Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Work Hard, Play Later

I've heard it said that anything worth having costs something - usually hard work.

We celebrated 28 years of marriage this last weekend. And by celebrated I mean we went to church with our son, out to dinner (Chinese buffet because we are fancy) with our pastor and his family and another couple we recently met, then walked around Target picking up some toilet paper and hair color. Then we took a nap and rounded out the day with the second viewing of The Greatest Showman from our amazon prime account so we could get our money's worth on that rental.

I know what you're thinking - we really know how to celebrate big. Don't be jealous of the romance.

The truth is, with Ben's recent graduation from Moody Seminary in Chicago and the road trip out there, a Sunday nap on a rainy day sounded like a perfectly romantic anniversary celebration.

Anniversaries always get me to thinking. And as the years rack up, I wonder how we made it but other couples don't. On this end, the years seemed to have passed quickly. One could even daydream that it's been a pretty easy go of it. But again, anything worthwhile takes work. I might even go so far as suggesting the harder the work, the better the end product.

As I consider our years together, the most challenging were in the not too distant past. I like to refer to it as the darkness, the wilderness, the winter, the storm. They all fit.

We had been beaten up. Chewed up and spit out. By a church no less. For the following three years money was tight and stress was high. Scott was unemployed or underemployed. For three years, people. Translation - he was  always at home. He was home more than he wanted to be and I was strangling in what I like to call 'unnatural togetherness'.

Don't get me wrong - I still loved him madly - but his presence in the house (my office) was a constant reminder that our situation wasn't changing. Is anyone else getting sweaty or is it just the memory recollection?

I'd like to report what a champ I was, welcoming, warm, hospitable to my innocent husband. Sometimes it was more like this.

"It's not that I don't want you here, honey. You are welcome always, just not Monday through Friday, 8-5."

"How about you go to Starbucks to study and send resumes and look for a job for a while? You know - change of scenery might do you good!"

I could feel my heart chilling. I was pulling away a little, justified in needing my own space.

I wish I was kidding.

Worse thoughts were often on the tip of my tongue but I managed to swallow them before they escaped and did damage.

Daily I prayed my usual prayers for God to rescue us and give us purpose again. Begging. I received mostly silence.

On a particularly difficult day I really wanted to lash out and blame Scott. I sensed God was aware and issuing a warning to me. An image came to my mind of my bare toes peering over the slippery edge of a very deep, dark hole in the ground. I was looking down in there.

"Take a look. Many a foolish woman has stood in this very spot. Do you want to go down there where good marriages end up when a selfish young wife doesn't get everything her way?
It's your choice."

Me: "I still love him. I just can't take this any more."
I began to list my justifiable complaints.

"When this season is over, what will your kids remember about how you treated their father in his worst days, his lowest low?"

Low blow.

"Who is going to be this man's champion....for better or worse?"

Why so harsh, Lord?

"Will Scott be able to say when it's all over that "my wife was right by my side all the way"?

Well, when you put it that way.

Have you ever noticed that certain verses you are familiar with, just happen to come to mind when you least expect?

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a]who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. Phil. 2:1-7

A wise son (daughter) heeds his father’s instruction,
    but a mocker does not respond to rebukes. Prov. 13:1

Years ago when confronted with similar foolishness prevention on my part, I put into practice two other marriage building strategies.

1. When tempted to say something potentially hurtful, I would fast forward about five minutes and imagine how it was going to land on my target (in this case, my husband). How will he hear it? Will it change the harmony in our relationship or atmosphere of our home in a negative way? How will it affect the rest of the family? How long will the resulting tension and disharmony last? Consequently, is it really worth 'getting it off my chest'?

This next question I formed during our years of church ministry when fellow parishioners would say hurtful, discouraging, even hateful things to Scott.

2. Do I have the Holy Spirit's permission to say these things at this time to a person created in the image of God (which, of course, is everyone)?

Now God turned it back to me. Did I have His permission to unload the ugly? No, I don't believe I do.

I guess I did have a decision to make.

With the verses above in hand, my marriage vows dusted off and perched where I could see them, I repented. I changed direction.

 After I had a little talk with Jesus, I had a little talk with myself.

