Meet Grizz

We did it. We got a puppy. He has been in our care for six days now and is a joyful, wiggling, floppy handful. His name is Grizzly Adams, but we call him Grizz.

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When we picked him out, we played with his other brothers first. You see, when we got pictures of the litter, Shane had immediately pointed to the all brown one and said, “That one!” At the same time, my finger pointed to the all white, with a brown head fella and I declared, “That one!” We eventually thought the all white one would be easy to see when hunting, so just from a picture said that was choice one and the all brown one was choice number two, even though, initially, he was choice number one.

When we got to the breeder, the all white one was gone, our number three pick, the one with the interestingly symmetrical spots on his back was still there and quite the hefty fella. The all brown one only stood out because he was just that, an all brown one compared to the spotted siblings. We got out the number three pick with another smaller, friendly one to play with as suggested by the breeder. Although the big guy followed the breeder around, he didn’t seem all too interested in us, and he was loud and pushy. We got out another spotted one with the big guy, and it could’ve cared less about us or anything else. Finally we got out the all brown one.

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Not only did he seem interested in us, he was somewhat submissive, not loud, and seemed calmer than all of them. So our number one pick, moved to number two, then ignored for a quick moment at the sight of all the other spotted, mostly bigger brothers, became our Grizz. Even the breeder seemed happy with our choice, as though he knew that was the one for us and was holding his breath until we said, “This one!”

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We stayed and chatted with the breeder for a bit before we headed off, back to my folks place to show him off, and to meet Jagger. From there we went to see our friends at a camp on the Allegheny where Grizz met more dogs, more people, and water! It was a busy first day, followed by a Sunday and Memorial Day of more playing at Shane’s dad’s home. It couldn’t have been a busier weekend for our new little addition.

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Our First New Years

Last New Years, Shane and I were going to leave a day later than my parents to head to Connecticut. I was excited to head up, and had an audio book at the ready for us. That morning, full of vim and vigor, we packed the car, but by the time we were thirty minutes on the road I was doubled over begging Shane to turn back. I had gotten the flu. So we spent New Years at my parents home, Shane kindly bringing me ginger ale and crackers and I really don’t remember much of the first day.

This year could not be the same! I doubled down on cinnamon and vitamin C and felt confident I would not be too sick to miss out on one of my favorite traditions of visiting my New England family. Family that could now be called our New England family.

So up we drove, listening to the audio book intended for last year, The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker. We left a half an hour before my parents, but by the end of the journey, they were following us as I navigated around traffic and eventually landed us on 95, though not before we passed through the town of Bethel, Connecticut, where we passed three bookstores. Three. Also a library. So many books!

When we arrived, we nestled in to my aunts home and the first night enjoyed hot buttered rums. The next evening was our annual gift exchange. It is amazing that we still keep up this gift exchange despite all us cousins being grown, starting families, and new little ones running around.

I think it is less about the presents and more about the presence. We have one night we spend all together, we blame it on the gifts, but in the end it is the togetherness, the food, the laughs that seem to keep this good thing going.

Many of the gifts, at least on the woman’s end, are handmade. This year, an end table I refurbished was bought by one cousin and given to another, meanwhile I painted a sign that read “Merry Christmas” on one side, and “Count Your Blessings” on the other for my aunt. In previous years, my dad has handmade benches, each year giving one to another cousin of mine. One of my aunts is great at knitting, so her talent is often given as a gift. It is this giving of your own gift, ones creativity or talent, that makes the gift giving so unique in our family.

With the men not often making something, it is fun to see their thoughtfulness. Honestly, to date, a gift card has not entered the gift exchange. This year, my cousin Meg’s husband had Shane’s name and got him a throwing ax. His reasoning was simple, he likes sharp things and he likes throwing sharp things, so why wouldn’t Shane? Shane loved it and got to explain how he has thrown axes at competitions and this started a whole new level of stories to be shared.

We have no price cap. We have no limitations. We have no expectations. We just appreciate what is given, because it is so often given out of love and joy, it isn’t some obligatory act. The only rule, get something for your name gift, for the person Kim’s computer randomly lines you up with. And it works.

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” -Desmond Tutu

Stillness

The rush of the holidays, like a swollen river eating away at muddy banks, is pulling and making the anyone and everyone’s time slip away. Just today, a short trip into town to pick up pictures lasted twice as long as twice the amount of people waited at the once photography now layaway and photography counter. My afternoon floated away giving me no chance to save it. So many eyes rolling at the store, so many sighs from shoppers pushing carts, so much frustration bubbled through the isles as people looked for anyone with a name tag to help them on what ever last minute search they were on. One thing no one was bound to find was more time.

