I’m pretty sure I could be a fan of arranged marriages,

because I’ve learned a lot about love in my life time and what I’ve learned has transformed my way of thinking about love.

I’ve learned that falling in love is easy.

That feeling you get when someone sweeps you off your feet by saying just the right words.

That warm feeling inside when you know that someone else thinks about you as much as you think about them.

Yes, falling in love can happen unexpectedly and change everything about your life.

 

But staying in love?

That’s a whole other conversation.

Because mixed with all those sweet words we love to hear eventually come hard words.

Words that challenge us, irritate us, convict us, and sometimes even hurt us.

 

And both kinds of words (sweet and bitter) come mixed with actions.

And these actions come mixed with consequences.

 

And suddenly,

time passes and the act of “falling in love” is something that is as foggy as the darkness outside my house this morning.

As a matter of fact, I noticed the fog as I was waking up Olivia this morning and I thought to myself,

“How foggy my memory is of the early years……”

 

See, today is Tim’s birthday.

I spent a lot of yesterday reflecting on his presence in my life and his presence in his own family’s life.

His birthday started as a gift to his parents when he became their firstborn on his dad’s birthday in 1965.

A breathing birthday gift!

A shared celebration every year.

Father and son.

Who could ask for more??

 

 

But then, without warning, his birthday became a bitter part of our life story.

We awoke in 1992 on his birthday to find our baby girl not breathing.

Suddenly, everything special about this day was obliterated.

It became a dark day.

A day I couldn’t acknowledge for many years.

Saying, “Happy birthday,” seemed cruel on a day that was no longer happy to us.

And time passed.

 

Other dark days came for our family, as you know.

Darker ones if that is possible.

And suddenly his birthday resurfaced as something that needed attention.

Needed love.

 

Nick’s journey through cancer reminded us all that every birthday is a gift to be celebrated.

A day to rejoice that God has given us one more season together.

A time to say “thank you” to a God who gives and takes away.

A moment in time when all the ups and downs, highs and lows, good and bad are seen as part of a big story.

And the candles on the cake reflect all those memories mixed together.

If only the “good year” candles were allowed on birthday cakes, our cakes wouldn’t shine as brightly,

because God uses all our years – the good and bad – to make us who we are.

 

And so goes love.

Falling in love means absolutely nothing without the “staying in love” part of a relationship.

It’s the “staying” that makes the “falling” so meaningful.

I can fall in love with someone who is singing a beautiful song.

Truly, I can.

A songwriter can melt my heart for a moment in time.

But I don’t stay in love with them because there’s no building of something bigger, something better, something painful and yet worthwhile.

Today, on Tim’s 48th birthday, I believe I can say “Happy birthday” with a smile.

And I can say that I understand what it means to “stay in love.”

After 27 years of marriage, two apartments, two houses, several college degrees, six children, more than 6 dogs, several cats, and a few fish,

I have learned that staying in love has very little to do with falling in love.

 

Staying in love is all about endurance.

It’s about forgiveness, sacrifice, mercy, compassion, renewal, grace and every other word that requires effort when it comes to love.

 

Staying in love means lifting the fog from time to time and remembering the days when holding hands and taking a walk were all that mattered.

When singing,

“Me and you and you and me,

no matter how they toss the dice,

it has to be.

The only one for me is you and you for me.

So happy together,”

seemed like a perfect melody.

 

Because staying in love means that you understand that “happy” is conditional but love is unconditional.

 

Today, as I reflect on Tim’s birthday,

I reflect on more than just one more year of life.

 

I reflect on a journey that has not been easy.

I reflect on a relationship that almost ended on several different occasions when the road got just a little too rough for either of us to walk easily.

I reflect on moments when we looked at each other and thought,
“Life might be easier without you.”

I reflect on a lot of wonderful memories and many painfully horrific ones.

 

And I realize this:

 

Falling in love is easy.

Staying in love is work.

 

That’s the difference.

 

Maybe it’s not the one you wanted to hear about this morning.

Work is not always fun.

 

But, I promise this.

