May Bride

Oh, this blog of mine. Lady Grace. Perhaps no one reads it anymore, but I just felt the desire to come on here and spill out some of my thoughts. I was reading over some of my old posts and just marveling at God … where He’s brought me from and ways He’s grown me.

And prayers He’s answered.

Because, you see, I’m going to be a bride this May! Next month! In seventeen days, to be exact. ūüėČ

ring picture

It seems pretty surreal most times. In the middle of the busyness of wedding planning, I often stop short and think: Wait, is this really happening? I’m getting married? I get to be a wife?¬†And I proceed to get all giddy and breathless and just beautifully happy.

What a gift! There were times I wasn’t sure I would get married. What if it just never happened? I had to open up my hands and surrender this desire to God. And ask Him again and again to fill me up and lead me closer to His heart.

I also asked in faith for a godly husband and a home. If that was His will for me. And one year this strong feeling started growing in my heart. Something like: Prepare for marriage. Maybe I’ll see my love story start unfolding this year.

And to my shock, that was the year I met this man. My future husband.

Of course I didn’t know he was my future husband then. But deep down, I strongly suspected, haha. I met him through mutual friends at a Christian conference on missions. I didn’t think much about it then. I mean, I did notice him. First his tender heart and gentleness when I told him about searching for a church community. Then his love of reading – particularly the fantasy genre. The excitement in his eyes when we discussed one of the sermons at the conference. The way he worshipped. His humor and silliness.

C.R.O.S.S.19

But then, after four marvelous days at the conference, we all went our separate ways. He and I were miles and miles apart. I thought about him every so often and prayed. About seven months later, I stood in a friend’s wedding … and guess who was there?

Yes, that’s right. This tall, really handsome man who followed Jesus Christ, and loved books, and made me laugh, and listened so attentively. I started to fall in love. I went home after that vacation and prayed so much for and about this man who’d so thoroughly captured my attention. My family teased me a lot about how distracted I was. :p I went on lots of summer night walks with my three teen siblings, listening to NF and trying desperately to deal with my emotions, lol. I also went on many, many prayers walks … praying so deeply and passionately and trustingly. Crying and surrendering and waiting and hoping. I just couldn’t forget about him. Maybe … maybe God was doing something.

Another seven months or so. Did he ever think about me? ūüėČ I really had to let it go. But I also trusted it into my Father’s hands. If You want to do this, Lord, I know that You can and will.

Spring of 2020, I took a huge leap of faith and moved out of my family’s home to another state. I wrote a post about that, so if you follow this blog, you know. It was time. With a lot of prayer, and counsel, and what I felt like were confirmations from God, I felt very strongly that I was supposed to step into a new season of life. Join a tightly-knit church community. Make some friends my own age. All that. God provided so richly! Wow. It’s amazing to think about.

Even Then

I was totally folded into the young people’s group at my new church and I absolutely LOVED it. What sweet times of fellowship we had as brothers and sisters in Christ! Lots of disc-golf, kayaking, park days, volleyball, campfires, and growing together.

And yes, I was falling in love anew. There were some ups and downs, tears, restless nights, and lots and lots of prayers. Did he like me that way? Would we even be right for each other? I remember one morning driving to work, so distressed. And I just starting praying, surrendering this desire again into my Father’s hands: I surrender it! I don’t know if this is going to work out, Lord. I’m confused. But if it’s Your will, I know You will make it happen. So do it, Lord. Whatever is Your will. Do it for Your glory and for our good.

That felt like such a powerful moment for me. I let go. But my heart was burning, like it was just believing so much that God was at work and directing my life, even though I didn’t know exactly where He was taking me.

Matthew 7:7-11

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him

I asked God to open doors if He was leading me into this relationship. Oh, and it was only a couple days and He started opening doors. Things became pretty clear in the next few weeks. And then the beginning of June, with the blessing of spiritual mentors and family, I was in a dating relationship!

I have grown so much through this relationship. Realized things about myself. Weaknesses that I need to work on. Ways I react that aren’t helpful. Also, strengths I have. Ways that I am able to give.

I realized afresh how I do have a hard time trusting people and sharing my heart of hearts. What a precious thing to be able to start opening up to this special person. It was hard sometimes, too. Really, really hard. So vulnerable. And sometimes I felt very hurt. And so tempted to run away. Shut him out. Shut everybody out. I don’t want to trust anybody with my heart! It’s too scary! Will he be careful enough? What if he lets go? What if my heart breaks?

Loving is a risk. I started to understand that I was terrified of facing disappointment, or annoyance, or rejection from someone I’d entrusted my heart to. I imagined I couldn’t bear such a thing … my world would just crumble around me. I would shut down. And thus ruin everything.

But that is so wrong. My husband will not be my god, and he will not hold my world together. Even if I go through rough seasons of marriage and there is disappointment and frustration and distance, I will be okay. Why? Because as Christians we do not get our worth or our fulfillment from a spouse. I am a daughter of God, because of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. I am chosen, justified, blessed, called, and loved. And my life has been given purpose by the Lord Himself! My identity, my lasting joy and my security does not come from my spouse, but from my God. His perfect love should cast out all my fear and enable me to love my husband without reservations or conditions.

1 John 4:18-19

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.

Because I know that however someone choses to react to me, I am secure in my heavenly Father’s love.

