Deer and Cardinals: A Reminder of God’s Fulfillment

I didn’t manifest this. I didn’t write this down every day in a journal for 7 years. I didn’t hustle for this. I didn’t even dare to pray for this, y’all. I could tell you the whole story, but what it comes down to is this: I —my family— was given this. By God Himself. Being able to live at Camp Zephyr has been such a gift to my family, and has taught me so many valuable lessons. I’m sharing one with you today.

When I am outside, at Camp Zephyr, I am in a state of being I never thought possible. I am at peace. My kids roaming, and exploring the amazing trails. I am playful. I’m spontaneous, and can go from one trail or plan to the next in a heartbeat. My desire for productivity ceases. I have no to-do list other than to play and explore and be with my children, and I intend to repeat that continuously. 

I never knew this could exist. My whole existence before Zephyr revolved around to-do lists, goals, and other people’s expectations.  And was coupled (or crippled may be a better word) with LOTS of anxiety.

But here? In the middle of nowhere? I can breathe. I can step outside our RV and instantly see the lake, deer, rabbits, and cardinals. My kids can join me, and I’m not mad about it. I don’t have this constant desire for “me time.” I look forward to coming home, and I enjoy staying there. I no longer want to escape. I want to linger. I want to explore. Go deeper into the woods with my kid’s muddy hand in mine. Who knows what’s out there?

I feel like a door has been unlocked to my heart. There was a longing. There was always a longing. A longing for the country.  A longing for space and stillness. A longing to rest.

But I hardly voiced it. Maybe a few times I talked about living out in the country, just to get shut down by the reality of our circumstances. You better believe I never asked to live at Camp Zephyr. That was something I never thought would happen. But you know what? My kids asked. Every day when we were at Camp Zephyr last summer, they asked us to live here. There’s a reason (well, many reasons) God instructs us to be like the children… they ask and they ask with faith. But me? It was barely a whisper in my soul… but God heard it. He heard it and He continues to hear the whispers of our souls.

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Last summer, I was sitting in my sister’s, Rachel, backyard in Virginia. I had flown there the night before. We were drinking a quick cup of coffee before starting our road trip to Texas. Her backyard backs up to a forest, so wildlife and trees and NATURE are plentiful. We happened to see a deer and cardinal in her backyard that morning. And in that morning, I said (probably with an ache in my voice), “I wanna live somewhere with deer and cardinals.” 

Fast forward a few months later. I’m talking on the phone with Rachel, and she asks how living at Zephyr is going. I start going on and on about how I love it, and how I see deer and cardinals every day. She stops me mid-sentence, and says, “Sister! You got your deer and cardinals!” Y’all I had completely FORGOTTEN about that statement I made in Virginia months ago. When Rachel reminded me of that full circle moment, I lost it. I cried on the phone, and she cried on the phone, and we were reminded of the goodness of God.

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He longs to fulfill those whispers. He longs to bring us closer to Him. He fulfills those whispers to share His goodness. To show us just how big He is… and in my case, I think He fulfilled the whisper also to show me that He fulfilled this longing. Not me and my efforts. Your whisper might not be deer and cardinals, but God knows it. He can fulfill it.

I continue to be amazed. Who am I? That you are mindful of me?

Discouraged to Encourage

A friend of mine made such an interesting connection when studying Ezra 4. She said the 3 words from that chapter kept sticking out in her mind, as if God was highlighting them for her: discouraged, futile, and afraid. It was like a lightbulb went off in her head. That’s exactly what happens to her when the enemy is attacking her. This is what happens when the enemy attacks me or you.

The next day, I found myself coming back to these three words. I decided to dig in and break it down in a practical sense.

We get discouraged. This can look like many different thoughts: It’s been a year already… You should be so much further along by now… OR Why do you bother trying?… You’ll never be as good as her… You’ll never get it right. Discouragement isn’t pretty.

We get futile. Now, y’all, I have a Master’s degree, but I’m gonna be honest with you. I had to look up what the word futile meant. Here’s the definition: “incapable of producing any useful result; pointless” … You guys, I literally gasped when I read that.

