Back To The Throne

Every evening before I go to sleep and every morning before I rise I ask God to show me what He would like me to share. To write. If I hear silence I don’t write. This week I have heard a lot. I’ve waited for Him to help me express it but the words just haven’t come. I can tell you that if the words aren’t His I won’t write it.

This week two topics have been placed heavy on my heart. The first is our time here on earth. The second is our children. I will be honest I am somewhat of a coward. I know exactly what He wants me to write and I haven’t done it. I will say time is short. Oh so very short. There is an urgency to bring all luke warm Believers back to the Throne. To become entrenched in falling in love with Him again. To be Awake. Ready. Actively seeking Him.

The second is praying for our children. Seems simple right? Well it is not. I have prayed for our children their whole lives. I know they are each His.  One of our children has a very strong walk with the Lord.  Another one of our children has the most miraculous testimony. But she doesn’t see that  yet. I know that she will come back to Him. My fear is that our time is limited. As a friend told me earlier this week “You can count on that promise! It is fact, God’s word tells us  if our kids have been trained up in the way that they  should go? They will come back. God is a man of His word. Period. (Proverbs 22:6)”.

I think in previous decades and generations our parents turned a blind eye when we were in college. They trusted our judgement. They knew we had been raised in the church. They knew we would be back when we married and had children. This generation is different. Much different. Traditional biblical values are no longer the thread of our national upbringing. Everything is immediate. Everything is about Me. This generation is not learning how to have a relationship. There are no social skills. I really believe that plays a huge part of the enemies plan to destroy our children. When your child is faced with immediate gratification monetarily, mentally, sexually, and morally why in the world would they want to take the time to read and learn the bible? To develop a relationship with Christ? When every child in this nation is pushed to be a winner? Or handed a trophy for making it to class? Why would they need a Savior? They’re being taught to be their own saviors.

The book of Joel, Timothy, Peter, John, Mathew, Luke, Revelation all tell us that we are living amongst the last generation. People, Christians specifically, do not want to hear this. I will tackle the scripture for this at a later date.

Back to our kids. We must be obedient, diligent, and deliberate in our prayers for our children and grandchildren. Here are some pretty great promises from our Savior.

1) Pray that they will come to know Christ at an early age. (Timothy 3:15)
2) Pray that they will recognize sin and have a hatred for it (Psalms 97:10)
3) Pray that they will be caught when guilty (Psalms 119:71)
4) Pray that they will be protected from evil in their emotional, spiritual and physical areas of their lives (John 17:15)
5) Pray that they will have a responsible attitude in all of their interpersonal relationships (Daniel 6:3)
6) Pray that they will respect those in authority over them (Romans 13:1)
7) Pray that they will desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong friends (Proverbs1:10-11)
8) Pray that they will be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right one (2 Cor. 6:14-17)
9) Pray that they will learn to submit totally to God & resist satan in all circumstances (James 4:7)
10) Pray that they will be willing to be sold out totally to Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1-2)

The most powerful tool that we have as parents is to pray for our kids. Pray for their hearts. Pray for their decisions. If need be? Pray for them to be broken of the chains of this generation.  It is in our depths of despair that we cry out  and turn back to God.  God hears us! He is not going to leave a single one of His children behind.

Time is short. Pray for the ones you love. Cry out to the heavens. Be prepared to witness miracles.

“He learned obedience through the things he suffered”-Hebrews 5:8

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Emptied Of Ourselves

Someone recently told me that they suffer from the fear of missing out. With a straight face. She was dead serious. She actually had a physician tell her that she is possibly suffering from this “disease”. I tried not to laugh. To humor myself I googled it. Get out! It’s a thing. A real life phobia.

Athazagoraphobia:  “noun. An irrational fear of being forgotten or replaced”.

Oh, Dear Lawd! I could feel it coming. My biblical tirade. I choked it down. “Wow! I’m so sorry” was all I could come up with. Their $40 co-pay went to someone who decided tacking on one more label to an already confused person was a good thing. I really wanted to call this Doctor and educate her. But then I realized it doesn’t matter.  Nothing I say is going to make a difference. She has to work it out for herself. Come to the epiphany on her own.

