NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

The Value of Relationships

This past Friday my Grandmother passed away. She was my Dad’s mom, and like many grandparents in America, she lived in Florida. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, but I have gotten to talk with her on the phone a few times and send her pictures of things I’ve been doing.

She was a very kind, Christ-honoring woman, who loved her family well and served Jesus throughout her life. One of the stories I heard about her in the memorial service was that she and my grandpa decided to go to their church’s new modern service with all of the young 20 and 30 year-olds and pass out the bulletins every Sunday. That just struck me as such a remarkable thing. They weren’t holding onto what was comfortable or what they grew up with. Both of them were so ready to follow Jesus in whatever He asked them to do. I remember after my grandpa died, my grandma still found ways to serve Jesus. She was really excited about a ministry that shipped Christian books to people overseas, and she would spend time collecting books from friends and people around her so she could send several big boxes every year.

One of my favorite things my grandma did was send me a series of Christian books that had impacted her. As I read them and got to see another glimpse of how amazing God is, I could see how valuable my grandmother’s faith was to her, and how she wanted all of her family to know Jesus the way she did.

I’ve been so blessed to grow up in a Christian family and that’s thanks to my parents and grandparents and the legacy and foundation they laid through their actions and decisions.

I no longer have any living grandparents on earth. I had already lost my previous grandparents, one as recently as this past May. But because of their faith that has continued into the next generations, my family is able to say things like, “She’s happy where she is now,” or “Let’s celebrate her life.”

Life and death take on a whole different meaning when they are viewed with eternity in mind. I can still be sad that she isn’t with me on earth anymore. I’ll miss hearing her voice and getting her sweet cards and phone calls. But I know this isn’t the end of our relationship. I will get to see her again and all of my grandparents again and that’s exciting.

All this thinking about eternity is reminding me of how important relationships are compared to everything else. Money, food, entertainment, all the little tasks and projects that seem to fill my time, won’t matter much in eternity, and most of them won’t last to eternity. But relationships do. People are eternal, and our relationships with them can continue past this life.

So while I’m living here on earth God has reminded me to see people the way He sees them. They are eternal beings that have deep value and are much more important than what I want to do or get done.

So anyway I hope you have a blessed day and remember to value the people in your life and remember to thank God for them.

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A Texas Hoedown in London

I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t had much time to blog or tell stories from my trip to London. But I finally had a free Saturday, so I thought I’d write about one of the cool things our church group got to do.

On our 2nd Friday in London (the first one was when we were still jet-lagged and trying to stay awake) we hosted a Texas Hoedown for the community at the church. It was funny to me that we called it a Hoedown because I can’t say I’ve ever been to a Texas Hoedown myself. I live in the city and although I’ve been to plenty of Barbecues, Rodeos, Concerts, and Dances, I don’t think I can say I’ve been to a Hoedown.

But we gave it our best shot and tried to include anything Texan we could for the community to experience and enjoy. We had BBQ (though it was just burgers and hot dogs not brisket and ribs like I usually think of for BBQ), sweet iced tea, country western line dancing, and a mechanical bull ride. Lots of people came and I enjoyed seeing our students running booths, serving food and interacting with people.

I helped with a yard game called “Hillbilly Golf” or “Ladder Golf.” Several kids came over and wanted to try throwing the golf balls on a rope. I showed them how to swing it and let it go at the right time so it would spin and could wrap around the poles. A few kids got a bit too enthusiastic and threw the balls over the fence or into the tree, but we laughed it off and got some older men to help us figure out a way to get them down.

I especially enjoyed seeing people learn line dances like Boot Scoot Boogie and Copperhead Road. It can be a bit intimidating to try something new, but our team member Joy did a great job of including people and encouraging them to try out the dances.

So many people were laughing and having fun, and some of them had never been to the church before. Relationships were built, and one lady, Eileen, told me how thankful she was for this church and how it’s changed their community. It has provided a place for kids to have fun in a safe place and bring people together.

I learned a lot about how God’s church should be open and welcoming to all kinds of people through this trip. And that He really does want us to connect with our communities, not just become a click that stays separate from everyone else.