Work is worth the outcome.

Not just in marriage, but in friendships, in parenting, in our jobs, and  in our relationship with God.

 

When we invest our time, our energy, our laughter, our tears, we gain more than this world can ever offer in quick, momentary pleasures.

 

I fell in love with Tim when I was 17.

That was easy.

 

I have stayed in love with him for 30 years.

And that’s been a lot of work.

 

Today, I have to say, it’s been worth it.

 

Happy birthday, Tim.

May the many years we skipped your birthday because of our sadness be redeemed by the ones still to come.

And I believe with all my heart and soul that Nick and Adrienne are celebrating with us today……….

in ways too beautiful to imagine with our human minds.

You are a great husband and dad.

I am thankful for you.

I have to add for all my friends who have tried to save their broken marriages and been unable to do so,

thank you for trying and know that God will redeem your tears in His time.

For many of you, He already has.

To my children, thank you for enduring the highs and lows of your mom and dad’s marriage.

Many times it was you who held us together.

To my students and friends who have fallen in love,

remember work is always worth the outcome.

Work hard at staying in love……

God does. Smile

 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,

who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

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Olivia’s throat started hurting last night, and her forehead felt very warm.

This morning she can barely swallow.

 

Ignoring the pain now would only make matters worse in a few days,

so I’m calling our doctor as soon as they open and scheduling an appointment.

 

Some things we just can’t fix on our own.

 

Have you ever reached a time in life when things are difficult to swallow?

 

Maybe you’ve been hurt by a friend or family member.

Maybe you’ve just received not-so-good news from a doctor.

Maybe one of your children is heading in a direction you wish you could change.

Maybe something at work is out of your control but totally in your face.

 

I’ve had many hard-to-swallow days in life,

and I’ve learned that there are just some things that require an expert.

 

A counselor.

A minister.

A doctor.

An outside voice.

 

I’ve sought them all on at least one occasion, and I’ve received the guidance or medicine I’ve needed to start my recovery.

 

Today, Olivia needs a doctor.

I don’t know what you need.

 

But I do know WHO you need on the easy-to-swallow and hard-to-swallow days……..

 

There’s only one Great Physician and His healing power supersedes any you’ll find on this planet.

 

I’m thankful this morning for a God who holds the whole world in His hands but still cared enough for us individually to engrave each of our names in His hand.

 

If you’re facing something this week that is difficult to swallow,

seek help.

 

And know God is with you…..every step of the way toward emotional or physical healing.

 

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

Isaiah 49:16

You go before me and follow me.

You place your hand of blessing on my head.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too great for me to understand!

Psalm 139:5-6

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Last night, I met Olivia’s track team at an area high school after a meeting at work and a quick trip to Walmart.

On the way, my mind was filled with so many things going on in life right now from how each of my boys are doing in their own little worlds to new things we are learning at work that are overwhelming to things I need to do at home but probably won’t get to until next week.

 

I was definitely focused on earthly things even though my radio was cranked up to KLove,

and I’m sure I was missing the powerful lyrics as I cruised along Route 23.

 

So, when I climbed into the bleachers and Olivia and her friends handed me her phone, anxious for me to see what was on the screen,

my mind wasn’t thinking of spiritual things.

 

Honestly, I think I was expecting a picture of Olivia’s purity ring nestled in the grass or something as if Olivia had taken a picture of where she found it and was going to surprise me.

(I’ve got to accept the fact that it’s gone. Smile)

 

 

I took the phone and sat down.

The girls waited for my response.

Nothing.

 

I studied the clouds in the photo closely.

Looking at how the sun was shining brightly through the clouds on one side,

wondering if I was missing a thumbs up or something.

But, I couldn’t see anything that took my breath away.

And finally, Olivia took the phone, disappointed.

 

I had ruined a moment.

 

I tried so hard to find a tiny message in the clouds and missed a gigantic one right in front of my face.

photo (1)

 

When Olivia finally said, “It’s a heart,”

I saw it immediately.

 

I tried to recover, but it was too late.

