Even In The Fire

Facebook memories showed me that it’s been four years since our fire.

If you’ve been tracking with me since the beginning, you might remember that story. There was a string of arsons that night and our garage was burnt down…not without a couple of miracles though.

I was woken up in the night by an loud fire alarm, only to find out later that there was no alarm.

When I wrote the blog post later that day, I knew I had been changed, but I couldn’t quite point out how or even why.

Well four years can sure hold a lot. Andrew and I often refer back to that fire as one of the best things that could have happened to us.

First, we came into some money through the insurance that freed us up to go to a conference that confirmed what we already knew, we were called into full time ministry.

Second, our life perspective was shifted. Any area that our priorities were out of line, seemed to fall back into place after watching our backyard in flames, unsure if we’d ever go back in our house.

I like to think of that night as an attention grabber from God. Not that he caused the fire, but he certainly used it to ask us what we were doing with our lives.

It was from this moment that we made some big decisions to live on less so we could do more with our lives.

We discovered that our house, vehicles, possessions, stuff…none of it matters as long as we as a family are together, AND doing what God has called us to do.

I wouldn’t trade that life lesson for everything that was in that garage times a million.

The words from a Jesus Culture song “Alive in You” came to my mind as I was thinking about the last four years.

“You are strong in my brokenness. Sovereign over every step. Even in the fire, I’m alive in you.”

I’m encouraged tonight that the other “fires” in my life are going to be a catapulting force as well. officeday

I will not be consumed, but I will continue to be transformed more into the woman God has called and created me to be.

Spring of “Suddenlies”

There is now only 10 days of winter left. 10 days in our “wild winter”.

What a winter it’s been. Our renovation project has definitely taken longer than we expected. We were sick pretty much constantly from Christmas until the third week in February. The church is really alive and BUSY!

Those three things alone have equalled me being really tired. My exhaustion mostly surrounded taking two rounds of antibiotics to try to get rid of a case of strep throat that wouldn’t go away.

Literally as wild winter ends we will be hanging drywall at the new house and we will enter spring with some new hope that we will actually live in that place.

After pouring our hearts out to the world (well not to the world, but it felt like it), I was emotionally and spiritually drained. The Lord encouraged me that as I was entering my seasonal transition month of March it needed to be a March of Margin. So I’ve cleared my schedule of a number of things as I rest up for the next wave of what God is doing.

On Saturday I had some time with my Bible and I was reading about how Jesus calmed the storm in Matthew 8.

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

This story resonated so much with where I was at. The Lord had warned me about wild winter and said I was going to need to hold on to hope and press into him while getting through it.

But as winter has been drawing to a close, I started to feel like the wind and waves were getting a little intense. In my exhaustion I wondered if I was going to drown in burnout.

But then Jesus comes and SUDDENLY there is great calm! There is instantaneous breakthrough!

As I read this I felt the Lord say to my heart:

“This is the Spring of Suddenlies! You feel like wild winter almost knocked you out of the boat, but get ready because SUDDENLY I am going to move in with my commanding voice and you are going to see instant breakthrough in areas you’ve been believing for! You will see SUDDEN progress on the house, you will see people drawn to your church who are passionate about what’s going on and have a desire to serve. You are suddenly going to see marriages strengthened that have been struggling. Sudden physical healings! You are going to suddenly feel stronger in your physical body and you will suddenly be entering into things that you wouldn’t have imagined a month ago.”

Even as I write this the Holy Spirit stirs in my heart and I say HALLELUJAH, winter was hard but SPRING IS COMING!!!

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Strep throat, tonsillitis & having everything I need

Like many of you young families, we’ve been sick off and mostly on since before Christmas. Two rounds of the stomach flu, colds, strep throat, impetigo, teething and tonsillitis.

Parents, let’s be honest, month after month of this gets extremely draining and super discouraging.

During this never ending battle with sickness, the Lord has been taking me deep into Psalm 23.

