Posts Tagged With: Jesus

Re-Learning To Dream

I have always been creative. As a young child, my creations were fueled by my never-ending imagination and by the dreams that come along with an active imagination. When I painted something, there were no limits or rules to what could come out as my final product. Rules of reality did not necessarily apply. When I wrote a story, I was in charge of creating new worlds and new people and new stories for the people to live out. If I had a dream and it didn’t work out exactly as I had hoped it would, I was not fazed. Failure was just an opportunity to re-work the original idea and make it better than before.

Somehow, without realizing it, I have become a boring grown-up who has forgotten how to dream.

I recently made a list of dreams for my life–big dreams, small dreams, and everything in between. I tried as hard as possible to not hold anything back or edit myself as I wrote. I took time in crafting the list over the course of a few days. I knew that the list would not ever be finished, as dreaming without abandon leads to more dreams being thought up.

But even my well thought-out list was lacking.

I didn’t realize what it was until I was laying in bed a couple of nights ago. I was tired from work, but my mind was still wide awake. Sleep wasn’t going to come until my mind wore itself out. I had a thought of, “Since I know that I have my birthday weekend off this year, how should I spend my birthday?” It wasn’t long before ideas jumped out at me, eager to be seen. As the ideas came, I caught myself thinking, “Wait, I’m allowed to dream about this? It’s not selfish?!?” The same question came in my mind during a recent time of prayer at church. “Jesus, I’m allowed to dream like that?! Really?!?”

Somewhere along the line, I’ve come to believe that to allow myself to dream is a selfish action.

I could come up with many reasons as to why I’ve fallen into that thought pattern. But, perhaps, the real reasoning is one that I never thought of until I caught myself asking for permission to dream. My head is a fierce protector of my heart. It makes sense–responsibility balancing out a free spirit–but sometimes protection is the last thing my heart needs. I can’t help but wonder if dreaming has been pushed to the back burner as a way of protecting my heart because my head has seen dream after dream NOT come true, forgetting about the wonderful and amazing dreams that have come true in my life. It’s a battle between my head and my heart, between fear and freedom. Dreaming for other people–easy and thrilling. I love dreaming with other people about their lives. Dreaming about my life when I was a kid came as naturally to me as breathing. I had no fear in telling people about my dreams. As an adult, it is easy to dream the big dreams for my future. Dreaming the small, everyday dreams is the challenge for me–“Shouldn’t I be thinking about other people and how to help them and serve them and love them instead of dreaming about things that may never happen? I don’t want to be selfish, so I just won’t dream. Besides, what if that dream doesn’t come true? Then I would have wasted time and the opportunity/effort of helping someone else when they needed it.”

What I’m realizing now is that to not dream is the selfish option.

To not dream is to withhold a defining part of me from the people around me.
To not dream is to not give someone else the courage and inspiration to dream their own dreams.
To not dream is to not see opportunities to make the world a better place.
To not dream is to not grow as a human being.
To not dream is to underestimate and water-down my potential in life.
To not dream is to walk around in the muck and mire of life when I’m meant to soar through the air in freedom.

I know that not every single dream that I dream will come true. I can’t be afraid to dream because it might not come true. The crazy thing about dreams is that some of them do come true!

From today on, I will allow myself to dream the same way as when I was a child. Not only will I dream, but I will work towards turning the dreams into reality, even when it seems as if my efforts are in vain. I will allow Jesus to bring new dreams into my life, no matter how crazy they seem. I will dream for others. I will dream for myself. I will live life as a dreamer.

 

(Image credit: Disney’s Pinterest)

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Categories: Dreaming Dreams | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know (Valentine’s Edition)

Valentine’s Day and I have a love-hate relationship. I love love. I love celebrating the fullness, depth, and variety of love that this world has to offer. I love getting cards and candies. I hate how Valentine’s Day has come to be a day of exalting romantic relationships, while disparaging singleness. I know I am single and do not need extra reminders–20% off Something Sweet For Your Sweetheart, Top Ten Ways To Know He’s Your Man, Half Off Dinner With Your Other Half–everywhere I look.

