You Are Not Them

You straighten the crowns of others.
You intercede on your knees.
You have abundant love and strength.
You are not frivolous with your words or your time.
You are not scared of the future.
You are a conqueror.
You are God’s daughter. You are a woman who walks in peace.

Let others swing at the wind.
Let others fight meaningless battles.
Let others take offense at words spoken.
Let others point fingers at you.
Let others gossip.
Let others stand in fear of inflation, and rumors of war, masks, mandated vaccines, and shut downs as if God has never done anything for them. Let others build tribes of agreement. Let others worry about who likes them and who doesn’t.

You know your arsenal is not carnal.
You know where your help comes from. You were built brave and strong.

You are not a woman with a chip on her shoulder. You are not a woman who has tell the world how brave she is. No, you look to the future with joyful anticipation. You see the darkness and command light. You are fully rested, assured of your Savior’s promise. You are beautifully loved and adored.

You are saved, redeemed, loved, and transformed. You are ready.

Indulgent

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Matthew 4: 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

I was complaining to the Lord about not being able to lose weight recently. I am glad that God gets me and that He often stays silent during my whining episodes or I’m afraid whining would become an ugly habit. This time though he answered in his quiet unassuming way.

“You’re self-indulgent.”

WHAT? WAIT! God doesn’t convict! All of his answers are LOVE, LOVE, and MORE LOVE.

ONLY WHAT IF THE TRUTH IS LOVE? 

I balked. “I give a lot of myself. I am in ministry one of the least self-indulgent things. How in the world am I self-indulgent?” I protested as the words began to swirl around in my mind.

Quietly He began to reveal to me the things that needed to be examined. When you’re overwhelmed, you go shopping or take yourself out to eat.

Yes, but I don’t always buy things for myself, I buy things for Cameron, for Erin or Doug, or friends, or family and I rarely eat alone, I phone a friend.

Then it hit me. He didn’t say I was selfish. He said I was self-indulgent. Meaning, I don’t ignore the needs of others but I don’t accept that I have a craving outside of the will of God. It becomes a behavior to examine carefully any time it promises satisfaction that can only be found in God.

Self-indulgence is a pleasure seeking mechanism where we can get stuck in an unproductive cycle of behavior. It doesn’t mean the behavior is bad in of itself but it means that it will do us no good and may even harm us long term. It doesn’t mean we’re using the mortgage money to buy shoes but it does mean something is missing in relationship to God.

We’re great at masking self-indulgence but the temptation of Christ following his baptism shows a necessary process to fulfilling our walk with Christ. After 40 days of fasting and prayer, Satan himself comes to Jesus and tempts his appetite.

Appetite

Let that word sit with you.

Whisper it. Appetite

Appetite, it was the first temptation of Adam and Eve right? Something is being withheld. Something that we crave. Something that God can’t fulfill or worse is withholding. Jesus passed the test when he answered that it wasn’t only physical bread that man should live on but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He didn’t say eating was wrong, he said it wasn’t the only thing, and more importantly, he said there was something even more important we needed.

Christianity in America is indulgent in nature and definitely requires observation and self-examination. We aren’t in a famine of things that feed the flesh, we are in a crisis of famine in regards to conviction. The question the Lord was posing to me was, “When am I enough for you?”

The tendency is to exalt yourself because the give to get mentality is so strong in America and comparisons run rampant. This leads you to believe that you may be in a place to judge me:

“Well, I don’t shop so I don’t have this issue.”

Only, if we’re honest, we often have an appetite for something.

Opinion maybe?

Workaholism? It feeds our ego.

Laziness? Oh, this is a big one. The excuses for appetite here are many.

“I work all day.” Honey, we all work all day.

“I attend a small group.” So we give to get.

“I just finished a big project.” Again, give to get.

“I teach a small group.” You got my attention but is this considered reasonable Kingdom service?

I’ll tell you when leading becomes self-indulgent though. When it’s more than you were told to do. When it violates the ministry code but feeds our ego.