So let me tell you what doctor of biblical studies Elizabeth thinks (you know that’s sarcasm right?). We can not be full of the Holy Spirit until we are emptied of ourselves. If the Lord can’t get us to leave a situation, relationship, lifestyle on our own accord? He causes our circumstances to change. That falling away of self causes extreme loneliness. It causes depression. It causes deep grief for what once was. He’s stripping away. He’s taking away the hangups, hiccups, and pride. He’s undoing the chains and releasing us from bondage.

Sometimes those emotions are so frightening we seek medical help. I get that. Been there done that.  We fill our ears, get them tickled, with words that help explain our pain. The feelings are real. I don’t discount that. But the Lord wants us to come to Him for the answers. When you love someone such as a  child, spouse, best friend,  or parent what do you want to do? Spend time with them!  One on one time to share news, stories, thoughts, feelings about their life and yours. When God pulls us away from social situations we feel completely alone. Left out. Unloved. The reality? He is so in love with us He wants us all to Himself. He wants us to share our fears, sadness, loneliness, helplessness, heartache with Him. He wants that season of our lives all to Him. So that He can mend us. Heal us. Strengthen us. Love us. Build us up so that He can release us back into the world made brand new in His sight.

The process is excruciating. Sometimes paralyzing. But He has us in the palm of His hand. When we can shed our pride and our fear God is able to do amazing things in our lives. Mental illness is very real. There was a time in my life when I was so paralyzed with fear and depression that I didn’t want to participate in daily life. I understand it and I’m not making light of it. Psychologists couldn’t help. My husband couldn’t help. Someone invited me to a bible study. For five years the Lord sloughed off and made new what was once dull and broken. I remember sleeping with the bible on my face. I would read scripture before I went to sleep. I’d leave the open bible on my face. All the while praying for God to rearrange my brain. Change my thought process. Take away the pain of feeling left out, left behind, betrayed, not good enough, etc. etc..

There is no doubt that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). God gives us that beautiful promise. But we have to want the help. His help. We have to trust that in that broken space and time He’s at work. In the silence He is there holding us up, retraining, regrouping, rearranging.  He’s closing doors to what once was. But if we can trust Him? Hang on? Cling to Him? What He has in store for us is better than anything we could have ever imagined for ourselves.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!”-2 Corinthians 5:17

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Step Aside So He Can Step In

“Please don’t ask me how my kid is doing” I was thinking to myself after spotting one of my children’s former teachers in the grocery store.  Bless this Saints heart!  “How are you? The family?”   Easy enough. “Everyone is doing great and your crowd?” I replied.

One of my dear friends had a child who was figuring out life. It just so happened this particular young adult was taking a little bit longer to find stride. I remember her telling me how difficult it was to answer prying questions about this adult child. I thought, quite honestly, she was being overly sensitive and a tad ridiculous. How wrong I was. I get it! Totally get it.

It’s not that you are questioning your past abilities as a parent or that you are embarrassed. They are grown now. It’s a fine line between being overly informative and protective. It’s easy to brag on the successes of the child who has thrived. The child who is lost or struggling is a different story. You know it won’t make sense to others because you can’t make heads or tails of it yourself.

I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. Operative word is trying. I want to let go. It’s time to let go. I know this. My hopes and dreams? My husbands hopes and dreams? They are just that: ours. They are not necessarily what God has in the big picture.

I’ve spent weeks talking to God about what we did wrong or didn’t do wrong. Let’s be honest: what I did wrong. Silence. I was awoken in the middle of the night recently. I had a dream. In the dream God-I didn’t see Him or hear Him– I knew in the dream it was God. He clearly and precisely  stated  “Let go so that I may catch her“.

How many of us cling so tightly for control that we forget the freedom we found in Christ to begin with?  Why do we do that? When we trust Him enough with our own lives why can’t we entrust the lives of those we love to Him?

So this week I’m going to practice what Matthew preaches in chapter 6 verse 27: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?“.  I’m committed to praying.  I’m committed to trusting Him. Let’s be real, I may only make it until Monday night. But I’m going to try to step aside so He can step in.

