Category Archives: Fellowship

3 Things I Learned From Playing Tennis

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3 Things I Learned From Playing Tennis

Tennis takes a significant level of athleticism. Getting back into the sport after a long hiatus is a whole different ballgame. Literally. Tennis-after-40 or tennis-after-having-babies or tennis-after-knee-and-shoulder-surgeries? Not as pretty as tennis-at-17.

I’ve never been known as the athletic type. I do my best to stay active enough to play with my kids, but I am not graceful on my feet or with equipment or while moving fast. God placed me on this earth for some purpose, of that I am certain, but it does not involve games with things flying at me. Keep your eye on the ball, make contact, follow through? Not my love language.

But, at the invitation of a close friend, a trusted friend, I joined the beginner tennis clinic at my local club. I had not played much since high school and found picking up the racket brought back many teenage insecurities. Since this is tennis-after-40, however, it was high time I squelched those unkind voices and just played.

Turns out, I love it. After the first few (very ugly) lessons, I caught my groove and could happily play for an hour or two. The other students and I chased one another’s rouge hits across the court, all the while laughing at our mistakes and learning a few lessons about women, specifically women-over-40 (give or take).

1. We are excellent cheerleaders. With each pong! of a solid hit, for every match won (our own or our opponent’s), at all the successful serves, there is always a “great job” or “nice hit” from the other gals in the group. Isn’t this what women do best? When we set aside the crazy mom-petition drive to prove ourselves, we shine at the opportunity to support one another. When we realize the other women in the room have our backs, we can accomplish anything.

2. We apologize too much. “Sorry!” “My bad” “Oh, that was my fault.” Yep. I heard (and said) it all way too much. And guess which group didn’t say it? Across the board, I didn’t hear the guys apologize like the gals. Sorry ladies, but we need to cut the crap. Mistakes are part of life. A ball hit to the wrong side of the court, a serve into the net? Just pick up the next ball and try again. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in this, but obviously I haven’t learned it enough to preach it. Sorry.

3. We struggle to be assertive without being, ya know, bitchy.  Sharing the court while playing doubles can be tricky. It takes clear, quick communication to be sure you don’t bump into your partner or miss the ball. “Yell ‘Got it!’,” our coach instructed when my partner and I politely defered to one another and lost the point. We kindly apologized to the coach and each other before offering encouragement for the next shot. So many of us were taught that to be assertive is harsh and unladylike. Rather, to be commanding, to speak your mind, to stand your ground all takes confidence, not rudeness.  And confidence is quite possibly the most beautiful asset, the most ladylike attribute a woman can wear, on or off the courts.

Thanks to a racket and zippy little yellow ball, I found a great workout, lovely friends, and a few more things to love about being woman who is “over-the-hill.” Ha!

It’s Been A Busy Week

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As I reflect on the past ten days in Honduras, I thought it wise to chronicle my week before I forget a moment.

What I did in Honduras (hotter, sweatier, dirtier, and happier than I can remember ever being) turns out to be quite a lot…

Held babies that don’t belong to me. Not only orphans, but the children of shopkeepers. Every baby and child I found, I wrapped my arms around or touched their heads, praying over them in my heart.

Organized storage rooms. Dirt-covered floors, jumping spiders, bags of donations, soccer balls, and more all needed to be put in their places. I spent several hours making sense of a space no one wants to enter due to the heat; it had become so disorganized, it was barely functional. Enter my mother’s daughter.
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Played UNO, backgammon, frisbee, jumprope, and basketball among the heat, dirt, and bugs. For a mother of girls, hanging outside with boys aged 5-16 was a rare treat!
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Adonis and Kevin
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Luis, Guillermo, Ezekiel, and Frazen gave me a run for my money at backgammon

Fought off attacks by fireants and pesky no-see-ums.

Filed paperwork for a teacher so busy I don’t know how she keeps her grace. A woman who’s preference is to homeschool her own 4 children, Stephanie lives at an orphanage with 90 kids and manages a classroom of 35+ young teens.

