Share Your Struggles with Your Children

A parent’s love for their child is powerful and unyielding. My own daughter is not even two years old, yet I already know there is no limit to what I would do for her. As parents, we have so many hopes for our children’s future, what career they will pursue, hobbies we want to pass on, and relationships they will have. We also know the difficulty in letting our child figure something out on their own, knowing how much easier it would be to just do it for them or to give them the answers.
 
Yet we persevere, let our children explore new things, let them try to hold a cup of water with no lid, get dressed by themselves, pick a sport.
 
We train and guide them on how to deal with a tough teacher, a friend who was mean, their first breakup, how to make good decisions in life.
 

We hold fast to Proverbs 22:6, praying that our kids choose Jesus someday.

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

 
But all along the way, do we ever let our kids see our own struggles, witness how we deal adversity and how we go to God with our challenges? We so desperately want to preserve our children’s innocence as long as possible, but there will be a day when they will have to deal with an adult-level problem. If they haven’t been shown how to do that, their first instinct may not be to turn to Christ.
 

If you have children in junior high or high school, I can promise you that your kids know when something is wrong.

 
They may not know the details, but they can tell when something is going on – and they worry about it. I have previously worked as a camp counselor for 7 years and have been a youth group leader for over a year. Many of the prayer requests I hear from students are about their family or their parents. Instead of hiding everything from them in the hopes of protecting them, invite them in so they can see how you lean on Christ. They don’t need all the specifics (and it’s not always healthy for them to know every detail), but the more you try to hide, the more they will fill in with their own imaginations.
 

Pray for God’s discernment and be open as God leads.

 
Pray about it as a family, teach them how they can be helpful by praying and listening to God. Show them how you lean on Jesus even when nothing is going right, so when they find themselves in a similar situation, they too will run fiercely after Jesus.
 

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

 
Let’s teach our children how to run to Christ in every situation by letting them see how we do it first. Let’s give them an example to follow when things in their own life seem out of control. By sharing our struggles, we have a prime opportunity to point them to Jesus.
 
Author: 

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Defensiveness and Denial – The Two Issues of Cain

You can find the story of Cain and Abel, the first two sons of Adam and Eve, in Genesis 4:1 – 24. This is the story of the first sacrificial offering given to God after their parents left the Garden of Eden. It’s made famous by Cain’s dodging question to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Strangely, it seems Cain’s question makes its way into every generation, even among those who have no idea where it came from.
 
But, for those who are familiar with this story it tends to present two issues that most of us struggle with.
The most obvious issue is defensive denial.
 

 

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

God asks Cain where his brother is, and this is his defensive answer. Cain had just killed his brother in a fit of rage and jealousy after God accepted Abel’s (his brother’s) offering of animal sacrifice but rejected Cain’s grain offering. It’s a classic case of denial – a skill he learned from his parents. They did the same thing when they were confronted by God after choosing to disobey Him, elevating their own desires above God’s or anyone else’s.
It’s interesting that when his parents shifted the blame, they made someone else responsible for their actions. Not Cain. Cain wanted no responsibility at all. If he had fully copied his parent’s logic, he should have at least behaved the same way they did by pointing to some other person nearby. Nope. He swatted away blame like an annoying fly, and didn’t even care if it found a landing place… but, the fly always come back to land.
 
God simply wasn’t buying it. Cain was justly called out, properly given consequences and graciously spared. The issue of Cain’s question wasn’t really identifying his responsibility for his brother as most sermons and teachings go with this story. It has a great deal more to do with his stark disregard – or callous indifference – toward anyone but himself, even someone that was family.

Most all of us have seen that before. Typically, we recognize the look of that in someone else and at the same time linger in denial of its presence in our own lives.

 
In January, our church takes time to focus on prayer while hearing what the Word says about Self-Control. We’re directing all messages for the month to our adults, children and teens onto the same theme to move our church families at the same pace toward the same conviction. We’re defining Self-Control as “Choosing to do what you should even when you don’t want to.” The memory verse for the month is 1 Peter 1:3a “God’s power has given us everything we need to lead a Godly life.”
 