So whether it’s my husband or my friend or my family –¬† their imperfect ways should not have power to crush my spirit. And if they do, then perhaps I’ve made them an idol in my heart. Perhaps I’m needing their love above God’s. Perhaps I fear them and give them power over me that isn’t healthy, that they wouldn’t even want!

Anyway, all that to say, I’m learning what it means to truly love. And I know I have so much more to learn!

I feel so weak and unprepared sometimes.

But I know that in Christ – drawing from His strength – I can do this well. I can live out marriage for His glory. I can be a godly wife and sweet blessing to my husband. I can learn how to love without holding back in fear. I can be a witness, and showcase Christ and the Church together with my husband. I can’t do this on my own strength, no. But yes, with my God, all things are possible!

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

He is bringing my dear love and me together for His glory and His purposes. I believe that! And it is such a sweet joy to think about how He is giving me to this man, and him to me.

January 9th, 2021, after seven months of dating, my boyfriend brought me on a winter wonderland walk. And out on a frozen pond, he knelt down and proposed to me. And I said yes!!! ‚̧ And now it’s down to seventeen days! A little over two weeks and we will make our vows before God and our family and friends, and become husband and wife! One flesh. This is a great mystery … but yes, the Lord designed marriage to reflect Christ and the Church. And it is glorious.

Ephesians 5:31-33

31¬†‚ÄúFor this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the¬†two shall become one flesh.‚Ä̬†32¬†This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.¬†33¬†Nevertheless¬†let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife¬†see¬†that she¬†respects¬†her¬†husband.

We have been reading The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller together, and it’s been so good. We also did pre-martial counseling with our much-loved pastor and his wife. And now we’ve been meeting with some married couples in the church and asking them questions about marriage. It has been awesome! We’ve gotten such profound insight, wise advice, and glimpses into marriages and the hard work as well as the very sweet joy of it. We’ve been exhorted to keep God at the center and minister to others as a couple.

I become more excited everyday. I think about the way my heart swells when we sit in church together under the preaching of the Word, and then worship our Savior. I think about the precious communion together with our God when we pray with each other. I think of all the times he’s prayed over me when I’m fighting through my depression and anxiety. I think about the joy it is to reach out to and visit with our church family as a couple. I think of the hard conversations that just melded our hearts closer. I think of the many, many deep talks, and sharing, and learning to trust, and growing in friendship. I think of the ways God is using us to sanctify, heal, bless, and grow each other. And just the butterflies in my stomach when I look into his eyes and know he loves me.

How sweet to be chosen this way.

Genesis 2:20-25

But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

23 And Adam said:

“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was¬†taken out of Man.‚ÄĚ

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

It is an honor to be the woman God has chosen for this man. It is a privilege to know God will use me in this man’s life to draw him to Himself and make him more like Christ. It is a beautiful joy to live out marriage as a witness of Christ to the world. It is a precious gift to be able to be a Christian wife and all that entails.

How sweet of the Father to grant this to us. May He enable us to do hard things, persevere, forgive, change, and sacrificially love. May our marriage radiantly glorify Him. May He use us as a couple in His kingdom work. May the blessing He’s poured out on us in turn bless those around us!

Okay, and can I just say again how excited I am to be a bride? And wear a white dress? And say my vows to this man, pledging myself to him? And exchange rings? And all the things?? Sometimes I feel like a princess, and I found my very own knight. ‚̧ It isn’t perfect and we aren’t perfect, but he is the one for me, and I am the one for him. For as long as we live. We see God’s hand in this. And it is beautiful. And good. And I love him. And I’m getting married. At last. Praise God for doing this! *all the happy praises and celebrations*

***

And they hope to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Over the years you have lifted one another up to me. You sacrificed for one another. You held one another up with prayer and thanksgiving. You confronted each other. You rebuked each other. You hugged and you loved each other and continually pushed each other toward me. And now look at you. You’re radiant.”

Romance, sex, and plain fun are the by-products of this process of sanctification, refinement, glorification. Those things are important, but they can’t keep the marriage going through years and years of ordinary life. What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness. You’re committed to his or her beauty. {…}

Now we can see how marriage-as-friendship agrees so well with love-as-commitment. On the cross, Jesus did not look down on us with a heart full of admiration and affection. He felt no “chemistry”.¬† But he gave himself. He put our needs ahead of his own; he sacrificed for us. But the Bible tells spouses not only to imitate the quality and manner of Christ’s love but also the goal of it. Jesus died not because we were lovely, but to make us lovely. – The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller [pgs. 134-135]

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A Little Something on Politics

So here we are … once again on the eve of Election Day in the United States of America.

It seems like there is so much division, fear, anger, ignorance, and desperation these days. I remember feeling the same four years ago. I wish it didn’t have to be this way. But the truth is, we live in in a fallen world and there is a spiritual war going on. Satan, the Father of lies, is at work and I feel like I can see the darkness he is spreading using politics.

I often get caught up in all that’s going on and the intense emotions, and then I start to feel sick, like, “Can everyone just stop being so crazy?? I don’t want to hear anymore!”

I struggle to know what to do. How to react to certain situations. What God would have me do. What is the godly, Christ-like thing to do? Where would God have me take a stand? Where would He bid me to keep silent and live quietly and peaceably? What situations have a direct spiritual impact that we should be aware of?

Today all of this weighed heavily, until I had to run to my Father’s presence, praying through tears for humility, wisdom, and guidance. Praying for courage. For faith.

