Hope Through the Tears

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This has been the darkest season of my life. But in my soul I know that Jesus fights for me. He is for me and He stands behind me. He has never left me, and He walks with me through the valley. Every day, I have moments when sadness overwhelms me, but God stands firm and His love continually washes over. Way back in January my word for the year was hope. The valley of the shadow of death, is anything but hopeful. What I love about Psalm 23:4 is it says, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.” “I walk through.” By God’s grace I will not stay in the valley. I will come back hopefully more like Him then when I went in. And that gives me hope. ,
“Yet, He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold.” Job 23:10 (HCSB)
Never in a million years would I have wanted my tragedy to be etched so deeply into my story. But I wonder if God loved me too much to leave me complacent. God knew that I loved Him before the tragedy, but He continues to call to me to come closer, go deeper. I want to emerge out of this valley of death more reflective of Him. I cannot move or breathe without Him.
Today was hard, really hard. I have to go to work. I have to get out of bed and get in the car and keep going with my life. I have to put one foot in front of the other and breathe in and out. Quitting is not an option. Each new day is a miracle from God. I want to run back in bed and pretend it never happened. But I must grieve with God and all who love me. I am not alone. Like I said, today was hard. I was trying to hold it together but inside I was falling apart. I was taking groceries out to a customer. I was hungry, my hair was a disaster, and one of my earrings had fallen out! Ah! I began my normal procedures for dispensing. My customer smiled big and launched into her little speech. “God told me to buy a coffee for whoever brought my groceries out. I’m so glad it was you!” She thrust an extra-large cup of coffee into my shaking hands.
And then I lost it. All the emotions I had bottled up inside of me came gushing out in big heaving sobs. I couldn’t stop crying! Thankfully I hadn’t put makeup on that morning. She smiled in a caring motherly sort of way. She didn’t ask me to explain my messy, tragedy. She took my hands and she prayed. She asked Jesus to cover me in His love. Actually, to be honest I don’t remember much of her prayer, only that she said, ” God You know how broken Sarah is, but You are not broken, God.”

No, while I am falling apart, Jesus holds me together. He is not stressed out or taken off guard. He is in control and He is good. I couldn’t stop crying because the love of Jesus was too overwhelming! When you are enveloped by God’s love there are simply no words. I think that is a slice of what Heaven will be like. We will be overwhelmingly beautiful in His awesome, glorious  presence.
First when God gives you a nudge no matter how small, obey Him. Maybe that means asking the cashier for her name and how her day is going. Maybe it means helping the struggling momma with three little ones and full hands. Maybe it means sending a card in the mail, or sending someone a text. I don’t know what God is telling you to do, but simply say yes.
Secondly, I cannot say thank you enough. I could never thank everyone enough for lifting me to Jesus when my prayers were only gut-wrenching moans. For all the people who texted, prayed, hugged and let me cry, thank you. For everyone who took me for coffee and continues to let me know that I am loved. I am forever blessed with my immediate family and my HUGE Jesus family! It wasn’t until I was shattered this deeply that I realized how deeply I was loved. And every time you reach and show me love you are giving me hope and showing me that God does not give up on broken people.

JESUS sees You.
JESUS knows You.
JESUS Loves You.
“The LORD is my shepherd.
There is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life
He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
For You are with me.
You rod and Your staff-
They comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
In the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love
Will pursue me
All the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
As long as I live.”
Psalm 23
Holman Christian Standard Bible

 

 

❤ Anna

Surviving the Darkness

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“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)
I never knew a valley could be so dark, so disgusting and so full of deceit.
I never knew the desert could be so dry, so hot and so barren.
I never knew that my life could be wrecked like a tornado. When the storm keeps hitting over and over again and all that’s left are ruins. Pieces of your life all over. And all you can do is cry, yell, and ask why?
Why God?
Why God?
Why must I walk through a valley so deep, so dark and more deceitful than I ever thought possible?
Why God?
As a younger Christian I always wanted to be closer to Jesus. I wanted to be like the older ladies at church that loved God with a depth and a closeness that I hadn’t yet known. I wanted to sing like them. When you saw their faces, you knew they believed every word. Jesus had loved them all the way. They knew it was so sweet to trust in Jesus. They knew that amid sorrow God was still good. I wanted to sing with that depth. I wanted to have the Bible with crinkly pages with torn edges with highlighter marks and journal entries. I wanted the faith and the wisdom of the older ladies.

But
I had no idea how terrible,
How devastating it would be to
Become closer
Closer to my Jesus.
I wanted to be gold refined in the fire
But I didn’t want to walk through the refiner’s fire
Repeatedly.