I gasped because I felt as if someone had been watching me my whole life. My mind tends to go this direction at times. Sometimes not even necessarily when things are going terrible, but when they’re going great… Like I’m waiting for the ball to drop. This mindset is no way to live.

We get fearful. Don’t we, though? We do. We worry about our finances, our relationships, the opinions of other people. Fighting fear is a constant battle.

I mentioned to her that it would be wise to have a game plan. Basically, have truth at the forefront of your mind. How do you know what truths to use to guard your heart? Well, just start with the opposite of those 3 words (or any specific lie, for that matter). Here we go.

God is encouraging. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. Over and over throughout Scripture He confirms his love for you and me. He tells us He will provide for us. He delights in us. Use these truths to bring encouragement to your heart. (Romans 15:4)

God has given you a purpose. This seems basic. We hear it all the time.  But truly hear me here. God has given you (yes, YOU!) a specific purpose for the building up of His kingdom before you were even born. You have a voice. You matter. You are needed and wanted. You have purpose. (! Corinthians 12: 12-31)

God is loving. Perfect love casts out fear. This verse is gold. Again, it seems basic, but it only seems generic and basic… until we apply it. Then it becomes profound. Then it becomes magnificent. We’ve got to learn to walk in this truth. (1 John 4:18)

When you operate out of God’s love instead of fear from the enemy, peace abounds in your heart. No matter what the circumstance is, you can still have peace. This peace doesn’t exempt you from hard times. However, this peace allows you the mindset of knowing even if your world comes crashing down and you lose everything you hold dear; you know God is still good, and God is still here.

Be Thankful: Even When It’s Hard

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I distinctly remember this night from one year ago. I remember that it was last November simply because of how fitting this revelation was for this timing… A time when we tend to shift our gaze off of ourselves, and focus on giving to others. A time when we appreciate the blessings we have, and stop mulling over what we don’t have. Although, that was the polar opposite of my heart that night.

I had been tossing and turning all night. I was wrestling with this voice taunting me in the back of my head. During this time, I had a few friends reach some amazing goals and accomplishments. Goals I wanted to reach, but at the time seemed so far fetched. I was so conflicted, because truly I wanted to be happy for them… And in a sense I was, but at the same time I wasn’t happy for them. I was jealous of them. I was lying awake thinking, Why can’t that happen to me? What accomplishments have I achieved in this life? (Which is such a narrow perspective, y’all. Ugh, so self serving, but I’m just being honest. That’s where I was at in the moment).

So, I did what I normally do when I have trouble sleeping. I prayed. I cried out to the Lord, and revealed the ugliness of my heart to Him. I asked Him for forgiveness, for guidance, for help to refine my heart.

Basically this is how my conversation went: God, you know my heart right now, and I don’t want this bitterness and jealousy within me. What do I need to do so I can actually be happy for my friends?

And then I heard it. That still, small voice. In a gentle tone, He said: Be thankful. That’s it. Two words. Be thankful. So, that’s what I did. I thanked Him for my friends, for bringing them in my life, for their achievements, I prayed He would continue to bless them and lead them. So simple, and yet so profound.

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Y’all, I was in tears by the time I was done. That simple prayer shifted my perspective off of myself, and unto the Kingdom. Thankfulness welled up in my heart for the work being done through my friends for the furtherance of His Kingdom, and truly I was honored to be able to witness their journey.

Not-So-Small Act of Kindness

It had been one of those mornings… Well, it started as one of those nights. Baby Sarah had woken up to nurse 3 times, which may not have been so bad but we (as in, her and I) didn’t go to bed until close to midnight. To say I was sleep deprived is an understatement.

I somehow managed to get us all dressed and to church, then I got there and realized Timothy didn’t have shoes. I sat in our Suburban and thought for a good two minutes if I wanted to go home and get him shoes, are just let him be barefoot and free. I decided on barefoot, and he didn’t care. I highly doubt anyone else cared either. He stepped on a few sticker burrs, but he survived.

When I went to pick up the kids after the service was over, and I lost Timothy in the shuffle. So I had successfully gotten 2 of the 4 children and started walking into every room at church looking for my curious 3 year old. I finally found him, and then got the rest of the munchkins.

