Reflections on Lies We Believe

This one from the archives.  And while some of the details are different now, the heart of the message bears repeating…..

Last week was wild busy and I didn’t have time to think about the downward spiral my mind was caught in, the rapid free fall my thoughts had given way to.  How does a depression that I can count on coming always manage to catch me off guard and suck me in before I realize how bad it’s gotten?  It came early this year with the realization that the holidays would be spent without Amania and I just couldn’t ever get off that emotional roller coaster.  And last Saturday night it all came crashing down.  Matt and I sat at dinner and I cried over my chimichanga.  We talked long about kids and marriage and life and ministry and so much more.  We went to bed, depleted and numb, and I opted to stay home on Sunday morning, unable to come up with the energy to put on my “church face” and pretend like all was well when absolutely nothing seemed “well” at all.

So, God and I, we sat and talked over coffee and the Bible and a legal pad.  I listened and I took notes.  And I recognized the lie that the devil had been whispering to my soul for months.  I don’t know when it happened, I know it sneaks in from time to time, but I picked up that old lie again – that lie that I have to be someone else, we have to be someone else.  That their marriage is better; that their kids are better behaved, better adjusted.  That her home is  cleaner, better decorated, more peaceful.  That she’s in better shape, seems to have it all together, never gets discouraged.  That her husband does this and their kids do that and she never seems to struggle, so what’s wrong with us?  That in everything, in every way, I have failed.

And God, He so gently reminded me that He made me just the way I am.  Yes, I am expected to grow, mature, and become more like His Son, but that doesn’t mean becoming some other created being.  When He made me so long ago, He knew what my bent would be – how I would love, how I would mother, how I would teach, serve, live.  He knew I would struggle with patience and I am confident that He laughed just a little as He placed each girl in my womb and in my heart at my general intolerance for drama (other than my own, of course).  When He gave me a husband whose primary love languages are physical touch and encouraging words, He knew that those would be the two love languages hardest for me to give.  He knew.  And I can rest in the fact that He knew.  I don’t have to compare our home, our family, our school to the family down the street or across the country or on the other side of the computer screen.  I can rest confidently in what He is doing right here, right now, in our home, in our family.  He knew exactly what our strengths and our struggles would be when He brought us all together.  I can also trust that He’s not finished.  He will keep working in us and through us and for us – for His glory and our good.  So I choose to rest confidently in Him and in His promises.  He is faithful.

For His Glory ~

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On Being Present

A needed reminder from the archives.  Appropriately enough, as I head out of town.  

I realize this morning as I lay in bed, wide awake and talking to God at 3:15, that I have completely checked out on this school year.  And, ashamed as I am to admit it, I have checked out of family life in a lot of ways the past couple of months.

This year started off well.  The first month was one of our best ever.  And then some switch flipped, or a series of switches, I’m not sure….but this has been, hands down, the most challenging school year we’ve done.  Not for any one thing or subject or child, just every day a waking up and realizing we are going to fight the same battles today that we fought yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.  And I realized that at some point in the past six months, I threw up my hands in defeat and gave in to merely making it through this year, pinning all of my hopes of improvement on next year with new curriculum, new plans, and new possibilities.

As my children go through their day reminding me more and more of chickens in a barn yard – distracted, squawky, messy, and pecking a lot at each other – I wonder what on earth is missing, what am I doing wrong?  And I realize it’s me.  I’m at the table, but I’m not present.  I’m in the room, but my mind is two dozen other places.  And I believe that therein lies the answer, they sense my absence and surrender to the madness and they sense the lack of structure in spite of all the systems and structures I have in place.  They need my presence more than anything – not just physical, but mentally engaged, emotionally available.

And I believe that’s the hardest part of this.  To make myself emotionally available to people who daily have the capacity to hurt me, most often unintentionally.  To have their fleshly natures thrust in my face each moment of each day, thus baring my own sin nature as well….it’s hard.  And exhausting.  And that’s why I’ve withdrawn.  Distance is easier than dealing with it day after day after day.  And that’s a totally wrong way of handling my kids.

