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Archive for the ‘Waiting on God’ Category

 

“Stand with me and sing!” invites the enthusiastic worship leader on the church platform, while guitars begin an upbeat tune and drums rap out a foot-tapping rhythm.

Around me people sway a bit to the music, some raise their hands, others worship with eyes closed.

And though I, too, sway and raise my hands, I have to admit my heart’s not in it. For some reason, lyrics that have brought me to joyful tears on other occasions are not penetrating today.

My spirit seems paralyzed—no feeling whatsoever. Efforts to engage—focusing on the words and imagining my Heavenly Father on his throne, listening with parental pleasure—don’t seem to help.

What’s wrong with me? I wonder.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the same numbness in corporate worship, maybe during personal quiet time or at prayer. And like me, you’ve felt certain that something must be wrong.

 

 

Granted, we worship God to honor him. Our end goal is not to rustle up feel-good endorphins for us.

But, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. How is that even possible when we come down with a case of the spiritual blahs?

Actually, days and even seasons of spiritual dryness are a normal part of our faith-walk, experienced by almost every Christian at one time or another. And there is comfort in that, knowing we’re not alone.

Theologian Sam Storms offers us further encouragement:

 

“God is glorified by your longing for the joy to be found in him,

even if you are not yet experiencing it” (1).

 

But are there strategies we can implement to jump-start our hearts into exuberant responsiveness?

As a matter of fact, yes.

 

 

We can: 

1. Be honest with God.

King David certainly was. “I spread out my hands to you;” he cried. “My soul thirsts for you like a parched land” (143:6).

Yet in spite of his emotional tailspin, David writes, “I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul (v. 8).

 

 

David provides a worthy example to follow: acknowledge the truth; affirm our trust, and seek God’s guidance.

 

2. Rehearse what we know about God’s character, his promises. 

Our minds are renewable resources (Romans 12:2). We can turn our thoughts away from the numbness we’re experiencing at the moment, and focus on what is lovely and true, excellent and praiseworthy about our God.

Sometimes such thought processes are all that’s necessary to bring us out of the doldrums (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

3. Persevere in spite of our emotions.

Keep showing up in God’s presence whether we feel like it or not.

Our emotions must not be allowed to control actions. In fact, God especially appreciates a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), which surely includes offering him our worship when the fervency just isn’t there.

 

 

4. Anticipate.

Worship with an outlook on the future (Psalm 42:1-2). We can look forward to the day when our hearts will overflow again with ecstatic praise—even to the point of joyful tears.

 

5. Pray. 

Perhaps something like this: 

“Father in heaven, flood the dry places of my soul with your presence; lift the gray clouds that conceal you. Within my spirit I want to feel the warmth of your radiant Light, be wrapped in your unfailing love, and fly with you on the wings of the dawn!

In trusting expectancy I wait for you, O Lord. I know you will answer.”

 

 

(Isaiah 44:3; Psalm 4:6, 32:10, 139:9, 38:15)

 

What helps you beat the spiritual blahs?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

(1) https://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/how-can-i-worship-when-i-feel-nothing.html

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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If there were a Museum of Faith, and artifacts from earliest times still existed, the heroes of Hebrews 11:4-12 would surely be represented. On display we might find:

 

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  • Rocks from Abel’s altar, where God proclaimed him a righteous man.
  • Enoch’s walking stick, left behind when he strolled with God one day and ended up in heaven.
  • Part of Noah’s ark, which he spent at least 100 years building before God’s promise of rain (and protection for Noah’s family) was fulfilled.
  • Abraham’s tent, in which he lived while traveling to a place God had chosen, though Abraham did not know where he was going.
  • Isaac’s swaddling clothes, reminders of his miraculous birth to elderly parents, twenty-five years after God first promised his arrival.

 

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Then we come to verse 13.

 

“All these people were still living by faith when they died.

They did not receive the things promised;

they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance,

admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth”

(NIV, italics added).

 

What was the writer of Hebrews referring to? What things did these heroes of faith not receive that God had promised?

They did not see fulfillment of the most important promises: the arrival of Jesus the Messiah, his glorious resurrection, and all the blessings and privileges he provides. (All the way back in the Garden of Eden, God foretold that One would come to defeat Satan—Genesis 3:15).

