Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

Greater Is He Who Is in Monday Mornings

Greater is He Who, spiritual warfare, spiritual battle, Satan, God, struggle, encouragement

It’s Monday morning, that dreaded day of the week.

The day when we realize it’s back to work, back to “real” life, back to dirty dishes and school schedules and all the things that so easily weigh us down.

But this Monday morning I sit before the computer with a big smile on my face. Why?

It’s not because of the school schedules or the housework that is waiting or even the awkwardness between my husband and I before he left for work this morning.  It’s not even because this Monday morning started out oh-so-fantastic: quite the opposite, in fact.

It’s not because I recognize the Enemy at work, his attempt to gain back the ground he lost on Sunday.  We talked last week about verses that pack a punch and the reality of spiritual warfare. Have you ever noticed, my sisters, how unbelievably difficult a Monday seems after an incredibly encouraging Sunday?  It’s not a coincidence that the reality of a Monday morning so often dampens our Sunday fire!

But today I smile in the face of everyday difficulty and Monday-morning rude awakenings because my Redeemer lives, and the battle belongs to Him!  Before I could be swayed by doubts this morning, here is the goodness He had in store for me:

A reminder from my GREAT blogging friends that we are not powerless in the struggle, neither are we alone.

This beautiful prayer by Jennifer Dukes Lee, that we might keep “in step” with Him as we step into Mondays. Go read it!

This verse from Ann Voskamp, a reminder to put one foot in front of the other, to keep climbing, to persevere. Take a look for yourself at His faithfulness.

This song from Mercy Me, the song I’ve been playing on repeat either aloud or in my head ever since I received a bad-news-wake-up-call last week.  It reminds me that He who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world. It gives me impossible hope in the God who specializes in the impossible.

 

I smile because He knows my name, He knows my pain, He knows my weakness, and He knows exactly what I need to hear on a Monday morning.

It’s like a secret message, just for me,

just for a beloved daughter,

just for my broken heart,

just for my wounded spirit.

But no, it’s for you, too, my sisters in Christ!

Just because He loves us!

He who is in YOU is greater than he who is in the world, don’t you forget it.

The Enemy is prowling, but our Lord is on guard, you can be certain of that.  And His witnesses proclaim His goodness for all of who feel the sting of the fiery darts this morning. He is faithful!

Ephesians 3

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father,

15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,

to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to his power that is at work within us,

21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Father, I thank you for being in the midst of even the smallest things, like Monday mornings.  I thank you for faithful voices to remind us of Who you are, Almighty Lord, Highest Authority, One True God, yet also, the Lover of our souls.  We need not be afraid, for the battle belongs to You and the victory is ours to share!  Strengthen us as we wait patiently for victory, Lord.  It is coming.

It is coming.

And all the people rejoice.

Jen 🙂

 

Sharing with:

Mom’s The Word, Whole Hearted Home, A Little R & R, Jennifer Dukes Lee

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Waiting While Sea Billows Roll

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It’s more than a bad hair day and more than spilled milk.  It’s one of “those” days, the ones you really do weep over, when wave after wave of some new trial sweeps over you as you struggle to swim.  And just as you gain your feet, another waves swells up before you.  We all have them… those days (sigh).  In the midst of such trials, we can do little else than cry out for mercy, for deliverance.

And sometimes “those” days last longer than just a day or two, or even a week.  Sometimes, we experience whole seasons of “those” days, whole seasons of trial, and illness, and heartache.

If you read regularly here, you know our family has been in the midst of such a season for a while now.  I’ve been wanting to share with you all some of my “discussions” with the Lord about this spot He has us in, but I’ve honestly been confused about the message He’s trying to give me.  I don’t want to wallow in self-pity, but I do want to allow myself the grace to rest and recover when needed.  I want to keep using  those Grace-colored glasses He’s been teaching me about.

