What I Learned From Reading Galatians 

 

Before I sat down and really went through and read the entire book of Galatians for the first time, I had thought of it as the “fruit of the spirit” book (that famous passage beginning in Gal 5:22.), I think probably most kids that did Sunday school growing up have done a coloring page with apples, grapes, strawberries…

If you’ve been in VBS or grew up in the church you’ll hear it: the fruits of the spirit are….

Actually, this passage has been on my heart for a few months now, and it was a little embarrassing because I couldn’t name all the “fruits”. 

I discipled a young gal and went through a Christian book over the summer… she was old enough to start helping at VBS at church and working on the hand motions to songs she was learning and going through some songs with me and somehow we ended up on one with fruits of the spirit:

I ask, “What are the fruits of the Spirit again? Any hand motions to remember those?”

I answer my own question— naturally, the first 3 come along and those are freebies: 

“Yeah they are ‘Love, joy, peace, patience kindness, long-suffering, long-suffering, self-control…’ “ starting out strong, I didn’t realize I had forgotten the rest of the verse.

my young friends’ eyes’ widened and an eyebrow was raised: “Wait did you just say long-suffering twice? ”

sheepishly I responded, “Ummm…maybe… Yes… I figured if I mixed it in there you wouldn’t notice?”

Note: it doesn’t work that way. 

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Simply stated, Galatians is a letter in which the author, Paul, is passionately pleading with some who have lost their way by making what they do—making their work and effort— more important than what Christ has already done. 

Finally, I got around to studying the book of Galatians (the non-coloring book way) using shereadstruth.com (shout out to Olivia & my roomies from GCU #foreva504roomies for getting me into this great resource to study God’s Word)— and its been a couple weeks since I’ve wrapped it up but this study has really changed me.

I’ve always heard growing up in the church that we don’t get to Heaven by our works, but by Christ sacrifice. 

And when I heard it once, you think “duh, of course, we couldn’t earn it.”

But this time was different: this reading of Galatians found me in a place of change, in shifting seasons, career and life changes— I felt like I was standing on shaky ground, these things and people and goals that seemed so permanent suddenly were gone. 

And this lie so easily crept in:  I need to keep trying, I need to keep doing my best so God will love me more.  I start to believe — God will love me more if I do this [insert church activity, insert good deed, insert “right thing to do”] or God will love me less if [things don’t work out the way I planned, I fail, things fall through, insert disappointment here: __________________ ].

As a recovering perfectionist, a thought crossed my mind— no, it consumed my mind: “Will you love me even if… will they like me even if…?”

It was the way I lived before Christ, before His love. I was slipping into a works-based gospel.

Because the truth is, God’s love doesn’t change regardless of what we do. He loved us at our worst and He knows us at our best. The burden of being good enough, Jesus abolished when He died on the cross for our sins. Because the gospel truth is, without Jesus’ sacrifice, we really aren’t good enough. That’s why there is the law Paul talks about, that’s why there is this natural heavy burden on our shoulders, because without Jesus’ sacrifice we are not enough. 

God’s love for us is more than enough and is unchanging— but like me—The Galatian church was slipping into a works-based gospel. And they were stumbling others into it as well. Paul was really upset angry about this. 

He pleads with the Galatian church:

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?… “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”

-Galatians 3:1,3 NKJV

Paul is saying: 

“Why are you going back to your old ways? Why are you trying to carry your burden on your shoulders?”

Now, why do I so easily pick up the burden of trying so hard on my shoulders?

I am reminded of Jesus words: My yoke is easy and my burden is light… Matt. 11:30

When we live in the truth of Jesus sacrifice, we trade the weight of having to carry the burden of the law, for the completed work of Christ. 

No more trying to be good enough 

No more trying to measure up.

Instead, we are..

Free to do good works in our freedom. (ch. 5, v1)

Free to abound in the fruit of the spirit when we put away the burden of the law and take up the righteousness of Christ instead.

So now, I’m going back and chewing on those verses I needed to work on earlier, and now, knowing the context: to abound in the Spirit, to have joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… only happens when I live in the freedom of Christ.