Dealing with someone who turns away with Cain’s indifference can hurt beyond description. Be careful not to return the favor. It will only hurt you further. Cry out to God with your hurt. Call a trusted pastor, friend or counselor who will help you to find God’s healing.

On the other hand, dealing with lingering denial requires a blatant honesty, and that only comes by great effort to control self-protective tendencies. There’s really only one solution to this. Turn toward both the One who is confronting (ultimately) and the only One who is big enough to help you beyond yourself. Essentially, that’s choosing to do what you should even when you don’t want to.

 
If Cain would have turned to God rather than putting up a wall of denial, then the rest of his story would have been different. We can be confident in that because even in his denial, God didn’t take his punishment as far as He could have.
 
One thing I have learned about God… He’d far rather deal with us where we really are than where we pretend to be.
Take courage from these words in 1 Peter 1:3a “God’s power has given us everything we need to lead a Godly life.”

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4 Things to Remember When You’re On the Edge

Have you ever been in a place in your life where you feel like one more major event, circumstance or let-down and you could completely fall apart?
You are on the edge: you hold it together and keep calm or you are about to have a melt down?
Doesn’t it feel like the expectations we have to live up to are just too exhausting?
 

I can honestly tell you this: you are not alone. Over the past two years, I have had some major events in my life that have not only tested my emotions and thoughts, but also tested everything I believe in and the will to keep pushing through those events. By the grace of God and a great support system, I have come out of all of those circumstances a much stronger person… or so I thought.

Every now and then, a little something from each of those events creeps back into my life and thoughts. I feel the weight of things that happened in the past all over again. I feel the wounds they have left behind- in my mind and the inner most parts of my being.

It is usually then that I find myself right on the edge of keeping it all together…

I feel like I’m about to have a good old fashion freak-out moment.

 
Sometimes those freak-out moments may feel like anger, other times it is simply crying out… from the pain of what I have seen and those close to me who are hurting. But, I’m here to tell you, even though these cycle of emotions come and go, there is hope!
 
What has helped me “get off” the edge when I’m feeling overwhelmed with emotions from the past? Here’s the short list:
 

1. Normal – The definition of “normal” is up for interpretation. What I have learned is that my feelings and my reactions are absolutely normal. I am not weird for feeling upset or wanting to cry about past traumatic events. Neither are you.

2. Time – they say time heals all wounds. Not really. It may be a nice cliché, but in real life it takes intentional work to heal through the pain. This is what heals the wounds and grows us. If the pain isn’t dealt with and merely buried in “time” (denial), it will one day rip that scab off with the same intensity as it did 30 years ago. Scars will always be there, but I know with the Lord working in me as I do the work of healing and the buffer of time- this allows us to become stronger. One step at a time. One day at a time. It must be a conscious choice we make every day.

3. A Support System – they say that you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. If you’re not close with your family, you must still have a support system in place. Usually our parents have gone through something in the course of their lives. They can offer advice or just be there to listen. Be wise about this- choose people who are safe, honest and have your best interest at heart.

4. God – they say to just lean on God in the hard times. It’s so easy to say, harder to do. What I have learned is this: God deeply cares for me and feels the overwhelming emotions with me. When I question God on why bad things happen to good people, He doesn’t get mad at me. He tells me that evil things are not His plan- His plan is for our good. His plan is for all of us to live in eternity with him. But there is a darkness in this world and that darkness (our enemy- Satan) is the cause of those bad things happening to good people.

The bottom line?
When I am sometimes on the edge, God can work in my life if I allow him to. God wants what is best for us, and sometimes being on the edge is just where he wants us. No pain is wasted in the hands of our Savior. He desires to grow us through it. He wants us to reach out and grab his hand, so he can pull us into his loving arms.