So, today, on this last day of the 3rd quarter of the school year, on this Leap Day 2012, we will do a little bit of school this morning, then head out on a couple of field trips.  I will do my best to engage my girls and set a new tone for the last nine weeks. I can’t pin all my hopes on next year.  Next year doesn’t need that kind of pressure.  I can only choose to be available to my family and make each day the best it can be.  And this is a scary thing to put out there.  Not only for the brutal honesty of it all, but also the accountability, because now I have to engage.  I can’t just think about it and ignore it.  I have to do it, knowing that I don’t have the emotional energy to do this day in and day out.  But God, He gives grace each day, mercies every morning.  And if He has called me to this, which I believe He has, then I can also trust Him to equip me for the task.  As I had my quiet time this morning and these thoughts all rolled around in my head, He gave me this as I opened the devotions on my phone:

“You are on the right path.  Listen more to Me, and less to your doubts.  I am leading you along the way I designed just for you.  Therefore, it is a lonely way, humanly speaking.  But I go before you as well as alongside you, so you are never alone.  Do not expect anyone to understand fully My ways with you, anymore than you can comprehend My dealings with others.  I am revealing to you the path of Life day by day, moment by moment.  As I said to My disciple Peter, so I repeat to you:  Follow Me.”  ~ Jesus Calling, February 29

There will be more hard days, but my Jesus is with me, every step, and my kids deserve to have me – all of me – here with them.

For His Glory ~

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Emptied to be filled

I hate to say it, but it’s true….when you come off a mountain top weekend you can expect to find yourself in a valley come Monday.

All weekend I listened to women I admire speak and share from their hearts and ignite passion in their listeners.  I had complete and uninterrupted thoughts for 8 whole hours on a Saturday.  Then I went to dinner with my beloved.  I felt like a woman who had dreams and goals and aspirations (and a brain that could think deep thoughts) again.

And Monday dawned and real life resumed and trying to fit in the passion and purpose and calling is hard when your day is spent in obedience to God but not where your gifts are.

I do not disdain this place where I’m at.  This motherhood is an incredible gift and this home schooling is where God is shaping me most. And I can only trust that by the time the last one graduates I will have learned what I need to learn, and I can hope that I learn it before then.  And as ugly and messy and imperfect as our days may be, I know that I know that I know this is where we are supposed to be.

But as I work out what God is teaching me between making meals and answering math questions and trouble shooting computer problems and drying tears over broken doll glasses, I pray.  I pray that He would take the gifts that He made me with and use them.  Somehow, in the midst of this mundane, use them.  For His Kingdom, for His glory.

And I want to pray that I will find fulfillment in this task He’s given me.  That home schooling would satisfy me and make me feel my purpose.  But maybe my fulfillment isn’t the point.  Perhaps the point is a constant emptying of myself and being filled by Him.  Perhaps that’s the lesson in this valley.  Yes, He gave gifts that are to be used to point others back to Him.  But maybe the greatest gift is pouring these gifts I can see back out to Him at this time, day after day after day, and doing something hard and uncomfortable and inconvenient and absolutely draining.  And resting in Him to fill me with His grace.

For His Glory ~

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Wasted…

Relying on God has to start over every day, as if nothing has yet been done.

~ CS Lewis

 It’s not been a banner parenting week.  I’ve been irritable, overwhelmed, tired, and generally unpleasant to be around.  I’ve spent too much time on FacebookInstagramPinterest and not enough time engaging with real people (i.e., the ones I live with).  I’ve complained too much, let goals fall by the wayside, and eaten way too much chocolate in the past 36 hours (Exhibit A – the jar of chocolate chips sitting in front of me).  I sent the girls to my mom’s today to make cookies, partly to give them a friendlier face to be around.

I gave myself a pep talk on Wednesday, and I felt a lot better.  Until Thursday dawned and I need the pep talk again but didn’t have the mental energy to give it. So we slogged through the day much like we slogged through the week.

