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Gentleness…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 22: 47-51

“But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas (one of the twelve disciples). Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss. But Jesus said, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, ‘Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!’ And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this.’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.”


My favorite blonde cowgirl attends an FCA group in a neighboring town. The FCA leader (Zach) goes to church with us and I have the privilege of watching him pour his heart into the kids that God brings into his life as he teaches, coaches, and mentors. Although he is much younger than me, I’ve learned a lot from him as he has mentored my girls. That’s one of the awesome things about the way that God works through the Holy Spirit 🙂

Meg came home Sunday night talking about the lesson that they studied at FCA. She was pretty pumped about it. “Mom, guess what Zach shared tonight! He said, ‘Jesus shows us that gentleness is strength under control.’ Rather than a weakness, gentleness actually is a strength that we show when we maintain control.” Wow – that’s really great discernment and food for thought. I’ve found myself thinking about it repeatedly over the past couple of days.


Each day God reminds us of his strength and the beauty that comes from it.

If you look at how Webster (or our culture) defines gentleness, strength does not likely rise to the top of the Thesaurus list. Instead you might find placidness, tenderness, calmness, or softness. But when you look in the Gospels, Jesus often demonstrates gentleness through strength while maintaining control of both himself and the situation. All four Gospels describe the events when Judas betrays Jesus and he is taken into custody, put on trial and ultimately put to death on the cross. The recordings all demonstrate that gentleness is strength under control.

I believe that Jesus came both to offer us salvation, and also to show us how God desires that we live. I can’t imagine what it was like to be betrayed by a friend, treated as a criminal, physically and mentally abused and ultimately put to death. That takes the coaching phrase, “take one for the team” to a whole new level. What amazes me is how Jesus suffered with both grace and strength. He never lost his cool. He knew his job, and he did it. He calmly and gently shared the Last Supper with Judas knowing that his friend would betray him. He accepted that the disciples fell asleep instead of praying with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, and turned instead to God for strength and companionship. He healed one of his captors when Simon Peter lost his control and sliced his ear off with a sword in a bout of fear. While on trial, he maintained great composure rather than arguing. The Gospel of John helps us to understand that even while hanging on the cross, Jesus reached out in compassion to his mother when he saw her in the crowd.

Zach’s comment to the FCA students inspired me to go back and read all four accounts of Jesus’ final days. I am left in awe at the beauty of the unselfish gentleness and control that Jesus displayed. My heart is changed as I now look at the word gentleness under a new light of discernment. I realize how much work I have left to do in my own life searching for the controlled strength that Jesus displayed. Four years ago, I intentionally went to work on gaining control of my temper. Today, I live determined to continue to work on it as deep in my heart there is a piece of Jesus that leads me away from tirades and into a world of gentle strength 🙂

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Life’s Root Canal…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Colossians 3:23

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”


My favorite blonde cowgirl took an elbow to the mouth playing basketball on December 27th, breaking the bone that holds one of her front top teeth in place and displacing the tooth. The good news was that she got the rebound, you can likely guess the “bad news” 😉 We made a quick trip to Kearney to the Oral Surgeon to get the tooth popped back in with the hopes that it would “retake” and heal on its own. Our local dentist was on vacation but offered great support via telephone until he returned on January 1st. Meg’s tooth has been wired in since then as the initial glue did not hold.

Today she went back to the dentist for a follow up and I received the following text from her, “I’m the proud winner of a root canal.” I could picture the look on her face as she typed the text, and wasn’t terribly surprised by the news as we’d been warned that was a likely scenario. Friday morning, Doc will carefully remove the pulp inside the tooth, clean, disinfect and shape the root canals, and finally place a filling to seal the space.


