Toss the pity, this journey is worth it.

It has come at last –

salvation and power and the kingdom of our God,

and the authority of his Christ,

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters

has been thrown down to earth –

the one who accuses them before our God day and night.

And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb

and by their testimony.

Rev.12:10-11

In a few days I leave for a writing conference, but this isn’t just about black words on a white page, you see.  For me, this is a step towards freedom.  And I pray that in my journey I can encourage you to take steps too.  Freedom to sing, to dance, to glorify Him.  Freedom to overcome.  Freedom to stand tall and in confidence, knowing that who you are is exactly what God had in mind.  Freedom to include the pain in your story, because it is through the pain that God’s faithfulness, His love is revealed.

Writing, for me, is dancing.  It is displaying my love and admiration for this journey and His faithfulness.  The Lord is good and He never – NEVER- misses a detail of your life.  He sees every. singe. moment.  And every. single. one. can count and be redeemed for good.  I have had some dark moments, lonely ones.  There have been moments where I swore even God was gone.  Even the fallibility of people of faith can strike dangerously deep.  But God redeems.  God sees.  Don’t pity me for the struggles I have walked through, instead, rejoice with me over the Faithfulness of God to redeem them.

My journey, this testimony will count.  The hard, hurtful moments, they matter.

And yours do too.  Don’t be afraid of your story, instead, watch as the pages unfold to display His glory.

Keep your eyes on the Author of your life instead of on the chapter just finished.

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F2S button

Pushing through dirt.

It is dark and cold.  The weight of it all pushing in from all sides.  The isolation is overwhelming, the potential for stagnation inevitable.  There is a pause, a stillness.  Eternity seems to hold its breath.

Give up in the deep?  Stay hidden in this dark, buried under layers and layers of dirt?  Which way is up, where is the out?  There are no directions, no map; no explanation.  Identity and destination are foreign.

Then it comes, it surrounds and saturates.  It nourishes.  It fuels.  Like a rhythm of hope, it sources life.  And then it comes again.  Steady.  Faithful.

In the deep it fills, it builds, it strengthens and out of the core comes a passion, a drive, a call.

Walls begin to crack and slowly, steadily shapes change and things move.  Mysteriously pushing upward and outward, inch by inch pressing through layers of stone, grime — dirt.  Each new wave of saturation seems to multiply strength, fueling this growth onward and upward.

Breakthrough.

The sun sets freedom on fire, the radiance of life on display.  Finally.  This work, this change, this salvaged life from the depths is evident.  Out of the deep it came.  It’s beautiful, breathtaking.  It is alive.

It has bloomed.

Seedlings

Every Friday I come here and I am challenged to testify about what God is doing in my life through words and grammar in black and white.  And every Friday I am humbled, humbled by His faithfulness.  This week I have been speechless to His marvelous ways.  He weaves all the tiny details of our life together.  Every single one.  They each are part of a tapestry of glory, His story.  Over and over again small whispers have come, whispers of a call to keep pushing through the dirt.  His promises echo through the layers of stone, filth and grime – they permeate deep in my core to break out.  Somehow by following the sound of his voice I find the surface and burst forth into freedom. 

Follow the sound of His voice.  Trace the lines of His word and you will find your way to the light.  Don’t hide in the depths of fear, allow Faith to bloom. 

No flower ever blooms

 

This week I have been listening here at  Remade Ministries Webinar: Faith Over Fear.   Friends, it has blown my socks off!  (And I have been wearing socks lately with all of our wet and fall-like rain).  Beth Kinder has challenged me to stare fear in the face and answer back with faith.  My favorite quote so far is: “Trust trumps fear every time.”  You can still get in on the action – FOR FREE!  It is three hours of your life that will be like adding a million dollars to your faith account.

Pitchin’ Tents

We curved along, passing orange blossoms on waving vines, the sun peering out behind soft grey clouds. It had just rained, leaving the roads glistening while the scent of fresh tickled your nose. We turned an unforeseen corner and he shifted down low, up we climbed. As we bumped and plodded along in that little Chevy pick-up he told me of the neighbors, their church, this place, and of how they had built it all themselves.

