Looking to an Eternal Future Gives Hope

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This was the view from outside my building yesterday. It snowed Friday evening and Saturday morning. It was a good snow for making a snowman. I did get out for a little while, but spent most of the day relaxing after a busy first week back to teaching after my winter break. During a cold snowy winter day, people often wish for spring to come and bring things back to life.

When we have something to look forward to, it can help us to not get too down about the problems of our current situation.

A post I read yesterday caused me to think of the passage in Hebrews 11:

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

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If I were to only look at my present situation, it would get me down and perhaps I would stay down. But thinking about my eternal future in heaven and how I want others to join me there, gives me the motivation I need each day to get out of bed, put up with the pain and stiffness throughout my body, and not focus on other problems. There are refugees and immigrants in my city who I want to share the love of Christ with.

The post I read was by a new blogger, Grace and Pink. It was a bit of a light hearted reflection on the fact that heaven awaits those of us who have come to Christ. You can read it by clicking on- The Log.

Jesus taught that we should invest in our eternal future, not to earn it because it is the gift of God to anyone who will come to trust in Jesus, but rather to store up for our eternal future. Jesus taught about in Matthew 6:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Everything in this life is temporary. I remember when I received my van in 2009 how excited I was to be blessed by others donating it for my ministry. Now it is 13 years old and wearing down. But I did put it to good use giving people rides to church, rides to the airport, and helping people move. I also took people to the Immigration Office for U.S. Citizenship test. So though the van is wearing down, the lives I was able to touch because of it will be remembered. Hebrews 6 says:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them”

So then the question is really more about what my focus is on. Is it on my current circumstances? The daily pain? The financial struggle month to month of being in ministry? The struggle with depression? Oh my, if my focus is on those things, throw in the towel.

But my focus is on the Lord. He has blessed me with a life full of meaning and purpose. He has forgiven me. He has changed my life. Best of all, I have an eternity in heaven with him and all of those who know him. That makes getting out of bed and facing the day and the problems in life worth it all.

Thank for reading. God Bless

 

 

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Scars- His Scars to Heal Ours

I originally shared this last April when I was just getting started again wit my blog. With January being Mental Wellness Month, I wanted to share it again.

12 scars on my body tell stories of my life. Some are from surgeries like the  scar from an appendectomy when I was 21. Some are small like the small scar next to my left eye from a freak accident while setting up an outdoor activity for kids at church. The tiny scars from arthroscopic surgery on my right shoulder in 1990. The scar on my stomach when I was attacked by a dog when I was 12 is symbolic of the upheaval in my youth. The two inch scar on my left hand from a surgery to repair damage when I had a hand injury in 1996 represents my health struggles of the 1990s.

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Scars represent our wounds that have healed. Some heal over correctly but some wounds that ‘heal’ over leave places that will never be the same and sometimes not work well.

But what of the scars from wounds no one can see? The scars from being abused. Scars left from struggling with addiction. Scars left from being victimized. Scars from broken relationships. Some wounds go so deep into our souls that we wonder if they will ever scar over the way physical wounds do when they heal.

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One day He told Thomas to reach out and touch His scars from the nails that pierced his wrists and the scar from the soldiers spear that pierced his side. His scars are still there to show us His love. Having all power, he could have stopped his crucifixion, but His love for us made Him lay down His life for us.

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He says to all of us, “Look at the scars on my wrists and feet. Look at the scar in my side. My scars are for your scars.”

His scars are there because he wants to bring healing to our souls and spirits. His scarred wrists reach out to us saying, “Come to me all who are weary and find rest for your souls”

One day I reached back to his hands extended. I reached back to find rest and healing from my past as the son of an alcoholic father and mother with mental illness. Rest, oh yes rest, from the anger, confusion, doubt caused by my own sinful reactions to life.

The hands on his scarred wrists long to hold our hand and walk in this life with us. Jesus is reaching out to you. Will we take the hand offered in love and friendship offering healing for our souls?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

My Mornings with 20 Moms :)

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I shared this photo on my Facebook and Instagram yesterday and got a lot of likes etc. I had a spontaneous idea yesterday morning to have someone take a picture of me holding up the cartoon book in Spanish and wrote about how I did some serious reading.

For me it represents what my morning class is about. I go to an Elementary School in the mornings to teach a group of 20 moms English at the same school their children got to. They have had lifelong obstacles to learning they had no control over before beginning my class. I know they have stress trying to learn English to help their children, so I use humor to help them feel more relaxed.