Must intimacy with my Jesus come at such a high price?
Yes.

I can choose to resist Him or run to Him.
God is no stranger to immense suffering. He had to watch His beloved Son die for the human race that didn’t understand, didn’t seem to care and didn’t know. But God’s love was greater.
Jesus is no stranger to immense suffering. He was betrayed by a disciple that He had poured into for years. Judas had talked with Jesus, saw the miracles, and saw people run to Him. But Judas turned Jesus to the cross. Judas betrayed Jesus.
But that didn’t stop Jesus.

I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
Grieving is so hard. Anger, anger, rejection, shock, disbelief, and deep deep sadness.
But God.
He is there in my shadows, He is there is my valley, He is there.

And how great the suffering is. I am now breathing and eating now….slowly.

But God has lavished me in His love.
So many people have put their arms around me and prayed for me, cried with me, and loved me.
I never understood how many people loved me.
I never understood the depth of my mom’s love: when she will sit with me at two in the morning until I stop weeping.
I never understood the power of prayer to bring out the Truth…even that which we didn’t want to hear.
The love of my family and friends does not cancel the pain but it overwhelms me to know that I am not crawling through the valley on my own.
Jesus has not left me.
His love does not stop.
His love does not fail.
My worth is determined by a Savior who proved His love for me. He calls me beautiful.

Yes, I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
Never in a million years would I have chosen this as the plan for my life. I wanted to be really close to Jesus without going through the valley. But that is not possible. And I believe that God loved me enough to not allow me to live a life of complacency. Jesus loved me enough to allow me to walk through the valley, the thorns, the bleeding, the questions because He knew that He would be glorified. I never would’ve chosen this suffering. I never would’ve chosen this valley, but God. But God is good, and I hope that He would be praised and that my utter weakness would point others to Him.
Just remember sweet friend.
“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” Corrie Ten Boom.
And God is with us when we walk through the valley.
And sweet friend don’t forget the end of the twenty third Psalm.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.” Psalm 23:6
If we have trusted in Jesus then when we die we will be with Him. Maybe a good thing about my suffering is I am reminded that this world is not my home. It’s not my home. JESUS Himself is my home. One day I will dwell in God’s house forever. I will be in His glorious presence. He will wipe every messy, gross tear from my eyes and I will be complete in His amazing love. Praise Jesus. One day I will be home.

Beautiful and Beloved

SAM_4291                      Beautiful women are quite diverse. Some wear cute dresses with coordinated eyeshadow, others wear jeans and oversized tee shirts. Some are stay at home mommas while others manage companies. Some lovely women are divorced, single, widowed or married. But I will tell you what makes a woman beautiful. A gorgeous woman is one who is fixed on Jesus. Her clothing style, family status and hair color matter little to her identity. This woman finds herself worshipping Jesus in the middle of the chaos. She cries out to Jesus to speak the Truth to her when the lies thunder on her heart. When the painful moments come, she raises her hands and cries out to her Abba Father who hears. A lovely woman doesn’t look to others for approval, identity, or worth because she knows she belongs to the King of Kings. While she does take care of herself, she is not the focus. Jesus is and bringing others His love is her upmost concern.
Maybe, like me ,some mornings, you don’t wake up feeling gorgeous. Maybe you don’t even feel loved. Where is your focus dear sister? Where is your focus? Jesus loves You!! I heard this ever since I was a little girl but recently it has actually started to plant deep roots in my soul. No longer is “Jesus Loves Me” just a song, it’s my heart cry. When the lies come and make me feel shameful and gross I must choose to remember that King Jesus left Heaven’s splendor because He loves me and dear friend, He loves You too!
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” John 15:9 (NKJV)
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the Light of His glory and grace.”
Sometimes the pain of this earth overwhelms me. I cry out for relief wishing God would erase what I don’t want etched in my story. But He is the Author of my life, not I. In the middle of the painful moments I must lift my eyes to Jesus and through the tears sing hallelujah. He is worthy to be praised. When I stand on the mountaintop, He is worthy to be praised. When I am wandering in the desert of doubt, He is worthy to be praised. When I am lying in the valley, He is worthy to be praised.
Someday, for those who have trusted Jesus, we will be in Heaven. All our wrinkles, blemishes, stretch marks, broken bones will be gone! The brokenness, insecurities and lies will be gone and we will no longer remember the pain of the past. We will no longer lie awake tossing and turning over former regrets. Being free will be so wonderful! But somehow it won’t matter quite as much as we might have thought. All we will see is Jesus’s face.
JESUS, the one who bore our sin and took our shame. Emmanuel God with us. Only this time He will really be with us. In the light of His glory, all I will be able to do is worship. With arms lifted as He wipes the tears away, I will sing, hallelujah.