One semester I taught four small groups. It meant 4 times a week I was absent from my husband. He was not happy, but people “needed me” and there was “no one else”. You already know what happened no need to guess. My work suffered because I had to study to stay ahead and tweak lesson plans if class was heading in a different direction. My marriage struggled because I was out of order and out of the picture. My ministry suffered because our church says teach one, take one leave time for your family and friends so I had usurped authority. Oh but I was taking one for the team I reasoned. Many want to teach one but don’t take one. So we burn bright and burn out. I noticed another thing too.

The heavens were brass during this period as I was self indulgent doing my own thing. Ok let’s move on.

“It’s time for some much needed self care.” Yes, you need self care but how much is too much?

“I haven’t had a slice of cheesecake in such a long time.” Maybe not, but what have you eaten a little too much of? Social Media? Don’t get mad I am in self examination mode.

“I deserve it.” Sometimes we think we have done something heroic when all we’ve done is what any other normal human being has done.

Or the easiest appetite temptation the appetite of self promotion and judgment of others,  “I can’t believe how they spend, how they think, how they live, how they exalt their life, I don’t do any of that. No sister and note to myself, facts are you sin in other ways but whose keeping score of that? Appetite for judgment is alive and well.

What the Lord was pointing out to me that day was that instead of taking my issues to God, I took them to Nordstroms or went to lunch and nursed it.

What do you do when God reveals a thing that has you spinning your wheels and going nowhere?

I’ll write about what I did in another post. Stay tuned. For now consider this question:

What in your life needs a little less you and lot more Jesus?

 

Resurrection To Deception

Riu Palace Riviera Maya

Every day on our vacation I walked by her.

This faceless, right-hand missing statue.

She holds a water bucket in her left hand.

It’s rather small, I wonder how she fills it?

She is surrounded by Phoenix.

Early Christians adapted the Phoenix to signify death, burial, and resurrection after the mythology story.

It wasn’t lost on me that this statue, if it is symbolic, has resurrected without a brain, without power, unable to give the right hand of fellowship, and without rest. The right hand also signifies favor and sonship.

So it is with some who although born again are not at peace.

Can you imagine how she walks through life?

Threats real and imagined have stolen her thoughts.

These perceived threats that hold her tomorrows, steal her peace, her rest, and more importantly, without her right hand of fellowship, her power.

I begin to see her from my imagination.

Does her anxiety keep her up at night, infiltrating her every thought and conversation as she flails at the wind pretending to be strong in her own might?

Lacking in faith she runs here and there looking for a manmade solution.

Her need to be significant to a social construct is flimsy at best.

Scared of the future she is afraid to lose what little she thinks she possesses and yet she has no hand to put more in.

Here she stands.

Memorialized.

A resurrection of conflict and deception.

Adorned without the only things that make her His. His hand in her right hand.

She stands upright in declaration sure she has fooled the world. For you see, she has anointing in her left hand but can’t grip her appointment.

So she poses.

She stands sure she has it all together. She believes she is the model of transformation.

She is the new version of the emperor who wears no clothes. We smile at her because to tell her the truth is to bring wrath upon ourselves.

Without the ability renew the mind, she is lost. I wonder how long ago she lost herself?

A woman at war within herself and she can’t even see it. Vapid at best.

“You were resurrected for so much more”, I tell her as I pass her by to sit quietly on the ocean to read my book on this fabulous vacation. “I wish you knew you can create a life that is happy if you just let go.”

Then the Holy Spirit whispers:

“She believed her own press instead of pressing in.”

I answer with a deep sigh, “Nothing smacks you down quicker than the humility of the stumble when your eyes are closed and your ears are stopped up. Lord, thank you that even in the middle of a rest you allow me see visuals of what I don’t want to become.”

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” Proverbs 3:13-18 NIV

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13 NIV

“The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Psalms 110:1 NIV

The Breaking of Day

Traveling through the sky this morning before daybreak I could not help but be enamored by the heaven above me, the ground below me, and the dawn before me. God is wondrous and is too great for me to even speak His name in this moment. He created everything from nothing and spared no detail.