I hate weeks like this.  Weeks where I sit here and honestly feel like I just wasted five days of my life.  I did what was necessary to keep us all alive and moving forward, but I don’t feel like I gave the best of myself, or even close to that.  But the fact is, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about the past five days.  They are over and done with. I don’t get them back, I don’t get a do over.  I did get to ask my girls’ forgiveness this morning as I drove them to classes – forgiveness for being a cranky, inattentive mom all week.  And of course they forgave, because kids are awesome like that.  And I do get to try again.  To hit a mental reset on my life and disconnect a bit from social media while reconnecting with my favorite little humans.  To pray again for God to give me His eyes and His heart for my children (in all their human quirkiness) and that He would help me get over my selfish self.

And that sort of refreshing, make-me-new grace is something to rejoice about.

May your weekend be filled with the fullness of God and the humble beauty of fully relying on Him.

For His Glory ~

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Still

We’ve reached that point in winter when I begin to seriously wonder if we will ever be warm again.  If my children will ever be able to take all of their unbridled, squealing energy outside and bless the neighbors with it again.  If my shoulders will ever un-tense from the chronic hunch of trying to stay warm.  Winter…I’m just not a fan.

Dangling Snow Man

And this winter started early and has been brutally cold for all of us and January has seemed to crawl along even slower than usual.  And I stare down February on my calendar.  February – that last short month before we can finally, honestly, hope to be warm again.  That month before March and the official start of spring and the promise that winter really will end and longer, sunnier days are coming soon.

And I think of a friends Facebook post last night – one wondering why we weren’t made to hibernate, because isn’t that what most of us want to do right now anyway?  Hunker down and not leave the house until temps at least stay above freezing?

Last Friday night we had the opportunity to go to the symphony.  It was beautiful and lovely, but as I sat there with no wifi and no data signa and nothing to look at or do, I talked to God in my head and realized my own inability to be still and listen.  And if I struggle so much to be still and listen to beautiful music in a beautiful setting played by musicians I can see in an environment where there is really nothing else to do, how real must be my struggle to be still and listen to God?

And I realize this morning as I sit and wait (a theme for this school year it seems), that I have two choices.  I can view February and the last long weeks of winter as a trial to be endured, as monotonous, frozen boxes to check off a calendar page, as a cold, empty hallway where I wait for the door to warmer weather to open.  Or I can view February as an opportunity.  An opportunity to be still and rest before my God and before the busy of spring hits in full force.  I can see February and the remaining cold as a chance to be still and settle in here, to be present in our home before the busyness of two soccer seasons and art shows and trips and yard work and all that comes with the onset of that sunnier time of year and the urge to be outside and go and do.  I can use February to reset a few already neglected goals and to continue on the path with ones going strong.  I can use February and the remaining weeks of winter to continue to listen to my Lord and to grow in grace as God continues to show Himself faithful in every way.

Be still and know….{Psalm 46:10a}  May we all learn more of that as we walk through whatever waiting season God has us in this year.

For His Glory ~

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2013: Year in Review

As we prepare to say farewell to 2013 and welcome 2014 tonight, it only seems fitting to look back one more time on this super-crazy-good year…

2013 started with me just so thankful that the holidays were over.  Thanksgiving and Christmas without Amania last year was indescribably difficult, and for the first time I can remember, I was just happy it was over.  We rolled right on through January and February waiting for news, and in March our answer came – our girl was coming home!

But, first – one last vacation as a family of six to our favorite ranch in Colorado – Lost Valley!

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It snowed and it was cold and Matt was sick and exhausted and in some ways the trip was a forecast for our whole year – good, but not easy, but like everything else, I’m so glad we did it.

Just a few short days after that, Matt and I packed up to head to Haiti to bring our girl home….

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And then the process of adjusting to this new family member began.  Everyone did amazingly well and it wasn’t long really before she felt like just another one of our girls.  It has been a continual process in some areas, and will be for some time, I’m sure; but we are blessed in how easy, all things considered, the transition has been.

