The Best Kind of Comfort

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Coffee mug in one hand and journal in the other, I skillfully tip toed my way – while trying to avoid the creaks in the old hardwood.

Please tell me you’ve snuck down the hallway past kids bedroom doors who are awake and waiting to jump-start the day? I do.

I like my mornings hush-hush with a large hot coffee and a side of calm.

No movement – only the Spirit Kind.

No breakfast prep – only the heart kind.

No voices – only the God kind.

Totally lost in each rapid and the rolling waves of our backyard river, the power in creation, and my duck friends flying up-stream, I began to share my thoughts with Jesus and the list was long.

“Jesus – Good Morning…Its me and I’m ready to hear you today. What do you want to say to me? I am listening…”

I say that prayer with ease, but then a brief panic sets in. Because when we ask, He delivers and usually – it isn’t all fresh flowers and dark chocolate. 

Those morning prayers can go many directions right?

There are some days  (a lot of days) where correction needs to happen.  It’s not my favorite way to start a conversation, but He sets my heart straight.

Gently, He corrects us when we give lies a seat at our tables and subscribe to things that He has not authored. 

Next, He encourages my spirit and speaks hope over me.  Always His voice is strong – yet affirming in love and truth.

He is in all of our details y’all, going ahead and working it out and forever making a perfectly prescribed way for us.

He pointed me to these words in Psalms, reminding me…

“Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God, turn your backs on the worlds “sure thing”, ignore what the world worships;

The world’s a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts.

Nothing and no one comes close to you!

I start talking about you, telling what I know, and quickly run out of words.

Neither numbers nor words account for you.” Psalm 40:4-5 MSG

I read this over and over again.

Oh the benefits of giving ourselves over to Him and turning from the world. Ignoring what it worships.

Recklessly, and without a second thought we worship all kinds of things even though we want to be all in with God – don’t we?

Maybe our world worship looks like:

  • a name we aspire to,
  • a super diet,
  • some mom platform,
  • that dream sitting still,
  • the picture perfect vacation,
  • all the trends,
  • a career goal,
  • the child longed for,
  • a perfect home interior,
  • party perfect planning,
  • the hard to choke addiction,
  • the promise of an exercise regime,
  • a government-run by man,

and the list continues and is different for each of us.

Obviously we were set on this earth to impact with eternal value, so we do that with our gifts. We find large amounts of honor serving Jesus in our work places, ministry spots, and families.

He allows us to be on mission for Him with every single breath and its so exciting, seasoned with heavy responsibility.

But heaven help us when we become more wrecked about pursuing world things (even seemingly good) than we about are chasing God’s heart.

At the end of the day , He is over all things reigning (and maybe over our striving). He spoke to me that morning about the reality of Him being all that I need.

On really amazing, smile filled days – He’s all that I need. On the hard to make it to lunch time days – He’s all that I need.

To allow Him to be my affirmation, my inspiration, and my one purpose on this earth…because actually friends, there are not enough numbers or words that can even account for Him. 

Breathing in the real life and feeling all the things both in laughter and tears…still doesn’t  even touch all that He has for us.

May we be the ones who give ourselves over to God.

The ones who run out of words, because there just aren’t enough.

Reaching more for His world and less of ours.

This week, we can be sure that nothing and no-one comes close to Him…and isn’t that the best kind of comfort?

 

 

The Post Adventure Exhale

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I woke up yesterday morning before sunrise with the toddler crying for Momma. Week two of teaching him the joys of sleeping in ones own bed has not been as awful as I anticipated it to be.

I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to transition babies from cribs to beds, or from mom’s bed to own bed, and I didn’t even read a book or google or blog search.

I just started sleeping in his bed because I am forty-one and that’s that. The End. It’s true that the fifth baby breaks all former family rules!

I crawled into his little wooden bed in the shape of a boat and took in his bedroom full of toys and the feeling of home it brought.

I was kept awake with the view of gigantic evergreen trees standing outside his window.