 

I had allowed all the tiny edges of the clouds that I thought “might be something special” to distract me from the one huge cloud that carried a message of love straight from God to Olivia and her friends.

 

And I can never have that moment back,

because like a cloud it blew in and blew out within seconds.

 

I tried to recover by explaining that my mind was on so many different things when I arrived,

but you could feel the deflated spirits all around me and I might as well have had a big “L” on my forehead for the next few minutes.

Sad smile

 

As I was reading this morning,

I stopped on one verse in Psalm 143,

 

“O Lord, what is man that you care for him,

the son of man that you think of him?”

It’s so easy to get caught up in my own thinking and forget that even when I do,

God is still thinking about me.

As I contemplated so many earthly concerns on the way to Olivia’s track meet,

God was busy contemplating me.

He is busy contemplating you too.

I truly believe He knew I needed to see His love in the sky last night,

and I was looking too hard for something more.

 

Ironically, my Experiencing God chapter this morning was all about hearing God speak through the Holy Spirit.

 

I felt tears come to my eyes as I reached this verse in my study,

 

I Samuel 3:19,

“The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none His words fall to the ground.”

I want to be like Samuel.

I don’t want to miss any messages God sends my way.

I don’t want any of His words to me to “fall to the ground.”

I definitely don’t want to be so caught up in my earthly concerns that I miss God’s messages when they come through the hands of my children or their friends.

 

But when I do miss His messages,

here’s what I’m hoping.

 

I’m hoping that as His heavenly words slip by me and fall seemingly unheard and unseen to the ground that He will allow them to root and grow back up into something more beautiful.

And maybe, just maybe, I missed the cloud so that I could say all of this to you this morning.

Maybe I missed the heart in the cloud so the words in I Samuel would mean something much more powerfully convicting this morning.

 

Maybe God allowed me to NOT see the cloud,

so I could say to all of you,

 

DON’T MISS GOD!!

I meet so many people who seem so unhappy, so purposeless, so lost.

I want to somehow crawl inside them and change their way of thinking, help them see life from a different perspective, help them feel joy even when life is hard,

but I can’t.

 

Only God can do this.

 

So, I’m praying this morning that my eyes will be open to every message God sends my way, and that I will somehow help others see the messages too.

 

God longs to be intimately involved in every minute of our lives.

 

So, look around you today.

Be aware.

Be alert.

Be open to His messages.

 

 

He is with you.

He cares for you.

He thinks about you.

He longs to speak to you.

 

I love knowing that even in those moments when my mind is stuffed full of trivial, worldly things,

God is still passionately pursuing me.

 

He’s pursing you too.

 

His love is always in the air even when we don’t see it.

 

Rest in that thought today.

heartBG2

 

We’ve been searching for the past 24 hours for Olivia’s purity ring.

She took it off to put on lotion just before her bus left for a track meet.

And sat it on her backpack…….

 

That’s the last memory she has of her ring.

 

It’s easy to look back and think of all the things that could have been done differently,

but the truth is “nothing will change the fact that her ring is gone.”

 

 

Have you ever lost something you treasured?

 

 

When you do, life screeches to a halt.

Schedules change.

Thought-processes focus.

Steps are retraced.

Help is sought.

Priorities shift.

 

 

The good news is this:

We can replace a purity ring.

 

 

The reality is this:

Some things can’t be replaced that easily and so this “carelessness” of Olivia has become a teachable moment at our house.

 

 

Here’s the lesson:

 

Pay attention

Value things of worth

Don’t wait too long to ask for help

Be thankful you haven’t lost something of greater value

 

 

 

Today, as you venture out into another Thursday,

what do you treasure?

 

Family

Friends

Life

Time

 

 

Pay attention

Value things you treasure

Ask for help when needed

 

 

I’m thankful today for how God speaks even through lost treasures………..

heartBG2

 

track april 23 018

Sitting at Olivia’s track meet last night, I was drawn to the view on the other side of the field.

 

One lone man.

Standing.

Watching.

 

 

The view must have been perfect for him.

Maybe he liked the quietness of a stadium filled with noone.

