Wednesday, November 21, 2012

answering the hard questions

Since returning home from North Carolina I have been asked such questions as, “are you glad to be home?”, “have you adjusted?” and “how are you feeling about everything?”

I have to say, the answer to these questions is so deeply rooted, I don’t even know how to answer them. I’m sorry to those who have asked because I probably haven’t answered them how you would have liked. But I do have some answers and I’m going to write them out more for myself as a reflection but hopefully those interested will begin to understand more of what I’m attempting to process.

“Are you glad to be home?”

Yes and no. Yes I’m glad because now I really can begin to connect with people, I can share about this amazing adventure Jesus is taking me on, and I feel like I have the appropriate answers for the random questions to be asked. Yes I’m glad to be home to spend quality time with people I love and get the opportunity to walk with them through these next few months which I know will be faith growing and stretching.

No, I’m sad to be home because I really miss the people I connected with. From the SIM staff to the SIMGo participants, I can’t imagine a better group of people to begin this journey with. I miss the quality time we got to spend together, the fun adventures we went on, the laughter that hurt our stomachs, to the tears we shed together. I also miss the constant focus on Jesus and prayer. When I would share anything, the person on the other end would pray, always. A class never started, a meeting never began without a word of prayer. Most conversations ended with prayer. I also miss the focus on cross cultural work. Coming home, everyone else has a different focus on life. When I was at SIM, everyone’s focus was cross cultural ministry. At home, I have no one to relate to about the different things I experienced, am experiencing and will experience in the future.

“Have you adjusted?”

To the time difference, yes. To everything else, no. My focus, my heart, my every thought is on moving to Kenya. As I was getting ready to board the plane in Charlotte, it hit me, I was now an equipped cross cultural worker. At home, I would be classified as a missionary. My day to day life is no longer just about spending time with people I love and serving Jesus at work. My day to day life is filled with finding time for the to-do’s as I prepare to leave in less than 8 months. As I stepped off the plane in San Diego, I was a completely different person than when I left two weeks before. I haven’t adjusted, and I won’t be adjusting back to the person I was. That’s hard to put into words. I feel like I no longer fit in. The emotions, feelings, and desires are so different than if I was to continue a life at home. My faith will be stretched in ways I cannot even begin to imagine, I will depend on God in ways I will have never thought possible, and I will continue to be molded by God as He makes me more like Him.

“How are you feeling about everything?”

Scared and Excited. God stretched me so much while I was in Charlotte for 2 weeks that I fear how much more stretching needs to be done even before I board a plane to Kenya. There’s a lot of pride that must be stripped away and desires that must be destroyed. I’m scared because I know the support raising process is completely dependent on God and not me. I’m also scared that it might not happen. I would be lying if I said I’m completely confident I’m going to Kenya next July. The human side of me says it’s not possible, why would God want to use me, how in the world is He going to come up with all the resources. But that is a lie from Satan. It is totally possible, it’s Him equipping me with gifts and talents to serve His people, and these resources are His anyway. I am constantly reminding myself that people are not giving to me and my ministry. Financial supporters give their resources to God’s ministry in Kenya. I get to be apart by being sent.

And with that, I’m super excited to see God provide in this amazing way. I’m super excited that He has chosen me to go, to get to experience life in another culture, and to give my life fully to Him in this way. I’m excited to move my life to another part of the world for an extended period of time. I’m excited for the relationships I will make, the lessons that I will teach, and the hearts that will be changed while I am there. I’m excited to share this journey with anyone willing to come alongside and see God work.

I know this is really only the beginning. What lies ahead are hours of communicating with potential partners in ministry and building a support team, more hours on my knees in prayer, and even more hours focusing more on God than on this ministry. I also know that the person I am right now will not be the same person who boards a plane in 8 months to Kenya. Such a great feeling knowing this is completely in my God’s hands and the Holy Spirit is willing to show His power in my life. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

