Thankfulness Isn’t Normal

Folks, we are 21 days away from Thanksgiving! On November 1st I decided that Ella and I would create a Thankful Tree. What is a Thankful Tree, you might ask? Well, it’s a really cute pinteresty tree that you use to usher in an attitude of gratefulness in the home. Doesn’t that sound beautiful and spiritual all at the same time? At least that was my goal after I put it together.

This will be the first Thanksgiving my child is actually aware of and is asking questions about. She is now 3 years old and is very interested in this large meal that we have already begun to speak of. However, the whole reason I wanted to do this Thankful Tree is so the focus stays on thankfulness and not on all the delicious yummy food that will keep me in my pj pants until the following week.

Naturally, Ella is asking about the tree and why I am cutting leaves out of cute paper, and wants to hold the cutest little branch we found in the yard, and so on and so forth. We finally get to the part where she gets to say something that she is thankful for so we can attach it to the tree. {this is the part that ushers in that spirit and heart of thankfulness} This should have been the easy part.

WRONG.
I was so wrong.

She says, “nothing”. She literally said the word, “NOTHING”.

I ask again, “What is something you are thankful for?”

She replies, “…um, nothing.”

All my mommy insecurities are flailing at this point and I am drowning in the guilty thoughts of, “WHAT AM I TEACHING THIS CHILD??!!?”

I sort of wanted to throw away the thankful tree at that point, if I am being completely honest. My practical and slightly frustrated mind was thinking that if she was going to just repeat the word, “nothing” I didn’t have anything to put on that stinkin’ cute tree anyways!!

But then the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “You have to take the time to teach her. She was not born grateful.”

Whoa, hold the phone.

The Lord reminded me that just as much as I have to teach her to be kind and share, I also have to teach her how to have a grateful heart. She has to learn how to notice people and things in our world that she appreciates and then learn how to communicate it to God and others.

Phew. My hope is restored and that tree will not go in the trash.

Almost a week has gone by and so far she is thankful for God, Jesus, Princesses, and Minnie Mouse.

My heart for this month is to encourage families to take some time and teach or at least discuss a few things to be grateful for. Let’s be proactive in teaching our children about thankfulness and then have grace for them even when they aren’t so thankful yet. 😉

Here’s our Thankful Tree:
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Meagan

Fostering Your Child’s Faith (Part 2)

Here it is, part 2!

6)     Practice listening to God’s Voice
The easiest way to start teaching your children how to hear God’s voice is to take advantage of moments when they need Him! Maybe it is a decision to make, or a difficult circumstance, whatever it may be, have them go to their room and ask God to tell them what to do. Let them take a few moments to sit and listen. Encourage them that God doesn’t always speak loudly or in a deep voice. This can be scary for a parent, but trust that the Holy Spirit will move in your child’s life even if it looks a little messy or it is something you are not used to. Talk to your child about what they think they heard from God and then look in the Bible to see if it lines up with His word. If their answer is something found in the Bible, then tell them to act on it. It is so important to teach them that anything they think they hear from God must line up with scripture. Encourage your child to obey God’s voice and make it a habit in your home to go to God in prayer with everything! Jeremiah 29:12-13, Proverbs 3:5-6

7)    Make church a family priority
The church provides the community and support families and children will need as they continue walking with Jesus. Make church an exciting opportunity, not an obligatory duty. Your children will model your attitude regarding church so make it a big deal and not optional. 
Hebrews 10:24-25

8)    Teach your children servanthood
Find a place at church or within the local community to serve people! Children need to know that loving God means loving His people and we love his people by serving them. Serving can be door greeting on Sunday mornings, helping out at the local food bank in town, or even cooking meals for families in need. Whatever it is, discuss how God is honored when we serve those around us even in the smallest ways. Colossians 3:23-24

9)    Sunday School
Sunday school is an incredible opportunity your whole family has each Sunday to grow and deepen each others faith! Having a teachable spirit and a commitment to learn is so crucial to becoming more like Jesus. Diving into God’s word with other believers is a beautiful habit to be in for parents and children alike. 1 Peter 5:5

10)     It’s more about the LOVE than the “DO”!
At the end of the day, the Bible is clear that we should teach our children to love God. Obedience to God should come from love not legalism, but it is a journey to get to that place. Some children will understand this sooner than others but the hope is that families will always bring everything that is said and done back to loving Jesus and wanting to be closer to Him.