I love to watch Meg play basketball. She does it like she does everything else in life — with her whole heart and a passion to work willingly, knowing that she works for the Lord and not just her coach and teammates. This year, I’ve seen a remarkable growth in her as a leader on the court. Her gift of discernment has matured so that she is able to better see the gaps. Not just the gaps in the game, but the gaps in her teammates’ needs. She is quick to emotionally encourage and support in addition to her all in physical contribution to the Lady Haymakers.

As I watch her play basketball, I can see Jesus moving in Meg’s heart. He gives her not only a well of love to share, but also the maturity to share it well. It’s kind of like a root canal for the heart. When we open ourselves to faith, Jesus moves in – cleans, shapes and seals us through the Holy Spirit. It’s not always a comfortable experience, and often we are asked to take one for the team but it leads to an unselfish attitude that enables others to see and experience mercy.

Jesus is at work in all of us – making and shaping a masterpiece that takes a lifetime to create. Meg’s root canal on Friday morning won’t take but an hour or two, but the work that Jesus does in her heart will continue until the day that He calls her home. Jesus’ score board is a bit different than our human one. He doesn’t look at which team scores the most baskets, rather he is concerned with the total number of baskets (hearts) that are changed through faith. Paul issues a great reminder in the scripture above. We are all called to work willingly with our hearts and eyes on the audience that matters most. When we do that, Jesus can move into our hearts and fill them with a loving and eternal purpose.

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Stubborn…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Proverbs 3: 21-26

“My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang onto them, for they will refresh your soul. They are like jewels on a necklace. They keep you safe on your way and your feet will not stumble. You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.”


If you asked my family for a word to describe me, it’s likely the word stubborn gets mentioned.  Dogged determination seems to be firmly rooted in my DNA. It is both a blessing and a curse as it gives me perseverance while also causing me to reject and fear a change of course. Giving up has just simply never been in my vocabulary. My stubbornness drove me to be an All-American swimmer despite the fact that my back was crooked and I stood proudly at only 5’3″ tall. It also took me as a recruited athlete to the Ivy League where I worked fiercely to graduate with honors – ironically inspired by the college forcing me to take an extra math entrance exam due to my low math SAT score. Finally, it brought me full of energy and passion to the beef industry as a 22 year old city kid who married into agriculture. And, it’s continued to carry me through more than two decades of working to improve animal welfare in cattle feedyards.

Telling me that I can’t do something seems to be an excellent way to motivate me 😉


January 5th marked my one year anniversary of breaking my leg. It seems that my leg is just as stubborn as the rest of me, and that I put down scar tissue like I used to put down muscle in the weight room. I may never get full use of my lower leg and ankle back, but I’m holding tightly to the goal of someday running again. Perhaps that just stems from my innate stubbornness, but I think it’s more that I’m figuring out the joy and purpose that can be found in the journey.

My unplanned accident on the ice taught me the difference between giving up and giving way. 

There is a difference between stubbornness towards God and stubbornness for God.  Stubbornness for God involves giving way to His direction and holding strongly and tenaciously to that course. The book of Proverbs often reminds us of our need to search for both wisdom and security from our heavenly Father. Faith grows when we never give up and intentionally establish a life marked by the disciplined search for God’s guiding hand. Faith heals when we learn to give way to God’s direction in order to accept the peace that His security brings. Steadfastness does not mean that you cannot yield, change direction, or establish new habits following God’s lead. It simply means that you do all of those things with dedication and perseverance.

Common sense tells me that learning to run again will take many levels and months/years of work. It is a journey that is and will continue to be marked by physical pain. Holy discernment fills the gap to give me patience and peace as I travel the course. It inspires me to search for spiritual learning as I greet each day. If I never again pound away miles on my neighboring farm roads, it’ll be okay. I can give way to a newly revised Anne and know that God walks with me every step of the way. My feet won’t stumble because Jesus will carry me. I don’t have to harbor fear of the unknown, because God holds my heart.  There will be hard things along the path, but God is more stubborn than I am and the heavenly finish line brings the promise of a good ending 🙂

2020 is shaping up to be a year of growth and change for me. I’m packing my faith, my steadfastness (stubbornness), and a revised attitude to enable me to yield when God opens one door while closing another. Stay tuned for the rest of the story…

 

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Life’s “Wire Winder”…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Proverbs 19: 2

“Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.”