Now that’s what I call beautiful.

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❤ Anna

JESUS, My Forever Refuge

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What in your life is making your days difficult and your nights torturous? I’ve been walking a journey of chronic pain and am learning to trust God in ways I never thought possible. Most days I struggle to get out of bed. I constantly battle fatigue, constant headaches and a myriad of other health problems.
But GOD is so good.
Yet many times I only see me, and my suffering and fail to look up into my Father’s face. He is Jehovah Rapha, my Healer. He is the Almighty, God the Creator of Heaven and Earth. He is my refuge and my strong tower. I can always run to Him. He is my always. He is trustworthy and in control. My hope is to encourage you through this blog by pointing you to Jesus and His omniscient perspective. We have darkness in our sin. Apart from Jesus we will stay in a state of hopelessness. But in Him alone there is eternal hope. Our struggles to overcome sin can seem like such a daily battle that many days we are too weary to fight. We have difficult situations that no one can begin to understand. We have trials that couldn’t possibly make sense no matter how matter questions we ask God. We say why God? Why? Why would You allow this to happen? Why would You allow someone I love to make this choice? Why would You allow this suffering, this pain? But God is not confined to our darkness. God is not confined to our pain and grief. He is not confined to our finite brains.

HE is SO much bigger.

He is the Maker of Light. He is Light. My suffering is to glorify my Savior and to make Him known. Remember God Almighty was here long before you had a name or a beating heart. Before there was anything, He knew your name and your story. He made you to reflect Him. Dear child, don’t fret. God’s got this. Love you.
Anna ❤

 

How It All Began
– Parts of Gen 1 &2 with artistic license. Read Gen 1& 2 for the full and accurate version.

Darkness
Silent and still
In anticipation.
As its Creator dipped His fingers,
Swirling the emptiness
And in a moment
A split second
That forever defined eternity
Four words were spoken
“Let there be light.”
It had no choice but to obey.
And the darkness was forever changed
Never to be the same.

God smiled.
The masterpiece before Him
Was astounding.
He spoke and created
Mountains, layered upon layer
Sunsets, rivers running into the ocean.
Animals roamed freely
And harmoniously.
It was all so lovely
so perfect.
What could possibly be better?

But God turned to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus
And they knew.
They knew what was missing.
It was time to for the best part
Their magnum opus.
The one that would outlive eternity.
It was time.

Time to create man and woman after Their image.
Smiling as He thought of what would come
Grieving as He knew of the pain that would be undone
Of the times when they would turn away
Cause devastation
And run away.
Times when they would blame Him and shout in His face.
God foresaw when He’d have to send His dearly Beloved Son
To pay a price His image bearers
Could never afford.
But knowing and understanding what only He could
God created man.
First.
Out of the dust.
Because out of the ashes
Beauty will rise
Out of the dirt
God restores our lives.
Apart from His breath
We are dead
We are silent.
We must allow The Almighty to shake us
And breathe into our nostrils
The breath of life.
So, with His hands
He: with the breath of eternity
God created man.
In His image.
And behold,
It was very good.
But The Sovereign God
Was not done
With His great plan.
No, this man
Needed
A companion.
One that was like him in shape and size
With a different kind of beauty
One that would mesmerize.
She would also reflect the image of God
But differently.
She wouldn’t come from the dust
But from the man’s rib.

God smiled
Knowing what was to come.
As a skilled and gentle Surgeon, He
Softly hushed Adam to sleep.
Adam obeyed and was soon dreaming
quite deeply.

Meticulously
And carefully so
The Lord crafted a woman
From His side
And brought her out of the man
To be his bride
His companion
Fit only for him.
“Oh, my word!”
Adam declared.
“I can’t believe it!”

He was speechless.

God brought her to Adam
And performed the ceremony
Right then and there.
No need for a long engagement.

Only Adam spoke the words
That God needed.
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh
She is like me
And was taken from my side
I’m not complaining LORD
Yes, she will be my bride!”

They were both happy and free before
Their LORD, Creator, and Father
Just as they should.
They took long morning walks with God
And learned all about how He formed the sod.
They talked of the bats, bugs, and the bees
And how He created each individual tree.
And their intimacy with God and each other grew
Everything was as perfect as the sunset’s hue
As lovely as the morning’s dew.

All was happy in paradise.
Perfect communion with God
No need for any of sacrifice.
If only life could stay this way
But that’s another
Story….
for another day.