When I came down with strep throat a few weeks ago, I didn’t realize that it was going to flare up an old issue with my tonsils. I haven’t battled an on going sore throat for years, and suddenly it appears indefinite how long I will be in pain, unable to swallow, etc.

(My doctor is trying to get me an expediated tonsillectomy, which I pray does happen because I’ve battled those bad boys since I was a little girl).

Even though having a chronic sore throat isn’t that serious, it’s weighing on me.

This is where Psalm 23 has been coming in. I was talking to the Lord about how hard life has felt during our “wild winter” and how I wasn’t sure I could hold on until spring. He challenged me to declare this (the purple writing is the verse, anything else is my own):

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
{This part ruins me every time, I have EVERYTHING that I need in Jesus.}

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.
{Thank you Lord that you bring me into seasons of rest and you renew me. Even when I don’t want to stop, you bring me to rest in beautiful places.}

He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
{Lord, may every single struggle I am facing bring you honour and glory.}

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Even when I walk 
through the darkest valley,I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
{God this has felt like such a dark valley. I know it isn’t the darkest, but it has been so hard.  I declare that I will not fear. I feel you so close to me right now and I know that you are going before us, to our right and our left, protecting and comforting us.}

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
{In the midst of all the attack, you provide us with great things, we are never hungry: physically or spiritually. You are always there waiting to hand us more of what we need.}

You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
{Thank you Lord for family and friends who have been able to help with the kids, for little care packages, for a friend sending us money for take out and a babysitter, providing extra help at our new house, and all the many little ways you’ve blessed us through this wild winter.}

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
{Lord I just love that your goodness and unfailing love pursue me, they chase me down all the days of my life. You are so good to us! Your love is so deep, so wide, so strong. I will live for you and with you forever, and that makes me feel so safe and secure.}

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Breathless & Stressed

I had a pretty stressful couple weeks. I’m sure you picked up on that from my last post, but it really was.

{When I originally sat down to write this, I got a phone call that my husband was taken to the hospital with unknown injuries, and didn’t even have the composure to finish this!}

At one point when I was laying in my bed with my stomach aching and my head pounding, I realized it was mostly my own stress that had got me to this point.

And why?

It was nothing that I couldn’t handle.

I don’t mean that arrogantly. I just know from experience that am a tough woman who can handle a lot because Jesus and I have sure slain a few dragons before.

As I laid in my bed and asked the Lord what was going on he told me three things that were missing from my life that when added together, equaled anxiety for me.

  1. Water  As I checked how I was doing I realized I was really thirsty. In the midst of my exhaustion I had drank too much coffee and not enough water. I generally try to drink one litre of water by noon everyday, but I hadn’t.
  2. Breath – I don’t know why I do this! When I started to get worked up, I don’t breathe! I ended up taking shallow breaths or holding my breath for long periods of time.

    And what happens when we don’t have proper air flow? We lack oxygen to our brains. This messes up our reasoning and can make things seem like a bigger deal than they are. Our brain cells need an uninterrupted flow of oxygen to operate at their best.

  3. Prayer – When my mind isn’t clear because I’m dehydrated and not breathing deeply, I’m generally not talking with Jesus about what’s going on. That’s a BIG problem, because normally he’s my rock and I bounce pretty much everything off him.

    In Philippians 4:6 we are encouraged

    Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.


    This is not a trite statement. The Lord knows that when we get anxious and worried, the best thing for us to do is to give it back to him.

    I KNOW this to be true, because when I’m not anxious, I confidently give God my stuff and I SEE him move on my behalf!

Since my moment with God two weeks ago, I’ve had this in my head:

“Breathe, Pray, Water”.

Simple. But powerful. 

Breathe deep, drink up and pray loud!

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The Colic Couch

A couple of years ago my husband and I were in a thrift store where we saw this like-new condition black futon couch.

It wasn’t stylish or even that terribly comfortable, but we were desperate for some options with our colicky baby. Sleeping in the rocking chair was getting old.