And regardless of whether I got all the “fruits” of the Spirit down just yet … I’m still loved the same.

…Well, maybe I needed long-suffering in a double portion without knowing it? X

| Hospital stays & birthdays |

 

A few days late, but still an update nonetheless—This month: Health insurance woes, hospital stays, birthdays and how we are dealing with it all. ❤

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I sit at my mother’s bedside reflecting on the events of the past month… my mom celebrates a birthday in just two short days. On November 9th, she turns 66 years old. I feel a mix of emotions. I am thankful we get to spend a birthday together—this was—this seemed impossible when she was diagnosed in December. But I am saddened because minutes ago,

 

I had to cancel two big birthday dinners planned to celebrate my mom…because the side effects of her medications have caused her to be very confused and disoriented.

 

Much has happened in the past month.

Two stays at the hospital due to uncontrollable pain (My 23rd birthday was that week!), two nightmare visits to the ER, some more radiation, a change in my mom’s chemo treatment, some more radiation… Insurance woes.. deadlines.. and some more confusion.

What a month it has been.

I wish I could write this blog tied up with a nice bow, saying that all the current issues on the table are solved and the answers are within reach—but no, that’s not where things are right now.

 

Last week, I was under the crushing weight of life’s worries and I hit my breaking point.

I asked God, “Where is this peace beyond understanding? Does it really exist?” .. and like a child reaching out a hand for help—He answered me in a big way—there was this peace, this joy—I couldn’t explain.

 

Things were still hard. But that was okay.

I relinquished control of what I wanted. And I was still okay.

I knew things were still going to be alright.

I was even…joyful—of all things!

 

I felt a joyful expectation of what God would do next.
It was unexplainable peace beyond understanding–

 

Now, I write this to remember, lest I forget, lest I let this peace slip by as I am so tempted to be gripped by the anxieties of this life.

 

Things have become even more difficult today: The threat of my mom’s insurance coverage being lost. More confusion. Friends close by whose suffering and uncertainty are even greater than mine. New burdens I shoulder so others don’t have to go through it alone—oh, my heart is so heavy.

 

Oh, my heart is heavy, but our God is near.

 

I pray that we all continue to set our eyes on Jesus— our true hope, our peace in the storm, our anchor in uncertainty—Oh, that He would draw closer than ever before!

 

 

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— my favorite picture of us these days: My mom and I hanging out at the symphony for her birthday last year. My favorite because, it reminds me that since I enjoy her so much, that even if she wasn’t my mom…I would choose her as my friend any day ❤

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September 2017 part 2: “Hey, I’m with you”

August was the longest month ever it seems.

Last two weeks of August were dark and deep. Like this heavy cloud was above our home and the thickness just couldn’t seem to let up. Looking back, I don’t even really remember what the month consisted of except that it was really sad.

The fog started to clear a bit for me, and it began with a fun day. I had a lovely respite sharing one of my very favorite places (Symphony!) with a dear mentor & friend. She and I sang along to a well-beloved musical’s score and shared laughs and turkey wraps from her favorite sandwich joint.

We talked about our week, about how the kids were back at school and swapped chicken marinade recipes. I say “swapping” nonchalantly, but there was actually no swapping (hah, in my food network dreams) more like just her telling me that there’s no way a naïve cook like me can mess up a simple chicken marinade.

Oh, my little tank running on empty was filled, not only by the music but by the sweet company and conversation. I had a feeling that my people back home needed a similar change of environment and needed to share laughs and everyday conversations and time with their some of our loved ones, who were just a state-line crossing away.

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Sometimes it’s not the deep or moving words that help the most, many times it’s just a hug from others who say “hey, this is messy and sticky- but we’re with you.”

That’s exactly what God did, when you think about it. He sent Jesus,  and in some places in the Bible, He’s called Immanuel, which translates to “God with us.” Jesus came to be with us, in our mess, in our trenches and we He plants Himself and says He’s never leaving.

So soon after, my little clan of three plus one (mom, dad, me and our ever loyal and sweet-looking but fierce bichon-poodle mix, Henry) packed our bags for a last-minute escape to Arizona, where the 2/3 of the Enverga daughters and their people do life. It used to be where I did life at GCU too.