I started walking to the door and preparing myself for the nightmare of corralling 4 children in the parking lot solo. Then, a sweet teenager, the daughter of one of my good friends, asked if she could help. I gladly took her up on her offer… Which was no small offer.

Once we all got buckled up in the car, my eyes filled with tears. This was probably for a number of reasons: I was hungry, and hormonal, and had told my husband goodbye for his third of four trips out of town this summer. I was so touched by this sweet girl’s help, and then I realized sometimes I just need help, and that’s ok!

I think there was some false belief that I couldn’t ask for help because I have to prove something… Like I have to prove that people are wrong for thinking we shouldn’t have 4 kids, so therefore asking for help in some way proves them right… Truth is, whether someone has 1 child or 19 children, it’s ok to ask for help! We aren’t meant to do this life alone.

This not so small act of kindness really made me reflect on my life. When was the last time I intentionally looked for an opportunity to help someone else? Sure, I’ve got 4 kids and life is crazy, but there’s always time to share God’s love. It could be holding the door open for someone, bringing someone a meal, a simple text to say hello and let someone know they matter… I want to challenge you, and myself, as this week begins to do a random act of kindness each day… Because you never know how it will bless someone.

Ethiopia and Working for God

I had my computer open today and my Inspirational Quote/Bible Verses folder was open. Well, Noah comes along and sits in my lap. He’s looking at the different pictures with quotes and he says, “I think I could live there.” Now I think he is talking about this picture:

mountain

“Oh yeah. This picture? I love the mountains, they’re so pretty.”

“No, mama, not that picture. That picture.”

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He points to Africa, and my heart melts. Not because I have this fear of my kid living in Africa, but because my heart has been breaking and bleeding for Ethiopia for years. The Lord put Ethiopia on my heart before I even knew where it was on a map. I’ve been praying for Ethiopia for over 6 years now, without much direction, just praying for the land and its people. God keeps confirming in different ways every few months… reminding me of my silent faithfulness to Ethiopia. Who knows? I may not ever go to Ethiopia, but I’m already in love the country because of the love God has given me. So I’ll continue to pray for the country, its people, and for their souls.

Once Noah pointed out Africa, I pulled up a world map and got the amazing opportunity to not only teach him a little geography, but share the opportunity of being a missionary. He decided at that point that he wanted to do that: go to Africa and be a missionary. If that is what the Lord calls him to do, that’s great, but yesterday he wanted to be a firefighter (and a daddy!) so… I’m not start packing his bags yet. LoL

This short 5 minute conversation with Noah was a wonderful reminder of each of our missions, no matter our occupation. We are called to do our work unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). Whether we are a pastor, firefighter, homemaker, or a mom who sells essential oils; we are called to serve the Lord. Christ should be the center of all that we do, or else our efforts are in vain. For example, when I have an essential oil class, I pray for those people attending. I don’t pray for sales, I pray for their health and guidance towards a healthier life through the gift of essential oils. Another example is when I’m home with my boys, we sing praises together and pray together. The daily grind of life can get harsh if we don’t remember Who we are serving. I love that my 4 year old was able to remind me of my mission today.

What work are you doing? How do you keep God in the center?

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Beloved

I remember this moment vividly, even though it was 3 years ago. There I was, curled up in my bed in the middle of the day, sobbing. I am convinced this is a cry almost every mother is familiar with… the kind of cry where your entire body shakes with your sobs and your abs end up hurting because you unintentionally gave them a workout. At that time Noah was only about 1 year old, I was pregnant with Timothy, and I felt like a failure.

I had been so emotional all day long. I’m pretty sure I lost my temper when Noah’s sippy cup spilled all over the floor. It took way too long for him to nap. I had a load of laundry in the washer, dryer, and on my couch.  I was running on little sleep and lukewarm coffee.

Why didn’t anyone ever tell me it would be this hard? I have no idea what I’m doing… I’m not cut out for this mommy thing, and how in the world am I going to raise another human being soon?

These thoughts were running through my head, along with the all too familiar lie of: You are a failure. You are ruining everything and everyone.