My heart soars with love for Him alone and His mysteries. I may never understand the depth of His thoughtful nature toward us since His nature is too great a force for me not to believe that His everlasting love surrounds me.

He alone gives His angels charge over me and commands the beauty of His art to produce with intention. He activates His every thought meticulously forming every cloud and mountain. Could He alone have made the world plain? Of course He could, but why would He limit us in examples of the creativity that exist through Him? He admires beauty and creates a palate of sight and sound, of color and dimension.

When I look out of this plane’s window I marvel at all that I see and yet, and still, everything my eyes gaze upon in this moment was not enough for Him. He created me, He created you, in His image and called us His crown of creation.

How that is even possible I will never have any idea, but I’m grateful. Yes, truly I am grateful.

I will spend the remainder of my days in awe and wonder of His majesty. I will spend my days in surrender to His will and firmly planted in His hand.

Fully worshipping.

Fully believing.

Fully His.

Take a look around you today. Admire each and every convenience that is set before you. Look at the sky wherever you may be. Look at the trees and scenery that surrounds you and admire its beauty. God made all of that for you. Beloved, you are truly loved with an everlasting, enduring hope for your success.

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭8:1-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s A Little Thing

Driving through the Grand Tetons to Yellowstone on vacation, my husband easily spotted buffalo, elk, antelope, even a mink. I said aloud, “Jesus I only want to see a Moose. If you could just show me one please.”

My husband smiled and patted my arm. I no sooner said that then we drove around a corner and we saw this:

Yes, I am sure you are laughing as we did upon seeing it. I told my husband, “Don’t laugh too hard, God is just reminding me of specifics in prayer and that we need to take this vacation lightly.” So I said, “Ok Lord, you got me! Now just so we are clear I’d like to see a real moose please. If it’s not too much trouble to make that happen.”

We spent three days exploring. We saw chipmunks. squirrels, swans, geese, and everything you could imagine. We walked a little ways on a moose trail and my husband said, “Do you think God is just going to bring a moose to you? Maybe we need to hike in?” I smiled and said, “No, he’s going to show me a moose. I won’t have to work for it that way. I just have to have faith and know.” We went to the gift shop and I bought my granddaughter Erin a stuffed moose toy in faith.

The last few hours in the car I whispered, “I know I’m going to see a moose at the last minute. You’re dramatic that way.” We drove out of the park and heading towards Cody Wyoming. My husband said, “Sorry Babe, I really thought you’d get to see your moose.” I patted his arm and said. “My mom said I have always had great faith. How are you a Pastor and you’re already giving up on seeing a moose?”

We drive out of the park a good hour and a half and just as the sun begins to go down I point to a meadow and say excitedly, “WHAT’S THAT?” My husband, and I know he is stunned and excited because he never talks like this says, “That is a frickin’ moose.” I laugh and say, “THANK YOU JESUS!” Then we get out of the car to take pictures.

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So why do I tell you this story? Because God is interested in every little thing in your life.

Big or small.

Silly or serious.

When you begin a conversation that turns into a prayer life, these things begin to happen.

My husband said to me that this story doesn’t seem extraordinary in and of itself. Then he said, “But I’ve seen it happen to you so many times that it is extraordinary.” And it can happen to you. Just believe and trust and know. Does it happen all the time? No, but happens most of the time and it builds my faith and I hope it builds yours.

He Saw and Believed

Dear Cameron Joshua and Erin Marie,

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Today there is a crisis in our nation and the country is in a Stay In Place order due to a virus called Corona virus, which means we aren’t able to meet together for what for us is the most blessed celebration of our faith, Easter Sunday.  I have been missing you both so profoundly as you, Erin, turn 6 weeks old, and you, Cameron, turn 3 in a few weeks. I am missing more of your life than I ever thought I would but today Hope resurfaced.

