How to Spot a Fake

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Last week, our oldest celebrated his 22nd birthday. He decided that instead of cake, he wanted fruit. He’s always wanted strawberries, but this was new. The morning of the big day I set the fruit on a large, white platter, but it just wasn’t nearly celebratory enough. So, I went back downstairs to gather my crystal. I set fruit in several crystal bowls, stuck a candle in a massive strawberry, and this momma was finally satisfied that the display was birthday worthy.

After the festivities, my husband and I were washing up all the pretty little dishes. We hit one of them with a fork, and ‘DING’, that perfect sound rang all over the kitchen. Mark said, “That’s a good piece of crystal.” I looked at it and said, “Really? I thought this one was.” We took the other piece and hit it (gently) and it kind of sounded like a ‘Dung’ more than a pretty little ‘Ding’.

It was so interesting. The good quality crystal didn’t look as fancy as the poor quality. It was just sitting there, unassuming, knowing what it had going for it. It didn’t have as fancy as a pattern. It didn’t have the decorative features of the other piece. It just sat there, knowing that what it was made of was right for the occasion.

The not so quality piece of crystal was ornate, decorative, and very showy. It screamed, “I’m here.” When it made a sound though, the truth came out. I realized that all the ornamentation was to distract me from knowing the truth.

These pieces of crystal reminded me that I need to make sure the sounds that I make are in keeping with who I am in Christ. They also reminded me that even when I’m impressed with how someone looks, or sings, or even preaches, the sound they make when they get “hit” proves what’s on the inside. Is it praise, or complaint? Is it a temper, or grace? Is it Christ, or self?

So, what sound should come out?

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no filthy talk come out of your mouths, but only what is good for building up as the need may be. This way you will give grace to those who hear you.”

I confess, I often get caught up in the first part of this verse. I say to myself, “Well, I didn’t actually cuss, so I’m good.” I lose the next part, the part where I am ONLY to say things that build people up.

Sound impossible? If I am just using my best effort to look like a great quality Christian instead of actually being one, it is. Just like the crystal at Wes’ birthday. The sound I make tells on me every time. Just because I’m not cursing doesn’t mean I’m building people up. In fact, if all I’m doing is biting my tongue, the sound I am supposed to make (building people up) never happens.

Watchman Nee, in his book Sit, Walk, Stand – The Process of Christian Maturitysays this: “Too many are caught acting as Christians. The life of too many Christians today is largely a pretense. They live a “spiritual” life, talk a “spiritual” language, adopt “spiritual” attitudes, but they are doing the whole thing themselves. It is the effort involved that should reveal to them that something is wrong. They force themselves from doing this, from saying that – and how hard they find it all! It is just the same as when we Chinese try to talk a language that is not our own. No matter how hard we try, it does not come spontaneously; we have to force ourselves to talk that way. But when it comes to speaking our own language, nothing could be easier. Even when we forget all about what we are doing, we still speak it. It flows. It comes to us perfectly naturally, and its very spontaneity reveals to everyone what we are.”

When I depend on Christ, through the Holy Spirit He has already placed inside of me, the sound I make is Him, not me. Instead of a pretender, He makes me the real thing. Instead of just appearing to be Christ-like, He makes me like Him through and through. Still sound impossible? It would be without assurances like these:

Ephesians 3:20 – “Now to the one who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to the power that is working among us.”

Philippians 2:13 – “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” He gives us the “want to” and the power to actually accomplish it.

Let’s stop pretending and let Him do His perfect work in us. Let’s rest in the fact that when we are resting in Him, He cleans us up, cleans us out, and replaces us with Him. Then, when a hit comes our way, the sound we make is something that would bring Him glory and will come as naturally as speaking our native langauge. Only God can do that in me, and in you. Let’s allow Him do it.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

 

 

 

*Photo by iStock

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Issues with Idols

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Isaiah 40:18-20 says, “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? As for the idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith fashions chains of silver. He who is too impoverished for such an offering selects a tree that does not rot; He seeks out for himself a skilled craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter.”

In the blog Even Though we discussed how the children of Israel worshiped a golden calf while eating the provision that God had provided (manna). Although we didn’t discuss the fact that the Israelite people gave the gold of their earrings to be used for the idol, we read it in Scripture. The provision that God had given them when they left Egypt, they threw away on an idol they asked Aaron to fashion for them. God had given them a savings account to buy whatever they needed in The Promised Land and they blew it in servitude to something that only God Himself could provide.