Just wanting “well behaved” children is not enough; an imperfect child with a heart yielded to the King of Kings is the true prize. Galatians 5:6, Matthew 22:34-40

These are only a few ways and they are definitely NOT the only ways to grow closer to Jesus with your kids. I would love to hear what you do at home with your family! Comment below how you and your family grow closer to Jesus together and share with the rest of us why don’t ya?!

Praying for boldness and determination as you journey with your families!

Meagan

10 Ways to Foster Your Child’s Faith (Part 1)

The end goal for every Jesus-loving parent is to see their children grow to love and serve God with their whole heart. Nothing is more sweet than knowing when your child chooses to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior they will get to spend eternity with Him and be a part of His Kingdom forever! The big question every parent asks themselves is, what about the in between? From the moment of salvation to the day they meet Him face to face, what does it look like to disciple and steer their hearts toward the Lord and His Kingdom? Christian parenting is not just about behavior modification but rather heart training and it can be a challenge! Being intentional has never been more important and we recognize as the church the need to take advantage of the short years we have with our children and show them how to love God, His Word, and His people.

Below are 10 ways to help foster and kickstart your child’s relationship with Jesus.

1) Model to your children how you spend time with God!
Do you read a devotional book, listen to worship music, or maybe write down your own personal prayer requests? You might even read certain passages of scripture every day. Let your children see you talk to the Lord, allow them to watch how you journal and write down the things He speaks to you, and let them see you worship and read His Word. If this is your “normal” this will become their “normal”. Don’t just commune with God when they are in bed or at school. Pick moments during the week to model your devotional times to your children.

2) Follow Deuteronomy 6:5-7, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 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.”

Any time there is a moment to mention God and His love, talk about it! God is so clear that it is in every day activity that we are to teach our kids about who He is and how to love Him. Whether it is driving to school, before bed time, or getting up in the morning, talk about God and what He did that day. Parents, tell your kids stories of how God taught you something or helped you. This will help them learn how to recognize God’s involvement through out their day too.

3) Read the Bible together!
Sometimes the Bible can be overwhelming to a little one so it is important that parents dive into the Bible with their children. Pick a story to read at dinner or breakfast together or even a weekly verse to repeat each day! This is a great way to memorize scripture together too.

4) Practice praying out loud!
This can be tough, but praying out loud is crucial to being a disciple of Jesus! So many children are afraid of praying out loud and it is because they don’t practice at home. It is a parent’s job to encourage their children to vocalize their needs and love to God and to learn to overcome the fear of what other people might think of them. Building their confidence at home and assuring them He is always listening is so important.

5) Worship at home together!
A child can learn how to enter God’s presence at church but also at home. Worshipping at home is something that children can do individually or with parents. It depends on the age, but the point is learning how to express their love for Jesus through song, the raising of hands, kneeling, or even just sitting quietly before Him. This is another great way to guide children toward their own relationship with Jesus.

Praying that you and your family grow closer to God and closer to one another! Next week I will post Part 2 so stay tuned!

Meagan

Healing in His Wings

Cheesy, right? I went back and forth regarding the title of this post. I didn’t want to be too blunt and dishonoring to the subject but not overly spiritual either. I decided on truth.

It has been a while since I have posted anything and I wanted to be vulnerable first before I write anything on family/kids/ministry. Oh and get ready, this is going to be long.