We brought that thing home and felt like we had a new lease on the situation. Even if she screamed and screamed, we could lay on the couch half asleep and say “it’s ok Amayah, it’s ok”.

And maybe, just maybe, she’d even take comfort in sleeping with one of us (well, that never did happen).

It was such an intense period, and there were many, many nights spent on that couch. Our backs hurt and our necks were sore, but at least we were now laying down.

When we moved, the couch went into a closet and suddenly our lady started sleeping better and seemed to kind of “snap out” of whatever was going on.

Almost a year and a half went by without me thinking about that couch, until this past week. The kids have had chest colds, stomach flu, and multiple molars coming in.

I remembered the couch.

Maybe we should bring it out and try to get some sleep when we’re in with Eli, I suggested to Andrew.

I did not expect the flood of memories that hit me when I saw the Colic Couch emerge.

So many awful nights. So many times that I wondered if I’d ever sleep in the same bed as my husband again. So many fights in the middle of the night as we did everything we could to get her to stop screaming.

But that’s all passed now with her. I’m not sure how or when it happened exactly. It just did. Quietly and almost unnoticed, those days have vanished into the past.

Last night we had a pretty brutal night with Eli and the Colic Couch. But nothing compared to those days with baby girl.

I stood looking at the two older kids this morning, remembering their sleepless nights and how quickly those have become just vague memories.

We will get through the round too. And another round if the Lord blesses us with adoption. Even when I think we can’t do it, we can.

Soon enough, these days will vanish into the past.

And then I will personally burn the Colic Couch.

I felt the Lord whisper to my heart this morning not to forget what he has brought us out of and to make sure we continue to speak of the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives.

Thanks Jesus, for getting us through those days and nights. I can’t believe they are over.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Deuteronomy 4:9

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Amayah was helping us set up the couch. No cute nursery, just survival mode, cram the furniture and blackout the windows!

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See, every sleepless night has been worth it for these cuties!

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It’s funny she’s the “big girl” now. Teaching her brother how to bake and do life as a 15 month old.

 

Domain Shame

Our credit card was hacked a while ago and had to be cancelled. It’s amazing how many automatic payments are scheduled to go out on one card!

Somehow in the midst of all the payments we were catching up on, I missed some emails to my inbox about my monicaswitzer.com domain.

Last week I received a message from someone saying they tried to go to my website, but the domain had expired.

Weird, I thought. I never even think of that payment, it just comes out.

Oh right, the credit card.

So while a little embarrassing, I wasn’t worried about it. We’d get it figured out.

It was a little more complicated than we expected, so Andrew called my domain provider.

I was at home with the kids when he called me.

“Honey, I’ve got some bad news. ok.”

Honestly, I thought someone died.

“What, what is it?”

“We missed a few emails and in the couple days your domain became available, someone else bought it.”

Ok, for a split second I was thankful no one died.

But then it hit me hard. I had owned that domain since I started blogging, and as much as this has remained a humble little blog, I had big dreams about it.

I had imagined my first book being available for order from it, my cookbook, a spot to book me as a speaker (I know, audacious), and maybe even a video blog or weekly podcast soon.

I was angry. Guaranteed my little site had attracted just enough traffic that some big business bought it up.

I thought through if I could sue to get it back. Nope, not an option.

Maybe I was at a cross road. Andrew and I have talked about joining forces on a blog before, maybe this was the timing.

Nothing sat right in my heart. I felt like someone had swept in and stole a dream.

Then I remembered what I had watched just earlier that week. I’ve shared a lot about how Havilah Cunnington’s study Eat, Pray, Hustle has been impacting me. Watching her talk on session 11 “Dreams Taken”, I wrote a few things down in my journal.

“If you aren’t confident in who God says you are, you will feel threatened in your dreams. No one can take the dream of God from us!”

Havilah said, sometimes just when we had things lined up for our dreams, someone swoops in and seems to mess it up.

She went on to show through the story of Abraham & Sarah that NOTHING can foil the plan of God, if we continue to walk humbly and with integrity.

