You should collect kids instead of coins.

My kids don’t get what other kids get. Because there are so many of them they kind of get the shaft. I have five little clones and there just ain’t enough to go around. Ever. The shaft is not limited to my time. There ain’t enough of anything around here. Except kids…there are plenty of those.

So tonight, as I was brushing my teeth, I was thinking about my kids. (I always think about them when I’m brushing my teeth. Cavity bugs and kids have a lot in common…they sneak up on me every night at 1 AM.) Anyhow, I was thinking about how shafted they really are. When I compare what we give to our kids to what so many other parents give their kids it’s actually a little embarrassing and perhaps criminal.

It’s just impossible for us to give our five children what other people give their one, two, or three children. Maybe four is pretty even, but for argument’s sake let’s just skip four. Knick knack, paddy whack, give a dog a bone. (You double-figure families are a whole other story.) From me and my hubby, my kids may never get a European tour, a cruise, college tuition (much less room and board), ski passes, equestrian pursuits, private music lessons, designer clothes, sports camps, unnecessary shoes, to fly (anywhere), and/or a lot of other things.

I’m not judging you that do have fewer kids and/or can afford the finer things in life…more power to you. (Although, one warning: the therapeutic boarding school I worked at was full of kids from really wealthy families. They had a lot of “stuff” but not enough of what really mattered.) I’m also not writing this for you to feel sorry for me or my kids. I am just trying to paint a picture of what it is like to live in a large family. Let’s face it, when a couple chooses to have many children (I’ll let you define many, but I would definitely say our family is large) they know they are choosing family over wealth.

Interestingly, last month, in my environmental writing class I learned this FACT: When societies are more successful economically their family sizes drastically reduce…so, of course the opposite is generally true…when families are large there is typically less of a focus on materialism. In my family size I know I’ve chosen the better part. All one has to do is spend some one-on-one time with my kids to see that they trump any amount of money, possessions, or leisure I could ever stockpile. (Do not judge my opinion over one of our family dinners, with all the noise, you’d never possibly agree.)

So, as I was circling the bristles onto my gums encasing my molars I got a grand notion: instead of focusing on what I am NOT giving my kids, maybe I should start pondering on what I am giving them.

After all, they are amazing kids. They really are. I must be doing something right. I might as well give myself some credit.
what they getCome to find out, I am actually giving my kids a lot of pretty amazing stuff.
As part of a large family here are what my kids get.

They get to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them.
They get to learn how to make do.
They get negotiating skills.
They get a model of two parents who value family more than “stuff”.
They get communication.
They get never-ending support.
They get to live vicariously.
They get first-aid proficiency.
They get “do-it-yourself”.
They get trade secrets.
They get friends for life they also call siblings.
They get respect for the institution of marriage.
They get respect for the organization (or chaos – however you see it) of family.
They get a master’s degree in child development before heading to college.
They get to learn selflessness.
They get make it from scratch.
They get more psychology, human relations, and sociology than most people.
They get others to divvy with the responsibility of aging parents.
They get to know how to share.
They get a greater understanding of the opposite sex.
They get a greater understanding of the same sex.
They get goodnight John Boy’s and Maryann’s.
They get how to take care of a baby.
They get their place in a bigger plan.
They get to serve.
They get to survive living with a hormonal teenager before ever having one of their own.
They get gratitude for the little things.
They get cooperation and collaboration.
They get “fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
They get emotional know-how.
They get respect for difference of opinions.
They get empathy.
They get joy in the little things.
They get real appreciation for anything and everything given to them.
They get frugality.
The get homemade.
They get love.
They get even more love.
They get so much love, they don’t want anymore.
They get real connection.
They get patience.

After writing this little piece, I am now believing that all of our societal woes are actually based in the shrinking family size. Also, I came across this video that expresses the four most important things that a parent give to their child. 1-Time 2-Education 3-Spirituality and 4-Love

I guess I am doing a pretty decent job after all. My kids now sound like the luckiest kids alive. And, well, maybe they are…even without the expensive vacations.

Next time I will write about what I get. I’m sure it’s way better than any coin collection.