I am so thankful that my God is on the throne. And He has gone into the future to prepare the way. And He promises wisdom to those who ask for it!

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. {James 1:5}

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me. {Psalm 139:1-5}

I’m a passionate person and a deep thinker, so I can’t help but form strong opinions about most things, including politics and cultural issues. I did early voting this past week; I’m grateful my country gives me a voice and I plan on using it as long as I have the freedom! – To speak up about things I feel are important.

Such as the unborn person’s right to life. The freedom for everyone to worship as they choose. The right to school our children at home and raise them with the values we hold to. The freedom of speech – the ability to voice our own mind and speak truth instead of divisive rhetoric formulated to serve the powerful’s agenda. Protection from tyranny – upholding the constitution to keep our governing authorities and leaders in their proper place. Because unreserved power in a select few person’s hands is eventually abused, for mankind’s heart is wicked.

[This is an intriguing series on America’s founding fathers, the constitution, abortion, and such: Make America Godly Again]

Although I feel strongly about these issues and patriotic about my country, I do realize this isn’t my home. America will not last forever. A president will never be our savior. I am a citizen of heaven, my allegiance is to God, and I have brothers and sisters from every tribe, tongue, and nation. My loyalty is to my heavenly Lord and my family in Christ first and foremost.

20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, {Philippians 3:20}

That all being said, I’m striving to look at politics through a Biblical lens.

We are admonished in Scripture to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? {Micah 6:8}

May God continue to humble my heart and help me walk by the Spirit. To fear Him. To be wise as a serpent yet innocent as a dove. To be filled with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. To seek justice and fight for the cause of the oppressed.

I’ve tried to care less about politics and issues going on in the culture. But that is only stifling a part of myself. I believe God has given me a heart that longs to understand. A deep sense of justice and truth. And a desire for unity, compassion, and transparency in the Church…even amidst differing opinions.

14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. {2 Chronicles 7:14}

God’s kingdom work takes many different forms. I feel like part of His kingdom work for me is seeking to understand what’s going on my country and taking a stand for His glory and for Christ’s sake. Fighting to stop the shedding of innocent blood is part of that. And speaking truth, even when it’s unpopular. Some of the popular rhetoric concerning minority groups is damaging and toxic, I fear. And it doesn’t appear to promote unity within the universal Church, family values, or Christ-likeness. In fact, just the opposite.

Is it really loving our fellow people to just go along with what culture tells us is right, true, and loving?

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. {2 Timothy 2:24-25}

My heart aches because I see people falling apart. Families breaking down. Riots. Destruction. Chaos. Sin. Confusion. Pain. Hatred. Division.

I want to understand. I want to reach out. I want to speak truth and watch people’s eyes light up with life. Because the truth sets us free.

Love and truth. When we are speaking and living in the love and truth of Christ, the results we should see are people seeking the Lord, humbling themselves before Him, and selflessly loving others.

What are the prevailing agendas in our culture promoting? The elevation of self? The putting down of other people? Finger pointing and blame shifting? The worship of a certain people group? Division? Hatred? Pride? Laziness? Carelessness? Justifying sin? Lack of responsibility and taking ownership of one’s own actions?

We need to take every situation and agenda to the Word of God and ask Him about the matter.

The Word says that for lack of understanding, a people perish. A country fails. Innocents suffer.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. {Hosea 4:6}

I don’t want to blindly follow what everyone else is doing. I want to carefully consider these things and evaluate them against Scripture and pray earnestly for direction.

Look at history. Remember the Holocaust. Adolph Hitler spoke of brainwashing the youth. If he could get them to believe his agenda, the country would be in his hands. He could do what evil he wanted. How does a whole country allow a people group, the Jews, to be treated so inhumanely? First having curfews and strange laws (like wearing a yellow star – an identifying badge) forced upon them, and then eventually being slaughtered by the masses while their countrymen stood by. How does this happen?

Maybe slowly. Silently.

So I think we have a part to play. Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. {1 Timothy 2:1-2}

And then rest. Rest in the assurance that He is forevermore on the throne. He is sovereign. He raises up kings, and He takes kings down. And He will keep all those entrusted to Him. And He will avenge those who have been wronged. And He will eventually judge the living and the dead, and restore the world to perfection. Ridding it of evil.

21 And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding. {Daniel 2:21}

20 Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law,
Have fellowship with You?
21 They gather together against the life of the righteous,
And condemn innocent blood.
22 But the Lord has been my defense,
And my God the rock of my refuge.
23 He has brought on them their own iniquity,
And shall cut them off in their own wickedness;
The Lord our God shall cut them off. {Psalm 94:20-23}

So, regardless of who gets elected tomorrow, my Jesus reigns supreme. (Whether people want Him to or not). He will prevail over evil and darkness. And our purpose as God’s people remains – to make much of His name, implore souls to be reconciled to Him, and love with His love.

Do not put your trust in princes,
Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
His spirit departs, he returns to his earth;
In that very day his plans perish. {Psalm 146:3-4}

Take heart, dear friend. If you are a child of the King, know He holds you secure. He holds tomorrow. He holds the future. If you are unsure of how to process politics and this election, know that you can ask God for wisdom and He will give it!

Oh, Lord God, I come before you tonight asking for You to have Your hand over Your people, over this country, and the upcoming election. Thank You that ALL things are in Your mighty hands. Thank You that we can safely trust in You and that we need not fear because we belong to You.