Earlier this week, I stopped by Kohl’s after work. I went in to just have a jewelry associate measure my fingers so that I could finally know what ring size I am. I had found a couple of beautiful rings online, but didn’t want to buy the wrong size. Before I got to the jewelry department, sales racks caught my attention. 60, 70, and 80% off are the prices that I can afford at Kohl’s. I looked through a few sales racks, and then found myself meandering through the departments. After awhile, I did make it over to the jewelry section. I was in no rush, and continued to take my time as I looked over the many beautiful items. I did get my fingers sized for rings as I chatted with a sales associate.

I was about to leave the store and run a few more errands before I went home, but a couple of sales racks that I had not looked through before grabbed my attention. It couldn’t hurt to look through a few more racks. I looked through the clothing, not looking for anything in particular, and not even expecting to find anything that I wanted to buy. I knew that I was going to be buying myself a ring online soon, and didn’t have extra money to buy clothes that I didn’t really need.

In my relationship with Jesus, I have found out, through many experiences, that Jesus loves to surprise my heart in very intimate ways. He knows my heart and knows what it takes to make me smile, to fill me with joy, and what it takes for me to feel–and know–that I am loved by Him.

* * *

Months ago, my sister and I were at Kohl’s. I saw an adorable pair of jeans by Lauren Conrad. Up until last year, I had never even heard of Lauren Conrad. When I went Easter dress shopping and a beautiful dress from Lauren Conrad fit me like a glove, I became a fan of her clothing line. The day I was with my sister, I tried on a pair of Lauren Conrad jeans. Finding jeans that fit me is a huge challenge, as I am small and short. Most times, I end up buying short jeans and have to have them hemmed. The Lauren Conrad jeans fit me perfectly. I showed my sister and was beaming with joy. Unfortunately, Lauren Conrad clothing is a bit out of my price range, and her jeans are no exception. I left the store without the jeans, and soon forgot about the experience.

But Jesus had not forgotten.

* * *

I passed hanger after hanger on the sales rack, unimpressed with the selection before me. I saw a pair of Lauren Conrad jeans among the articles of clothing. I recognized them instantly as the ones I had loved many months prior–light blue with small white hearts printed on the denim. My heart started to beat faster with excitement as my fingers worked faster to get to the jeans. I’ve learned from almost every past shopping experience to not get my hopes up, especially in regards to jeans, especially in regards to jeans on the clearance rack.  My heart couldn’t help but to be excited–could they really be my size?! I pulled them off of the rack and looked at the tag.

The jeans were my size–a size that rarely makes it to the clearance rack, because of its popularity. This one pair in my hands was the only pair of this design left in the entire store–and online–and it was my size.

I turned the price tag over, to see if they really were on clearance, or if another customer placed them on the 80% off rack out of convenience. They were on clearance, and within my price range.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Some people might say that my finding a pair of jeans is not God at work–it’s simply that I was lucky that day. Some people might say that there are more important things for God to be taking care of than giving me a pair of jeans as a gift from His heart. To me, these jeans–jeans that I would never have considered buying a couple of years ago because of their delicate beauty–are a visible sign of God’s faithfulness. Between the time that I found the jeans and ended up buying them, I did not pray, asking God to bless me with those jeans. I didn’t save up money for them. I simply continued to delight myself in the Lord and follow His leading in this adventure called life.  Even when we cannot see it, God is at work in our lives. Sometimes, He is quiet, simply because He is working on preparing a surprise for you.  The Bible speaks multiple times of our Heavenly Father giving good gifts to His children. Sometimes, the good gifts He gives come in the form of designer blue jeans, on the 80% off clearance rack at Kohl’s, with an additional coupon that I used from my e-mail, as an early Valentine’s Day present.

