Category Archives: Faith

Hardscrabble Life

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arid barren clay cracks

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

It’s a hardscrabble life.

Sometimes you just get blind-sided and have to right yourself. If you don’t have God to right you, what do you do? Where do you go? Who do you turn to?

I love (not really) how my health always seems to take a turn for the worse all at once.

“You have to have your stent blown out, or get a new one,” says my Cardiologist. The weird thing is, I never have any symptoms so statements like this come as a shock.

“Does your back hurt?” My Hematologist-Oncologist (Hem-Onc) asks.

“No, why?”

“The CT shows some new lesions and one is on your L3.”

My cancer is back. Active. No longer “stable and dormant” which I’d gotten used to saying when people asked me how I was doing.

A PET scan is ordered. A couple lesions in my lungs and one on my spine . . . confirmed.

Sigh. I’d been doing so well for the last year or so.

I close myself off in my room. “Lord?” I whisper. “Do we have to go through this again?”

I don’t hear anything, but He is close, I can tell. That comforts me.

We’ve been through this before, He and I. Then (in 2015) He settled me in His quieting, amazing, and profound peace and I know He will again.

Truthfully, I didn’t think I’d ever want for His peace again. I thought that once it was given, I’d always have it. And I probably do, it’s just that it’s been buried. Down deep in my soul. Covered by the good times, the glory days.

But I find that I do want no, need . . . no, crave . . . the everlasting peace of my Savior. I need it now. I need to be immersed in it again.

In John 14 Jesus is talking to the disciples in the Upper Room when He says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (v. 14:27a)

Jesus gives us His peace. It’s no secret. There is no magic word to bring you the peace. He gives it. Freely. All we have to do is ask for it.

But what kind of peace does Jesus offer us?

In one of my favorite stories of the Bible, Jesus is asleep in the boat while the disciples are fighting a great windstorm that threatens to capsize the boat and kill them. They wake Jesus up wondering how He can be sleeping while they are about to perish. Jesus stands, maybe even yawns, and looks out to the storm saying, “Peace. Be still.” (Mark 4:39) The wind calms and the waves die down.

That, my friends, is some mighty awesome peace.

And that is the peace that Jesus gives us when we ask Him. When we think we’re drowning, when we can’t imagine the outcome, when all hope looks lost, when the winds threaten to capsize us.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” ~ John 14:27

I need your peace now, Lord. Thank you.

 

All of today’s Scripture references came from the ESV.

Old Clothes

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assorted clothes

Photo by Kai Pilger on Pexels.com

Isn’t it weird that we change what we wear based on where we live? Or is that just me?

I’m culling through a storage closet that I’ve had since I moved to Florida and finding clothing that has meaning from days gone by. These leather gloves with fringe I wore in Colorado. That suede jacket was my go-to winter coat in Arizona—unless it was raining. A black duster that today would be suggestive of a school yard shooter but that I wrapped around me for warmth on many a high mountain night.

I knew I was moving to Florida. I was smart enough to sell all my “Western-style” furniture. Why did I even bring these items along? Of course I thought I would eventually return to the West. But as the years stream by, that seems more and more unlikely.

College took me to Colorado and once there, I knew I wouldn’t leave. But I did, 15 years later I moved to Arizona. More Western wear – less weight. Still, I hung on to the gloves and the scarves and the hat and the duster and the boots from my days in the Colorado Rockies.

Deep into the bins I dig, each object taking me back into my past. To another place … to another me.

Even if I never leave Florida while on this earth, there will yet be another me.

The me I will become in heaven. My truest me. When it matters not all the clothes I’ve ever had in my life, I’ll be dressed in white. A bride for my groom.

And once again I’ll have changed my clothes based on where I live.

And I won’t be alone.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands … ~ Rev 7:9 (NASB)

 

The Sin Chronicles

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Cherished Sin

Have you noticed preachers don’t seem to be talking about sin as much as they used to? It’s almost as if sin had become a taboo subject in our post-modern, anti-Christian world. After all, who wants to be reminded of their sin?