SIMGo: friendships & food

Community. I really feel like that word summarizes all the amazingness that has happened over the past two weeks. If it wasn’t for community, this experience would have been very different. Everything I did involved community, and the connection we now share is one that no one will ever understand outside of the 21 adults and 8 kids that went through this process together. There were many tears, ridiculous amounts of stomach hurting laughter, and relationships that are grounded on the Lord and this journey to cross cultural ministry that we all share together. After today, we go our different directions, but we leave knowing we are all working towards the same goal, to bring the gospel to all nations.
This last week, one of the things we had to do was present to a group of SIM staff as if we were presenting our story to an audience back home. Before the big day, we had several sessions that taught us about the famous “hook” story, what to include, what not to include, and so on. As a group, most were dreading this day (for me because I put my powerpoint together the night before and really wasn’t feeling confident about the specific SIM information I needed to know…I’m such a procrastinator, some things just never change). Wednesday night, in an attempt to break up the time spent in front of our computers preparing our presentations, we piled in a van and took a trip to a delicious frozen yogurt place called Yoforia.
Exhibit A:
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Inside you would have found Pumpkin Spice Yogurt with crushed graham crackers… aka Pumpkin Pie!
Back to the presentation… so worried, a bit scared, but really unsure of how it was going to go. I heard stories of “for real” presentations not going well, but after watching two fellow participants do theirs and do fine, I figured, I got this. So I confidently got up, began talking, got about half way through and all of the sudden my computer decided it needed to configure updates, 3 of them! I did a double take, looked at my audience, realized I wasn’t going to get my powerpoint back, and I completed my presentation without my pictures, statistics, and beautiful artwork! I managed to successfully finish, on time, and include all the necessary information I needed to. They gave me much grace as they asked questions and I walked away the poster child for what to do when something goes wrong.
Today, after signing our life away, I was so excited to do some experimenting with my new friends who lovingly support my obsession for cinnamon. We have a great kitchen that has allowed us to store breakfast stuff, make delicious apple cider, and of course, a tube of cinnamon rolls… but no ovens. I got desperate about a week ago and really wanted a cinnamon roll. I looked online and found a recipe that realized it was possible, I could cook a cinnamon roll in the microwave. Today was the amazing day we got to try it out! We worked together and figured it out and this is what we devoured:
Recipe: 1 bowl, a bit of butter smeared across the bottom and sides, place a plate over the bowl with the cinnamon inside (of course), and place in microwave for 3 minutes on 30% power… after that, eat and be merry!

Monday, November 12, 2012

SIMGo: My Testimony

This morning, I got to present my missions testimony to the home staff of SIM, the board of governors, and fellow SIMGo participants. It was such a great experience where I got to share my heart about kids and the passion that God is giving me to go to Kenya. I was so encouraged by all the prayers of those here as well as those at home. I have included my testimony below as well as as a link titled, My Testimony on my blog page.

Sharing the love of Christ by partnering with local teachers to educate children in Kenya.

Why Missions?
My journey begins with a short term trip to Romania in 2010. A dear friend asked if I would accompany her on a 10 day trip to bring a little girl back to the states for medical surgeries. While I was there, I experienced what a 3rd world hospital looks like, I walked the hallways of an orphanage where she lived, and ultimately left with a heart that knew I needed to live out the great commission. It was this trip that God opened my eyes to the fact that He has equipped me with abilities that can make an impact on the lives of children and families around the world.

Why kids?
God has given me this passion for teaching kids about Jesus and allowing them to experience Him in a very real and age appropriate way. This princess from Romania has been a constant reminder to me that I need to continue to pursue world missions and that He is preparing me through her, to relate to kids of a different language and those who did not grow up in the best of circumstances.

Why SIM?
Last summer, after a 6 month period of trying to do my own plans and failing, God led me to my knees and put world missions back on my mind. That night, I began looking at different missions organizations and when I saw SIM’s website I just knew they were who I was going to partner with. I sent in my preliminary application that night and prayed asking God to open the door wide or close it shut. Since then, God has continued to answer that prayer with open doors.

Why Kenya?
When I was at SIMStart in May of 2012, I had everyone praying, helping me discover where God wanted me to go. I had it down to Nigeria & Kenya, both as orphanage worker positions. Right before I went in for my exit interview, I got a text message in a different language. I checked google translator and it was the Swahili word for good luck. 10 weeks after SIMStart, God worked out the details to switch my PRF(job description) from orphanage worker to a created position that was so specific to me, only He could have orchestrated it. 