 
Check out this song by Elevation Worship called “O Come to the Altar”.
When you feel like you’re on the edge, stop and listen. Jesus is calling and his arms are open wide.
 
Author: Ryan Bivins


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Patience- When You Think You Can’t Wait

In case you missed it, during the month of April we focused on the virtue of patience…everyone’s favorite subject. We even tend to make fun of ourselves having a lack of patience, and in moments of great frustration nearly everyone cries out to God.. “Lord give me patience!”
 

Ever notice how effective that is?

Situations of life that expose our lack of patience can be as varied as life itself. Just when we think we’ve learned to be patient with one thing, we’re taken by surprise with another… and right back to impatience.

Here’s one thing I’m grateful for: on the subject of Patience, the Bible is full of stories of situations as varied as life itself. It really helps to look at how other people deal – or don’t deal – with impatience so we can get a better grip on our own situations. Our Children’s Pastor and I often work together to bring the subjects we talk about into the forefront for the entire family. The hope is that if both parents and kids are working on it at the same time, then perhaps the entire family benefits more…grows more.

To review, we’ve given a very simple definition for Patience and a memory verse to make it easy and practical.

Patience is “Waiting until later for what you want now.”

And, the memory verse is, Psalm 27:14 
“Wait for the Lord. Be strong and don’t lose hope. Wait for the Lord.”
 

Here are some of the Biblical stories that we covered and the Bottom Line for each:

  • Hannah Prays for a Baby
    • Hannah prayed out of her deep anguish and found God’s Peace. Remember, God doesn’t grant Patience, but He does grant Peace.
      Found in 1 Samuel 1:9 – 2:1
      Bottom Line: When you think you can’t wait, tell God about it.
  • The Golden Calf:
    • They were blinded by their own sight. Remember, insecurity gropes for something physical-tangible, which can often result in a dismissal of God’s help in order to make room for your own frantic solution.
      Found in Exodus 32:1 – 35
      Bottom Line: When you think you can’t wait, don’t forget what’s true.
  • Esau’s Birthright:
    • Esau was consumed with the urgency of his own hunger. Remember, yielding to immediate and overwhelming desire nearly always leads to tragic loss.
      Found in Genesis 25:24 – 34
      Bottom Line: When you think you can’t wait, think twice.
  • Solomon’s Wise Words:
    • Arresting your immediate frustration gives you greater clarity of mind. Remember, long-term unresolved anger always becomes bitterness…unresolved bitterness often becomes despair and depression. Found in Proverbs 14:29 – 30 
“He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion (unbridled emotion) is rottenness to the bones.”
 

Bottom Line: When you think you can’t wait, don’t lose your cool.

Take a few moments to read James 5:7 – 11. Being Patient = Self-Control: A strength you develop over time through adversity, which can only be done through practice.
 
Continued practice will strengthen your self-control.
 
If you pray for patience, God will grant opportunities to practice and grow in patience. If you pray for peace, God will grant you peace to settle your spirit so you can practice… you guessed it… patience.
 
Author:
Pastor Jon Marx, Lead Pastor at Faith Assembly

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Practice Doesn’t Get Us to Perfect, But Makes Us Better

Some people count to 10.
Others take a deep breath.
Many simply tune out or walk away.
 

Personally, when I am faced with injustice- just plain old someone being mean, or unrealistic deadlines that start to build my stress level- I do a couple of things.

First, I Consider the Source

Generally, the people driving me crazy are not drawing from the same source that I do. How do I know this? From the fruits they display.

Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the Fruit of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
 
Once I recognize the fruit isn’t there, I really can’t expect someone to act otherwise. This helps me not respond in a similar fashion even though I often want to respond in kind. I try to pray for them even while they are still “being unreasonable”. Hard to do? Yes. But this helps me have patience, and it gets easier each time knowing their souls might be at risk.
 
Sure, even some Christians can be the perpetrators! No one is perfect. While their souls aren’t at risk in this case, we can still be poor witnesses when we act like there’s no evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Remember, it’s not their action you can control-  your own reaction is your responsibility.
 