I do! And I happen to believe every maturing believer is compelled to rout sin out of their lives. It’s how we grow more like Christ.

BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) studied Romans this year so you know we were all up in the sin-grill and I couldn’t be happier. One of the best things about the BSF bible studies is that God always talks to me through whatever we happen to be studying. I get a mighty lesson whether I am ready for it or not.

Most of you also know I’ve been reading Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges. Between the study of Romans and that book you might think me to be a masochist. But I assure you, I’m not. I simply want to grow closer to God. To remove the barriers that grow between us like Chia Pet hair. My insignificant little sins. Yet … I am the only one calling my sins insignificant. All sin is significant in God’s eyes.

What better way to come to grip with my sins than to confront them head on?

I’ve found it’s so easy to live day after day ignoring my sin. After all … it’s really so small … so inconsequential … after all, it’s not murder, right?

I’ve decided to publish The Sin Chronicles. I am going to tamp down on the sins I knowingly commit as well as the sins that wiggle up out of the depths of my soul when I least expect them. I’ll be asking God every day to ensure that all iniquities be brought to my attention. I want to be convicted of those sins that I might attempt to allow – Holy Spirit, please pull me up short before I commit them!

But first, let’s see what behavior constitutes sin.

Most everyone is aware of the Seven Deadly Sins: pride, greed, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth. 1  The Bible validates these sins even though they not printed anywhere in a list. In the Bible, there are the seven sins found in Proverbs 6:16-19 which are:

  1. A proud look,
  2. a lying tongue,
  3. hands that shed innocent blood,
  4. A heart that devises wicked plans,
  5. feet that are swift in running to evil,
  6. A false witness who speaks lies,
  7. and one who sows discord among brethren.

But let’s not forget Galatians 5:19-21 where Paul mentions several more sins to be on our guard against: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these … ”

Then we have the unimportant, everyday sins … speeding … swearing … gossip … pride … envy … greed.

Oh, this is going to be fun. I hope you’ll come along on the ride with me and consider your own sins while I discover mine. Please don’t be like one guy I met recently who told me he did not sin. When I asked him if he was Jesus, he hemmed and hawed and admitted that he might sin but that it wasn’t a lot and it wasn’t very bad.

I think that’s where we get into trouble. Believing our trivial little sins as “not that bad.” Because God is training us up to be like Jesus, I think He would beg to differ.

Join me on Wednesday as I start to greet my sin … not with a smile … but with a slack-jawed, horrified, open mouth.

I’m amazed at what I do. Thank God, He forgives!

See you Wednesday!

Felecia

 

1 http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/what-are-seven-deadly-sins#sins-in-the-bible

Am I Ungodly?

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Am I Ungodly?

 

Well, we’re in Romans at BSF this year. That’s Bible Study Fellowship for the uninitiated. Romans is a wonderful book full of the teaching of Christian doctrine and how to live a Christian life. However I’d completely missed Paul saying in Chapter 1 verse 18:

For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

While I initially understood godlessness (or in some versions ungodliness) and unrighteousness as one in the same, Paul distinguishes between the two.

In his book, Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges states that ungodliness is describes an attitude toward God, while unrighteousness refers to sinful actions in thought, word, or deed.

While I usually start chastising myself when I misread Scripture – or don’t read it well enough to begin with – I’m going to let myself slide in this instance. Let’s face it, in the beginning of Romans Paul has been hammering home the “wrath of God” on everyone because we are all sinners. The passage is uncomfortable to read because you know it’s true. But we have to know – must know – what we ought to receive at judgment because of our sinful nature before we can truly appreciate the saving grace of Christ. We deserve nothing short of God’s wrath.

So, am I ungodly? Are you?

Jerry Bridges goes on to define ungodliness as living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God’s will, or of God’s glory, or one’s dependence on God.

Gulp.