So there I was… a young and 25 year old mother who had no idea what she was doing. Heck, I had never even changed a diaper before my firstborn. Literally, I had no idea what I was doing other than what I read on the Internet… that and all the posts on my News Feed from other moms having the time of their life being new moms… All I wanted was a freakin’ nap. And a bath. And a day off.

After sobbing for what seemed like an eternity, I cried out to the Lord. I begged Him for strength, for wisdom, for patience, for love, for better housekeeping skills, for everything I could think of that I needed to make me a better mother… And then I begged Him, Please let my son be okay despite of me….

Exhausted from sobbing and praying, my eyes were shut and my thoughts were finally silent. Then I sensed the Spirit tell me, Beloved, your son is going to be okay because of you. Because I entrusted him to you, and I know what I’m doing.

I would like to tell you from then on out, I have been the perfect mother, but I have not, nor will I ever be. I still sometimes snap at my children who don’t deserve it, I still sometimes (okay, all the time) suck at housework, I still sometimes feel like I don’t know what I am doing… But I trust in the One who knows exactly what He is doing. I had to let my dreams of being a perfect mom die, and live for the only One who is perfect.

I write this in hopes to encourage my fellow mothers out there. God has blessed you with your wonderful babies. God has entrusted you with those beautiful babes, and He knows exactly what He is doing. Keep loving and keep praying for you are His beloved.  In the midst of the chaos, focus on these sweet moments that are few are far between.

What words of encouragement can you provide to other moms?  Let’s edify and support each other in the journey of motherhood.

Little Decisions. Big Impact.

I hope I don’t speak too soon, but it’s one of those rare moments in my house when all 3 of my boys are napping at the same time. I thought I better start writing now, because who knows when my next chance will be. I keep thinking back to an instance that happened a few weeks ago; again when God used an everyday moment with my children to speak to me.

It was late. Like 10:00PM late, far past the kids’ bedtime; practically my bedtime. I also remember it was a Wednesday night, because my hubby wasn’t home yet. He works super late on Wednesday because that’s when the youth group meets and college group right after that. Anyho, so it’s just me and the littles. That night we had all gotten home late from church, so the boys didn’t get in bed until around 9:00pm.

So, now it’s 10:00pm and Noah had gotten up for about the 27th time that night, probably because he ate some sugar-laden candy with Red Dye #7 in it or something to that effect. I could hear him talking or yelling in his room so I walked that way to give him a piece of my mind (umm, my patience was gone by this point. I know, all you readers without kids would never lose patience with your kids, but whatever, keep reading). Before I open the door, I hear my sweet Noah singing these words off key, “My God’s not dead, He’s surely alive! He’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion. My God’s not dead, He’s surely alive!” And I lost it.

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I slid down our crayon colored wall with tears in my eyes, and just listened to him singing. Granted, he’s 4, so it sounded more like “My God’s not dead, He’s suwly alive! Iving on the inside, woawing like a lion!” but they were just the sweetest words. I listened to my son singing, could picture him dancing on the Lego covered floor of his room while Timmy just slept through it all (because that’s what happens when you share a room your whole life. You sleep like a rock.). After a few minutes I walked in the room to actually see him jumping around and singing. He stopped in his tracks and looked at me wide eyed. He thought he was in some big trouble.

“Noah, where did you learn that song?” I asked. I asked him this, because although I was familiar with the song, it’s not one of my regular go-to songs. Trust me, we sing a lot in this house.

He gave me a puzzled look, as if I should already know the answer, and replied, “The car.”

“The car? Oh, you mean on the radio?” I asked.

“Yes! Remember?!” he said excitedly.

After singing with him, saying goodnight again, and kissing him on the forehead; he went to bed. As I left his room I was reminded of the impact I have on my child’s life. I make a big impact on my boys by all the little decisions I make every day: what we listen to in the car, how to respond to stressful situations, what books we read, how we treat daddy, giving to those in need, ect. Every day is an opportunity to teach our babies the values and lifeskills we wish for them. No one is perfect, trust me I get it, but I hope this has been a good reminder for all you parents, teachers, caregivers, grandparents, and influencers that we have a serious responsibility in our hands. God has entrusted us with our children, and we should lean on His strength and do what we can to make a positive impact on our children.