Laughter often fills the room as I tell them the same jokes about how I am only 20 years old, my birth date is June 8 1998, or that shopping is scary. They always enjoy when I talk about cooking in the microwave.

One mom who was extremely shy when she started my class has really excelled. I ask her each morning at the beginning of class if she ate a cookie because she loves cookies. She smiles and tells me yes or no.

Two moms are having babies this month. One of them is my friend on Facebook, She always jokes with me in class. I love it when the moms joke with me. She is on maternity leave from class until March.

One mom is so cute. She is shorter than some of the 5th graders in school. She has perhaps the lowest level of English. The other day she got lost in the school as she returned from PACT time- Parent and Child Together, which is when they visit their child’s classroom. All of the students love having her in class.

Yesterday was Parenting Class morning. We have speakers come in and talk with them. During the 2nd hour, the School Psychologist came and did a sewing project with them. I let them know, jokingly, if they need help to let me know. They laughed. At the end I told them I was proud of them that they could sew without my help. They smiled and laughed.

Each Wednesday morning we call Kathleen Day in class because a woman who is a grandmother has volunteered for us on Wednesday mornings for many years. The students love Kathleen Day in class. Kathleen share pictures with them, stories about her family and grandchildren with them, and hugs them.

Each morning I spend some time with Jesus and pray the same thing. I ask him to help me show his love to my students. I also pray for them and their life circumstances. I firmly believe that spending time in prayer each morning sets the tone for the morning with my students.

My students come from Burma, Guatemala, Iraq, Mexico, and Syria. They are all moms who want the same thing, a future for their children. Life is hard for them. They all all low income at best. They do the best they can to make a new life here in America. None of them would harm a fly so to speak. I would challenge anyone who buys into the rhetoric about refugees and immigrants to come spend a few weeks with me and these wonderful women. It would be eye opening. They are a wonderful group of moms.

I just wanted to share about my mornings with the moms because it is a huge part of my life.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

Hope? What Is It?

“I have been where you are, but you have not been where I am. I will help you.” 

I will never forget those words spoken to me in my early twenties by a man who would become my mentor for a few years. He taught me a lot about practical life things and helped guide me in the early years of rising above my life circumstances. When he spoke those words to me it was like a small glimmer of hope.

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Hope is a word that is so watered down these days. People say things like, “I hope it doesn’t rain” or “I hope the test isn’t too hard”. The way the word hope is used these days with faint expressions like, “I hope so.” almost strips the word hope of its power.

There is such a strong contrast to how God views the word hope.

Think about it. God has all power. He is omniscient-all knowing. From his viewpoint hope for us is secured already if we will trust him.

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Hope is not something we wish for in vain. Hope is something that has a solid anchor. The anchor is Jesus, his love for us, and our guaranteed eternal future with him. Think about this- If Jesus can defeat death, what problem is greater than that? NOTHING!!!

A new blogger I follow wrote a beautiful post about hope and Jesus being the light Her name is Vanessa Lynn and her blog is Brave, Blessed, and Beautiful. The post that blessed me was Hope Stand Tall. You can read it by clicking on- Hope Stands Tall.

My life is one long series of situations that seemed hopeless to others, but then God intervened. Sometimes it is at what seems to be the last minute to build our faith or so others realize it could have only been God.

But ultimately if we only look at this life whether our circumstances are good or adverse, we will be sorely disappointed at some time. Our ultimate hope is in our eternal future as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied”

Until the time Jesus comes back or he takes us individually to heaven, the message of the old song Because He Lives rings so true for me. I want to share it with you in case you are from a generation younger than me and not familiar with it. 🙂 lol

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

New Friendships and Dinner- Life with My Refugee Friends

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Last Friday evening was one of those moments I wish could last so much longer. I visited my Mandean friends from Iran and was joined by my friends Daniel and Bailey from church. For me the evening was magical. The picture is of the dinner that I was totally blessed to enjoy. 🙂

The youngest daughter of the family has a dream of studying to become a Dental Hygienist. That may not sound like a big deal to people who live in the western world, North America and Europe, but it is a huge deal for her. Because she was not part of the religious majority in Iran, she could never hope to study at a university let alone to study for a career in any part of healthcare. Her people group was oppressed and severely discriminated against.

It has been my privilege to get to know her, her mother, her father, her sister, and her sister’s family. It has been a huge blessing for me to help my friend in little ways to pursue her dream.