I can see myself in that sentence. I may spend some quiet time in the morning with God but how often do I continue that conversation throughout the day? Some days are better than others. Some days I’m in communication with Him all day long; praying, worshiping, thanking, giving Him glory, talking, and trying to listen for His voice.

But not always and it’s definitely not often enough.

Jerry helps when he says:

Our goal in the pursuit of godliness should be to grow more in our conscious awareness that every moment of our lives is lived in the presence of God; that we are responsible to Him and dependent on Him. This goal would include a growing desire to please Him and glorify Him in the most ordinary activities of life.

After I finished this convicting chapter I knew I needed to seek God’s forgiveness at once. I squeezed my eyes shut, rolled over, and dug my head into my pillow in an attempt to shut out the world and be alone with Him.

Lord, help me to keep you forefront in my mind all day long. Allow your Holy Spirit to guide me, mark my steps, watch my words and actions, and do everything for your glory.

Immediately I received a vision I have not seen since 2008.

All I could “see” behind my shuttered eyes was a glorious swath of deep, rich purple. This has been an indicator that my Lord is with me. Non-condemning. Hearing my plea and cradling me. I was awash in His love.

How is it that we have the maker of the universe listen to and love us so?

His all-consuming love makes me want to not be quite so ungodly.

In His love,

Felecia

PS: the book is almost ready to go to my beta readers and then to editing. Thank you all for being so patient with me. Keep your eye out for a chance to sign up for my email list and receive a couple of chapters – Free!

PPS: Another great book on the subject of becoming more godly is: The Practice of the Presence of God a thin but weighty volume by Brother Lawrence.

Living a Life Eternal

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Living a Life Eternal

In Bible Study Fellowship last year, while we were studying the book of John, a comment was made (and I’m unsure if it was made by my teaching leader in lecture or if I read it in the notes) that we, followers of Christ, were to be living the eternal life now.

Living the eternal life now?

I thought the eternal life was reserved for Heaven and beyond.

I’ve been thinking about that comment ever since. What does it mean? What would that look like? Am I the only one confused by that message?

I’m pretty sure I’m not. There’s even a popular song out now with the lyrics “I’m going Home (meaning Heaven) where the streets are golden. Home where my chains are broken.” Screech … Back up the truck. Even I know that our chains are broken the moment we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. Is that what it means to live a life eternal here on Earth? Broken chains?

I asked some OCFG’s (my Outrageously Christ-filled Girlfriends) this question and they thought about it for a while and finally agreed upon, “Being content in everything.” Is that life eternal? Contentedness? I can see that, but surely there is more to it.

Let’s face it. It’s hard to accept that our chains are broken the minute we accept Christ. There are some sins we find we just can’t stop doing no matter how hard we try (keep trying!) and there are some sins we just enjoy holding on to (shake it off!). I say that as much for myself because I’ve been reading a book by Jerry Bridges called Respectable Sins. It’s alarming that there are so many sinful behaviors we turn a blind eye to … our own and others’.

It’s equally as hard to learn to be content in everything. Having cancer has gone a long way to honing my ability to be content. I remind myself that this would not have happened if God didn’t allow it. Knowing that He is refining me through the trial. Knowing that my strengthening and unceasing faith in Christ in spite of the cancer (and all the treatments and side effects) helps bolster the faith of others brings me so much joy and satisfaction that I might not be able to find otherwise.

Hey! This sanctification process is hard! But if it wasn’t difficult and sometimes painful and often exasperating it would be a nice wide path that everyone could walk, wouldn’t it?

I know I have some very smart cookies reading this blog so will you weigh in on this question please … what do you think it looks like to live life eternal here on Earth?

Have a beautiful week!

 

Bible Bite ~ Exodus 17:14

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A Bible Bite is a short thought or question that runs through my mind after reading a verse of Scripture. I seem to always want to discuss them with you.

Bible BitesI was just finishing up a bible study on Joshua with my small group and came across a troubling situation.