Do I really live here?

Did God honestly just call us out and position our family to do His work in such a beautiful location full of caring people?

After all that fussing, and broken-hearted cries for provision…He has delivered the hope we set out for, and with so much more than we could have mapped out. 

I know that this is not always the case. Sometimes in our faith journey, we don’t get to enjoy and see with our eyes the good in the hard times. I’ve been there too.

Some of you may be trusting and waiting without a clear answer. PRESS ON. Your waiting is for great purpose.

Day by day, my tired but happy soul is gaining strength from the road trip to here!

The farther I get away from the months of living on the edge of answers, the more I shake my head both in tears and laughter.

The highest of highs, the depth of low, and every trail in between has made up the script of our story.

I feel like I have completed an epic workout goal like marathon training…except I have not worked out in a year and I will not ever run a race that long. Mercy.

We did sleep like sardines, cook in a cute cubical kitchen, did school work with hearts missing home, and we lived in cramped quarters during a time when most families want space to hide out.

Tiny living is for tiny families – that’s my commercial for this trending movement, but God had a plan to join our family together in new ways using small spaces and unknown places.

Deep exhales are being released often around here.

Thanks is rising all around because God was faithful from beginning to end. The prayers I prayed were only answered on the watch of almighty God. Prayers like…

“Please Jesus keep all five of my kids, my husband and I, healthy and without sickness that requires medical insurance while we are without a job. Amen.”

He held us together in more ways than one and health was just a sliver of answered prayer.

Trusting in complete blindness tested my belief in the unseen world.

I am here to tell you that the spiritual realm is real, it is a place that we don’t give recognition too when life is on pace and we feel “good”.

“The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the ways which you have walked until you came to this place.” Deuteronomy 1:30-31

Active battle is taking place this very moment for you and I and ours…because we belong to the Prince of Peace and He has a real enemy.

Evil wants to destroy our joy,

heighten our anxiety levels,

ignite fear,

infuse lies,

and shut down the testimony of Jesus Christ winning in our lives.

As I sit here in our new home, watching a  river run in my back yard …I can testify that Jesus has done a mighty thing in our hearts and it was only by His Holy Spirit that we are here.

We are imperfect in our faith, weak in our joy at times, but believing stronger than ever that He is Lord over all things and nothing gets to us unless He allows it.

Your plans, dreams, hurts, wins and defeats, inhales and exhales all belong to Him friends.

How We Survived A Season Of Question Marks

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We took the turns carefully, as our motor home climbed up the windy mountain road. Taken by surprise at the next provision, but not really because we have been anticipating and watching God show His power all along.

Making the move to another RV park to be close to town, but only to last two nights because honestly God knew that our endurance had been exhausted!

“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.” Isaiah 40:29

Don’t you love it when you can recognize that His movement is at hand?

So often, we just live and don’t name His work in motion. I want to be a mom and wife who catches the Spirit moving in the moments.

Through a connection at the camp with a family at our new church, a beautiful temporary home had been made available to us as we await the closing on our own house in Washington.

At this point, I am in deep remembering mode. Thinking back to the moments during the journey where we were discouraged and down.

I said it over and over again during our wondering…

“Our kids should not be okay. They should be hating the waiting, blaming us, questioning God, and possibly running for home wherever that is.”

Have you ever been surprised by the amount of intense you can deal with when you are required to be strong?

It amazes me what we are capable of with God shining a light on the path.

It is in those intense weeks of surviving by just doing the next thing that helps us stay in the game. The list of normal daily routine is how I stayed above water.

Playing.

Hiking.

Cooking.

Naps.

Processing.

Reading.

Writing.

Connecting.

God openly revealed hope to us around every turn. Our hearts adjusted almost immediately to every single new possible job opportunity in so many different locations.

When you are doing the hard work of pushing through the fog into the clearing, you just do it the best you know how right?