 

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If the great heroes of faith listed in Hebrews did not receive things promised, I’d be wise to prepare myself for the same.

What should I do when promises are not being fulfilled? Below are five possibilities:

 

  1. Consider that the roadblock might be me.

Many promises come with conditions. If I’m not willing to comply, how can I expect the promise to be fulfilled? Philippians 4:6-7 offers a good example. If I want to receive God’s promise of peace, I need to be praying with a grateful heart.

 

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  1. Consider that the time is not right.

More than a few biblical heroes endured long waits for their promises to come to pass: Abraham for his son, Joseph for his position of leadership, the Israelites for their promised land, David for his kingship, and devout Jews like Simeon and Anna for their Messiah—to name a few.

I must remember that God is always at work carrying out his plan (Isaiah 46:11b). My work is to trust, pray, and wait.

 

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  1. While trusting, praying, and waiting for one promise, I can celebrate those already kept.

 Dozens of promises have been fulfilled in my life already. At the appropriate time God has provided:

  • Wisdom for difficult decisions (James 1:5)
  • Peace in the midst of challenging circumstances (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • Provision in miraculous ways (Philippians 4:19)
  • Purpose (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Strength to push through weariness (1 Peter 4:10-11)
  • Help in all sorts of situations (Isaiah 41:13)

 

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Praise for what God has already done is a powerful weapon against discouragement.

  1. God’s ways aren’t my ways.

If God has not fulfilled a particular promise, he has good reason. What I desire may not be for my ultimate good or for the good of others.

Surely Paul had to wonder sometimes why God allowed him to be imprisoned in Rome for two years. Perhaps he recited from the psalms:

 

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“’Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him;

I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name…

…I will deliver him and honor him.”’

–Psalm 91:14-15 NIV

 

Paul had every right to claim this promise. His love for Jesus was passionate, and he acknowledged his Savior’s name everywhere he went. But God did not rescue Paul. No angel came to deliver Paul, as had happened to Peter.

As a result, we are beneficiaries of Paul’s letters, containing priceless teaching from the heart of God: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon–all written from his prison cell in Rome.

 

  1. Fulfillment may come after I’m gone.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not see their descendants become as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:5).  But the promise was kept centuries later, because there is no stopping the perfectly wise, precisely timed will of God.

 

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“From him and through him and for him are all things”

(including the fulfillment or unfulfillment of his promises).

“To him be the glory forever!”

–Romans 11:36 NIV (parenthetical comment added)

 

What helps you cope with unfulfilled promises from God?  Please share in the comment section below.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.biblewalks.com; http://www.pinterest (5); http://www.thefellowshipsite.org; http://www.dailyverses.net.)

 

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Imagine eighty-year old Moses, tending sheep on a mountainside, just as he had for the previous 14,600 days (forty years)—give or take a few.   He had absolutely no reason to think this day would be different from the thousands before.

But it was.

 

Moses at the burning bush

 

This was the day he spotted the burning bush and God spoke to him:

“I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt, and I have heard them crying out because of the slave drivers. I know how much they’re suffering. I have come to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good land with plenty of room [for everyone]. It is a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7-8, GWT).

According to Acts 7:6, God’s people had endured slavery for four hundred years. That’s 146,000 days—give or take a few. God saw their misery, heard them crying out, and was concerned about their suffering.

So why would God wait so long? Think of the generations who prayed for deliverance and the answer did not come.

Why?

They never knew. Even now, although Bible scholars have speculated, we have no definitive answer. God chose not to tell them/us.

But the experience of the ancient Israelites, as well as those of countless others through the centuries, prove:  even in the Christian life, questions go unanswered, uncertainty can become a constant companion, and doubts linger in the shadows.

 

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What’s to be done when the answers don’t come?

Actually, there are at least four categories of action to pursue:

1. Reaffirm what we know to be true. 

  • God has good reason to be silent or he wouldn’t do it. Whether he ever reveals the reason(s) is up to his discretion. But one reason is certain: If he answered every request immediately, we’d become very spoiled and never develop our faith. And faith is very important to him (Hebrews 11:6). Our trust in his always-perfect capabilities is to our benefit.