But let me back up a minute.

Remember that Moses wasn’t allowed to enter into the Promised Land? Israel was in the desert and God told him to hit the rock with his staff to bring forth water, Moses couldn’t seem to do exactly what God had told him to do. The Israelites still got their water but God was angry that Moses hadn’t trusted Him to do exactly what He said.

Then we live through the heartbreak of Moses discovering that he can’t enter the Promised Land and we know that he learned his lesson. Do what God tells you.

But here we are. Joshua is charged with leading the charge against the Amalekites. Aaron, Moses, and Hur head to a hilltop to watch the battle and Moses holds his arms up with the staff in hand. The staff he hit the Red Sea with to part the waters. The staff He hit the rock with at Meribah to obtain water.

As long as his arms are up, Joshua is winning the battle. But as Moses tires and his arms slip down, the battle heads in the Amalakites direction. Aaron and Hur sit Moses down on a rock and each takes one of Moses’ arms and lifts it, keeping the Israelites winning and eventually obtaining victory over the Amalekites.

So, you say, where’s your problem?

After the Israelites rout the Amalekites, God tells Moses to write down what occurred and to read it to Joshua so that he’ll always remember.

God said, “I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek under heaven.” (Ex 17:14b)

Moses makes an altar, named it The Lord is My Banner, and said, “The Lord will be at war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Ex 17:15 & 17b)

I said, “Wha???” Back up the truck. Don’t even tell me – Moses has done it again. God said one thing and Moses said another.

I’ve done a study on Moses with BSF (reading Genesis through Deuteronomy) a couple of years ago and this exchange didn’t stand out to me the way it has now. Why didn’t Moses repeat exactly what God said to him? Isn’t there a difference between being ‘completely blotted out’ and ‘at war for generations’?

But you know what really bothers me the most?

Could I be as susceptible as Moses? To hear one thing from God and repeat it completely differently? To not understand what God is telling me? To not have faith that God will do what He says He will do?

Decidedly, yes.

Have I done this in my life?

Has there been Promised Land that I’ve not been able to enter?

 

It’s Not Goodbye

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Bob and Paula

Bob and Paula Nilsen

It’s hard to cry for departed Christian friends because I know where they are and am confident I’ll see them again. It’s much easier to weep for those they left behind. We must all await our time to enter the realm of God.

My friend Paula left us last month. Paula is a vivacious, generous, and gentle soul who God pulled into my life and became my friend just before I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. (If you missed it, here are easy links to part one and part two.)

I originally assumed God had brought us together for me to help her with her cancer diagnosis; but in a short matter of time we could see that we were meant to lean on each other through the suffering of this disease. Two Christian women fighting shoulder to shoulder with the big C.

God’s plan in our friendship really became evident when Paula’s disease metastasized to bone and brain and her faith began to falter. (You can read that here with links to part one and part two.) It scared me because she was one of the most solid women I knew. If her faith could crumble so easily … could mine?

What I didn’t know until later was that her doctors had told her she was incurable from day one.

Incurable.

It’s a hideous word that should not have found its way into our lexicon. I wondered how having that word spoken over you could damage your psyche. Now I could really appreciate just how tough and resilient she was. She’d lasted almost two years with that label slapped on her and her faith had just now had begun to slip. I counted my blessings that no doctor has ever used that word or, the alternate, “terminal” with me. Of course we are all terminal in one way or another.

Determined to restore her faith, we embarked on a 28-day bible study by Kay and David Arthur called Lord, I Need Answers. I’m not sure if it was the weekly camaraderie or God working through the study itself (or both!), but we were equally refreshed and stronger by the time we completed that study. I cheered as Paula was able to say with confidence the ultimate statement, “I know I’m going to Heaven when I die.” Faith reestablished! Hallelujah!

It wasn’t long though before Paula’s body began to ignore her directives. Since the disease had begun ravishing her body, she slipped into hospice care and friend after friend came by to sit with her, offering their love and support, and praying over her and with her.