There were times when our older boys questioned what on earth we were doing exactly. Afternoons where hearts were not well, but the Spirit went to battle on our behalf.

Our doubts were real at times but we were not without hope.

God will not leave you hanging when you believe His word…He will not. Our flesh is weak but He always wins.

This journey has taught me much, but high on the list is the truth that God will provide over and over again. It will never be on our watch but will faithfully come to pass on His.

He provides for our breath,

our warmth,

our nourishment,

our relationships,

our joy and broken,

and especially for our growth.

We unloaded three months of stuff from the motor home and into our new basement apartment SO full of awe.

What a feeling of provision as we moved in, spread out, and took deep soothing breaths. We passed each other in the hallway and didn’t have to hug the wall. Can I get an amen?

Over time, God has spoken to me about my need for consistency, comfort, and calm – like they are requirements for joy.

The very things that you “think” you must have, are the very things He might want you to go without. 

And so we did.

Goodbye to consistency.

So long comfort.

Peace out to calm.

Hello to growth from going without.

The road less traveled is full of risks and unknowns – scary to commit too and packed with blessing along the way for those willing to endure.

Our landing in Washington has been soft and welcomed by a new community. Our hearts are exploding with thanks!

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out not knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8″

Maybe God is calling you out in your small ordinary days, or asking  you to do something HUGE that makes no sense to most people. Both are valuable, useful, and needed for faith to grow.

Whatever challenge is ahead…if it is from Him – He will faithfully give you all you need to obey and endure for His fame.

Be careful in your comfort…He may ask you to step away for a season.

 

 

 

Finding Hope In Unlikely Places

 

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The morning was not panning out to be all that I hoped it would.

Frustrating conversations were being tossed around between four of our five kids and honestly my husband and I struggled to get on the same page. Long days and nights of living in the “between” phase was causing us all to be a little weary.

I know I’m not alone here friends…

My heart was mentally trying to prepare for a meeting that afternoon with a mom who was loosing her every loving mind – sound familiar?

I was so looking forward to hearing her story, and cheering her on in the struggle to walk out her daily mission…except I also needed that pep talk.

Heaven help us gals who love to be used to minister to others, but right before we step into a hard conversation or difficult meeting…our own lives falls apart.

This was one of those days where I felt like I had no hope to offer another human, and I was actually the one in need of the counseling.

God was not surprised that day when he orchestrated my sitting in the company of a gal who needed to share the hard and the ugly. I knew He was up to something really good when He called me into account just minutes before we sat down.

My well was completely dried up. There were no beaming eyes or an overflowing heart that I could even share with her. Nothing.

In my frustration and pride, I admitted that my connection with God was weak and in desperate need of refueling.

 When we try to live our lives ahead of God and His voice – we miss out. He so desperately wants to be in tight community with us, to be welcomed to the hard conversations and to be trusted with our struggling.

Somehow in the stress of living in a motor home with my family of seven (I know – crazy), and being jobless for four months had me in perfect position for my own major meltdown.

He spoke to me about my running and serving on empty.

“Jenny. This morning was rough because you set me aside. In all of your thinking and planning for leading someone else– you didn’t restore your own broken with me. I set this assignment up and you must tap into my hope, not rely on your own.”

We desire to serve Him fully and to use our own experiences to encourage…but sometimes our light is just too dim to have lasting impact.

I love the truth and wisdom offered in this Proverb…

“Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”  – Proverbs 15:30

 As my friend began to unpack to harsh realities of raising two little ones with a husband who was away for months at a time – God did what He does best.

He started to whisper the truth that I needed, at the same time I was sadly attempting to add  value to this woman’s hard work.

Maybe it’s the same for you.

The moments that we devote to connecting with God, are the moments when He makes us new, and gives us freedom to be okay with where He is leading us.

 After an hour and a half had passed and our conversation hit all the tender spots, God used that time to remind me that I needed him. Like REALLY needed His grace, strength, and humility in my own life.