So here’s to all of us with bruised or broken  hearts: the silent worriers, the control freaks, the grieving, and the depressed.  May we greet each other in public places not with the Spanish Acquisition but rather may we acknowledge one another with hugs, prayers, laughter, and kindness.  May we give it all to God so that we can get on with the business of living the life He has set before us. Amen.

“God is in the midst of her she shall not be moved”-Psalm 46:5

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He Is The Answer

I wake up jump out of bed. I forget the realities of my body. Every morning it’s the same thing. Hot searing daggers shoot into the bottom of my feet as they hit the floor. Every morning I forget. And every morning it takes my breath away. I wobble as my body adjusts to the fire in my feet.

You are just waking up after a long restful nights sleep. I haven’t slept through the night in ten years. I toss all night as I readjust my body to the pain it feels when laying in one position for too long. If I’ve managed to get three to four hours of uninterrupted sleep I usually wake up with a headache from grinding my teeth at some point in the night. If I’ve actually slept four to five hours? I wake up with horrible back pain and pain upon emptying my bladder. My slowed kidneys having held in toxins, which are now circulating in my system, for far too many hours.

If I don’t sleep? I wake up feeling like you do when you’ve had an arduous workout. Except you find relief once you start moving. It takes me at least 2 days to not feel as if the muscles are pulling away from the bone.

Once up I hobble to the kitchen to start coffee. As I walk the fibroma tumors jab into the arches of my feet. I can no longer digest artificial sweeteners, chemicals or dairy. I measure out the precise amount of stevia and coconut milk I can ingest. I sip my coffee and wait for the caffeine to stimulate my bowels. If it does? Win win! I’ll be able to zip my jeans up today. If the coffee doesn’t stimulate my digestive tract? I’m left unable to zip my jeans and a horrible burning in my gut that will linger for hours. Each morning is a gamble.

Next I make my smoothie. Not because it’s a fad or it makes me skinny. I’m fat from toxins, fluid, inflammation and meds. I drink a smoothie because this early in the morning I will choke on anything heavy. Proteins will cause my esophagus to spasm. Breads and cereals are out because of the celiac disease. Anything with unknown chemicals are not an option for fear of allergic reaction.

Once I’ve finished my breakfast and coated my stomach I swallow two pills for my kidneys, a pill for my esophagus, a pill for my thyroid, a pill for migraines, a pill for nausea, a supplement for hair loss. I then drink 6 oz of straight fiber to keep my intestines moving.

I can now begin my day.

I take a shower. If the hot water loosens up my joints I shave my legs and wash my hair. Although if I stay in the hot water too long it starts a Reynauds attack. This is when my blood vessels over react to cold or hot conditions. The vessels spasm in my feet and hands. The pain is akin to scalding water. Once out of the shower I carefully apply lotion over my wrinkly face and tightening thickened skin. If my arms and neck loosen enough I blow dry my hair before muscle cramps set in my hands, neck and shoulders.

Next I go through a five step process to cover all of the pigmented spots on my face. Cover the open sores on my hands, fingers and top of my feet. I carefully apply lip color in a five fold step. I’ve masterfully learned which colors will work to hide my purple lips. They are purple from lack of blood flow. It doesn’t bother me but I find it does concern people who look at me. If I have lipstick on it’s never a topic for conversation.

Before I leave the house I make sure I have my epipen, migraine rescue meds, nausea medicine, antacid and medicine alert list with me. I’m out the door with several bottles of water to keep my throat moist, to help me better swallow. Water is also my life line–keeps my bowels moving and my kidneys flushed. If my stomach spasms during all of this it’s back to the bathroom I go.

This whole process takes two to three hours every single morning. Every single day. For the rest of my life.

If I go out to lunch I can’t eat a salad if there are anchovies or any sort of seafood on the salad bar. I will go into anaphylactic shock. I can’t eat anything with gluten or I’ll be vomiting and or doubled over in abdominal pain within thirty minutes. I can’t eat a chef salad or any salad that uses prepackaged deli meats or chicken because the nitrates will trigger a migraine and or esophagus spasm. Every single bite I take is a gamble as to whether I’ll end up in the ER. I can not spontaneously go out to eat anymore. Unless I personally know the chef and or staff I just order water.