I’m not really sure what drew this lone man to the opposite side of the track, separated from the rest of the cheering fans.

 

But whatever it was, he stood there most of the evening.

And when I got home I was tickled to find that I had taken as many pictures of him as I had of the kids competing.

 

Every time I looked at him, I had this same thought.

Someone at this track meet has an audience of one.

What power there must be in running the track and looking up into the stands and having no doubt that the ONE person you need cheering you on is there.

No searching the crowd for the right face.

No listening closely for the right voice.

 

Nope.

 

Your audience of one stands clear compared with the chaos of cheering on the other side of the track.

 

God is so much like this.

 

When we look up and wonder if He’s there,

He longs for us to have no doubt.

 

He’s there.

 

He’s watching.

 

Our solitary God is cheering us on in a world full of chaos.

 

He pulls Himself away just far enough for a perfect view yet stays just close enough to show up in everything around us.

 

From sunrises to flowers blooming to leaves falling to children laughing to elderly people speaking words of wisdom.

 

He is here and He is speaking.

  

Today, if you’re wondering who’s watching you as you wake up, get ready for school or work, or prepare for a day of errands,

He is.

If you wonder who’s watching you as drive here and there, as you interact with friends or co-workers,

He is.

If you wonder who’s watching you as you make every little decision throughout your day,

He is.

 

I love knowing that no matter how crazy and loud and mixed up this world gets,

I can turn to the bleachers on the other side of life and know without a doubt that God is there.

Centered, steady, and faithful.

 

He is our audience of one.

 

His cheers are all we need.

 

Let’s live for Him today.

 

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When Jesus ascended back to Heaven after His resurrection and brief presence on the earth,

He told the disciples,

 

I tell you the truth. It is better for you that I go away.

If I do not go, the Helper will not come to you.

If I go, I will send Him to you.

(John 16:7)

Every time I read this verse it stops me in my tracks.

Jesus, the King of Kings of Lord of Lords, felt it was better for Him to leave us than to stay.

WHY?????

Because in His place was going to come Someone who was better.

 

Better than Jesus????

 

Yes!

 

How could anyone be better than Jesus, the Son of God??

 

Jesus told us how when He said that when He left a Helper would come.

Suddenly every person who accepted Jesus as their Savior was going to have Someone who not only loved them but also LIVED INSIDE them!!!

 

I love the thought that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all on the same team but have very specific purposes in our life.

 

God is our Father, Judge, Provider.

Jesus is our Mediator, Savior, Lord.

and

The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, Friend, Helper, Comforter

 

 

The Bible shares over and over again in the book of Acts stories of people receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

When the people in that day heard the message of Jesus, they asked, “What do we have to do to be saved?”

Every time, they were told that they needed to be born again.

Die to their old self.

Become someone new.

 

The way they were told this could happen was by being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Our church believes that while baptism is not any sort of magic trick to make your life perfect, it is an act of obedience, crucial in our journey toward salvation,

that even Jesus humbled Himself and modeled while on this earth.

 

I would never make a list of things that a person has to do in order to consider themselves “saved,”

but I would also never share Jesus without talking about the book of Acts and the early church, and how the people of that day transformed their lives in order to receive the Holy Spirit.

 

When the Holy Spirit came,

lives changed dramatically.

 

Murderers, thieves, and so many other broken, messed-up people became passionate followers of a New Way.

 

They became so committed to the teaching of Jesus that they were willing to die rather than reject Him.

 

The Holy Spirit inside of them is what gave them the strength to survive earthly persecution.

They knew that something better was coming.

They lived everyday looking up to Him who promised eternal life.

 

 

Today, we have that same Holy Spirit living in us if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior.

That’s how they work together.

 

One saves the other stays.

 

If you have given your life to Christ at some point, even if you feel far from Him today,

guess what???

 

You still have someone living inside of you who longs to draw you right back to Him who loves you more than anyone on this planet!

 

I love the thought that God is always working through His Son and through His Spirit.

 

I am confident this morning that the only way I have survived the losses in my life is by having Someone with me and in me through every single day of my grief journey.