You see, it’s not just the practical and physical difficulties of a trial that make life on one of those days oh-so-difficult, but it’s the emotions that come along for the ride, too.  Emotions like frustration, guilt, doubt, confusion, sorrow.  I’m frustrated by the condition of my physical body and even by the condition of my fragile emotions.  They’re letting me down!  And I feel guilty about my absence as the Mom, the flusher-of-toilets, the light-turner-offer, the schedule-keeper, the cooker-of-food, the kisser-of-boo-boos, the one who makes a home a home.  I see my husband grow weary with the extra burdens, and I wish I could bear my fair share.

What I really wanted to give you was a how-to post:  how to survive when Mom can’t be mom.  I do have a few ideas about that one, a few tips the Lord has been helping me with.  He’s been telling me to lower my expectations.  So what if the twins watch an extra hour of cartoons?  So what if beds go unmade and the soccer shirts aren’t clean on game day?  If at the of the day, we’re all fed and alive, then we’re surviving!  Or what about Teamwork – be a team with your spouse?  Yes, that’s a good tip, too.  When I feel overwhelmed by circumstances in life, I often fight against my husband instead of with him.  In return, I reap the added burden of marital strife to an already trying situation. So, teamwork is good, blaming my husband for my own limitations and frustrations is bad.  Okay, I got that. 🙂

Resist Satan’s Lies – tip number three.  Of course, I know that in spite of my guilty feelings, I’m doing the best I can and that’s enough for the Lord.  Of course I know that He promises to be my Deliverer.  But sometimes I just don’t want to wait for deliverance.  I’d rather try to fix it myself, right?  Are you with me here?

Lean on the Lord for both physical and emotional strength. That’s a good one, right?  Chin up, soldier because God is on your side.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  And all of the other platitudes we like to splatter about when someone is suffering a trial.  They’re all true; they really are, but sometimes they do little to comfort the weary soul. Sometimes instead of lifting us up, those verses make us feel like crummy Christians.  Because if I’m not “counting it all joy” every single day of this trial, then I’m once again failing somehow, am I not?

And what about “count your blessings,” which goes right along with “think of those less fortunate”?  You know some days that really works for me. Most of the time, I can see all of the good things around me that the Lord has blessed me with.  I can find the silver linings.  I know that my temporary suffering pales in the face of what others have gone through before me, namely Jesus.  But some days I can count my blessings, think of others,  and still feel frail.  Some days I know I’m not clinging to joy, I’m not embracing peace, because I have no strength left to do so!

So while I sit and think on all of these good things I feel I should be doing to try to help myself in this season of trial, the waves grow all the stronger and more ominous around me. Crashing, crashing, always crashing, this storm in my soul. I feel like Jacob, wrestling with the Lord, and I wonder, what’s wrong with me? Why can I not seem to overcome?  Am I not obedient enough?  Not trusting enough?  Not hopeful enough? Have I sinned in some way I’m not aware of?

Then,  I read this post here about not having a formula for success in the midst of trial but just “hanging on for dear life” and this post here about resting in the mud, in the mess of it, because He’s willing to sit right there with us.  I began to wonder if I was seeing it all wrong, if I was trying to earn favor rather than be willing to receive favor.

I’m beginning to hear a new song from the Lord, a new song to my weary soul. His song tells of a Shelter in the storm, strength found less in doing and more in waiting, a peace gained not from a change in circumstance but from His very presence.

In my devotion time this week I feasted on these lines that seemed to be meant just for me:

“We must learn to wait on the Lord and look for His return…. As you wait on Him, you will discover that this attitude renews your spiritual strength, clears your perspective, and reduces your giant-sized problems to manageable size.  Let David’s words become your marching orders: ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.’” [Excerpt from Joy of Living Bible Studies: Hebrews, pg. 102]

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In the original language, this word wait is qavah (pronounced kaw-vaw’) and is a verb meaning to look for, to wait for, to hope for.  I found it even more interesting that the original meaning was one of binding together by twisting, as in a rope.  And here I am, dangling at the end of mine. 🙂   I found that this verb is very active, not an idle sitting by the wayside, but an expectant waiting.  We are to actively be on the “look out” for the Lord to work on our behalf. While we wait, qavah, we are also to be strong.