It was very tough to witness this vital, faithful, loving woman fade away and I was with her on what was to become her last day. That afternoon I prayed a couple of Psalms over her (something she liked me to do when I’d come over) but found it very difficult to get through Psalm 91, one of our favorites. I dissolved into tears as I prayed God’s undying love over her. I couldn’t be sure she had heard me at all but had her hand in mine and as I was saying goodbye with a promise of returning the next day, she squeezed. I reported it to her nurse as I burst into a fresh round of tears.

Her husband, Bob, let us all know that she passed into Jesus’ arms at about 10pm that evening. I can’t say enough about Bob. He’s a good, godly man and a verifiable rock. There’s no wonder that God brought Bob into Paula’s life for a time such as this. It’s never easy for a man to lose his wife, but really God? They just celebrated their third wedding anniversary in March.

I’m beyond grateful that God brought Paula and I together two years ago. I’m overjoyed that He was able to use her in my life and me in hers right until the end. I’m thankful she heard a few chapters of my book and never once laughed!

Farewell, my friend, I love you.

Three Amigos 2

Me, Paula, and another friend at church.

Three Amigos 1

Three Amigos

“Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”

~ Richard Bach (Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah)

My Ebenezer

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Ebenezer Branded

Since we were talking about Ebenezers last week, I wanted to show you the one I’ve been building since I got to Florida.

You know that God gave me the plan for my immediate future in 2010, while I was in Arizona.  During the third year that I was in Florida I received Joshua 1:5.

No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.

I needed that verse in the early years of my life in Florida because I often believed that I was in some kind of wasteland.  Even though His plan for me was falling into place exactly as He’d promised.  I hadn’t been able to find a job since I’d lost mine in 2008 (and it was now 2013), I was still living in my parent’s house, and I still had doubts that I should be in Florida at all.  I mean … maybe what I thought was “God’s Plan” was just something my brain cooked up and not from Him at all.

Getting this scripture brought me to my knees.  It is, essentially, three promises in one glorious verse.  This ‘gift’ from God came at a time when the devil had been bullying me with severe oppression over my inability to find a job. Furthermore, I wasn’t really hearing from God the way I had in Arizona and thought He had deserted me.  The Holy Spirit put me quickly and firmly on the right track with this verse.

All three promises were important.  The first No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live.” gave me greater strength to thwart Satan’s lies.  The third, I will not leave you or forsake you.” reminded me that I wasn’t in a desert and far away from God.  But the second part … oh the second part!  I will be with you, just as I was with Moses.”  Man, that’s amazing.  Do you remember how God was with Moses throughout the early books of the Bible?  I can just imagine Joshua hearing this.  Since he, too, was with Moses and knew how God interacted with him, did he fall over in awe?  I certainly did.  God hasn’t disappointed.  He has made good on these promises and I knew I needed a stone to remember that He had helped me thus far.

The top stone is the verse God gave me after I’d been diagnosed with cancer and was crying one night to Him about everything in the Plan I’d hadn’t done.  It was the last part in the plan and I’d dragged my feet and hemmed and hawed and had started – but had not finished the last phase.

My remorseful plea that lonely night was, “Am I going to die without finishing what you said I would do?” Tears flooding my pillow.  That was followed by “I’m sorry, Lord.” And then came a fresh round of tears.  I was sorry I hadn’t acted faster and now I might not have time to do what He called me to do.

It was the next morning that the Holy Spirit impressed Numbers 23:19 onto my heart:

God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and then not act, or promise and not fulfill?

Upon reading this verse I dissolved into a mass of tears again.  But this time they weren’t tears of sorrow.  Joy flooded my heart to almost bursting.  What relief!

This scripture told me I wasn’t going to die – at least not before I finished His plan for me.  It also promised that I would finish it, because God doesn’t lie, change His mind, or not honor His promises.  At that moment, those were the sweetest words my wretched heart needed to hear.