That day, hope appeared – but it wasn’t in my words of wisdom. As my friend unpacked her hardships, my own became doable.

How often do we reach out to another in need of a life line and our own perspective becomes clear and all the hardships grow into possibilities?

Thankfully, when we head out on our own strength, He chooses to guide us back into His wisdom, rest, and comfort…and what a sweet spot that is.

I love that connecting with God is not so much a future list of to – do’s but more of a list of right-now’s. His availability is not limited and He can handle all the overwhelming things.

Sometimes hope is found in the unlikely moments. The ones where we have nothing to offer but love and understanding of someone else in desperate need.

 

 

 

 

 

When We Crave Connection + Give Away!

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We headed out for a quick-lunch break hike through the pines and on the frozen trails. A fast friendship with a staff gal that I have gotten to know during our time here, just fell into place perfectly.

She encouraged me as I mothered in the holding pattern of transition and I got to be a sounding board for her mom heart.

I needed her perspective and she needed mine. A two-way street that we could both invest in and grow from.

Beautiful and unexpected.

 Friendships are hard work and go through many seasons of good and exhausting, and sometimes we are far too tired to keep the pace.

We’ve all been there right?

The pouring out of our souls, only to be left broken and betrayed.

The deep commitment for years, only to be uprooted and transplanted to a new sea of faces.

The joys and laughter and memories that have marked us forever.

Our three months of camp living in a motor home has developed a whole new family of relationships and I’m thankful.

I am in this new place of desperately missing my friendships in Tennessee and praying about new relationships here in Washington. Maybe you’ve been here friends. I am living the tension of in-between and I’m doing my best to embrace it.

This is not the first time that God has uprooted my heart and moved me to a new land with fresh faces, but that doesn’t make it any easier right?

I am a lover of people and my heart naturally wants to reach out and relate. To agree with the hard stuff and encourage gals to keep marching onward, but it takes work.

So often we want the benefits of a dear kindred soul, but we are too worn out to put in the combined effort.

Other times, we have tried for SO long and SO hard but the friend we are desperately seeking is nowhere to be found.

All of it…the ups and downs, the beginnings and endings, and the bravery of starting over is an amazing gift we call connecting.

If you are at all like me, you appreciate honest words and the understanding of others who desire the healthy and strong kind of friendships.

A couple of months ago, I was invited to be an ambassador for a new and timely resource written with honesty and love for you and I, by the contributors over at (in)courage

The challenging stories of real life have walked with me these past few weeks and I’m so grateful – that I want to you guys to dive in and read along with me.

You will be welcomed and invited and finding yourself saying,”I get that” over and over.

“We all long for meaningful relationships, the Colossians 3:14 kind that fulfill our desire for unity and connection with God, our friends, and our community. But where do we start? Craving Connection is a journey where (in)courage writers share real-life stories, practical Scripture application, and connection challenges…”

– Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real Life Engagement

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So if you find yourself craving connection and looking for meaningful friendships you will love reading the real life stories from other women and engaging in truth along the way.

Grab your cozy sweater, your coffee and tea, and find the words speaking hope and encouragement to you – just as timely as they have for me! (You can order your copy through the (in)courage site here!)

My little hike today affirmed just how powerful connecting with God and connecting with others really is. 

Here’s to a new season of fresh opportunity to embrace the lives God will place in my path, and yours too.

GIVE AWAY TIME! 

At the end of each chapter you will find super helpful questions to help you process and engage.

Answer the question below in the comments to be entered into a drawing to win both of these fun items from (in)courage and Dayspring! 

Q: How is God asking you to show up for someone today? (From the chapter by Lisa-Jo Baker)

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When Guests Become the Greatest Gifts

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It had to be a crazy exchange of conversation. Mary in awe-stricken wonder mixed with fear by an unannounced visitor.

Heaven help us gals who are lovers of company, but always receive it at not the perfect moments.

The angel delivered a message that fell upon the heart and ears of the mother to be.

