The Splinter

One of my children recently had a splinter in his foot. Now this child is extremely sensitive to touch and pretty much all sensory inputs. He showed me the splinter. I pushed the skin slightly around it and he started crying, “Owwey Owww.”

I took a look at him and said, “Son, I’m not cutting your arm off. Do you want the splinter out, or do you want it to stay in there and keep hurting?”

He thought about it for a minute. Then he asked, “If you don’t get it out, when will it come out?”

“Well, not anytime soon. You can either let me get it out now, and it will stop hurting. Or you can leave it alone and let it keep bothering you. But if you want me to get it out, it’s gonna hurt for a minute.”

I honestly thought he was going to tell me to leave it alone, so I didn’t give him a choice. I grabbed his foot, endured the tears, and pulled the splinter out in about 30 seconds.

Once it was out, he said, “Thanks mom. It doesn’t hurt anymore.”

Imagine that. Once the splinter was out, the pain was gone. But the immediate pain of removing the splinter actually had my son considering leaving it alone.

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Come on. I know we can all relate to this. We all have that guilty pleasure, secret sin, that we know is hurting us but can’t let go of.

For some of us, it’s gossip. We get sucked into that real-life soap opera and crave the details. (more on this in a little bit…)

Maybe it’s lust. Watching those romantic comedy movies has you secretly wishing your significant other was more romantic, funnier, or better looking, so every time you are alone or bored, Netflix has you sucked into another movie.

For others, it’s food. We know that those sugary treats are no good for us, but hey no one is watching. A donut for lunch is just fine for now.

I do not know your personal struggle, but I know you have one. The Holy Spirit has slowly shown me areas in my life that need pruning. If you have been following my blog, you may recall some post about my struggle with gossip and drama. Let me just say, this is an area I continually need reeled back in on.

First, I was convicted to turn off the television. Then I was convicted to redirect conversations that do not honor those who were not present. But the next step was a hard one. I had to distance myself from people who would not respect my boundaries around drama.

“Bad company corrupts good character.” Wait God… there’s no way you were talking about them… what will people think when I distance myself from them?

Oh man! You can see my next conviction in that statement- why are you trying to please man rather than God? Whose approval do you really seek, Renee?

Obedience is rarely easy. God’s word is not something that is popular. Many people want the Bible to be a buffet that you can pick and choose from. But it’s not. It’s one big love story between God and His creation. We cannot just choose the parts of the story we want to hear.

Let me be honest, it was painful to put up those boundaries. It was even more painful to stand firm in my convictions. I literally tore myself up inside. I knew what people would think. I kept trying to convince myself that these people needed me to point them to God… But all they were doing was stealing my joy, keeping me on guard, and continually disrespecting my boundaries. Sadly, that showed me I had remove the part of my body that caused me to stumble. God gave me peace over the situation. And once I distanced myself from the company that kept dragging me back into my sin, the struggle with this particular sin lessened.

It’s no different than an alcoholic choosing to no longer go to a bar or hang out with his partying friends. If you are going to grow, you must remove the weeds that are choking your growth.

Removing things or people who are bad influences is hard. But the peace that comes from being free to walk with God is unexplainable. If you are feeling the Spirit prompting you to remove a splinter, do it. But know it won’t be easy. You will have to lean into God. You will most definitely need to ask for prayers and support from your Christian friends. It will hurt. But, if it is from the Holy Spirit, you will be better for it.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to depart into hell. “

Matthew 5:29-30

Breaking Down those Boxes

“Mom, the recycling trash can is already full!” my son told me after bringing the trash cans around after Trash Pick Up.

“What? The trash truck just came this morning!”

“We had some boxes to put in there. Now it’s overfilling,” he explained.

Well, we went outside to the trash can, and I realized that this overflowing trash can would make it the rest of the week with no problems at all. “Boys, we have to break down the boxes.”

I showed them to pull the tape off and fold the box back up into a flat shape. In no time at all our recycling trash can’s lid closed with some room still left on top.