You are mighty and good and gracious. I pray that Your people will seek Your face and ask for wisdom, because You promise to give it. I pray that You will be glorified through Your people’s actions concerning this election. May our hearts yearn to glorify You in everything we do. Awaken the Church to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with you. Humble us, Lord, and raise us up to do your work. Thank You that Your plans will prevail.

Father, I pray for unity and compassion and deep love among Your children, for love covers a multitude of sins. Help us to be diligent about prayer. Praying for wisdom. Praying against darkness. Praying for our leaders. Praying for the hurting and the lost.

I pray for Your peace that passes understanding to cover those who are fearful or anxious about the election, the state of our country, and what the future holds. Comfort their hearts, dear Lord. Help them to fix their gaze upon You.

Thank You for Your Word, Your Truth, and Your love! You are so worthy of our praise, our love, our trust, our complete loyalty. Thank You that You gave us Your Spirit to guide us. Thank you that You will continue to grow us in to the image of Christ. Thank You that we belong to Your Family, through Jesus Christ’s precious blood. Thank You that we are betrothed to You forever. Thank You that You have gone into the future to prepare the way. Keep our eyes on You. I pray this all in the holy name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. {2 Timothy 1:7}

‚̧ Lady Grace

Even Then

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Hello, readers. I hope you all have been doing well. I feel like it’s time for me to give a life update to any of you who still follow me. If you’ve read my blogs often, you’ve probably heard me mention anxiety and depression. Today I just want to talk a little bit about my continued journey with that and what’s up in life.

So back in March I moved out-of-state, away from my family. I felt like I had been in a particular season of struggle, loneliness, and lack of community for a long, long time, and God was now calling me out of it.

It all really started when I went to the Cross conference back in January of 2019. I started seriously praying about moving. I backed out, in a decision made in fear. But about seven months later, the idea of moving was put on my heart again. I pretty much made up my mind to go. But the time wasn’t quite right yet. So I waited. Another seven, prayer-filled months ensued…filled with days of deep faith, and also days of deep fear and depression. Some days I felt like I could hardly keep my head above the “water”. I kept going back to 1 Peter 5:6-11, which had long been on my heart. I even memorized it. Amidst the struggle, God provided beautifully right where I was at – no outward circumstances changed. But I truly believed that He was calling me out of those circumstances slowly but surely, and into a time of healing where He would more firmly establish His purposes for me.

1 Peter 5:6-11

6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

So, my tentative plan was to move spring 2020. But as spring drew near, my anxiety grew. I desperately needed a new car. I had no job lined up in my place of destination. I wasn’t 100% comfortable about a living situation. And I didn’t want to make this trip alone – I’m a nervous driver. How was I going to do this?? Was I really ready for this? Was I running away? What if my depression overcame me in a new place away from my family and comfort of familiarity?

I even had a woman tell me that she thought I shouldn’t move and God was telling her all these things about my life contradictory to what I was thinking. In that moment, though, as I prayed through fear, I felt a boldness rise up in my spirit. As if God through His Holy Spirit was prompting me: Tell her what God has been telling you. How He’s been confirming this move through prayer, your godly counselors, Scripture, and sermons. Don’t be tossed about by every wind and wave that comes your way. Be steadfast. Don’t doubt the Lord’s work in your life. Don’t doubt what He’s been growing a pleasing faith for in you.

So I did. And I kept praying. And committing this to God. And seeking godly counsel. And I surrendered this into my Father’s hands. “Make it happen, Lord.”

Within a couple weeks of really surrendering, a cousin offered to drive me and haul all my belongings. My living situation was established. And I had peace and hope that God was going to provide all that I needed – including a car and job. (Matthew 6:25-34)

I was officially moving March 17th. It felt good to have a set date.

A day before I was supposed to get on the road, all the covid-19 stuff started really blowing up. That night people were literally whispering about a national lock-down. I had my few minutes of freaking out. But there was no turning back now. Did I believe God has opened up the doors for this? Yes! I was going to do this! No more wavering and weakness. I was taking the leap of faith in obedience and leaving the rest in God’s hands. So be it.

Hebrews 11:6

6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

So I moved. Shortly thereafter, social distancing and shelter-in-place happened. But God provided so abundantly even through these strange times.

And by the end of March, I had a car! April 6th, I started a job at a grocery store! Wow! It was so stunning to see God do above and beyond what I expected. Demolish my fears. Grow my faith. He is my provider.

An even bigger blessing is the way He has gifted me with incredibly sweet and deep friendships, and kind, wise spiritual mentors. Rich, faith community in a way that I’ve never experienced it before. I got a taste of it at the Cross conference. And now I’m here in the midst of it. I marvel at the group of godly young people the Lord has established here and I nearly weep at the thought of how He in His Fatherly love has settled me among them.

John 15:7-8

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

God answers prayers, indeed. I’ve talked often on this blog about how important I believe a tight-knit, sound, loving church and authentic fellowship is. How deeply I long for friends who grow my affection for Christ. How much I need spiritual leadership. I’ve shared how I’ve been petitioning God for such things in my life. So let this be a testimony to you, my dear readers. God answered. I am overwhelmed by what He has poured into my life.

Matthew 7:7-11

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

I have recently been able to actually meet for church on Sundays and I already feel at home. This small, solid, loving, Christ-exalting church is what I have prayed for. The pastor is such a spiritual leader/mentor for me already. And again, I can only marvel at God’s goodness and faithful hand in my life.