My desire to sue was not pure of heart. In Genesis 12:9-13, Abram’s (later Abraham) nephew took the better peice of land, and it probably seemed that Abram was stuck with the leftovers.

Instead he allowed his nephew to take what was rightfully Abram’s, and then walked further into an explosion of God’s goodness in his life.

So if you’ve been following my blog over the last four and a half years, or maybe you’re new, I’m expecting that through this little upset I will be catapulted further into my dream for what this little space on the internet could be come.newdomain

Thank you for journeying with me. You can now find my blog at www.monicaswitzer.ca

Love + Blessings,

Monica

 

Living The Dream

How often do you stop, look at your life and realize you are living your dreams right now?

Life can weigh us down sometimes. Maybe you’re getting through university, have a new baby, are parenting a teenage you’re struggling with, facing some financial struggles or are finding marriage really hard. These are real things that can be tough to walk through.

Recently, I realized I don’t always observe when I’m walking out a dream. Usually  I ended up too blinded by my current negative circumstances to acknowledge that I’m walking out something that I’ve been working towards.

As I zero in on some big dreams for the future, God showed me some of the dreams I have had for my life that have come true, that I definitely have not stopped to really bask in.

My husband has been encouraging me to remember the importance of celebrating my successes and acknowledging when we win together, not just charging on to the next thing.

Here are a few dreams that I realized I am living out!

  1. After my serious car accident in 2007 the Lord spoke to me a verse in Genesis 50:20:

    You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

    The Lord miraculously saved my life, the emergency crew did not expect to  an unharmed person. When he spoke this verse, I knew he had a call on my to help people.

    I have so much more I want to do in this area, but he has definitely been faithful to bring me into positions where I can directly impact and influence others!

  2. I prayed for my future husband for my whole single life. I longed for an awesome, godly man who would love me for who I was, who would be an incredible dad AND do ministry with me.

    Without sounding too “fairy tale” like, Andrew has been the fulfillment of those dreams. Of course it hasn’t been all easy, but I am so thankful that the Lord gave me a vision of the kind of man he wanted me to be with, and then brought him to me!

    2015 was our “wood anniversary”, so I bought Andrew a pallet sign that says “living the dream” to remind him that he is the fulfillment of so many promises from the Lord to me!

  3. I dreamt of wearing many hats as a child. I imagined being a mom, a doctor, a pastor and a fitness instructor!

    There was a time in my life where I didn’t know if I’d be able to walk out all of the things on my heart at the same time, but each year I feel like my capacity to do and handle more grows. Absolutely a dream come true!

In the midst of whatever you are walking through, can you see the glitter of a fulfilled hope or dream?

Remember this:

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If you want to build your confidence in the Lord, just take a minute to write down the things that have actually happened that he promised you would!

 

Eleven Dollars For Haiti

When I was about five years old I had a pastor that I loved dearly announce he was leading a church mission’s trip to Haiti.

I can’t remember if they showed pictures in service or told stories of a year prior, but I ached with every part of my little self to go with them.

I wanted to go so desperately. I knew I was too young, but my heart was still broken.

What could I do? The idea came to me that I could organize my Sunday School class to draw pictures and sell them to raise money for the trip.

After the pictures were drawn, I felt full of boldness. I walked right up to people and asked them to purchase a picture for this great cause.

All together we raised somewhere around $11.00.

My heart was bursting. When I handed my pastor the little jar of money, I felt like I had just passed him a cheque for $11,000.

This is a pivotal moment in the story.

This is where most people would probably say “awwww, that is sweet/cute/adorable of you!“.

He didn’t do that.

I remember clear as day how he genuinely thanked me from the bottom of his heart for my efforts and apologized again that he couldn’t take me with him this time, and promised that when I was a little older, I’d be more than welcome on a mission’s trip.

He didn’t make me feel like a cute little kid who contributed, in reality, almost nothing.

Instead, he filled me with confidence that I could live with purpose and make a difference in this world.