Barva de Heredia, Costa Rica

She walked me inside, the joy of a new journey uniting us both.   The echo of my shoes on her perfectly white tiled floor followed us through each room. The kitchen, the den, the master bedroom, the bathroom and so on until the guest room, there the plush mattress was draped in a homemade quilt; it held a story – I am sure. There were artwork and family photos on the walls, curtains dancing in the breeze and pillows to cushion the awkward places into cozy corners. There was history here, a legacy of their lives together, from family heirlooms to mementos of trips they’d taken.  A smile still sneaks across my face.

It was their home. In a place foreign to all of us, this was their refuge.

Their kitchen stocked fruits and vegetables grown locally but she prepared not-so-local meals. Their sheets held the fragrance of her favorite laundry detergent and the rhythm of the household routine spoke of their values. This home was different from the world outside, it was theirs, they were free to relax and rejuvenate here. It was a haven, a steady place to reside.

Outside and down the curvy steep road waited a world hungry for God’s love and for rice and beans. Children lived in mud pits just passed the city limits, parents desperate for work. The needs endless and the smiles plentiful. It was a mission field wide as the eye could see and as deep as the heart dared to tread. They provided what they could to help, overcoming bureaucracy and red tape to do so. It was tedious. It could be isolating and overwhelming. It was hard.

Barva de Heredia, Costa Rica

But they had a place to retreat. These missionaries had built a home on the mission field so they could be free to give and love on the people God had called them to serve. It was a place of refuge, a place to rest, to return to and re-establish identity. They had a place to refuel. The mission field itself could not do that for them, their dwelling did.

“Dwell in Me and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me and I will live in you] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me.” John 15:4

Heredia, Costa Rica

Matthew Henry puts it this way in his commentary on John 8:31-32: “It is menein (Greek verb meaning ‘to dwell, to stay, to tarry or to remain’) – to dwell in Christ’s word, as a man does at home, which is his center, and rest and refuge.”

Your dwelling place is intended to be your anchor, your starting point, your steady. When we make it the truth of God’s word and His presence it is a sure place of refreshment, when it is the shifting sands of earthly things that refreshment isn’t so guaranteed.

No matter where your feet tread or what circles you find yourself among, they are not your dwelling place. Your shelter, your tabernacle is the presence of God. Pitch your tent in the midst of the field where He’s called you, but don’t make the field your shelter. Abiding with Christ, His word, His truth brings freedom; it is the foundation of authentic faith and beautiful confidence. We build a dwelling place with our thoughts, our feelings and our words – build with the materials of His truth.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely and in Him I [Confidently] trust!” Ps. 91:1-2 Amp

Take stock today of where you have built your shelter, what or who is your refuge?

“He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield…” Ps. 91:4 NIV

 

Today I am joining in with Holley Gerth in her group of amazing encouragers.  Come by here and see why!

When you would do anything for freedom…

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word,

you are my disciples indeed.

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:31-32 NKJ

 

Abide: To remain, endure. To Dwell ~ The American Heritage Dictionary

Synonyms: To continue, persist, last, prevail, sustain, resign oneself, to bear.

I want to dance recklessly before the Lord, unashamedly abandoned.  I want a life loud with His glory.  But I’m caught, I am tied up with baggage and laden with worries, shackled by lies.  I want freedom, to know the truth.  I want to remain, dwell, resign myself to Jesus’s words about me and His words for me.

075 gnuckx Massimo Ranieri Concert 2009 Taormina-Sicilia-Italy-castielli-CC0-HQ

I waited and waited and waited for God.

At last he looked; finally he listened.

He lifted me out of the ditch,

pulled me from deep mud.

He stood me up on a solid rock

to make sure I wouldn’t slip.

He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,

a praise song to our God.

More and more people are seeing this:

they enter the mystery,

abandoning themselves to God.

 

Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,

turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,”

ignore what the world worships;

the world’s a huge stockpile

of God-wonders and God-thoughts.