Oh, how He loves His children.

I don’t believe I have ever felt so loved, belonging, sheltered, and cared for. This is faith community. This is fellowship. This is doing life together. This is encouraging each other in the Lord. This is making much of His name together. Already I have such an affection for my church family.

It does my soul good to recount this journey of faith and ponder my God’s grace toward me. To remember all the prayers He’s answered in such a short time and where He’s brought me!

Luke 12:32

32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

In many ways, I’ve moved out of my season of struggle and into a time of being enfolded into a dear flock of brothers and sisters in Christ.

But in other ways, I struggle on. This is life.

Depression and anxiety come for me periodically, without fail. Almost always they linger in the dark, back corners of my heart and mind. And some weeks, even here amidst a dear church family, I feel near hopeless and my thoughts scream for me to escape myself. For days, I try to get away from the dark cloud, but it lingers and heavily oppresses.

Today I am perhaps coming out of one such week. Glimpsing the light! I spent all afternoon at a park, walking and talking with God. And yesterday evening I was out on the water, kayaking, which seems to be very good for my soul.

The darkness that plagues me is every bit as black even after moving. As I knew it would be. But still, it makes a tremendous impact on me when my pastor pulls me aside Sunday morning after church and listens to my heart and prays over me. And when several others express care and concern and also pray.

See, life is full of troubles. But to have a community of believers to walk alongside you and bear your burdens with you brings deeper hope.

We are His, and Christ is ours forevermore.

So I fight on through depression/anxiety. And I pray for victory. And I know I already have victory. I will not be overcome, because of Christ. I claim the joy that is mine because I am His. The joy of the LORD is my strength.

I do not – can not – give up because of the Holy Spirit within me and the eternal joy and goodness that awaits me. Christ is mine and I am His. And nothing can change that, no matter how numb and “feeling-less” I feel. No matter how the darkness and questioning press. Now matter how the hopelessness and panic squeeze my soul.

I cling to Truth.

And I lift my hands and worship God for Him. And praise Him for putting me here and giving me these people.

This week I’ve been blessed to have trusted friends who listen to me talk and process and agonize and talk some more over this thing I face. They empathize, and pray, and turn my gaze to my precious Jesus. I’ve been blessed to be out on the water – it is soothing and still. I’ve been blessed to go alone to a park and spend hours talking aloud to God – pouring out my heart, reading Scripture, quoting memorized passages, doing devotions, writing,¬† calling my mom and sister, and practicing disc-golf.

In the midst of depression, I often feel like I’m never going to find my way out. I know that’s not true – I always do come out. But yet it always comes back. I get so sick of it. I become panicky at the thought of fighting one wave after another for the rest of my life.

In the darkness I oftentimes feel like a really bad Christian. A failure. Spiritually immature. I wonder if I’ve been doing something wrong and this is God turning His back. I fear I am too much of a burden for people.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

7¬†And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to¬†buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.¬†8¬†Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.¬†9¬†And He said to me,¬†‚ÄúMy grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.‚Ä̬†Therefore most gladly¬†I will rather boast in my infirmities,¬†that the power of Christ may rest upon me.¬†10¬†Therefore¬†I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ‚Äôs sake.¬†For when I am weak, then I am strong.

And yet God brings me through again and again and I find my joy again. And I see His work in my life. And I see the purposes He has for me. And I feel His face shine upon me. And my heart is filled with passion and love, and I rest in His embrace. He is my desire.

I still pray for victory over this … healing. But in the meantime, may my Lord’s power be on display in the face of my extreme weakness. May the dark days increase my dependence on Him. May the numb mornings make me long ever more for the day when I will be more alive than I have ever been – when He returns. Then I will be made whole. I will know and be fully known. I will feel perfect love and love perfectly. There will be no more questioning or tears or darkness. I will be truly united with the Lover of my soul.

May you grow in this hope with me.

‚̧ Lady Grace

Psalm 34:1-5

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.

8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. 

Book Review: What Momma Left Behind by Cindy K. Sproles

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What Momma Left Behind by Cindy K. Sproles

My Personal Review ~ 4 stars

Cindy K. Sproles certainly knows how to write an unexpected adventure. I’d only read one other book of hers before What Momma Left Behind, but I wasn’t worried about this book boring me. Cindy’s writing style is so unique and different, it’s bound to capture you in one way or another.

I was transported back to 1877, in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. Worie Dressar is a tough, seventeen-year-old, mountain girl. She’s used to the hardship of her people’s way of life, but with influenza and typhoid snuffing out lives left and right, the burden on her shoulders becomes heavier than she thinks she can carry.

Worie was a unique character. Her battle with bitterness, anger, grief, love, and faith was thought-provoking and moving to watch unfold … The emotions. The relationships. The tragedy. The hope. The love. It was intense. My heart was especially touched seeing her heart change with the children as this story progressed. It was so tender and deep. I really loved how things turned out – it was profound and filled with purpose.

But there was at least one thing about the story that I really struggled with. *Spoilers* A faith-filled woman who commits suicide. I wrestle over that, because if you’re in the Word daily and pressing into the Lord, how can you not know that He bought you at a high price – yes, His own blood! – and that your life is not in your hands to take? You are not your own. Because of despair or self-sacrifice, suicide is not right, and I struggled with how this book portrayed it. It is so grievous and such a heavy subject. My heart aches for those who have lost someone to suicide or struggle with suicidal thoughts, and I think we have to be so careful how we approach this topic. Your life is precious and sacred and belongs to God.