My chest puffed with resolve. I can do this. I want to be my man's champion. I don't want to kick him when he's down. I want to be a mom my kids can be proud of. More than those, I don't want to be a foolish woman. I refuse to damage or tear my marriage apart because my perceived needs weren't being met by my husband because, in reality, only God promises to accomplish that feat. I want to be Spirit-filled and led. I'm going the way He goes.

It changed the climate of the rest of our winter. In my mind, I linked arms with Scott and wouldn't allow the enemy to tempt me to turn on him. Team Burtis. 

Interestingly, in our new season of empty nest, living up in no man's land, we are together more than ever and it is so sweet. Who could have imagined? And how could I have ruined it?

Here's the thing. I'm going to say something bold, but I truly believe this. 

The root cause for most marriages* ending can be summed up in one word. Selfishness.

Somewhere along the way, one or both decide their needs aren't being met and those needs have risen above the needs of the other. It's not about how I serve you, but how you serve me.

Your response is your decision. Ask yourself a few questions before you act...or react. Choose well and reap the blessings God has in store for you.

 Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. 
Psalm 128:1

And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience 
of you all... 2 Cor. 7:15

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6

*I'm omitting abuse and unrepentant adultery here.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

In Memory of a Woman Who's Legacy Needs to be Remembered

Recently I was informed by some who claim to love me that I am a "strong woman". It came in conjunction with an accusation of being somewhat "intimidating". Naturally, I bristled at these descriptions. Though encouraged to "take it as a compliment, it's not a bad thing", I beat myself up a bit and decided I probably need to work on my approachability, maybe back off some, get in the backseat, simmer down.

Then Barbara Bush's time on earth ended and I've been listening intently to different memories of her by many different voices. Strong Woman, Force of Nature, The Enforcer. Yes! She makes those titles look admirable and worth emulating especially when we see the fruit of her life. She was also gracious, lovely, and so funny. These traits can reside together.  Not every woman can pull this off and some give women a bad name, but Mrs. Bush was a woman of faith and I believe that was her real strength. The more I hear, the more I dig her. A good reminder for me that no one should back down from opportunities to influence because each one is God-appointed and weighty.

Below is a repost of a blog I wrote in the Fall of 2016 after a very special day. Nothing like being in the same room with someone you would love to meet and then getting your opportunity. Now that she is in heaven and getting lots of media exposure, I'm reminded anew of her amazing legacy and inspirational wisdom. Every woman can benefit from her life and choices, her character and class, a gift to all of us.
Mrs. Barbara Bush, once First Lady of the United States of America, was in the audience of a play we attended, to watch her daughter-in-law perform. We had a heads up that she would be there but didn't think access would be so easy.

Oh how I hate to stalk, but well, there she was. So beautiful. I asked if we could talk to her. She said, "Of course" and motioned us closer.

It went like this:

"Your husband is the first President I voted for."
She smiled warmly and thanked me.

"I read your memoir. It is still the biggest book I've ever read." (I shared one of my favorite stories from it here.)

BB: She confirmed the story and said, "You're a reader."
"Yes ma'am. I also read your son's book about your husband and absolutely loved it."

BB: "It's a love story, you know."

"I know! I was hooked from the first page. I believe there is no one alive today who is more qualified to be President than your husband. He's an amazing man."

BB: "He is still a wonderful man. He couldn't be here today. But he is the most kind and gracious person I know - and that's after 60 years of marriage!" I think she slapped her knee and laughed. (She told a cute story about President Bush here.)

"I'm sorry he wasn't re-elected. He should have been."

BB: "Oh, don't cry over spilt milk. It wasn't meant to be. We've had a very good life."
Mrs. Bush deflected compliments humbly.  What a refreshing response. 

Eventually (because we may or may not have been monopolizing this dear lady), Scott and I thanked her for her family's service to our country and asked for a picture. She not only agreed, but her people got up from their seats for us and took our phones at her direction to take the shot.

What a gracious, beautiful soul. She was much tinier and frail than I expected, but absolutely stunning with her BIG white Texas hair. What a thrill for us.

Who could have imagined meeting a First Lady in a small theater in New Hampshire? Later when I had time to reflect on the exchange, I wish I had also said:

"I know for a man to achieve such greatness, his wife has a lot to do with it. Thank you for all the sacrifices and contributions you also made."

"Thank you for being an excellent, honorable role model for women. You're one of the best. These days, someone like you is hard to find."