 

If you feel alone today, ask God to send you just the right person to lead you closer to Him.

 

John 14:26 says,

The Counselor, the Holy Spirit,

whom the Father will send in my name,

will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

 

I’m praying for you today.

 

Praying that you will turn to God with all your questions.

 

Be listening today.

Be watching today.

God longs to show up in your life and give you just what you need in order to feel His love and presence.

 

The Holy Spirit matters because He is here, living in us and with us, constantly drawing us nearer to the One who loves us most!

heartBG2

 

Sometimes I think it would be easier to walk with God if He would send us each a Post-it note every morning that included a list of “things to do” for the day.

We could then check off all the things specifically chosen for us.

__smile at your neighbor when getting your mail

__invite your co-worker to Bible study

__pray for your friend

__share a particular verse with someone who is struggling

 

 

If every Christian had this morning list, just think of all things that could be done every day in the name of God.

But, I’m just thinking that God knows how we are about lists.

At first, we check them off meticulously.

Excited about our new method of being organized.

After a while, though, those very lists we longed for become “one more thing” on our bigger list of “things we need to do,”and the stacking of lists begins.

Before we know it, we are days behind.

The arrival of our next list of “assignments” suddenly becomes more of a burden than an opportunity.

 

That may be the very reason God chooses to work in this world on His own and then allow us to step in when we see a work in progress.

 

Maybe God is working on the heart of a co-worker and we notice them asking more questions about God and faith.

This is a chance to share a little part of our life story with that person, joining God where He’s already working.

 

Today, walk with God by having your eyes and ears open to where He is already at work in the world around you.

Then join Him there.

 

That’s what walking with God looks like.

 

“Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” …….

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself;

he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”

John 5:17, 19-20

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As I sat here reading the Bible this morning,

I heard the rain began to pour outside.

My first thought was, “Oh no. We didn’t get the yard mowed. 

My second thought was, “It’s going to be a mess getting in and out of schools today.”

But then, out of nowhere, I remembered the song,

“Showers of Blessings.”

We use to sing this at church when I was a little girl.

 

I remember loving to play it on the piano.

I remember loving to hear the voices of elderly people around me singing it, knowing their lives had been marked with good times and bad.

 

Life will have rainy days.
Sometimes the rain will come in raindrops.

Sometimes the rain will come through tears.

This morning if you are facing a rainy day (whether it’s a real rain or an emotional one),

remember this:

God longs to shower your life with more than raindrops.

He longs to shower you with blessings too.

 

Look to Him today, trusting Him, even in the rain.

 

Showers of Blessings

There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

Refrain:
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

There shall be showers of blessing,
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.

There shall be showers of blessing;
Send them upon us, O Lord;
Grant to us now a refreshing,
Come, and now honor Thy Word.

There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!

There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way.

I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing.

I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.

Ezek. 34:26

The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty,

to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.

You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.

Deut. 28:12

Today, I’m sensing that your life, like mine, has had moments of sunshine and moments of rain.

I love the song below.

I’ve had a thousand sleepless nights.

I’ve had more tears than I ever thought a life could hold.

I’ve had so many reasons to question God’s presence,

but I’ve learned this by trusting Him anyway:

He never leaves me.

Even on the rainy days.

The aching of this life has revealed a greater thirst than this world can satisfy.

Thankful today, for the sunny days and the rainy ones.

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Do you ever wonder how you can know God more personally?

Do you ever wish God would make a “personal appearance” in your life, showing up just when you need Him with a sign that speaks to your specific need?

 

Well, I have great news today!

 

That’s exactly what God wants too.

He wants you to know Him more personally.

He wants to show up in your life.

 

John 14:21 says,

 

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.

The one who loves me will be loved by my Father,

and I too will love them and show myself to them.

Last night on Facebook, a colleague of mine posted a personal experience she had with God.

She wrote about how she has been feeling down because of everything in the world that seems to be out of control and bad,

and how she was struggling to trust mankind.

