lasagna. Think Sun-Tan, or tan as in beige.

This is all a bit laborious to explain every time I hear my name read from an attendance sheet, a roll call, or resume.  I wince when nine of ten times it’s, “Tahn-ya” I hear, and not my given pronounciation, “Tann-ya.”

Most of the times I just deal with it—like the momentary scratch of nails on a chalkboard.  It’s easier to take it if I know that I’ll probably never have to deal with the person again, say at the DMV when my renewed, still warm driver’s license is ready, “Tahn-ya, your license is ready,” or I am alerted from a librarian that a book I am picking through library loan is in. “Tahn-ya, your…

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“Father, Forgive Them”: Timeless, But Is It Possible?

One of the seven phrases Christ said on the cross was, “Father, forgive them” Luke 23:43. To me, these words are as fresh today as when He first spoke them. I believe in this phenomenon because of what Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

That means to me that when he said, “Father, forgive them,” they weren’t meant just for the high priests, the local government, the soldiers or the scoffers that day. No, these words, “Father, forgive them” transcends time and is also an appeal for you and me. “Father, forgive —all of them.” Especially me.

I am thankful that Jesus has interceded for me so many, many times in my life. Times when I wasn’t even aware I was doing something wrong—back as an unrefined child. For the mean things I said on the playground, to a sibling, or to a classmate.

Moreover, I am grateful for Jesus’s very personal plea, “Father forgive (Tanja).” He asked God to be open to me when I’d finally wake up after willfully sinning—as a rebellious teenager, or worse, as an inconsistent, lukewarm, so-called Christian. I may have known the rules, yet I flaunted them.

Still, Jesus spoke on my behalf. I didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness, but reflecting these times in my past, I am overwhelmed with the advocacy, undeserved love, and forgiveness.

Since I’ve experienced this blessed forgiveness, when I hear, “Father, forgive them,” I also feel I need to be more of what Jesus modeled. That is, to try to be more forgiving to those who have hurt me, betrayed me, and caused me pain. I have made some good strides, but I am not 100% there yet. I wonder if I’ll ever be?

For the time being, I can only try to follow Jesus: Marvel at His strength and love for us on the cross, and be guided and healed by what He says and does today.

 

Thank you, Tenth Avenue North