Every idol we choose to serve takes God’s provision from us as opposed to serving God who continually gives back to us. Have you ever heard the phrase “you can’t out give God”? It’s true, but an idol will take everything you have… and then some.

In Isaiah 40, the Lord tells His people that the gold and silver that He provided is nothing compared to Him. They molded the provision of the Lord into objects of worship and ignored the “real deal” of God Himself. Even those who could not afford gold, silver or another precious medal went out into the woods and gathered pieces of trees to give to a skilled craftsman. At their request, he then fashioned it into an object that “would not totter” for them to worship. Once again, we see people taking the provision of God and shaping it into objects of worship for which they were never intended.

Isaiah 40, verse 20 says that wood was fashioned into an idol that would “not totter”. An object that “does not totter” would take skill, would it not? What would you prop it up with? At first, I’m sure the wood itself would be stable enough to withstand the elements. A little wind, a little rain…no problem, but as time wore on and the rains kept coming, what could be used to prop up the idol then? Would it take a few more pieces of wood? Would a few nails have to be driven into a more sound structure? Would you cunningly place flowers all around to hide the props? After all, what would your family and friends think if the item you worship is falling to the ground?

If the job God gave me is my idol, but I have been demoted, how would I prop it up? How would I spin the situation so that others would not notice that the object of my worship is now face down on the ground? How would I trick people into thinking that my job was still giving me the fulfillment that I claimed?

If the ministry God entrusted me with is my idol, but God’s Holy Spirit is not evident, would I create emotionalism to prop it up?

If my spouse is my idol, but my marriage is falling apart how can I hide it? Do I get the help I need, or cover it in flowers?

 Propping up human idols is hard work, work that God never intended for us to bother with. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11). When we worship the one true God we do not have to make excuses. He does not totter. Verse 25 and 26 of Isaiah 40 says, “‘To whom then will you liken Me that I should be his equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and see who has created these…” God will not allow our idols to continue. They will topple, whether they are fashioned from gold, silver, or wood. The only true Source of strength is Jesus. The only thing worthy of our worship is our Holy God.

There will always be rain and there will always be things in our lives that cause instability. Matthew 5 tells us that it rains on the righteous and the unrighteous, but when we are worshiping the one true God, we become stable because He is stable. Matthew 7:24-25 says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it DID NOT FALL, for it had been founded upon the rock.” We are secure because He is our security.

God loves us too much to allow us to worship things other than Him, things that were intended for blessing, not worship. Are we made to worship? Yes! Let’s just be sure we are worshiping the Creator and not the creation.

We have to remind ourselves to thank God for His provision, but also to thank Him for His character. We have to make sure that we want God Himself and not what He can do for us. He is not a genie in a bottle. He is God Almighty, worthy of ALL praise. Let’s remove the idols that totter and replace them with the one, true and living God.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

My Story

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New Beginnings

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Hey Everyone!

As I was praying about the best way to start our year together off right, I couldn’t help but be reminded that the best words are God’s Words, not mine. So, that’s what we are doing. We are going to delve into the Word together, remembering that He is faithful, He is true, and He is our very best Friend who wants us to have an abundant life this year and in the years to come. Speak the following verses out loud over your life today, knowing that, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue…” – Proverbs 18:21

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘If You can? Everything is possible to the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do believe! Help my unbelief.’ ” (Mark 9:23-24) – I so relate to this father. I want to believe. I know I should believe. I say I believe, but then I realize I need God’s strength in me to believe. Help us to believe You this year, Lord. 

“…For I [Jesus is speaking] assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) – Notice that Jesus says “tell this mountain”. He wants us to be specific, not general. He wants us to concentrate on one mountain at a time. Ask Him what mountain He is calling you to move in this season, and then ask for His faith to empower you to believe and act on it.

“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) – Didn’t get all your goals accomplished last year? Don’t give up. Trust that God is completing that good work in you.

“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) – You have a purpose! Believe it. Receive it. Walk in it. Thank Him for it and trust Him for the results.

“I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13) – Think all you have to look forward to is in Glory? This verse tells us that we can see God’s goodness “in the land of the living”. How amazing is that? Ask Him for the eyes to see His goodness this year.

“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I [Jesus speaking] have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10) – Pray for God’s amazing abundance over your life this year.