Every single aspect of my life is planning. Everything. When we travel it has to be within a drive able distance. The pressure from flying causes hemiplegic migraines which mimic stroke. When choosing accommodations I have to research what is closest to the ER. Which hotel has hardwood floors (less likely to have mold). Is there breakfast? Do they serve seafood? Can I get fruit? Can I bring my own blender? Is there a refrigerator in the room that can house my live probiotics? Do they have a walk in shower? Do they have individual heating and air units (mold and mildew) or central air?

I use the “around me” app to figure out where all public restrooms are in case I have bowels spasms. I try to locate a fresh market or whole foods within close proximity to our hotel enabling me to have access to safe food if I cant eat in the restaurants we are dining. If there are none? I don’t eat at all. If I don’t eat I can be guaranteed acid build up and esophagus spasms and a migraine. Not planning is not an option.

Your day probably consists of going to the gym or work. I go to physical therapy once a week to try and keep my muscles and skin fluid. Another session once a week to work out the fibroma tumors that are growing on the bottoms of my feet and wrap themselves in my fibrous tissue of my back. The following day is a weekly massage to work out the pain of the previous two day’s physical therapy. One day a week I have a pedicure and manicure to try and cut away the ever thickening skin on my cuticles. If I don’t do this? My fingertips split to the quick and my cuticles pull away from the nail bed risking infection. I usually have a doctors appointment once a month for chronic bladder infections, bowel disfunction and chest fluid.

I no longer drive out of town by myself unless a family member will be in the town I’m traveling too. Anything can trigger an allergic reaction or a stroke like migraine. Unless it is in town I have someone with me in a moving vehicle at all times.

This is my life. I’ve never shared fully the detailed effects of living with a chronic disease. But it’s important you understand, that no matter how bad life is, someone else is walking through difficulties as well. This has been on my heart recently. The national whining. The new it’s all about me generation. The political garbage of believing everyone deserves to be equal.

Guess what? Life is not far. It is not easy and it is not equal. Instead of whining? Ask God to show you how you can make the best of your circumstances. Get over yourself. What I’ve found these past ten years is that “why” no longer matters. “How can I make it better?” still leaves the focus on me. “What can I do  for someone else?” takes me outside of myself. It allows God to do His thing through me.

I no longer can enjoy what you take for granted. I can no longer be spontaneous.  I can, however, still bless those I love with kind words, planning, cooking, decorating and writing. There is no self pity. There is no longer anger (okay not completely true somedays I still whine). And, frankly, there shouldn’t be…not  from any of us. Life is a gift. Each of us just live it out differently. Some of us unwrap it every day with expectancy. Others overlook the beauty of just being here. Whichever way you approach the package? It’s still a gift that He has graciously and lovingly bestowed upon us.

Ten years ago a sunrise or a sunset were beautiful when pointed out to me. Today? I seek them. I look for Him. They remind me that in an ever changing, complicated and confusing world God is still the same. He’s still in control. He knows the end  game. There are no surprises to Him. He knows better than I what the purpose of all this is. He rises with me and ends my day. He is beautiful. He is faithful. He is my alpha and omega.

It is true I am, some would say, trapped in this body. Yet I’ve never been so free. He is the answer people. He is the answer.

“Faith tells me that whatever lies ahead of me God is
already there”-Psalm 119:165

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Live Like You’re Dying

What do you do when someone confronts you with untruths? Do you defend yourself? Are you simply silent? Do you believe them? Do you laugh it off? If you have the privilege to live long enough someone is bound not to like you. And it is likely that, if you live long enough, somebody will attack your character.

 

I’ve known people in the past that have character assassinations on a pretty regular basis. They are so grounded in who the Lord says they are. The attacks don’t phase them.

 

I grew up with a friend who thrived on daily drama. Seriously upset if she wasn’t the topic of conversation. She loved stirring the pot. She thrived on controversy.