Colored, playdoughed, and stickered with preschoolers. Just like home.
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Estafany loved making a paper selfie.

Made popcorn and poured cold Pepsi for the kids who earned movie time at school. We almost burned out the school’s one small microwave while popping dozens of bags, one at a time.

Sat through Honduran rush hour, was awakened by gun shots, and cuddled in bed with a stranger. Goodbye comfort zone!
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Chopped veggies and chicken, cracked dozens of eggs, and patted cornmeal into pastalitos to feed a small army. Working alongside the tireless house mommies, I learned much about the Honduran culture. 20131004-203138.jpg
Worshipped and sang praise songs in Spanish while attending two very different church services.
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Cried. Every time I have thought about leaving Honduras, I have been overwhelmed with sadness to say goodbye to the people, their culture, and this country, all with which I have fallen in love.

Held children whose parents have abandoned, neglected, abused, and otherwise given up. Some motivations were pure, some were purely selfish. Whatever the cause, their children are left craving love. And for a moment, I was able to give them just that.
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Me with the birthday boy, Carlos.
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Loving on Nicol

Watched a video of my daughter rock climbing in the United States. Technology is awesome!

Shopped at a tiny country grocers, a city tourist shop, and a busy mid-size grocery store. In each, the proprietors were welcoming and kind. I dread going back to my local Safeway.

Rode on a school bus with a hundred sweaty kids and smiled the whole way.
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Ate chicken, rice, and beans until I was chicken, rice, and beaned out.

Started my days with early morning devotions and steaming mugs of Honduran coffee. Through the various perspectives of my team members, I gained a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

Took a half-dozen teen boys to dinner. Our group feasted on grilled beef, pork, chicken, fish, and chorizo, sided by spicy cabbage slaw and chips and beans. Mmmm!

Helped as an assistant teacher for kindergarten through eighth grade classes. We read, sang, learned, and scored together.
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Music time in Beka’s Second Grade class
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Marylin and Dimas trying a fun clapping game I taught Brenda’s “prepa” class (kindergarten).

Brought sick children to a clinic.

Rocked a sleeping baby girl for three hours. With numb arms, back, and bum, I prayed God’s provision and grace for Naomi and her siblings.

Left my son. Guillermo holds a place in my heart that seems carved out for him alone. I was honored and humbled to meet him, hug him, look him in the eyes, but I could not say goodbye. I will be back for that child, in one way or another, God willing.
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Indeed, this has been a 40th birthday celebration unlike any other. Thank you for your prayers of encouragement and support. It has been an honor to journey with you!

Travel Insurance

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You people are amazing!! Thank you for all the messages, Facebook posts, texts, phone calls, cards, hugs, and smiles across the room and miles. I have heard you loud and clear and I am encouraged! Through your varied experiences, you have opened my eyes to sights unseen. Through your strengthening words, you have girded my confidence. Through the verses you’ve shared, you have sent God’s word with me. Through your offers to support my family, you have reassured me. Through your prayers, I am covered.

I will take these words, and the many others you’ve sent, with me!

We are praying for your heart, which will never be the same.

He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, so this trip cost is chump change to Him! Keep trusting Him to provide!

High five to your supportive husband and to you both for giving your daughters this fantastic lesson and for giving these children a chance.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.” John 15:16

“I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13

No need for our eyes to be on the other stuff, the Lord’s got that!! “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

!Vaya con Dios!

!Vaya con Dios, indeed! I will go with God, my thanks to YOU!

Send Me a Life

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I admit it. I got sucked into the current popular online game of choice. Divine! But, you probably already knew that; half the people I know are connected to me via social networking. Sweet!

