Christmas Season Joy!

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A half-done tree 😉  We waited until my husband got home to do the star at the top, which is always down by the youngest in house who is able to walk ❤  Watching my husband pick up our 2nd son and let him put the star on is like winning the lottery.  So. Much. Love.

We got our decorations up last week, it’s been so much fun decorating with the kids and seeing all the ornaments come out again.  I get so much pleasure from just seeing everything again – like seeing old friends… LOL.

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My mom got us this sweet decoration a few years back.  I know Santa is a controversial figure, but I do love the story behind him, the legend if you will.  And I love this decoration because it kind of epitomizes the importance of Jesus’ birth amidst all the craziness of Christmas shopping, Santa visits, or whatnot.  It’s really about this, when it comes down to it.  None of the other stuff matters, and it’s nice to be reminded of that.  We can have all the other joyful stuff, as long as Christ is still the at the center.

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Love lights ❤

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And at night….

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Our famous skyline.

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The top of the building in the center of the above pic, is where my parents bought their chunks of land in the country back in the 80’s.  All the way at the top in the penthouse.

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So cute… 😀

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Our river ❤  There were less lights for some reason this year.  It was still gorgeous and we can’t really complain – but apparently we have new boats that light up the water below them.  LOL

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Our cutie…

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Christmas Candle… I always try to get one every year and light it every night, at least through dinner.  It’s just a simple tradition, and the light is beautiful for the kids (and me) to look at.

LOL our mischievous one!  Wait… they’re both mischievous… oh well!

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Enjoy this season readers!  Please go out and have fun!  Do joyful things… go listen to some carolers, or watch a ballet of the Nutcracker.

Do something to remind yourself of beauty this season!  To recapture how you felt when you were a child.

Go see some glittering, brilliant lights around in your city.  Really look at a well-decorated Christmas tree at a hotel.  Enjoy some wine!  Go out dancing!

Do something this season to bring more joy into your life, please.

Stephanie

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Just wanted to post some pretty pictures and wish my readers a Happy Thanksgiving!  We’ve been pretty busy… lots of baking, decorating, and going to the park nearby to see lights each night!  And just dwelling on the gratitude of all our blessings.

I love this time of year.  I actually enjoy the wildness of it all.

Today we had some of my older son’s friends come over – the house was full of boys running around like crazy 😀 playing loud music in our “music station” of our game room, being silly and dancing around the house ❤

I baked cookies and set the boys all up to decorate some to take home when they got picked up.

It was SO. MUCH. FUN. ❤

I don’t think I’m ever happier than when our house is full of people – or kids – especially crazy boys 🙂  Makes my heart warm seeing them have so much fun.

 

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It’s been so beautiful here lately, and with perfect weather – and just cold enough at night to warrant hot chocolate drinks!  😀

Same scene as above, but this is what we’ve been seeing every night we’ve been able to go:

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The Christmas trees are suspended above a lake to look like they’re floating on top of the water.  Just amazing to see in person!  I tried to get a good pic.

So romantic, and so magical ❤

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Like a winter wonderland. 😀

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I love this time of year… focusing on what we’re thankful for, seeing family and friends and lots and lots of cooking and baking!  It’s hard to imagine a happier time ❤

Hope all you readers have a happy Thanksgiving!

Barbie Knows How to Be Fruitful & Multiply!

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This is so cute!  A fellow police wife and friend has a daughter who takes toys to the store sometimes.  Apparently the whole Barbie family had to go on this grocery outing LOL!

This is what she said —

“My children fully believe in the word of God

and know that we are to be fruitful and multiply,

this includes Barbie world.

I must say that I will miss these days

when I’m caught off guard

either by carrying around a huge stuffed animal that is a duck

or pregnant Barbies…..

it’s Saturday y’all.

That’s all I got.”

This is partly why I love Texas.  It’s the South, the Christian women are REAL.  And little girls still play with Barbie and want to have BIG families.

I know… I’m sorry you’re not Texan 😉  Feel free to move here, though.