Second, I Realize Sometimes I Am the Unreasonable One
Yes it happens! I am thankful the Holy Spirt convicts me to the point of an apology and eventually changed behavior. Again, this is developed over time with practice, as God allows opportunities. Sad to say, it doesn’t happen in each of us automatically (wouldn’t that be so much easier!), but does get better as we choose to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
 

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:11-12:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and say all sorts of false evil against you because of me, rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in Heaven.

It’s helpful to remember that Jesus tells us this injustice will happen when we are living in and for Him. Remembering who I am in Christ and the knowledge that I have all of eternity to look forward to helps me to stay focused and remember what is next!

Practice doesn’t get us to perfect, but in the long run, makes us better. We have much to be thankful for because God’s promises are true. This should drive our behavior. Does it drive yours?

P.S.
This may not be all that helpful (even to some Christians since in my opinion there is a real lack of understanding on what eternity will be like) to some. Considering this, how can one look forward to eternity if one doesn’t know what it is? Another blog for another time! No one knows for sure what eternity will be like, but God does tell us in His Word a lot about this and it will be terrific for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior! Revelation Chapter 21 is the culmination of this. Halleluiah and Amen!
 
Author:
Randy Ortgeisen, Elder at Faith Assembly

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Lessons in the Rearview Mirror

I was driving home the other day, heading East just about the time the sun was going down behind me.
Rolling hills, music playing, little traffic. Nice and relaxing.
 
Until the setting sun just about blinded me in the rearview mirror.
Blinking from seeing spots, I flipped the mirror up and tried to get back to my relaxing drive home.
 

Not so fast. God had something to say.

 
As I glanced back up to the rearview mirror, I noticed the strange pattern of shadows it was creating from the reflection of the sun. I had to squint to see any kind of detail. All the rolling hills behind me were now cast in various shades of shadow. I couldn’t clearly make out much of anything, and the beauty I was beholding a few minutes before had now turned to ominous shifting patterns of grey.
 
In true form, I took notice and began to ponder how with one flip of a switch everything took on such a drastically different appearance. I use this function at night all the time, but rarely during the day.
 
In true form, God proceeded to do what He regularly does with me… speaking through life, creation and observation.
 
What I heard was this: Now you see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.
 
Hold up. I recognized this from my younger years memorizing the King James Version of I Cor. 13:12:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
 
Ok Lord, but what are you really trying to tell me.
  
His response:
Your heart may be troubled about many things, but be patient, you can’t see everything clearly yet.
 
I had questions. Of course I had questions.
  
But Lord, it’s hard to be patient when I still don’t have the answers I need. I need clarity!
  
Now you see through a glass darkly. You are my daughter. Trust me, I’ve got you.
  
But Lord, I’d rather understand right now. How do I find peace in this situation without understanding?
 
Right now you can only see a small part of the picture. I am bigger than that. Find peace in ME, not in the understanding.
 
Okay. (sigh) It’s just hard to see beauty through the distortion, purpose in the pain, solid ground in shifting shadows.
  
Your story is not yet complete. I am doing a good work in you. Work with me.
Do not be afraid, I am with you. I AM your solid ground.
 
He had more to say, but you get the idea.
When I got home, I looked up that verse in my chosen translation these days. This is how the NLT puts I Cor. 13:12:
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Sometimes we don’t see beauty looking in the rearview mirror- in the car or in our lives.

 
We often look back and still desire clarity. Sometime hindsight is clearer and sometimes it isn’t. But we serve a God that knows us completely.
As we trust and obey Him, one day we will see- with perfect clarity- the why, the how, the purpose.
 
This month we focus on the Godly virtue and Fruit of the Spirit: Patience. So often it is in the process of “seeing through a glass darkly” where God does His good work. We practice patience, baby-stepping through circumstances and trusting Him to bear fruit in and through us.
 