What little decision do you see making a big impact in your children?

Overlooked Miracles

Yesterday in Bible study we started talking about God’s miracles. We talked about the miraculous healings, revelations, and signs and wonders performed throughout the Bible. Some of us had a few personal stories to share of radical healing or deliverance. Then we began to recount some “small” miracles. You can’t really call these miracles “small,” maybe “overlooked” is a more appropriate term. Everyday occurrences that we have come to expect these days, so we tend to overlook the wonder of its brilliance.

For instance, the birth of a baby and all the details that go into that. We had women yesterday with medical backgrounds that were able to spit out medical terms, but I don’t know any of those technical terms, except for the hormone oxytocin. The mother’s body releases the hormone oxytocin during labor and postlabor to assist with bonding with the baby. It’s also released during breastfeeding to further support a healthy bond with the baby. Also, do you know the nutrients in the breastmilk of nursing moms’ changes to cater to the baby’s needs?! Crazy!

I’m always reminded of the miracle of the bumblebee. My sister, Rachel, has a stuffed animal of a bumblebee a beloved teacher gave her to remind her of this phenomena. Based on the bumblebee’s size, its body is too big for its wings and it should not be able to fly, but it does!

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Photo credit: omshantiblog.com

My sisters and I are everyday miracles. We were born when my mom was only 26 weeks pregnant, coming in at a strapping weight of 2.2, 2.4, and 2.6 pounds. Rachel’s and my lungs collapsed, Sarah couldn’t breathe on her own, Rachel was on oxygen for so long the doctors were telling my parents she would most likely be blind, I had hemorrhaging to my brain and as a result have swollen lateral ventricles to this day, ect. My parents were told we probably wouldn’t make it, and if we did, they should expect serious mental delays or intellectual disabilities. Needless to say, we all survived and are completely normal functioning adults. That, my friends, is a miracle and a result of the power of praying parents.

sisters   (See, there we are!)

My challenge for you today is to find an overlooked miracle. Comment below to let us know about it!

You Are Not Alone

Here’s the truth. I have been avoiding the blog. I really feel like the Lord wants me to share this journey, so after much screaming and kicking on my end I decided to finally give in and trust that He has plans for this very personal post. This post is about my journey of my battle with mental illness, and what a great time to share, as May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.

mental health awareness

I have struggled with depression for years, as I briefly shared in a previous post. Not just I’m-feeling-sad-so-let’s-eat-ice-cream-and-cry depression, but a very dark and lonely depression where thoughts of suicide and whispers of lies were in my head all day long. Day in and day out. How long has this been going on? Since I was 11 years old.

I fell madly in love with Jesus Christ when I was 21 years old and sadly I got the idea that once I became a Christian it would all go away (Newsflash: trials do not disappear, many times throughout the Bible there are references of trials and the spiritual growth that can come through them.  If anyone needs clarity on this, go read the book of James). Honestly, I felt like the depression was suppressed for a while, but then it would creep back in. After each of my pregnancies I found myself awake in the middle of the night sobbing because I couldn’t imagine persevering through this or seeing any way out of the pit I was stuck in yet again.

This last episode of post-partum depression has been the worst, hands down. Less than 2 weeks after beautiful Isaac was born I was in that bathroom at 2:00AM and staring at all the prescription medication in the medicine cabinet debating taking all the pills to end this indescribable pain. This happened every day for two months, and it would have gone on longer if my husband didn’t step in.

Those two months were filled with joy and darkness. I know, it’s a hard concept to grasp, but honestly I had moments of joy in the midst of the fog. When Noah and Timothy would shower their new brother in kisses, or when Nathan would have a tickling war with the boys, or just sitting back and realizing how blessed I am… Yet still feeling depressed… Which just made everything worse because that’s what I always said in my head, You have a wonderful life, you have no reason to feel this way!