Today my beautiful grandchildren, today, your Papa got up and made coffee for us, then he showered and put on a suit and tie. I followed his lead and dressed for church as if it was any other normal Sunday. We got in our car and drove off to the church.

John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.

Today your Papa went into an empty church, and said to the essential staff that it takes to preach an online message to and said, “The church may be empty this morning but so was the tomb and we are going to proclaim the WORD to more people than we would have reached normally.”

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Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

Your Papa met Jesus when he was not much older than you are and he has proclaimed him since. He wasn’t going to stay home and not reach anyone on this day, THE DAY,  our faith is built on. He was going to go to his pulpit and shout it out to the world. This isn’t any ordinary day and this isn’t a day to be taken casually. Is any day really?

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If you’ve ever preached to an empty room it isn’t easy. You get feedback and body language from those who are present and came to hear. It helps you move forward but your Papa has been doing this a long time. And he pushed through knowing he was called by God to give Hope and an invitation.

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So today he was a Pastor to a world who is scared that they will get a virus. He preached for you both, that you always know that Jesus is the center of our life. He preached to the ones who still don’t know about Jesus and he reminded me and himself that Jesus is the center of it all. While God has sat us all down, Papa is still doing what he has called to do.

I wrote all of this out in my bible today but just in case it is lost, technology will live on. One thing you will have forever is that Nana and Papa love you with their whole heart and you have a strong legacy of prayer and service to the Church and Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! He is Risen. We have hope and God’s Promises.

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Aiming Faithfully

Garett Kelli

The disciples were asked to watch and pray while their Shepherd soon to be Savior went off to pray. Distracted, not sensing the importance of the training and the hour they found themselves in, they quietly fell asleep. How alone Jesus must have felt. Yet in just a short while he would endure the cross and let God be famous.

Pastors feel this way sometimes too. Lonely. Yet their faithfulness to their calling keeps them steadfast knowing they are truly never alone and that Jesus is nearby. Never wavering to the allure of slumber or limelight although both sometimes seem appealing they keep moving forward. Big boisterous voices wagging fingers in condemnation or watered down gospels get applause and a sensation of grandeur for a moment while the pastors in the trenches of community work year after year to train those at the sound of their voice to listen for the voice of Jesus. Let God be famous.

Beth Moore said, “Cynicism is just arrogance pretending to be smart.” We can criticize the church and/or their leaders, tell you how we would do it, tell you that she is irrelevant but we would be exalting ourselves and not the one who reigns supreme. Let God be famous .

No, it would do us best to serve and love faithfully. When my husband was a young pastor a pastor and mentor told him, “Doug, if you want to make a difference in your community, plant deeps roots in the city, buy a pick up truck, and serve the people.” In other words, don’t quit. Make a difference where you are planted. Serve God faithfully, do what you can do for people and let God be famous.

The Custody Dispute

Lulu the Wonder Dog came to me in 2007. She stole my heart and set me right. She taught me so many lessons. Only some of which I have shared on this blog over the years.

Then just before Christmas she went down. And just like that I found myself in the middle of a custody dispute. She spent a day where she didn’t want to eat and she didn’t want to play. I called the vet and got in that very day, and bloodwork and an exam yielded no explanation. A geriatric dog they said. Lulu and I rebuked the diagnosis as she was sharp and athletic and besides who calls an old gal geriatric to her face? Oh she had a few fatty tumors that dogs of a certain age get but we dealt with it like we deal with that occasional chin hair.

I put my forehead to her forehead and we prayed. I asked God to prolong her life. I asked for wisdom and to send us the right vet who wouldn’t just call her old to her face.

We muddled through Christmas and she would rally and then set back. New Years Eve she kept getting up to clear her throat and I woke up with her several times. So New Years day we were back at the vet. Another vet saw her and diagnosed her. cancer. I refuse to capitalize it. Lymph nodes swollen, thyroid enlarged all indications of cancer. He told me she was still in decent shape. It wasn’t time to make decisions yet but to take her home and make her comfortable. He also warned me that her death would probably not be pretty. Somehow I got us both out to the car before I broke down sobbing so hard I could not catch my breath. Again, I asked the Lord for more time. The custody dispute was in full swing.