Goodbye Things

I want money, lots and lots of money.
I want to be a billionaire so freaking bad.
Money, that’s what I want.
We are living in a material world,
and I am a material girl.

I love it when lyrics paint a good picture. This picture was me. It was me until something happened. Well, not just something, a lot of little things.

Trying to live by God’s standard for me was causing me a lot of heartache. When I quit my job I was stuck for weeks in the “woe is me” mode. Didn’t God understand that I didn’t want to live another year of my long 40 year life being poor? Hadn’t I had enough? For most of my life (except for those few rebellious years in high school) I have tried to be a good girl, and I have never known the freedom we call financial success. Didn’t this girl deserve a break?

The girl left her mom and dad’s house at 17 with nothing but a few suitcases and a deposit on an apartment and forged her way from there with no assistance at all. This girl worked two night jobs (sometimes til 2 am) while pregnant with her third baby to save money for hubby’s college.  This girl lived three decades plus without a dishwasher and almost a decade with a dilapidated bathroom that embarrassed her to shame. This girl rarely had new clothes growing up and still goes without so much to buy her own kids clothes from the thrift-store. Wasn’t it time for this generous, obedient and loving daughter of God to know another way of life: the better way? Why God? Why when I want to work to have the finer things of life do you make me stay home? Why when everyone else seems to get multiple vacations a year, have new cars, big homes, and plenty to go around (even when they too have large families) are we made to suffer? Why do all those other ladies get to work to pay for that stuff and I am told to stay home?

I was D O N E. I felt picked on. I felt dejected. I was abandoned and forsaken. I was mad. I was hurt. I was confused. Why didn’t Got want me to have anything more when he seemed to give to everyone else so abundantly? Why did I always get the table scraps?

And then three things happened. The combination of which had a profound affect on my heart and mind.

First, I was sitting in Sunday School when asked to share a favorite scripture. I went looking in the Doctrine and Covenants for a verse that was extremely influential at a hard time in my life. It says, “Hold on thy way.” While searching, I stumbled upon an answer I needed in the moment. It happened to be another favorite that has stuck out to me many times in my poverty stricken life.

“And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world and seek for the things of a better.”
~Doctrine and Covenants 25:10

For those of you that don’t believe in Mormon scripture, here is the same message from The Holy Bible.

“But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” ~Luke 12:31

I thought, “Why can’t I seem to let go of riches and seek the kingdom of God?”

Then a few weeks later, in a church meeting, we sang a hymn titled How Firm A Foundation. It has always been one of my favorites. As I sang along, the words stuck in my throat, they turned around and flew on wings straight down to my heart. My eyes filled with tears.

“How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in his excellent word! What more can he say than to you he hath said, Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?”

“In ev’ry condition – in sickness, in health, In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth, At home or abroad, on the land or the sea – As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand, As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.”

“Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”

I understood something: God didn’t take this trial of poverty away because He doesn’t care. (What? He doesn’t care? – He cares about me infinitely, he just doesn’t care about my financial status.) It isn’t important to him that I have new clothes or a vacation or a dishwasher. The purpose of this life is to prove me faithful. The more I suffer and remain obedient, the more I earn in the next life. He wants me to have mansions in heaven, and is only concerned with giving me the necessities of mortal life while I am on earth.

Still, I didn’t like it. I couldn’t shake it. I was still resentful. I unloaded on the marriage counselor who happens to be amazing at what she does. I thought surely she would back me up and empower me to go back to work. Yet, I sold her short. She shares my faith and my religion. She called me out and gave me the third part of the message,”You can’t compare your life to other people’s lives. You can’t feel less than others because your challenges are different than theirs. If you can’t learn to be happy poor, you will never be happy rich either.” And the clincher, “You don’t have to be poor, you just have to be willing to be poor.”

I went home and sulked for a day and thought it over, and ended my journey in prayer. My heart had changed. “O.k. God, I’m willing to be poor. Well, I want to be completely willing. Change me.”