The phrase “be strong” from the Hebrew word chazaq (prounounced khaw-zak’) is also a verb.  Maybe you’re not as nerdy as I am about grammar, so that might not mean much to you.  However, in essence, this chazaq is an act, something done rather than a state of being.  It was used numerous times in the Old Testament to describe a scene of supernatural strength: David vs. Goliath, Samson’s final act, Joshua’s entrance into the Promised Land.  So this being strong is an act that comes not from any natural or human means, but only from the Lord.  Thus, it’s impossible for us to “be strong” in the chazaq sense on our own. [NASB, Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible]

So, how does that look, practically speaking?  I mean, how can I wait and be strong without striving and stressing?  I can be quick to meet Satan’s lies with truth from the Word.  I can earnestly seek moments of joy in a day full of trials.  I can watch to find His hand already at work in the situation and trust that it’s happening even if I can’t yet see it. I can speak words of hope.

But it’s more than that, isn’t it?  Because some days I don’t have it in me.  That’s the key right there – it’s not in me to wait and be strong.  What is naturally in me is to despair, to cry “Mercy, Father, it’s too much!”  And maybe sometimes that’s just the best place to be: at the Father’s feet, completely undone, utterly dependent on Him alone.  No strength of our own left.  Completely at His mercy.  Humbled and low-down.  At the end of the proverbial rope.

I’ll be honest, that’s a really hard place to sit in.  I much prefer to jump up and busy myself doing something because at least then I feel useful.  But what if that’s not what He desires?  What if what He most desires is to hear me admit, I can’t do it, Father – I’m not capable –  I need help I think the most difficult aspect of learning to walk a road of suffering is understanding when to “be still” and when to “soldier on.”  I still don’t have it figured out. I seem to pendulum swing between the two, trying to find that balance.  Some days I’m all “onward Christian soldiers” and others I’m moaning about like an Israelite, lost in the desert. 🙂 It’s all part of His work in progress in me.

So this is the heart of my struggle, really.  What is it you require of me, Lord?

Here’s how I believe He’s answering me:

Daughter of mine, wait for Me.  Listen for My voice.  When it’s time to get up and walk, I will tell you.  And when it’s time for you to sit and take rest at my feet, I will tell you.  And when it’s time for me to carry you because you have absolutely nothing left to give, then I will carry you.  Stop trying so hard and just rest in my embrace.  No squirming now, not yet.  Sit. Relax. Cry if you need to.  Confess if you need to. Question if you need to.  I’m big enough to handle all of that and more.  Just let Me hold you because that’s all I really want.  You, beloved daughter.  I want you.  Take heart; rescue WILL come, for I am the Faithful One, God of all Hope and Comfort.  But for now, just wait.

Because the truth is that our Father God loves with a perfect love, so much more perfect than ours.  Which one of us mothers would look at wounded, heartbroken child and chide her for her tears? I’m not talking about tantrum tears or even repentance tears, but tears of helplessness and hurt.  Does their sorrow not bring forth our very compassion?   And which one of us mothers would not come rushing to the aid of a child calling urgently for help?  Which one of us would refuse to comfort and console?  Which of us would leave that child to struggle alone?  We would not.  We cannot because our love compels us to respond.  If this is the way we imperfect humans feel about our children, how much more so does our Father God have compassion for us, His beloved, chosen ones?

With that perspective, those crashing waves don’t seem so ominous anymore.  They still knock me down from time to time, but maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly where I need to be.  Perhaps those waves of trial aren’t reaching up at my waist in order to suck me under, drown me, but to push me to a better shore.  If I would just quit fighting them, give in, and ride the momentum, I’d find myself safely on the other side.  And there I can find the rest my soul is so desperate for.

My sister in Christ, if you’re struggling in the surf of suffering today, take heart.  You are not alone. Rescue is near.  He welcomes you into His embrace and asks that you just sit a while. Listen for His voice.

And just wait.

Jen 🙂

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy:

http://sarahjofairchild.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/just-one-of-those-days-again/

I’ll also be linking up at any of these places.

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The Day I Saw Red

1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins...