This so clearly reminds me of my schedule. Overflowing. Full. I couldn’t squeeze another thing in there if I wanted to.

But when I start to break down the boxes, I see that not so much energy is needed in some spots. If I can just rearrange the boxes that are broken down, I will have more than enough room.

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Growing up, my life was full of boxes. We were constantly on-the-go. This sport. That sport. This activity. That activity. Volunteer here. If there was an unplanned day we had to go “do something.” Shopping, movies, bowling, arcade (yes, I’m that old), out to eat, Six Flags, the Zoo… it didn’t matter what- we just had to “do something.”

This mentality was great when I started dating my husband. I mean that’s the whole point of dating, to go out on dates- right? But once we got married and life started, the urgency to be on-the-go was still there. But the reality was not. Let me just say this in an off-topic rant- American dating culture does not prepare you for marriage… suddenly instead of going out to eat, your eating at home. Instead of “doing something” every time you see each other, you sit together in a room doing two separate hobbies. Yes, we still went out on dates, but not every day… not every time we saw each other…

Ok back to the topic- I had to learn the art of only saying yes to meaningful. And yes, I was saying no to myself. Prior to this, I said yes to every opportunity I could. I busied my schedule. I was constantly on-the-go. When I did have some time, I was looking for the next thing to do.

Emotionally I was drained. I was beat. I was snippy with my husband and kids. I was putting all this energy into things that didn’t matter and taking it out on my family. I was convicted that the people who mean the most to me should also get the most of me.
God slowly stirred my heart and showed me that less is sometimes more. If you go out and “do something” every day, those outings are no longer meaningful; they’re expected. Additionally, I didn’t have the time, money or energy to do that any longer. Instead of being on-the-go, stay put and make the most of your time where you are. Doing this, instantly broke down the majority of those boxes.

I will say, I do still tend to feel the urgency to go do something. But I have learned, that doesn’t mean make a trip to Six Flags, the Zoo, or some other attraction; it means spend some time with the people you love on purpose. Go push your kids on the swing. Pull out a deck of cards. Start a crafty project.

You know, when the boys and I were breaking down those boxes, our other trash can lid was also open receiving the trash that was mistakenly put in the recycling bin. My schedule is no different. There are things on my schedule that are not necessary. There are other things that I fill my time with that are really just a waste of time… like games on my phone… mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.

Before I know it, those mindless games, scrolling through newsfeeds, and such have filled my day.

Sadly, I’ve known this was going on, but it still took a hard conviction to do something about it. After this, I started thinking about the fact that my kids are only allowed 30 minutes of tablet time, and 30-60 minutes of educational television. We made this decision because we want our kids to experience life, not be consumed by electronics. Why should my time be any different?

Something that has taken me a long time to fully understand is that this life is not mine but God’s. My time is only mine because God has given it to me. It is my job to steward that time appropriately. We can’t get back the day once we close our eyes at night. Therefore, I need to make the most out of days. I need to be sure that I am doing my part in pointing everyone who comes in contact with me to the love of Jesus Christ.

One of the things that I hear from fellow Christians more frequently than not, is that they just don’t have time to focus on things that help us to grow closer to God. I get it, reading our bible takes time, prayer takes time, serving in our church takes time. The truth is if we were to really access our daily lives and get rid of meaningless activities, we would likely find plenty of time to develop our personal relationship with God.

So, if this post has spoken to you- awesome! Please know, you are not alone. I am still breaking down boxes and sorting out the trash that I allow to consume my time. However, I know with the Holy Spirit’s help we can both use our time to glorify God in all that we do! Be blessed my friend!

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16

Mary, Did You Know?

 

Maybe it’s because I have a newborn so close to Christmas, but for the last couple of days “Mary, Did You Know” has really been resonating with me.

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered
Will soon deliver you

She had to have known some of this. I mean an angel did appear to her and tell her what was about to happen. An angel did appear to her husband and stop him from divorcing her. The angel appeared to him again and directed them to Egypt- saving the baby’s life.