Stephanie

So. Much. Love.

So… our schedule has become topsy-turvy the last 2-3 weeks or so.  I just wrote not that long ago, about our Fall routine simplicity and how beautiful it was to serve my husband and son so early in the morning, even sacrificing sleep with an infant, and the reward of getting to know (and sometimes hear even though I try really hard not to listen lol) that they’re talking about things my husband thinks are important for our son.  It’s the only time of day (when he’s not off for the whole day that is) when our son gets to see his dad.  So their time is critically important and so beautiful to orchestrate and watch from a distance.

Go figure that once we’re nicely settled into a good routine, flowing beautifully, a yucky wrench gets thrown in that makes life a lot more difficult.  It’s starting to be funny to me how life is just like that; at least unforeseen things keep us on our toes and understand our place as mere humans ❤

So I’m sitting here in the morning, and in such awe of how much love I have when hearing them talk – hearing my husband gently but authoritatively guide our son in direction, answer his questions, listen to his problems or stories.  This time together is so precious!  I’m so grateful that even though our schedule (my husband’s schedule) has changed again, it still allows for this to happen every morning.

It’s just So. Much. Love.

Drinking in God’s Beauty – Celebrating 10 Years of Marriage!

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We’ll be gone for awhile on an island enjoying and drinking in deeply God’s beauty ❤  We’ll also be gone during our 10 year anniversary!  10 years have flown by so fast, and it has been beautiful and such an incredibly journey through life’s ups and downs, yet clinging to each other and God always trusting He’ll get us through.

Even though things feel dark – my husband’s coworker who was shot in his chin is doing better, and we’re still praying for the family of his other fellow police man who was shot and killed a few weeks ago.  We’re so grateful that the one he regularly worked beside is still alive after being shot like that in the face – he has a very young daughter who looks up to him like he’s the world.  These men that protect us daily from evil and fulfilling God’s Romans 13 calling… it is such an honor to be a wife to a man God’s called to fight against that kind of chilling evil.

This may be a bad season for us, but this morning I felt God’s strength when I put on the armor of God – it felt so literal and powerful to get me through another day for our kids, to be their support.  Even though the fog of exhaustion is at times overwhelming, God’s given us so much joy and beauty… even in difficulty.   🙂

Looking forward to going back to one of our favorite places.

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This is the True Joy in Life…

This is the true joy in life,

the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.

The being thoroughly worn out before you’re thrown on the scrap heap,

The being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community

and as I live it is my privilege – my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die,

for the harder I work the more I love.

I rejoice in life for its own sake.

Life is no brief candle to me;

it is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got a hold of for the moment

and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible

before handing it on to future generations.

-George Bernard Shaw

I watched another Freedomain video recently, and he ended it with this quote, along with the latter below from his own mind:

“Wear yourself out in the pursuit of virtue, and leave only the barest husk to be thrown in the grave.

Just be used up completely.

Be emptied of words, be emptied of power, be emptied of dedication, be emptied of challenge, be emptied of courage – SPEND IT ALL.

Let only your skeleton be what the worms get – nothing else.

Have everything else spent to the last penny, and let that last penny of spending be that which kills you, because you have nothing left to give.

And that I think is the satisfying life.”

Stefan Molyneux

***

When watching this video over the course of a few days, the ending quote hit home with why I started blogging in the first place almost 4 years ago.  It really was mostly a creative outlet, but every Wednesday, I’d try to post something on marriage.  We’ve seen and known so many horrible or even “just limping along” marriages, that I wanted to impart some basic knowledge to people who didn’t know these things, and yet were searching for it.  I think this is normal for people who find out great truths to want to impart that knowledge to someone else.  Why on earth would you hide something that can help people with building better marriages, which in turn, creates healthier, happier children, and less divorce, better societies and more productive, good people in this world?!?!