One of my favorite memories of the trip was when us three sisters gathered together in the living room and recounted stories of how mom worked to bring the best out in us—some things we couldn’t quite understand, but at least we were all laughing about it now. Mom provided commentary, and answered our dying questions like—“Why did you make us all eat oatmeal every day?!”  “Did you really send 10-year-old Maui to the supermarket?” “What were you thinking letting me wear those ugly shoes?”

To which she responded:

Yes, because my parents did that with me and it [oatmeal] helps with constipation.
Yes, she was so shy- it brought her out of her bubble.
Yes, Deb- you were so hyper and those shoes protected your toes.

Mom, what were you thinking?

I was trying to hone your character.

What about my feelings?!

Your feelings don’t hone your character.

… said like a true Asian mom.

Later in the week, I made a quick visit to my old stomping grounds, GCU. It was the place I called home for a single semester before our world turned upside down.

I found my friends moving into new apartments, entering nursing programs, hanging new pictures, unpacking their boxes… I thought being back would make me sad, but as much as I missed campus and everything it stood for–I just knew I didn’t belong there anymore.

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My forever school bestie, Ruthie and I got to catch up as she started her very first week of nursing school! She and I tackled the first semester at a new university together, both as pre-nursing students. We were the friends each of our moms back home were praying we would find. We had so much fun being together (we even have a whole video of our very fun semester), we had even planned to coordinate our future RN work schedule and get our future kids into the same homeschool co-op (naturally, since we were both homeschooled).

This was so us. We dreamed about our future like it was as easy as planning our weekly movie nights and downtown outings or organizing our shared Spotify playlist.

Oh if only things could be always as easy as that! Even though I entered September wishing for no more cloudy days, I realized that the cloudy days only make the sunny ones much brighter. That sounds like a line, and it probably is, but it has truth behind it.

As Christians, we realize this: Jesus didn’t promise us a trial-free life, or blissful days on earth with no trouble. In fact, he guarantees trouble, because of the fallen state of this world. But He says that we don’t have to go through it alone because He’s right there with us. He’s overcome it all, and we can overcome through His working in us. Oh, for grace to trust Him to be enough!

My clan has been back home in our breezy San Diego for awhile now, and there have absolutely been cloudy days- some days of uncertainty, fear and sadness and pain. Though, there have been moments of great joy and growth all the same. I can’t fathom or seem to explain it, but God uses the hard things- the hurt- to get to a place in my own heart, that only He can work on and get to. Fears and insecurities are exposed in times of crisis, and trying to plunge the hurt on my own can be maddening because it never seems to stop. We weren’t meant to fill that void- Only Jesus can.

And he so willingly jumps in my trenches, the hard places where the real work is done and says- “Hey I’m with you.”

 

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September 2017: “People Keep Telling Me I’m Tough…”

When my mom spends a day at the doctors, we usually fill the entire day with back-to-back labs, appointments and IV treatments. There’s usually some down time in-between all of these, so we spend some time waiting. I bring my books and my laptop. She’s good with her phone.

I think her oncologist knows our family by the number of things we carry with us into the office.

you know it’s bad when the medical assistant says, “I’ll grab an extra seat for your things”

On an average day, we’ll have at least 5 bags. I’m not even kidding. 2 purses, snack bag (because food = priorities), emergency bag (clothes and things of the sort), a cooler (with mom’s favorite juice, yogurt and lunch.. yes, food again). I used to fight mom about how ridiculous it was to bring everything because we don’t even use half the things (“Why can’t we leave the emergency bag in the car? Why are you carrying bricks in your purse?”). But, alas, I realized that having these things with us made her feel safe and secure. That’s fine by me.

So… here we are at the elevator, I hit the elevator button “up” with my elbow to take us to the third floor. My arms are filled with bags, as mom holds onto to my elbow for stability. (What stability? I think I am about ready to tip over with our things–)

Laboratory. We sit and wait. Doc appointment #1. Then, some more waiting. IV treatment next…. Doc appointment #2…

During the waiting, I power on my computer and stare at a blank blog page. I need to write something to follow up the post on mom’s cancer. But what about?