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

I love that the angel came right out of the gate saying, “The Lord is with you.” Doesn’t that speak to Mary and her relationship with her God already – that He deeply knew her heart?

Gabriel explains, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” What an honor and a fright at the same time!

He continues to lay out the epic news that would bring hope to the entire world.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.” Conceive a son?

The story unfolds to her surprise.

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

Mary just needs some clarity. “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” To which Gabe answers…” The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…”

What a powerful truth that we overlook. We all know that the Holy Spirit spoke the baby into conception…but so often we don’t have the hope that He will see us through December.

I love that Mary was spoken to in this way. God knew she might be afraid and the words would bring her some comfort so she could entertain the idea of becoming the Momma to the Savior of the World.

We fear don’t we?

The health of a pregnancy.

The unknowns of our futures.

The paths our children might choose.

The ever-loving possibility of change.

The influence of our ministries.

The ups and downs of our marriages.

Let Mary be hopeful and let us spread out the hope offered in the “Do not be afraid!”.

We know Jesus is trustworthy – but we are weakened by fear. We trust that He is AHEAD of us, but lose sight that He is also BEFORE us.

He was before Mary that day and He is before you and I this season of celebration.

 The hustle, the lists, and all of the planning to make things sweet. He is both before our plans and He is up ahead after the lights grow dim.

God in His infinite love and wisdom gave Mary a heads up didn’t He?

The greatest gift she could have received was the unannounced visitor bringing her life changing words. I love that Mary had time to receive the news, worship and wait for His perfect package.

He does this for us friends. He visits us and offers hope in every season.

Let’s be ones who hope even when the temptation to be afraid rises.

Let’s be ones who see a guest as a gift and not an inconvenience.

Even when unexpected news comes at us, and especially while we await the birth of the King!

Merry Christmas Friends!

*This post was written for Anna Rendell and was first published at her beautiful blog home here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Hard Times Make Meaningful Gifts

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When our family of seven arrived at the camp almost two months ago, we had no clue that our Christmas holiday would be spent living in an RV and still searching for the job that God was calling us too.

Every bit of our life (including all the Christmas decorations) were tucked away in a storage unit in Tennessee. I was dreading not having a home to settle in to begin a new season filled with new stories.

Jesus in His compassionate love, had much deeper plans for us. Isn’t that always the truth?

Sometimes (all the time) us Mommas worry about every single thing He has already taken care of.

Thankfully the Spirit is faithful to remind me that our five kids belong to Him first. Nothing He allows in their life is without His sifting and approval.

***Today I have the honor of being a guest over at the MOB Society! Come on over and read the rest of the Christmas post right here!  You’ll love all the encouragement for Moms…especially their ministry to Moms of Boys!

 

 

When Simple Celebrations Become the Most Stunning

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A chilly breeze found its way through the cracks of the window, as my toddler son cuddled in close. Christmas was in the air, but everything was strangely out-of-place.

The rest of the family began to stir, which meant that the motor home started to sway back and forth like being out to sea.

Was it really Christmastime and was this my real life?

Somehow these days of waiting on God during the holidays aren’t full of sparkle like I envisioned they might.

Today I have the honor of being a Christmas series guest author over at Crystal Stine’s beautiful blog home! Hop over and join us to finish the story right here! See you soon friends.

 

Why Jesus Doesn’t Need Our Perfect Christmas Everything.

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Lets be very real sisters…”Tis the season for scrolling through all the feeds fa la la la la – la la la la.”

Social media channels of dear friends and stunning strangers are filled with perfectly placed mantles, front door wreaths, and fires blazing in the comfiest of living rooms right?

Holidays are my favorite and the blissful scenes usher in all the emotions.

Sometimes I walk away from the scrolling with a dim spirit that wishes I had “that ship-lap”, “her gifts of textures – HOW?”, and enough money to buy everyone matching plaid jammies.

I’m thinking maybe you do too.