 

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  • Consider that at this very moment you are traveling 67,000 miles per hour. (And you thought you were sitting still!) The whole planet is orbiting the sun at that mind-boggling speed. Just as we forget we’re flying through space, so we sometimes forget that God is moving, always working on our behalf (Romans 8:28)—even when there’s no evidence of the fact. 
  • “His silence is the sign that he is bringing us into an even more wonderful understanding of himself” – Oswald Chambers.*  In the silence we seek him with more diligence.

2. Prayerfully analyze the possibilities why God may be silent: 

  • I have unconfessed sin in my life. 
  • He’s given me direction but I have yet to follow. He’s waiting for me to cooperate. 
  • I’m trying to work things out on my own, creating such a racket of busy-ness I can’t hear his gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12).

 

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  • He’s growing my faith (Isaiah 50:10) and building my character (James 1:2-4) to make me more useful for his purpose. Fulfilling his purpose will satisfy my soul also, on a level unknown to me now (Luke 6:38). 
  • He’s accomplishing a purpose only he knows about at present.

3. Implement these behaviors: 

  • Rely on scriptural fact, not emotions. God is loving, faithful, and present with us. He never overlooks a child, and will see us through whatever he deems best (Psalm 145:8, 13, 18, 20 and Psalm 23:4).
  • Take encouragement from Bible promises, even pray them back to God. But hold onto them with a light grasp because we are subject to God’s plan for fulfillment and his timetable. Good thing, too.  He is the all-wise One in total, proficient control of everything.

 

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  • Take time to be quiet and receptive. Praise God for what’s right in your life. Chances are, current blessings far outweigh pending requests. Our praise can begin with another encouragement from Oswald Chambers*: “If God has given us a silence,…he is bringing us into the great run of his purpose.”

_________________________

 

Even as I wait in the silence for your intervention, Lord God, I praise you for your sovereignty and affirm: you know the best way and the best time to fulfill your plan. I thank you for your strength that empowers me to persevere, and the assurance of ultimate victory in the end as I rely upon you.  

 

Isaiah 55:9, Philippians 4:11-13, Romans 8:35-36

 

Is there a scripture, quote, or thought you find helpful when the answers don’t come?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

*My Utmost for His Highest, Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1966, p. 285.

 

(Photo & art credits:  www.cgtruth.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.thekingjamesbible.us; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.pilgrimsrock.com.)

 

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Have you heard or read such statements as these?

  • Dream big! With God you can go as far as you can think or imagine.
  • Faith may not make things easy; but it does make them possible.
  • When God makes a promise he also makes a provision.

All three statements are valid IF the promises we’ve embraced coincide with God’s plan. If not, God may not be making that dream come true, or turning the unimaginable into possible, or making provision for a particular fulfillment.

That means the perfect wife or husband may not show up, the perfect job may not open up, the perfect family may not be delivered up, and the perfect ministry opportunity (in our view) may not match up with those making the choices.

What do we do when our dreams seem to be fading away like vapor?

 

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We need to remember:

 

  1. God is not limited to our timeframe.

 

We know that, right?  Sometimes God requires a waiting period before making our dreams reality. The dream will be fulfilled—but in his time.  Scripture is full of examples of those who had to wait; we’ve considered them before:  Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David—to name a few.

Eventually their dreams came true.  Abraham became a father, Jacob was blessed with twelve sons, Joseph  became prime minister of Egypt, and David, the king of Israel.

However, we’d be wise to hold onto our dreams with a light grip, as these same four patriarchs demonstrate:

  • Abraham saw the birth of only one son of promise, not exactly the nation God foretold.
  • The full extent of blessing promised to Jacob was not fulfilled until the birth of Jesus.
  • David dreamed of erecting a temple for God, and though he collected an impressive store of materials, the privilege of building went to his son, Solomon.

 

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Perhaps, like these Bible heroes, God has chosen to fulfill our dreams after we’re gone.

I have to decide: Will I balk at such a reality or embrace it?

 

  1. Maybe my heart is set on the wrong dream—even though it seems right and worthwhile.

God may desire that I set aside my Plan A and take hold of his Plan B. Oh, but that sounds like settling, doesn’t it? Not at all. God’s plan is never second best. It’s always better (Hebrews 11:39-40)!

Also important to understand: God may have chosen me to be a foundation-builder—part of the preparation process. Someone else will be the presentation. John the Baptist is a perfect example, as he prepared the way for Jesus.