Nothing and no one

comes close to You!

I start talking about you, telling what I know,

and quickly run out of words.

Neither numbers nor words account for You.

 

Doing something for you, bringing something to you—

that’s not what you’re after.

Being religious, acting pious—

that’s not what you’re asking for.

You’ve opened my ears

so I can listen.

So I answered, “I’m coming.

I read in your letter what you wrote about me,

And I’m coming to the party

You’re throwing for me.”

That’s when God’s Word entered my life,

became part of my very being.

 

I’ve preached you to the whole congregation,

I’ve kept back nothing, God – you know that.

I didn’t keep the news of your ways

a secret, didn’t keep it to myself.

I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough.

I didn’t hold back pieces of love and truth

For myself alone. I told it all,

let the congregation know the whole story.

 

Now God, don’t hold out on me,

don’t hold back you passion.

Your love and truth

are all that keeps me together.

When troubles ganged up on me,

a mob of sins past counting,

I was so swamped by guilt

I couldn’t see my way clear.

More guilt in my heart than hair on my head,

so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.

 

Soften up, God, and intervene;

hurry and get me some help,

So those who are trying to kidnap my soul

will be embarrassed and lose face,

So anyone who gets a kick out of making me miserable

will be heckled and disgraced,

So those who pray for my ruin

will be booed and jeered without mercy.

But all who are hunting for you—

oh, let them sing and be happy.

Let those who know what you’re all about

tell the world you’re great and not quitting.

And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing;

make something of me.

You can do it; you’ve got what it takes—

but God, don’t put it off.

~Ps. 40 (MSG)

 

This month I want to talk about what it means to abide in the Word and explore freedom. Will you join me?

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Exhale {Five Minute Friday}

Let all that I am wait quietly before the Lord, for my hope is in Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.  My victory and honor come from God alone.  He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.  Oh my people, trust in Him at all times.  Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.   ~Psalm 62:5-8

Exhale.

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 As we start our three day weekend I pray that you have many sunshine moments of pure peace.  May you exhale the weight of all that life tries to burden you with and may you inhale all of the joys of freedom. 

Happy Independence Day! 

Independence Day

Today I am linking up with Lisa Jo Baker and her Friday flash mob of writers!

Welcomed Detour

It happens to our neighborhood every June. Just as the snow begins to melt and the sky radiates glory in the morning and then cracks wide open with raindrops in the afternoon. This surges the river banks and turns fields of hay into swamp land. Roads become rivers and power flickers like lightning bugs. For what feels like endless days, nature overtakes all of man’s ingenuity. It is inconvenient at best, destructive and disruptive at most.   Travel and power become luxuries.

Every June.

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As I stood there this year, staring at the orange “Road Closed” signs, listening to water rage across the road, dodging the swooping blue heron in their quest for food, I heard a prayer. It echoed across the water. A prayer I have prayed hundreds of times and watched others pray hundreds more.

“Come Lord, fill this place. Flood our hearts with Your presence, overflow here.  We long for a saturation of your power. “

As I stood there at the road closed sign and really took in the full effects of flood waters, the full effect of saturated ground and its destructive force I wondered, have we truly embraced the impact of a Holy flood?

If God’s presence were to flood our hearts, our homes, our church sanctuaries, would we stand back and be content with the disruption or would we grumble and complain in frantic search for ways around it?

2014-06-08 18.41.50

As the river floods it forges new paths. It spreads and covers areas that do not normally house water. It brings life to places once dry. It usurps man’s attempts to control and maneuver. It challenges design, it demands patience. It clears out the dead and broken.

Flooding can completely change the terrain.

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Habkuk 2:14

As God’s presence covers and saturates He will bring changes to our relationships and how they are accessed. He will alter our sources for motivation and deepen sources for strength. He will change our direction. While there may be destruction of our selfish structures and our manmade foundations, He will clear out the dead, the broken, and the clutter. He will make a way for life to flourish.

Are you willing? Are you open to the inconvenience in order to gain the benefit?