At first, I allowed my daughter to download the game after I dragged her to a ladies jewelry party. A college-aged friend of mine showed it to her and well, I caved for the sake of “Can we go yet?” Then I decided to see what the fuss was all about. Now I am hopelessly stuck on Level 79. Might as well be Level 666 for all the fun I’m having trying to beat it. And for what? So I can move on to Level 80? Woo.Hoo.

As my husband tried, unsuccessfully, to have a conversation with me this evening, I lamented about having too much to do. When he left the room to watch football alone, I decided to spend “just a minute” playing the game. An hour later…

A notification popped on the screen during the game; a friend “sent a life.” Whew, that would keep me going another round or two. But wait. She sent me a life? What about the life I’m living? What am I doing with it? Sitting on the couch, staring at a screen, accomplishing … nothing. Sure, it’s entertaining. But is it productive? Does it get me closer to the goals I have for myself? Does it build, mend, or reinforce any of the relationships that mean so much to me?

All this swapping lives back and forth in the game, does that really connect us? Several of the friends with whom I’m connected online are folks I’ve been trying to visit in person, but we have been too busy to schedule time together. Busy. Stacking candy and waiting for our lives to be refreshed. Hmmm. Maybe we need to look at this differently.

Much to my daughter’s chagrin, I believe it’s time to delete the game from my device, to look at what I really want to accomplish this day, and to give myself a life. A real life of living.

Now that’s Divine!

Edited to say: This isn’t just about the silly game. It’s about Wasters. Those things that waste my time, my energy, my life. Sure, I will delete the game, the Waster du jour, but in my boredom and weakness, I’ll eventually find another. Here’s to deleting the Wasters and saving life for living!

Routine of Togetherness

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Summer is in full swing! Time to shake off those burdensome, tight schedules. Put on our bright, loose-fitting agenda-free days. School is out, kids’ activities are wrapping up for the season, obligations and meetings will finally give us that much needed break. Hooray, right?

As each last day arrived this year, I found myself feeling drained rather than rejuvenated. Not exhausted-drained. More like my cup was being emptied, like I was no longer able to replenish myself.

The first agenda item to go was my weekly Bible study. It started in September and ran throughout the school year. For two hours each week, I was able to fellowship with other women, pour into the scriptures, and make new, lasting friendships. Together we studied the book of John and learned more about the ministry and legacy of Jesus. The nursery attendants watched my little one grow from a itty baby into a mobile, playful toddler. Most Tuesdays this year, I was blessed to study alongside my sister-in-law, an extra treat before she moves overseas for two years.

In short order, Wednesday evenings also became free when our church children’s choir finished for the summer. On the drive home that fateful Wednesday, my daughter cried, sad that this weekly ritual ended too soon. When I reassured her we could connect with our friends all summer, she responded that she wouldn’t miss the socializing, group dinners, or play time so much. It was the opportunity to be with her friends, singing to God.

Next, the small prayer group from my daughter’s school held its last meeting. Whether I attended or not each month, I had relied on these mothers meeting regularly, powerfully praying over our children, their teachers, and one another’s families. The local chapter of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) wrapped up the same week. Soon thereafter, we said goodbye to church Sunday School classes, our daughter’s weekly Bible class (AWANA), and other obligations.

Finally! We were free! Our schedule was clear and the summer lay before us open, wide open. Almost desolate. Very quickly I found myself longing for something more. I missed my friends, my Sisters, and the inspiration I drew from them.

My daughter, with her 6-year old wisdom, had understood early what would take me several weeks to grasp. When we no longer fellowship with one another, spend time in community, study God’s Word, or pray out loud, we become drained. Dry. Our souls become parched, a place weeds choke out the flowers of truth and living water stops flowing.

Without those school-year routines, how can you and I make time to be together? To encourage one another, like we do the other nine months of the year? To study, learn, and grow through each other’s wisdom? To pray for one another, pour out God’s blessings, speak His promises into each other’s lives?

Can we maintain the routine of togetherness, despite the lack of routine? Can we retain our community without being physically present?