Meditate on these beautiful promises of God this week. More’s to come…

Seeking Hearts Ministries

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How to Move Forward With no Regrets

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“I wouldn’t change a thing”. This is what my father-in-law said about his marriage to my mother-in-law after 50 years.

“50 years and you would not change one thing?” I wondered silently, “You wouldn’t change the hardships that I remember you reminiscing about? You wouldn’t change difficulties like miscarriages, financial woes, a Christmas where all your gifts were stolen? You wouldn’t change anything?”

I will admit I was skeptical, at first. I mean, after all, wouldn’t I change some things about my husband and myself’s marriage of 26 years? Wouldn’t I change the struggles that we have faced? Wouldn’t I want a healthier start for us, an easier path? Wouldn’t I change something?  Would I change the struggle that we had that brought our marriage to the brink of extinction back in our fifth year?  Would I change the many moves we have made due to my husband’s call into the ministry? Knowing what I know now, would I really change the ministry struggles that we have faced?

As I pondered this, I began to realize… I WOULD NOT CHANGE A THING either! But, it’s only because God is so good at what He does. Romans 8:28 says that He works all things out for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He is so good at this promise that my father-in-law and I can look back over incredible hardships and say with every fiber of our being, “I would not change a thing.” How could we? Wisdom has come from previous unwise choices. A trap we have fallen into keeps us from a greater trap years later. Stronger faith comes from seeing God work through incredible hardships in ministry. Trust in God’s provision and being thankful in all circumstances has resulted from financial crisis. Why would I change any lesson that turned out so great? When I see the goodness of God and realize how trustworthy He is, how could I possibly be filled with regrets? How could the chains of my past hold me in an endless cycle of ‘what if’? God is so good at what He does! He works all things for my good because I love Him and am called according to His purpose. So, I absolutely would not change a thing!

Our ultimate example, of course, is Jesus Christ. The Word of God says in Hebrews 12:2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We see here that Jesus trusted His Father to turn all the horrible injustice of the cross into the ultimate good. Did He enjoy the cross? The Bible says clearly He did not; in fact, He despised it. Yet, He submitted to the process because He knew His father was able to and would turn the ultimate place of suffering into the beautiful place of Redemption that we have today. Jesus is now able to look at the cross which He despised and then look at us, redeemed and righteous through Him and say, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Think over your own life experiences. Maybe it is your marriage, but maybe it’s your job, your family, your health, any area where suffering has occurred. At the starting line we would ALWAYS choose an easier road, but would we now?

Through infertility, an amazing child has been adopted that otherwise would still be in an orphanage. Through bankruptcy, a release of hypocrisy has been born in us and compassion abounds. Through a friend’s betrayal, we now know The Great Physician heals emotional as well as physical pain. Would we really change those lessons?

Only our God can do this for us. Only our God can take unspeakable heartache, unbelievable adversity, and unjustifiable sin and mold it into a life that we can in all honesty look at and say, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Trust Him with the hard things in your life. Trust that He can mold all the aches into a beautiful testimony. A testimony that at the end of time when it’s just you and Jesus holding hands looking out at the lives you both led on this earth, you can see Him look at His life of suffering and you can look at yours and you both can then look at God the Father and realize what He has done and say, “we wouldn’t change a thing.”

Seeking Hearts Ministries 

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All Things Are Possible

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“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

How can this be? Is this for real? I mean, I’m looking at what’s in front of me, I know what God has promised, but how in the world is it going to happen? Jesus said it, but did He really mean all things?

I’m reminded of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Remember that poor guy? His brothers hated him so much they sold him into slavery, lied to their father about what happened to him and he ended up in Egypt. He did pretty well for himself until a false accusation landed him in prison. Then, after several years, Joseph went from prisoner to vice-pharaoh. Overnight! How?

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

I’m reminded of the Israelites building the Tabernacle. They were instructed to use certain materials in certain ways with precise specifications. Once they completed it, God’s glory came and dwelled with them. They went from God speaking to them through a prophet to God dwelling in the same enclosure. In the blink of an eye! How?

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

I’m reminded of a little boy with a sack lunch. It contained 2 loaves and 5 fish. Jesus blessed it, broke it, and turned it into a meal for thousands of people…and there were leftovers. How?

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

I’m reminded of some disciples who had toiled all night trying to catch fish to provide for their families. They had thrown the net over and over and over and caught nothing. Jesus told them to cast their nets one more time and they caught so many fish they had to call partners in to help them because the catch was so great. After one more throw of the net. How?