In a desperate attempt to avoid a crowded isle and save time, I cut through the book department to try to get to where I was going. This was the wrong sort of short cut for someone like me, and I probably did not make up any time as I emerged with two books. I told myself not to linger, but two books for my nephews, at least not myself, caught my eye, and another title made me chuckle, but I didn’t pick it up. The title was “Waiting Is Not Easy!” and it seemed so very appropriate for a holiday shopping day. The little elephant on the front of the book looked as exasperated as I felt.

It occurred to me that we cause a lot of this exasperation to ourselves. Personally, I love holidays, holidays of all sorts, because I love the homemade traditions that go with them. I love watching cheesy Christmas movies at Christmas time, wrapping and making presents look pretty, decorating, and baking, but sometimes I think that I will miss out on the magic of the season if I do something out of order, not the same as last year, or not at all.

So despite not having watched all of my holiday favorites, having not baked anything in three days, or having all my gifts wrapped, this weekend I said to Shane, “Let’s go for a hike.” Which he interpreted as let’s go squirrel hunting. Tomato-tomahto. I was glad to bundle up and be outdoors with him and Jagger.

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Not to be too cliche, but all that kept running through my head as we walked through the snow was, “Be still and know that I am God.” The forrest was ever so still that day, it was so peaceful, yet every tree, every branch seemed to be crying out, “Oh glorious day!”

I hope you can feel that sense of stillness and quiet from these couple of photo’s from that day paired with Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Be Still and Know” lyrics.

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is holy
Be still Oh restless soul of mine
Bow before the Prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that He has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change
Be still

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still
Be speechless

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is our Father
Come and rest your head upon His breast
Listen to the rhythm of
His unfailing heart of love
Beating for his little ones
Calling each of us to come
Be still
Be still

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Psalm 46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

While You Were Away

Okay, so it was me that was away for most of summer not writing, I just get so distracted with nice weather, places to go, things to do, I don’t take the time to sit in front of my laptop to write. You could say it is fall now, why the hiatus still, but it has been a really warm fall, so getting things done still keeps me from writing. Last weekend, while Shane road Scott’s four wheeler with friends in West Virginia, I stayed home and painted our dreary dining room.

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Our dining room is where I often sit and do things on my laptop, draw, and clearly cook and eat. With gold shag carpet, the unfinished dark red walls were feeling a little suffocating and enough was enough. With the dining room chairs that my mom had gotten refinished for Shane and I now in the dining room, I decided to paint the walls in a bright color that would compliment the Navajo design.

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So turquoise it was! Okay, so the paint sample says something like “Sailing Blue”, but it is a turquoise color, and I love it. To add to that, I had fun, a lot of fun, with texture. It was super simple too, just a little bit of paint on the wall, apply tissue paper, and paint over. Go big or go home they say, and being that I am home, I just went big then sat back and enjoyed my work, excited to show Shane when he got back.

The room is so much happier and I adore the texture. I ordered a southwestern valance, and soon we can check this room off our to-do list!

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Summer Flew By

Summer came and went before I knew it, sunflower decorations have been replaced with pumpkins, and pumpkin recipes are covering my table.

Summer left us with some good memories, a new closet that is oh-so-close to being finished and big ideas for a garage and addition. For now, I’ll leave you with photo’s of our new walk in closet that is still being organized and final touches are being installed.

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This idea of mixing trees into functional furniture always makes its way into Shane and I’s conversation when we are talking about remodeling and doing a DIY project. Of course our closet would have trunks be the focal point. These trees came off Shane’s brother’s property and we came up with all the measurements, or so we thought, for all the piping and set to work on turning the blue bedroom into our master walk-in closet.

The thing is, when we put together our plan for the lay out, we didn’t think about where the studs were. This is fairly important when you are attaching things to the wall. We honestly lucked out by starting with the corner you see pictured above. As we rounded the bend and realized our mistake, we had enough pipe to edit our design. Had we started on any other wall, that may not have been the case.

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We added shelves to the center of the room, and I have put in baskets that act as drawers. You can see Shane getting creative with some left over wood in this photo.