Seriously, if you have that information and are not sharing it somehow, you may want to really ask yourself why you are keeping that valuable help from other people?  This isn’t meant as some kind of condemning judgment, and obviously sharing it can be done in a million different ways, I’m not saying everyone has to go start a blog or youtube channel and try to make a difference in those venues – but it’s just pure fact that by not sharing that information (which is like a treasure really) with people in dire need of it, is morally wrong.

It’s easier to see this fact when you apply it to being wealthy and not generous in your giving.  If a wealthy person isn’t giving in some way to society – to purely good, helpful causes, not the kind that perpetuate problems in society – then it is just like the rich man in the Bible who stores up grain all for himself:

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[13] Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

[14] Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” [15] Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

[16] And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. [17] He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

[18] “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. [19] And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

[20] “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

[21] “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.

Being “rich toward God,” is sharing the gospel and biblical truths about how life is meant to be lived.  Sharing that often comes in form of writing, books, blogs, but doesn’t have to only be in those ways.

“The lips of the wise broadcast knowledge, but not so the heart of fools.”

Proverbs 15:7

The best sharing is face-to-face with people in your real life, but writing and blogs is also extremely beneficial to many people – and is a better way to “broadcast” that knowledge and wisdom.  I know this personally because I’ve had the amazing opportunity of being told by those I’ve been blessed to touch!

Looking back, it’s been awe-inspiring to affect so many women’s and men’s lives through simply writing about marriage and sex or parenting.  Giving other people Truth so that they can better live their lives the way God would want them to, has been a privilege that I didn’t foresee when starting out writing as a mere creative outlet!

Our own marriage is in large part as good as it is because of other people who took their own time, energy and heart and passion to write great marriage books that I read during our first year when I worked at a Christian bookstore!  If they had thought what they had to say wasn’t important, didn’t need to be shared, or were neurotically worried that men reading their books would “compare their wives to the women writing these valuable books,” we would probably not have the marriage we have today.  The Truths we learned from these godly authors were SO valuable and important – their books were their ministry.  Many people who benefited from their writing would have missed out on those blessings if the authors had decided sharing these Truths were wrong – including the authors themselves!  Because sharing with others Truths that are life-giving is a blessing in and of itself!

While studying what these authors had to say on a wife’s role in a marriage during our first year, I was amazed it is so easy to get married when one has literally NO IDEA how to maintain that marriage or live together in a compatible way.  Even driving a car takes more time and effort in studying the laws of what is right and wrong to do while in it and out on the road.  I mean seriously, you get more instruction and valuable information when getting a driver’s license than you do before you get married – no wonder there are so many divorces or miserable marriages!

Most of it is likely due to lack of knowledge of how or what a good marriage actually looks like from day to day.

So make your life count!  Don’t live an “unlived life” full of complaining, slander, and wasting your time doing things that harm you!  You are meant for so much more than that ❤

Here is Stefan’s video, and again, it look me days to get through it little bits at a time.  And it’s not for children’s ears!!  He’s an atheist, so he cusses sometimes, but the overall messages he does are full of wisdom.

Gardening: Just a Little Bit Goes a Long Way

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Our garden has been flourishing since we’ve started again!  It’s reminded me of so many passages in Scripture that talk about God and gardens, His pruning us and tending to us.  Everyday it is such a joy to go out and tend it.  Even just looking out our window to see it, along with the butterflies and moths that flit around in it, brings me so much joy each day.

My husband bought me a dragonfly light that changes beautiful colors at night to light the garden.  So we’ve nicknamed it Dragonfly Garden ❤  It is so sweet.

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I’ve seen a ladybug on our giant spinach leaves every time I’ve gone out this week, eating away the pests that would harm the plants.  And to my surprise, I saw a blue dragonfly on one of jalapeno plant leaves!!  It sat there for awhile and let me look at it 😀  It was so awesome and gave new meaning to our naming it Dragonfly Garden.

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We have such an abundance of cabbages, Swiss chard, and spinach it is finally helping our grocery bill since we no longer have to buy our salad greens (something we bought weekly) for our sandwiches and salads.  It is such a wonderful feeling to be able to go out to this garden that I and my son have planted together, and pick food for our table and know that it’s bringing in an abundance of nourishing vitamins and minerals to our family!