I believe we can! If you’d like to join me, please let me know. I long for communion with you, my friends, my Family.
If you’re local to me, let’s get together a few times this summer to talk about what God has shown us this year, how He is moving in our lives. Let’s pray with one another. How about my house, Sunday evenings at 5:00?
If you’re not local, distance will not keep us apart! Perhaps we’ll read a book of the Bible together? We can email, talk, text, FaceTime, message, whatever.

Let’s find time to be together without the pressure of schedule, agenda, or obligation. Because no amount of summertime freedom is as liberating as simply being together in Christ’s love.

My Sermon

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I preached it, Sister! I brought it! Okay, really, I just shared the message at my church’s services while our pastoral staff was away. This was no fire-and-brimstone, but a responsibility to share with my church family what was on my heart. Given the spirit-filled pastors I have known in my life, this was a big role to fill. What I shared is far more humble. The opportunity was a treat for me, combining two things I love: writing and public speaking. (Kudos to my high school English and Speech teachers for the gift of both.)

Since preparing for the sermons consumed most of my recent blog-writing time, it seems only fair for me to post it here. My sermon notes, if you will. (Heeheehee – I still can’t believe I got to be the preacher.) Although this was initially for my church family, I humbly submit it to you, my blog family…

Sincerity of Faith

Good morning! My name is Leslie Vorndran. I am one of your lay leaders. I’m a mother of two, a wife. I’m currently a stay-at-home-mother. I’m an avid book reader, an art lover, an amateur cook, a dog owner, a terrible gardener, a blogger. Oh yeah … I’m a Christian.

Recently, I was making plans with a friend of many years. We met long ago during college, ended up on beach vacations and at late night parties together. As life moved on, we celebrated at one another’s weddings, baby showers, and housewarmings. But on a recent weekend, she mentioned our plans might be interrupted because she would be at church. Church? All these years, we have been “friends” through life’s biggest events, never suspecting we shared the same faith, the same core values, the same belief in our redeeming Savior. But why didn’t we know this crucial detail about one another? I suspect that’s because neither of us had been brave enough to name-drop the very Name of God. Without realizing, we had not been sincere to our friendship or ourselves.

Looking around, and in the mirror, I see people who are very, very blessed. We live in beautiful homes in close-knit communities. We cheer loudly for our local sports icons, from the Little League to the professional baseball team.
Don’t even get us started on our favored political groups. Left vs. right, red states vs. blue states, the elephant vs. a donkey (?). We love to speak out, argue vehemently, and cast votes for our sides.
We are so passionate about our careers that discussing what we “do” becomes what we talk about, how we introduce ourselves. If someone asks a prodding question, we happily delve deep, talking on and on about the work we do and who we know.
Talk and talk and talk. We create opportunities for talking: get togethers for coffee, girls’ night out, book clubs, conference calls, networking events. When the spoken word fails us, we email, text, tweet, status-update and, in the all too rare case, write letters. We love to communicate, to talk about issues, resolve conflicts, catch up, encourage one another, complain.

I’m right there with you. But what are we talking about? How much of ourselves are we actually sharing with one another?

This blog is just another opportunity to “talk” more if you will, though I started it to get some thoughts out of my head and challenge myself to be more forthright. One of my blog posts ended up touching a chord with a lot of folks. I shared a personal story of a new friend I met at the pool. She and I have spent the past few summers exchanging pleasantries, chatting without ever really talking. This year, when I was stuck in a sling following shoulder surgery, she shared the truth behind some health issues she was facing. It wasn’t until she and I broke down the nice-to-meet-you barrier of our homes, jobs, and children’s activities that we found a deeper connection. A sincerity of friendship.