Year after year as our river banks flood and the power goes out I am in awe of the ripple. Within a few short hours of the outage you can find us in front of our houses (instead of in back), sharing stories and watching children play. Over the hum of generators we will share drinks and laughs. Lawn chairs fill roads and garages are left open. It is magical to watch our neighborhood open up and walls come down. I have grown to love those days. My neighbors have become my friends. Beyond an annual barbecue and occasional borrowed cups of sugar we have forged deeper connections and shared memories around camp fires, long extension cords and front porch rain shelters.  I wouldn’t have these treasures without an overflow, a power outage or road closures.

In the aftermath of flooding there is always a stronger, more vibrant landscape. Trees and bushes reach higher. Birds sing praise for the flourishing harvest. The view has changed and while some grasses have died and the piles of silt on the side of the road are not pretty, they are reminders. Reminders of a covering, provision, an experience.

“You heavens above, rain down my righteousness; let the clouds shower it down let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness flourish with it; I, the Lord, have created it.” Is. 45:8

Embrace it, wade into it. Let Him saturate. There may be a detour or delay to your planned route, but He has a bounty of life waiting for you.

“I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream.” Is. 66:12

 

Like a fire shut up in my bones

I want the world to know You are God

With a passion burning deep within

I want the world to know that You live

 

Let Your presence come and saturate

Every part of me make me new

Let Your Spirit come and move within

Fill me once again cause I need more

 

Jesus, I’m desperate for You

Jesus, I’m hungry for You

Jesus, I’m longing for You

Lord You are all I want

 

Come like a flood and saturate me now

You’re all I want

Come like the wind

And sweep throughout this place

You’re all we want.

~

”Like a Fire” by Planetshakers

 

Lost Toy by Dominic Morbitzer

Lost on a Five Minute Friday

It is Friday, and today I again join up with a brave lot to simply write for 5 minutes.  We leave our make up in the drawer and shoes on the floor, sit back in the cozy couch and gather together to write.  Just write.  Oh the wonders that come together!!  You are invited too!  Come, join us here!

Lost Toy. Utrecht

His forlorn eyes gave him away.  “Momma, I just can’t find it”, he confessed.

“Find what, love?”

“My phone”, and then the tears came.  He recanted all the places he looked, he admitted to interrogating his siblings and now, now he just needed to embrace the feelings of loosing something he treasured.

I admit, I found it hard to jump on the sad band wagon, I mean we were talking about a piece of paper made to look like the home page of a smart phone.  We had snagged it as a book mark from the library.  A piece of paper.  I offered his baby brothers copy, it wouldn’t do – he had made a customized case for his and wanted his, not some imitation.  I wanted to giggle almost, to say “Really, Son, we’re going to mope around and be upset over a lost piece of paper?”

But he was genuinely upset.  For real.  I couldn’t ignore that hurt look in his eyes or help but notice his slumped shoulders and lack-luster appetite.  And this went on for days.  Yes, days.

It hit me like a ton of bricks after I offered him his brothers again.  (Mind you, baby brother hadn’t given said book mark a second look).  My son looked at me with tears and very firmly said, “No Thanks Mom, I want mine, because it’s mine.”  He was sad and upset, but resolute.  That is when I saw it, it wasn’t the piece of paper he had lost, but his vision.  He has a goal to get a smart phone and loosing this little toy was like loosing his vision.

He felt lost, unable to move forward because he had lost his vision, lost sight of the goal.  He was sidetracked by the distractions and consumed by the disruption.  Like turning the lights off while still working, he was stuck and that is a frustrating, discouraging and hard place to be.

Don’t misplace your vision, friends.  Keep your eyes steadfast on the purpose so that you aren’t consumed by the distractions or weighted down by life’s disruptions.  Hold tight to that aim, it is a life line. 