So, whatever you’re facing don’t ever forget
That God created you!
You’re made in His image!
When you forget who’s in control
Look at the stars scintillating in the sky
The rivers, the tall oaks
and the people passing by.
Trust Him.
HE is LORD
Even when you can’t understand
Your painful why.

 

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Photos taken by Anna. 🙂

He is Waiting, With Open Arms

20190711_080011As I stood over the oven as my momma took the chicken out of the oven, as she had a thousand times before: something hit me.  Below my sincere excitement to marry my childhood sweetheart was the realization that I was leaving. When I get married, I will not be with my family and though they will always love me, it won’t be the same anymore.
I was reminded that God is with me. He is here, right now. My Jesus, Abba Father is with me as I prepare for this next chapter. When I think waiting is too hard, Jesus is with me. When I don’t understand, Jesus is with me.  When I move away Jesus will be with me as I start my new life and attempt to take the chicken out of my own oven. 🙂  My Jesus will be with my mom as she pours her afternoon cup of coffee alone and  prays for me. It’s a sad knowing that as an adult I cannot have all those I cherish near at the same time.  I will probably always miss someone. Some days I miss my grandpa in ways I haven’t  before. I wish he was here to share in these special moments of anticipation. But I am thankful for all the memories I had with him. Now these memories have become treasures I cherish.

It is such a comfort and a joy to know that my Jesus is always present. He is there in the quiet when no one sees, when no one hears. He is there in the moments of sheer joy and laughter. He is there amid our noisy, chaotic lives. He is there, with arms open. He is there when I am nervous and the lies creep in and the doubts dare to sabotage the Truth. Jesus is my protector as He covers me with His shield of Truth and reminds me of the promises of His Word. He is there. Waiting to be our refuge. Waiting and wanting to be our everything.

 

Recently, I have read Psalm 91. It’s  assuring to know of God’s sovereignty and personal protection. When I am too weak spiritually and physically, I must allow God’s Word to wash over me. When the lies come and sin entices me I want to saturate myself in His promises and cling to His Word.
“The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ He Himself will deliver you from the hunter’s net, from the destructive plague. He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” Psalm 91:1-4 (2104) (HCSB)
Jesus is waiting and wants you to run to Him so that He can cover you. Is He your refuge tonight? Only He can truly satisfy.

Dear friend, I don’t know who you yearn for tonight. Maybe you ache for a child who has left home, or  for your marriage to be healed, or for a loved one who has died. Jesus is here. Jesus is waiting for you to run to Him. Jump into His loving arms. He is here. He is waiting. ❤

 

Anna. ❤

 

 

Holman Christian Standard Bible; The Study Bible for Women [Book]. – Nashville : Holman Bible Publishers , 2104.

 

Whining or Worshipping?

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Waiting and Whining or Waiting and Worshipping?
Let’s face it. We all have to wait. We wait for the ramen in the microwave, for the light to turn green, and for bigger things: job promotion, an increase in pay, or growth in relationships. Prolonged anticipation is never easy. I think the hardest time to wait is when you don’t know if the wait will ever end.
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. “James 1:2-4 HCSB

When God’s teaching me patience it can take a long time….. I think this is because I don’t listen and try to hurry the process along. While I am in the waiting waters, I struggle to stop and listen to what God is saying in the present time. I become blind to His blessings and instead hold a laser gaze on what I want NOW. I do not allow patience to be molded into me by the trials God allows into my life. I let myself think that I am suffering because God has withheld something when in fact God knows that it is not the right time for me to have what I want. Through this withholding God wants to cultivate richer intimacy with Him. Because once I reach my goal there will be something else to be reached and I will squirm again as God tries to teach me patience and cultivate a quiet heart towards Him. The goal cannot be getting what I want. Rather the goal must be receiving more of God, learning to enjoy His presence, and listening and obeying His voice. In the Old Testament Sarah grew tired of waiting for her promised child and so she took matters into her own hands. This resulted in years of heartache and regret. She did not allow herself to seek God first during her wait. How many times later did Sarah feel pangs of regret over her quick fix? What we do in an instant can impact and change those around us long after. (See Gen. 16 for full account.)

During a winter of waiting I am more susceptible to sin because I feel that it’s justifiable. I wouldn’t verbalize that, but I act that way. I complain and am more critical of those around me. I glaze over my sin and focus on the sin of others and think I am more spiritually for it. (Matt. 7:1-6) I also give into more of my whims and indulgent desires all to help ease the void in my life rather than turning to God during moments of emptiness and longing. All these things are a way of my acting in rebellion towards God’s season of waiting. I can make my waiting season longer simply due to my lack of obedience and surrender to His plan.