"Who are you going to vote for in November?"

Ah, I kid. I wouldn't have.

Just a PS for my kids who may be reading....THIS is another reason why you must READ books. All kinds! Especially biographies of greats. Remember, how I told you reading makes you an interesting conversationalist? See how it comes in handy when you least expect it?

Listen to your Mama.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

50 - Part 2 - 'S' Words

If you didn't read yesterday's post, bring yourself up to speed here.

A week or so before The Big Day, a friend who loves a good book as much as I do suggested a new title and author. I picked it up and knew immediately it was going to speak to some areas in my Christian life that needed attention. You see, I already knew something was off. I had a slight idea, but soon I would know fully.

I couldn't put the book down. I read it in a few days. The first few were brutal. The truth hurt.

What I found deep down as I read the author's story wasn't pretty. And it needed to be dealt with. I spent the next few days beating myself up because I've been down this road before. This stuff was not unfamiliar. I've battled it before. More on that later.

Have you experienced this? The Lord turned the mirror around and I saw sin that I am well acquainted with and despise, hoping it was a thing of the past but it crept back in somehow, unnoticed by my always probing eye. But that is part of the problem. That eye.

Do you remember when I wrote about my 2018 Lent experience? All the junk that surfaced from deep inside? Yeah, that. Self-absorption, self-preoccupation, self-consciousness, and the newest offender - self-evaluation. The one that fuels all the rest.

It stems from the stronghold of comparing with others. When I compare, I come up wanting. When I come up wanting, I do one of two things.
1. Self-soothe with shopping or naughty eating. Or 2. I plunge into any self-improvement strategy that comes my way or that I hungrily pursue. Did you notice more 'selfs' just arrived on the scene? The problem with this nasty 's' word is the one that accompanies it - consumed. Consumed with self-evaluation and self-improvement. Can we just stop and collectively say "ew"?

This is not good, friends. Ultimately, all these things point to the sin of pride, which is the thing I pray most against because I know my propensity toward it.

Now that it's all been identified and named, what do I do? Do business with God that's what.

The best way I know to do this is getting alone with my Bible and a journal. I wept as I wrote down all my confessions, hoping my children don't read it one day after I'm gone. It is embarrassing. I am 50 years old and still in this sticky trap. I came clean and told God how sorry I am. I was specific with each infraction because I know one can't repent if she doesn't deliberately turn away from the action.

Then I read some beautiful passages in the Bible that began to set me free. Ephesians 2 and Colossians 3 particularly. I learned that I am seated in and with Christ. A right now and future position. The right now is that I sit at a round table full of other Christ-followers. All equal. All gifted. No need for comparison because we are on the same team. Team Jesus!

My job is to fix my gaze on Jesus and adore Him. When I do that, I will have no time to obsess about my appearance, my financial situation or my achievements - all things I tend to use to measure my worth and identity. All I have to do is accomplish the works He has created in advance for me to do to bring Him glory during my time on Earth.

It's so much simpler than I've been making it. Sacred echoes (when God sends the same message through several different mediums) emerged all week as I worked through these passages.

It is finished - I don't have to keep trying to finish what's already done. I am enough for Jesus - I need to be enough for me and stop trying to improve.
Freedom - what Jesus secured for me on the cross. Free to roam around in the safe boundaries He has set for me, requiring no approval or affection from any person in my life.

I don't know how God does it, but truly He shows up in the middle of our confessions, accepts them and comforts with His presence.

In that area anyway, but there was still battle going on.

In my weakened state, the enemy took advantage. What I mean is that I got all the stuff right with God, but I was still at war within over other things. He convinced me that every compliment I might receive is false flattery. I didn't believe even one (which is likely why I fell into the self-evaluation and self-improvement mess). He pitched out the idea that because we've  moved away from our friend groups, up here in the isolated mountains, that I've been forgotten and most of them don't need or want me anymore - that I'd lost my place. When I looked at photos of my children when they were small I would cry, remembering only the ugly - was I too strict?; I didn't talk nice and yelled too much; why was I so impatient?; surely they don't remember their childhood with fondness. The regrets eclipsed any happy memories.

Gross, isn't it? Satan is mean. He wants to discourage us to the point of disbelief and paralysis. I confessed these fears to Scott and a friend. They rejected their validity and told me it was all lies.