Here’s a few pictures from the Hoedown! I hope they inspires you to reach out to people in your community and get to know someone who is different from you.


I hope all y’all have a great weekend!

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Life Changes

So a lot has happened since my last post and I have a feeling I won’t be posting as frequently in the future. On May 10th, I left my house to go to an interview for a new job with a ministry that my dad has been involved with for years. They were wanting to hire a new administrative assistant and it sounded like a good fit for me, so I went to talk with them about working there.

When I drove back to the house, I saw several other cars besides our family’s at the house. I wondered if something had happened. I walked inside and found my parents and sister praying with a family friend and our hospice nurse filling out paperwork at the kitchen table. My mom told me my grandma had passed away around 10:15 am, right as I had gotten to my interview, but she had wanted me to go ahead and do the interview, so she hadn’t called me.

I hadn’t necessarily wanted to be there when my grandma passed away, so I wasn’t upset. And in some ways there was a joyful atmosphere in our home. We were glad that my grandma was home with Jesus. And my mom pointed out that an encouraging song had started playing right as she passed that reminded her that everything would be alright. And she also told me that is was exactly 40 days after Easter, or ‘Ascension Day’ when Jesus returned to heaven after His Resurrection. So it seemed appropriate that my grandma would go home on the same day.

When relatives came later, we cried some. And at her funeral and burial this past weekend there were tears shed. But overall, I’ve felt God’s peace and presence throughout these past couple weeks. And I’ve seen how perfect His timing has been.

I’ve known for awhile that my part time jobs of helping my family would be temporary. My dad is planning on retiring at the end of this year and with my grandma passing, I won’t have my job of taking care of her either. So at just the right time, God opened up this opportunity to serve in a ministry.

I’ve always thought an office job would suit me well and I’m especially excited that it is connected with a ministry that I’ve known about for years and that I know the staff personally. It’ll be good working in that kind of environment, and be a way that I can serve God and His kingdom, but also provide for myself financially.

So last Thursday May 24th I officially said yes to a new full time job as an administrative assistant for the God of Hope Ministries.

I’m just so thankful for God being with me through all these changes and that He has the best plan for my life.

On that note, because this is a full time job, and I have already started training for it, I won’t have as much free time for writing blog posts or novels. So I will still try to write posts occasionally. But I’m not as determined to write a blog post every single week. And my next novel is not as high on my to do list as it once was. I would still like to finish my 3rd novel in the Finding Home Series, but it will probably take longer. I’ll post updates on it as I get closer to publishing.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

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Granny

Today, as my grandma gets closer and closer to passing on, I’ve decided to write about her. Maybe I’ll be able to work out a poem or something in her honor eventually, but for now I’ll share this:

We share a middle name and have a similar height and facial structure. I found an old photo of her when she was young and we look so similar. She liked to garden, go polka dancing, and play Dominoes. In her later years she was quite fond of puzzles and made one with African animals probably a hundred times.

She also had a sweet tooth and would eagerly eat anything with chocolate and peanut butter. We’ve made her chocolate peanut butter shakes for the past few years, and she would almost always ask for more.

She was very supportive, always ready to help when we got in a pickle or needed some cash, or when my parents needed a babysitter or wanted to borrow her big van for family road trips. She loved to give us gifts, and support us on mission trips, or encourage us to travel.

She did a lot of traveling herself. I’m told she went to Alaska twice, Europe, New York City, and Colorado. I remember flying to Hawaii with her. She was so excited to go with us and see the beautiful scenery and wear a lei.

I don’t remember her watching TV very much, if she joined others to watch something, she would often fell asleep. But I do remember going to an actual movie theater with her to watch The Adventures of Tintin and she just loved seeing the little white dog barking and running around.

She owned doxins or dachshunds and cats and I’m pretty sure some other animals at different points in her life.