My friend Bailey from church is a Dental Hygienist. so their friendship has a natural common ground. So Bailey, her husband Daniel, and I visited for dinner last Friday. It was a wonderful evening of good food, friendship, laughter, and fun.

We had appetizers that alone would have been a meal. Then we had kebab, rice and chicken for dinner. After dinner, we talked which allowed to my friends to get to know each better. We played cards and had fun.

One of the most poignant moments I have experienced recently came when Bailey told the daughter she would help her if she can. Tears welled up in the mothers eyes. I can’t imagine how it felt for her after years of oppression to hear someone say they would help her daughter with her educational goals.

Friday evening was one of those moments I wish I could freeze in time as I watched my friends from church get to know my friends from Iran. It was moment that felt like this is why I am still here, why Jesus gave me more time in this life and led me to the ministry and work I do with refugees.

It was also a moment in time that was a powerful example of how what we may consider to not be a big thing to us, at least as far as what it would require us to do, may very well be a huge deal to someone else.

It makes me think of what Mother Teresa said:

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

I know my friends Bailey and Daniel and have no doubt they prayed for my friends from Iran. I know their love for my Iranian friends is genuine. I know they are people I love and I enjoy doing the little things I can for them.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Broken Relationships

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Dealing with family problems can be complex and frustrating at times for any family, but for families that experience emotional abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction for a few examples, the problems can be extremely magnified.

For me dealing with my parents was a complex issue. I did not talk too much about it while they were alive because my hope was to see them come to Christ and I did not want to close the door. My father was an alcoholic who was usually withdrawn and occasionally abusive, and my mother had some sort of mental illness with mood swings and highly manipulative.

A counselor pulled me aside once and helped me to see what was going on when I was in my early twenties. It came with a warning. “Take care of yourself or you will be dragged down,” Exact words.

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It makes a huge difference if the person who has harmed us shows regret and wishes they could atone for it or if they are unwilling to acknowledge their wrong. My father showed regret and towards the end of his came to Jesus. My mother never showed regret or acknowledge her wrongs.

I share these things in hopes someone reading will benefit from what helped me the most. It was the example of Jesus.

One day Jesus was ministering to people in a home and it was crowded. We read in Mark 3 about his family coming to get him.

 “When his family, heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Jesus was being falsely represented by his biological family. It is laughable to think they came to ‘take charge’ of him, but that was why they came. They sent someone in to tell Jesus his mother and brothers were there. Jesus answered:

 “Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

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Jesus shared a truth that can be freeing. It is those who live the way God wants us to live and treat people the way God wants us to treat people that really matter in our lives. They are the ones we should look to, draw from, and let in. They are the ones we should listen to.

There are good friends of mine at church. They are the ones I draw from, listen to, and let in.

If someone wants to stay stuck in games, I will pray for them, but not involve myself with them much.

To be fair to Jesus’s mother and brothers they did come around. Mary faithfully served him and was at the cross when he died. James became a leader in the early church. It seems it was more they did not fully understand and believe who Jesus was at the time they came to ‘get him’.

But the example of how Jesus dealt with them in the moment gave me an example to follow that freed me from a lot. I hope by sharing this that it helps someone.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

Elohim-God/Adonai-Lord-Music Mondays- Come to Me by Jenn Johnson

Thomas doubted the report from the other disciples that Jesus had been raised from the dead. When Thomas saw Jesus after his resurrection, he cried out Elohim Adonai meaning My Lord My God. We read it in John 20:

“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus is Elohim Adonai as Thomas exclaimed after seeing him after his resurrection.

When Jesus invited people to come to him in Matthew 11, it was based on the fact that ALL POWER had been given to him He was basically saying, I am the Lord your God, so come to me.

“All things have been committed to me by my Father.”

He then gave the invitation to come to him but added:

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Elohim Adonai is gentle and humble of heart and offers us rest for our souls. He has all power, but is gentle to those who come to him. He gives rest and healing for our spirits and souls.

If I go  to someone for help, there are two things I want to know. First, can they help? Second, are they approachable? The answer to both of those questions is yes when it comes to Jesus. He has all power, so yes he can help. He is gentle of heart and loves us, so yes he is approachable.

He also will never leave us. He is always with us. I love the song Come to Me by Jenn Johnson because it expresses who Jesus is, Elohim Adonai, expresses the gentleness of Jesus that accompanies his power, and expresses the rest Jesus offers to us.