Seriously, even when my depression began it wasn’t because of this tragic event or anything bad in my life happening… the depression just began and has been like a bad high school relationship ever since; on again and off again too many times to count. That’s the thing that is hard for many people to understand… I have heard well-meaning people just say (not to me personally, but about people who struggle with depression) “Get over it,” or “Just pray more,” but sometimes a mental illness is just that: an illness. Please hear me out, because I absolutely believe in the miraculous healing power of God, but I also know He works and moves in many different ways. Just because someone struggles with a mental illness it doesn’t mean their faith is lacking. It wasn’t until my amazing husband lovingly suggested trying medication to see if it would help, and the results have been amazing.

I started taking Zoloft and going to Christian counseling, and I feel like a new person. I am learning and discovering so much through counseling and working on forming a new belief system; a true belief system based on Scripture. Is my depression gone completely? No, I still have my moments, but y’all, I want to live now! I don’t contemplate suicide every day. I’m not up crying every night. I’m not begging the Lord to take me Home. I’m working through this struggle and have come to peace with the reality that I may have to battle this for the rest of my life, but you know what? If this is what it takes to help others battling with depression know they are not alone, if this is what it takes to break the shame and stigma attached to mental illness, if this is what it takes to bring God even greater glory… then I will fight this battle. I will fight and pray not just for my own battle with mental illness, but for so many others that struggle with mental illness too. You are not alone, and you are loved.

Submission and Provision

This Saturday will mark my husband, Nathan and my 6 year wedding anniversary.  So, I wanted to re-post a topic from my old blog in honor of this occasion.  This was something I learned the hard way our first year of marriage.  I tweaked the previous post a little, but the lesson is the same.  I hope you enjoy.

This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way in my marriage. But first, a little bit of background to better understand the circumstance… My husband and I are complete opposites: he is an extravert and I am an introvert, he is a feeler and I am a thinker, he voices his dreams and I prefer to only voice them if I can see a possibility of it happening right now (would that even be considered a dream? Or just a wanted reality?). Anyways, it was an interesting first year of marriage to say the least. Fast forward almost 6 years later and we understand each other so much better!

But here is the lesson I want to share. Soon after we got married I can remember freaking out, yet again, over our finances. We had two ER visits in a month and were sick and constantly in the doctor’s office. I couldn’t seem to let go of my tight rein over the cash in our envelope system (we adopted some of Dave Ramsey’s recommendations which works for us, but remember you gotta figure out what works best for you and your family), always asking him exactly the dollar amount spent on things, and constantly checking our bank account online, afraid of an overdraft that wasn’t even going to happen, ect. It was getting ridiculous.

My worrying and obsessing over our budget was definitely sinful, and I realized that at the time… But what I didn’t realize was  another sin I was committing at the same time: my lack of submission that was ultimately brought on my lack of trust in my husband in this area of finances. And then I also realized this later: My lack of submission and trust in my husband was an indicator of my lack of submission and trust in the Lord.

Ouch.

So I swallowed my pride, my sinful desire to control my marriage and my husband, and I confessed to him and to God of this realization and asked for forgiveness. My husband is amazing and full of grace, and we have been so blessed in our marriage to be faced with obstacles that forced us to see that God, not a paycheck, is our Provider. As long as we do our part by working hard in whatever job it may be He has called us to (minister, stay at home mom, teacher, police officer, ect) and stay obedient with our giving, He will provide.

Here is my favorite Scripture to reflect on about this subject:
Matthew 6:25-34 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil, nor do they spin, yet I say to you not even Solomon in all of his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying ‘What will we eat?’ Or ‘What will we drink?’ Or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly see all these things; for your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Did you catch the last couple of verses?  You should have, but I emphasized them for you.  This is not a prosperity Gospel teaching by any means, but a reminder that if we truly seek God first He will provide our daily needs.

So, this is a side note, but I love that my wedding bouquet had stargazer lilies in it.  See?

bouquet

Ah, how refreshing! What a good reminder! Now I challenge you, truly search your heart and ask yourself: Is there an area I am not trusting God with completely? Feel free to share and I would love to come alongside and pray and encourage you.

Let go and prepare for the journey ahead.