 

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Foundation builders serve as mentors, planners, and seed planters. Again, will I balk at such a reality or embrace it?

 

  1. We can be “certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

That includes this truth: When we do not see one promise (or more) being fulfilled, we can be certain other promises are. God is loving and good. Always. He will demonstrate his grace and compassion–no matter what.

Part of God’s goodness prompts him to foster within us: a) a deeper relationship with him (Jeremiah 33:3); b) greater obedience to his all-wise ways (Hebrews 12:7-11, 14), and c) greater spiritual strength (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Once we begin to realize the benefit of these blessings, other desires will fade in importance.

(Note to self: When my appreciation for spiritual blessings overrides my celebration of material and circumstantial blessings, I’ll know that the maturity James talked about is taking root.)

 

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*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, oh God, for your omnipotent ability to supply, guide, sustain, change, correct, and improve–in your time, for your good purpose. Help me to rely upon your love and wisdom to choose what’s best for me, and your power to live in godly ways for your glory. That is the way to a fulfilling, satisfying life!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.twitter.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.saltlakebiblecollege.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.knowing-jesus.com.)

 

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We’ve all heard the story of Joseph (or seen the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat). You’ll remember he’s the one who endured years of slavery and prison before his dreams (of bowing wheat sheaves and stars paying homage) came true.

We also know about Moses, an adopted prince in Pharaoh’s household who ended up in the wilderness herding sheep.  Forty years later God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.

And we’re familiar with Paul who spent years traveling from place to place and, yes, suffering all kinds of trials—beatings, imprisonment, dangers, shipwrecks—all for the privilege of serving God, introducing people to Jesus and establishing churches.

These Biblical stories and others teach us to never give up, because we never know when God will show up to turn a prisoner into a prime minister, a shepherd into a great leader, or a Pharisee tentmaker into a world evangelist.

Then there’s Jeremiah. His is a different kind of story altogether. He was called by God to warn the inhabitants of Judah that destruction would come if they did not return to God and follow his ways. It was not a one-time message. Over a period of forty years Jeremiah spoke many times of coming doom.

 

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Almost no one listened. (A brief revival took place under King Josiah, but when he died, the people returned to their complacency and evil ways.)

We love the stories of Joseph, Moses, Paul, and others, whose perseverance was rewarded with success. But what about Jeremiah?

He, too, persevered through trials–poverty and deprivation, imprisonment and ill-treatment, rejection and ridicule. For what? According to the evidence (minimal results for his efforts), Jeremiah was a wretched failure. Yet he had obeyed God faithfully, endured patiently, and preached courageously.

Perhaps visible evidence is not the best way to quantify success.

Instead, the true measure of success involves our characters, not our acquisitions (Joshua 1:8).

 

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The true measure of success may include the tenacity to get up every day and face the same tasks as yesterday, to persistently make choices that further God’s objectives for each of us, and to remain steadfast even when discouraged (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Last, a true measure of success is how our choices honor God (1 Kings 2:3). Jeremiah may not have turned thousands back to Yahweh, but that was not due to his lack of effort or disobedience to God. Jeremiah doggedly preached to the people of Judah—month after month, year after year.

So the true measure of success includes: 1) pursuing godly character, 2) persevering toward God-given purpose, and 3) making choices that honor him.

 

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Today, such successful people might look like:

  • The parent who has put his career on hold to invest time in his young children.
  • the business owner who drives a twelve-year old car so he can give generously to ministries.
  • The college student slowly working her way through school, anxious to return to her inner city neighborhood and teach school

For those of us looking for that kind of success, Jeremiah is our hero.

He lived out these precepts :

  • Do our prayerful best and leave the results with God.
  • Press on–day by day, month by month, year by year if necessary. Allow such perseverance to build our trust in God and strengthen our character.
  • Persist until God tells us to stop. (How do we know we’ve reached that moment? Peace, not uncertainty, will fill our spirits.)

We may not understand what God is doing, but we know him. And he is holy love and perfect wisdom.*

 

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*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, p. 129.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.christianquotes.info; http://www.pilgrimsrock.com.)

 

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The view out our windows has not been inspiring of late.

Swaths of flat gray clouds hover overhead, sometimes dipping low to drape gauze in the treetops.