Our lives can shift and change in an instant. We often stumble around trying to gain focus and grasp for stability.
Do not be afraid. Your story is not yet complete. The God of Angel Armies is behind you, goes before you and is by your side.
 
As Yoda tells an impatient Luke at the start of his training in Star Wars… “Patience you must have, my young Padawan.” 
 
Author:
Michelle Marx
You can read more of Michelle’s writing here.

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Control Freak

I’m going to be upfront and honest here.
 

I’m a control freak.

I am a Type A personality, having to ensure everything is figured out. I need to be the one in the driver’s seat. Having a background in the military and law enforcement; I have my day planned out, I am task driven and I will make decisions… well, decisively!

Because let’s face it: a so-so decision is better than no decision at all… am I right?

Let’s put the brakes on that thought process for just a minute. As we have been talking about peace this month, I couldn’t help but think of the peace I have missed out on in my own life because of my control freak mindset.

It really just boils down to these simple thoughts:
I’m afraid of not having control of my life and my family.
I’m afraid of not having control of my job.
What if something bad happens?
Can I prevent this from happening to my kids?

Somehow, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

God tells us in John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
 

I seek to control the world around me, but the world around me will not bring peace to my life. As a result of sin in this world, bad things will happen, loved ones will die, my children may make bad decisions as they grow up and the list goes on.

I cannot control any of these things, but what I can control is my thought process, resolve to focus on God’s word and remember His promises. One of these promises being that he will never leave me or forsake me- in good times and in bad.

 
“Let go and let God”… have you heard of that saying?
I’m working on this very concept in my life and I want to encourage you to do the same.
 
As we release control and let God take over, I know we will begin to find a peace that is only from our Father. A peace that passes all human understanding.
 
He is our ultimate daddy and he cares for our wellbeing more than anyone on this earth.
He wants us to be at peace with ourselves, with others and most importantly with Him.
 
So let’s take the brakes off now and re-examine my first thoughts through this prayer:
 
God, I am asking you to take control. Let my Type A personality be used for your glory and not to try and control the world around me. Lord, help me to slow down in life and not rush to make decisions, but rather seek your council and wisdom first. I ask you Father that as I allow you to take control, you bring a peace in my life that I have never experience before. Help me Jesus to not be a control freak, but rather to let go of control and let you do your perfect work. Thank you for your peace. In Jesus name, Amen.
 
Author:
Husband, Father and Christ-Follower
Ryan leads worship at Faith Assembly

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The Ultimate Do Over

People often use these phrases…

I wish I could do ________ again!
If I only had another chance to do _________.

Today, it’s… I want a Do Over!

I remember when I was on the 6th grade basketball team. I got to start the second half of the game. We all lined up for the tip off and I got the tip. I dribbled down the court for a layup… and missed! My teammate Tommy came to my rescue and got the rebound.

Then he told me I was shooting at the wrong basket! Boy, did I want a do over!

Remembering this experience caused me to think of God and His amazing love for all of us- no exceptions.

God sent His only son to be a sacrifice on our behalf. Through His sacrifice- and our acknowledgement and repentance of sin in our lives- we would have salvation thru the Lord Jesus Christ. This is our do over!

Acts 2:21 says
And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (talking of Jesus) will be saved!

This is the ultimate do over for us. But thank God the reality is this:

God extends do overs to us every day.

 

Knowing this, shouldn’t our goal be to be more like Jesus every day? I know we will fail at times, but our heart’s desire should be to live like Jesus every day.

Proverbs 21:2 says
Every man’s way is right in his own eyes but the Lord weighs the heart.

Psalm 63:8 says
My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.
 

Every day our desire should be to…

Thank God for every breath we take
Thank Him for every blessing we receive
Thank Him for every obstacle we experience
Worship Him for every do over His love allows us.

I know this: our God is not a liar.
He has promised He would never forsake us, especially in those times when we have failed Him.
He is there lovingly and graciously forgiving us, promising to give us a do over. Thank you Jesus!
 

How many times has God graciously given you a do over?