Surely, she knew that this baby was special. Elizabeth confirmed it during her visit when John the Baptist leapt in her womb, and Elizabeth prophesized over Mary and her child! Surely, she had an idea that BIG things were going to happen with him. But what was about to happen, I’m sure her human heart could not foresee.

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Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?

But did she know- no way. Even if she were told exactly what would have happened- she was human. Life would get in the way. I’m sure there were days when Baby Jesus was just a baby- crying, pooping, and wanting to be held.  Days she was tired, worn-out, and just going through the motions.

Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby
You’ve kissed the face of God

I’m sure that Mary’s role as mom was a blessing, but I’m also sure there were days that weren’t glamourous. I’m sure that though she knew what the angel had told her, those thoughts would get pushed to the back of her mind and the day ahead was all that was on her mind.

As He grew into a boy, was it obvious He was the Son of God? Did he get sick? Did he enjoying working with dad in the shop? Did he need reminders to do his chores? Only Mary knows. (Well, probably Joseph, too.)

Mary, did you know?

Did she know what He would do? Probably not. But did she know that there was amazing potential? I’m positive that’s a yes! The first public miracle Jesus performed was at her request. She had faith in her Son though he responded his time had not yet come.

The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

As these song lyrics ring through my head, I just look at my baby boy in amazement. I know God has big things in store for him. Will he be a carpenter, office worker, artist, missionary, evangelist, a pastor? I have no idea. Will it be easy, no- but it will be worth it!  Will he need motherly direction- you better believe it.  Am I equipped to give it? No, but with the Lord’s help and guidance I pray he gets it from me.

Did Mary, too, wonder if she was equipped to be the Mother of our Lord? Did she wonder if Jesus would follow in Joseph’s footsteps and become a carpenter? Could she have imagined him becoming a teacher and mentor to so many people?  Could she have ever known the miracles that would happen because of Him? Did she wonder just how exactly would He save His people? When? Where? So many questions, so few answers. But one big thing- Faith! Faith in God. Faith in His word. Faith in His promises.

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations?

If young Mary had any idea the difficulties that lie ahead- how rejected Jesus would be, the blaspheming, the Cross…  could she have even bared it?

Did you know
That your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding
Is the Great I Am

I hope she was just full of Hope. Those days that motherhood and wifely duties got the best of her, I hope that she remembered that God had a plan and had invited her to have a front row seat to it. I hope she remember what she prophesized about her Son when she visited Elizabeth. I hope that she always shined a light of faith everywhere she went.

Did Mary know? I doubt it, but she did have faith! She walked by faith not by sight. God, however- God knew, and He chose her. He led the way, prepared the path. She experienced life as a mother, just like you and me. She had highs and lows. Days of joys and days of sorrow. She was able to witness her Son grow into a ministry that she may or may not have chosen for him. She bore witness to miracles. She had her heart pierced just like the prophet had said.

Mary had a front row seat to God’s mighty plan to save His people from themselves. Only one person was there from the beginning to the end of Jesus’ earthly life- that was Mary. I think it’s safe to say now that Mary did not expereince joy in that moment. But if she could look back now and see God’s mighty plan, she would be filled with Joy! If she looked back now, her joy would have out-weighed her sorrow.

Let’s not forget when we look at that Nativity Scene- that same Mary kneeling next to the manger also knelt before the foot of the Cross. Christmas is just the beginning of the most beautiful love story of all time.

Did Mary know? She didn’t have to. She walked by faith from the moment the angel spoke to her. All throughout the stages of Jesus’ life, she, too, walked by faith.

Whether or not you have a newborn, I hope this season of Christmas brings you hope. Hope that there is a God who loves you and cares for you. SO much that He sent His only Son to Earth to die for you. While Mary could have never known what was about to unfold, she definitely had faith in a mighty and powerful God who could do all things- including allowing a virgin to give birth to the Savior.

So for all you mothers out there, be like Mary. Have faith even when things are hard!  We may not see all the moving pieces of God’s plan, but He knows! Let him lead the way. Walk by faith!