 

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Tangles of bare tree branches claw at the sky.

And where flowers swayed in the sunshine last summer, straggly twigs stand forlornly, grieving their former beauty.

But amidst all this gloom and dormancy, God is at work–behind the scenes.

For example:

  1. Many plants require a season of rest.

All summer long perennials labor to create flowers that in turn attract pollinators. They also spend the long, warm days developing seeds, in preparation for the following spring.

Come fall, these plants pour their energy into root growth.

Now, during the quiet winter months of inactivity, they enjoy a much-needed rest.

 

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(One of our hydrangea bushes at rest!)

 

  1. Plants benefit from snow.

The soft covering (with its air pockets between the flakes) insulates plants from the harm of frigid temperatures.

Melting snow in spring provides the extra hydration plants need for the accelerated growth process of the season.

 

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  1. Seeds benefit from snow.

A period of moist, cold weather is essential for some varieties of seeds to germinate in the spring.

 

Winter is not a mistake, a season God forgot to adorn. Winter has purpose.

It’s just that we can’t see what he’s up to.

But come spring? Then we’ll see the benefits of winter in a magnificent display of glorious splendor!

 

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Perhaps you are enduring a season of winter in the circumstances of your life.

It’s not a mistake, God has not forgotten (Psalm 9:10).

This season does have a purpose (Psalm 138:8a), it’s just that you might not be able to see what he’s up to.

 

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Even in the middle of bleak, colorless winter, we are confident that spring will come, aren’t we.

And even in the middle of bleak, colorless circumstances, we can stand confident with the psalmist, because:

 

“You, [God], will restore my life again;

from the depths of the earth

you will again bring me up.

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You will increase my honor

and comfort me once again.

I will praise you with the harp

For your faithfulness.”

–Psalm 71:20b-22a

    *     *     *      *     *

 

(Information about the value of winter for plants came from “4 Reasons to Celebrate Your Garden in Winter” on http://www.houzz.com.)

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg (3), http://www.wallpapersmela.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.fairfieldpubliclibrary.org.)

 

 

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(Steve and I are enjoying time with family this week.  I’ll return soon with  new posts.  Meanwhile, I’ll reblog previous ones.  Hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.  The following post was first published September 13, 2013.)

Women's Bible Study

“I know we have to persevere and not give up on what we sense God wants us to do,” Melissa shared at Bible study.  “And from the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and others in the Bible, I know God rarely smooths out  the path perfectly.  But what I want to know is how to proceed.  I’d like steps to follow!”

Heads nodded around the table, mine included.  Wouldn’t it be nice if God laid out for us to see ahead of time step one, step two, and so on toward his perfect plan?

That idea has been circulating in my brain for nearly a week now.  Here are some observations.

1. God values our growth in faith more than our comfort in a revealed plan.   

If it was best for us to know his plan in advance, then that’s what God would provide.  Instead, he allows our faith to be tested, in order to build our character.  That is important to him:

“The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20).

2.  God values the process of spiritual growth, not just the final outcome of a purpose fulfilled.

Times of challenge give us opportunity to develop maturity more readily than times of ease.  What might that development include?

  • Self-discipline–when we tackle difficult tasks.  Granted, the Holy Spirit empowers us (Galatians 5:22-23), but we must give ourselves over to him.  How?  Through frequent prayer, offered throughout the day, consistently asking for his guidance and help.
  • Self-denial–by doing without.  However, the attentive person will soon discover much to celebrate that may have been missed otherwise:  the stunning display of God’s creation, the joy of love and laughter with family and friends, the peace and strength from frequent communion with God.  Suddenly, gratitude flourishes in the heart, and what has been given up doesn’t seem so important anymore.
  • The full meaning of love–when given opportunity to respond in kind ways to difficult people.

None of these valuable traits of discipline, selflessness, and love would fully develop without lessons of experience.

3.  God values the development of our prayer lives–not for his benefit, but for ours.

Jean Nicolas Grou, a Jesuit priest of the 1700s, described healthy prayer as humble, reverent, loving, confident, and persevering.  As we practice those traits in our prayer lives, surely they will overflow into our character, in our actions and reactions.

Patient pursuit, then, is best applied to God’s ways, and then to God’s plan.

(photo credit:  http://www.st-tims-church.org )

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