Halloween morning brought cold temperatures to our farm. When I headed into town to go to Physical Therapy for my leg, the car thermometer read 5 degrees. We’ve had a beautiful fall in Nebraska, but winter looms and the growing season has come to an end.

I graze my two horses on “left over alfalfa hay” behind my house during the winter months. If I was smart, I would have built fence with my favorite farmer before the weather turned cold but busy schedules put off the chore until we finally took time to do it Friday afternoon.


We use wire and a blend of fiberglass and small metal fence posts to build the one-wire winter fence. I use an electric fencer to make the fence “hot” to ensure that the horses respect it while they are out grazing during the day. I bring them back into the corral by the house each night.

Matt pulls the wire winder behind the pickup as we role out the wire for the new fence. As he does this, it’s my job to keep some tension on the wire so that the winder will feed it out correctly. The faster Matt drives, the faster the wire feeds out as the winder turns. Since we only do this chore 1X per year, it usually takes us a few minutes to get our rhythm down. Often, we go too fast as we start out and the wire catches and breaks instead of feeding correctly. It’s a lesson in patience, focus and teamwork.

As I was guiding the wire and watching the winder go around and feed it out, it occurred to me that life is a bit like the wire winder. At times, enthusiasm pushes us to go too fast. As a result, life’s wire winder spins around faster and faster until we panic with a loss of control and often something “breaks”. The fix for this is really quit simple – SLOW DOWN – but sometimes the pressures of the world make it difficult despite its simplicity.


The book of Proverbs has a gift of stating simple wisdom.

“Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.” 

Patience can be elusive, especially during those times that earthly circumstances pull us in all different directions. Worth gets inappropriately caught up in the number of things that you get done thereby fueling a quickening life spin that causes mistakes to overtake knowledge. There is no joy to be found in that rat race. It leaves you tired, shaken, and frustrated when the wire breaks. I can personally attest to this!

They make wire splices that enable you to put the two pieces of broken wire back together. My favorite farmer and I use them when we get going too fast and the wire catches and breaks as we build fence. God made a “wire splicer” too — His name is Jesus. He puts us back together when we make mistakes and fall apart. Unlike the jar of wire splicers that are in our fencing bucket, Jesus’ jar of love never runs out. His is steadfast. Hebrews 13:8 assures us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is God’s promise that we will never be abandoned. He is the assurance that God will never fail us, even in those times that we fail Him.

After almost 45 years of being a people pleaser, I’m finally figuring out that it’s okay to say “no” when life’s demands pull my heart apart. I’m still not good at it, but I’m getting better. I’ve built a good habit of praying for God’s discernment and then waiting for His answer before I act. I know that enthusiasm without knowledge leads to a broken wire, just as I know that harmony is found by taking the time to look up to the audience that truly matters. As a result, I am becoming intentional about slowing down to look for God’s path for my life.

Harmony in life happens when we walk with Jesus. “We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall” (Proverbs 16:33). Peace and joy are there for us to find in that walk, but we only grasp them when we slow down the wire winder and focus on what truly matters.

 

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The 4th Runner…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from 1John 4:12

“No one has ever seen God. But if we love each another, God lives in us and his love is brought to full expression in us.”


The morning of August 6th dawned early as the Haymaker Cross Country team gathered for our first conditioning practice. As the sleepy high school students wandered in, it was not hard to notice that the number of boys outnumbered the girls. In Nebraska (for all classes of schools other than A – the largest schools), varsity teams run 6 athletes and score 4 with the optional 5th runner serving as the tie-breaker runner and both the 5th and 6th runners able to out-place those from other teams in order to raise team scores. The goal – if you are running as a team – is to get the lowest score possible with your top 4 runners.