Certainly a scripture worthy of an Ebenezer.  So I found another stone and wrote the verse address on it.  I never want to forget that here, again, was a time when God has helped me thus far.

So, did you think about using some sort of Ebenezer to remember how He has helped you too?  I’m dying to know what you’re using.  Let me know in the comments!

Do You Doubt? Part 2

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Brick Wall

If you weren’t with us on Monday, I’m quite certain you’ll need to toddle back and read that post to get what’s happening here! It’s okay, we’ll wait for you!

I didn’t research the churches on Mom’s list because I stumbled over a piece in the local newspaper about John Maxwell that announced he was going to speak at a church called Christ Fellowship on the last Sunday of the year. John Maxwell?  Throughout my years as a human resources professional, I’d trained my management team on a number of his books. This was exciting and furthermore, I recognized the name of the church from my Mom’s short list. It was a no-brainer to start there in my search for a church.

So on the last Sunday of 2010, while driving to the church, I continued to pray all the way, “Lord, get me outta here.” It didn’t matter that John Maxwell was going to be there. I wanted out of Florida – but quick.

I drove on to the campus of this mega-church with a highly cynical eye. People were smiling and waving. Signs read “New Visitor? Flashers On.” I turned mine on and was directed to special parking right in front of the church. A parking attendant met me at my car and walked me in to a place where people were eating breakfast. A healthy bookstore sat off to one side. Another volunteer met me inside and directed me to the sanctuary. I found a seat in the huge auditorium and settled in for the service. Before it even had begun I was welcomed by two different pastors. I remember thinking ‘this place is way too slick.’ People were too happy – too smiley – too shiny. I wondered if I’d fallen into some sort of alternate universe of Stepford Wives.

The lights came down and the band started to play. It is my supreme pleasure to worship Christ and when I stood and lifted my hands to the heavens, the Holy Spirit fell upon me so quickly that I was bowled over with capital L – Love. Suddenly, the place didn’t seem so “slick” at all but warm, friendly, and so full of Christ-loving Christians that I could no longer deny my joy in finding this church. On my way home I was so happy I prayed earnestly, “Lord, I want to stay here. Please help me find a way to stay here.”

I could just imagine God looking down on me and nodding in satisfaction.

What I didn’t remember at the time was the second phase of the plan that the Lord had given me in Arizona. The first phase was “you will move to Florida.” The second was “you will find a super new church.”

How easily I had forgotten that all along I was walking in His will. Had I, number one, remembered His plan and, number two, changed my attitude (instead of complaining – actually looked forward to the next item on the list) I’m certain my transition to life in Florida would have been a whole lot easier … and perhaps even pleasant.

The “plan” as I’d come to call it, seemed to skirt my memory most days. It was only a few more weeks of attending this new church when I met some ladies who were so full of the Holy Spirit, He practically oozed out of them. Driving home that Sunday I thought about my new-found friends and thought, ‘This sounds familiar.’ I dug out my journal and read number three on the list, “you will find great new Christian friends.” Doh! How stupid I’d been. Thankfully we serve a gracious and merciful God who allowed me to rail against Him time after time until I could recollect the plan he’d given me in prayer.

An Ebenezer would have been helpful. I could have considered my journal an Ebenezer, but that would mean that I’d have to actually open it and reread entries. Yet, each time a part of His plan fell into place I should have found a stone to add to the pile. It seems that only the physical representation of the stones would help a dunce like me.

So … do you doubt? Do you forget that the Lord has helped you thus far and wonder and worry about what is going on in your life?

I think it’s okay to doubt. Just don’t languish there for any period of time.  Instead, spend your time reviewing God’s work in your life rather than holding your own little pity party like I did when I moved to Florida.

How has the Lord helped you in the past? Now make yourself an Ebenezer. It doesn’t have to be a pile of stones, it could be a journal, writing on a white board, sticky notes on the bathroom mirror … anything that will remind you that God is close.

He loves you and He will never leave you.