Category Archives: Encouragement Challenge

How He Loves Us

Double Rainbow

I woke this morning with this song in my head – “How He Loves”. The chorus repeating over and over…”Oh how He loves us, oh how He loves us, oh how He loves us, oh how He loves.”

I am a hot mess most days.

We all have our stressors don’t we? Parenting that feels like it is going to throw us over the edge,  stress at work, struggles in marriages and friendships. There isn’t a day that goes by that I think that I did things perfectly and for a Type A perfectionist like myself, this can be a tough pill to swallow!

I want to be an on fire woman for God. I want to raise my children without any serious issues that cause them to need therapy later in life. I want to offer unconditional love towards my husband.

But most days I am short-tempered, irritated with the littlest things, discontent and jealous of those that seem to have it easier than me.

Nice huh?!

But in comes grace. A gift I thank God for daily. A gift freely given to me, something that I don’t always comprehend, but something that is a balm to my weary and broken soul.

God never expected that we would get it right, that is exactly the reason He sent His Son for us.

Yesterday I participated in a fast. The last 6 hours or so were the worst. At this point I was “fruited” out and I would have given just about anything for a dry cracker. I craved grains, it was weird! 🙂  And then there was that time that my oldest son taunted me by eating a caramel filled cookie right in front of me with about 3 hours to go. Ahh yes the love…

I discovered in a real way how much I want what I want, when I want it.

Patience and surrender are apparently not virtues of mine.  But in the end I made it. I went a full 24 hours and didn’t cheat…only by God’s grace really because I wanted to and even thought at one point, who would even know really?!

But you know what I DO know? Even if I had “cheated” or been unable to finish the fast, God loves me anyways. It isn’t about me at all really. I don’t have to do anything to earn God’s favor. He loves me, in spite of me. THAT is the takeaway reminder for me again.

I am going to mess up, I am going to be short tempered and insensitive. I will let my husband, my friends down…it is inevitable. I am not perfect – but God doesn’t need me to be. (<====Click to Tweet)

But God with His unconditional love, reminds me every day that He loves us, oh how He loves us. Thank you God for loving me.

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I am joining the amazing Holley Gerth in her #2014EncouragementChallenge. Where writers come together each Wednesday to offer hope and encouragement to one another. We would love to have you come and join in!

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Photo Credit: LifeHouseDesign

The Gift of Friendship

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One of the biggest blessings that have come out of the past year and 1/2 are these beautiful women. Women that have poured into me. Prayed for me and blessed me with laughter.

On Friday, really really early on Friday, I will be flying to Houston to spend the weekend with 10 of the 12 founding members of the God-sized Dream website. We are meeting to dream and plan together….to seek God’s vision for the site and of course to eat way too much and laugh. Oh how I need to laugh!

This trip, and my ability to go, is a blessing in so many ways.

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The community that we build online is real. It matters, it changes us.

I wasn’t aware that I could be filled in this way. That I would have the opportunity to pour into others….these crazy ladies that I met online! 😉

Holley and I!

But it has happened, and the chance to spend even just a weekend in real life together, well I am almost beside myself in anticipation.

You see on Saturday is Karlena’s birthday….

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A birthday that I can’t celebrate with her in person. Her loss in my life is still there….

But God.

Oh how He has filled my life to overflowing with the presence of some amazing women. And that this weekend was THE weekend that worked for so many of us to gather?! That at a time I would be feeling extra lonely, I will be surrounded by friends that are doing the very things that Karlena did with me.

Praying for me, encouraging me, being that light….that example of faith.

Thank you God. Thank you.

While Karlena will never be replaced in my heart, I am so grateful that God has filled that need for friendship with some wonderful women.

Friendship, real life, true friendship is a gift.

My prayer for each person reading here is that you will have someone in your life that is filling your need for true friendship, and that you would be able to be that gift back.