And she was always very welcoming of new family members. Whenever someone got married, she made the new in-law feel part of the family. I know my dad would call her mom, even though she was my mom’s mom. And I think it’s a trait she’s passed on to the rest of her family. When my younger brother married, his wife was welcomed in as part of the family, free to call my parents mom and dad.

More recently, my grandma told me that her grandma only spoke German, and she had to speak German to talk to her. She would often recite the first 10 numbers in German to herself and tell us ‘good morning’ or ‘tastes good’ in German. I’ve actually started trying to learn some German now, partially because of my Grandma’s heritage and influence.

Even though she wanted to be called Granny, she accepted other names from her grand kids, particularly Nana.

She also had a great sense of humor. When we’d ask her how she was feeling, she’d hold up her hands and say “With my fingers.”

I’m going to miss her when she leaves us. I know it’ll be sad and hard. But I’m also a bit excited for her. Soon she’ll get to be with Jesus, and see all the people who’ve gone before her and are waiting to welcome her to her home in heaven.

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Death is not the end

Hopefully I’m not ruining the new Avengers movie for anyone, but if you haven’t seen it and don’t want any spoilers, maybe you should wait to read this blog post, although I won’t give anything too specific away.

This last week has brought a lot of change for me and a lot of interaction with death and it’s nearness. Last week my grandma started getting hospice treatment. She started with still doing her normal routine of coming to the kitchen for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But she soon had a harder time walking to and from her room and then last Sunday we had her moved into a hospital bed and our nurse said she’s not leaving the bed. That was a big change for me. I didn’t realize how fast this was going to go. I knew she had liver cancer and she was slowing down and eating less, but going from walking to bedridden was a big step and seemed to happen too fast.

Since then we’ve learned all about caring for her while she’s in a bed, how to help her sit up and move around and get changed. And hospice has been great with helping us through that. But in only a week I’ve seen her go from a bit of conversation, eating, drinking and even playing dominoes, to barely responding to our voices and mostly sleeping. We’re getting close to the end now. Last night our nurse came to check on her and she said it’ll be about a week.

I’ve done a lot of crying, especially when all her kids and grandkids gathered to sing, pray and share stories with each other and her on Saturday. It’s hard to let go, but I know she’s going to a better place and this is not the end.

And well, in the middle of all this I saw Infinity War. In the movie a lot of characters die, but the first time I watched the movie I didn’t cry at all. It’s like I just knew this isn’t the end and there is hope, partially because there is a part 2 to this movie and the next one will probably have a lot or all of the characters come back to life.

But I just found it interesting that with the movie and my grandma I can still find hope even in the midst of the death. It is sad and I don’t want to say goodbye. But for those in Christ, we have a sure hope that there is a Part 2 for us too, that there is a future for us, one without pain or suffering, or death. I also was finishing reading Revelation this past week and it was so nice to read about the new heaven and new earth and what all I have to look forward to.

So in case anyone else out there is going through something similar. Here are two verses that are bringing me comfort.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!'” Revelation 14:13

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One Step at a Time

This past week has been hard. Little by little my family has discovered what’s going on with my grandma. It started last Tuesday, right after my last post. I started noticing that my grandma was looking yellow. My mom thought it could be jaundice and told my grandma’s doctor. He quickly ordered a blood test and then we had to wait for the results.

The next day we got the results, my grandma was definitely jaundice and the doctor guessed it was from liver cancer. But he said we could run another type of scan to make sure it wasn’t something else. She got the scan Friday and we again had to wait for results. Meanwhile, my grandma’s 87th birthday was on Saturday and since it was highly likely this would be her last birthday, we went all out. Relatives came in from out of town, we had cake, pie, brisket, and huge balloons. I think my grandma enjoyed it, and I’m glad she hasn’t been in any pain.

Then Monday, while I was taking my mom to her eye appointment, she got the call from the doctor. He said the scan did show a growing mass on my grandma’s liver and at her age he wouldn’t recommend surgery or other cancer fighting options.

So now we’re looking into Hospice and that whole thing. It’s been weird trying to process all of this. Like part of me is just like everything’s normal and I go about my life and work routines. And in a sense I’ve actually been preparing for this for a long time. Ever since my grandma came to live with us, I’ve seen her slow decline in health; her slowing down, sleeping more, having less of an appetite, forgetting the day or time, or even people.