I have not forgotten you. Happy Valentine’s Day, my beloved.

valentines_jeans

He is our Portion, and we are His prize

Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes

If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking

So Heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss

My heart turns violently inside my chest

I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us

Categories: Simple Joys | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Today Is My Happily Ever After

fairytale

I have never been a “girly girl*.”  The few pink things that I enjoy are strawberry lemonades/smoothies, the inside of a medium-rare steak, bubble gum, and the second dot in Flickr’s logo.  The only makeup I own and know how to apply is a handful of containers of nail polish.  I tried to read Pride and Prejudice, but could barely make it through the first chapter.   I work at Home Depot, and am proud of the fact that I can lift bags of mulch, pieces of lumber and 60 lb bags of concrete without any help.  My childhood consisted of playing outside, taking on boys in sports, catching frogs, and being called a princess.

I have yet to watch a Disney movie where the princess does not have a “happily ever after.”  Or any chick-flick.  The “happily ever after” comes after she is swept off her feet by her prince and challenges are overcome.  It is easy in everyday life to view your “happily ever after” as a day far off in the future,  a day that will only happen when x, y, and z are completed.  Perhaps it is when you will get your dream job, or perhaps it is your wedding day that still seems as if it is an eternity away (especially if you are still single while your friends start to get married). Perhaps your “happily ever after” will come after you’ve overcome an addiction or faced a fear that has gripped your soul for far too long.

I say that today is your “happily ever after.”  I know that your heart is probably full of confusion, hurt, disappointment, unanswered questions,  and dreams that have yet to be fulfilled; yet your heart also holds peace, joy, happiness, and excitement.  I can say that with confidence because my heart is the same way.  There is no prince in sight to sweep me off of my feet, but he’s not here yet because he probably still has some dragons to slay.  People say and do things that are hurtful, but you can release them into the beauty of forgiveness.  I eagerly anticipate the days when more of my dreams can be fulfilled, but how I choose to live today will determine what the future looks like.

I am still a princess, not simply because my mom has called me that since I was a baby.  I am still a princess because my Daddy is the King of Kings.  Because of the goodness of God, I am here today, alive, & free from sin and full of love, faith, joy, and hope.  I have wonderful memories and a future ahead of me that is held by the hands of my Creator.  It has not been an easy journey up until now—my heart still bears the now-healed scars from previous hurts—and the future will not always be easy, but who said that adventures would be easy?  Explode my soul, explode with praise because a few years ago, you couldn’t imagine being here today after first seeing the trials you would have to overcome.  A few years ago, you didn’t know what it meant to become freer in how you worship God.  You didn’t realize how beautiful you are, or that the deepest hurts from others can be forgiven and healed.

Drop whatever is preventing you from living today as your “happily ever after.”   Leave it at the foot of the Cross.  Once you do that, you are free, and “whom the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36). You only get to experience today one time in your entire life, so why would you want to live it as anything but full of joy?

Today is my “happily ever after” simply because I am a child of God.  My identity is found in Him alone.

Mi nombre es Susan, y yo soy una princesa.

*Over the past year or so, I was in circumstances that required me to dress up–weddings, a funeral, job interviews, certain photography events, etc.  I even bought a purse with a ruffle on it.  EVEN SO, I am still a complete tomboy at heart.

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LinkedIn Made Me Cry

From earlier this week:

 

Today is one of the days when I just am completely over working in retail.  It wasn’t the worst day I’ve ever experienced at work.  I don’t think any customers even yelled at me today. I simply just wanted to be done with retail.

 

One of my co-workers consistently encourages me to not give up on my desire to work in photography full-time.  He told me about LinkedIn a few days ago.  I already had an account, but it wasn’t filled out all of the way.  I came home from work today and decided to work on my LinkedIn profile.  A simple question popped up in a blue box, and made me cry.

How would you summarize yourself and your objectives?

 

I would summarize myself as a girl who loves Christ more than words can say, yet cannot speak about His love openly at the place where I spend most of my time without fear of losing my job (which I NEED in order to pay my bills).

I would summarize myself as having a soul that is beyond desperate to actually minister to people’s needs, not just thank them for shopping and remind them to take the survey at the bottom of the receipt.