And then it snowed.  In May.

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And then, because our lives were just too normal (???), we decided to buy a new (to us) house.  And so, what was meant to be a relaxing summer of bonding and recovery turned into an insanely busy summer of packing, home repairs, moving, showings, inspections, closings, unpacking, painting, and more.  I’ve never been so happy to see a summer end and a school year begin, just so we could have some structure to our lives again!  But, it was totally worth it.

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in with the new(er)….

And all that crazy ended up pushing me over the edge and I faced a season of depression I haven’t seen in years.  And God, in His great wisdom and mercy, introduced our family to essential oils and we have become completely committed to this crazy, oily way of life.  And because of my (sometimes excessive) transparency, I have been blessed with the opportunity to share oils with many old and new friends and watch them also find healing in these seemingly simple treasures.

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In August we started a new school year and we settled in a bit and since then we’ve helped organize a race and had friends visit and taken road trips and celebrated birthdays and life has been beautiful.

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And we played soccer and we played volleyball and I got a tattoo to remind me that hope is that anchor for the soul that gives the heart wings.

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And Thanksgiving and Christmas came again and everything was different because everything has changed.  And two years ago I never would have guessed I could be happier than I was then and a year ago I never would have guessed what a year would bring and today I wouldn’t change a thing.

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And a video, just for fun, because watching Amania open her “big gift” as we call it, on Christmas morning, was absolutely priceless….

(click the photo and it will take you to the video in a new window)

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As we prepare to say farewell to 2013 and welcome 2014 and I look back on this crazy year, I can’t help but have a heart full of thanks for God’s faithfulness, mercy, and goodness.  His love never fails.

Looking forward to a new year of adventure with my favorite people and following God wherever He may lead us.

For His Glory ~

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Joy Find #16 – another year of God’s unending faithfulness and love

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Celebrating My Love

Today my best friend, my beloved, my favorite, celebrates another year of life and I celebrate the gift he is to me, to our family.  I continue to stand amazed at how God blessed me with this man and how thankful I am for the chance to live life with him.

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I’ve shared many times (maybe too many) about how this year has been defined by changes, all good changes, but several big changes.  And those changes had some big effects on each of us individually and on our marriage.  Matt walked with me through a deep valley of depression the likes of which I hadn’t seen in well over a decade, maybe since before we met.  I know he became discouraged when he felt there was nothing he could do to help me, but he never gave up and has been more than supportive as I’ve recovered.

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I watched as people who never had an opinion before suddenly had loud and significant opinions about our family life and his work schedule and the choices we make.  And he stood firm, recognizing that the path God is leading us down is no ordinary path and we may be misunderstood and it may be lonely, but with God we are where we should be.

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And this year our marriage took a beating that I don’t feel like we’ve had since the first year we were married (the year that both of us thought we had made a horrible mistake and wished there was a way out).  It has been a long, hard year for our marriage, but by God’s grace, we have held on to Him and to each other, never giving up hope that things will one day get better, get back to where they were.

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And as our lives start to settle down, just a little, and we find this “new normal” I see glimpses of us again.  But even if things don’t ever get back to what we once were (even though I’m sure they will), there’s still no one else I’d rather do life with, no one else better suited for me, no one else I want to grow old with.  And I believe we will laugh at the crazy days we’ve come through and we will laugh at the days to come, because of the Hope that lives in us.

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For His Glory,

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Joy Find 15 – my beloved
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Revisiting the unpacking….

A repost from the archive as friends and loved ones return from Haiti and sort through the raw and real and the American dream.

I’ve sat here for nearly an hour, trying to figure out what to say.  I sort through this past ten days and don’t know what to think.  I sit here, my emotions a strange combination of protective numb and completely raw.  I don’t know if I should sleep or cry.  I only know I don’t feel like I expected to feel.