The next day as I was looking out my front window, something clicked. I got it. In my changed heart, I was happy that my needs were met. Who cares if the house I live in is rented? God has always met my needs. I didn’t care one bit about my beat up mini-van, second hand couches, or the lack of drapes on my curtain rod (for the last 2 years.) It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that the above saying (the most important things in life aren’t things) was ironically found by me at Abigail’s soccer friend’s mansion (full of everything anyone could ever want) because it was true. It was true for me and it was true for the rich people too. If my heart was turned towards God, and if I could keep it there, the importance of things would be nil, and I could be happy.

Ever since that morning, I have been happy. Truly happy. So happy I hope I am never not poor because I might forget.

I guess I can’t like this song anymore. Dangit. It’s so cute.

If you still need some more convincing, go read the whole chapter of Luke 12. woo-we. Good stuff.

The Trenchcoat

I was pretty stoked when I found this trenchcoat 
at the thriftstore a while back.
Did you know that it has a special pocket on the inside for a gun?
My hubby is the one that explained that to me.

I was just thinking how my hubby
would love for me to show up at his workplace
with just the trenchcoat.
If I packed a gun along with it,
I do believe it would make me 50% more sexy.

I got a free item with my purchase.
Of course I picked a book.

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Happy Valentine’s Day y’all.
I dare one of you to go to your husband’s workplace in just a trenchcoat.
Let me know how it turns out.

Sorry LG.
All you get is another dumb poem.

There are days.

There are days I want to strip down
and arrive at your workplace in
nothing but a trenchcoat,
but then I remember that you have co-workers.

There are days that I look at our children
and think how amazing we are
and how our posterity is the finest
and then I remember that they screw up,
but they are still the best kids ever.

There are days I can only feel love.
A love so consuming that I feel nothing else at all.
All I can think of is you with your arms around me
and then I remember how that actually feels
 to my skin
and it makes me love even deeper
which I never think is possible.

There are days I want to scream at you
because you frustrate me to no end.
Why don’t you do everything the way
I do everything?
And then I remember that you do the taxes,
and the technical support, and the math homework
and I am grateful that we are different.

There are days that I wonder where you are.
Are you in a man cave or another universe?
You retreat often inside yourself
because you are introverted and overwhelmed.
And then I remember what a great listener you are
which really helps me because I am the talker.

There are days in the distant past
(and hopefully many more in the future)
that the world consisted of just you and me
and we laid around and did nothing
but be together
and I remember those times as
the absolute best.

There are days that are swallowed up in the busies.
And you and I run around serving our kids
our co-workers, and neighbors and friends
and we don’t have a second to think about ourselves
or each other.
And at the end of the day,
it’s all we can do to sneak in a good night kiss
and mumble an “I love you”
before the night turns into dreams
and I remember that I missed you
all day long.

There are days.
Many many days.
And hopefully many many more.
Where you and I are in love.
Through the think and the thin.
The wrong and the right.
The counseling and therapies.
And lessons learned and mistakes made.
The tired and the awake.
The kids and the jobs.
The cats and the dogs.
The sick and the health.
The sane and the crazy.
The summers and falls.
And winters and springs.
The basketball practices and dance lessons.
And doctor appointments and lunch breaks.
The afternoon delights and faraway business trips.
The jokes and the tears.
The broken down cars and the puking kids on flights.
The campfires and lightning bugs.
The mountains and hills.
The lakes and the oceans.
The hotels and pools.
The woods and the downtowns.
The pounds lost and the delicious treats.
The Christmases and birthdays,
and Easters and Flag Days.
The scripture readings and temple trips.
The vacations and lack thereof.

But really all those days
make up for the most beautiful thing ever.
Me and you.
Sharing the days.

Because through it all
we can count on one thing
and that is that
There are the days.
And they are ours.


I guess I better get these Halloween photos up
before Thanksgiving gets here.

Our girls got some killer deals
at K-mart on their costumes.
Sometimes it pays to be late.
50% off plus another 20% off coupon.
Then I got another discount on Abigail’s
because we had to sew a strap on.
I told the girls that we would only spend $5 on each of them.
They gladly subsidized with their own money
so they didn’t have to make their own costumes.
I think we spent a total combined of $30.

I can’t say that I was disappointed
since making our own costumes
would require my help.

I was going to dress Caroline up
as Shirley Temple
but she barely cooperated
for wings,
so what would have been the point?