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins…

Today I saw red.  I was so angry at the injustice that I burst into tears.  That’s my response, ya know, when the going gets so tough that all kinds of nastiness is about to spew forth from my lips.  But I know I’m held to a higher standard than the world; I know the tongue is sharper than any two-edged sword.  I know letting those words escape would be wrong.  So I gulp the words down and they rise up as tears instead.

You see, there was this insurance claim for a broken bone, which happened during our family vacation (see the story about Buttkill Falls).  And even though we followed every step that we should have, even though we did everything right according to the insurance company’s procedures, they still refuse to pay.

It’s really not just the fact that this month we’re already short, and the medical center has already removed money from our account.  I know Our Provider can handle dollars and cents.  It’s not even just that my tailbone still hurts and now I’m miserable with a cold (or maybe fall allergies), too.  It’s more the incredible injustice of knowing you did everything right, and still you suffer.

I saw red, and I was tempted to despair.  I asked the Lord, “Why? Hasn’t enough gone wrong already in the last few weeks?”  And the truth is that it really has been an incredibly crazy few weeks for us.  One trial after another.  When it rains it pours.  That kind of few weeks.  The kind of weeks that string into one long line of day after day of some new problem to cope with – problems with ministry, problems in the home, problems with old, leaky  pipes, problems with finances, problems with health. You cling to His promises and try to face each new challenge with a trusting heart.  But it all sort of piles up on you until you feel like you can’t breathe anymore and you want to beg for rescue, cry out for mercy.

It feels unfair.

And whenever I get to that point, the point when I’m telling the Lord He’s not being fair to me, He has only to say one word.

Jesus.

It wasn’t fair to Him, either.

He did everything right and nothing wrong, yet He suffered even unto death for my sin, my wrongdoing, my evil.

Oh, the shame!  The shame of having questioned.  The shame of telling myself my petty, short-term suffering is unbearable, that it shouldn’t be required of me.  The shame of my sinful pride.

And the perspective!  The perspective of realizing there are so many others suffering much, much worse evils around the world.  People struggling just to survive.  People dying for their faith.  People dying without any Hope.  The perspective of remembering Who is on my side – how could I forget?  Has He not proven Himself faithful time and time again?  And still I doubt, like Peter who saw the 5,000 fed, yet feared the wind and the waves, walking toward Christ, yet slowly sinking.

So, I saw red today.  My face turned red.  Tears fell.  I shouted angrily at the Lord, even if only in my mind.

And then He showed me red.

Red blood dripping from the sacrificial Lamb, the perfect Son of God who deserved only glory, not death.

My salvation and my forgiveness.

The One who understands true suffering.

Forgive me, Father, for my faith is weak and I sometimes doubt.

But You, You are good.

Even when I am not.

And You love me, even when I fail to love You.

Thanks for reminding me that I’m a work in progress, and that work is not yet complete.

I have Hope in You.

Jen 🙂

I’ll be linking this post to other blogs you can find listed under the Favorite Link-ups tab in my sidebar.

Okay, I’m pretty sure I bent the Five Minute Friday rules again today, and this is way more personal than what I’m comfortable sharing. In fact, I’m downright embarrassed and a little afraid.  But… when I sat down to write, this is what came out at the end of a long day, concluding a long week.  And I can’t hide it away as I would like to, or I wouldn’t be a truth-teller.  Sisters in Christ, we all have sinned. And we all doubt.   Even missionary kids.  Even ministers’ wives. Even faith bloggers.  🙂  If you’re struggling today, I want you to know that you’re not alone.  And that He loves you anyway.  Just listen to the words of the song below.

Read more encouraging words from another blogger who’s having “one of those days” here.

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Taught by Twins

taught by twins

Close to five years ago, God chose to bless our family in a totally unexpected way.  It was a blessing I never would have chosen for myself, one I was completely unprepared for and one that brought with it a great deal of anxiety.  It’s a blessing that often continues to challenge me today.

The blessing we received was the gift of two children at one time – twins!  From the moment we received that awe-inspiring news, I began to worry.  The truth is that I like to be in control; I like to plan things in advance.  I like life to be organized and tidy, not uncertain or chaotic.  Two babies at once was not part of my plan!  In my turmoil, I didn’t know whether to yell, “Praise the Lord!” or break down in tears.