This orphanage has been a part of our lives for a few years and a huge part of our life for the past twelve months.  I have lived it in other peoples stories and pictures and in my own mind I have dreamed of the day I would get to go.  And now I’ve lived it for myself for eight days.  Eight wonderful, hard, dirty, beautiful days.  And I guess I just expected to feel differently today.  But I honestly don’t know how I feel yet.  Just that numb rawness.  How do those two even co-exist?

I sort laundry and I sort memories.  I wash out Haitian dirt and pray to never wash out Haiti memories.  Those kids.  Their laughs.  The singing.  The cheers every time our truck pulled into the compound.  The food distribution.  Two hundred people with nothing, showing us around their village, showing us their homes.  Two hundred voices lifted in praise to God so thankful we have come.  We leave rice and beans to fill their stomachs for a few days, maybe a week?  They have filled our hearts for a lifetime.  The crazy trips into town. The traffic.  The wild driving.  The stories of Matt driving the Isuzu.     Pterodactyl.  The dirt that you can never get off your skin for very long.  The three minute cold showers that felt better than my ten minute hot showers at home.  Taking some of the kids up to the beach.  Water like I’ve never seen before – green-blue wonder.  Haiti is so beautiful….why do they not develop that?  That old woman on the side of the road.  What becomes of someone like that in a country like that?  The beauty of this people amidst all this poverty.  Knowing that it is their poverty that makes them love Jesus all the more.

I think of meals with the team and laughing and new friendships formed and all of the strange references I’ve heard that finally make sense, have context.  I think of Stan’s message on Sunday and Daniel’s passionate translation and the looks on the faces of those Haitians as they heard bagpipes probably for the first time ever.  I think of Nicole’s testimony and how it tapped some deep well of emotion.  I think of crying on the porch of the medical clinic with Matt as I try to process all of these feelings amidst all of the fatigue.

I think of all those little companions I had for eight days.  A dozen shadows everywhere I went.  I think of Liknay and how he nearly drove me crazy, but somehow I miss his ornery face.  I think of Misterline and Camberry and Adline and Miliane and Stella.  Those sweet girls and how they cried when it was time for us to go and I wonder do they still hope for a family or do they believe they have run out of time, that this is their life?  I think of beautiful Shela and the mama she is to my girl and how I know it tears her heart out that one day Amania won’t be there anymore and yet she loves her well.

I think of meeting my girl for the first time.  Shyness.  Tentative love.  How she warmed up to me but stayed cool toward Matt.  I think of yesterday morning and how she cried so hard before school Nicole let her stay with us until we had to leave.  I think of sitting there at the table, her on my lap, just counting down the minutes, wanting to get this band-aid ripped off, so to speak, get the leaving over with because I know it’s going to be hard, but I have no idea how hard.  I think of her starting to say softly “kay” in Creole and pointing outside.  We ask the social worker there what does this mean.  And he tells us “kay” means house, home.  And I feel my heart break into a million pieces.  I think of going outside and her pointing to that truck, begging through her tears for us to put her on it, to take her with us and having to tell her no, that she must stay and praying to God she trusts us when we say we will come back for her.  I think of literally peeling her off of me and getting on that truck with my head low so I can’t see her, thankful that the loud motor of the Isuzu helps drown the sound of her tears.  I think of Matt weeping as he has to leave his little girl there, unable to do what men are made to do – protect, provide.

And here I still sit…raw and somewhat numb.  A good tired.  A good overwhelmed.  One cannot have these experiences and not be changed.  The effects of the fall are so obvious in a place like Haiti.  Here we gloss over them.  We make our sin shiny and clean looking.  There man’s brokenness is undeniable, in your face, unavoidable.  Even though I feel somewhat numb, I do not want to become numb to what I saw, heard, smelled, felt.  God is at work.  He is on the move.  I want to be part of whatever He is up to, even if it means having my heart shattered time and again because that is what He has done for us.

For His Glory ~

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* originally posted February 10, 2012

God With Us….

On a Monday morning when everyone is moving slow, after a weekend of soul-wrestling with God, I can only stop and give thanks for His mercies, for the Word, and for my Jesus who ministers to an aching heart.  And I list the gifts – tangible and intangible reminders of His love…..