 

I have another friend who has spent her whole life trying to make sure that everyone likes her. Her fear of being disliked is akin to my fear of the stomach bug. She subconsciously does everything in her power to assure no attack ever comes. To never ever have confrontation in her life. But good gracious she’s exhausted.

 

David Jeremiah once said:

“How we respond to problems in our life exposes our values, priorities, and especially our spiritual beliefs. Our goal in life shouldn’t be to eliminate problems–that will never happen. Rather, our goal should be to keep them in perspective and respond in a biblical fashion”.

 

I love this quote because it is truthful and it is easily applicable. If we respond from our emotions we most surely will rely on our feelings. If we respond based on God’s word we can rest in undeniable truth.

 

My mother in law gave me the smartest advice I’ve ever received. When we first moved back to my husbands home town, almost three decades ago, she lovingly advised :

“never talk about anyone unless it’s in the confines of your own four walls. Your home is your confessional between you, your husband, your children, and God. What is said inside your four walls is sacred and should remain there. Whatever opinions you or your family have that are unkind need to remain in the sanctuary”.

This is also the same lovely woman who told us “No matter how poor you are buy one piece of art or antique furniture that you love each year of your marriage. When you reach middle age your home will contain only things you love and lots of beautiful memories”. In other words, my mother in law is one wise woman.

 

My husband and I have followed her advice on suggestion #2. Unfortunately, through my late 20’s and probably early 30’s, I didn’t heed her #1 advice. I gossiped. Probably more than I’d care to admit or remember. I most probably hurt some precious people. And ultimately it hurt me. It was a painful lesson. It was a necessary lesson. Immaturity, insecurity in who I was, the need to feel liked, the need to appear more than, and the need to ward off confrontation were what drove my poor decisions. And boy did I pay the price!

 

Just as David Jeremiah stated we must respond to attacks and controversy from a biblical position. What does that mean? Hopefully you are bonded with friends with whom you no longer need to gossip and cause controversy. But in the event that you are accused of any kind of social wrong doing gossip, lying, etc. you must approach it from a biblical standpoint.

 

First and foremost you must be right with Jesus. You must repent of your sins. And I don’t mean throwing Him back up on that cross in the name of the law. I mean just as your children will come to you periodically “Mama, I really wasn’t at Jane’s I’m so sorry for lying please forgive me”. Likewise that does not mean you intentionally sin knowing that you will be forgiven.

 

If you obey Him you can rest in His peace in all of your decisions. Our goal as a sinful people is to let Jesus mold us into who He says we are. That involves sometimes being silent and sometimes it involves discussion. Jesus wants us to approach one another in humility and forgiveness. Matthew 18 is an incredibly powerful chapter on inclusiveness and reconciliation.

 

Tim McGraw’s song Live Like You Are Dying could truly have been an anthem for the church. If we live like we are dying? Well, we speak sweeter. We offer forgiveness where none is due. We literally die to our sinful nature in anticipation of our heavenly home. We acknowledge our past and present sins, conscientiously live in the here and now, and anticipate our heavenly future. We treat each other the way Jesus treats us, Amen?

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.”-Matthew 18:15-16

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At Rest

My husband has every card I’ve ever given him. I mean every single one. Like since 1984. He also has saved every note our daughters have penned. They are neatly organized in his bedside table. I have a whole stack of love letters I saved from him during college. Other than that I’m just not emotionally attached to cards. Which is funny because I love words and my husband is a man of very few words.

I can, however, tell you about every piece of jewelry, china, silver, and artwork my husband has given me. I can recall when it was given and where. I can recollect that period of time as if it were capsuled just for me. Some pieces have strong emotions attached to them. Seasons of passion and seasons of pain. To me, that’s what makes them priceless. That’s what illustrates our story.

When we were dating we spent a lot of weekends on his family farm. Being a man of few words he loved to drive the fields and just observe. We would drive through soy bean, tobacco, and cotton fields in his grandfathers 1964 pickup truck. The floor boards on the passenger side were rusted. You could see the eastern North Carolina sandy soil beneath you. Tobacco leaves swishing up through the floor as we bumped along in that old three on the tree truck.