God’s withholding  may feel like suffering, but that’s because I can’t  see the whole picture. God may give me what I want now and then I wouldn’t use it for it’s God intended purpose. When I was about seven years old, I had a super cool Cinderella umbrella with a blue handle. Was that umbrella used in the rain? Uh,no way! Why wait that long? I ran around the backyard waving my umbrella singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” at the top of my lungs! My umbrella was open and with each wind gust I was certain that I would actually begin to fly. But after flying day after day, my umbrella began to tire a little faster than I did. And then there was the sad day when my umbrella broke. I was sad. No more Mary Poppins adventures.

Sometimes I think my dreams and deepest desires are similar to my Cinderella umbrella. I want it now and God knows that if I get what I want now that I will not be able to use it for its intended purpose. I will be like a seven-year-old who is happy for a short time before reality strikes. I’m sure it rained shortly after and I was wet because I had misused my umbrella. I had to wait before I could get another one.

God also chooses to wait. He could have Jesus come back right now to rapture the church and yet He waits because He knows of one more person that is so close to letting Him in, and He knows of another person that everyone says is too far gone for Jesus. God smiles because He knows better. He knows what others cannot know and sees what others cannot see without eyes of faith. God waits for people to come to Him, waits for His children to desire more of Him. God could make us change but He blessed us with free will and He gently waits, calling us closer to Him.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 NKJV

In the garden after God had created everything He rested.
“Thus the heavens and the earth and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Gen. 2:1-3.
God could’ve been anxious about all the people He would make and the happenings of the world.  But God was not in a hurry. He is outside of time. And so, He waited and rested from creating on the seventh day. He rested. Knowing He was in control. He set a precedent of trusting Him to guide the course of our lives.

So, I can imagine that you are waiting for something. Look for ways to grow in your relationship with God. Rather than becoming bored in the wait, look for new ways to be renewed in His presence. Go look at the sunset, see the dew drops after the rain or sense God’s power with the hurricane. Crack open your Bible. His Word is so alive that it speaks to me something different every time! Don’t waste this beautiful time of waiting, anticipation, and longing.
“Wait on the LORD and be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait I say on the LORD!” Psalm 27:14
Much Love,
Anna. ❤

 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18.

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Even So, It Is Well With My Soul

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When you’ve been hurt deeply and when you stand in the shadows of grief how  do you move forward?  When the voices of the past call to haunt and the perfectly packaged lies beckon you to choose a life of ease rather than purposed pain and joy in Christ, how do you walk forward? How? Somedays the pain is so great getting out of bed is a chore as you force your led feet to slip over onto the carpet and face the day. When the wounds of the past dare to rip you to shreds and the lies continue to circle in your head it is then that a choice must be made. A choice must be made to remember the truth. Not the truth of the pain, but the truth of Jesus who is unchanging.  A resolve must be made to walk forward with arms raised, confident of His strength. Confident that when I wait on the LORD that He will renew my strength and that with Him I can run and not grow weary. Because of Jesus I can walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31. During seasons of brokenness I must rest in the hope of Jesus. I must choose to saturate myself in the truth.
When I think no one loves me I remember His love was great enough to go to the cross. Romans 5:8
When I feel lonely, I remember He will never leave me or forsake me. Heb. 13:5
When I feel that my sin is unforgiveable, I remember that I am saved by His grace alone and that if I confess my sins that He will forgive!  Eph. 2:8-10. 1 John 1:9
When God’s love seems distant I remember that nothing can separate me from His love. Romans 8:37-39.
When I feel overlooked, I remember that God chose to be mindful of me. Psalm 8:3-4
When I am hurt, I remember that Jesus is the healer and the restorer of the broken. Isaiah 54:11-12
When I cannot sleep, I can run to Jesus who never sleeps. He is always there. Psalm 121:4
When I am surrounded by chaotic circumstances, I can rest in the fact that He is never changing. Heb. 13:8.

Even though it hurts hard enough to bring you to tears, “even so, it is well with my soul.” Because I know who holds me. I know who holds the past, present and future in the palm of His hand. God is the author of time. He will bring healing, but it is in His time. So, during this season when your heart stands guard at the graveyard, dare to dig deeper into God’s Word, deeper into God’s character. See His loving hand woven into every conversation, every drop of dew, and every sunrise. It is through my deepest valleys of suffering and pain where intimacy with my Savior blossoms. Through the valley of the shadow of death I can experience a deeper closeness with Jesus.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; You rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Much Love as you draw closer to Him.

Love,

Anna ❤

 

“It is Well” was written by Horatio G. Spafford.