I always wanted to be a woman who had a sustainable garden – a woman who genuinely loved and enjoyed gardening.

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It’s kind of strange to see that I’ve achieved this goal now.  Last year our tomato plants did so amazing we had a production each week to eat off of, so hopefully we can get back up to that again… but I’m particularly happy about our spinach leaves 😀  they cost a lot at our grocery store, and it’s just so fulfilling to be growing an abundance of them right in our backyard!

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For the Lord will comfort Zion [in her captivity];

He will comfort all her ruins.

And He will make her wilderness like Eden (the most beautiful garden),

And her desert like the garden of the Lord;

Joy and gladness will be found in her,

Thanksgiving and the voice of a melody.

Isaiah 51:3

 

And the Lord will continually guide you,

And satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places,

And give strength to your bones;

And you will be like a watered garden,

And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah 58:11

 

***

God is the Gardener…

For we are  God’s fellow workers [His servants working together];

you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building.”

1 Corinthians 3:9

November Joy

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November might possibly be my favorite month of the year.  It’s just so beautiful, the season of Fall is truly underway, and the delights of friends, family, and food await us by the bucket-load!

Happy November to you if you’re reading this!

When I think of November, I always think of our American tradition of Thanksgiving. This is the month of all months, especially for dwelling on how grateful we are for the blessings in our life.

After deciding to do a Thankfulness journal back in August, cataloging my days with the boys like a diary of sorts, and adding in one thing every night that I was grateful for, I’ve decided this is something I will always try to do.  It’s been so wonderful to look back at the days, see what we did, the little hilarious things that happened, or the sad things and how we got through them, but especially to see what I thanked God for before bed each night.  It’s been interesting to wrap up each day, no matter how good or terrible it was, with the blessing of choosing thankfulness for at least ONE thing I was grateful for.  The days ebb and flow, stretching out and long, or passing by faster than I felt I could keep up, but God’s love remained the same.

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I love the seasons, how each year brings a chance of renewal and remembering what God has blessed us with or brought us through, or what He’s doing right now in our trials.  Recently, our Bible study has switched from studying about the wonder of God, to the joy He wants us to experience.  It’s a strange thing to be studying so much about joy when November, for me, has always been about thankfulness.

I didn’t really realize it, but joyfulness comes extremely easily to me… and this is a gift I should be thankful for!  Ever since being accused of not being genuine – being too happy to be real – back when I was maybe 16 or 17, I’ve wondered why my joy, my genuine happiness wasn’t always perceived as a reality.

Our study guide asked us each to rate on a scale of 1-10, how much joy we have in our life, and I rated it easily at a 9 out of 10.

Joy, happiness, cheerfulness are feelings that come easily to me, but I never understood how much of a blessing this was until doing this study.  In fact, I almost felt a little ashamed at my celebrating the joyfulness of life, afraid that I only looked fake.  I never realized how this is something people sometimes have to work at, and sometimes very hard.  The author of the study admitted she believed her capacity for joy in her life had been only at a 3 out of 10 before searching it out in Scriptures.  I guess when someone is at such a low score of joy in their own life, when they see someone who has a higher level of joy, their first thought is that this person can’t be real, that having that kind of experience must be fake.

“Joy is a gift.

You can be more joyful tomorrow than you are today.”

A huge part of being joyful though, is allowing yourself to enjoy the gifts God’s give to all people in life.  It is also understanding yourself enough to know how to search out and go do the things that fill you back up with more joy when you’re running low or going through a difficult time.

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Whatever it is, joy doesn’t seem to be something that is passively waiting for everything to be just right before we can feel it’s pleasure.