To the outsider, Cross Country is pretty much an individual sport. To the runner, it is very clearly a team sport. In addition to scoring as a team, there’s nothing more lonely than standing at the starting line without any teammates, and possibly nothing harder than motivating yourself to race through the discomfort of the 4th and 5th kilometer without the knowledge that your teammates are with you.

The individuals make up the team — but the team brings the individuals together to accomplish something greater than they can do alone.

In those early weeks of conditioning, I prayed each day for God to bring our three girls a fourth runner. By conventional standards, three runners did not give them a team. Our girls could compete as “individuals”, but could not compete as a team. I knew how important it was to them to go to state together. It is possible for individuals to qualify to run at state, but it is also highly improbable for one school to get three athletes qualified that way as only the top 15 runners in each district earn the right to compete at state.

The days went by and the same three girls showed up for practice each day.  As I watched them love each other – support each other – and work so very hard together, I had an epiphany. There may have only been three of them, but they were a team. They loved, they leaned, and they shared through each moment. They did all of the things that good teams do. Honestly, they weren’t just teammates – they were sisters of the heart. It was not only remarkable, but also beautiful.

At that point, I stopped praying for a fourth runner. Instead, I started thanking God for bringing the three of them together and asked for Jesus to bring them courage. I prayed for Him to fill a different gap – not a physical one, but an emotional one. They didn’t need a fourth runner, they needed to believe that they were a team so that Jesus could carry them.

Almost two month later, the three girls huddled up near the starting line at the District Championships – preparing for the defining race of their season. I reminded them that God brought them together as a team. That He loved them and that I did too. They just needed to pack their Holy Sass and GET IT DONE!

They finished 2nd, 12th and 15th. Karyn – my youngest – was our third runner racing right on the heals of her sister Megan. 100 yards before the finish line, Karyn tripped and fell. I don’t know how many people saw her fall, but I can tell you that those of us that did had a moment of panic. But, Jesus filled the gap. She came up racing and managed to claim the 15th spot despite the fall.


I’ve learned a lot of lessons this season. So did the girls. But, I think what struck me the most was how much God shown through them. 1John 4:12 reminds us that none of us have ever seen God, but when we love one another He is expressed through us.

We know Him when we love, and others also get to know Him as we love. 

Throughout the season, the girls often gathered in prayer and opened their hearts to abide in Jesus. You couldn’t ever see Him, but you could see Him in them. As they honored Him, He blessed them. As a coach – and a mom – I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful. I prayed for a 4th runner, and Jesus delivered.

Friday, the girls will compete together at the Nebraska Class C State Cross Country Championships. I don’t know exactly what the race will bring, but I do know that Jesus will once again be with them. As they hold His hand, He will hold their hearts. Together, they’ll run.

As they do, they create the light that illuminates God’s expression of love in their hearts.

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On the other side…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 11-13

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”


Life’s not perfect. As much as we might long for unlimited happy days where the sun always shines and the journey is easy, that’s just not what happens. I’m going to reach 45 years this February and my favorite farmer has been with me on the journey since I was 18. We’ve been blessed beyond measure, and yet we’ve been challenged beyond anything I might have imagined. It’s hard to wrap your brain around how those two things can go together until you read Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is a letter of thanksgiving – written from a prison cell – during a time when he faced the very real possibility of execution. It is a great reminder that there is joy to be found in every situation, even those times of great struggle.

Last week I spent time thinking about what happens on the other side. Not just that “eternal high five” that greets us at heaven’s gate, but the other side of difficult times that we pass through during our years on earth. I spent five years battling Graves Disease and some unusual complications resulting from treatment beginning when Karyn was an infant. It was unexpected, it was hard. We had three small children (5 and under) as well as a farm to run. And, there were many days that I could hardly function. I looked anorexic, was terribly anemic and got so weak that I couldn’t lift the girls.