Have I told you how much of a handful this kid is?
I wonder where she gets it from?
We dumped Caroline back at home with dad
after knocking on the condos
close to home.
Here are the girls out about in the neighborhood
with our two friends Natassja and India.
It seems we should live somewhere more exotic
than Utah
when we have friends with names like that.

I just loved this shot with the pumpkin.
Notice that we use pillowcases
for carrying Halloween candy.
It’s what my mom used to make us do
when we were kids
and the tradition has stuck.
Best costume of the evening.
Obama and his Secret Service agents.
These boys are awesome.
My girls enjoyed following them around the neighborhood
on our perfect weathered evening.

I enjoyed taunting Obama at every door
that us Utahns only give our candy to Republicans
who work for their own stuff.
I’m silly like that.
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Scenes from the Utah trail

We were going to go on another
family bike ride for
Family Home Evening
last night
until we realized
it was a bad idea
because of Sophia’s broken arm.

So, we had Abigail give a lesson instead
from True to the Faith.
She had to do it for Personal Progress.
Might as kill two birds with one stone.

She taught us all about
modesty and profanity.

Abigail was sure to look in my direction
on that second one.
Damn semantics.
I can’t do it all.
And my pet sin is
an occasional swear word.
Didn’t it work for
J. Golden Kimball?

And really
what is the difference between
saying DANG or DAMN?
Go ahead,
feel free to enlighten me
and judge me
and tell me how evil I am.
I am such a horrible mother.
As evidenced by dinner
being served at almost
8 p.m. last night.

Whatever you do,
make sure and tell your kids not to read
my blog.
I would hate to be a role model.
The thought of it makes me cringe.

Sorry for the tangent.
Back to the bike ride.
We love riding in Utah.
It’s our family hobby.
And oh so much fun.

Check out the view
and tell me you don’t want to join us.

Yep, those are two deer,
right up the road.

Abigail said
“Mom, look,
it’s the kind of tree
that every kid draws.”
Only  seen in Utah
and children’s doodle books
in your part of the world.
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P.S. Biking is a great cheap source of entertainment.
And, did I mention great exercise?

Thriftstore Fashion

I totally don’t get it.
There are women out there
who have dedicated whole blogs
to their clothes.
It’s so very strange to me.

I thought I should try it,
to see if I could catch the bug.

I first give you
two views.
You always have to pose
in every possible position
you know.

Read more for the backside view.

The backside.

This is what I look like with 
the things that matter most.
And it ain’t the clothes.
Just in case you were wondering.

I sure do love my beautiful Bella.
She is my best accessory.
And baptized.

Guess what?
I paid $3 at Savers thriftstore
for this fabulousness.

The outfit is $3,
not the daughter,
just in case you were confused.

And if you add the 10 months
of pregnancy
and 10 hours of labor,
and 8 years of mothering
to the complete
I think I am coming out
pretty much ahead of
all the other ladies.

Check out I’m a thriftaholic.
I do actually like looking
at what people can put together for
cheap or free.

But we all know my outfit
wasn’t cheap.
Having and raising babies
costs more than all of our clothes combined.

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Meet Virginia Design

Camping at Nunn’s Park

One really great cheap summer/fall activity is camping.
I think we pulled off this excursion
for the price of $15 for the site (group rate)
and $20 in groceries.
(It helps a lot to combine efforts with other families.
We didn’t share our smores though.)
If you don’t have the gear just borrow some.
I love living in the state of Utah
with all its camping abundance.
I can’t wait until all of our kids get old enough
to start backpacking.
There is something so relaxing about
leaving the rush of the world
and entering God’s country.
Nunn’s Park is so close,
we took full advantage
when a bunch of our neighbors
planned a great excursion.

This is how we do camping in Utah.
Picture overload.

Good food is a must.
Scones are a local delicacy.
Thank you to Marilyn
for setting up shop.
And to Marilyn’s hubby
for all the frying.
Good stuff.
But you must buy the honey butter in the squirty jar.
mm mm good.
Don’t try cooking the scones
in the tent.
It’s not a good idea.

Before the sun goes down,
everybody needs to hop on their bikes.