I would summarize myself as a young adult who feels trapped by her circumstances and surroundings; a girl who keeps trying to spread her wings to fly, yet ends up on the ground every time.

I would summarize myself as a person who finds waiting on God to be one of the hardest things ever.

I would summarize myself as a girl who believes that my calling and my career should be one and the same.

I would summarize myself as a girl who hates when male customers touch my hands, my shoulders, or even my back as their attempt to be friendly or flirt with me because she knows that none of them are her future husband and does not want to invite random men into her personal space.

I would summarize myself as a follower of Christ who really struggles with knowing the difference between God’s will and my will.

I would summarize myself as a person who has dreams in her heart from God, but does not know how to pursue them.

I would summarize myself as a person who has struggled with feeling alone, yet also finds it difficult to seek Jesus one-on-one.

I would summarize myself as a person who hates being forgotten and stood up, especially by those who I consider to be friends.

I would summarize myself as proof of God at work in my heart, mind, and attitudes, even when I do  not realize it at the time.

I would summarize myself as wanting to take huge leaps of faith, yet am surrounded by the mentality of playing it safe and not taking risks.

My objectives are to make Jesus known with my life, my words, and my actions.

My objectives are to continually die to myself, so that there can and will be more of Christ in my life.

My objectives are to travel the world, sharing the Gospel.

My objectives are to continue to allow God to use my photography/art and my writing to further His Kingdom, in huge ways.  More opportunities=more glory to God.

My objectives are to never be satisfied with my relationship with Christ and to always strive for more.  Comfort zones are just cardboard boxes, waiting to be torn down.

My objectives are to become bolder in sharing Jesus with people.

My objectives are to give hope to the hopeless.

My objectives are to set the captives free in the Name of Jesus.

My objectives are to live a life of worship.

My objectives are to give away more money and more things with each year of my life.

My objectives are to be led by the Holy Spirit all of the time.

My objectives are to love people as Christ does, especially those considered “unlovable” by the world.

 

As I was writing this, I took a quick mental break and checked facebook.  A person from Passion Conferences posted a link to the livestream that Christy Nockels was doing about her new album, Into the Glorious.  When I clicked the link, Christy was finishing up talking about the song she was about to sing.  It was the next to last song of the night.  Within a few notes, I knew that the song was a song that God has been laying on my heart for probably a couple of months by now.  I knew that the song and the timing were not just a coincidence.  I had stopped crying as I wrote this, but the tears started up anew.

 

I know that ministry* is a lot of work.  I know that ministry can absolutely wear you down.  I know that ministry puts you on the front lines of the spiritual battle called life.  I know it is easy to feel that there is no progress being made.  I’ve been worn down by ministry and I’ve been worn down by working in retail.  Yet serving others in the Name of Jesus is what makes me feel truly alive and act like I am fully alive.  I know that yes, even working in retail can be ministry, if done with the right mentality.  As I sit here, wearing a shirt that I wore in Honduras this past summer and recounting truths and promises that have traveled from the heart of God to my heart, I know that there is so much more for me all over the world.  “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”—Acts 20:24

I still have yet to finish my LinkedIn profile.

*Note: I know that ministry can take many forms, but this was written with ministry work overseas in mind.  I’ve done ministry here in the US, but for years, I’ve felt a strong pull on my heart to devote time serving God overseas—not just a week one year and a week another year.

Categories: growth, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thirty Day [ish] Worship Journey–Day 3

I’m finally getting back to a project that I started last year.  I realized that even though I wrote about day three of my worship journey in my journal, I never posted it here–I went from day 2 to day 4.  My apologies.

Psalm 5:7-8

But I, by Your great mercy, will come into Your house; in reverence will I bow down toward Your holy temple.  Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies–make straight Your way before me.

Mercy means “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also, lenient or compassionate treatment.” God’s mercy is a GREAT thing.  Since He’s perfect, our sins are beyond completely repulsive and offensive to Him.  Even so, He loves us.  The punishment for sin is death, yet Christians don’t pay for their sins by their death.  Christ’s death was sufficient.  God’s mercy has been shown to man since the banishment of Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden.  At the time, it didn’t seem merciful, yet it was the most merciful and loving thing God could have done.