The following day she was semi-back to normal. Eating, running around and bossing our two year old golden retriever, Baron around.

Day 2 of the diagnosis, she eats her breakfast and just for fun, goes and eats a part of Baron’s food. And I thank God and think things are good. I go off to run errands and when I come back things are not good at all. I call the vet and we head for an emergency visit. I get the same vet from two days before and he says, “Aw man, I thought for sure we had more time with this sweet girl.”

And just like that it’s over. I lost my custody dispute. I called unfair advantage and at the same time I thanked God for the gift of Lulu The Wonder Dog and told him I guess he needed her more. For those of you who don’t believe there are dogs in heaven don’t bother with rude replies. I read about lions, and lambs, and horses and if heaven is all it is cracked up to be, and I believe that it is, then of course Lulu is there because well, heaven wouldn’t be heaven without her.

So alright Lord, you win this custody dispute but I know your promises are true and I know that I am saved and heaven bound so it’s just a matter of time.

And I know what you are asking. What about Baron? Baron is a complete love. He’s smart in a dog way, he loves to snuggle, he is thief of just about anything, and he has been known to snatch and grab off of the counter when he thinks no one is looking. He’s your typical dog though, but we have bonded more so over the last couple of days of grief. He is moping around the house. He woke me up at least three times the night Lulu didn’t come home. Now each time I walk in the door he comes up and sniffs me to see if I know of her whereabouts and walks away and plops down and sighs. I get it. I miss her too.

My husband said in his loving way to get a grip when I told him I was done with dogs and never wanted another one again. “Listen, you’ll never have another dog like Lulu because there just has never been a dog like Lulu and there can’t be. She’s one of a kind. But you’ll have to think about getting a bonehead dog for Baron because he truly is grieving.”

It’s too soon for me to think about it. Ok he answered. Maybe in five years. Maybe never.

Love hurts.

Love hurts.

Love hurts.

But I never could imagine my life without her and if I was offered the chance to do it all again with her I would say a million times yes.

Oh and the custody dispute? I resolve to deal with it because ultimately Lulu The Wonder Dog was always his and merely entrusted to me for a season. I took ownership because it”s like having kids, we think they’re possessions but they aren’t at all. I feel pretty blessed though that the Lord trusted me with her. I have to be on the top of his list to get that assignment. Or maybe she was at the top and God knew I needed help. After all, I said all the time I didn’t know who rescued who.

In the meantime, it is pretty still and quiet at the Young’s house as we begin to try to adjust. So say a little prayer for us and hug your dogs a little tighter. And if you think about it, give them a little treat in honor of Lulu. Not a dog treat as that is common and she would turn her nose up for sure and would expect your dog, if they had dignity at all, to do the same. Instead give them a big scoop of whipped cream, that would please her to no end. She loved everyone and it would make her happy to know she made someone’s day a little brighter.

Accusations Abound

A friend called to ask advice over an incident that occurred. I listened carefully, then I laughed because what do you do other than laugh? The story went like this. My friend has three dogs. As with most pet owners they are indoor/outdoor dogs and at any given moment they can be inside or outside.

The neighbor children took to daring each other to climb over the fence into my friend’s yard to see what the dogs would do. My friend’s dog’s are trained and friendly but they are dogs and therefore can react differently than anticipated if they feel threatened. My friend happened to be home to see the children climb over into her yard and her dogs, fortunately reacted accordingly without barking or acting aggressively.

Upon further thought, she walked over to the neighbor’s home and politely told the mother about the incident telling her that her dogs were trained but that dogs react differently under pressure and she didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The mother became angry and said that these dogs “better not” bite her children. Rather than apologizing for her trespassing children she went into accusation mode. My friend shouldn’t have dogs if they are going to hurt children. Needless to say the conversation didn’t go well. The mother told my friend she would call the police because her dogs were dangerous.