So in many ways, What Momma Left Behind was raw and harsh … perhaps much like the mountain life back then. There were a lot of awful things that happened. But there was also such a beautiful, redemptive aspect to this tale. Where love triumphs. Where faith runs deep even in the brokenness. A well-done story. I sincerely look forward to reading more Cindy K. Sproles.

I received a complimentary copy of What Momma Left Behind from Revell Publishers. This review is my own, honest thoughts.

Book Review: A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy

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A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy

My Personal Review ~ 4 stars

A Mosaic of Wings is another enjoyable, Christian historical romance novel. And it definitely had it’s unique aspects that set it apart. I found myself transported to another era and culture … which is always a delight.

Set in the late 1800s, this story focuses on Nora Shipley, a young woman going to college for entomology and trying to find her purpose in life. It explores father/daughter relationships, and we walk alongside Nora in grief, bitterness, confusion, hurt … and hope. Friendship, faith, conviction, and love blossom on an exciting trip to India.

I really liked getting to know these characters. Nora was a little harsh and headstrong at times, but there were also moments when we saw her heart softened and heard her apologies. The complexities of some of the relationships were intriguing and thought-provoking. I loved the depth and the hard decisions made in India – and the ultimate beauty coming from destruction and chaos.

There were some aspects of the book that got a little edgy in my opinion. Feminism was pushed a bit. Some sinful behaviors and attitudes seemed to go unchecked.

But overall it was a good read. A touching historical fiction. I enjoyed learning more about butterflies and insects, journeying through Indian forests, and watching Nora grow.

I received a complimentary copy of A Mosaic of Wings from Bethany House Publishers. This review is honest and my own. 

To Be A Sweet Fragrance

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I want to be liked. I want to be affirmed. I want people to enjoy being around me. I want to have something special to add to the world.

As a teenager and even into my adult years, I was severely insecure and self-conscious. I was never part of the inner circle … felt like I was always on the outside looking in. I was awkward and shy, and worst of all, I wasn’t anything special. Nothing about me or my abilities made me stand out. I often felt overlooked. And when I was noticed, I stammered and blushed and felt stupid.

There was always this longing inside. I wanted to belong – to be wanted!

Over the past couple years I’ve worked through a lot of these insecurities and have even become a part of some “inner circles”! It’s an incredibly sweet thing, I must say.

But I still find myself drifting to that insecure place deep in my heart at times. I wonder if I’m being real and if I was being real would people still like me?

People say I’m sweet. But am I really sweet inside? Or is that just how I come across because I’m quiet when I’m first getting to know people?

Am I truly calm, kind, wise, mature, sweet, and happy? Or are those just fronts I find easy to put on for a day … but would fade with time and show that I hide an unstable, unlikable person inside? Maybe my true self is actually more critical, tumultuous, selfish, prideful, and passionate to a fault?

I’m afraid that time will reveal my true colors and people’s admiration or liking of me will ebb and vanish. And I’ll be alone again.

So there’s that.

And now here’s what I believe God’s been teaching me.

I do hold a lot of ugliness inside. I am a fallen, broken, sinful human being. I am selfish, prideful, critical, tumultuous, and can be intense/passionate to a fault. I have a big capacity to hurt people and drive them from me. I walked in darkness, and at times it shadows me still.

But there’s a beautiful part to follow … I am also a new creation in Christ! As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18: Therefore, if anyone¬†is¬†in Christ,¬†he is a new creation;¬†old things have passed away; behold, all things have become¬†new.¬†Now all things¬†are¬†of God,¬†who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,

  • Made in the image of God, as it says in Genesis 1:27: So God created man¬†in His¬†own¬†image; in the image of God He created him;¬†male and female He created them.
  • A child of light, as it says in Ephesians 5:8-10: For you were once darkness, but now¬†you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light¬†(for¬†the fruit of the Spirit¬†is¬†in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),¬†finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
  • Of a special people, as it says in 1 Peter 2:9-10: But you¬†are¬†a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of¬†darkness into His marvelous light;¬†who once¬†were¬†not a people but¬†are¬†now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
  • Christ’s ambassador here on earth, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:20-21: Now then, we are¬†ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore¬†you¬†on Christ‚Äôs behalf, be reconciled to God.¬†For¬†He made Him who knew no sin¬†to be¬†sin for us, that we might become¬†the righteousness of God in Him.
  • Holy and beloved, as it says in Colossians 3:12: Therefore,¬†as¬†the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
  • Cleansed, as it says in Hebrews 9:14: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

So on one hand I am at war with my old self. And I don’t have much to offer when I’m letting my old self get the upper hand. If I try to be liked, worthy, acceptable, and beautiful to people around me, I struggle and strive in vain. Because I’m broken! And my broken edges often wound and push people away.

But on the other hand, when I press into Christ and my identity in Him, I do have something to offer and there is something beautiful about me.

Psalm 127:1-2

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.

And people can affirm Christ in me! This is glorifying to God.

Because truly, without Christ I am not a pretty picture. But with His Holy Spirit within me, radiant things spring forth! The fruit of the Spirit starts blooming in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

And when people affirm those qualities in me, I can rejoice without fear, knowing that God is working out this loveliness in me and it is good.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I (and you) don’t have to struggle to be liked, accepted, affirmed, and wanted. We don’t have to fear that the real us is unacceptable.