You don’t want to miss out on the local beauty.

This one is called Bridal Veil Falls.

The kids always love anything 
that includes water and rocks.

Of course there is more than one kind of beauty
that needs admiring.
Kick back and enjoy the campfire.

Smores are a must.
The kids love the tent so much that they don’t mind going to bed.

Of course camping is a lot more high tech than it used to be.
But some of the perks of camping remain the same.
Like mom and dad in their own tent.
Of course I wasn’t talking about THAT.
 You guys have such dirty minds.
Campsites are a lot closer than they used to be.
Which is why you will get your clothes back on,
get out of your tent at 2 am,
walk over to the camp full of 100 Spanish speakers
squeezed into a site made for one family,
and ask them nicely to keep it down.

In the morning, you wake the kids up at the crack of dawn,
and put them to work!

Don’t go without your favorite sausage.
And if you invite Colleen Gleason,
she will make the biggest best batch
of homemade pancake mix that you have ever seen.
Being the mother of 7 has it’s qualifiers you know.
Feeding the masses is very important.
Seriously, I mean to get her recipe.
I will share.
All kinds of grain.
And scrumptious.
She makes one big food bucket
and just adds water as she goes.
She says she used to use a bucket in two months.
When all her kids were at home.
I think I could give her a run for her money
with just four kids.
Of course because I would have to eat three pancakes
from every batch.
We plan to do a lot more camping.
Now that we are free from humidity and all varieties of bugs.
I laugh that Utah mothers actually carry around bug spray.
Are you kidding me?
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Hunting for Clothes

I haven’t done a thrifty post in a while. 
I can’t wait to post my hubby’s Father’s Day gifts. 
I did good. 
Really good.
And this morning I realized that I hadn’t done anything for our dads yet.
Not ugh to our dads, but ugh to my thoughtlessness.
So, the other day, Abigail and I went through her list of “to-pack” for her first year of church girl’s camp.
Enter squeals of delight. 
And lots and lots of vicarious living.
To our dismay, Abigail needed a winter coat.
She lost hers sometime in December and has been making due with heavy sweatshirts ever since.
Once we made it to the move in April, and it wasn’t so terribly cold here in Utah, we figured we wouldn’t have to worry about it again until next year.
We thought wrong.
There is still snow on the ground at the campsite.
Where am I going to find a winter coat in the middle of June?
No problem. We may find an even BETTER winter coat this time of year.
If we shop at the thrift store.
Which we do.
A lot.
So, guess what?
We found a $300 Nils winter ski jacket in almost brand new condition for  $18. I then used my 20% off coupon and saved a few more bucks.
The girl loves her new jacket
and I love it too.
It’s the prettiest most pale pink with black and white.
And apparently the black and white makes the pink acceptable.
Win win.
Needless to say, I’m a bargain hunter.
I like the idea of being a hunter.
On the prowl.
Anyhow, anyone with lots of kids knows that you save the hand me downs.
I guess Sophia and Bella will be the proud owners of a pale pink ski jacket someday.
Meanwhile, Abigail will be wearing it to camp,
and when she gets home, we will put it in her closet bin with the rest of her winter clothes.
Three times a year, I go through the bins.
Summer, winter, and back to school.
I’ve got it down to a science.
Three times a year, I take time with each child to inspect every article of their clothing.
We put “still using” articles back in the drawers and closet.
We hand down the “too small” but will fit your sister next season to the correct person’s bin.
And we retrieve and put away from the bin the seasonals:
bathing suits, long sleeves, sweaters, coats, shorts, etc.
It’s so exciting.
In a house full of girls,
clothes are a big hit.
And finding a shirt that you had forgotten 
about buying months before 
is the equivalent to remembering 
you have $20 in the pocket of your jeans.
Throughout the year, I buy “off season” on sale.
Meaning when winter and summer things go on sale,
I stock up in the appropriate sizes.
I put all my bargains in the bins.
When back to school time comes, 
I rarely have to get my kids anything 
because they usually have a few nice outfits waiting for them in their bin.
Outfits that I got for cheap.
Real cheap.
Oh and shoes I also got for cheap.
The new things lighten the disappointment from the hand me downs.
Or at least I like to think that they do.
But to tell you the truth,
with this system, I think my kids have an equal appreciation 
for new, handed down, or bought second hand.
I believe in affirmative action.
Equal opportunity for clothes of all backgrounds.
Caroline is wearing the things from this bin now.
Check out those cute tennis shoes and Tevas.
The tennis shoes were bought at Target last year for $2.
And the Teva’s were from a yard sale for a $1.
Both are in excellent condition.
And used equally.
And here is Sophia’s bin from last year.
Yeah for her teeny little frame.
All of her shorts still fit!
The only place I had to hunt was the bin at the house.