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

That’s all it takes with our God…one night, one blink of an eye, one offering of all He’s provided, one more throw of the net. How?

Our God is limitless.

Our God is for us.

Our God is the God who takes the impossible and makes it possible. 

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

Rest in that today.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

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We All Need Grace

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Something that has come as a bit of a surprise to me (read shock) is that my youngest son is not as great at handling money as I expected. Honestly, for some reason I thought he was better prepared for the real world of money than our oldest was. I have no idea why I thought this. He was continually running out of allowance money, continually spending any money that was given as a gift as fast as it hit his pocket, and continually being loaned the debit card (my debit card) for extra purchases. I guess I was given the impression that he was better prepared than most due to the fact that he passed all of his budgeting courses with perfect A’s.

May I just say nothing is like the temptation of real money. It doesn’t really matter if you are cutting the entertainment budget drastically on paper to make things work for a budgeting class, because in real life when all of your friends are going to the movies..well…you go to the movies and pray your parents don’t find out. When you come home with fifty-one cents in your bank account, they find out. Trust me.

Yes, we had a “come to Jesus” talk with our son, but overall, in the end, grace was extended. Why? I need grace every day. It may not be in the area of  money…anymore…but I am always needing grace in some area. That’s what my youngest reminded me of… God’s grace.

A book that changed my parenting life (actually my life as a whole) was the book “Grace Based Parenting” by Dr. Kimmel. In this book, he describes how we should be the type of parent that God is with us. Grace-based, not law-based. The lessons from that book have really stuck with me.

As an empty-nester, I thought my parenting days were almost over. They are, but I’m being reminded daily that parenting “almost” grown-ups is the hardest. These are the make-or-break days of my relationship with my son. How I respond to “mess ups” now will affect how he communicates with me for years. If I’m a safe place to land, a grace-filled environment, he will be able to more readily receive the grace of God. Isn’t that the goal of every parent? To lead our kids closer to their Savior? To make God more relatable to real life?

So, as for now, I choose to remember how I need God’s grace so I can easily extend grace. I choose to remember how much I need God’s love, so I can easily extend love, and I choose to remember that just because a kid leaves home, he never outgrows his need for a soft place to land. I thank God that He provides the feathers.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

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How to Get Through Your Day – Easily

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John 15:5 says, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.”

In Andrew Murray’s book Absolute Surrender, Murray says that the branch’s only job is to stay connected to the Vine. In other words, the branch doesn’t have to worry with where its nourishment will come from. It doesn’t concern itself with how much fruit it’s producing. It doesn’t even have to fret over what the future will look like. The branch’s only job is to stay connected to the Vine. In Scripture, this state of being connected is also called abiding.

Watchman Nee, in his book Sit, Walk, Stand, describes abiding as sitting in a chair. When you sit, he explains, you have faith the chair will hold you up. Your whole weight is depending on the chair.

I love that picture! It sounds easy. After all, I sit in chairs all the time. But, I confess, spiritually speaking, sitting, abiding, staying connected to the Vine does not come naturally. In this season of my life though, I am learning that this truly is the best way to live.

When I am connected to the Vine, to Jesus Christ alone, when I am abiding in Him, I am not filled with stress, I am filled with Him – His strength, His joy, His love.

So, whatever results happen (or don’t) I’m great with… because it’s all up to Him. If He decides I need lots of strength for what He has for me today? No problem. I’m attached to Him already, so I already have what I need at my disposal.

If He decides it’s time for me to forgive? No problem. His forgiveness is already flowing through me.

Need some love today? No problem. His love is already in me.

See how simple it is? Yet, most of the time, we make it so complicated.

Jesus says in Matthew 10:28, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” He goes on to say in verse 30 of this same chapter, “…For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Let’s choose the easy path today, the less complicated perfect will of our Father and simply stay connected to our Vine, Jesus. Let’s sit in His presence, breathe Him in and de-stress knowing He’s got it all and simply abide as He has called us to knowing that all the branch has to do is stay connected to the Vine. He does the rest.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

My Story

** Photo by Kerry Vale Vineyard  “Adopt a Vine”

Let’s Celebrate!

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The last blog post was number 200! Crazy to think about how intimidating it was to press “publish” for the first time all those years ago. God really does grow us in amazing ways when we allow Him to.