Thank you for reading. God Bless. 🙂

 

Happy Birthday in Heaven to my Earthly Father- God is a Loving Heavenly Father.

January 6th has special meaning in many countries as the celebration of 3 Kings Day to remember the 3 wise men coming to visit the baby Jesus bringing gifts to worship him. However, January 6th has a different meaning for me. It is the day of my father’s birthday.

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He passed away in April 2009 and I was with him when he died reading from 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrection of Jesus. Ours was a complicated father son relationship. He was an alcoholic who was at times abusive and most of the time withdrawn and unavailable emotionally. It was determined in his last year on earth that he had clinical depression, so I think he self medicated. He had been sober for about 30 years when he died. I wrote last year about how forgiveness from me led to my father receiving forgiveness from God. You can read that by clicking on- forgiveness from me.

For anyone who has problems with their relationship with their father, it can make it more difficult to embrace that God is a loving heavenly father.

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And yet that is exactly who God is, a loving heavenly father. If we read through the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we see that Jesus called God father and not only in reference to God being his father. Jesus called God, “You father in heaven” as he spoke to those following him. Jesus used the possessive your father teaching about relationship with God. When his followers asked Jesus to teach how to pray, the example Jesus gave as a model of prayer that we call the Lord’s prayer begins with:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,”

Jesus taught that our heavenly father knows what we need before we ask showing God’s concern for us. He taught that we are valuable and precious to God. He taught us that God loves us many times including the famous John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Paul wrote in Romans 8 that we can call God Abba which for us means that God is a deeply caring father:

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

God does not want his children living in fear of him in the sense of being scared of him, respect yes, scared no. He wants us to come to him, receive forgiveness, and live in a father child relationship with him.

God is patient and knows our weaknesses and hurts. If it takes time for us to be able to embrace him as father because of past abuse or neglect by our earthly fathers, God will patiently bring healing into our lives.

God is a loving heavenly father. Because of that, I was able to forgive my earthly father and am able to say today, Happy Birthday in heaven to my earthly father.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

Matt The Wedding Coordinator?

In my post yesterday about the Liebster Award I shared as one of the random things about me that I have been a wedding coordinator before and that I might share the humorous story in a future post. A few people commented they wanted to hear about it, so here goes.

My life proves that God has a sense of humor. I often find myself in situations where I think perhaps God gets a chuckle out of seeing what I am willing to try to help others. For example, one year close to Thanksgiving I decided to cook a Thanksgiving lunch for the people who come to my weekend groups at church. I put two turkeys in the ovens in the basement at church and started cooking the turkeys. Then I had a thought, more of a question, in my mind. How do I know when they are done. I had never cooked a turkey before.

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So I went upstairs hoping to find someone in the church that knew. I found a friend of mine Kris in the church. I asked her how to know when a turkey was done and she asked me why. I told her. She came downstairs and took over.

A few pastors at church have received emails from me that are basically- I have an idea. I don’t mind stepping out with no solid plan in situations such as meeting a new people group that has come as refugees that no one knows anything about. I enjoy getting to know them and learn as I go.

So one day a refugee family from Ukraine had a need. Their daughter wanted to get married but their Ukranian church rented a 7th Day Adventist church building on Sunday mornings and they had no access to it on Friday evening or Saturday for their wedding. They had no money. So I asked one of the pastors at my church and arranged for them to have it for free at my church. The women who usually coordinated weddings for the church did not feel confident helping people with broken English, so I agreed to do it. The bride had friends who lived here long enough to know where to get wedding stuff, so my job was really them asking me if they could do something, I asked the building manager, he told me yes or no, and I told the bride’s family yes or no. Wedding coordinating seemed simple.

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So a year later, when a young lady from China wanted to have a Christian wedding, I thought no problem I can coordinate it. I met with her and her fiance and realized they were so new to Lincoln and their friends were too. They didn’t know where to get wedding stuff. So I called my friend Kathy from church. Kathy and her husband had helped with my ministry before. I asked Kathy, “what are you doing tomorrow afternoon at 2:30?” She responded by asking a question, “Why? What have you got yourself into this time?” I told her the situation and she said she would be there. Kathy met us at the church and took over, I think I still had the title Wedding Coordinator, but I am not sure.