Remember, this was happening during my 50th birthday week. Regardless of what I wrote in the previous post, I really was asking God to lower my expectations and shift my focus from self. That His love and approval would be enough.

I prayed, "God, help me see the truth. Don't let me swing into pride, but help me to see what you see."

Fast forward to Saturday night and a room full of women who affirmed lasting friendships that can withstand time and distance, my daughter who handed me the most beautiful letter she wrote about our relationship, and a special package of things I'd love from another darling young woman I've only seen twice in 25 years, which included a page she wrote '50 things about you that matter to me'. And that's just three of the meaningful sentiments given that night.

I was undone. This party was about so much more than my husband making a big deal about my birthday. It goes so infinitely deeper. God sees me. God knows me. God cares about what troubles me and He rescued me when I found myself in deep waters. He is patient when I struggle. He is loving and faithful to all His promises. And He used my attentive husband's planning to speak to me. I went to bed that night soul-filled, worshipful, eager for Sunday.

The next morning we were in church listening to our pastor's sermon and this is what I heard: "We will all struggle with sin. That's not the problem. That's part of the process. The problem comes when we surrender to the temptation to sin."

More freedom! You see, even once I realized what was happening as described above, I was still beating myself up, so mad for struggling with this junk (again). I knew better. I should be past this. But no, our struggle with sin isn't the problem - we're always going to have that. It doesn't make God mad or disappointed with us.

What needs to happen is that we wrestle the thing to the ground, show it who's boss (Jesus conquered sin on our behalf, we have power to say no), and then leave it there. Move on, girl. Don't give the devil time to send our minds into a whirlwind of lies.

Friends, this is why we need to go to church! God speaks when His Word is taught and we come eager to hear. There are few things I love more than when He brings all the sacred echoes together just like that.

I was hoping this would be a benchmark, line drawn in the sand, new direction for a new decade kind of birthday and it is. Nothing quite like a fresh start. I'm ready to go forward and leave all the 's' words back in my 40's.

Monday, April 16, 2018

50 - Full of Surprises

I had a birthday last week. A Big One. It turned out to be a much fuller week than I expected. Part of me wanted to ease into the new year without much fanfare because, well, it's 50. No one really wants to be 50. But there's a louder part of my heart that loves any occasion for presents and frosting to come my way.

Expectations can shall I say...affect a marriage. Even an (almost) 28-year-old relationship where one spouse should know better. Warning if you're new to this blog, you're going to love and feel very sorry for my husband by the end and I hope we can still be friends.

Based on history of the previous two BIG decade birthdays since our wedding day, I didn't exactly drudge up the past, I just voiced my hopes anew. You've got to have hope, right? This happened quite a few weeks ago (I like to provide time to prepare).

A - "Don't you want to ask me what I want for my birthday this year?"
S - "What do you want for your birthday this year?"
A - "I'm not sure, but I want it to be different from all the others. Whatever you do or buy, I want it to scream 'I know my wife and this is an important birthday!'"
S - eye contact, but hard to read expression. Something like, "Awesome, no pressure there."

Fast forward to The Big Day. I woke up, grabbed a cute mug and headed to my chair for quiet time with Jesus. I found a card and three gifts - wrapped in wrapping paper - not just thrown in a gift bag! I let myself be hopeful. I opened the card and it was loving and beautiful as it is every year.

When Scott got up, I opened the gifts. They were perfect. Not big and flashy, nothing screaming 'This is a BIG Birthday!", but appreciated for sure.
We went to work. Our young co-workers giving hugs and happy birthdays all morning. We ate a cake that our very thoughtful and generous friends drove two hours to bring me the day before.

As the afternoon progressed a common question arose, "What are you doing for your birthday today?" Since there was no word on dinner plans. I had to ask.

A - "Was I supposed to take something out for dinner? Or are we doing something?"
S - "Uh, sure, what do you want to do?"
In A's head - "What do I want to do? Not plan this day, that's what I want to do."
A - "So you don't have any plans?"
S - "You want to go down the mountain and go out to dinner?"
A - "Either that or I can scrounge around and make us something."
S - "Ok, let's go. Decide where you want to eat."
In A's head - "Excellent, just what I was hoping for."