Thus, I spent the early portion of my twin pregnancy struggling with fear, worry, and what if’s that I never even considered with my first two pregnancies.  What if we lost one or both of them?  What if they were born prematurely?  What if they had medical issues?  What if I had to have a C-section? What if I just couldn’t handle twins?  What if our middle child (then our youngest) couldn’t handle being displaced by two siblings at once?  What if I couldn’t figure out how to nurse two at a time?  What if we didn’t have enough money?  The doubts strung out in a long line.

twins medical

On top of the what ifs, I was riding the roller coaster of amplified pregnancy hormones as a result of carrying two babies at one time.  One moment I felt euphoric excitement and extreme gratitude for this unexpected blessing and the next – sheer terror.  Even my fear became complicated by the addition of guilt, guilt for sometimes thinking, “it would be easier if it was just one baby,” or “this wasn’t in our plan.” As soon as the errant thoughts entered my consciousness, I felt a shame like no other.  So many women would give anything to carry just one baby, and here I was complaining to myself that I was being blessed with two!

I knew I was sinning.  I knew I needed to trust God more.  I knew that He was in control!  I knew His grace was sufficient for me.  If He chose to give us twins, then He knew we could handle it with His strength. I prayed constantly over these truths, but I was having so much trouble believing them. I put up a good outer front – it was easy to share my excitement with others and leave out the more shameful feelings.

One day when I confessed my worry that I would be inadequate, a wise woman at my church kindly told me that God knew I could handle two at once, or He would not have entrusted these babies to me.  A light bulb burst into light, and I suddenly saw my unexpected twin pregnancy anew, as an honor, a privilege.  Instead of reveling in my blessing, I was wallowing in worry.  I was wasting this unique experience.

twins and me

Little by little, the Lord began providing for our physical needs, as if to provide physical evidence for my skeptical spirit.  He knew we needed a larger vehicle, so He provided a minivan for our family at very little cost to us.  He knew we’d need double the clothing, so He sent neighbors and friends with bags of gently used clothing and other baby necessities.

Our church family collected gifts for us also, including a mountain of diapers that tumbled over onto the floor of the bedroom closet. We received countless gift cards, often from unexpected sources!  I was completely overwhelmed by a God who takes seemingly impossible situations and works out the details without any help on our part, and I praised Him for meeting our needs and encouraging us on this new journey.

My pregnancy progressed as uneventfully as a twin pregnancy can and as I neared the end, I thought we might actually make it to full term.  The specialist I was seeing joked about how great my uterus was and how well my body was built for carrying babies.  I beamed, pleased my body was cooperating so nicely. All was well.

And then the swelling began: first my legs, then my hands, and finally my face.  I knew it was pre-eclampsia because I’d experienced it twice before but never this quickly.  I called the specialist to report my symptoms, already knowing the answer I would receive.  Come to the office immediately.

Not long after arriving at the office, I was ushered over to the hospital and told that a C-section was imminent.  C-section: that dreaded word that made me want to run in the opposite direction.  Furthermore, my pregnancy had only just reached 34 weeks, so I required steroid  injections to help mature the babies’ lungs before operating.

As excited as I was to meet our two bundles of joy, fear of the unknown crept back in, slowly and silently.  I feared the C-section recovery.  I feared the health issues facing my premature infants.  Fear slipped in little by little until suddenly, it was upon me and I could scarcely breathe.  I momentarily forgot that God was in control.  I forgot that He had demonstrated His provision over and over again for the past seven months in some very big ways.  I forgot that He promises to be faithful, and I had a pity party for myself right there in my hospital bed.  I cried.  I worried. I wallowed in fear, took a bath in its darkness. I wondered why.  Why, God?