2725.  old chipping wicker and screened porch

2726.  cool autumn mornings

2727.  the return of soup weather

2728.  God’s perfect, unfailing, unchanging promises

2729.  volleyball games

2730.  weeks where I’m gone too much and it feels like the house is falling apart

2731.  wise words spoken

2732.  showing grace to myself

2733.  a phone free weekend

2734.  a phone revived!

2735.  little bits of quiet

2736.  weeks of struggling; leaning hard on faith

2737.  Legos everywhere; little girls imaginations

2738.  laughing with my oldest; loving time with her

2739.  Monday morning quiet, weekend mess still sprawling

2740.  seeking revelation, wisdom

2741.  encouraging words at just the right time

2742.  letter sounds practice with the smallest one

2743.  her willingly sounding out blends

2744.  clean house and how it eases the mind

2745.  game room half clean

2746.  beautiful Saturday full of good things

2747.  a Monday off

2748.  honking geese flying south

2749.  a concert with my favorite

2750.  a road trip with the middle

2751.  three days with Chandler – talking, laughing, enjoying each other

2752.  welcome home surprises of painted living room and projects finished

2753.  a God who knows my heart and my struggles and loves me anyway and wants to make me whole

2754.  every little bit of hope He gives

2755.  a living room we want to live in

2756.  little touches that make it home

2757.  dinner, laughter, feeling understood

2758.  Saturday morning Ellie snuggles

2759.  fire pit beauty, laughing together

2760.  gold colored leaves

2761.  overcast fall days

2762.  watching basketball as a family

2763.  another team in Haiti

2764.  a week with my girls

2765.  a heavy heart that draws close to Jesus

2766.  a few words, glimmers of hope, strength for tomorrow

This year has been defined by so many very good things and yet so much soul-wrestling with God.  He has taken me to lonely places this year, isolated my heart, and it has felt so dark and silent.  So much time can go by and I feel like I hear nothing and only sink deeper.  But God is there and He is shaping and molding and growing and changing.  Even in the dark, especially in the dark.  He is doing something wonderful and today I can see glimmers of beauty and wonder and light.  He may lead me back into the dark tomorrow, but even in this I can give thanks.

As we enter another holiday season, let us turn our hearts toward the light of His love and trust Him even when He feels far away and silent.  He is good and His ways are perfect and He is always Emmanuel – God with us.

For His Glory ~

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When Hope Gives Wings

For nearly twenty years the clouds have followed me.  For nearly two decades I have wrestled with doubt, fear, overwhelming sadness, and despair.  For nearly twenty years, I have struggled with depression.  Like the clouds, it comes and it goes and often it is seasonal.  But when it hits, it is heavy.  And lonely.  And dark.

But, God, He is the God of light and life and promise and through every season He has carried me and shown me grace and mercy and tenderness.  But most of all it has been His hope that has carried me through the dark seasons.  And it’s the hope found in His word that gives the most comfort…

  • Though he slay me, I will hope in him.  (Job 13:15)
  • Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 33:18)
  • And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)
  • Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.  (Psalm 42:5)
  • For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5)
  • For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. (Jeremiah 29:11-14a)
  • But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him. (Lamentations 3:21-24)
  • Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope.  I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles. (Zechariah 9:12)
  • In hope he believed against hope… (Romans 4:18a)
  • Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
  • Let your hope make you glad.  Never stop praying.  Be joyful always. (Romans 12:12 paraphrase)
  • So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20)

And that’s just a few of them.  And when a word comes to define what God is doing in your life, when a word from His word is what you cling to and your forgetful heart needs it ever present before your eyes a constant reminder, you write it all over the house but it’s still not enough, and sometimes you just want to write it on your skin where you can never stop seeing it.  So finally one day, you do….

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Hope – that anchor for the soul that gives wings to the heart.

And the battle isn’t over, but we will continue to fight, because God gives hope.

For His Glory ~

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