Purposeful Faith

Exalt Christ Amidst Christmas Busy

Use Christmas Busyness to Exalt Christ

Note: Bloggers – today is Part I of the Cheerleading Link up (We tweet encouragement using #RaRaLinkup).  Tomorrow is the actual linkup day.

Christmas is that time of year when I mark off the calendar as “busy”.  It’s that time of year where I continuously pull out my checkbook to “gift” and to “card”.  Christmas is that time of year, where parties can just leave me tired. Where people can leave me drained. Where giving can feel not so gracious.

Why?  Because I feel worn.  I feel tired.  It’s year-end and I have given and given and given myself.

It sometimes gets me feeling guilty too – like I am missing the point.  And, it makes me wonder – where’s Jesus amidst Christmas busy?  Where’s Jesus in this hustle and bustle?  Does he look down on this kind of behavior?

See the True Gift

Yet, while pondering these questions, the Lord placed the most wonderful gift in my lap – a gift of truth. And, as I held this adorned box, staring at it’s meaning, I started to understand the beauty of Christmas busy. It’s not all about the wrapping paper, about the bows, about the act of wrapping, but it is about the heart – a receptive heart.

And, as I open God’s gift to me. The heart of the matter comes to light; I see the love of Christ. Authentic. Deep. Heartfelt love.

I admire the gift of Jesus – a gift I am called to share with others.

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

I realize, if I can’t find joy in the gift giving, I have entirely missed the gift-giver and the heart of the gift.

Because we have joy when our joy is derived from Christ.  Suddenly, through the amazing gift of Christ, all we can do is give, sacrifice and love. Suddenly, all the Christmas busy isn’t seen as acts of drudgery, but as acts of service, of adoration, of worship.

What True Giving Is

Christ endlessly gave – not out of obligation, but out of love.  There is no greater gift than to give.  We are blessed when we give. We find meaning to life when we give from a cheerful heart.

Let’s let our busyness come from pure motivations not busy obligation.  Because in many ways, busyness is the essence of Christmas. Busyness that relies on Christ. Busyness that feels overwhelmed but trusts God. Busyness that is fueled by the Spirit. Busyness that shines Christ. Busyness that extends grace. This is where the joy of Christmas is found.

Just as Christ served, preached and loved endlessly, we can give, host, serve and love endlessly too – through his power and strength at work within us.

Helpless we come in this world, and through the amazing gift of Christ – he helps us.  He empowers us, he equips us and he calls us to his work.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– (Eph. 2:8)

Truly, the greatest gift we ever received is the one that lies in a humble manger. The one who calls us to purify our hearts. The one who can never stop handing out grace. The one who reached others tirelessly with truth.

Behold Christ

Behold the gift of Christ, his grace and his enduring love. Let go of striving and grab hold of the ultimate gift – who lays in a manger in a town called Bethlehem.

He lays ready to be embraced and adored.

In a little town of Bethlehem, lays a baby who was never afraid to sacrifice.
In a little town of Bethlehem, lays a baby who extends grace beyond compare.
In a little town of Bethlehem, lays a baby whose power is perfected in weakness.

In that little town of Bethlehem, lays the heart of Christmas giving.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

As believers, we have a perfect gift.  This perfect gift frees us through the covering of grace. And, through this gift, we can joyfully give it all and exalt Christ.

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Christmas Traditions that Focus on Christ

Christmas Traditions that Focus on Christ
Honestly, I haven’t been one for too much Christmas tradition. It’s not that I don’t care about Christmas, because clearly it is one of the most important holidays, but I tend to get super busy at this time.  

It can be hard to add one more thing to do, when I can hardly keep up with what I already have to do. Do you get me?
 
I am so busy being busy that I can’t slow down to make things matter for my family.

So, when I was so thoughtfully invited by Jodie to participate in this series, I said yes, but thought, “Oh boy, what do I do?”
 
Sometimes, the Lord drops things on our lap, to make us realize that we can’t get up unless we address the issue.  I think this is exactly what he did here.

 

…Keep reading about my Christmas traditions that focus on Christ (and see some pics) at Faithfully-Following

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The Gift of God-With-Us

Post by: Angela Parlin

For a couple months, we’ve looked forward to hosting two sisters, who are orphans, in our home this Christmas. We selected clothes for them to wear, rearranged bedrooms, stocked up on groceries, and scheduled outings. We shopped for Christmas gifts, wrapped them all in red and black glittery paper, and hid them in a closet.