Later, on the way, I say, "I got an email this week that prescription sunglasses are on sale - maybe I could see how much they cost and order a pair." He likes this idea.

I resign myself that this is what 50 year olds (with brand new bifocals) do on their birthday. He, or should I say our HSA account, sprung for the sunglasses. It was a thrilling moment. 

S - "Where should we eat? How about Panera - we have a gift card?"
A - "Sounds perfect."
I mean, excellent - let's use the card I was given for Christmas. Exactly what I would've picked.
S - "We can walk around Hobby Lobby too if you want!"

You have to love this man.

Later that night as I listened to his contented sleep breathing, I had a choice to make. What does a mature, hopefully somewhat godly woman do? Let it go, enabling him to think the day was a success? That's what an unselfish person would do, right? Or do I honestly tell him I was hoping for a little (ahem) more?

On and off the next two days, because of my commitment and duty to help him continue to be the great man he is and for the benefit of all the young men he influences (and their women), I gently shared a few things with him. It was for the greater good.

A - "Are there going to be any more presents? I love the three you got me, but I see they stemmed from our recent trip to Utah (translation: not your idea). Does this mean you had no ideas for me prior to the trip?"
S - "You don't like them?" Brilliant diversion. Puts it on me.
A - "I don't want to be a jerk, but I want you to know this birthday didn't seem any more special than the others."
S - "What? We had your favorite cake and went out to dinner."
A - "You didn't provide the cake and I made all the decisions for dinner."
Awkward end of conversation.

Brace yourselves, there's more.

Fast forward a few days. A full weekend in Syracuse was planned. Birthday breakfasts I'll tell you about later and helping our son Drew, Brittany and The Cuteness move into their new house. Last thing on the agenda was all of us going out to dinner.
Without any suspicion, we walked into a restaurant filled with about 30 of my favorite friends (minus a few who couldn't make it), and my daughter who had been avoiding me.

I was almost speechless. It should have been a "Go away from me, I'm a sinful woman" moment, but I was too happy. Turns out Scott does love me and CAN DO IT!
I wish you could have heard his choked up thank you to each who came to help him make his wife feel special. Mission accomplished. What a champ!

After almost twenty eight years together, he totally surprised me and remains quite proud of himself as of this writing. And he should be, especially after all he took without response from his wife for two days.

Can you imagine the gloating that has been taking place ever since? It couldn't happen to a more deserving birthday girl.

Speaking of deserving, here's one last confession because I'm nothing if not brutally honest and because I actually did go there.

When I didn't hear from two of my three grown children on The Big Day, I may or may not have suggested that this was on Scott too.

A - "Did you notice I didn't hear from unnamed child #1 and unnamed child #3 today? You know how the kids always call you and send you a card for your birthday? Do you think that's a coincidence? It's not. It's because I'm the one reminding and prompting. You should be training them how to honor their mother on her birthday."

I know what you're thinking, "Who says that?" Well, I guess I do.

Turns out both delinquents were avoiding me so as not to blow the secret. Isn't that adorable though?
Oh, I cringe.

Can I get an amen for forgiveness? Ha! Handed out in buckets by the most patient and gracious man who is so enjoying telling this story. Did I mention his sense of humor? Took none of my shenanigans to heart. Oh to be more like him.

Lastly and more importantly, what I really want you to know is that God showed up in living color last weekend too, proving once again that He knows me, He sees me, and He will respond when my heart becomes forgetful and shaky. This time He used the sweet gesture of my wonderful, caring husband and the love of longtime friends.

For sure, this has become a benchmark, line drawn in the sand, new direction for a new decade kind of birthday but not for the reasons you think.

I'll save that portion of this story for Part 2 coming up soon.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Worth It

I dig sacred holidays. Any time I can pay attention to Jesus, the Bible and God's ongoing plan for mankind, sign me up. Today is Palm Sunday. The end of my 40 day fast (hello coffee, I've missed you so) and the beginning of the most important week (my opinion) of the calendar year if you're a Christian.

Each time reading through the Bible, when I get to the Triumphal Palm Sunday entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, I cheer and imagine a palm branch in my hand while shouting "Hosanna!" as He rides in. Just as quickly, I say, "I'm not ready!" because I don't want to read on to His last week of suffering, betrayal and death.