This past week I did a timeline of my “God Encounters” for the Eat, Pray, Hustle bible study I’m a part of. Havilah Cunnington had us divide our life into seven year increments.

I was shocked to realize that this memory of fundraising was one of the pivotal moments of my faith journey in that 0-7 age bracket.

When I realized this, I felt an urgency to make sure I did not treat any of my kids ideas for God lightly.

It is so easy to look at kids and gush over their cuteness. I DO THIS ALL THE TIME!

The reality is God is placing BIG dreams in the hearts of LITTLE people. They may not walk it out fully now, but they are been developed to chase after the heart of God!

As parents and leaders in a child’s life we should be the ones to help them look at their “God dreams” and determine how they can become a reality.

I pray that my kids never feel embarrassed or belittled after doing something for God, but instead would say with confidence:

“I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength!” Philippians 4:13

Dream big little one.

The photos: I’ve had the privilege of reconnecting a few times with my dear former pastor over the last six years. While I didn’t get to go on a mission’s trip with him, the Lord allowed my dreams to come true TWICE through serving in Guatemala!

I’m Never Satisfied

A funny thing about the fitness community’s pictures is that they don’t just look slim and muscular, they also have incredible hair, perfect make up and a remarkably flawless complexion.

A few weeks ago I bought some new clothes (which was necessary since I felt like my other ones were a little big on me), tried some new eye liner, and stressed about whether or not to cut my hair (but didn’t).

I realized what was happening. I had started to see results in an area that I thought would bring me happiness – weight loss. And instead that drove me further over the edge of dissatisfaction.

There is a funny portion of scripture in Proverbs that talks about some things that are never satisfied.

The leech has two suckers that cry out, “More, more!” There are three things that are never satisfied—no, four that never say, “Enough!”:

the grave, the barren womb, the thirsty desert, the blazing fire.

Proverbs 30:15-16

It hit me that “image” or the world’s standard of beauty can be like a thirsty desert. It always wants more. Just when you think you’ve attained something, you’re dry again and chasing after what you will never catch.

Ecclesiastes 1 offers a melodramatic account as well.

Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

No matter what I see in the mirror, no matter how much praise I might receive, or how great my husband tells me I look, I AM NOT CONTENT!

Why is that? 

Because we are chasing the wind. Something impossible. There will never be this moment of satisfaction.

HOW DEPRESSING.

When I realized that I would never be happy, I said to God

“Lord, you have to show me my beauty. You have got to show me through your eyes because I don’t want to live in a state of selfish seeking.”

The weeks that followed were interesting. Almost embarrassing.

I was cleaning my house and I stood up and caught sight of a gorgeous smile in the mirror that stopped me in my tracks.

It was mine.

I feel like blushing just saying that. But I truly didn’t recognize myself in that moment. God gave me his eyes for a second. Eyes that weren’t judging, comparing or contrasting.

Little moments like this kept happening. Out of no where my kids came up to me and gently said how beautiful they thought I was while I was sitting there make up-less in my pajamas.

But the big one was on my birthday. I got a text from a friend who pretty much exposed everything in my heart. She said exactly what I had been feeling for weeks.

“Happy Birthday beautiful friend. I hope you know you’re beautiful. You’ve shared about your fitness journey this past year. I know that you know fitness is about being healthy and well. But I hope as you have journeyed to get fit that you haven’t felt the need to get “more beautiful”. Don’t know if that makes sense. You are so gorgeous.”

Oh did that make sense. I was a wreck. That came from her, but honestly, it was straight from the heart of God to me for that day. 

Please don’t think you will ever attain your imagination of beauty. It will never be satisfied. It will never say “enough”.

Ask Jesus to show you your beauty. You will be shocked at the beauty within you. Not vain, conceited, jealous beauty. No, it will be life giving, bright light shining, hoping inspiring beauty.

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{It is hugely for this girl that I battle for my confidence in Christ.}

Don’t Be A Robot (and other goals for 2016)

On my birthday my lovely family woke me up with breakfast in bed. If you you know me you know that I LOVE breakfast! Especially if I don’t have to make it!