On July 14th, John and I found out that our second baby had gone to be with Jesus. I was 12 weeks pregnant at the time and at that point we knew in our spirits something wasn’t right with this pregnancy even before an ultrasound confirmed it.
The Wednesday evening before, I was actually at a church worship service and I asked the Lord what I should be praying for and He said, “Your baby and your health.” As a mom, this sort of word from the Lord is a little nerve-wracking. I knew deep down to just obey, so I prayed and declared healing over myself and baby. In my gut, I knew this wouldn’t be the end of those prayers. Some people would say that God is a tease for asking me to pray for a baby that would not survive but I knew it was Him preparing my heart. He knew exactly what I needed to begin processing. I am not the overly emotional type and I deal better with a straight answer. God told me what I asked. He not only answered but really gave me and John a glimpse into what was to come. For us, this seemingly horrifying answer was a gift as strange as it may sound.
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The ultrasound was really the worst part. However, I can honestly say I felt His peaceful presence as I waited and spoke with the doctor. We continued the appointment and went into the dimly lit room where the ultrasound machine was. They prepped my stomach and then the screen showed the little body of our second baby. The body was so small and precious but not moving. The doctor searched and found no heartbeat, which at this point, I sadly expected. There is no way to describe the peace of God in the most horrible of circumstances, but I felt it. In that moment, hot tears fell down my face and all my sadness and fears met at the same time. I’ll never forget feeling everything but still knowing He was there and knowing He saw my tears and the blank stare on my face when I saw that little lifeless body  on the screen. His peace flooded the room in the midst of so much pain and loss. Light met darkness in that little room and I have never experienced it like that before.
Come to find out, baby Rheinlaender really passed away at 9 and 1/2 weeks according to the size and measurements they took from the ultrasound. My body just didn’t start showing any signs until weeks later. Little did I know, this was only the beginning. My body did not react well to the miscarriage process. I ended up being ambulanced {is that a verb?} to the ER and needing blood transfusions. The whole hospitalization thing really got in the way of mourning our loss so it wasn’t until we got home, got my brother married that weekend, and jumped completely into the next week that I was able to finally get real with Jesus.

Monday morning came and I sat in bed with my Bible and journal open. My eyes welled up and I told him how much it hurt to see my baby’s little body not moving. I told him how I wanted Ella to be a big sister and that I didn’t want to tell her about the baby being with Him now and not inside my tummy. I knew He heard me.

I felt relief with every sentence I spoke and my anxiety turning into trust. I love how He knows me and knows exactly what I need. My personality is not one to sit around and mope. I am a fixer, a doer, an achiever, a “let’s do stuff in order to not feel stuff,” kind of person…anyone else?

I heard the Lord say to just sit with Him. He knew my natural instinct would be to rush this process and detach as quickly as I could. I didn’t though, I knew I couldn’t handle my emotions without Him. I sat there and just dwelled. I don’t know if I have ever “dwelled” so well in my life. It was really beautiful.

That day I asked Him, “What now?”

I asked Him for something in the Bible that would give me instruction on how to handle this next season. This would be a season I had never walked through and I just didn’t know where to start. He reminded me of the sweet widow Ruth. Ah! What a story. What an incredible beauty from the ashes type of testimony!

The Lord told me 3 things…

1) Honor the spiritual authority I have placed in your life. This ties to how Ruth submitted to Naomi.

In my heart, this meant heeding to advice and counsel. Usually I AM the fixer. Not this time. The Lord said not to hesitate and yield quickly to any older and wiser authorities in my life. If they ask me questions or encourage me to do something, whatever it is, God wanted me to just submit. Thankfully, I said okay to the Lord and He had some pretty great leaders walk with me and who are still watching out for me through this process.

2) Do not remain idle in grief. I believe Ruth mourned and had time to grieve but eventually she got to work. She worked the fields even in the midst of her loss.

Before everyone thinks I bandaged the situation, I want to be clear that I didn’t jump straight to my job or even trying to “fix” my feelings, I actually just started cleaning my house. It was simple, mindless, rather necessary, and it was something to keep me out of bed, out of depression, and from becoming completely self indulged in sadness. Cleaning didn’t gloss over my pain but rather allowed me to work through it physically. I would sweep, cry a little, fold some laundry, talk to Jesus, cry some more, wipe my counters, and so on and so forth. I did this for about a week. God is so good to know what I need!