It’s been great fun, preparing for Christmas and getting ready to welcome these little ones into our family for a month.

But then, this week happened, the last week before they arrive. You wouldn’t believe how many things went wrong. (As in, not according to plan.) My stomach feels knotted up. I’ve had to remind myself to breathe. I’m having a really hard time slowing down, especially enough to pray.

We’ve known all along that this could be an amazing month–or it could be a very difficult month. But it’s like this news just now caught up to my insides, for the first time. All the concerns, what ifs, and fears floated to the surface.

I want to look forward with faith, to anticipate great things from God. I don’t want to feel so incapable, or worry about details. I don’t want to give fear some big, shouty platform in my life.

But I don’t feel I have much control over my anxiety right now. So last night, I put myself to bed early. But first, I read a chapter of Luke, where an angel tells Mary she’ll give birth to Immanuel (God With Us). And then I fell asleep thinking about something he told her:

The Lord is with you.

We need that reminder, don’t we? Because sometimes, we know it in our heads, but we live as if we’ve completely forgotten.

Today, I’m still fighting anxiety, so I looked up some places where the Bible repeats this truth, The Lord is with you.

I read about Jacob, who dreamed of a stairway between heaven and earth, where the Lord stood and clearly said to him, I am with you. He woke up and realized, The Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. (Genesis 28)

I can relate. Can you? I have not felt the Lord with me this week. I’ve fixed my eyes on my concerns and to-do lists, more than I’ve fixed my eyes on Jesus. But the Lord is in this place, in this week, even when I don’t feel that way.

I read about Moses, when he considered himself unqualified to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God said, I will be with you (Exodus 3), and then showed Himself to Moses in so many visible and miraculous ways.

I found numerous reminders of God’s nearness in the Psalms. The Lord is near to His children; The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. (34) God is an ever-present help in trouble. (46) The Lord is near to all who call on Him. (145)

I read parts of Isaiah, where the prophet shares these words from the Lord—So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41)

I read about when Jesus arrived in this world, as God-With-Us in the flesh. And then before He left again, He told His followers–Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28)

I could keep going, keep on finding this truth repeated.

The Word of God offers us this beautiful gift—The Lord is with you. It’s a truth we need to remember, and a truth we need to act on.

Whatever your struggle this Christmas, whatever your anxiety, whatever your pain, whatever difficulties you face, please remember this, friend–the Lord is with you. So take your concerns to Him!

God’s Word promises:

  • He will give you rest.
  • He will fill you with peace.
  • He will help you.
  • He will strengthen you.
  • He will give you what you need.
  • He will uphold you.

May we remember, the Lord is with us. Let’s unwrap the gift of God-With-Us this Christmas.

~Angela Parlin

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Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos. 


Dreams That Were Never Ours To Begin With

Dreams that were never ours

I am delighted to have this story featured on God Sized Dreams today…

Sometimes we have that one dream. We want it so badly. We want it with all that we are. We can see it. We can feel it. It rules our mind. It drives our behaviors. It consumes our thoughts.

We can only imagine what life will be like when we finally have it. Things will change. Life will matter. Everything will come into perspective.  

God knows how much is riding on this. Right? We think so. So, we diligently pray, as any good Christian should do. We ask and we seek to no end. We call up to God and bare our heart. We let him know how much we need this one dream to come through. We tell him exactly how we see it working out.

I have done this so many times. I have dreamed big dreams. I have hoped big hopes. I have wanted things to go a certain way. In fact, I have almost demanded they go a certain way….

Read as the story “Dreams that Were Never Ours to Begin With” continues on God Sized Dreams…


5 Truths to Replace The Lies Servants Believe

Lies Servants Believe

I love writing.  I love sharing. I love encouraging.  I love following the call of the Lord so that I can call others to know the Lord more. I love giving it all for the one who gave it all.

Yet, sometimes, when my eyes stray from the Ultimate Servant, I start to think I am the ultimate giver.

When this happens two things normally happen:

1.) I start feeling insecure, because I think results rely on my shoulders.
2.) I attempt to steal the Lord’s glory.

Tired. Worn. Weary. My eyes wander from Christ. I desire appreciation and require affirmation.

It’s so easy for the servant to be replaced with one wanting to be served.

With just the slightest perspective change, we are lured in. Why? Because serving is hard. Being less than is hard. Ministry is hard. It’s tireless. It’s sacrificial.  It’s never ending. 

It’s easy to think, “I have given so much, what about me?”

Have you ever felt this way?

Often, we servants have 5 predominate lies that grow thick and take over our mind.   God stands ready to cut them down with his awesome two-edged sword of truth.

1. “I should be doing more. My work isn’t enough.”  

We wrongly think that God values big things, big endeavors and huge results. We feel marginalized by God. Less than. We believe our work won’t count until it is bigger and better.  Sometimes, we can wonder why we are even trying…

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much… (Luke 16:10)

 TRUTH: If you are being faithful with what God has given you to do, you are being faithful. Period. The big – or small – the Lord has set before you is just what he wants you to tackle.  At our days end, we will be valued – not by how big we did things – but by how we loved, how we believed and how we trusted God with what we were given.


‘Well-done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.
Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Mt. 25:23)

 2. “Look what they’re doing. They are so much better than I am.”

The second we take our eyes off of Christ is the second we start getting big eyes for other’s accomplishments. We see. We want. We envy.  

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Phil. 2:3)


TRUTH: We are all working for the Lord.  We have the same boss – and the same goals. True joy is found when we co-labor with our neighbor.  God desires community, relationships and teamwork. He never intended for us to mark our territories – as we pursue our agenda’s. 

Instead, he tells us to consider others better than ourselves.  Why?  Because he wants us to experience the full joy of serving, working and loving others.

3. “I feel worn down. I can’t find strength.”

Tired. Worn. Weak. Weary.  We feel that ministry has become a daily grind.

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Is. 40:31)

TRUTH: We renew our strength by renewing our relationship with the Lord.  Meaning: we remember why we are doing this, whom we are doing it for and why we have been called.  If he called us, he will clear a way for us.  We can stop striving and start resting in his plan. As we do this, he will renew our strength.

4. “Does what I do, even matter? I am not making a difference.”

We doubt the difference we are making.  We question our purpose.

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Mt. 25:40)

TRUTH: If we affected one, we have pleased One.  God values the least of these. He is not looking for numbers; he is looking for changed hearts.  What you are doing does matter.  If someone has been changed, your work has had huge impact.  And, imagine all the people you have impacted who have never even told you.

5. “No one has affirmed me.  I am not any good.”

We can feel discouraged, waiting to be encouraged. We need people to fill us up, in order to feel full.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Mt. 6:33)

 TRUTH: When we seek after God, his kingdom, and his righteousness, we don’t need to gas up on approval. Because know we are already approved. In this, we can stand secure.  This means we don’t have to spin wheels seeking approval and affirmation. He has everything covered. 

The Lord sees us. And, as he sees fit – he gives.  He gives it right to us as we are seeking after him.  He makes it easy, he just tells us, “Seek after me and I will give you all the rest.”  

We were created to serve. When we serve based on the promises of God, we can serve from a whole-hearted place, instead of an insecure place.  It makes all the difference in the world.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk. 10:45)

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Cheerleading Link Up –

Hey Bloggers, I hope you had fun encouraging each other yesterday on Twitter (#RaRaLinkup). I sure had a blast. Click the button below to participate in the Cheerleading Linkup.  Be sure to return every Tuesday as the fun continues.

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Prepare Your Heart for the Birth of Jesus

Prepare your heart for the birth of baby Jesus

Mary and Joseph knocked on the door to inn, but there was no room.  There was no space.  Every inch of the inn was occupied.

“…She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Luke 2:7)

As we prepare for Christmas, we are wise to create room for the greatest gift of Christmas to be delivered.  We are wise to make sure we don’t say, “Jesus, I don’t have room for you.”  Because, if we fill our mind, our actions and our hearts with other things, we will have a big sign on our hearts that shines “no vacancy.”

This means, we have to slow down, and clear out some internal junk to make room for Jesus. We must open the doors of our soul and say, “Yes, Lord, we have room.” We must look him in the eyes and say, “Let us roll out the red carpet – the VIP treatment – for you Lord!” We must say, “You are the preferred guest in my heart.”

Making room for Jesus means we:

Pray and ask Jesus to make himself apparent in our hearts.
– Acknowledge to God that we are prone to stray.
Keep our eyes focused on the word of the Lord.
Meditate on the story of Christmas and the gift called Jesus
Repent of any idols we are putting before the Lord.
Let go of worries, anxieties and busyness to find Christ.
Find joy in the grace and glory that Christ brings.

Prepare your heart. Make room for the King.  He is coming.

Don’t let your heart blink with a no vacancy sign. Don’t turn away the greatest gift ever given.  Create room for the arrival of baby Jesus.

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Will They Love My Gift?

By: Katy

“Hey when ya get a chance today, find one of those big empty boxes in the garage and have the kids start getting stuff to give away.”

A text from my hubby on his way to work one morning just before Christmas last year. How sweet. How noble. What a great Dad. None of those, however, crossed my mind. Instead, I kinda went, “Ugggggghhhhhh.”

Doesn’t he know we all still have the flu? Doesn’t he know I have disinfecting to do? Doesn’t he know the kids all have attitudes?

But in the spirit of Christmas I turned off the television, grabbed a box, and sat our little army all in a row.

“It’s time to clean out the toy box.”

They know the drill. We do it bi-annually. Once before birthdays. Once before Christmas. Clear out the clutter before we add more. I know what stays and what goes before we begin. Toys on top we play with on a regular basis. Those stay. Toys on the bottom – those are the forgotten, broken or replaced toys the kids are willing to part with.

Except for last year ….

IMG_1652

Micah Sean, my rough and tough 3rd born with a hard head and a soft heart, sat on the rug with his little legs crossed. One of the first toys out of the box – Dad the Moose. Micah named him. Micah loves his Daddy and loves his moose, so it seemed appropriate.

Dad the Moose sleeps tucked under Micah’s arm. Dad the Moose travels with us wherever we go. Dad the Moose is Micah’s buddy, maybe even his best buddy.

So when I pulled the moose out of the box and said, “Give or keep,” I already knew the answer. “Keep!” Micah yelped and squeezed Dad the Moose close. We continued with several more “keeps.” Then,

“Wait,” Micah said with urgency. “I want to give Dad the Moose.”

And he tossed him into the box. I looked at Micah. Did he really mean it? Does he know what he’s doing? He’ll miss that moose! A few minutes later Micah changed his mind and dug the moose back out of the box. Three times this happened. Moose in. Moose out. Moose in. Moose out.

I watched this little boy struggle. Something inside him said give. Give away your moose. But something inside him also ached. Dad the Moose belonged to Micah. He chose that moose. He named him. He loved him.

And then he did it. Once and for all, he gave his moose away.

“Mom, someone else can have Dad the Moose.”

Elijah, our resident animal lover and stuffed animal collector, warned, “Micah, another boy or girl may not call him Dad.”

For fear of Micah’s tender heart breaking any more than it already had I jumped in … “But that’s okay. Because when we give, we also trust, that whoever gets our gift will love it as much as we did.”

I put my hand on Micah’s little leg and through tears I praised him for his selfless act. I told him about the boys and girls who won’t have much on Christmas and how happy they will be to receive this special gift.

Then I watched … as one gift of love spilled over.

“Okay, Mom, I’ll give Louie.”

Louie, Elijah’s stuffed owl. Just a few weeks earlier, Elijah walked all over the store, carefully considering every option before he picked Louie. He chose him. He named him. He loved him.

“I’ll give away pythor too, Mom.” And here came Jonah with his prize python. Jonah didn’t even like his siblings to play with this stuffed animal. Pythor morphed into a jump rope or super hero sling. His scales were blue, Jonah’s favorite color. Jonah chose him. He named him. He loved him.

But Louie and Pythor joined Dad the Moose in the box.

photo 2  photo 1

All of a sudden this box seemed so cold. How could these gifts given from such a tender place land in a torn, dirty, plain, brown box? They mean too much. They don’t belong here …….

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (KJV)

For God so loved the world, he gave. He gave his Son.

He chose Him. He named Him. He loved Him.

Did He really mean it? Does He know what He’s doing?

God knew some would not call him by his Name. Some would not call him Savior. King. Emmanuel. But still, God gave.

He means too much. He doesn’t belong here. How could His gift land in such a torn, dirty, plain world? 

But Jesus did.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (ESV)

Our box filled up pretty quick after that.

Turns out once you give away what you hold dear, everything else is easy to release.

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8 (ESV)

God gave it all, because He loves you and me. May that truth grace your heart in a new way today. And by His grace, may this greatest gift of love ever conceived spill out of your life into the hearts that surround you.