The response to that posting got me thinking more about it. I have found that what we don’t usually talk about in our community is our faith. The very part of us that brings us hope, that which carries us through the hardest times and binds us together in the good. Like the old children’s song, we hide our little light under a bush. Those who enter our homes, who have a place in our hearts, may get to learn about our spiritual selves, but how many of our neighbors know upon Whom we built our faith? They see us leaving the house Sunday mornings, so we assume they know where we’re headed. We certainly don’t discuss God at work, where we might lose hard-earned respect, position, even the opportunity for upward mobility. Then there’s the social networking. Do we use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the blog-osphere, even Email to promote the Kingdom of God? For me, Facebook is a tool for connecting with others, be it my family, friends from grade school, or even the new friend I met last week. I used it to plan my high school reunion, announce the birth of our daughter, and RSVP to a wedding. I share pictures of my kids via Instagram; my husband filters his news through Twitter. Social networking. More talking. And another place to talk about everything, except our faith.

A couple of years ago, I went out on a limb and mentioned on Facebook something about my faith. This was a big deal to me, since many of my “friends” were work colleagues from whom I hid my faith, connections from a time of my life I had very little faith, and new friends who I knew held very different views from me. I risked ruining a lot of relationships in making myself known. But the opposite happened. Once I shared a little, I was encouraged by others holding the same beliefs, other followers of Christ. With this new confidence, I shared a little more and more over time. Here’s what happened. I didn’t lose out on any relationships, but rather I was given new relationships, deeper relationships. People I had known for years now felt comfortable expressing their faith with me. I have been blessed to watch their faith journeys, to grow along with them, to be challenged by their walks with Christ. Built on the sincerity of our faith, on our unity in Christ, my relationships have grown from acquaintances and social connections to friendships of the heart, a family with whom I pray.

In Galatians 3:23-28, Paul talks about this unity in Christ, calling us “children of God.” We no longer need to identify that which separates us from one another: religious background, social status, or gender. We are one in our faith. We need only to reach out and talk about it. But here’s the cool part. It wasn’t only Paul who spoke of our unity. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus actually prayed for us, for all believers, that we would be unified. And through that unity, that the world would know His Love.

Paraphrasing John 17:20-23 a bit, we are told Jesus said, “My prayer is not for the disciples alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You … so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me.”

So, let me ask you a question: How do you define your community? In and around our town, across the country, on social networks, at work, in Honduras or Ethiopia, in your own home, or is your community in this church sanctuary? When you are surrounded by your community, do you catch yourself being reserved, hiding your faith “under a bush,” or do you speak out, share with others what God has done in your life, offer encouragement or prayer, and share His love so that others might see Christ in you? I am the first to say, I do not do this enough. Not even in my own family. I privately pray for extended family members, that they may come to know Christ, that He will soften their hearts to the freedom and joy that comes from knowing Him, but I choke with fear and timidity before I can talk of spiritual matters with them. And these are people I love; imagine how terrified I am of sharing my heart with colleagues or strangers!

But how can we ever be unified if we don’t know one another, truly know one another?

I challenge you, me, all of us in this together. Let’s speak out. Be unified in God’s love, His amazing grace. Let’s call on His strength and boldness to share His love, His name with our community: our town, our mission field (wherever that may be), our families, and one another right here in this church. Let’s pray with one another, encourage each other in Christ, and live our faith so others might see and believe the gift we have already recieved. My guess is that as you – as we – begin to live faith more boldly, more sincerely, we will find our relationships are unified in a Love deeper than we ever imagined.

Visiting My Sunroom

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I hate meeting new people. There, I said it. Meeting people terrifies me. Networking is my husband’s idea of a good time; the very mention of it gives me a headache! He actually signs up for this stuff, gets all giddy at the opportunity to meet-n-greet. (Shudder) Sometimes, he takes me along to meet his connections and friends. Just the idea of going is usually enough to start me whining, complaining (loudly), and bickering (louder). It’s rather embarrassing, really, the level of discord I create when my inner self is screaming “I don’t wanna go!” Grow up, Leslie.