While we have not been given the mission of being the Mother of our Savior, we have been given the gift of this Savior. We have been given the opportunity to live with God because God came to us!

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“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

2 Corinthians 5:7

 

 

Part of the Story

My boys have gone a kick where they enjoy making books. They draw sequential pictures to their stories and occasionally add some words. Then they will assemble their books with a three-hole punch and three pieces of yarn.

Earlier today my son was sharing one of his books with me. I opened up what I assumed to be the cover and started to “read it.” He quickly corrects me flipping the book to the last page. “Mom that’s the end. Start here.”

Oh, my bad… I didn’t realize that I was starting at the end. Or that his book was assembled backwards. Nonetheless, I needed to read the book in “order.”

This got me thinking. How many times do I start in the wrong spot of a story?

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It’s easy to walk in on someone else’s story and assume I know the beginning, middle or the end. I may have one important detail; therefore, I know everything… This couldn’t be further from the truth!

For people who “know” me, it’s easy to make assumptions about who I am. You may read my blog, follow me on Facebook, or watch my family while we’re out and about. Based on all these interactions you may assume you know me or know my character. I’ll be honest, you may make some pretty accurate assumptions. But I know you may give me too much credit… or possibly not enough…

Some people may know me from high school or college. These people have a part of the story but have missed chapters that have made me who I am today. These people have a piece of the story that some people I know today do not have.  When I was younger, I was crazier. I was wild. I chased what the world had to offer. I did not really know God, and I definitely did not try to walk with Him.

Other people may not really know me, but they know someone who does know me. The stories they hear about me are filtered. Whether or not these people like me is completely dependent on the perspective of the person who claims to know me.

If I’m really honest, not many people have the full story of who I am. Parts of my story are purposely not told. Not because I do not trust you with it. Not because it is not important. But because some things have a time and place to be shared.

It does no good to share a sob story when everyone is celebrating life. It does no good to share my success while others are mourning. The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who are mourning.

I think all too often people forget to realize that everyone has a story. Everyone experiences joys and disappointments. Just because someone responds, “I’m good,” doesn’t actually mean that’s how they are doing.

There are so many days that I do that. So many days I put on my Sunday best- including a smile, and walk into Church. These days can be crazy and hectic. But as I walk into church, no one knows the story of the morning.

Like last Sunday when I had to go to the grocery store before Church. I only had 3 items to check out- but they had to be purchased before leaving for church. I had these items in the cart and ready to check out in less than 5 minutes… But I got in line at 8:57… three minutes before Schnucks will sell alcohol.  Guess what the four people in front of me were trying to purchase… beer, liquor, wine, and wine coolers. I guess the cashier decided to scan the alcohol before nine o’clock, so when the first person in line tried to pay, he was unable to do so. Instead of re-scanning the items, they decide to wait. Well, at 9:05… now 8 minutes after I had been standing in line… she calls a manager. This manger cannot figure out what’s going on. So more waiting. And more waiting. And finally the four people in front of me check out with their adult beverages. I can check out. But the cashier decides she needs to talk to the lady at the next counter about what just happened. Here I am- trying really hard to stay patient with my six children in and beside the cart. Knowing I have to be at church- 30 minutes away- in 40 minutes.

I am frustrated. I just want to leave. My time feels wasted. I feel rushed. But I am holding it all together. I turn on my Jesus Jams and head to church. As soon as I get to church, I start smiling at everyone and telling them I am good. I am good. I just had a rough morning. It’s part of the story that feels inappropriate to tell even my mother-in-law sitting beside me.

Every single person at church had a morning story. I bet some of them had a happy breakfast with their families. I’m sure someone overslept. I’m also positive someone else felt rushed. Me- I had a frustrating shopping trip.