3) Find refuge in God alone. There is a point in Ruth’s story where Boaz says, “…May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

The Lord gave me the word “wings” at the beginning of finding out about the loss of our baby. Several friends and mentors prayed, sent texts and messages, all having the word ‘wings’ in them and I knew the Lord was telling me this word would be for this season. As I read through the book of Ruth, this verse wrecked me especially where it said, “under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” God spoke to me that if I choose to come to Him with my whole heart and give him each part of this process, He will cover me. Safety, protection, comfort, strength, and healing met me under His wings.

Being able to write all of this down has been a part of my process. I also wanted to share our story and say I don’t know if I am completely healed and I do think about the loss of our second baby. I am still journeying through and offering my heart to Him on a regular basis knowing I can’t do this without Him. I just wanted to share to bring encouragement that He is safety. He is a covering. His presence is enough and is more satisfying than anything I could ever ask for. Choosing Him means choosing life, even after a death.

I never would have imagined going through this type of season and yet here I am. God is so near and ever present. I think the only way I have been able to truly rejoice with other pregnant friends and mommies with precious newborns is because of Jesus. His healing and His covering has shielded me from jealousy and anger. My prayer for right now is that others who experience loss can find that same protection for their hearts as they enter into His presence.

At the end of the day, He is a good God. He is faithful. He is my covering.

I will choose to take refuge in Him and continue returning to the throne room to find grace and mercy in my times of need. He knows me like no one else. He fills every longing and desire and never ceases to amaze. I trust Him more now than ever.

Thank you to those who have sent cards, texts, and sweet words to us along the way. They meant more than you know. Never underestimate the power of prayer and encouraging words. Community is crucial when hardship comes. We love all of you so much.

Love,
Meagan
John and Ella

3 Worship Albums Your Kids Need!

Turn off the radio and get these songs in your car on the way to school! They are catchy, fun, and even more importantly ALL ABOUT JESUS! We do several of these songs in FreedomKIDS and they would be wonderful additions to your music library. All of these albums/songs can be purchased on iTunes!

1) Undefeated by eKIDZ from Elevation Church
There is nothing I don’t love about this album! Elevation Church hit it out of the park with this one, your kids will love it!ekidz-albumbg2

2) Happy Day Everyday by Little Praise Party & Yancy
This album is perfect for age 2 all the way through Kindergarten! The songs are fun, engaging, and even have a few comical moments. The songs Hosanna Rock and One, Two, Three are sure to be favorites!
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3) We Are Young & Free by Hillsong Young & Free
Hillsong Y&F is really meant for youth-aged students, however, the first 4 tracks on the album are great for kids. The slower ones may be a little bit over their heads, but it would be worth downloading Brighter, Alive, Wake, and Lifeline.
*Hillsong Y&F also has a new single out titled, This is Living feat. Lecrae. This song has loads of energy and great lyrics for your kids to sing out at home.

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Let’s be more proactive in what our kids are listening too! Music is so influential and powerful and that is why I want to give YOU some of these awesome resources for your kids and family!

*For every person who shares this post on social media, tag me and I will put your name in a drawing to gift you one of the above albums of your choice!

5 Verses Kids Should Memorize before Middle School

Middle school is hard! I can remember being in the 8th grade. Let’s just say it was awkward and I wouldn’t want to do it again. It was hard finding a table in the lunch room, curling your bangs just right, and also brushing a mouth full of braces. See picture below:
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{yeah, you’re welcome}

Before your kiddo gets to middle school, you still have time to continue laying a godly foundation of what they believe in and who they are. Satan is going to use every tactic in the book to instill fear and insecurity within your child during this transitional time and the best way to combat his efforts is with the Word of God.

Here are 5 verses to help build a godly foundation in your child’s heart before
they enter middle school:


1. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD you God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

I love this verse. It is God speaking directly to the mighty leader, Joshua.
What a confidence builder knowing the God of the universe will
be with your kid in their hallways at school.

2. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Philippians 4:6

This verse is beautiful because it causes the heart to send every decision, life event, and situation back to the Lord. What great instruction to constantly direct our
kids back to God and to let them practice hearing His voice.

3. “We love, because He first loved us.”
1 John 4:19

Sometimes kids can be hard to love. When your child runs into the awkward nerd or maybe even the mean bully, this verse can help to remind them they have
the power to love because of Christ within them. His love allows
them to love when it’s hard.

4. “Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.”
Psalm 139:4-5

Your future middle schooler needs to know they are ALWAYS in God’s hands!
They need to know He sees them when injustices are happening all around.
He knows the deepest desires of their hearts and He realizes how hard it
can be to have friends and to stand up for righteousness.

5. “Do not be misled: Bad company
corrupts good character.”

1 Corinthians 15:33

I believe in children learning to make wise choices! Let this scripture take root in their heart so they know they can choose the company they keep. Friends are
wonderful, and being an example of Christ to others is a big deal too,
but who they let influence them will impact their
character and future.

I will be praying for you and your student as you get ready for a new school year!

When She Won’t Pray…

Currently, my little firecracker does not love to pray. She fights, grunts, throws herself on the bed and yells, “I don’t want to praaay!”

I know, this is shocking (at least to me). We have practically lived at church and have had home devotional times since she was born! I mean, this kid should have came out the womb praying John the Baptist style if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, my 2 1/2 year old baby girl just doesn’t love to pray yet.

If I am being completely honest, this really bothered my mommy heart. I mean, most of the moms I know have kids that either LOVE to pray or will at least say something to Jesus.

I was pretty discouraged until the Holy Spirit directed me to this verse…

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 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.”
Deuteronomy 6:5-7

I love the phrase “impress them on your children”. The Amplified version says, “teach and impress them diligently” upon the hearts of our children.

I know that prayer is a must for a relationship with Jesus. In my heart of hearts, I know my daughter has got to experience prayer in our home because my daughter needs to encounter Jesus!!

So, even if she does not particularly LOVE to pray right now, John and I are determined to teach, impress upon, and diligently find creative ways to get on her level and show her what prayer can look like. {and how great it can be!}

This is where we are at:
Currently, she will only pray if she repeats a word by word prayer by daddy. As much as I would love for her to come up with her own prayers, I am choosing to believe one day she will.

If your child doesn’t absolutely love church, or like to read the Bible yet, or maybe they don’t want to sing those worship songs in the car with you, do not despair or allow insecure parent feelings to get you down. Our job as parents is to keep speaking truth and life into their hearts and to continue practicing the nuts and bolts of our faith which include prayer and reading the Bible.

I know that God is always so faithful to hear my prayers for my girl. I must remind myself to not be discouraged in the current moment, but rather trust God with my baby because one day, all of the seeds that have been planted will produce a harvest if I do not grow weary or give up.

Here’s to fighting for our children’s souls and continuing to work the
ground of their hearts!

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3 Reasons to get your kid in church

I will never forget the Wednesday night my mother looked at me and my brother and said, “Get out of the car, you’re goin’…Have fun!”


We begrudgingly opened the car doors, stepped out, and gulped down our pride. My momma’s stance was firm and she was going to make sure we found our own relationship with Jesus, even if it meant enduring our evil glares and disrespectful tones.

Here is why she (along with my father) always got our behinds seated in those church chairs…with or without a fight!

1. It’s Biblical
Hebrews 10:24-25
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…”
If we are in relationship with Jesus, we must be in relationship with one another regardless of age! It doesn’t matter how young or old, we need each other which is why the Bible says do NOT give up meeting together. My husband actually left a 10 year career because it kept him from most Sunday morning services. We set in our hearts that no matter the cost, gathering together as the body of Christ has to be a priority because it is a priority of God.