 Lord, Thank you. Thank you for the gift of friendship. Thank you for filling my life with wonderful women who love You and love me so well. I lift up anyone who is feeling lonely today, who is searching for that friendship but doesn’t have it now. May they feel your peace and love even more today. In Your Great Name, we praise you! Amen

Each Wednesday we meet to join Holley in her 2014 Encouragement Challenge. If you need a little uplifting for your day jump on over and join us won’t you?!

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We All Need a Little Grace!

grace

 The sound of something spilling all over the floor brought me running into the kitchen.

There was Elijah, my almost 5 year old, with a look of fear on his face. He had made a huge mess and spilled his juice all over the chair and the floor.

Maybe it is because I have been sick the past few days and unable to keep up with my everyday responsibilities let alone parent well….

Maybe it was the look on his face, I don’t know….but I didn’t respond the way that I normally would.

I didn’t get angry or yell at him. I have little patience for stupid mistakes. (I am serious…patience is NOT a virtue that I was blessed with and it becomes more and more clear as I struggle to parent a 3 yr old and almost 5 yr old well!)

Normally I would let something like this really upset me….I wouldn’t see it as an accident, but a careless mistake.

But this night was different.

This night I just grabbed a rag and started to clean up the mess and told Elijah it was just an accident (which it was)….

I told him that he needed to be more careful about where he left his cup on the table so it didn’t happen again – but I was calm and kind.

Grace.

We all need it don’t we?

I am not above stupid mistakes, heck I make them all the time! And I expect grace from others don’t I?!

Why am I not as willing to extend it then?

Just that afternoon I had left work for an extended time to take a nap because I was feeling so terrible. I need grace too, just like everyone else.

God really used this little incident to speak to my weary heart.

I don’t want my kids to always be afraid that I am going to get angry when they do something wrong.

I want them to learn how to give and receive grace. (<=== Click to Tweet)

I want them to know that their mistakes don’t define them, but God’s grace for their lives does.

As we enter the final days of Holy Week, I am more and more grateful for the amazing gift of grace that was shown to me.

God sacrificed His ONLY Son, to be a Savior of all mankind. Even when He knew we would be sinful, even when He knew we would curse Him, would fall away and turn from His love….He loved us THAT much that in spite of who He knew we would be, He still made a way so that we could spend eternity with Him.

Wow – that kind of grace is overwhelming isn’t it?!

Grace.

We all need it.

I am grateful that I had an opportunity to practice grace in a real way with my kids. I won’t always do it well…in fact now that I have written this post I will probably fail in a BIG way in the coming days. (I’m just saying….I am the chief of hypocrites)

But I hope that I can be more quick to remember to extend grace instead of react negatively.

Because we all need a little grace!

Joining the lovely Holley Gerth today in her weekly 2014 Encouragement Challenge.

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Photo Credit: Share the Word

Even the Little Things

Prayer

Yesterday was a rough day.

It started out with me waking up at 4:30 in the morning with a terrible headache.

I get a bad headache a couple of times a month usually, and they usually last a couple of days. Typically I can take 1 excedrine, or use a little peppermint oil and it goes away. I have tried all sorts of things for headaches over the years and found many options ineffective.

So when I woke yesterday I took 1 pill and went back to bed for an hour and thought when I got up it would be gone.

But it wasn’t and it was really bad. Another pill, some oil, some Ibuprophen…massaging my temples. Nothing was working.

I reached out to a group of friends that was going to be meeting over the lunch hour to pray for our God-sized Dream team. Each Tuesday several women gather over Google Hangout and pray for the team. It is such a gift to have people praying for you and there is power when they are gathered.

I asked for prayer for my headache. And then forgot that I had even made the prayer request.

Over lunch I noticed that the headache just stopped. I figured that the meds must have finally kicked in. But it was gone and honestly it didn’t return for the rest of the day.  This isn’t typical for me.  When I get a bad headache like this it will come back, it will last into the evening, it will be there in the morning when I wake up. For at least 2 days, sometimes 3.

Last night I got a boxer from my friend Christine and in it she reminded me that they prayed for my headache….at approximately 1:45 EST. I was having lunch at that exact time (CST)….