So with the education I have and the passion and giftings He has given me, I will be going to Kenya, prayerfully next July, to get the opportunity to share the love of Jesus by partnering with local teachers to educate children in Kenya. I will be teaching classes in art, life skills, sports and Bible to primary and secondary age children. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

SIMGo: A day of food adventures

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The five of us began our day going out for breakfast at the Flying Biscuit. Fun, Fellowship, & Food!
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This was my favorite part of the day, we went to the Great Harvest Bread Company and got Cinnamon Rolls!! I know you can’t see my cinnamon roll, and no I hadn’t eaten it yet but I was too excited to take another picture. It was warm, and soft, and oh so amazing… just what I wanted. Thanks Rachel!
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In between the food stops, we enjoyed the beautiful weather and scenery of Charlotte.
One of our favorite group activities as a SIMGo bunch has been to put together random games of volleyball and yesterday was so fun and helped to burn off some of the food we had eaten! I failed at taking a picture of us playing so the next time we get a game together I will replace this lovely clipart photo.
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For dinner, a larger group of us went to Cabo FishTaco. I did not finish my queso dip I ordered and wanted to take it home. These two lovely girls worked very hard to put together a “to-go bag” for my chips; it even has a tag that says handle with care. They were so proud of themselves!
We ended the night at this fun bakery, hanging out and of course laughing together. It really was a day of food, but to me, getting to know these amazing people of Christ was more enjoyable than the food I ate…even the cinnamon roll.

Friday, November 9, 2012

SIMGo: I’m Not Alone

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” –Genesis 28:15
“The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” –Exodus 33:14
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” –Psalm 73:23
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you  and will be in you.” –John 14:16-17
I feel like I must begin this by saying I just want to be honest with myself. I write on here to acknowledge God’s hand in my life. When I am honest with myself, my God shows up in a way I could have never thought possible. I write not to get people to feel bad for me, but rather to share in how God is working in my life and ultimately for hope when such things appear in the future. As I walk this journey, I have many times looked back at old posts and they have reminded me that my God is always near, no matter how far away He may feel at the moment.
Aloneness. Yesterday morning, I walked through the woods to my first class. I purposely chose to walk by myself, and just have some alone time with God. I talked with him about this very word. I prayed and asked God to help me fully trust in Him, to be dependent on Him, and not attempt to receive from others what I can only receive from Him, worth. I had no idea that God was going to test this prayer so soon!
I can remember back to my high school days, before I had asked Christ into my heart, sitting in my room, my family near feet away, and feeling alone. I can remember the night, when I asked Jesus to come into my heart, and the closeness I felt, the peace that surrounded me, the joy that overwhelmed me. As I think back to those times, this moment right now is no different. My God is just as close to me now as He was then. In one situation I recognized His closeness, the other I wanted it.
But what do I do now? How can I work through these fears, worries, thoughts and emotions, and still cling to God. How do I balance my dependency on Him with the community in Him.
I must stop. I always have music playing, usually Pandora, and as I wrote out that last sentence I realized this song playing in the background. My God is here, He is real, and He hears me.
I search for love, when night came, And it closed in, I was alone, But you found me, where I was hiding, And now I’ll never ever be the same, It was the sweetest voice, That called my name saying.
You’re not alone, For I am here, Let me wipe away your every fear, My love I’ve never left your side, I have seen you through the darkest night, And I’m the one who’s love you all your life, All your life.
You cry yourself to sleep, cause the hurt is real, And the pain cuts deep, all hope seems lost, With heartache your closest friend, And everyone else long gone, You’ve had to face the music on your own, But there is a sweeter song that calls you home saying.
You’re not alone, For I am here, Let me wipe away your every fear, My love I’ve never left your side, I have seen you through the darkest night, And I’m the one who’s love you all your life, All your life.
Faithful and true, Forever, Oh my love will carry you.
You’re not alone, For I, I am here, Let me wipe away your ever fear, Oh yea, My love I’ve never left your side, I have seen you through the darkest night, Your darkest night, and I’m the one who’s loved you all your life, All your life.
This song is called You’re not Alone by Meredith Andrews. Here’s the Youtube LINK.
My room feels full. My God loves me. My God knows me. He hears my thoughts, He knows my pain, and He meets me right where I am. There are no words.
And this is why I write. This is why I share. Because my God is real. My God is not dead, He is alive, and He is alive in me! My God shows up when I cry out to Him, when I am honest with Him, He responds.
Jesus, you are Faithful, you are Personal, you are near, you are close. Jesus you hear me and you answer. Thank you Jesus for this moment. Holy Spirit, thank you for your work, thank you for your power to change me, to grow me, closer to You. Father God, you are amazing. I lift my heart in praise to you this morning, I smile, knowing You are here, You are all I need, You are all I want. I pray for this day, that you would constantly remind me of your grace, of your closeness, and your love.
God I love you. Jesus I love you. Holy Spirit… I love you.