Because in Christ, the real us is beloved. Dearly loved children of God. And He will finish the work He started in us. And He has prepared good works in advance for us to do them. And the Holy Spirit does dwell within us. And we are new creations. And it is beautiful and worthy to be affirmed.

Ah. To be a child of God. To be a daughter of the Most High. To be chosen. Pursued. Adopted. Cherished. To be Christ’s representative here on earth. To be part of the Bride of Christ! To be the fragrance of Christ to those around me.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15

14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

It is incredible. I don’t deserve this. These titles.

But I find myself in sweet wonder wanting to grow in those identities. And I no longer desire so desperately to be liked, and fear so deeply being rejected, but I long for people to see and affirm God in me.

And I have this faith that as I keep growing in the Lord and living in His Word and walking by the Spirit, they will and they do.

And this is an identity I don’t have to fear losing because it is Christ doing the work in me. I can rejoice when people say I’m kind or sweet or wise or steady because this is the Spirit within me. This is God’s work in me. Glory be to His name! He is worthy! He is good! He is faithful.

How rich and sweet it is to belong to Jesus Christ and to His Church.

So, dear brother or sister in Christ, do not fear being unwanted. Recognize your identity in Christ. Recognize the Spirit’s work in your life. Press into the Lover of your soul and delight to spread the beautiful fragrance of Christ wherever you go. ‚̧

My pastor recommended a book to me called “Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God” by Sam Crabtree and it talks a lot about the idea of affirming the character of God in others and wanting to be affirmed in Christ. It’s been an amazing read so far and I highly recommend!

Walk forth in grace, dear readers!

 

 

Movie Review: Unplanned

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Unplanned

~ My Personal Review ~

I am so torn up inside right now. I knew this movie was going to be hard to watch, but I didn’t quite realize to what extent. The gruesome, shocking reality of abortion is portrayed in a very raw way in Unplanned. It left me so deeply shaken, yet I want everyone to see this film so our eyes are opened to the real battle for life in front of us, and the butchery that goes on in clinics like Planned Parenthood. It is truly unfathomable. The fear. The lies. The deception. The money. The blood. The evil. There is a spiritual war here that is enormous.

Unplanned is based on the true story of Abby Johnson, the youngest director at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Her career started out volunteering at this abortion clinic, and built up from there. Until one day, around eight years later, she saw something that would change the trajectory of her life.

Life. Life is sacred! Yet every day in our civilized nation, helpless babies are being ripped from the womb in most horrific ways. I could hardly watch as it played across the screen – the ultrasound showing this tiny baby fighting for its life as it was being suctioned out of its mother’s body. This is the standard abortion procedure. Oh, my heart is heavy.

Some scenes are like watching an awful crime movie where the doctors are the serial killers. And they openly murder babies each day … yet the extent of what they’re doing is kept somewhat under wraps. So many women have no clear idea of what they’re doing when they go in to end that unwanted pregnancy. I can’t even find the words to describe it. The horror. So cold. So calculated.

Maybe you’re wondering why I recommend you watch such horrible things. I say because it’s not just a movie. It’s real life. This brutal killing is happening every day. These ignorant and afraid expectant mothers are being lied to and abused. Life is treated so carelessly. So maliciously. These babies … these women … need our voices. Unplanned shows with raw, gritty detail that abortion is a declaration of war against the unborn, against life, against womanhood. Against God. For each of these unborn babies is an image-bearer of Him. May He have mercy.

Despite the darkness portrayed and the heaviness this movie brings, it had it’s light moments sprinkled in here and there. It was well-done. Truly gripping and intense. Very moving … this story strikes deep and forces you to face the reality of abortion. And there were beautiful moments of redemption. Scenes that gave hope.

So what are we going to do with the truth we now hold? The truth of what abortion and being pro-choice mean. The truth of what goes on in clinics such as Planned Parenthood. We have to be a voice for those who have none.

With a strong caution attached, I recommend you watch this movie. (It’s free with Amazon Prime.) Especially if you’re not 100% pro-life or unsure in cases of rape or incest. Watch it if you’re pro-choice. Watch it if you’re pro-life. Hear the true story of a director of Planned Parenthood and the brutal truths she uncovered.

And more than just watching a movie, truly stand up for life. Pray. Pray at the gates of an abortion clinic! Support, donate to, and volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center! Participate in a march for life. Educate women with love and gentleness. Champion behind adoption. Place high value on and esteem women, motherhood, children, and pregnancy. Value life.

Unplanned is truly a needed film in our day and age. Incredibly important. Don’t miss the chance to be impacted.

Unplanned Movie Website

Watch the Movie Trailer

Buy the Book

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Abby Johnson’s Website

Abby Johnson on Facebook

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Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, on Facebook

Lila Rose on Instagram

The Candace Owens Show: Lila Rose

Updated Cover Reveal: Dare by Tricia Mingerink

Hello, dear readers! You don’t know how excited I am about today’s post! It brings such a happy feeling to my heart. ‚̧ I read Dare by Tricia Mingerink years ago … around the time I released my Cinderella retelling novella … and absolutely loved it! The whole series has been amazing and has such a special place in my heart. So it’s with honor that I reveal the updated cover for Dare {book one in the BLADES OF ACKTAR series} and it is one-hundred percent epic! ūüėÄ

Check it out!! And don’t miss the one-of-a-kind, non-magical, deeply Christian fantasy series! It’s sure to become a favorite!