So, today, with post 201, let’s celebrate with some amazing music. Kick your shoes off, stretch your arms in complete abandonment, and worship the one and only God of the universe.

Who Am I

No Other Name

There’s No Other Name

Reckless Love

How He Loves Us

Jesus We Love You

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there. Breathe these songs in and enjoy the celebration!

Much Love,

Melissa

Seeking Hearts Ministries

*image by voice.fgs.org

Are Details Driving you Insane?

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I Thessalonians 5:24 says, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”

I really need this reminder today.

My guy is a visionary. He gets an idea, knows a certain path and that’s it…he’s ready to take the plunge.

I, on the other hand, am a detail girl.

I love the big ideas, but my mind automatically goes to the how.

If we are my moving, I remember every detail that needs to happen to get us there.

If we are remodeling a space, even though I am not a construction person, I seem to be the one to remember to buy the nails.

If we are going on a trip, I think of every little detail…over and over again.

That’s what kept me from sleeping well last night…a trip we are going on this year. Details, details, details. Even though details are good, they can also drive me insane.

During my mental list making in the night, the Holy Spirit reminded me of I Thessalonians 5:24. He reminded me that I am called to go and He will accomplish what is supposed to be accomplished. Yes, I need to remember to bring my toothpaste, but He will take care of the details of loving on the people, teaching what needs to be taught, health concerns, and so much more because “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”

Rest in that this week. Write your lists and use the gift of details that God has given you, but then set the pen, or phone, or whatever instrument you use to write your list with, aside and trust Him to accomplish the call on your life. Depend on Him for every detail knowing that He is always faithful.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

My Story

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When Your Youngest Leaves the Nest

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I remember in late July of 2000, my oldest son Wes and I sat in a little corner alcove in a second floor apartment in Albany, Georgia, and began our school career. I say, “our” because my husband and I felt called by God to home school our kids. We never took for granted the call and prayed before each school year whether it was still the right decision for our family. In fact, at times, I may have even begged God that the call would change! That little alcove was the perfect size for a student desk, so we stacked our little books, prayed, and began our journey.

The reason why we started in July was because I was pregnant. Our second baby boy who was due in October, so I wanted to get a jump on things. I wanted to understand how this homeschooling thing was going to work before a new baby entered our world.

I could go on and on about my oldest son, Wes. He is so smart, y’all. He zoomed through Kindergarten and First Grade in the same year, graduated high school at sixteen, had me answering questions I never knew existed, and still to this day is one of the most motivated people I know. He’s amazing, but today, this blog is about my God, and that baby boy who we named Gabe.

Both of our boys are all grown up now, and as of tomorrow, my husband and I will officially be “empty nesters.” I can’t even describe all the emotions taking place. I am so proud of Gabe, so excited for him, and so looking forward to sharing with him this next journey of life, and yet, I’m sad. But more than being sad, I am in this incredible state of awe because I absolutely know that taking these kids from not being able to read and write, to the incredible, intelligent individuals they are is completely due to God’s empowerment.

I remember back in 2000, and often thereafter, reminding God that I’m great a starting things, but not so great at finishing them. I remember reminding Him that this is His call, so He has do it. And do you know what? He did. He always had my back.

I would hit a snag with curriculum that wasn’t quite what we needed, we would pray, and He would show us another path to choose.

I would teach a lesson and one of the boys would still have a glazed-over, no idea what I’m talking about look, I would pray, and God would give me an idea to come at the lesson from a different angle. Oftentimes, these ideas were so creative, that I knew it was not coming from me!

I would need strength to get up in the mornings and stick to our agenda. He would provide.

I would need flexibility to do what worked for us and not what a certain “expert” suggested. He would always give the grace to relax and depend only on Him.

I could fill page after page and give example after example of how God and only God homeschooled these boys for all these years. I just simply had the privilege of joining Him in the endeavor.

Mark 10:27 says, “Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God’.” I have literally seen this verse be absolutely true in every single day of every single school year, but especially this last one. It reminds me of King David in II Samuel 7:18 where he says, “…Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me this far?”

So, on Saturday, the day we drop our baby boy into the world of college life for the first time, I choose to remember that God has always had my back, He’s always had my boys’ backs, and He loves my kid even more than I do.

Not only that, but I am choosing to run into this next phase of life with joy, excitement for each day, and an expectation to see what God has for me, this homeschooling mom who’s now retired and knows without a doubt that her God can do anything.

Seeking Hearts Ministries