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30 Day Photo Challenge, Day 26

A picture of something that means a lot to you

This is from Passion 2010 and one of my favorite images from my senior exhibition at college.

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God makes my paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

This one verse has spoken so much to me this year. Tonight at work, in the middle of ringing up customers, an overwhelming sense of joy invaded my heart. It wasn’t because I knew the customers or anything, but I simply just loved being in that moment, helping them and making them happy. A handful of my co-workers have started to call me “Smiley” because I’m always smiling.

In two weeks, I will have been at this job for four months–longer than my time at jobs where it made perfect sense for me to work. When I was applying for jobs a few months ago, I applied to many, many, many places. When I applied to my current job, I felt so under qualified. In my own mind, I never would have said, “Oh, I WANT to work here.” I never could have pictured myself saying, “I love working here.” Thankfully, my steps are directed into the paths of God, and not my own paths. I can’t make my paths straight on my own. Yes, I still deal with frustrating customer situations. Yes, some days seem to drag on. But my heart gets encouraged so much almost every day I go in to work. An encouraged heart at a job where I’m paid to be helpful, friendly, and smile? I’ll take that any day. Becoming friends with my customers and co-workers is an added bonus.

Is it my dream job? Nope.
Do I see myself staying there forever and ever? Nope.

But it is where God wants me right now, without a shadow of a doubt. When it is time for me to leave, He will show me and then guide me into the next path that He has planned for my life.

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30 Day Photo Challenge, Day 4

The challenge: A picture of your favorite night

The result:

It is near impossible for me to pick a favorite night, so I’m going to post a picture of the night that has had a HUGE influence on my life, a night that has defined me, grown me, and continued to challenge me.

March 15, 2008.
Rolleville, Exuma, Bahamas
“Poverty has changed my views of what true riches are”
“Mighty to Save”

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A Lack of Time

Stockton College doesn’t have clocks in the classrooms. Maybe they decided to save money by assuming that the student body could always check the time on their laptop, cell phone, or even wristwatch. Maybe the administration omitted clocks in hopes that the students would get so lost in their learning that time would not matter. Maybe clocks use too much electricity, or maybe simply no one thought of it. Maybe no one realized that a student’s life would be changed because of a lack of time. I was that student.

Thursday, February 19, 2009 started like any other day. I dragged myself out of bed and got ready for the day. I went to work in the art gallery. I worked on homework. I laughed with friends.I hung out in the library, where I could read in peace. I got dinner and went to my evening writing class.

Every professor is different when it comes to cell phones. None want texting during class; some don’t care if you just check the time in the middle of a lecture or discussion. I was in an evening writing class. My mind had traveled away from writing and wanted to know how much longer was left in class. I reached down into the front section of my backpack and grabbed my cell phone. I put it in the section closest to me, on top of some books, but still out of sight. I flipped it open. Two missed calls. No one really calls me that much, but maybe it was a wrong number. I pressed a couple of buttons to see who the calls were from. One was from my sister, and one was from my mom. At first, I didn’t think much of it, until I saw that I had two voicemails. Getting a voicemail meant something was up, and getting two voicemails meant that something was really up. My interest in what time it was shifted to a curiosity as to why I had two voicemails. Class seemed to proceed even slower from that point on. I packed up as early as I could and made a beeline for a quiet area to make a phone call.

Pop-Pop had gone in for knee replacement surgery a couple of days earlier. The phone call wasn’t directly about his knee surgery. No one except for God knew that Pop-Pop had a rare intestinal problem that caused his intestines to just stop working.

My grandfather had just passed away.

* * *
Death has no hold on those whose faith is in Jesus. The experience of having a loved one die, even if they are a follower of Jesus, shakes a person to the core. Hearts are plagued with the inevitable questions of, “Why now? Why did this happen? God, why would You take them away from me?” God has set eternity in the hearts of men, but the shadows of death bring even the most faithful of believers back to this present time. Death has no power over Jesus’ followers, but that doesn’t mean that death is fully understood. Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.”