During the exact moments that my dear sisters were lifting me up in prayer I was finally feeling relief.

When Christine left that message I just had chills.

He hears our prayers. No they aren’t always answered in the time frame that we would hope…or even with the answer we are looking for. But sometimes we see an immediate answer….and yesterday was one of those times.

I am just so grateful.

Grateful that I have faithful friends that are willing to stand in the gap for me and lift me up in prayer.

Grateful that God loves me enough to hear and respond to even the little things like a bad headache.

I am not sure where you find yourself this morning….struggling with a bad headache, or maybe something even bigger.

I want you to hear just this one thing today – God hears your prayers, even the little things. He hears them. It is worth our time to keep lifting them up. And when we see answers – share it with others!

Give God the credit for how He loves us!

Last night I jumped on our FB group page to thank the women who prayed for being faithful. We need to be faithful in the praying, but also faithful in the praising of God when we see the answers come!

God, thank you. Thank you for hearing, for healing and for loving me so much. Even in the little things. I am awake this morning pain free and praising You and grateful for my faithful sisters who stand in the gap for me.

Do you have a prayer need that I can be praying about today? Please leave them in the comments and I will be lifting you up in prayer today!!

Joining my dear friend Holley in her #2014EncouragementChallenge. Sharing words of encouragement and hope each week! We’d love for you to join in on the fun!!

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Photo Credit: Zach Alexander

“You Love Me Anyway”

3 Crosses

We are in the season of Lent…anticipating the Easter celebration that will come in a few weeks, the culmination of the Christ story, the fulfillment of God’s promises.

But are we living out that gift of life that was given to us on a daily basis?

We are studying Revelation in church right now and it is very interesting and scary stuff. Scary for those that will be left behind. We see in greater detail God’s wrath on a fallen world.

But still there is hope in the story.

God, in His loving mercy, sent His only Son as a way out. Payment for our sins. God wants all to know Him and accept this gift of grace.

But do we live in that grace?

I have been a believer for a long time. I have also had a very skewed view of what that means. I am a failure at being a good Christian most days.  I am not kind and loving with my family at times, I can talk about faith but don’t always live it out well, I am a hypocrite, 100%.

So who am I to stand here, writing about the grace and mercy of God?!

Those are lies that the enemy whispers to me often. Do you hear them as well?

Our pastor shared something at the end of his sermon on Sunday that really struck a chord in me and I just felt like I needed to share it here today. Maybe you find yourself in this very place as well….

As Christians we often hold ourselves to a kind of “to-do” list to keep us saved. Get up early for prayer time or Bible study, pray pray pray, go to church…etc.

All of these things are great. They keep us in communication with God, help build that personal relationship with Him that He so desires.

But it doesn’t keep us saved.

Christ’s shedding of blood on the cross is what was the ultimate payment, the covering we all need to remain in the presence of God for eternity.

I accepted this gift, and committed to walking in relationship with God but what happens on those days that I really need to sleep in and skip my quiet time? What about those times that I forget to pray for my husband and children? Or those times that I am selfish and ungrateful?

How could God possibly love a sinner like me?

And THAT is the point friends….

He doesn’t love us any less when we aren’t playing the Christian “part” to perfection!

God loved me so much (knowing EVERY sin that I would commit) that before I was even born He sacrificed His ONLY Son to die a painful and unimaginable death on a cross, so that the shedding of blood would be an eternal covering for me, if I would just accept the gift.

How powerful is that?!

It isn’t what I do, or blog about, or how often I get up and do a BIble study….He doesn’t love me for those reasons….and He doesn’t love me less in those times that I fail.

God loves unconditionally.

I can’t even fully grasp what that means because as a human, and a failure, I don’t know how to love unconditionally…I put conditions on my love all the time – even if I am not trying to do so….I think a hint of it is always there.

But God, in His great grace, pours out His love on us no matter what!

We should be walking in freedom friends!

Accepting this gift for what it is. A love offering from a God that cares more for us than we can even imagine. I am not going to loose His love when I fail…no, I already have His heart 100%. And so do you.