The Dollar Store

As most of you know, I am all about being thrifty. I coupon. I thrift. I garage sale. I go without. I wasn’t always this way, but I have learned the tricks of the trade out of pure necessity. Having three kids and living on student loans followed by owning our own business in a failing economy did wonders for this mother. If you call pinching pennies wonderful.

One thing I have learned in my journey for thrift is not to be duped by the stores. Just because they stick those items on the cap aisles at Wal-Mart, it doesn’t mean it’s the best deal. And just because you are shopping at a discount grocery store, it doesn’t mean that everything is priced cheaper than other stores. And most of all, just because you are at the Dollar Tree, it doesn’t mean that you can or should buy whatever you want. In fact, don’t take your kids to the Dollar Tree. Ever. You will inevitably lose all the money you just saved. Unless you are a meanie and can say no to that glass figurine, and those coloring books, and those furry boas, and that candy…you get the picture.

However, there are two things that you absolutely should not buy anywhere but the Dollar Tree.

1- Diaper Disposal Bags. They smell good. They work. They are a godsend when your kids decide to poop everywhere, or puke everywhere, or mash a bunch of cheerios into the pew at church. They are .075 a piece + tax at the Dollar Tree. You won’t find them any cheaper. We take one with us wherever we go. Even when we walk the dog. If you get my drift.

2 – Pregnancy Tests. I realize that this admission just outed my inner hillbilly, but I don’t want all of you yuppies to go without this very great money saving tip. One dollar, people. And they work. They have worked for me at least 6 times. And before you think all my kids are running around without shoes and dirty (even though you’d be right) I only have four living children, and they each own many pairs of shoes. It’s just that I don’t always enforce the rule. (Oh, and I’ve had three miscarriages). So, don’t buy your pregnancy tests anywhere else.

The last time I visited The Dollar Tree in Knoxville, I got a bout of nostalgia. I have spent a lot of time at that store. My kids have bought a lot of Christmas presents for their grandparents there. I am serious. My in-laws think that those presents are some of the funnest. I mean where else is someone going to let their toddler pick out a dog chain for grandpa? It’s a dollar. It will be funny.

While I was walking down the aisle with my 10 boxes of diaper disposal bags, I noticed something. By the way, 10 boxes is roughly a two month supply. I buy a lot when they are in stock. It seems I am not the only one who knows a great thing when I see one.  Just to give you another shopping tip and I will hope that you don’t shop at the same store as me. Anyway, I noticed the pregnancy tests. I am not needing those much nowadays. But, you wouldn’t believe it. There were 10 boxes opened on the shelf. I assumed someone or 10 ones had opened the boxes and swiped out the tests without paying.

All I could think was this: “the poor unborn fetus that is in the womb of the person who couldn’t even afford to buy a pregnant test for a dollar.”

Not so white-trash, redneck, hillbilly, ghetto, (whatever you want to call it) after all, am I?

Dumpster Diving for Furniture

A while back I was in desperate need of a new dresser. Caroline and all her baby things had invaded. Well, LG was out of work and I was out of money. I made it a matter of prayer.

Look what God brought to me. It was on the side of the road in someone’s garbage within the week. Dumpster diving is a favorite past-time. (I learned how to do it right in Tennessee. If we ever wanted to get rid of anything, all we ever had to do was put it at the end of our driveway. It would be gone in a matter of hours.)

One man’s trash is truly another man’s treasure.

I will treasure this dresser forever.

Not only because it’s a beautiful antique but because it’s a constant reminder that God is mindful of all of his children.