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Today is the cover reveal of the new cover for Dare, the first book in THE BlADES OF ACKTAR series. It has been nearly five years since Dare released, and it was about time to spruce up the series a bit.

Savannah Jezowski at Dragonpen Designs did the new cover, and she did a stunning job. She is currently hard at work on the covers for the rest of the series.

Here is the new cover!

The whole cover is so amazing, here is a peek at the full wrap cover:

The new cover goes live on Amazon today. It may take a little while for the new cover to work its way through the system, so I can’t guarantee that paperback orders placed today will have the new cover.

Book Review: Secrets of the Happy Soul by Katie Orr

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Secrets of the Happy Soul: Experiencing the Deep Delight You Were Made For by Katie Orr

My Personal Review ~ 5 stars

This is such a deep and beautiful book! Friends, I highly recommend Secrets of the Happy Soul by Katie Orr. It is well worth the read, the ending even leaving me in tears. So good.

When I first saw the simple, pretty cover and read the title of this book I thought it might be kind of a fluffy read, if you know what I mean. People are always trying to give us a number of steps and things to do and attitudes to adopt to make us happy … but their advice often ends up being shallow and short-reaching. Not so with Secrets of the Happy Soul. Katie Orr truly seems to understand what a happy soul is. She constantly points to Christ and the focus is on living a life centered on Him. “The Happy Soul is attached to God’s Word.” “The Happy Soul is dependent on God’s provision.” “The Happy Soul is surrendered to her King.”

The Happy Soul presents her doubts and questions to God, then sermonizes her soul toward the truth of His character. ~ Secrets of the Happy Soul by Katie Orr

This is the advice we need. Solid, Biblical advice that urges us to keep our eyes fixed on our Lord Jesus. Katie Orr is a pastor’s wife and she goes pretty deep with theology, and the Greek meaning of words, and different things. I get the feeling that she really studies her Bible and seeks God. She doesn’t just have a surface level relationship with God. This is beautiful and I feel like it gives her the credibility to write a book like Secrets of the Happy Soul.

… consider the views you hold: your actions and speech, the way you spend your time and money, what you believe about parenting, marriage, and sexuality. … Examine the conversations you hear and the teachings you have received through the lens of what the Bible says. ~ Secrets of the Happy Soul by Katie Orr

It’s not all shallow, self-focused, fluffy, and feel-good, but it is richly moving and deeply good. We’re reminded that we’re here for the glory of the King of Kings. And that we are happy souls, and how to claim that truth.

The key to realizing “success” in the Christian life is not in trying harder. Intimacy with God is found as we believe better. As our view of God grows, our actions naturally follow suit. Our desires change. ~ Secrets of the Happy Soul by Katie Orr

This book shares a lot of Scripture. It also has “soul searching” sections, questions, and prayers at the end of each chapter. It doesn’t gloss over the hard things. It digs deep. Katie Orr writes in an engaging, authentic way and keeps the reader interested. I did a lot of underlining, and like I said, teared up at the end of the book. Such a perfect book to read during confusing, dark times of struggle.

We need to be steeped in a continual communion with Him, because we can never be truly sweet on our own. We need the presence of God to permeate every part of us. ~ Secrets of the Happy Soul by Katie Orr

As always, I like to remind my readers that books are written by imperfect humans! They’re not going to be one-hundred amazing and accurate. But I think it’s wonderful and important to read books (testimonies, in a way) from our brothers and sisters in Christ and learn from them, and grow, and glorify God! I believe that Katie Orr is a mature, humble sister in Christ, and Secrets of the Happy Soul a truly helpful and Biblically-based read.

I received a complimentary copy of Secrets of the Happy Soul from Bethany House Publishers. This review is honest and completely my own.

Sermons & Podcasts: Relationships, Gender Roles, Romance, and Marriage

Hello, lovely readers! I just listened to a sermon from David Platt today while cleaning windows that was so powerful! And so I want to share some snippets from that sermon as well as some of the other sermons I’ve listened to on this subject … The subject of marriage! ūüôā

Relationships, Gender Roles, Romance, and Marriage – the Best Sermons/Podcasts I’ve Heard

David Platt – Attachment: The Gospel and Marriage

“How we respond to these texts [on marriage] has a direct affect on our ability to show the gospel to the nations.”

“All across the culture – all across the Church – Christ is being slandered by how we live out marriage.”

“Husbands, when you ignore your wife, you’re telling the world that Christ ignores His Church.”

“Wives, when you disrespect your husband you’re telling the world that the Church does not respect Christ.”

“Husbands, I believe that Scripture teaches that you have a responsibility for the loveliness and holiness of your wife. … You are accountable to God by the way you lead your wife to loveliness and holiness.”

“This picture of headship should have every husband trembling before God.”

“Together, Husband and Wife, you preach the gospel to the world by the way you love each other.”

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David Platt – Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: Part 1

David Platt – Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: Part 2

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Ben Stuart – Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Single

Ben Stuart – Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Who to Date

Ben Stuart – Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: How to Date

Ben Stuart – Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: How to Know that You Know

Ben Stuart – Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: The Best Marriage

Ben Stuart – Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Marriage on Mission

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Voddie Baucham – Biblical Manhood

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9am Plenary Wed 20 October 2010.Photo: Micah Chiang

Is a Similar Sense of Calling Required for Marriage? // Ask Pastor John

John Piper – When a Man Loves a Woman Well