Where there is no vision, the people perish.  Prov. 29:18

{We did find the paper smart phone, it was hiding in the laundry basket.  After sorting through the socks, all of the world was restored to balance.}

 

 

 

 

Confessions at the Finish Line

We pulled into the parking lot brimming with cars and joined the drones of athletes flocking to the bouncing music. I put on the “right” face, but I really did NOT want to be there. Yes, I was the one who registered and paid my 60 dollars and yep, I was also the one who bought the t-shirt and bandana and tank.

But I didn’t want to be there. I was destined to display messy, obnoxious colors in ways I wasn’t ready to expose. Fake it ‘til you make it I guess.

We came up over the edge and could see the masses, loads of people, excited people, happy people, fit people. I was not that person. I was certain I had failed long before this sunny morning.   I had planned for this day, I had paid to be here, but I couldn’t face myself in this challenge. I couldn’t do this because I had failed all the way to this point.

We meandered through the crowd and found a spot worthy of waiting. I let the sights and sounds surround me. But not penetrate. All I could see were all the ways I had failed. I had missed trainings and not met a single fitness goal over the past 10 weeks. Not a single one. Being here somehow felt like cheating, like a false win.

The starting line approached. We jumped in line and crossed over. The race began with a splash of color, like the beginning of a painting.  And so we put one foot in front of the other, keeping pace with the rhythm of friendship. She invited me here and no one could resist the look of joy on her face for simply being in this moment right now. Ok… Ok… I’ll savor that joy. But only that one.

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We ran some, we walked some. Keeping one foot in front of the other. And each step of the way seemed to peel away another layer of calloused misperceptions. I am not one to go get messy for fun. I am the prissy one who brushes her hair to improve her mood. But I found with each obnoxious splash of color there was a new life-giving giggle. That one joy of a shared smile soon multiplied like abstract art on the canvas of my soul.

I found myself enjoying the journey, almost moved by this art.

And then the finish line approached. Looming tall and bold right in front of me. Strangers all around cheering and watching. It was awkward. It was real. It was raw.

We picked up the pace (one has to, it’s a law of nature) and grabbed hands, thrust them into the air and ran across the finish line. The words: “We Did It”, We did it” echoing off our lips and the words: “I did it” found their way to my tongue. I. Did. It.

Three mind altering words.

I don’t think I have ever let myself cross the finish line before. Ever.   Even if I had finished a task, any mishaps along the way, any missed marks along the journey nullified the finish and thus it was labeled a failure. If it wasn’t a bull’s-eye then it wasn’t an accomplished goal.

But today… today changed all of that. My goal was to “Finish a 5K” and today, today I did just that. I ran some, I walked some, I finished it all. And every step, every moment, every struggle, every trip-up, every laugh-filled-colored flail, EVERY FAILURE – they all counted. Each one a step towards the end.

Sometimes the journey looks absolutely NOTHING like we picture it, or even plan for but that doesn’t discredit the destination. Crossing the finish line can be just that, one step in front of the other, keeping pace with the rhythms of life, pressing on towards the goal. Your failures count. Keep going.

It is time to Release her. {Five Minute Friday}

{Today I write alongside some amazing others.  These lovelies inspire me, challenge me and encourage me beyond words.  I am joining up again with Lisa-Jo.  Today’s prompt is a raw one as writing for me is only 6 months in to my release.  The word today… well it needs no introduction.}

freedom in red / Libertad en rojo

What happens if she let go?  What if she let go of the hope that things might change?  What if she released the expectation for improvement?  REALLY release it, in a sense, gave up.

Then what?

What does tomorrow hold?  How does she conduct herself?  How do she move forward, continue?

What does it look like to let go, to release the expectation of change?

Looking at this from the other side brings some clarity.  If you release the expectation you can see how much her chains and heavy burden held her down.  By clinging to the expectation of change, improvement, she has become a slave to its flapping in the wind. This burden has become her bondage.  She has been entrapped by it.  Held back by it.

She needs released.

Lord,

Relieve the troubles of her heart and free her from my anguish.  (Ps. 25:17)  Bind up her broken heart, proclaim her freedom and release her from this bondage (Is. 61:1-2). 

Bestow on her a crown of beauty, Lord. 