Take a moment right now to thank Him for his mercies- new every morning- and His unfailing love that sustains you through each new day.
 
Author: 
Ken Drew
Loving husband, dad, granddad and Elder at Faith Assembly

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Everyone Needs Compassion

“Everyone needs compassion” are the first lyrics in Chris Tomlin’s
song “Mighty to Save.”
This word “Compassion” has really become a focal point for
me over the past 10 years.
I think about our compassion for others and Christ’s compassion for us.
 

How many times a day do we receive grace?

How many times a day does God look at us with compassion and mercy?

The answer is an emphatic…Unending!

 

We can look throughout the Bible and see God’s compassion in the Old Testament and Christ’s compassion in the New Testament. Through Christ, we can see a living example of what compassion is supposed to look like.

God has worked on my heart to be more compassionate. What better way to show the love Christ to others then to be compassionate towards everyone? Not just the people that are easy to get along with, but those we don’t always see eye to eye with.

Ephesians 4:32 says

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
 

We have a tendency to be quick to judge and condemn just because someone isn’t living the way we are living or doing the things we are doing. Through all of the negativity, political differences and racial tensions that seem to divide our country; is it possible we can let compassion and the love of Christ shine through what we say and do? Let’s put those things aside and be compassionate to all.

1 Peter 3:8 tells us to

…be like minded, be sympathetic, love one another, compassionate and humble.
 

One of God’s challenges for us today- and every day- is to love one another and show compassion to those hurting and in need.

Take a listen to this Hillsong version of the song, and join me in this compassion journey.
 
Author:
Ryan Bivins
Worship Leader, Faith Assembly

 

 

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Grace in the Grey

 

It would be nice if the world were always black or white, where issues and circumstances were either one way or the other,
right or wrong, good or bad and so on…life just might be easier to navigate.
 
Don’t misunderstand, I do believe there are absolutes in this world.
Good and evil. Right and wrong. I believe this with every fiber of my being.
I also believe that these things are instilled deep inside of us.
Things such as a true sense of justice, crimes that turn our stomachs
and leave no doubt in our mind, actions and words that hurt, steal or wound.
 
 
There are all kinds of right and wrong… pretty obvious ones.
 
I believe that God himself created us to know it.

But while there are black and white issues in the world,

there are also circumstances that live somewhere between the black and white.

Somewhere in the blur of the grey.

 

We don’t typically like the grey.
The grey is nebulous. The grey doesn’t offer quick and easy answers.
The grey can present itself suddenly, or very slowly over time.
And the grey isn’t always wrong…or always right.
There isn’t always a cut and dried practical, logical, or spiritual answer.
One of the problems with human nature is that we are often too quick to jump to conclusions about other people and their grey.
Too quick to look at a situation we think we know a little something about and call it black or white.
Too often, I’ve witnessed people quoting scripture to “prove” their judgement of what they perceive
as right or wrong…for everyone else but themselves.
 
Without knowing all the facts.
Without walking in their shoes.
Without understanding their journey.
Without, well… grace.

Truth is, real life is lived in a variety of colors.

Remember when you were a kid playing with watercolor?
Sometimes when certain colors were mixed- or mixed too much-
they would blur together to make a not-so-pretty, unattractive mess.
Sometimes our life is like that. Messy. Okay, maybe more than sometimes!
 
 
This is where grace comes in.

The loving them through it part.

Giving people grace and time to work through their grey, even if you don’t agree and even if it’s not on your timetable.
And guess what, that includes

grace for you.

If God offers us His grace and love to lavishly, who are we to not offer that same grace to ourselves and others?
And the beautiful thing is that Jesus- the one who entered our fallen grey state- is also in our grey even now,
working on our behalf, gently leading us into clarity… and eventually, full color.
 
I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
Psalm 94:18-19
 
 Author:  Michelle Marx
You can read more of Michelle’s writing on her personal blog PianoGirlSpeaks,
or often under the topic of Soul Care for Seedbed.com.

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