But having a doctor give us an actual diagnosis and timeline is different, it makes it more real, more important to spend time with her while she’s here. And some days I cry, but I know this happens to everyone eventually and that God will be with us through this too.

So anyway, I’m just taking this one step at a time. But I’d appreciate prayers for my grandma and family.

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The Bird on the Wire

Have you ever seen a bird on a telephone wire? I’m sure you have, it’s so common that I often don’t notice it. But today I did. It’s windy today and as I watched, the bird swayed with the wind, buffeted back and forth, sometimes I was surprised he still hung on. I found myself thinking, “Just let go, just fly. It’s what you were made to do.”

But still the bird clung to the wire. And suddenly I saw myself as that bird. I cling to what’s comfortable, holding on to my little piece of wire. Then when the winds come, and life gets hard, when I feel like God is giving me more than I can handle, do I let go and trust Him? Or do I hold more stubbornly to what I want, what I think I need, what’s comfortable? Because when I do let go, I find I can fly. I have a faith that can move mountains, a hope that soars, a joy that can laugh at adversity. But I never experience that thrill if I don’t first let go of what I think will make me happy and trust that God really does have what’s best.

This past week my pastor said we don’t see how great faith is, until we’re in the storm. And as I look back on my life, I can see it’s true. When life is rolling along, everything fairly manageable, my faith doesn’t seem as important. Sometimes I forget it’s actually needed. But when those storms come, when the relative gets cancer, or the friend’s marriage is falling apart, or you lose your job, that’s when faith shows it’s strength. There’s a certain peace, or confidence God gives His children in the midst of suffering that you don’t experience until you’re in those moments. And even though it’s still hard, it’s also really good. The closest to God I’ve felt, has happened when I’m going through a hardship.

So that’s what God has been teaching me today; that He designed me to know Him, to trust Him, to love Him and that I’ll be happiest when I let go of all the other stuff, and choose to love and trust Him. Even if it takes a storm for me to do it, it’s worth it. because knowing Him is worth everything.

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A Cure for Fear and Ability to Forgive

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So there was a bombing in my neighborhood last night. I didn’t even know it had happened till friends started texting me. Then I saw the news. It was weird. I’ve heard plenty of stories about bombings or attacks around the world, my country, state, and even my city. But this one hit close to home. I told my friends I was safe, but part of me didn’t feel safe anymore. I went to bed with helicopters circling overhead and the knowledge that I wasn’t allowed to leave my home until daylight while the police and FBI investigated.

It’s hard to feel like your sense of comfort and security is taken away. But as I thought and prayed about the situation, I was reminded again and again of God’s presence. He promises to never leave or forsake His children. His love drives out fear. His security never fails and even in the midst of these bombings, He is in control. I can’t see all that He sees and I don’t know exactly what He’s doing. But I know I’m not alone and that I belong to Him and I’m safe with Him. He doesn’t promise I won’t face hardship, pain, grief or suffering. But He promises to be with me through it all. And that knowledge gives me hope and peace.

And so my fear has subsided, and my trust and faith in God has been built up. And even though whoever is doing this should be caught and stopped, I also know that whoever it is needs Jesus too. We all need His peace, comfort, love and forgiveness. Just as Jesus forgives and redeems, I want to forgive whoever did this. So, yeah, I’m still processing what’s happened but I thought I’d share my feelings. Maybe someone else out there needed to hear this today.

So if you’re scared, spend some time with Jesus. If you’re worried, rest on His promises. And if you’re facing an enemy, choose to forgive, just as Christ forgave.

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An Unthankful Thanksgiving

I was perusing through some old short stores I’d written several years ago and I came across one that happened at Thanksgiving. It reminded me that it’s just as easy to find things to be thankful for as it is to find things to complain about. You can ruin your own vacation by complaining or you can find joy even if the midst of hardship by being thankful. Sometimes I wonder how much I would have enjoyed that trip if I’d practiced gratitude. I hope this year you focus on the things you’re grateful for and enjoy the blessings God’s given you and don’t get stuck focusing on what’s wrong or hard.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the story!