On the “other side” of Graves Disease 🙂

As hard as it was for me to get through each day, it was harder for Matt. Watching someone you love suffer has to be one of the hardest things that we are asked to do in our lifetime. It brings on a litany of emotions – none of which resemble the perfect happiness that we dream of on the day that we say I do. There have been times in our marriage where we have looked at each other and asked the question:

If God loves us, why does he allow us to suffer?


As I was visiting with a friend last week, the pieces all fell together and my brain made sense of this question. God uses every experience to shape us and to grant us various perspectives that help us to share His love with others on the journey. We can’t learn these things if we are never challenged. We can’t learn to lean into Jesus’ love and strength if life is never hard. We can’t have true understanding and empathy for others if we never hurt ourselves.

I’ve revisited many of these lessons over the past nine months as I spent long days on crutches and went through three surgeries to heal my leg. Today, I’d like to share the five most important lessons that struggling has taught me — looking back now that I am on the other side.

  1. Everyone has a story. Each and every person that we come into contact with battles a challenge that we may never get to see. A smile or a few words of encouragement likely makes the difference in their ability to find joy amongst the struggle.
  2. Life is not meant to be taken for granted. Each day brings the possibility of many blessings – the ability for us to share Jesus’ love with others. Slow down. Take the time to see those opportunities and then embrace the confidence of Christ in order to turn them into Holy Moments.
  3.  A loving spouse is a gift to be cherished. Matt carries a lot of medals on his heart. God’s placed them there as we’ve walked together through the past twenty seven years. He is an amazing man with a heart that never stops giving. Being his wife is one of my greatest blessings and inspires my heart to be grateful as we greet each new day together.
  4. Our children learn with us as we walk together – they learn from us and we learn from them. Never discount the power of TEAM. One of the greatest blessings that came out of my illness was our ability to come together as a family to find strength and remain stubbornly rooted in love. There’ve been days that the girls have carried us — spiritually and emotionally — as Matt and I struggled to make sense of things. Today I believe that there is nothing more beautiful than a child reflecting Jesus’ love and light to his/her parents. It not only helps them to own their own faith, it shows them the purpose of faith!
  5. We never walk alone. When I was sick, someone told me “Anne, God will never give you more than you can handle.” I really struggled with that as some days I was just plain not enough. The last ten years have taught me that faith allows Jesus to fill that gap. God often gives us more than we can handle on our own, but those are the times that Jesus comes into our lives to carry us through. He is the perfect Coach — the one with divine discernment and a never-ending well of love and strength.

I’m sure that Matt and I and our girls will face more struggles as we walk through life together. But, just as I know this, I also realize that there is joy to be found in each and every day. We find it when we abide in Christ and welcome the peace and strength that He brings. Just as Paul reminds us in the above scripture verses, the secret to being content in every situation is to recognize that we are never alone. God walks with us and offers the comfort that leads to peace – on the good days and the tough ones. It may be hard to see the value in the moment of hardship, but it becomes clear once we are on the other side.

 

 

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I am enough…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from 2 Samuel 22: 2-3

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.”


1991 Florida State Cross Country Champions…

I’ve struggled with confidence for as long as I can remember. Despite making good grades and being a successful athlete in multiple sports, the worry that I wasn’t enough haunted me during my teenage years. I’ve developed ways of dealing with this challenge as an adult, but it comes back to bother me from time to time. We live in a world that prizes performance – medals that hang around our necks or fancy diplomas/titles that demonstrate superiority. It provides a perfect playing field for doubt to thrive in those people that – like me – struggle believing that they have what it takes to be worthy. 

God’s brought many young people into my life over the past decade. I’ve been blessed to play a role their athletic and life journeys. My past experiences allow me a window into many of their hearts as I get to mentor them. The athlete that pulls most at my heart is the unconfident one. I not only see their struggle, but I feel it.