Mom sets down her iPhone and I set aside my books— we try to brainstorm on what to write about next. I ask her questions on her perspective of her illness, treatment and daily life, in an effort to come up with some new topic. We talked about faith, we talked about family… it was neat practice to recall the events of the past few months.

Then it hit us, Why not write about this? Can’t we share our conversation?

So, here my friends, is an edited, impromptu interview/conversation of a few of the things we talked about that day.


Debbie: Okay. Let’s talk about things. You were originally diagnosed in December.

Teresa: Yes— we’ve come a long way, it was in my brain and eye then, radiation took care of that. I take morphine daily, there is always pain in my body and I can’t drive anymore because of the medications [she takes]. I am a lot weaker and my eyesight is not the same. I keep hearing the word “terminal” a lot but I’m not ready to be labeled that. I don’t want to die with this illness.

Debbie: How about treatments and care? They’ve been working well because we are now in September, which is more time than we ever thought we would get when we got the news in December. 

Teresa: We are really fortunate and blessed to have insurance and care. We go to Scripps [in San Diego] and right now I am on Gefitinib, it is a chemo tablet that I take once a day. My cancer cells respond to that to “freeze” where my illness is, the doctors say. For topical pain, I use CBD cream and oil which really really helps the pain. I also use those sublingual CBD drops. It is very good for healing.

Debbie: How are you feeling about all this?

Teresa: I’m just so very tired of being tired. I cry. A lot of times I am tired of fighting…. I want to be here with you and dad. With my daughters. I don’t want to die with this illness. I know God has the power to heal me. But I know I should want God’s will for my life, and I am learning to be ok with whatever He wants. It is hard. Waking up with pain is hard.

Grabe ka lisod. Grabe. [She says this in Cebuano; translation: This is so very very hard]

Debbie: We’ve been talking a lot about our faith. We are Christians, obviously. But will you talk a little more about how integral our faith is to our lives? 

Teresa: Without Jesus in our lives, I can’t imagine my life. I always say, without Jesus, without Him, where else would I go? Jesus died for our sins, He went to the cross, so I could experience eternal life and a life with Him apart of it. 40 years walking with Christ and I cannot imagine it any other way.

Debbie: We’ve had a lot of support, from our faith community, like prayers, from loved ones. Plus, a few kindred spirits get to be apart of our everyday lives via text and phone calls. How does this encourage you? 

Teresa: Knowing that others are praying for me really comforts me. Also knowing that others have gone through medical experiences like me, helps me feel that I am not alone. I’m surprised by who God is using and how he is using them to minister to me. You’ve learned who your true friends are through this too, Deb. 

Debbie: Yes that’s true. It’s been an eye-opener for me. I’ve been hurt, but I’ve also been so very blessed by who has stuck around even if my life wasn’t fun. A crisis reveals your truest friends. I am thankful to know who they are. I am surprised by it! But the truth is, my greatest comfort is Jesus- He is the best, my closest friend ever. He heals my heart and never gives up on me. 

Debbie: So, mom, what can people keep you in prayer for? 

Teresa: I believe the trauma from all the change left me with depression. That’s what people call it. I never used to believe in depression- It comes and it goes— I feel like giving up and I am just used to crying everyday—

Debbie: … but you always come back. It just, the fight. It is so very hard. I’ve noticed the fight to get out of your darkness gets longer it seems. 

Teresa: Yes. It is a thin line to trust God and be still and then to be filled with fear and panic. So I suppose prayer for that. The physical pain also affects the depression and it is very hard to distinguish the two sometimes. 

(Here she flips and asks me a question, instead!)

Teresa: How about you, Deb? It [my depression] affects you? Are you depressed too? You had to stop school and your life all for me.

Debbie: I don’t know. I am for sure not going through anything as difficult as you are, but yes I get sad a lot if that’s what you’re asking. 

I used to think I had to be strong for everyone and that meant hiding my emotions and never addressing them— you are so tough, mom! You would never seem to flinch in hardship when I was growing up —  but I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best thing to do for me. I don’t know. I’m not there yet.

*laughter* I’ve been saying I don’t know a lot these days— I am still figuring things out. 