Thanksgiving Cruise

I think it’s a bit ironic that the only cruise I’ve ever been on was set during the week of Thanksgiving. However, this is one of the trips that I can remember a lot of unthankfulness. But it did teach me a lesson. And it is one trip I’ll never forget.

We started our cruise from Galveston, TX. We should have been very thankful that we didn’t have to fly all the way to Florida to get on a cruise, but unfortunately, we were late getting to the ship, and this caused some bad attitudes.

“If only we would have left when I said we should,” Dad grumbled as he parked the car.

We hurried to unload our many suitcases and glanced up thankfully at the tall ship. At least we weren’t being left behind… yet.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” my younger sister Alicia said with a whine, “I’ve been holding it for fifteen minutes.”

“Just a little longer,” Mom assured her. “We’ll go sign in and I’m sure they have a bathroom somewhere.”

“Come on already,” my younger brother Jonny said with frustration. “I don’t want the ship to leave without us.”

I agreed with Jonny and started following him towards the wharf, with my wheeled suitcase in tow. We soon found the check-in area, and I was a bit relieved to find out that we weren’t the only family that had gotten there late. But there were some consequences. As Dad signed papers, I stared up at the ship’s deck high above us, and spotted groups of passengers clumped together in formation at the lifeboats. They were undergoing a mandatory safety training, and we were missing it.

“You’ll have to do the late training this evening,” the check in person said.

I shook my head; of course it would be my family that missed the safety training. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to experience a Titanic like adventure, but I still wanted to be prepared in case some kind of emergency happened. Now, while everyone else was having fun, we’d have to stand like a bunch of idiots out on the deck and do our safety training, basically singling ourselves out as the irresponsible ones. But it could be worse, at least we didn’t have to do it alone, there were several other families who were late too.

As our trip got underway, I found myself spending a lot of time in our cabin, a tiny room with two bunk beds, and a TV. We watched a lot of old cartoons that I hadn’t even known had existed. There was Adam Ant, and Mighty Mouse, and the Spiderman movie was played continually on one channel.

“Uh, I wish they played some better cartoons,” I whined. “Like Scooby Doo. There’s nothing good on these channels.”

“I’m bored of TV,” Jonny joined in.

“Yeah, I’m so bored.” I knew complaining about being bored was kind of dumb: I was staying in the room watching the same cartoons over and over instead of getting out on the ship. But I didn’t want to make any effort; I just wanted to be entertained. Thus the unthankfulness epidemic grew. Every little thing there was to complain about somehow got mentioned.

“Uh, I wish that stupid rule about not swimming in the adult pool never existed,” I complained.

“Yeah, that current is so fun to play in, and it’s not as crowded as the kid pool,” Jonny added.

“And we’re all good swimmers, it’s not like we need a life guard or an adult to watch us, we can take care of ourselves,” I added.

“You know what I’m sick of?” Alicia asked.

I turned my head lazily to face her, “What?”

“Those lady fingers that they put in all the desserts, they taste disgusting and I’m so tired of having to pull them out of everything.”

“Speaking of food,” Jonny added. “Did you know they ran out of free ice cream in the lounge today? Talk about disappointing.”

This kind of talk would go on and on, and what did we do; sit and watch more boring TV.

Thankfully, this was not the case every day. On the days we were stopped at an island or foreign country, there were chances to explore, and get off the boat. But complaining fests still crept upon us. The worst stop was in Cozumel, Mexico. For some reason, everyone found something to complain about that day, and even though we were all a part of doing something very enjoyable, we focused in on the parts that didn’t meet our expectations.

I climbed into the taxi after Dad had finally flagged down a taxi van that was big enough for our whole family. It had been a long day. We had split up this time with Mom and me going to a ranch to ride horses, and the Dad taking the other kids to the beach. “So what did y’all do?” I asked Alicia.