Monday, November 5, 2012

SIMGo: My budget story

Today was such a great day. So many questions answered, a lot of great knowledge to take in, and many smiles and laughter to fuel the soul. There is one story in particular I want to share because I want to remember just how real the moments in this story felt as well as how “tender”, to use a friend’s description tonight, our God is to each of us.

This afternoon, I had my first individual financial meeting. I have to admit, I was really looking forward to this meeting because I knew many of my questions were going to get answered. (They were J ) But something happened during this meeting. I had thought that when I talked to my adviser about the numbers that many would decrease. I felt confident the number would go down. It actually went up, quite significantly, and in the moments, I can still remember the amount of peace I felt knowing this was God’s ministry, God’s money, and therefore what numbers were put in front of me was not something I needed to be overwhelmed by. I just kept saying, “okay, that make sense…over and over” and my eyes watched as one increase made 5 other things increase as well. I left this meeting really encouraged that God was going to do great things in these next couple months and I’m so excited to get to see it happen. But I didn't have to wait long!

When I got done with my meeting I had about 40 minutes before the next scheduled event and I had this overwhelming desire to want to begin my bible study I had brought with me. I have had it for a long time, sitting on a bookshelf at home and not really feeling ready to begin. I brought it with me expecting to begin the first day I got here, I was such a zombie, even looking at the book and the big words on the front blurred. Sunday was such a fun day of getting to know people and doing fun things that I just couldn’t pull away and do the study. However, God had it purposed for today.

I quickly walked back to the dorms, got the bible study book out, my bible and a pencil. I turned on my Shane & Shane Pandora radio station and went to town. I didn’t get far before the tears fell. Here’s the story from the study called, “Experiencing GOD: Knowing and Doing the Will of God” by Henry & Richard Blackaby & Claude King.

Vancouver World’s Fair
     When the World’s Fair was coming to Vancouver, our association of churches was convinced God wanted us to try to reach the 22 million people who would come to our city. We had about 2,000 members in our churches. How in the world could our little group make much impact on such a mass of tourists from all over the world?
     Two years before the fair, we began to set our plans in motion. The total income for our associated was $9,000. The following year it grew to $16,000. The year of the World’s Fair, we set a budget for $202,000. We had commitments that would provide 35 percent of that budget. Sixty-five percent of it depended on prayer. Can you operate a budget on prayer? Yes. But when you do that, you are attempting something only God can do. What do most of us do? We set the practical budget, which represents what we can do. Then we might set a second hope or faith budget. The budget we really trust and use, however, is the one we can reach by ourselves. We do not really trust God to make a practice difference in what we do.
     As an association of churches, we decided God had definitely led us to the work that would cost $202,000. That became our operating budget. All of our people began praying for God to provide for everything we believed He had led us to do during the World’s Fair. At the end of the year, I asked our treasurer how much money we had received. From Canada, the United States, and other parts of the world we had received $264,000. People from all over North America assisted us. During the fair we became a catalyst to see almost 20,000 people accept Jesus Christ. You cannot explain that except in terms of God’s intervention. Only God could have done that. He accomplished it with a people who had determined to be servants and were moldable and available for their Master’s use. (pg 7, emphasis mine)

My budget felt like $202,000 and I felt like God spoke directly to me in this moment that whatever I bring to Him in prayer, He can do, not for me, and not for something I want to do, but for Him and what He has planned for His glory. Tonight, I am praising my God for this amazing reassurance that I am right where I am supposed to be. I’m at this training to prepare me for something that is so much bigger than I can ever imagine nor feel capable to accomplish. But I know my God can and because my God dwells within me, together, we can do anything.