Two years ago, if I had read those verses, I would not have known how to interpret them in a practical sense. How could it be better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a feast? No one likes being sad; everyone loves going to a feast, especially if the feast is free.
The days after Pop-Pop died were a mix of a blur and time slowing down. The days turned into weeks. I didn’t know if or how my heart would ever be completely healed. A month to the day of Pop-Pop dying, God healed my heart in a perfect and complete way as I served on a spring break mission trip.

The weeks turned to months, and the months to years. I still miss Pop-Pop, and wish that he could have been alive to continue to see me grow. He heard about my first day of school; I wish he could have been here to celebrate my last day of school. I wish he could see who I have become during these past two years.

My heart is still healed, thanks to God. It has been two years, and I am just now realizing the true meaning of the verses in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4. Everyone is destined for death. Our lives can affect others still on earth after we are called home to Heaven, but in order for that legacy to exist, we have to make the most of our time today. How can anyone in the future see the light of God in our lives unless we shine it today? How will future generations know that “So-and-so served God with their whole heart” unless we do so now, with every moment that we are given?

Even though I can’t see Pop-Pop or give him a hug anymore, he is still part of my life. He is on my business card and in our family photos. His love shaped our family. I won’t see him at church anymore, but I can see him in the love of the Church. I wrote this for his funeral, and it still rings true: When someone is full of God’s love, that love naturally comes out in their everyday actions. Pop-Pop didn’t just love God—he loved his family in such a way that he left a legacy of love.

My heart now knows how important it is to always tell those close to you that you love them. My heart now knows to enjoy every moment together, even if it seems silly or unimportant. The moment won’t seem silly or unimportant when you can no longer spend moments with that person. No one on earth is guaranteed tomorrow, yet we live as if we will never die. Whether you know someone for twenty minutes or twenty years, do all that you possibly can to make sure they are loved as Jesus would love them. I don’t want to get so caught up with my life that I miss moments that God has given me for a specific purpose. I don’t want to get too busy with being busy that I have a lack of time to love others with my whole heart, as Jesus would. I don’t want a lack of time to keep me from being fully alive.

Carried you edit

Categories: growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Reverb10 prompt: Photo – a present to yourself Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

I did something in 2010 that I will never do again. I received my undergraduate degree.

My sister took this picture of me after graduation. I was waiting for my friend Jenna to text me back. My sister and I realized that I needed some good potential shots for facebook, so she started shooting. This turned out to be my favorite.

Graduation is a very special occasion and the last hurdle to be cleared (at least in current American culture) in order to be seen as an adult.
My college experience has looked a lot different than what I imagined my junior and senior years of high school. I graduated a semester later than I originally planned to; I attended a different college than I initially wanted. I received my first final grades of Cs, which completely shocked the perfectionist, fight-for-a-tenth-of-a-point-on-an-exam part of me.

Even though I knew how privileged I was during my studies, I let myself “forget” it. I couldn’t see how I was “rich” and “lucky to be attending school.” I mean, I was taking out student loan after student loan. And besides, isn’t college just the next step of education after high school? It’s expected, right?

It’s expected if you are privileged enough to live in a well-to-do nation. It’s expected if you’ve done well in academics.

Graduation from college defines a person’s schooling, but does not define a person. I could go on and on about what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown throughout college. I could whine and complain about how I don’t know how I’m going to get a job with a degree.

But I’m going to do neither. What I am going to do is just praise and thank God for this opportunity that He’s given me. I’m going to thank Him for allowing me to even have a job. I’m going to savor this moment. I don’t know where the future will lead me, but I do know who I am following to get there–Jesus Christ, the Son of God; the Alpha and the Omega, the One and Only; the Holy Lamb of God. I’m putting my trust in Him, because He is the Way. He is the Truth. He is life.

John 10:10 I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Categories: 2010 in review, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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