2. Community

Culture is everything. Get your children surrounded by Jesus loving leadership and friends. Do you ever notice when you tell your child to do something there is usually resistance? Do you also notice that when someone else suggests the EXACT same thing,  your child actually considers doing it?  Let the leadership in your children’s and youth ministry support you and reinforce what you are already telling them! That is what they are there for. Let your kids learn how to develop godly relationships! The Bible says, iron will sharpen iron, all you have to do is get them there.

3. Their OWN Relationship

There will come a point in your child’s life where they will have to choose Jesus for themselves. Church is a wonderful stepping stone to begin seeing that happen. During youth or children’s church, kids get a chance to choose to worship, to choose to bring their Bible, and to decide to participate. This is so crucial to them developing their own relationship with Jesus!

After years of my family attending church and youth group EVERY single week along with my parents dedication to pour into our lives in between those times, the fruits of their labor resulted in 2 children (my brother and myself) loving and knowing Jesus for ourselves.


{Disclaimer: I am in no way saying the church is a substitute for parents. It was always God’s design for parents to train up their children in the way they should go BUT I do believe the church’s responsibility is to walk with and encourage families along the way.}

*These are my generous, passionate, Jesus-following parents.
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Did my family  look a little messy along the way? Of course!
Were there fights and disagreements? Yes, actually a lot!
However, I am so thankful for my parents who pushed and stretched our quiet, introverted hearts towards church and the things of God.
I think that is all a Jesus-loving parent wants. That is what I want for my little one.

Parents, here’s to you and your efforts to raise up a godly generation. Here’s to getting up early for Sunday morning church and staying up late after youth group. Here’s to pushing your children toward a godly community and a relationship with Jesus.

*This is me and my younger brother Josh. He is 22 years old and leads worship in the adult and youth services at Freedom Fellowship.
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“Start children off on the way they should go,

and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

I am a Quitter

There, I said it. My natural instinct is to give up and to give up quickly.


Quitting comes so naturally to my flesh that it actually becomes a respectable solution in my mind when things do not line up according to plan. Any time discomfort starts to set in and then that feeling of inadequacy comes over me, I immediately begin to lay down my will to fight the good fight. I wish I had more of the stubborn grit that my 2 year old has. Obviously she gets that enduring spirit from her father.

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However, the feelings that want to canvas my heart do not surpass the power of Christ within me. Even though it would be easier to throw in the towel during a painful, heart-transforming season, I know I have the capability to choose endurance.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESV says,
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

The uncomfortable moments work out the insecure flesh in me.
The affliction I endure aids in transforming me into the likeness of Jesus.
The difficult relationships I encounter are helping to waste away my “outer self”.
I know, this is so much easier said than done.

Jesus is teaching me to ask Him to change my perspective from, “I can’t do this” to, “I will not lose heart”. Jesus is the one who gives me grit. He alone is the driving force to press me forward when every fleshly bone in my body wants to give in.

When my family is needing my love and attention, (all at the same time and in different ways) and I feel like I have nothing left to give,
I will not lose heart.

When I have walked my child through the same discipline process 12 times within the hour, and her heart STILL remains calloused to my direction,
I will not lose heart.

When “the plan” doesn’t go as planned,
I will not lose heart.

When I do not agree with those around me, I will choose to fight for unity.
I will not lose heart.

When chaos and confusion is all around and I feel alone,
I will not lose heart.

When a loved one isn’t ready to see that Jesus is the truth and the only way,
I will not lose heart.

Why will I not lose heart?
What Jesus endured here on Earth leaves me with zero excuse to withdraw from any task He asks of me. His sacrifice was too great for me to retreat now. After all, He is worthy. He is worth it. Challenging seasons may come but I have to remember that
the sacrifice of Jesus assures me of a love that will not leave me in my weakness.

His love is the fuel I need to keep going. His love is why I will choose to not lose heart.

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Hang in there, friends. Don’t give up now! Your fight does not go unnoticed. Our loving Father sees exactly where you are and is ready to walk with you through every season.
I would love to hear about your journey. Please feel free to comment and share below.