“Well the boys went swimming and climbed a big blow up iceberg, but it was too far out for me, so Dad stayed with me on the beach. It’s no fun being small. The iceberg looked like fun.”

“Yeah it was,” Jonny said. “But you got to go on the bounce trampoline and do flips.”

“But you got to do both,” Alicia whined. “I wish I could have gone with you Lydia. I would have rather ridden horses.”

“Well it wasn’t too exciting. I was separated from Mom for most of the ride. My horse wouldn’t go at all, even when I kicked like the guide said, he wouldn’t listen. He just walked when the horses in front of him walked. I really wanted to gallop with the others, but when I tried, the horse was still really slow.”

“So you didn’t have fun?” Alicia asked.

“No, it was fun. There was a cool show they did for us where this rider danced with his horse. And we saw a lot of ruins on the trail ride… they looked fake to me though.

“Well I’m starving,” my older brother Brain said. “I can’t wait to get back to the ship. Dad didn’t want to pay for any of the food at the beach. He said it was too expensive.”

Just then we pulled up to the curb. I glanced out the window at the ocean in the distance; there was our cruise ship, still as a sunken log. “Good timing then,” I said. “Let’s go eat.”

We jumped out of the van, ready to get back to our temporary home aboard the ship, but as we started moving towards the ship, a yell disrupted the evening air.

I turned back to see Dad yelling at our Taxi driver, saying something about the amount was wrong and that it shouldn’t be that expensive to drive three miles. I kept walking, hoping the other vacationers returning to the ship didn’t think we were part of the same family. I hated this day, not only had the horse ride been quite disappointing, but now my Dad was having a breakdown about money for the whole world to see. At that moment, it seemed like I was on the worst vacation ever.

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Thankful

Me and my Mom

This month always reminds me that I should be more thankful and not take things for granted. But I am particularly thankful this year because my family has been going through some hardships recently and the response from my family in Christ has been so amazing.

So to start the story, back in October, the 23rd to be exact, my mother woke up with very bad back pain that was shooting down her right leg. She has experienced something like this before, and thought as long as she went to the chiropractor, everything would be fine. So she went, and used all her normal tricks to relieve the pain, but it didn’t go away, it just kept getting worse and worse.

The next day the pain was bad enough that she couldn’t drive and it was torture to walk. So we borrowed my grandma’s walker and I drove and then wheeled her to another chiropractor appointment. He ordered an x-ray and MRI scan since the pain was still not going away. We got the x-ray but had to wait a few days for the MRI.

The next day was probably one of the hardest days of my life. I woke up to a phone call from my mom. She was ‘sleeping’ downstairs in our living room, since going up the stairs was too painful. She hadn’t slept and she was in the worst pain I’d ever seen: crying, screaming, and breathing like what a woman does when she’s in labor. She said she couldn’t take the pain anymore so we were going to the doctor’s office so they could give her something for the pain. She didn’t even want the walker or a jacket because it was cold outside, she just wanted to go. So I drove her to the doctor and we ended up using a wheelchair, since she couldn’t walk without crying. They gave her shots and a prescription for the pain. And finally, after she got the pain pills, she was able to get some relief.

The next days were a whirlwind of more appointments and prescriptions and finding out from the MRI that she had a herniated disk that was pressing down on the nerve. Adding this to the normal routine of caring for my grandma, working for my Dad, driving my sister to her appointments, and serving at church and I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.

But God is faithful and my church family is amazing. First, one of my friends at my small group offered to bring a meal. Then one of my oldest friends called to check on me and let me just talk and cry and see her cute baby on the phone screen. Then as time progressed, more and more people said they were praying for me and my family and checked to see how we were doing. One family even set up a Care Calendar for our church to bring us meals.

It was a little weird for me to be the recipient of help, because I’m usually the one giving it, but it made me realize just how blessed I am to have so many friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who care. So I am thankful for all of them today. And I’m happy to report that my mom is making progress. The injections, and chiropractic treatments are slowly helping. She can now walk for short distances and today she drove a car for the first time since all this started.

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