So start living in that redemption. It is your free gift to accept. And stop believing the lies that because you fail, that you have lost God’s favor. Your failures are the exact reason we have the cross.

A beautiful song the represents this is “You Love Me Anyway” by Sidewalk Prophets. Let the words fill your soul with hope today and walk in freedom because He loves you!

I am joining Holley for her #2014EncouragementChallenge. If you need some encouragement jump on over here and join the fun!

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Photo Credit: www.ForestWander.com

The “Herd” That Surrounds Me

Water Buffalo

My dad has been to Africa several times for various mission trips. Several years ago he brought back the African buffalo figurine picture above. I was dusting our shelves at the office tonight and saw this and was reminded of this story.

During his last trip there he told us that he saw it and he thought of my husband. (Ok not in that way…stick with me here!) 🙂

At the time Dominic and I had been through some really tough years. TOUGH years that almost broke us….but as we started to walk in faith a little we found ourself surrounded by a group of friends that were a huge support and impact on us.

We spent time with these friends each week, found encouragement, learned how to laugh again and trust in others.

They were our “herd”…our tribe. And my dad was the first one to make the connection between the African buffalo’s behavior and that of our friend’s.

Apparently the African water buffalo displays some interesting behavior within their herd. If they are being chased by a predator, the herd will stick closely together and make it hard for the predator to pick off one member.

The weaker, smaller members are surrounded and kept in the middle and if a member of the herd issues a distress call, the other members will respond and try to rescue anyone who needs help.

They look out for one another, they support and protect each other and respond when there were times of distress.

Just like the tribe of friends that surrounded us in our times of need.

We wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t had those remarkable people in our lives. I am ever grateful that God allowed us to experience that kind of friendship.

Today I have the gift of a new “herd”. (And girls I mean this in the nicest, most fashionable way) 😉

I have found myself surrounded by wonderful women of God who encourage me, pray for me and cheer me on.

When I have felt the attacks of the enemy, I know I can go immediately to my tribe. They support me and cover me with prayer and they never let the weakest of us fall outside of the protection of the circle.

I hope that if you are reading this, you too have felt the support of a tribe like this.

That figurine in our office will always be a reminder of this gift that God has given us throughout the years. While some of the people have changed, the blessings they have been to us are immeasurable.

My prayer this week is that you too will feel the comfort of your own herd, a tribe that is God-picked just for you.

Each week I am joining the lovely Holley Gerth in her 2014 Encouragement Challenge. If you want to join in on the fun hop on over here.

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The Little Things That Make All The Difference

Invitation

Sometimes we don’t realize the impact we can have with our words and actions.

Gabriel climbed in the van after school last Friday and wasn’t his usual happy self. There is a group of six boys that he hangs out with and apparently one of the boys was having a birthday party that night and Gabriel was the only boy not invited.

If the sound of this mama’s heart breaking could be heard outside of my chest, the noise would have filled the car.

Oh how I want to protect him from hurts like this.

And it reminded me of a similar story with a different ending several years ago.

Isaac, our oldest, was 7 and wanted to have his first birthday party.

He had a class with mostly boys that year and when I asked him who he wanted to invited he gave me a list. I recognized that he had invited almost all of the boys…but there were a few names left out.

We had a conversation and I told him that I really felt like he should invite ALL the boys.

He said that there were a few boys he didn’t really get along with and he didn’t really want to invite them….but I told him that if he didn’t like them, the feeling may be mutual and they likely wouldn’t show – so invite them anyways.

I felt strongly that I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Inviting all the boys would eliminate that possibility.

The invitations went out and I planned for a party.

10 out of the 14 boys came that Saturday afternoon.

It was loud, they spilled on my carpet and Dominic entertained them with dry ice. Stressful but fun, and totally worth it.

Parents started arriving to pick up their kids as the party ended and one mother approached me.

I didn’t know a lot of the parents but she came over to thank me for inviting her son.  She said that he had not ever been invited to a birthday party before. He was so excited to be included that he went to bed the night before wearing his best church clothes.