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On Labour Day Weekend, we got busy again with our closet and Shane’s dad helped us put in our very cool lighting. You can’t see it in this photo, but I promise, as soon as it is done, I can’t wait to show it off. It will tie together this whole mix of nature and industrial, or industrial plus nature look.

Ricketts Glen, the Almost National Park

I happened to stumble across Ricketts Glen when researching “things to see in PA” for a Christmas present I was putting together for Shane. I knew it was important that he and I make “He and I Time” in our new marriage, so although not married last Christmas, I gave him a gift of various parks I basically made a report out of that we could do short weekend trips to. The only thing missing was the MLA citations.

Most of his vacation days would be used up on our honeymoon, then what was left over was to be split with his family vacation and time off at Christmas time for my family and muzzleloader, so these had to be trips I researched had to fit into three days. Out of all the places I looked into, Ricketts became the first park we traveled to together that neither of us had ever seen before. Okay, so technically Leah joined us on our travel there. Actually, to get even more specific, she and I were in her car belting out musical tunes and Shane followed us, after all, Ricketts Glen was on her way home, so she might as well join us for a hike.

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And what a hike it was! We hit the big one right off the bat, the Falls Trail that guided you down stone stairs and over wooden bridges to view some of the most picturesque waterfalls you could ever imagine. There were a few options for starting this trail, and we began ours from the Lake Rose parking lot and traveled counterclockwise on this 3.4 mile circular trail, it was a suggestion we had seen on line, and it said by doing this you’d be taking some of the steeper parts descending rather than climbing, and it did seem that way. Our other option would have been to begin the hike on the Kitchen Creek Falls Trail to take us to the loop of all the waterfalls, but it would add a few miles and therefor time.

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I won’t go on about each fall, and I’m not going to post a picture showing each one of the 17 waterfalls featured on that trail alone. You really can’t grasp their splendor in the pictures, and it is something you just have to see for yourself. It is crazy to think that this gem of a park was almost a national park, but now Pennsylvania gets to call it its own. Something Pennsylvania should be proud of! It was neat to learn that bit of history about this place too.

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We really hit it out of the park the first evening going on this hike. The next day was filled with other walks, but the seeing all the falls was definitely my favorite part. It was a hike that you could do multiple times on one weekend trip and still see something new.

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Clarion River Float

Last weekend was filled with waterfalls and small hikes, and this weekend was spent floating down the Clarion River. Our starting point was Ridgeway, Pennsylvania, and we pulled out at the Halton bridge. It is a two day trip in which we always camp overnight at Pine Tree Island. Shane and I were two of a handful of adults on a youth groups trip.

I have been going on this same trip since I was a small child, nestled in the middle of my parents canoe munching on trail mix. Then I got to enjoy the trip with friends as a member of my childhood churches youthgroup. Through college I still wet along as a sort of leader because we never had an abundance of female leaders on the float. I still go as that female leader, and Shane, this year and last, joined us.

I love the Clarion River float with the youth group. I still live for capture the flag in the dark and don’t mind running full speed in the dark woods. I love sitting around the campfire enjoying everyone’s company. I’m blessed that I can still be a part of this long tradition, and love that Shane can come and enjoy and help out too.

Sunday morning, one of the church’s interns gave a brief message about God creating the beauty around us, and how even when we are right in the thick of it, sometimes we miss the general splendor. We forget how wonderfully creative our God is, and we don’t always make the connection that this creative all-powerful, most powerful being loves us. It really is a breathtaking thought.

God, the creator of the universe, whose creativity surrounds us, loves me and loves you.

It made me think deeper into this idea of God’s presence and the idea of kavanah. Kavanah means “intention” or “direction of the heart”. Each time we pray, we should have this intention or direction of the heart, because as rabbis put it, “A prayer without kavanah is like a body with out a soul.” I read that Abraham Heschel described it as an “attentiveness to God” or the ability to “sense the preciousness of being able to pray”.

That idea of kavanah just so matched the awh that the intern was speaking of. Every morning we get up, not always acknowledging that everything around us was made possible by God, and we are blessed to speak with him. That time we share in prayer is precious, is beautiful, and should be a time we are attentive to him too and not just assume it is me time.

We floated the last day in the pouring rain. Rain on the river creates a different kind of silence than any other. One where your imagination can run wild, but also one where there seems to be a buffer between you and the worlds distractions. The outlook for this week appears to be many more days of rain, and I don’t know if that is how the weather looks in your area, but if it is, and if you can, crack open a window, let the breeze flow in, and let that sense of kavanah fill you.