So Lily of retrospectivelily, you are single and have a boyfriend. When it is time for your wedding, I will coordinate it for you for free since you are one of the ones who asked me to share the story. 🙂

Hope you all enjoyed my story. Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Liebster Award- Discover New Blogs

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I don’t do many of these awards, but wanted to do this one to spotlight some new bloggers I am following and also to spotlight Tamra and her blog Grace Speech. I appreciate her posts because they are content oriented focusing on biblical truths. Thank you Tamra for nominating me. You can find Tamra’s blog at gracespeech.wordpress.com.

So the 11 questions from Tamra:

1. Why do you write?

I write to share my faith in Jesus, my experiences with people from many cultures, and to encourage others who have struggles with autoimmune problems and also depression.

2.  When do you write?

I usually write each day. I enjoy writing. It is one of my hobbies I guess 🙂 .

3. What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

My favorite thing at Christmas is to visit refugee families and share God’s love with them. This year I visited 3 refugee families bringing candy and small gifts.

4. What is your favorite song, (Christmas or otherwise)?

My favorite Christmas song is Immanuel by Michael Card. I also like O Holy Night and the Hallelujah Chorus.

5. What is your favorite book?

My favorite book is the bible. For fiction my favorite book is Lord of the Rings.

6. Where are you from?

I am from Lincoln Nebraska.

7. Where is your favorite place you have ever traveled?

That is a tie between Brazil and Romania. Romania was the first country I traveled to and through my seven trips there the Lord called me to my ministry today. Brazil I love because I love the culture and people.

8. Do you speak any languages other than English?

Yes, I speak Portuguese and Spanish. I also know greetings and phrases in 30 languages.

9. What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time? What is that? Joking 🙂 If i have spare time, I love to visit my friends from other countries in their homes.

10. What would you do if you could do anything you wanted for an entire day with an unlimited budget?

I would buy new suitcases, clothes, and a plane ticket to Brazil. 🙂

11. What’s the biggest question you have for God?

When will Jesus come?

11 Random thoughts about me

1. I love Science Fiction movies.

2. I grew a beard for the first time last year.

3. My favorite food is food in the homes I visit. 🙂

4. I have coordinated two weddings. That is a humorous story I  might share in a future post.

5. I have seen more of the rest of the world than I have the U.S., so I hope to travel around a little here.

6. One time during a walk around London England I saw a statue of Abraham Lincoln.

7. When I stepped out of the airport in San Diego in June 2010, I felt like it was the perfect climate for me, BUT too expensive there. 🙂

8. I worked part-time at Billy Graham World Headquarters when I went to school in Minneapolis.

9. I love coffee shops because they each have their own vibe and culture at least where I live.

10. I am a BAD cook, but thankful for my microwave. 🙂

11. Allergic to cats, but dogs are great.

For my nominees, most are newer bloggers getting started, so please check them out. My 11 Nominees are:

Fun with God a blog I just started following at havefunwithgod.wordpress.com

Jana shares about her life and faith in her blog Uncomfortably Vulnerable. You can find her blog at uncomfortablyvulnerable.home.com

Diane just started a blog. Her first language is Spanish. She is writing short stories in English. Her blog is shortstoriesbyanenglishlearner.home.blog

Ayodimeji just started a new blog Grace Revolution you can find his blog at oluwatokia.wordpress.com

shonell26 has a blog sharing health tips at myhealthmatterstoday.info

Kelly has a new blog sharing her life and faith at chippedvessel.com

Julia has a blog The Father’s Girl sharing her life and faith at juliachidimma.wordpress.com

Alphe has a lifestyle blog  Alphe’s Corner sharing healthy food recipes, gift ideas, and some from her culture in Poland. You can find her blog at alpheblog.wordpress.com

Timecrawler is a blog by a Christian woman with a child who has autism. You can find her blog at timecrawlerblog.wordpress.com

Becka shares about her life and faith in The Reclaimed Life at beckaasper.com

Kevin shares poetry and other writings of his at whatwordsmaycome.com

My 11 Questions for my Nominees

  1. What is you blog mostly about?
  2. Why did you start your blog?
  3. How often do you post in your blog? Is there a regular day or days?
  4. What is your favorite place you have traveled to?
  5. What languages do you speak?
  6. If you don’t mind sharing, what is your faith?
  7. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
  8. When is the best time for you to write?
  9. What country  or countries would you like to visit and why?
  10. What is your favorite song?
  11. What is your favorite season and why?

 

The Rules

  • Acknowledge the blogger that gave it to you and display the award
  • Answer 11 questions that the blogger gave you
  • Give 11 random thoughts about yourself
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers and notify them of their nomination
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions