Tips + Tricks to Get Your Schedule Under Control

People are always tell me how organized I must be since we have six kids and I have my fingers in all sorts of stuff.

Know what I whisper back? “Don’t say that in front of my husband or he’ll die laughing.”

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I’m not, you guys. I’m just not mega-organized in all aspects of my life. The biggest source of struggle for me?

Scheduling.

But guess what…I have some fantastic tips on how to get a grip on it all!

Our kids after-school sports/activities schedule is on a separate calendar on my phone but I needed something for the every-day.

You know, so I don’t schedule trips on days they don’t have school, or don’t double book a doctor appointment on the same day I have a speaking engagement, that sort of thing. I needed to get a better grasp on things because I was drowning in double-bookings and scheduling things poorly, which wasn’t allowing me to accomplish all I needed to do.

Maybe you’re the same.

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Or perhaps it’s not work-stuff that’s bogging you down, but mom-hood in general (hand raised here!!). You know, things as simple as scheduling a get-together the night before your son’s huge science project was due (oops). Or maybe being excited your mother-in-law was coming to visit before realizing it was finals week for your oldest and they would be holed-up studying the whole time and not able to play.

A few months ago, my dear friend Lindsay Sherbondy (also known as Lindsay Letters) sent me a wall calendar unlike any I’ve ever had. A wall calendar? That’s it? That’s your amazing organizing tool?? (**yawn**) I’ve had one since high school.

No! No you haven’t!

This is different…and so is how Lindsay taught me to use it.

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But here’s the thing: it’s not just what we use…but how we use it!

First of all, let’s talk about how pretty it is. Everything Linds makes is like the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen. So there’s that. But you also have an opportunity to select all sorts of options so it fits perfectly in your space AND perfectly fits your needs.

  • weekly, monthly, yearly, quarterly, seasonal

  • kids schedule, kitchen (with foodie illustrations), traditional

  • calligraphy or typography

  • vertical or horizontal

  • wall-peels or framed (PS there are TONS of different framing and sizing options)

  • huge-sized, tiny-sized

  • big budget, small budget

Are you freaking out about all the options yet? I know…how do you choose, right?!

But here’s the great part: Unlike most calendars that are made of paper, this one is covered in plexiglas which means it basically lasts forever (there is also a wall-peel option, check that out too!).

After the month, quarter, year, or whatever, is over…you simply wipe it clean and start afresh!

Ok ready for some tips on how to use it to stay mega-organized??

tips:

I certainly like that dry erase and wet erase markers can be used for different purposes but what I LOVE is the ability to use more than just pens to help me remember various things. Because of the way my brain works, other materials such as washi tape, post-it notes, tags, etc easily pulls my eye toward exactly what needs to be done and highlighted… basically separating or classifying various projects and topics.

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Want to understand better what I’m talking about?

Head to this quick little video and see what I mean!

What do you think? Was that helpful? I sure hope so…because it’s truly been invaluable for me! And if you’re wondering, my calendar is The Quarter Cal.

I don’t have a ton scheduled for the rest of September but I know there’s a lot of travel, etc coming up in October and November so I went ahead and started those months a little early to make sure I’m set up for success!


Also…

If you haven’t already fallen in love with Lindsay’s crazy-creativity (and her dry humor…she’s just so fun. Check out her IGstories)…then I’m so excited to have changed your life for the better.

Head here to see more of her AMAZING hand lettering and artwork!

Take Joy,

Teresa

Be the Difference-Maker + Creating Action When We Feel Helpless

A few years ago, one of our children lied and said I was abusing them because they were so homesick for Ethiopia. Not comprehending how love and family worked, they figured if they made things hard enough for us, we'd put them on a plane and send them back. As Child Protective Services opened a full-fledged investigation on me, they threatened not to take this singular child from us, but remove all our children from my care.

I cannot even begin to explain the loss and fear surrounding my heart at the idea of that possibility. Thankfully, these amazing individuals whose job is solely to ensure the safety and well-being of children ultimately saw through this lie and found a happy, safe, and thriving family...and a child with trauma who was struggling in a very significant way.

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A parent's worst nightmare

As we know though, our outcome isn't the reality of other families. While watching the news and seeing images of children and parents ripped from one another's arms, I think back on those weeks of panic, dread, and fear. It's a parent's worst nightmare...and every child's greatest horror. And yet it's actually occurring right here in our country. Shoving aside all politics, we're all heartbroken and enraged that our greatest terror is happening right now....at this very moment.

While chatting with a friend today, I was reminded of a section of my book and how pertinent it feels right now in light of the story that is unfolding between us and Mexico....

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Do nothing?

Last summer, our oldest son Abreham (then 17), worked at a car wash. It wasn’t particularly close to our house and he had yet to get his driver’s license
so he took the light-rail each day. While walking
under the overpass that led to where he’d buy
his ticket and hop on the train, he’d often see a
homeless man. Day after day, he’d smile and say
hello as he passed the man. One morning though,
Abreham was struck with the realization that this man had a story,
and, just like the rest of us, he needed hope and community.
Stopping to have a conversation with him, my teenage son wanted
to know the narrative that was this man’s life.

According to the man, he struggled with family issues and since he was relatively new to
our country, he didn’t have a community or anyone to go to. This
man came into our country legally, but no one wanted to hire a dirty
homeless man who didn’t speak English well. The Lord spoke to my
son’s heart that day and urged him to buy the hungry man breakfast
at the nearby McDonald’s as well as a ticket for the light-rail. Why
the train ticket? Because Abreham was determined to get him a job
at the car wash. And you know what? He did. And it wasn’t the only time our oldest son did something like this.

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Abreham didn’t work at that car wash for more than a few months, yet when he’d hear of
someone who couldn’t find a job, he’d tell them to come by and tell
his boss that he was the one who sent them. He did the same thing
for a friend’s sixty-five-year-old mother who came over from Ethiopia
and also hardly spoke any English. He knew fluency wasn’t a prerequisite
to wash a car. He dove into these people’s stories, knowing each
was different, and because he listened to the Lord’s prompting, he
helped change the narrative in their lives.

How often do we do something like this? I’ll admit . . . I never
have to the extent Abreham has. Maybe it’s a different type of bravery
that I haven’t tapped into yet, but watching my son sure has made me
pay closer attention to how I can also enter into the stories of people
I encounter each and every day.

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Where is God in all this?

I remember awhile back someone
telling me she struggled with all the devastation we hear about every
day in the news: human trafficking, the global water crisis, children
dying from hunger, domestic violence, and so many more horrible
things. As she shared this struggle, she asked, “Where is God in all of
this?” The other woman with us looked at her and gently said, “What
if that’s why we’re here? What are you doing about it?”

Gosh her comment woke me up: What am I doing about it? I can’t complain and
yet do nothing.

Sometimes God walks us through the valley, or through seasons
in general, to show us something. Perhaps Abreham’s short time at
that car wash was just to help this man. Maybe my friend was struggling
with all that she saw on the news because the Lord wanted her to
wake up and take action.

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Are we entering into the stories of others, or just regurgitating what we're hearing? Are we stepping in and truly making a difference in the lives of others around us?

My friend felt angry and wondered where God was in all she saw around her, maybe you wonder the same thing. But you know what? Perhaps the reason your emotions are running high is because the Lord is asking you to be the difference-maker.

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As a mom of children with trauma...

Helping these children is paramount. As it is, the trauma of being taken from their families and placed basically in huge warehouses full of other children, will be something that will follow them for years to come. It's an atrocity. As a mom of children with trauma, I can tell you how significant it is and how it swirls around in so many aspects of their lives.

During one of our trips to Ethiopia, we encountered about a thousand people in a haphazard line that wound itself around buildings and down the block. These folks looked weary and exhausted. It was obvious that they had stood in line a significant amount of time...hours, even overnight. Why? Because they were trying to receive permission to come to the US. I was embarrassed and even a bit angry at the realization that I got to skip the entirety of this massive queue, as were our Ethiopian children because we were already granted an appointment to receive a Visa and passport for our newest little loves. These people must stand in the heat, with their children, haphazard tents but mostly no covering from the elements, limited access to food and water, and wait for days...with only a chance to be granted permission to come to our country.

Again, putting politics aside...this post isn't about that.

This is about the people. 

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Just like it made me sad, embarrassed, and angry that I got to go to the front of the line, I'm also sad and angry that these dedicated Ethiopians (and others like them worldwide) often don't get to come to our great country...and yet because Mexico is our neighbor, they are able to scootch themselves on in.

I'm not saying the Mexican community shouldn't be here, of course, I'm not. What I am saying, however, is that while thousands of individuals throughout the world have no other option than going through the proper channels to start a life in the US and yet others sneak in, we're all wanting a better life for our children. And with that as our focal point, we need to stand beside those who cannot fight for themselves and get these children back in the arms of their parents.

Put away your politics, put away your social media rants.

Don't get angry and yet do nothing to affect change.

Let's help these children. Contact your legislator today.

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Be a Difference-Maker.

Take Joy,

Teresa

What do my book + MOPS International have to do with each other??

Years ago, when our kids were still small and I only had two blonde boys at home (ohhhh how things change!!), I heard of this thing called MOPS International. I first thought how weird the name was...and then thought the acronym didn't apply to me because I wasn't a Mother of a PreSchooler, I was the mother of two toddlers. (Helloooooo...they didn't need to be IN preschool, they needed to be pre-elementary school aged! I was totally their target mama!)

Even though I didn't really "get" what it was all about, a friend was starting a group at our church and she asked me to co-lead it. I really shouldn't have said yes and was the worst leader ever because it was right around the time we brought home Imani...and then Ezekiel, and I was so massively over-capacity that I could hardly function in life, let alone lead 40 other exhausted mamas.

But alas...God used being the co-coordinator at our MOPS group to get my feet wet and learn what this incredible non-profit was all about and teach me of its impact during my exhausted season with little ones underfoot.

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Fast forward several years of living in Denver and I became friends with a handful of women who worked in MOPS' corporate offices (who knew their home office is mere minutes from my own home?!). God is so fun to have introduced me to the organization when I, too, was trying to figure out this whole motherhood-thing. He brought me to these women who love-on and support mamas in the most beautiful way and then moved me closer so I could link arms with them! I love that He sees 10 steps further than I ever could.

One sweet friendship I've made is with Mandy Arioto, the CEO of MOPS International. She even wrote the foreword to my book. So humbled by that.

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(don't tell Mandy I posted this photo, it's horrible of both of us, she'll kill me hahahaha)

A few days ago, MOPS' blog featured my story and the heart of what Beautifully Interrupted is all about. 

Here's a snippit:

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Click the button below to read the rest of the article!

**If you're not involved with MOPS and you have babies on up, click here to learn more. They also have groups for teenaged moms, military mothers, as well as moms with school-aged children.**


By the way, have you preordered your copy of Beautifully Interrupted yet?

I keep getting screenshots from friends after Amazon has sent them updates on the delivery date...how crazy that some will arrive on doorsteps on April 30th when the release date isn't 'till May 15?!

Go order now and you might get it before it hits stores, too!!

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(PLUS... by preordering, you'll have access to freebies!! See what I'm talking about here)

Take Joy,

Teresa

Fear, Family, + School Shootings

Four times in the past two weeks since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, we've received messages from our children's schools regarding found threats by students. As much as we limit our kids seeing the news and various things on social media, they are in-tune with the shootings that have been going on. They hear the gossip about the student-threats and internalize conversations had in class. And they're scared.

To be honest, I think as parents...we're scared, too. I was chatting with one of my dearest friends in the world, asking if she'd be willing to contribute some thoughts on it all because she gets it. Deeply.

I challenge you to take a few minutes and really read what she has to say. Because I'm having a hard time sending our children to school, a hard time explaining things to them, and a hard time not living in fear...and not infusing fear into our children's hearts. Maybe you're struggling with this, too.

Meet Crystal Woodman Miller. Columbine survivor.

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Thursday morning, February 15th, the day after the horrible attacks in Parkland, Florida, I woke up questioning whether or not to send my oldest daughter to school. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time I had asked myself this question. Our nation has experienced far too many of these attacks. However, the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school hit close to home for me personally.

Nearly nineteen years ago, I was the same age and in the same stage of life as these students when...

I narrowly escaped death at Columbine High School.

I was a junior and only sixteen years old on April 20, 1999 when my friends and I decided to spend the lunch hour in the library working on class work. When chaos erupted within the halls of Columbine we took shelter under our tables, praying that God would save us. After a few moments, the two gunmen entered the library and went on a killing spree for seven and a half minutes.

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During that time, my friend vowed to take a bullet for me and I promised God that if He would save me, I would give Him my life completely. The library is where the majority of the violence took place that day. Ten of the thirteen who were killed were in the library, and fifteen of the twenty-four were wounded there. After those long, seemingly never-ending minutes, when I was literally waiting to die, the two gunmen pushed a chair in under our table, and I braced for the end. Yet nothing happened. They needed to gather more ammunition in another part of the school, but told us they would return to kill those of us who were still alive, giving us only a few moments to escape before they came back.

We now live and raise our children in a post-Columbine era. As parents, we remember the days when schools were safe, and people did not have to fear sending their children to school every day.

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Nowadays, however, we wonder...

Could today be the day my child experiences the unthinkable?!

It should not be this way.

What is more, our kids are keenly aware of the dangers that they face.

Whether they express it or not, they are afraid to go to school, making it virtually impossible to learn or even enjoy their school experience. Every student from elementary to high school has lived knowing what a school shooting is, and they recognize that violence can take place anywhere. 

I just returned from Parkland, Florida. I was able to speak to the community and with survivors themselves. The overwhelming grief they now face is unbearable.  The question I received from parents more than any other was “How can we ever send our kids back to school?”

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So, what do we say to all the parents out there who are anxious and feeling crippled by fear?

What is more, how do we talk to our kids when they ask questions like:

“Will I be safe at school?”

“What happens if a gunman comes to my school?”

“Why would anyone ever do something like this?”

How do we walk the delicate balance between sharing enough with our children in an effort to prepare and educate them...

yet not say too much and cause undue anxiety?

I think it is important to note that all of your feelings, emotions, and questions are valid. They are completely normal and they are shared by most parents everywhere with school-aged children.

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We face a very real enemy whose aim is to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) He will stop at nothing until he succeeds. Yet, we also trust that our God is bigger than any evil that comes against us, and that He is present with us in all circumstances. We know that God’s plan for us is to live- and to live radiantly- despite all of the things that seek to crush us.

Faith and fear cannot occupy our minds simultaneously.

In my experience, and in God’s great story of redemption, we know HE WINS.  Yet until the day He returns, a war rages on against our children and within our own minds as well.  It is a battle between what we can see, and what we truly believe.

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I know from experience how fear can have mastery over your life.

Oftentimes, before I even recognize that I am doing it, I have laid out a plan in my mind about where I would hide, how I would shelter my children, or where we would escape to in any given situation.

It is at that point that I must force myself to stop, and tell myself that everyone is safe- that no one is in any imminent danger.  More importantly, I must fix my eyes on Jesus and try to focus my thoughts on the things that are true and right and lovely. (Philippians 4:8)

Then, I must personally ask for peace- a peace only He can provide as the overcomer of evil. (John 16:33)

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Oftentimes, if my thoughts are anxious as I drive my daughter to school, I start praying over her.  With a confident assurance that the Lord loves my daughter even more than I possibly can, and that she belongs to Him, I begin praying out loud over her.

I ask that God will command His angels concerning her to guard her in all of her ways. (Psalm 91:11) I ask that He will be her Protector, and a wall about her. (Numbers 6:24 and Zechariah 2:5)

Praying scripture over ourselves and our children is our weapon.

This scripture-weapon will fight the enemy and to quiet our minds when things are beyond our control.  We must be a people who can stand firmly on and trust in the promises of God so that we will be unmoved by fear. Choosing faith over fear gives us victory over the enemy’s constant assaults. Choosing faith over fear allows us to run in total liberty and watch as the chains that bind us break off link by link.

One powerful and practical tool to help us do this is to train ourselves in the art of mindfulness.

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In doing so, I am convinced that we will learn ways to deal with the anxiety, fear, and panic that seek to suffocate us. In fact, three very specific things can happen when we practice this mindfulness: Gratitude, self-grace, and future assurance.

First, we must become a people who are grateful.

Gratitude allows us to be present in all the moments of our lives- from the most mundane to the most exceptional and extraordinary moments. Gratitude causes us to take pause and enjoy the little things, like how our kids smell when we kiss the top of their heads, how they giggle and laugh at the dinner table over the silliest things, how their eyes sparkle in amazement when they watch snow fall from the sky, or how they breathe when they lay next to you fast asleep.

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Gratitude even awards us the opportunity to laugh and enjoy the “difficult” moments, like when they spill their milk, dump out the dirt in your flower pots, or get paint on their new clothes. These are the moments that turn into memories. These are the moments that fill our hearts with inexplicable joy.

Second, mindfulness teaches us not to make judgments and to be gracious to ourselves.

Whenever you face panic, confusion, or fear, instead of suppressing or ignoring the unpleasant feelings, we must turn to acknowledge them and face them head-on. We must take courage because as believers in Jesus, it is ours for the taking. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather staring fear in its ugly face and saying, “Not today! You will not win today!” When you acknowledge the fear, it loses its powerful grip of control over you.

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Lastly, mindfulness gives us resolve.

It reminds us to assess where we are and where we hope to go in the future. As parents, we get to determine how we want to raise our children and guide them into who they will become. We get to send them out as brilliant stars to light up the darkness in this world.  As parents, we set the stage so that they can become the ones who truly affect real and lasting change in this culture.

We have the beautiful privilege to raise empowered, strong, compassionate, loving children whose legacies WILL NOT and CANNOT ever be extinguished by any amount of evil in this world. We get to instruct and disciple them, to teach them to accept others, to reach out to the lonely, to recognize the broken in a hurting world and respond in kindness.

Ultimately, we get to show our kids how they can change the world one friendship at a time. We get to teach them to hold out the hope of the Gospel to friends and classmates as fearless truth-tellers.

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As parents, we model an understanding that this world is not our final destination. We model an understanding that violence, pain, and even death will not be our end or be our ruin. Then, and only then, will our children walk confidently forward in the direction we’ve led. If we and our children know who we are, WHOSE we are, and where we are headed, we will be able to walk through whatever challenges we face.

As parents we must confront this issue and be brave enough to invite our kids into a conversation about it.

We must create space within our homes and margin throughout our days to talk about these issues. Some families choose to conduct a daily briefing- giving their children a safe place to share their concerns and fears.  We must address their feelings and concerns- both validating and assuring them.

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Without making promises we cannot keep, we must encourage our children that our schools are doing everything they can to ensure their safety. We can discuss reasonable precautions and actions to take in the event of an attack. We must talk about warning signs of the sad, angry, and disenfranchised so that they can reach out, but also be willing to alert safe adults of any threats.

It is critical to never forget what has happened, and remember those we have lost.  We must talk about how we can use our voices and our skills to seek change on every level. Most importantly, we must establish a firm foundation of God’s Word and truth in our homes as we read and memorize scripture. We must pray together, knowing that prayer has the power to ease our fears and also to change things. 

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We must practice mindfulness for ourselves and model it for our children. Mindfulness invites the presence of God into our fears, anxieties, and worries.  As God shows up in every area of our lives, even the ones we wish we could avoid, it silences the enemy and causes the darkness to flee. The enemy will continue to sling his arrows at us, and he may injure us, but he will not ruin or destroy us.  He is no match for The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Our power and our authority come from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit! The enemy cannot stand in the presence of the Almighty, so we will call on the powerful name of Jesus- the name that is above every name! He is the answer to every fear and worry we face. And He is the gift we give to our children and to this broken and hurting world.

By the way, Crystal will be back soon as she shares practical tips on how to talk to our kids about the what-if's and to live prepared...yet without fear.

If you have specific questions you might like answered in that post, please ask in the comments section of today's blog post.


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Crystal Woodman Miller lives in Morrison Colorado with her husband Pete and three children Lucca, Malachi and Josephine.  She is the author of Marked for Life: Choosing Hope and Discovering Purpose After Earth-Shattering Tragedy (NavPress). 

She is an international speaker on issues of faith and hope in the midst of suffering.  Crystal survived the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999,  and shares candidly of her own journey of hardship, faith and hope so that it may encourage others in the challenges they face. 

Crystal also speaks in effort to prevent school violence and to help those who, unfortunately have already been impacted by it.  Crystal is most passionate about teaching God’s word and carrying life through the hope of the Gospel to a broken world.  Find her online at crystalwoodmanmiller.com  

My heart is broken into pieces (+ prayer printable)

If you follow me on social media, you'll have picked up that our family has been going through a really difficult time. I haven't really alluded to the what and the how...quite honestly because I could hardly say it aloud yet.

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Have you been in that place before? So hurt that you can hardly ask for prayer because you're so emotionally drained and don't have the energy to talk about it?

Growing up, our family had a code word we'd say if we needed help. I could call my folks while at a party, slumber party, etc, use the word in conversation...and my parents would immediately pick me up, no questions asked.

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We do the same thing now for our kids, but we've even gone one step further: they know if they just need a hug or a cuddle and some mom or daddy time, they have a word they can use and we'll know they need a little extra love. They may not be capable of voicing it aloud yet, or depending on their age, they may not even be able to put a finger on WHY they feel that way...they just know they need added affection.

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We've all needed a little extra love over here lately because our oldest son Abreham decided he didn't want to be part of our family anymore. If we were sitting over a cup of coffee or glass of wine, I'd share details with you...but both because it's a long story, several years in the making...and because I'm still trying to figure out how much and what to share with the world, I won't pour everything out right now.

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What I will tell you is he's an 18-year-old Junior in high school who has lived through a lot of trauma in his life. He's angry, he's broken, and he thinks he's better off alone because he can hide in his pain and not feel. Because feeling, to him, is weak. And it's painful.

We know he's safe, but I will leave details at that.

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I am devastated.

Absolutely devastated.

I ache every moment of the day with the loss and rejection and sadness. I'm angry, worried, and full of sorrow, all at the same time. As I go through the cycle of grief, over and over (and over), I give it back to my Father in Heaven to is with my son and I'm reminded he's not actually alone.

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The thought of it is incredibly painful, but I'm ready for God to allow Abreham to be broken...but not destroyed.

And that's what I'm desperately praying for: that God only allows him to go so far. Just like the waves are only allowed to come so far onto shore, I pray that the Lord only allows Abreham to drift from Him so far. It's so hard knowing our kids need to learn from failure sometimes. They need to try things and realize growth is hard and it's even harder when bad decisions are being made.

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Ben and I always say we want to prepare our kids for the road, not the road for our kids...and this is yet another example of how we cannot soften things for our children at every moment. This is obviously a much larger situation than simply allowing them to see what happens if they decide to wear flipflops to school when it's 35 degrees. This is huge.

This could potentially change the trajectory of his entire future.

And that may be even harder than him deciding he doesn't want to be part of our lives anymore.

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And the incredible hurt and pain he's cutting into his brothers and and sisters hearts, is one of the hardest parts on my mama-heart. But hearing the prayers of these little ones for their big brother, is awe inspiring. They pray for his "hurt heart", they pray for protection, and they pray that He comes home.

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While praying a few days ago, the Lord whispered in my ear "I will bring him back to you." I knew better than to ask when...it may be 10 days, it may be 10 months, it may be 10 years...I just don't know.

But HE knows.

And I will rest in that because He is God and I am not.

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Abreham, I love you.  You are not alone and can never stray too far that God won't pour His love out onto you. There's nothing you can do that He won't forgive if you ask with a sorrow-filled heart.

The Lord is walking beside you, Abreham, even when you don't want us to be. I will pray for you always. I will love you always.

- Mom

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Prayer these days has been a constant companion, though sometimes there are times it is hard to do so. I created this printable to remind myself of who He is and what He can do. Our God is a BIG God, and one of deep love for us.

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When I have a hard time praying, I'm simply going to read this. If you need it, I pray you print it out, too. Head to The Library to download. As always, the password is at the top of all my emails, so if you haven't subscribed yet, feel free and do that today.

Love you friends, thanks for walking life with me.

Take Joy,

Teresa

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