We are all human. We all have stories that do not feel worthy of being shared. Share them anyways. Someone can relate. But more than that, we are the body of Christ. If I am feeling off, it is important to ask someone to pray for me. They don’t need all the details about why it was frustrating (we need to avoid gossiping and putting down others), but there really is something powerful about knowing you are not alone. What is even more powerful is inviting God our heavenly Father into the situation. He cares and wants to be apart of it, but God will not force His way into it. Invite Him in and watch what a difference it will make.

Remember we all struggle. We all fall short. We all have days where we feel like we are on top of the world, and then days where nothing seems to work in our favor. But as sisters and brothers in Christ, it is important to ask each other for prayer and support. We do no have to do life alone.

One of the most amazing realizations I had, was when my husband and I were sharing our early marriage struggles with another Christian couple. They laughed at each other and then said, “What do you think we used to do?”   I don’t know what they did- I wasn’t there for that part of their story. But those few words lifted a burden off me. I wasn’t alone. We weren’t alone. They’ve been there. They got through it. We can get through it too.

So don’t judge someone based on the part of the story you know. But more than that, be willing to share parts of your story that may not be glamorous, so that others can see the hope you have in Christ! You never know how much a simple, “I’ve been there,” can change a person’s outlook.

 

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am.”

Matthew 18:20

 

 

 

Thank God He’s Not Like the Weatherman

I’ve lived in St. Louis for the last nine years, and something happened for the very first time this month… The weatherman got the snow forecast right!!! Granted the snow forecast for St. Louis was 2-10 inches of snow… but we actually got what was predicted.

People in St. Louis really do not count on the weatherman’s predictions. This is why schools do not close until the morning of the snow. People who live outside St. Louis probably think, “St. Louis? Oh, the Midwest- they’re used to all the snow- right?” WRONG!!!

We rarely get snow that actually covers the grass. Instead we get bitter cold winds and icy roads. Please remember- this is the first time in 9 years that the predication was accurate!!! (Unless they were simply calling for a dusting…) So, for those of you not from St. Louis, let me tell you how it works.

A few days before: Snow is in the forecast.

                   Yeah right? I’ll believe it when I see it.

2 days before: Snow is still in the forecast.

                   Maybe I’ll go to the store for my French toast supplies- milk, eggs, and bread. But  I still don’t think it will snow.

The day before: Snow is still in the forecast.

                  Go to the store along with everyone else in the area to get French toast supplies only to find out they are out of milk or eggs.

Day of the predicted snow:

                      Oh, snow did fall… barely… but the roads are covered in ice. Better listen to the radio and not go out unless I have to… even once the roads are cleared… stay inside where it is warm.

Unless you are my husband… then you will take your truck out and spin circles                   on an empty interstate because you can…

Winter in St. Louis is interesting for sure. You never know what you are going to get.

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Praise God that He is not like our weatherman! When God speaks, His people should listen.  We can be sure that He is faithful, and His words are true! The Bible is full of God’s promises and His plans to fulfill all those promises.

Just to name a few: Noah- to never flood the Earth again, Abraham- His descendants would be a numerous as the stars, Moses- He would deliver Israel out of slavery, David- to establish his throne.

I am sure that Abraham and Sarah probably felt like God was like our weatherman while waiting for their promised child. Our weatherman was a little vague about the snow fall. 2-10 inches is a huge difference. They were promised a son, but when? They were unsure. Though they tried to get their son through their own scheming, God had a plan. And God did come through at an unexpected time. He gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age for HIS glory!

But God’s promises are not limited to the characters in the Bible. He extends promises to us as well!

After man fell in the Garden of Eden, God had a plan to restore creation. That plan was Jesus Christ. Jesus came to Earth as a baby to fulfill the promise God made to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, “ I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.”

God was talking about Jesus! From the beginning He had a plan to save us from ourselves! Because of the work Jesus did for us on the cross, we can have eternal life with God! But there’s even more- we can be in relationship with God while we are living on Earth through the Holy Spirit!

It can be so easy to fall in the traps of the world. The world says build yourself up. The world says you need more stuff- more money, more possession, more, more, more. The world tells you to keep chasing. But Hebrew 13:5 says, “5Keep your lives free from the love of money. Be happy with what you have…” God has said, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

If we have Christ, we have all we need.