God, I love you.

Jesus, I love you.

Holy Spirit, I love you.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

SIMGo... the beginning

The overnight flight was nice, but I didn't realize that almost half the traveling time was at the Atlanta airport. I slept okay on the plane, in the airport not so much. Coming into SIMGO, I felt exhausted. But I did the best I could to make since of my language and asked everyone about 5 times where they were headed. I finally started telling people, "I'm sorry, I'll stop asking and just start over tomorrow". Today was a much better day!

However, yesterday, after lunch, my first appointment was to the medical office. I got 3 shots, an update on TDP and rabies in one arm and Hepatitis A&B in the other. A few hours later it hurt to put on my sweatshirt. So sad... my next appointment is Wednesday. I'm also taking orally Typhoid. It's very normal to get nauseated after taking and I was recommended to take it right before bed. I did, and then laid there for close to an hour worrying if the nausea was going to set in... Praise Jesus it never did and I slept great!!! 

It has been so amazing connecting with missions minded people again. The people are so incredibly encouraging and I know I have made many life-long friends. This morning I went for a walk through the beautiful woods with a new friend I have made and it was cool to talk through struggles and know that she shares many of the same ones. Our past experiences are very similar and our fears match up. I know that as I continue to walk this journey to Kenya, she will be someone I lean on to walk through it and gain encouragement from. Everyone has such a heart for God and desiring to do His will. 

Today, we had church service this morning at 10am, and not only did I get to sleep in until 8:15am, normally 6am, but I got to wear cute clothes!!! No words can fully express how excited I was; I meant to take a picture but I forgot. I have no proof but I will next weekend for sure! After church, a few of us went on a short walk through the woods; the colors are amazing, orange, reds, oh it was gorgeous. As we were walking and talking, a herd of deer ran right in front of us, it so was cool!! We made it back in time for lunch. After lunch, 14 of us adults plus one baby went on a hike up Crowders Mountain (seep picture below). The view was indescribable. We came back, got some money and went and had Cuban food. White bean soup, delish! 

No words can describe just how fun we had driving to these two places. Caravaning was an adventure going  barely 55 mph waiting for a white van, missing the turn and waiting 10 minutes for the white van again, misunderstanding phone communications and so much more. We all decided it was God teaching us all a lesson about being flexible, communicated well and working together. Eventually we all made it up the hill, got our picture and back down with no problems. 

After food, we went another adventure to Walmart. I now have cinnamon coffee creamer in my refrigerator... I'm offically "home"! We are now hanging out in the main living area. Our conversations are quite hilarious, someone actually just made a comment about it :) These people are so incredible. 

Tomorrow begins with lots of classes and meetings in the afternoon. I know it will be a lot of information but with this amazing group of people, I know we will keep ourselves entertained to the fullest extent. Please pray for these days, that the information that is given to me will sink in, that I will get many questions that I have answered, and most importantly, that I will know Jesus more. I'm doing this all for Him and being here reminds me just strong this calling really is and how excited I am to fulfill it. God is so good!

Crowder Mountain 11.4.12

Friday, November 2, 2012

Satan's Scheming

I’m actually writing this Thursday night, it’s 10:50pm right now as I begin but it this will probably get posted sometime tomorrow when I get to a location that has wireless internet, I think God is preparing me

Anyway, the titled of this post is called ‘Satan’s Scheming’ for a reason. Today has just been one of those days. Yesterday I worked an almost 14hour day, on my feet for all but 30 minutes, but so worth it. However, my not so smart self planned a meeting for 8:30 this morning, last week. So I dragged myself out of bed at the last possible second, messed up my breakfast, and realized I was unprepared for my meeting. I made it though, no breakfast, but material read, left the meeting and felt like a walking zombie…and looked like one too. I had to finish up some projects at work, and by almost 2pm, I finished.