It’s the sparkling time of year where Moms start stressing about Christmas cards and the perfect picture.

We all love getting cards in the mail and covering our home with the faces we love (but sometimes the comparison game wins).

Us gals have to consistently remind our hearts that the season is here for a reason. That reason is NOT about our gifts of perfect everything.

It is not

perfect image,

perfect children,

perfect outfits,

perfect shopping,

or perfect parties.

The only perfect you can bank on is perfect Jesus. The end.

It is the most beautiful time of year. The cozy feel of home and the God-given break for normal routine. It’s all so traditional and memorable.

This Christmas, our family is going without the…

perfectly trimmed everything,

glows of lights and candles,

beautifully decorated trees,

and a calendar full of parties.

It honestly has really been something for me to work through this season – but it is okay.

We don’t have to pretend to love hard times, but we get to choose to embrace them.

I trust that the same God who sent the Messiah to rescue mankind – is fully aware of our living in a motor home, serving at a camp, and praying for our next ministry assignment.

He is in this season with us and with you.

Our living as minimalist as possible has me force quitting the wishing – but turning up the hoping, and I like that.

If I am gaining anything from this temporary living arrangement, it is that there is a difference in what we think we want and what we is actually good for us.

Somehow we are not list making for things this year. We just can’t.

Not even our kids (gasp). I mean they would receive gifts happily but they know that we are not celebrating like everyone else as far as the wishing goes.

And you know what? It is STILL Christmas .

Blessings as you await the perfect gift! The One who gives life-like none other.

How tragic to miss Him in the midst of lighting up everything else in our lives.

“The true light  that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” John 1:9

Friends…this year, lets recognize the birth of Jesus as more than enough!

 

 

 

When Your Struggle Is Serving Someone Else

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Stories of the faithful wandering in the desert, along with their conversations of “Now what God?” have been traveling with me these past few months.

Thank God for His good company!

Some days I feel like I am living out some Old Testament chapter (I mean…no where close but I’ve felt glimpses.)

Those families trusted the unseen, believed in what was to come, and even in moments of weakness – they consistently rose to the promise of deliverance.

If I take anything from this adventure, I hope that my admiration for those walking in the wilderness has me forever changed.

I also hope that our story has offered hope and inspired others to trust from a deeper well. We can’t help but believe good is ahead with the faithful track record He has left for us.

” I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.” Exodus 6:6-8

For I am the Lord. Why do we even need more than that?

I am so thankful that there are stories of others before me. There is something calming about knowing someone else has made it to the other side right?

How completely exhausting for them!

All the relocating.

Every hardship endured.

The sickness.

The cheers of defeat.

Fearing the enemy.

I’m guessing there may have been some “enough already God we get it” words spoken.There is power in traveling a rough road because chances are, you are never alone.

The journey that God allows for us… isn’t just for us. Just like the Israelites journey wasn’t just for them.

What a bunch of hard-core, believing people. By their example, I can walk out my own journey to God’s best and so can you.

Sometimes our hard times can be for the benefit of others and not even on purpose… but for a purpose. 

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9:16

Hands down, one of the greatest encouragements to me as we wait for our next job assignment and home has been those whose faith is stronger because of our story.

We never intended for our stepping out to be “for” others, but God is using our faith to add to the journey of many.

The texts and messages continue to roll in from others who are in some kind of waiting and have gained courage through our family in this crazy time.

I love that God is speaking to me through them.

I promise you, I never once thought during our decision process to leave our church and home that we loved…”We should do this because others need to see that God is faithful.”

I mean, I was hopeful that we could shine a light on His faithfulness, but honestly in the moment I was more concerned with our survival.

The road you are on is not pointless friends…

Chances are that you are paving the way for someone else.

For fear to be conquered.

To deepen your own trust well.

To  continually be reminded that you are never, ever alone in your search for whats next.

Looking back we see God’s faithful love as He leads us to the exact places that will shape our souls to trust Him with less fear and more abandon.