Luke 19:40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Frances Slocum

When I put together this weekend, it didn’t feel last minute. I got the idea to plan this little trip over Memorial Day a little over a month ahead of time, and Shane and I were really excited by the idea. I pulled up my laptop to reserve a dog friendly camping site at Ricketts Glen and was out of luck. The place was booked solid. Okay, so not entirely solid. I think there was a tent site or two available, but they didn’t allow dogs, and dear Jagger would be coming with us.

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I searched other camp sites near Ricketts Glen, and although places came up, I couldn’t get a sense of what they were like. I expanded my search to other state parks near by, and I was lucky enough to discover Ricketts Glen had a next door neighbor called Frances Slocum State Park. It looked tiny, but with a body of water at it’s center, and a dog site available, I booked it.

Arriving in the evening at site 61 after one hike at Ricketts, the Frances Slocum campground seemed tight, but well kept, and the sites had ample room. The big trees that were on our site is what we needed for our tentsile tent to hover above the ground. We discovered the next day as we took Jagger on a walk that we were the last dog friendly site, so we could walk to the lake and the amphitheater with him, but not beyond us to the group tenting area, which was fine. The night we arrived, it was fairly quite, and we seemed to be one of the only fires that went on until dark, but the next day lot’s of families descended, and soon our quiet little camp ground was full of squeals and giggles from kids, nods from neighbors walking by, and an occasional dog bark, normally from Jagger himself. People still didn’t stay up very late, and everyone really respected the 9 pm quiet time, which made our evening fires very peaceful.

Saturday was spent exploring Ricketts Glen, a very cool state park I will get into in another post. Saturday evening, we did go to the amphitheater and enjoyed the music of Jay Smar, a folk singer who picked and crooned old folk songs and mining songs. Sunday was spent at Frances, beginning with a very long, slow breakfast of breakfast burritos at the fire. I had pre-made these yummy wraps before we left, so we sat at sipped our coffee while the foil wrapped mummies warmed up in the fire.

After breakfast, we searched the country side for a bait shop to get minnows for some bobber fishing in the Frances Slocum Lake. This became a meandering drive of at least an hour, if not longer because we couldn’t find a bait shop. The first one that Google took us too was not a bait shop, the address it dropped us off at was someones house; they didn’t even have a sign on their garage that said bait. Off we went to the another bait shop below 118 in Hunlock Creek called Bait Buddies. He had everything we needed and also had some cool handmade arrows and knives that his son from Maine created.

Back to Frances Slocum we went to do some bobber fishing. Shane commented that maybe once a year he would go bobber fishing usually, but he’s already gone twice this year and he said he can see why people like it. It is indeed relaxing and doesn’t take much effort. In fact, we played cards most of the time. We did get three bass, but lost them right before they were in our grasp, and beyond that we got a crappie and a big blue gill.

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At the end of the weekend, Shane was trying to make a pro and cons list of coming to this particular state park over Pymatuning State Park, and what was really decided was that the proximity to Ricketts Glen made this one appealing, otherwise Pymatuning is bigger and closer. Between the two, Frances Slocum would not win if we were to pick between the two for a weekend of boating and fishing.

But, the history of Frances Slocum was really neat, and gave the little park another point on the pro’s list. Apparently on of the trails, there is a rock shelter where five year old Frances Slocum was kept an evening by the Delaware Tribe Indians who took her from her family in 1778. She grew up as Maconaquah and stayed with her Indian family even after her brothers, who never gave up the search, found her as an adult.

Over all, I am glad we found this little gem of a park. We enjoyed live music, fishing, and got to try out our tentsile tent for the first time. Jagger was able to join us because they had dog friendly sites, which resulted in him enjoying his own tent. We weren’t far from Ricketts Glen, and although it wasn’t our original intent to stay there, we did and found out some great Pennsylvania history.

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Greek Yogurt Strikes Again

This weekend we were promised rain, and by the percentage pictured on Shane and I’s weather app, it appeared as though that our whole weekend would be dreary and wet. That, fortunately, was not the case. It did rain, but we were able to get lots of outside things done. Up to two hundred trees got planted all around our ten acres ranging from winterberry to hackberry, and lot’s of flowers got planted.

Every time we wander around our property, we seem to discover something new. Or we at least take the time to enjoy something different than the time before. This time, we noted all the wild onion we had. Shane stated he enjoys gathering it while fishing on the Slippery Rock Creek to cook with the trout he brings home, but with no trout, the onion we picked was up for grabs.