This is really where it all begins… I had class tonight, and didn’t think to grab my books this morning so I came home to get them. I remember looking at my backpack but thinking, “I don’t need my computer for this class”…so I left it. Said hi and bye and left to go meet up with the two best friends anyone could have. Lots of laughter and good food and coffee, so lovely! As the time came for me to leave, Satan began to question me by saying, “You don’t have to go to class, it’s technically optionally, you should stay with your friends and spend as much time as you can with them, and it will probably be more fun anyway…” the thoughts continue but I decided, no, I’m going to miss two classes in the next two weeks by being out of town so I need to go tonight. So I said my goodbyes and left.

I began driving towards the freeway and quickly realized, “my notes are in my backpack!”… I began rationalizing writing notes, but the professor last week handed out close to 100pages of typed notes that we are to go off of during class. And, last week, he assigned class work in it and I was going to be presenting my findings tonight. At this point, I’m now not only trying to figure out if I should drive all the way home to get my notes, but if I should go to class anyway. I’m exhausted, it might just be better if I go home and sleep. At this point, I choose to drive home and get my notes, but I’m slowly watching the time click by, really not wanting to be late. Debating, go to school, or not…I know, I’ll see what time it is when I get home and decide then. 15 minutes to spare, I can get to school in 15 minutes, only with God’s help and calm nerves.

I did it, I pulled into the school at 7:00pm sharp. At this point I’m now really nervous that I’m going to get in trouble for being late. These seminary professor’s like to get started right on time. Of course, I hike the stairs, walk the what seems like forever walkway, up more stairs, and into class…quietly…they’re opening class in prayer. I slide into the far side of the room, one of the only chairs left, and quietly sit down, backpack still on, and my heart pounding out of my chest (for being late and the stairs…I need exercise). “Amen”…Professor then quickly turns, writes something on the board, turns around and goes, “Oh Danielle, it’s like an angel appeared”… I was expecting to get scolded for being late, but no, I get called an angel.

To recap so far, I’ve debated with Satan’s help whether to stay with my friends or go to class, leave my notes at home or go get them, stay home because I’m tired or go because I’m going to be missing the next two classes, stay home because I’m going to be late or go and trust God I can get there on time.

And so far, I’ve chosen to go to class (over friends), go get my notes, go to class again (over tiredness), and go to class again (over time constraint).

Through prayers and coffee, I awoke enough to focus at class, and I’m so glad I did because we had a great discussion finishing up 1st Corinthians and beginning 2nd Corinthians.

This is the best part for me. (I’m auditing this class so absentees and assignments turned in don’t really matter.) At the end of class, I remind my professor that even though it doesn’t matter, that I wanted to let him know I won’t be there for the next two sessions because I will be at mission’s training. He looks at me and goes, “It does matter you won’t be here, we’re going to miss you.” He then goes on to ask exactly what I’m going to be doing both in NC and in Kenya and then asks a fellow classmate and parent in Children’s Ministry to pray for me. It was as He closed, I thanked him, said my goodbyes and walked out the door that I realized how Satan had been scheming all day to persuade me not to go and by remaining faithful to what God had asked me to do; I was blessed more than I could have ever thought of.

In so many ways, I see how this lesson will be so helpful in the days, months and years to come as I obediently follow what God has called and asked me to do for Him and His Kingdom and for His glory. Satan doesn’t like the fact that I am on a mission to spread the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. He’s going to try to work in my thoughts, in my environment, and in any other way he can, to pull me away from the call and ultimately blessings that God has for me. Today was a reminder to me of just how real and alive and active Satan is. But it also reminded me that God has asked us to be faithful in small things, and when we are faithful with the small things, He will put together the pieces to accomplish the big things. He’s called me to walk this life with Him, to accomplish the tasks He has asked me to do today, and not to worry about all the to-do’s of tomorrow. When we keep our eyes, hearts, and minds on our God, He will help us to make the right decisions, and when we make a lot of small right decisions, He puts them together as more pieces of the puzzle which is His Kingdom’s Will.

Today is not the first time Satan is going to try to get his way, but I’m going to bed overly encouraged that my God is with me always, He is more powerful than any scheme of Satan, and that ultimately, everything I do, is for two purposes: to further His Kingdom and to bring Glory to His Name.

Your Love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.

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