JOY INVOLVES A SPECTRUM OF EMOTIONS, ACTIONS, AND RESPONSES THAT INCLUDE GLADNESS, CHEER, HAPPINESS, MERRIMENT, DELIGHTING, DANCING, SHOUTING, EXULTING, REJOICING, LAUGHING, PLAYING, BRIGHTENING, BLESSING, AND BEING BLESSED, TAKING PLEASURE IN, AND BEING WELL-PLEASED.

One of my favorite places to go in the mornings for a walk with the baby.

One of my favorite places to go in the mornings for a walk with the baby.

Make November full of joy for yourself and your family!

Cook up your favorite holiday dishes a little earlier, make some delicious pumpkin pancakes with hot maple syrup for breakfast, go for a walk in nature and really feel the vibrancy of the colors around you.  Curl up in quiet space with a good book and glass of wine, or get up early and wrap up in a blanket on the couch with a hot cup of your favorite coffee.  These are things that never fail to bring me joy.

Promise to do something, to be radiant with God’s love for you, and to allow yourself to search out joy this November, and I wonder if you’ll find yourself also swelling with gratitude in the end.

Black & White

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So I always thought I was a cat person.  I had no idea dogs – especially puppies – were such wonderful creatures.  I had a dog growing up but since we lived in the country, I spent very little time with her, we never trained her, so she was pretty wild and independent.  We never had a real bond between us… she wasn’t an inside dog, and I never played with her outside very much.  Maybe it started with that little dachshund making it’s way into our garage and us keeping it a few days, trying to return it to whoever lost it.  It was so sweet – so different from a cat – I couldn’t get over it.  No one in the neighborhood claimed her, but she ended up being wanted by an awesome lady who works with my husband!

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But this dog… this little dal… is soooooo sweet.  He has become my new best friend – seriously!

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He goes everywhere with us… loves kids (chases little kids though because they run away… lol must work on that).  He’s friendly!!!  Wants to please!!!!  And oh-so beautiful.

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The Art of Travel

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I have a friend that is incredibly and amazingly the most adventurous girl I know.  Her love, her passion?  Travel.  I came across an essay in the book, The Art of Living, that drew images in my head of her and her journeys around the world.  She doesn’t just take time off a busy schedule to go on some two-week vacation, this girl orchestrates complex legs of her journey of life where she is working in a different country as a nurse (Nepal), or on an extended stay in Bali, Indonesia.  She’s been to several places in Europe, Asia, and America, while she grew up and lives in the arctic circle.  Allow me to present my friend, a beautiful woman who inspires me, challenges me with her capacity for bravery, and truly embodies the poetic essay, The Art of Travel.  I adore her… enjoy her pictures of her journeys!

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When you pack your bags to explore the beauties of your own country or to travel around the world, consider these keys to a happy journey.

Travel lightly.  You are not traveling for people to see you!

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Travel slowly. Jet planes are for getting places not seeing places; take time to absorb the beauty and inspiration of a mountain or a cathedral.

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Travel expectantly.  Every place you visit is like a surprise package to be opened.  Untie the strings with an expectation of adventure.

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Travel hopefully.  “To travel hopefully,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson, “is better than to arrive.”

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Travel humbly.  Visit people and places with reverence and respect for their traditions and ways of life.

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Travel courteously.  Consideration for your fellow travelers and your hosts will smooth the way through the most difficult days.

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Travel gratefully.  Show appreciation for the many things that are being done by others for your enjoyment and comfort.

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Travel with an open mind.  Leave your prejudices at home.

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Travel with curiosity.  It is not how far you go, but how deeply you go that mines the gold of experience.  Thoreau wrote a big book about tiny Walden Pond.

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Travel with imagination.  As the Old Spanish proverb puts it:  “He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.”

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Travel fearlessly.  Banish worry and timidity; the world and its people belong to you just as you belong to the world.

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Travel relaxed.  Make up your mind to have a good time.  Let go and let God.

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Travel patiently.  It takes time to understand others, especially when there are barriers of language and custom; keep flexible and adaptable to all situations.

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Travel with the spirit of a world citizen.  You’ll discover that people are basically much the same the world around.  Be an ambassador of good will to all people.  ❤

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