Amen. 

Photo curtesy of Five Minute Friday ~ Lisa Jo Baker

Photo courtesy of Five Minute Friday ~ Lisa Jo Baker

What if He is right about you?

I see her with bright eyes full of life and long luscious lashes. She has flowy-vibrant hair and her outfit is straight out of the latest issue of InStyle. Her smile encompasses all those hopes and dreams that give breath to her lungs. Of course she has struggles, we all do, but she weathers them with strength and grace. Genuinely charming and fun to be with, she is beautiful and she is my friend. I have no qualms telling her so because it is truth; she is beautiful, deserving, worthy, lovable, and I can tell her these things even when she doesn’t believe them. It is truth.

One day, while our children played, we walked and talked. We were goin’ round about the comparisons we found distracting. When she said to me, “I know that I shouldn’t be so harsh on myself but I just can’t honestly believe that I am beautiful in anyway.”

I was stunned. Speechless, not because of what she said about herself, but because if I were to be honest, I felt the exact same way. Her shocking sentence was like finally looking my naked self in the eye.   I can see beauty in and on her but what I see of me is not. I see my poor attitudes, my plethora of failures, my vicious words and ugly faces. I know vividly my dirty imperfections and tangles of doubts and fears. There is no way the word ‘beautiful’ can be applied to me.

In that moment an argument began within my own cerebellum. On one side I see my friend’s beauty and can’t understand why she doesn’t. And on the other side what I’ve read in the bible says I am beautiful too, but I deny its truth.

In an instant I blurted out, “Well then, you don’t believe in salvation.”

Wait! What?? (DID I JUST SAY THAT?!) I fully expected to be slapped, you know, because that is what I wanted to do to myself. In saying that to her I was also saying to me: “Brandi, if you deny that you are fearfully AND WONDERFULLY made, then you deny the truth of your salvation too.”

Wait… WHAT?

I can’t take one verse and believe it intrinsically and not another. I can’t believe that Jesus cleanses me and restores to me my salvation and yet disregard his words about me because of all my faults, imperfections and failures. If you were to allow me the utter vulnerability of honesty:

I do believe that Romans 3:23-24 is truth:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

 And I do believe that John 3:16 is truth:

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  

But I wrestle with the infallibility of Psalms 139:13-14

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

 And Gen 1:27-31

And God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; … and God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

Truth

 There are so many comments in the Bible where God calls me: beloved, redeemed, child, lovely, beautiful, anointed, full of purpose, a display of His splendor, saved, righteous… on and on.

I believe in the words God spoke in John 3:16 and Romans 3… I believe that the words spoken in Genesis 1 are solid. I stand on the firm words that God reigns supreme in Heaven and we battle a real enemy from Hell.

I believe.

I believe Psalm 33:4

For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.

 I believe 2 Tim. 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

 I believe Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.

So if I quiet the ramble of lying serpents and stand still in the sanctuary of His garden I can hear His whisper. I have to choose… I have to stomp out the penetrating lies…

And I believe, despite what I feel, despite what I think I see in the mirror… I choose to believeI choose to believe that He calls me:

Chosen, Beloved one, beautiful, perfectly created one, worthy of His presence, complete, whole, strong, equipped, peaceful, wise, healed, captivating, lovely, redeemed, glory displayed, Holiness expressed you are.

And I pray you hear his whisper too, for it dances around you. He sings these words over you every day all day (yes, even today)… like sunshine surrounds your skin and air dives into your lungs He sings these truths over you. You are His creation and you are good. You my friend are lovely in all that you are TODAY. He sees you as His creation, redeemed and perfect. (Is. 43:1-13 and Col. 3:12) You wear a crown of beauty (Is. 61:3) and clothing worthy of a royal princess (2 Cor. 5:21). He sees you right where you are and LOVES YOU. ALL OF YOU. He loves you in the dark and he loves you in the light, He loves you in the neat and He loves you in the messy – it is ALL THE SAME to Him. (Romans 5:8)

Do you choose to believe Him?

He Loves You