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{I won’t be so vain that I can’t post a no make up photo!}

We started out in bed, but syrup, a one year old and my clean sheets don’t mix too well, and we finished at the kitchen table.

During this birthday breakfast the kids asked me to read a sign that I have in our dining room. It says:

“Be brave, take risks, have courage and seek adventure.”

My 4 year old looked at me and said:

“Well if you don’t like adventure, you’re just a robot!”

That definitely made me laugh! But I thought it was timely wisdom for starting my new year. I don’t want to be a robot. I want to live a full and adventurous life, pursuing what God has for me!

I don’t have my goals fully finalized for 2016 BECAUSE (I’m SO excited about this) Andrew & I have signed up to take Jesse & Crystal Paine’s Makeover Your Year Goal Setting Course.

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I’m sure I will have a few things to change after this course, but for now, here are my goals for 2016!

Personal:

  1. Get 30 minutes of exercise everyday (whether an official workout, or a Sunday afternoon walk).
  2. Complete 8 rounds of the 21 day fix.
  3. Do ONE load of laundry from start to finish six days a week. (I read once: a load a day keeps the chaos away)
  4. Continue Monthly Meal Planning (I usually come in under my grocery budget if I stay disciplined with meal planning!)

Business/Blogging:

  1. Fully finish our investment property renovation in 2016. (We plan to move in April, but you know how all the little things can get left undone if you don’t have a goal to get ’em done!)
  2. Find a consistent blogging routine.
  3. Develop, with Andrew, our “Couples in Ministry” Course/Retreat.

Marriage:

  1. Attend our pastors conference in Toronto KID FREE!

Work:

  1. Finish my licensing program by July 2016.

Spiritual:

  1. Waste less time on my phone.
  2. Write down in my journal what God is speaking to me everyday. (Simplicity is key, I’m focusing just on his voice.)

Parenting:

  1. Wean Eli & have him sleeping through the night by his second birthday in October. momandE.jpg

All right, this is what I’m running towards! What about you?

I hope you will consider taking the Make Over Your Year course with us and create a plan to see your dreams become reality!

 

 

Baby Hope

You know when you have a dream that feels so big, it feels like it can never happen.

That’s where I am at with our adoption dream tonight.

Honestly, I’m not actually “ready” for another baby yet. Sometimes I freak myself out thinking that we actually told God “yes” to this call.

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It wasn’t until Eli was almost one that God reminded me of HIS call to take care of orphans.

Even just typing it out gives me conflicting emotions. It seems so overwhelming but so incredible. The opportunity to really “do for one what we wish we could do for everyone.” 

Caleb asks me about our baby sometimes. Where they will come from, what gender they will be (although Amayah is believing for a sister), what colour their skin, hair or eyes might be?

Each time I kiss Eli’s baby skin I wonder if my next baby will be older or younger then he currently is when they arrive to us.

The unknown can feel so beautifully haunting.

As I often do when I feel discouraged in where God has us on this journey, I looked at some adoption quotes and verses, just to remind myself of of His heart for the babies who are without family.

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When God starts to break you, he does it so deeply and wonderfully. I have never been an animal person, not ever. But suddenly if you put the word “orphan” before any living creature I well up with tears.

That’s so Jesus. 

A similar “breaking” happened when the Lord woke me up and told me we needed to move to Kipling to pastor. I had NEVER wanted to move back to my small town.

But God broke out hearts and we had an intense, burning passion to move and continue the good work.

Suddenly it looked like it wouldn’t work out and I said to God “why would you break my heart for something that wouldn’t come to pass?”

That’s when I felt a deep assurance that he would not deeply break me for something he didn’t need me to act on.

That situation felt so big, but nothing compares to adoption. That was just a picture of what I’m believing for now.

I daily remind myself of the words a wise friend spoke over me:

God cannot be delayed. And God cannot be rushed.

What are you believing for? Declare with me tonight that HIS timing is the PERFECT timing

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