Teresa: Yes, we really don’t know much about our future or anything for that matter. I wish I could be stronger to help you. Except we know God is faithful. Even if we do not understand, our relationship with Jesus is what we can hold on. 

Debbie: Your passion for telling others about Christ is so very apparent in your life. You are so very disciplined and laser-focused and tough and… strict— I can say that, right? Yes, I can. *laughs* And it is apparent in ALL areas of your life, and I love that you devote that discipline in your walk with Christ. I would not be the person I am today if it were not for that. You taught me to run hard and fast to Jesus. 

Teresa: You know, people keep telling me I’m tough, but I really don’t know what they are talking about. I’m just being myself. I guess I am tough, huh? I am different now, so wobbly and weak. I am just surviving on God’s strength. 

Debbie: You’re still so very brave. You following God out of love and discipline has become such a knee-jerk reaction that you always go back to it. What you said [about strength] reminds me of that verse in Isaiah 40 that talks about renewing our strength like eagles-

“But those who wait on the Lord

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.”

Teresa: God’s Word is all we have. It is good medicine. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me when I am overwhelmed though. Has that happened to you? 

Debbie: Oh yes. I hear that is normal. I feel that way too sometimes. Just cling to your one special verse and work through it. You have a special verse for this season you said. That would be a good place to end. Would you like to share it? 

Teresa: Yes, it is Isaiah 41:10. I get so fearful with test results and scans, everything is so uncertain. I get afraid when I feel alone that God reminds me, FEAR NOT.

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”

Debbie: Thanks, mom. I know things aren’t ideal, but you’re doing such a great job in the midst your incredible difficulty. I hope I make you proud!

August 2017: “For Just This Moment, Let’s Stop Trying to Be Perfect”

 

Introduction

Dear family and friends, some of you know of our mom’s recent stage 4 cancer diagnosis. The news came in December of last year and life has been different ever since. God’s continued mercies are ever-present and ever-sure even when life gets pretty foggy.

I, Debbie, with the support of mom and our family, decided to start blogging to track our journey— and to let others who are praying to get a little peek into lives.

We would so covet everyone’s love and continued prayers as time goes on. ❤

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” -Romans 8:28 NKJV

August 2017: “For Just This Moment, Let’s Stop Trying to Be Perfect”

This month marks my mom’s 5th month on her targeted treatment. She hasn’t had radiation this month, which is a nice break. Although, this month, she did break her foot tripping over something. Just a reminder of how fragile her bones are. The potency of her treatment is in question though, as her doctors said this week that her high liver enzymes could mean we need to switch treatments (side effect of the treatment) or that the cancer has metastasized to the liver. More tests and scans will be done to determine what’s next.

We’ve made waves in adjusting to our life. Adjusting to her “new normal” (which is what we’ve coined post-diagnosis life) is hard as she is regaining some of her strength but still needs to respect her limitations. She likes to sweep in our small patio in the mornings and has ambitions of trying to cook again. She cannot stand for that long (yet). I would love for her to be able to cook and see her over the stove again. Not only would it do her good… It would do me good too. I try my best to take her out to do fun things we once did. One fun thing on one day usually means two days after of her having to rest afterward. There are some things that are worth it, and some that are not. We try to find a balance. I’m also trying to get better at sharing how she is doing on social media with concerned family/friends and others who are on a similar journey (ergo, this blog).

Tears are a normal part of life for us. Sometimes my mom cries because things are hard or because of the pain. She believes God will completely heal her without a doubt… we differ on that. I believe that healing is so possible but with her terminal diagnosis, healing in Heaven is most likely in her case. Her faith is incredible—and almost all that I know about God and my faith is because of her. So, it pains me to be on two separate pages. God’s will be done. I have noticed though, that her best days are the days where she accepts that Earth is pretty much a dump compared to the greatness that Heaven brings—and the future that we as Christians have in store.

Now, she asks me, amidst tears while gripping my hand for comfort- “Do I still feel like Mom to you?”

And that kind of breaks my heart. She means, do I still feel like the mom you can run to when you have problems you don’t know how to fix or when you need a hug or when you just need a sandwich?