What do you do when there is no foundation for an accusation? I remember a similar incident when we had our cat Joy who passed away of old age a few years ago. A neighbor came to my door and said that my cat was getting the other cats pregnant on our block and I needed to do something about it. She knew this because the kittens looked like my cat she explained. I assured her that it was not my cat as my cat was female and spayed. She shouted, “Are you sure because these kittens sure look like your cat?” Believe me I am sure.

One of the 10 Commandments is that you should not lie about your neighbor. I know these sets of basic human decency boundaries are considered outdated but they still hold true today for a civilized society. How do we hold to tenants that no longer apply? For those of us in Christ the bearing of false witness is a real thing. In a world where the media reports and then fact checks later it can get confusing as to what is right and what is wrong. Friends, don’t be deceived. We will give an account to God for every word that proceeds from our mouth. In a culture where truth isn’t valued it will be important to keep yourself clean of these types of infractions. Instead keep your peace. The accusations being thrown about are truly not your concern and don’t add a minute to your day.

My advice to my friend? Guard your pearls. Matthew 7:6

Prayer For My Journey

1AC6FDBB-D623-4637-8A03-5AA9C70494EDI still look for your input and find it missing. I absentmindedly go to Facebook looking for your comments or look for our last text and email to see what you have to say about something. After years of your advice where does one go to hear wisdom from a godly sage?

Peers? No, my peers are on the same journey I am on. Maybe different circumstances but they aren’t looking back to advise their younger self as you were with me.

I remember the last time we spoke you said God had spoken and he was taking you on a new journey. You were so happy to hear and waiting in anticipating of what it might be. You said, “Oh Honey, at my age to be doing a new thing is exciting and scary all at once.” What we didn’t know was that the new thing was going to be your greatest calling.

A heart attack the very next week and the words that I didn’t want to hear, “Nothing more we can do.” But you rejoiced. Your voice was breathy and strong as you said, “Oh Honey, I so love you but don’t pray for my healing. Pray for my journey that I not tarry here. I am excited to see Jesus face to face.” Then in your sarcastic way, which maybe would have scared me if you hadn’t have said it but you said, “I have friends coming out of the woodwork wanting to pray for my healing. I don’t want them to pray for my healing, I want them to pray for my journey. Honey, tell them not to pray for my healing.”

So when Pastor Ida called to find out the details, I spoke up as you have taught, “She is ready to go. She asked that we not pray for her healing but for her journey.” Pastor Ida comforted me as only she can. She was a dear, dear friend to you and has been wonderful to me.

The last call when you assured me that they were treating you well and spoiling you rotten and that you loved me didn’t go unnoticed. You wanted us to know how much you loved us and you didn’t want us to worry.

Even in your passing from this temporal life to your eternal home you taught me to stand strong on my faith. You never ceased being a mentor in this Jesus life we live.

To always follow Jesus.

To put your fears aside.

To carry on because an unimaginable hope awaits.

To pray for our journey.

One step at a time.

So today if you are reading this, my spiritual mother, Doris Avila has gone on to be with Jesus. Never one to be shy about her faith she taught me to stand strong. Over and over again she offered advice, counseled, prayed, gave words of knowledge, heard my heart, told me when I was wrong, and loved me through it all.

If you don’t have a mentor, I urge you to get one. Then I urge you to listen. My very first visit to her home she corrected me. “We say Grace in this home before we put food in our mouth.” I was embarrassed at my misstep. I apologized and got on with the meal because as I was to find out, she was an excellent cook. To think, I would have lost all of that precious advice had I walked away offended. Instead I stayed and listened and gleaned. Find that one, my friend. She will make your journey one of blessing. As you read this, pray for my journey as I walk it out without one who always had a listening ear. That voice for me is gone in the physical realm but her words still ring strong in my heart. May it be so for you.