Ironically, I actually love getting to know people. I thrive on finding connections and building relationships. It just takes me a while. But when I do, watch out! If I make a friend at any given event, I can chat with that one person – and not have to meet anyone else, hooray! – all evening. I’m looking for Real. Someone who is willing to set aside their plastic networking smile, squint their eyes just so, and crack the door to their soul, where Real lives.

One of my favorite rooms in a person’s Real self is the space they reserve for church. In most of us, church usually isn’t front and center. More like a sunroom, a pretty little room tucked in the back. Guests don’t get to see it upon arrival, but only after visiting other spaces: the family room, the homey kitchen, perhaps even the messy playroom. Then they see Church. What a delightful addition to an already beautiful space.

Where the fun lies isn’t just in discovering we both attend church, and where, and how long. Real gets real when we open the cabinet and display WHY we go to church. No, I don’t actually ask that of anyone. Honestly, I’ve not really asked it of myself much, until a recent hiatus from my own church left me feeling down, isolated, and without direction. Several weeks passed before I recognized my feelings and, subsequently, the source. To be honest, I rather enjoyed those first few weekends of productivity and long, luxurious mornings with my family. But as I began longing to return to our Sunday morning routine, I examined my motivation for attending church.

God: The most obvious. If I am going to follow His commands, I cannot pick and choose which I will follow. I will share His message of love, I will raise my children to know and respect Him, I will offer Him my gifts, I will keep His day holy by reserving time for worship.

Community: Christ said where two or more are gathered in His name, He would be present with us. He prayed for all future believers, that we would be unified in His name. In other words, God gave us to each other. Time and again, I am blessed and encouraged after spending time in fellowship with other believers.

Free childcare: Nursery, Sunday School, other adults guiding our children to think about others, to be quiet and respectful, to love one another. My oldest daughter cried when children’s choir ended for the year. “It’s my favorite activity all week,” she lamented. Not because she socializes and eats dinner with her friends, but because she loves singing about God. Her soul has found freedom and joy in learning words to praise her creator. I pray our children always have such a strong desire to be embraced by the church.

Quiet: If we allow it, a peaceful sanctuary can be just that to our bodies, our souls. Like Jesus calming the storm, His house can quiet the everpresent noises of our lives and calm even the busiest hamster-on-the-wheel. Sometimes, I sit in the pew, look at the pastel-colored windows, and simply breathe in His presence. It is in that space He restores my soul.

Family: For better or worse, we are assigned our biological families. We have a little more choice in our church family, but the members often serve similar roles, for better or worse. And, like with our relations, we can choose to grow in love despite our imperfections. We can also bless one another abundantly in that love. The ties that bind us together are strengthened when a fellow church member voluntarily steps into a supportive role typically reserved for related-family. A meal when we are ill, a ride when we cannot drive, a baby shower when no family lives close, a simple hug when our mother is not near. Family cannot be replaced, but the holes can be filled to overflowing by the love of a church family.

Service: I love to be needed; I need it. To that end, the world has needs! One of Christ’s last commands while He walked the earth was to go out into all the world, sharing His love. No simple task for an individual. But standing side by side with our church family, we are able to further His kingdom here on earth. Make meals for the homeless, teach the children, provide supplies for the needy, build homes for orphans. What blessing we receive when we give of ourselves to bless others!

So, why do I go to church? Sure, my husband gets to meet new people and I get to build relationships. But that isn’t what gets us out the door Sunday morning or to committee meetings and events throughout the week. Initially, my husband and I wanted to be with God, to walk with Him in our lives and our marriage. We sought a place of quiet refuge from our busy lives. We had children who we chose to raise in the Christian faith. We became part of a family who never lets us go. We started to serve and found joy came from the work of it. We discovered that the more we learned of God, the more real He became in our lives. The more we gave of ourselves, the more freedom we had to truly live. The more we spoke of His love, the more we loved all of those around us.

Church. That small room kept off to the side of our Real, visiting only on Sundays, at best. Perhaps it’s time to renovate, to rearrange it, or even move it to the front room of our Real selves.