I say to myself, No- you’re not anymore and I’m so sorry you never will but I still love you the same.

I tell her, “I know things have changed a lot, but you will always be my mom.”

In earlier months, I had my friends to depend on and help me sort all these changes. Things are different now and life has pulled us all in different directions and we are not as close we once were. I have to admit: I miss my friends dearly. I miss the support and the laughs we once shared. I could go on and on about how we find who our true friends are in the midst of adversity. But I understand people need to move on and go on with their lives… I guess part of me is hurt that they are no longer apart of my life as they were before. I really do wish they would make more of an effort to be involved.

I keep telling myself, if they aren’t present and God withholds no good thing* from those He loves, then I don’t need anything more than God has given me right now.

My mom in her wisdom said that gratitude was the key to living our new normal well.
She goes on about “perfecting the attitude of gratitude in our situation.” Getting things perfect when I’m still learning what’s going on kind of intimidates me. Mom is a perfectionist so I think the word “perfect” is a motivator for her. I say “why don’t we learn first then we can worry about getting it perfect?” Let’s learn to walk before we run. Let’s give ourselves grace and just take things one day at a time. Isn’t today all we can take care of anyway?

*Psalm 84:11

Simple Joys: Nordys and Coffee Cups

At the mall, Seated in a table for two, right outside a busy Starbucks, adjacent to the Nordstrom entrance, buried in the crowd of passersbys…

My mom and I were having a much-needed laugh (one of those my-belly-hurts-from-laughing laughs).

We hadn’t laughed in months it had, so this was a rare, but very welcome occurrence. I was too broken to be anything near my normal self. It was so easy to pretend with everyone else. I hadn’t hurt them. But, I did, in fact, hurt my mom.

“How… did you end up…. with 5 cups?” Mom exclaimed, fighting through the laughter. I had just brought our drinks and sat down at the table.

“I honestly don’t even know…” I shot back giddy. I guess I asked for 2 extra cups and then went back for water cups too. I could barely hold all our drinks.

Confession:  My new favorite thing has to be Starbucks’ new fall cups. And not the nice pretty plastic reusable ones. It’s the cardboard ones that they place all the hot beverages in.

Another confession: I almost never finish an entire cup of hot coffee. On a rare occasion I do, it’ll take me hours, and it’ll be cold by then.

Well, my mother is the exact same way.

So I order the smallest size you can, asked for an extra cup to split the drink (the remedy to finishing our hot drinks before they become cold) with mom, and went on my merry way…. with two fall cups in hand.

This all happened a month or two ago, on one of our old classic my mom/daughter dates. We went to mall to window shop for fall boots at Nordys. The truth is both our birthdays were coming up and we were both secretly/ not-so-secretly trying to figure out which kind of boots the other would want.

We could barely talk to one another without tears, so many times we would just sit and stare at the floor in silence.

But, we still cared about each other enough to remember birthdays.

It was one of those rough patches.. those rough seasons.. where you feel as if you are out of the woods, but still trying to get steady on your footing.

But oh, but for right now, I was so thankful for the laughter in the air.

“Can things ever go back to normal?” This was a thought that both crossed our minds. I could see it when she would glance over at me.

Then, holding back tears, she would lovingly rearrange a strand of my hair that was out of place.

The look on her face was one of sadness, but now I saw it mixed with another emotion I had not seen before… I believe it was hope.

Hope that things will be better… in time.

 

 

Perspective.

 

“No height too high

No valley too low

There is no distance that His love will not go…

I look behind me and what has been done

I look before me to what is to come…

No tear drop has fallen, no trial known to man

Slipped through God’s fingers when He stretched out His hand.”

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This where I need to stay. God’s unfailing love.

Why do we hope in Him?

Because his hope will not disappoint.

Why should we abide in his unfailing love?

Because his love is unfathomable, indescribable.

What if the answer was not found looking around anxiously and pining for achievement, fulfillment or status?

What if the answer was found by looking to the One who has the best perspective because He has written our stories before the beginning of time?

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I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[image taken from tumblr; quotes taken from sherri youngwood’s song All I Need to Know and Psalm 121]