Our twins arrived the next morning via C-section at right around five pounds each and were quickly whisked away to the NICU. It was the beginning of a very long week.  We existed in a sort of haze, but we survived.  I put off dealing with my fears and thought surely things would get better once we settled in at home. Surely I wouldn’t worry so much having them right next to me instead of in another section of the hospital.

twins in carseats

However, when we finally did make it home, I realized very quickly that it was just the beginning of a long haul.  Both babies came home on apnea monitors, which made just about everything more difficult: feeding, sleeping, travelling, and so forth.  Additionally, we had already spent an entire week apart from our two older boys, including missing our oldest’s birthday party, so they were understandably needy, as well.

The nights were even more difficult as we woke ourselves every three hours to feed babies that needed assistance, and then I still had to pump.  It was exhausting, and I continued to worry about them.  Did they drink enough? Would they gain weight?  Would I ever be able to nurse them?  What should I do when they both cry at once?  How can I get them on a schedule when one seems to need more sleep than the other?  So much uncertainty.

At first, I read a lot of literature on parenting twins, scheduling, and so forth.  I worked at getting them on the same schedule and tried not to feel guilty about the lack of time with our older children.  I decided to focus less on doing everything right and focus more on just surviving the day to day grind.  I spent time in the Word.  I prayed ever more fervently for strength and wisdom.  He told me to let go.  Quit worrying.  Trust Him that even if I somehow did something wrong, my children would still be okay.

It took a few months to come to grips with the fact that my prior parenting experience held little value in this new four-child-family world.  I had to adapt my lofty ideals to techniques that would actually work for our family.  I even resigned myself to the fact that I might not ever be able to nurse the way I wanted to (although we did eventually figure out how to tandem nurse).

I gave up on having things “just so” and became content with “good enough.” 

twins gracie arms out

I gave in to my infant son’s desire to be held…a lot..and my daughter’s desire not to be swaddled.  I learned they were different from one another.  I learned to find quiet moments with my older children and to understand that jealousy was just a part of life for siblings, whether they have one sibling or many.

twins thriving

One day as I sat on the floor with my incredible infants, it dawned on me that we were no longer just surviving; we were actually THRIVING!  All four of our children were happy and despite continuing medical issues, the twins were growing and learning.  I even felt more connected to my husband as our busy household required more teamwork than ever before.  In fact, despite little sleep and little “me time,” I was superbly content.

Watching my two infants smile at one another, holding them both in my arms at once, feeding them together – all of these things brought me a greater joy than I ever could have imagined.  If you have ever seen two babies giggle and smile at one another or sleep peacefully side by side, then you know the joy I’m referring to.  It is overwhelming in its beauty.

twins sleep2

I admit: life wasn’t always pretty.  We still had difficult days, but the smooth days eclipsed the rough ones. I thanked the God who gave me a blessing I didn’t deserve, the blessing I didn’t ask for, the blessing I would never have chosen for myself.

When God gave us twins, He taught me a few very valuable lessons that I try to carry with me still.  He taught me that Philippians 4:13 really IS true.  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” isn’t just a nice saying, but He really can give me physical strength for the day!

I can do all things

He also taught me that I needed to relax as a parent.

So what if our school age son still doesn’t know how to tie his shoes because we had twins the year before he started kindergarten?  So what if I don’t feed my children a food-pyramid-perfect meal three times a day, every day?  So what if my oldest occasionally runs out of clean clothing?  So what if the tv is on more than I’d like?

There are so many more important things in life than the details of the day to day grind of being mother to a larger than average family.  Things like relationships. Love. Attentiveness. Contentment.

twins tall

The Lord showed me that if I want that abundant life my heart so desires, I need to do the opposite of what makes sense to me.  I need to quit trying harder, quit controlling more, and just relax.  Relax in His grace.  Relax in His presence.  I don’t have to control it all because He is in control.  If I remain close to Him, the details will work themselves out, often in a more stunning way than I ever thought possible.

Jeremiah 29:11 became very real to me.

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I’m profusely thankful that His plans for our hope and future included twins.  Like the Israelites in the desert, I would have settled for a return to Egypt rather than experience the glory of the Promised Land.  But He had a bigger blessings in mind for us.

Can you recall a time when God’s plans failed to match up with your plans? What were the results?

Jen 🙂

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