He didn’t want to chance missing out on the party.

I won’t ever forget that conversation. It choked me up then and still does today.

He and Isaac never became best friends….but for that day, in his best church clothes, he felt special and included.

THAT is what matters friends.

Doing the little things that make such a profound impact.

I don’t know why Gabriel wasn’t invited to that party. I told him that maybe the mom only had enough room for 5 kids total in their car…..would 1 more have been too much? 🙁

When I shared the story about Isaac’s party and how I felt it was so important to do our best to include everyone for that very reason, Gabriel understood and said he doesn’t ever want to make anyone feel left out.

I know that situations like this can’t be 100% avoided, but it reminds me that I need to be considerate of others and that my actions, my children’s actions, can make a difference.

Philippians2: 3-4  “3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

How have you made a difference recently? It may seem small, but I can promise even the little things can have a big impact!

Each week I am joining the lovely Holley Gerth in her 2014 Encouragement Challenge. If you want to join in on the fun hop on over here!!

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Photo Credit: via

To The Ones Who Inspire Me

Allume-1**Thank you Melissa for this beautiful picture of just a few of the lovely women that have become sisters to me…while you are not all pictured here you are a part of my story. Thank you.**

There is a community of women that have become family to me.

While we started out as strangers a little over a year ago, today so many of you are women that I couldn’t imagine going through life without.

I have watched as you have grown in your God-sized dreams.

I have seen some doors open, and some close…but always at the guiding hand of God. With hearts full of faith and a desire to seek His plan you, my sisters, have journeyed forward.

I have seen you and I have grown because of it.

Your faith has been an inspiration to me.

Your courage has helped me fight my own fears.

Your strength and prayers have lifted me up in my times of weakness.

 My life is changed because of you, and I am so grateful.

I write here in this space because you have encouraged me, told me that my stories matter too.

I hope that this will always be a place that I can do the same for those who pause here.

My dear dreamer sisters, thank you.

My words don’t adequately express my love for each of you.

You are my people, my tribe and I am blessed.

Joining Holley Gerth and her 2014 Encouragement Challenge. One day a week we take to spread joy to one another! Need a little love this week? Hop on over here and be encouraged!

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Photo Credit: Melissa Aldrich

When It’s The Little Things….

Fish 4Dominic and I were at Walmart a few weeks ago and saw some Beta fish and he commented that he thought the kids might really like to have one. He said he wanted to bring them over to help pick a fish out so we didn’t do anything that night.

But life gets busy doesn’t it?!

Whether it is work or kids/school commitments, time at church….there are a lot of things that can fill out days around here.

We have been super busy with our business. It is a God-given blessing indeed, and we try not to take it lightly, but at times the weight of all that needs to be done can feel pretty heavy.

Last night it was time to leave the office and I could tell Dominic was so tired but felt like he needed to stay and work. I encouraged him to come home and have dinner and see the kids and then get back at it if he needed to.

He thought that maybe he should take the kids out and go look at a fish.

So while I was making dinner, Dominic took the 3 littles out to Walmart. They were so excited they could hardly stand it!

They came home with 4 fish, because of course they each needed one! 🙂

Fish 3They set to task to prepare their new home environments.

They washed out old vases I had kept for a time such as this, cleaned up some old river rock we had saved from previous fish habitats and worked to get the water temperature just right and added the chlorine treatment so the water would be safe.

Then they had to wait.

Dominic explained that for the safety of the fish, it was best to wait an hour for the water temperature in the vases and the water temperature in the fish’s current “home” to align…that way when we transferred them over they would have the best chance at survival.

Waiting can be hard so we put in a movie to pass the time. It was Spongebob and it was terrible, but at one point I was sitting on the couch with 3 of my kids and they were all laughing.

It’s the little things, isn’t it?!

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Seeing the smiles on their faces when they look at their new fish, hearing their laughter – even if it is at a terrible cartoon character….it was all worth it last night.