Fear of failure – fear that I am not enough is a terribly heavy burden to carry, not just on the athletic field but also in life.


Monday evening God put this prayer on my heart. I share it today for all those who battle fear on their journey.

Heavenly Father,

Help me to believe that I am enough. That I was enough the day that You breathed life into me, and I am still enough today. Place your love in my heart and help me to hear you calling me by name. Help me to release the worry of falling short.

When you ask me to go, please grant me the courage to go where you ask. When you ask me to stay, give me the patient strength to be confident that I am where you want me to be. Either way, help me to do it with my whole heart – with the trust that You will carry me.

I know that it’s my job to follow your call. Help my heart to truly believe that You will fill the gap when the ask is hard. Place the conviction that I need in me so that I can trust. Bless me with your grace and peace. Hold my hand as we walk the journey.

Lord, help me to give you all of my effort – everything that I have. Remind me to work willingly at whatever I do, as though I am always working for You. I promise to move my legs as you promise to guide them. I promise to seek You and be willing to offer my work as a sacrifice, as I know that you are steadfast in your love.

Help me to run with endurance the race that You have set before me – with a cheerful and confident heart – believing in the power of your love and knowing that you call me your own. That alone makes me enough. Strike away the doubts that haunt me so that I can live in your grace and peace.

In Jesus’ name I pray.

Amen

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When things get tough, Look Up!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 10: 23-24

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”


I spend my falls helping to coach the local high school and junior high cross country teams. It works out just about perfectly as we finish up swim team season – have a few weeks to refuel – and then Haymaker Cross Country begins. We have a great set of athletes and coaches who bless my fall days.

Part of the training routine for the runners is to run intervals or repeats of certain distances at specific paces. This not only physically prepares them to race, but it also teaches their brains what it feels like to persevere. Some afternoons in Central Nebraska provide nice, cool running weather and some bring on summer heat with a heavy dose of humidity that provides added challenge to the workouts. I remember doing repeats in the Florida heat when I was in high school, and a few decades later it provides a different perspective to coach the kids as they persevere through them on the plains of Nebraska 🙂

The other day during practice, God put the following phrase on my heart: when things get tough, look up.  The runners were hot, tired and only about halfway through the interval workout, and I could see some of them begin to struggle mentally as the physical exertion began to weigh heavily on them. Trials tend to remove any filter that might normally impact our behavior causing a clear picture of our hearts to shine through. It may be the physical test of a difficult athletic practice, or a mental or emotional challenge that leaves us shaken.


What happens to you when trials come your way? Are you able to pack your faith to hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm? Or, do you struggle to trust that God will keep his promise and that Jesus will steadfastly hold your heart?

Do you LOOK UP so that you can persevere with grace?

I think that hope provides the key to perseverance. When you are tired, when you begin to doubt your abilities, when quitting (or settling) appears more attractive than finishing strong — it is the hope that Jesus places in your heart that leads to victory. Hope inspires selfless love and good works. There is both strength and freedom to be found in the realization that IT IS BIGGER THAN YOU.

We don’t travel alone.

The ask may be hard. Just like our Cross Country interval workouts, sometimes hard work and discomfort mark the journey. But, our hearts gain limitless fuel when we hold tightly to our faith. Where our heart goes, our body will follow. It’s like that awesome runner’s high in those moments when your feet seem weightless and your lungs become invincible.

Have you ever noticed that your own challenges seem to get smaller when you look outside of yourself to help someone else? Something almost magical happens when we shift our focus to How can I serve? God keeps his promises. He uses each one of us to bring hope, purpose and love to each other. He heals the broken by inspiring the broken to help mend others.

That’s just awesome.

And, the best part of all is the promise of the Eternal High Five that waits for us on the other side. So, the next time that things get hard – LOOK UP – so that God can redirect your focus to one of serving others. There is a special healing beauty that is found in sharing Jesus’ hope and love with your neighbors 🙂

 

 

 

 

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