One of the things I love about my husband to this very day is that he taught me to be still. To observe. To watch. To appreciate the flatlands we live in. To see the story in the land. Architecture in tobacco barns. To take in the sunset in silence. To take notice of all the beauty that surrounds us. I believe that God used my husband to set the stage for me to be able to see Gods glory much later in our marriage. 

I wish I could articulate to our daughters just what love and marriage truly mean. Our daughters are at the age of being bridesmaids and attending the weddings of their friends. The beautiful dresses, gorgeous rings, and extravagant receptions. But do they truly comprehend what the joining of those two young people mean? If it was all meant to be perfect then we wouldn’t need Him.

I read the most fabulous quote recently by Lysa TerKeust “Most of us spend years chasing things in this world that we think will make us feel loved. But everything this world has to offer is temporary. Everything. The kind of love our souls crave is lasting, eternal. And only God can fill up our hearts with that kind of love.”

My husband gave me a beautiful oil painting of an old pickup truck for Valentines Day. The artist had entitled it “At Rest”. Few things have moved me like this painting. It reminds me of the farm, young love, and all the bumps in the road over the past 27 years of marriage. The epiphany that through it all we are finally at rest with one another. We no longer expect the other to fill that empty hole. We know, now, that only Jesus Christ can truly satisfy our souls. That our spouse was never intended to be our god. 

I love my husband more than words could ever adequately describe. He is my very best friend. My confidant. My partner. But he alone can not complete me. He compliments me. And hopefully our earthly love is a preparation for the eternal love that we have in Christ. 

“We love because he first loved us.”-1 John 4:19

  

Christ Is Proclaimed 

They see me as their competition, And so the worse it goes for me,
the  better–they think–for them.

So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives,
whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. 

Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. 

Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done.

~Philippians 1:17-21

How many of us have been hurt by words? Many of us can shrug it off as unimportant. When Christians say hurtful things about us or to us? Members of the body of Christ? That stings. A lot.  Our immediate fleshly response is (1) you are truly a jerk (2) maybe the offender is right (3) how could a fellow sister/brother of Christ behave that way? (4) Just wait until everyone else sees what I see

Been there? Relate to any of that?  What I find absolutely awesome is that Paul, who clearly faces the same challenges we do, is able to stay focused on the good. He makes a conscious decision to cheer on and pray for those that criticize him. Paul understands that God has a plan for his life. He knows the importance of speaking God’s truth in all circumstances. He gets that actions are louder than words. He understands that “everything He (God) wants to do in and through me will be done”. He knows the end story. He knows how it all plays out.

After my mother died I had a huge disagreement with my grief stricken, cantankerous Father. His words hurt me deeply. That one heated encounter caused my father and I not to communicate for over 18 months. Two grown “churched” adults wounding each other with words.

I’ll never forget my father in law saying “Have you spoken to your Daddy recently?” I told him I hadn’t and why. Fully expecting him to jump on my bandwagon. He listened and very graciously said “You know, Elizabeth, I suspect George needs to hear from you. I suspect he needs to see you. He’s your Daddy. If I remember correctly we are suppose to honor our parents. You need to go see ole George”.

I was stunned. And hurt. His words stung. They stung because my father in law was 100% without a shadow of a doubt correct. The right thing for me to have done was to understand that my father was deeply depressed and grief stricken after my mother passed away. The right thing for me to do was to have had compassion for him regardless of my opinion. I chose to use words rather than actions.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors. And crazy family members. We don’t have to like it. We must do it. The gospel can not go forth without doing so. We can not fully live a life of freedom in Christ when we are bound in sin.

I swallowed my pride and we went to see my Dad. During that year it was all about God growing me for His glory. My Dad never got any easier. We did bring him to live with us. Our entire family was with Him the day we prayed the gospel over Him. After squeezing my hand in acknowledgement that he had heard it he died.

God taught me the true meaning of love. He taught me that love is a decision not a feeling. My Dad never thanked me. Rarely said anything kind. Yet my choice to preach the gospel demonstrated Gods perfect plan through me used for His glory.

I know my Dad is in heaven. All the other hurt feelings just don’t matter. The end game means eternity in the presence of the King. “And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out”. 

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”-Psalm 51:12