In the midst of so much “to-do”, we all needed something like a couple of new fish to remind us what is really important.

The small things can bring such joy can’t they?!

I often forget to look for the things that bring me joy, it isn’t that I am not grateful for our many blessings…but I don’t stop and “smell the roses” enough.

Last night we all did that and it was wonderful.

The kids named their fishes….Turk (short for turquoise) – Gabriel, Circle fish – Elijah and Around – Karlena. 🙂  We will see if these are still the names when the kids get up this morning!

And thankfully, at least today, all of the fish were alive when I got up!

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I know life gets tough and sometimes it is hard to find the joy in our circumstances. But I encourage you today to take some time to do something small that helps you find that joy.

Whether it is taking a walk and watching the sunset, or curling up with a good book, or sitting on the couch under a pile of blankets watching a cartoon with the kids.

Take time to find that thing that brings you joy! You will be so blessed when you do. 

I am celebrating that which brings us joy today with Holley Gerth and some other wonderful women that are seeking to bring light each Wednesday with Holley’s 2014 Encouragement Challenge.  You can join in on the fun here!

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When You are Attacked by Stormy Seas

Stormy seas

There are days like this every so often and while they come less frequently than they did in the past…they still come. Days where the sky seems darker, the world colder, and it feels like I am just fighting to stay in the boat.

When I was around 10, I climbed into the boat after Him for the first time. Believing completely that life would be smooth sailing from that point on. He was in fact Jesus and now that He was in my heart He would make everything ok. Right?

But the clouds rolled in and the sky grew dark, the rains came and I felt alone.

Where was He? It was though He had abandoned me!

Matthew 8:23-24  “And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.”

Instead of reaching out to Him, I jumped ship…it seemed the safer thing to do for some reason.

When I was in college I climbed into the boat after Him again.

I was re-committed, was on fire and filled with passion. I wanted to make a difference because of Him.

But the world had its grip on me and I was weak….it was easier getting out this time. It wasn’t that He had let me down…it was that I knew I WOULD let Him down. Instead of face sure failure…..I went my own direction.

And then one day, after years of heartache. Years of blame and pointing fingers, of not taking responsibility for my actions and feeling the black hole in my heart devouring me I threw myself into the boat once more. This time in sheer desperation.

I started to break down the walls that I had built, started to see God differently.

A relationship developed and for the first time I was being real….well as real as I was able. But I was committed to getting there, to finding that pathway to peace in Him.

When  another storm hit, it was unexpected.

Wasn’t I doing everything”right”? Why did I deserve this?

Matthew 8:25 “And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”

Save me Lord….why are You seemingly alseep?

Matthew 8:26 “And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”

Ye of little faith am I….

But God!

Do you see the promise in these verses?

Such a well known story but just now….seriously I am not even kidding it hit me just now, a revelation that I had not considered…

In spite of our lack of faith HE CALMS THE STORM ANYWAYS!!! (<==== Click to Tweet

My hands are trembling right now, I have never seen these verses in this way….

He IS there. In all of it He is there.

The storms will come, it is a matter of fact. But God who is powerful and mighty and sovereign and merciful WILL calm the storm.

He is not relying on my faith or lack there of to get things done.

He uses these times to teach me about who He is and that in it all He is faithful. Regardless of how I feel about Him or my situation.

Friends many of you are under attack right now. I have been in prayer over and with friends who are facing battles I can’t imagine, and yet they are staying in the boat!

And you know why?

Because HE IS THERE.

He always was, He always has been and He always will be!!

I was the one who jumped ship, not God. So let the storms rage because we are NOT sailing alone!

If you are in need of prayer would you please leave a comment and allow me the privilege of praying for you today. We are in this together!!

Joining Holley Gerth each Wednesday to bring you some Encouragement – need some more? Hop on over here and find over 100 women who are committing to spreading Joy in 2014! 🙂

Also joining Jennifer Lee in her #TellHisStory challenge. So grateful for these women who are leading the way in shouting out about God’s great love! Check it out here!

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Photo Credit: liebeslakritze

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