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I wanted to make something fresh with the onions to munch on that matched my mood of felicity for springtime, and also use up some Greek yogurt. So after all the planting, I whipped up a healthy and delicious salad. This Cauliflower Cilantro Salad leaves the cauliflower uncooked and is great after a long day of planting things.

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A word of warning, don’t make this salad if you aren’t a fan of crisp cucumber, crunchy cauliflower, or the spiritedness of cilantro.

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Cauliflower Cilantro Salad

  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 6 wild onions, sliced (or green onions)
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  1. Chop cauliflower into bite sized pieces
  2. Combine with halved tomatoes, chopped cucumber, sliced onions, cilantro and Greek yogurt

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First Dayers

Opening day of trout went off splendidly! My first cast, I reeled back in a lovely, little rainbow. I can honestly say that was the first time that has ever happened to me. This, I think, got everyone keyed up to get their own; in our early morning fishing party there was my husband, my dad, and my cousin Leah. Leah has never been fishing, this was something Scott promised to do with her, and they never got the chance. So out on Parker Dam we went to be “first dayers” as my husband calls them.

He and Scott were never “first dayers”, in fact, they often were annoyed by all the people who stand shoulder to shoulder on our shoresides that one day a year. Though my dad took me to places Like Moose Creek in Clearfield, Pennsylvania and out on streams in South Dakota’s Custer National Park, my father and I, for sake of tradition, often were Shane’s loathed “first dayers.” He teased about bringing his sleeping bag and camping chair to Parker Dam so that he could stay warm as he napped with his bobber and Power Bait in the water.

Then cast, bizzzz, plunk, and “I got one!” happened, and Shane perked up, Leah and my dad too. My dad was the next one to pull a flipping-flopping trout to shore. I think it was impressive to Leah to see fish getting caught so quickly, and I am sure it gave her the wrong idea. It took her until the afternoon before she finally got her own slippery, wiggly trout, and it was a good moment.

For our Easter dinner I cooked up five of the trout for people to try. It by no means was the staple protein at the table, but I was excited to share our bounty. Mainly the men munched on the fish, but others did give a small bite a try. All last year I had been wanting to cook up this recipe for Shane, and for what ever reason, mainly for lack of trout, I never got to. Finally, he got to see why I enjoy keeping the trout I catch.

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While we all enjoyed the fuss and excitement of the first day of trout, Monday was a less adrenaline filled day. Leah and I went to the gym, then out for lunch in this area I am now calling home. Conversation focused around Scott as we talked about things that made him so great, plans they had had, and things they had done. It was a good and needed day that ended with something he was truly passionate about, fly fishing.

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Leah put on hip-waders for the first time and her lesson began with Shane in the waters of Lake Arthur. I myself am still learning, so I didn’t have any input on the lesson and was practicing my own motion of the fly rod. The only thing I encouraged was to come out further because we could see striper action on the water. She did catch a bluegill before we went in and discovered that for the last half of it, she was with out a fly due to the whipping she was doing instead of casting. I was lucky enough to catch a bluegill and a striper, and I lost count of how many fish Shane caught.

When we were packing up Leah commented on how this was fun, but not a hobby she would probably get into alone, right away. Shane reassured her that he was by no means an expert even though he had been doing it since he was a kid and that there are always things to learn with it. I guess that is one reason out of many our guys got so into fly fishing, there is always new things to learn, to catch, to try, and during it all, you are in the beauty of God’s creation.

When Scott said that he felt closest to God out in His creation, it is like he really got what C.S. Lewis was saying in his quote, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” If we hear the red wing black bird’s song as the water laps at our hip-waders and our rod goes whooshing through the air and don’t acknowledge that God created and gave us those things, finding peace while fishing Monday night may have been nearly impossible. Fortunately for us, that moment was a part of God’s peace painted out before us to partake in.

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All three of us out there on the water have experienced a loss of someone who we loved. Believe me, at times it feels really unfair, and we are still wading through waves of emotions. But at the end of the day, we can have peace. Fly fishing on Monday was a moment of peace that energized our souls, enjoying God’s handiwork, from bright pink sunset, to scaly stripers. I honestly went back to Jonah a few times this weekend and remembered that God is a God of mercy and keeps his promises, even ones to give us peace.

Numbers 6:25-26 “the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”