This morning's devotional reading put my mixed emotions into words "As we rehearse His messianic entrance on this last Sunday of Lent, we sing with exuberance and we wince with foreboding."* Indeed.

Forty days ago I wrote about fasting for Lent. Along with my family, some of you shared with me what you'd be resisting in your own journey. I love that. Maybe it won't be revealed to us immediately, but as I sent in a family text yesterday, it's time to now stop and evaluate the last 40 days as much as we can. Answer a few questions:

What has God revealed about Himself in the space we made for Him to do just that?
What has He revealed about us?
Has there been growth/change? 
What will I do with what I've discovered? 

I think it's good to share these findings with each other as we spur one another on in good works and devotion to Jesus. That said, pull up a chair and let me share mine with you.
I believe God graciously and honestly showed me the following:

I can do absolutely no good thing without Jesus' help and the Holy Spirit's filling. My first response to pretty much anything is usually tainted (by any number of things). I have no pure thought or motive on my own. Jumping to conclusions without facts, cutting remarks disguised by a joke, not giving the benefit of the doubt, ignoring the plank in my eye while highlighting the speck in someone else's. Truly every thought, word and deed needs to be transformed by God to be of any value whatsoever.

I am the most self-centered, self-focused, selfish person I've ever met. Self, self, self - blech! I was given fresh eyes to see this over and over again. Six weeks of me first, judging others, craving and seeking approval and admiration from men instead of pointing to Jesus, etc. Oh the pride, yuck! I could barely stand myself. Honestly, I don't want to see this most of the time, but I invited God to reveal and He delivered, remaining close by as I processed the horror of what was clear in the mirror's reflection.

In light of all the above, God isn't mad at me. I heard it said once that God's intention is for us to see the depth of our sin, acknowledge it, tell Him we're sorry and move on. He never expects perfection because we can't achieve that. There is always forgiveness (1 John 1:9) so we don't have to worry about how God will respond to our confessions. This is good news, friends! A 40-day Lent (or any) fast should never end in defeat. God is for us!

My annual goal here is always transformation, not just to wallow in the fact that I am a weak sinner or to feel bad about self (another form of self-preoccupation - insert throw up emoji), but rather to invite God to make me aware and change me. Oh I pray He has, even a little will be a vast improvement.

Some of you tender hearts are going to want to soothe me and say, "Don't be so hard on yourself, Jesus loves you. You're doing just fine and need to lighten up." Thank you for your kindness, but I believe when God reveals what's deep down in us, it is our obligation to look at it honestly. We need to take our sin seriously, be sorry for it and confess. This is the way to freedom from sin and I'm grateful for it.

Repentance is quickly becoming a forgotten concept in our tolerant culture. May it never be! Repentance is a gift from God. It is the path back to close intimate relationship with Him when our self-driven passions and decisions have resulted in an uncomfortable distance between Him and us. One thing you can be sure of - any rupture in our closeness with God is on us. He never moves. He is always wanting us to draw near. It's us who pull away.

We accumulate bad habits and pick up baggage along the way sometimes without realizing it. This is why regular attention to soul care - fasting and purging - is such an important spiritual discipline. Doesn't always feel great during the process, but there is a cleanliness and peace that replaces the corrosion. Worth it.

So as we near Good Friday and the remembrance of Jesus' unfathomable pain and suffering on our behalf to purchase our salvation, stay in that uncomfortable moment for a while. Stay for as long as it takes you to acknowledge the sin you are currently in and remember the state of hopelessness due to sin you were in when He found you.

Offer a fresh confession of current sins, gratitude for Jesus' sacrifice, and receive His abundant forgiveness and mercy. Then repent and don't look back.

Just as sure as Friday is on the horizon, remember, so is Resurrection Sunday.
This week is going to end very well. Hallelujah!

PS. The top pic - so cute, right? On the back of each card** is a daily prayer, Scripture to read, encouragement or activity of some sort for each of the 40 days leading up to Easter. Today I turned the last one over and hi-fived God. Can you make it out?

"Have coffee with or call a friend or family member and share with them something that God has been teaching you during this Lent season."

Get it- I had been fasting from coffee. Ha! God is good and funny (insert Praise hands!). I love Him so much. He is worth everything and amazingly, He feels the same way about me and you. Thus, Easter.

*Living the Christian Year by Bobby Gross
**Available at