We don’t have to wonder if God is telling the truth-we know He is! For those who have accepted Christ, we have the Holy Spirit residing in us! A promise fulfilled and a gift to us all!

God has started a good work in you, and He is faithful to see it out to completion. Trust him.

 

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1

 

Change of Perspective

My children love to do the Hidden Picture puzzles in magazines. We have a stack of Highlights magazines on our books shelves that have accumulated over the years.  Yet, these magazines continued to be viewed over and over again specifically for the Hidden Picture Puzzles. Recently, my girls realized how much they enjoy doing these puzzles, but it takes them a little longer to do them than it does my boys.

A couple days ago, my 4 year-old asked for my help to find a certain item in the picture. We looked and looked. I almost told her to go ask her brother. Then she says, “Hey mom, let’s just turn the page to the side and see if that helps.” Within a minute or so, she had found the item she had asked for help with.

A change in perspective. That’s all it took.

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Does this ever happen to you? Could you have ever just need a change in perspective? I know I have.

A few years ago, I had a coworker that literally drove me crazy. Just the sound of her voice made me cringe. I was working as an elementary school teacher, meaning my adult interaction was very limited and much appreciated. But when I did get a break and I caught sight of this woman, I tried to turn the other way. At one point I actually felt like she was imposing on my ability to do my job. She was a very strong woman with strong opinions… and I am a more of the keep the peace type of person. I really did not like this woman though I am not sure that many people knew this.

At this point in my walk, I was heavily being convicted on my desire for drama and gossip. I really wanted to vent my frustrations to another coworker. They would understand. They may be able to give me some advice on how to handle her. However, I also knew that doing this would turn into a gossip session… and I was trying very hard to only have positive conversations about others.

So, what’s a girl to do? I came home to vent my frustrations to my husband. Now, my husband is not really the kind of person to just give you a listening ear. He’s more of a Mr. Fix-it type of person.

So, when I took a break in my venting session, my husband looked at me and said, “Are you done?”

Oh, I wanted to keep going, but I knew I probably shouldn’t. So, I nodded and waited.

My husband then said to me, “Renee, it sounds like you need to pray for her.”

WHAT! Pray for her! I can’t even stand the thought of her name! How am I going to pray for her?

“Trust me, Renee. Pray for her,” he assured me.

I did. Reluctantly at first. I don’t really know what I expected. I knew she wouldn’t just magically turn into Mary Poppins. But I started praying for her, her family, her happiness.

As I started praying for her, I did notice a difference. But not so much in her, but in me. I was no longer so easily annoyed by her. My thoughts swaying in my mind when she spoke were no longer the negative- please just stop talking. But I was actually listening. When I saw her during breaks, I would have a short conversation with her and go about my day. I actually ended up enjoying this woman’s company before long.

So what changed? My perspective. By offering up God my frustrations with this person, He was able to change my heart towards her. I no longer saw her as an enemy or as an annoying coworker to escape. I started seeing her as a person, as an image-bearer of God. I started noticing I was taking things she said too personally. She was not trying to impose on my classroom but offer friendly suggestions. She was a person, too. She just communicated differently than I did.

I can honestly say that after seeing the result of praying for someone who drives me up a wall, I have started praying for other people much more quickly and much more often.

When we can see people as people, as an image bearer of God, we can start to see that they too have highs and lows, problems and joys, limited time, different ways of communicating, and the list goes on… But that is no reason to treat them any differently than we would want to be treated.

Sometimes problems we encounter, whether another person or a physical barrier, need a change in perspective.  I have had to learn to stop wallowing in self-pity about things I have no control over and just give it up to God. Instead of feeling like a victim of a circumstance, I ask God how can I grow from this? What lesson are you trying to teach me? Or show me another way Lord.

I truly believe that sometimes God closes doors and tells us no because we need a change in perspective. We need to see people, things, situations, and ourselves the way God sees them.

 

 

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5:43-44