Then she shared about something that happened with a stray dog and how God used this dog to demonstrate “trust.”

As I read her words, I knew that she had experienced God in a very personal way that spoke to her very specific need.

She needed to know what trust looked like, up close and personal.

In her desperate cry for help,

God showed up through a stray dog of all things.

And because she was listening and open to more than just an earthly experience, this interaction with an animal taught her a lesson that deepened her faith and changed her entire outlook on life.

Not only that, because she shared her testimony publicly many others were blessed last night.

That’s how God wants to work.

He wants to meet you right where you are with a message you need to hear.

And then He longs to use your encounter with Him to change everyone around you.

Another friend of mine found out she will have a new student joining her class today with only 20 days left in the school year.

I can’t wait to see what God is up to with this new student!

because I believe that nothing happens accidentally in this world as God brings good from every situation and longs to use ALL THINGS to draw us closer to Him.

God has a purpose in the arrival of this new little child.

When you take time to sit back and soak in just how personally the Lord of all Creation longs to share life with you and when you BELIEVE with all your heart that He is passionately interested in you,

EVERYTHING CHANGES!

EVERYTHING!!!

The traffic jam on the interstate

The rude sales clerk

The unmerciful teacher

The stray dog

The conversation over the fence with a neighbor

The hurtful friend

The unfaithful spouse

The financial trouble

The time in the bleachers with other kids’ parents

The complicated situation with family or friends

The neglectful parent

A new job

A lost job

The tiring student

Stress at work

The consequences of our sin

Tragedy

Victory

Illness

Restored health

Grief

I could keep listing things all day long that I have experienced personally or that friends are experiencing right this minute….

They all have one thing in common.

God longs to meet each of us in all of these moments.

He longs to be our Comforter, Avenger, Guide, Helper, Advocate, Defender, Hiding place, Savior, Supporter, Hope, Leader, Light, Redeemer, Salvation, Stronghold, King of Kings, and so much more.

 

 

Are you longing to now God more?

 

He’s ready to show Himself to you today.

 

No matter where you are or what you’re facing,

ask God to show up in exactly the way you need Him.

 

And then “wait expectantly!!!”

Psalm 5:2-3

 

Hear my cry for help,

my King and my God,

for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my

voice;

in the morning I lay my requests

before you

and wait expectantly.

I can’t imagine walking through this world without believing that there is more to this world than our eyes can see.

I want you to believe that too.

Believing this changes everything

about life!!!!!!!!!

heartBG2

 

Psalms 50:15

.call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

After watching the news for a while last night, it was easy to feel overwhelmed with the reality of what happened yesterday.

I woke up this morning wondering what was going on in the lives of so many that were affected personally by the tragedy of yesterday’s bombings during an annual event that usually ends with cheers of victory and an unbelievable sense of accomplishment.

It’s easy to wonder where God was yesterday when evil people chose to bring harm to innocent victims.

We’ve asked that question many times in the past when news has flashed across our screens reminding us once again of the hearts of wicked men.

All I have this morning is this,

God was there.

In the midst of all the screams.

In the midst of all the questions.

In the midst of all the pain.

 

He was right there.

 

And He’s there today.

 

He’s there to bring comfort to the hurting, and hope to the devastated.

Stories will surface just like they have in past events of horror and despair,

and slowly we will hear of how God is bringing strength to the weak and hope to the hopeless.

 

That’s how He works in a fallen world.

 

He doesn’t always provide escape

from pain,

but He always provides comfort in

the midst of it.

 

Today, if you are hurting, know that you can cry out to Him, and He hears you in a very personal, compassionate way.

When you cry out and He responds, you will find yourself feeling a peace this world can never offer.

And with this peace comes a hope that “overflows with joy” even as you try to figure out how to go on from where you are right this minute.

 

My prayer today is that you will feel God’s presence in such a profound way that there will be no room for doubt as to whether or not He is with you.

 

Close your eyes and know this:

 

The Creator of the Heavens and the earth longs to have a very personal relationship with you.

You are loved.

He is with you.

He is enough.

Even on the darkest day.