Katy

I left my job as a television news reporter to join my husband, Luke, on our adventure in the National Football League. 10 years, 12 moves, 6 kids, 5 teams, and 4 states later, it's safe to say the road has been anything but predictable. Our dreams today don't look quite like they did ten years ago, but I've learned along the way dreams do come true ... even if you're not a Disney World. I blog about a football wife's life at www.katymccown.com and I'd love for you to visit me!

I left my job as a television news reporter to join my husband, Luke, on our adventure in the National Football League. 10 years, 12 moves, 6 kids, 5 teams, and 4 states later, it’s safe to say the road has been anything but predictable. Our dreams today don’t look quite like they did ten years ago, but I’ve learned along the way dreams do come true … even if you’re not a Disney World. I blog about a football wife’s life at www.katymccown.com, and I’d love for you to visit me!

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Duped by Darkness

God does not desert us

Darkness can be alluring. It calls us, saying, “You won’t get hurt. Come and see what I have for you. Go your own way. No one will ever know. No one will see you.”

But often, what we hide in the dark ends up snagging us, catching us and having us for dinner. What we think is carefully hidden away, bites us when we least expect it.

It reminds me of the story of Little Red Riding Hood. She was cute. She was adventurous. She had good intentions. She was bringing delicious food to a sweet old grandmother, after all. It doesn’t get much more honorable than that!

Eager to give, happy to serve and ready to love – she was the ideal target for a hungry wolf. A wolf hiding and waiting to snatch her, so that she could not live out her calling.

He succeeded. Because our adorable Little Red Riding Hood, skipping with her basket of fruit, jumped at the chance to do things her own way…

…Continue reading this story at (in)Courage.  You will love where this story leads!

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Dear Child of God,

Dear Child of God

To my Dear Child of God,

Please know that you are loved. You are greatly adored. You are special.  You are encouraged.  You are seen.  You are powerful. You have a sound mind. You have a future. You have a hope. You have purpose. You are secure.

Why?

Because of me. Because of your God.  Because of Christ, who accepted every ounce of pain, so that he could grant every ounce of grace. Grace has been lavishly poured all over you. Do you know what this means? You are entirely secure.

I am the definition of love. I take joy in my creation. I give life. I show the way. I  offer you truth.

Know this, dear child, know this:

I won’t leave you, ever.
I won’t abandon you, never.
I won’t forsake you, no way no how.
I will help you, always.
I will lift you up and exalt you at just the right time, just see.
I will hold your hand in hard times, I will.
I will guide you in all of your days, trust me.

Come. Come and receive.

Stop striving and come.

Stop trying and come.

Stop worrying and come.

Dear child of God, I love you. I won’t stop loving you.

Love Always,

Your Lord and Savior, your King of Kings, your All-in-All, your One and Only

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When You Feel Like You’re Running in Circles

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

On a cool afternoon in late fall, I mow straight lines across our long expanse of lawn. I’m surprised by how much I enjoy it.

I see the neat rows of freshly cut grass growing with each trip across the yard. It is obvious when I miss a spot. As the strips freshly manicured section gets increasingly larger, I view my work with satisfaction.

Why do I enjoy this so much? It’s simple, really. For one, I get some quiet time of reflection without listening to kids bicker or ask me for snacks every five minutes. But second and perhaps more importantly, I see visible results.

I know when I haven’t done the job well because the results speak for themselves.

Other roles in my life are not this simple. They are complicated, and often leave me wondering whether I’m making an imprint.

I explain a complex subject to my six-year-old, but I’m not sure he understands. My husband and I make efforts to instill strong morals and character into our boys, but there are days when it seems as though everything we’ve been striving towards is falling apart.

On a bitter cold morning, I attempt to capture thoughts that go deep into the core of me on the page, but can’t quite grasp them. The cursor blinks mockingly and self-doubt creeps in before I’m able to type a single word. I wonder if I’m wasting my time.

I wonder if what I say resonates with anyone.

I see a pile of laundry looming in the corner and think, “Didn’t I just tackle that yesterday?” Before the day has even begun, thoughts of defeat overtake me.

Then, as God often does, he sends a reminder that strikes just the right chord. I realize my current state is temporary, but so much of me longs for the eternal.

My yearning for results often reflects a glory which will not be realized in this lifetime, but in the next.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

I am a planter of seed. I am a light in a temporary casting. I am a mere reflection of the One whose glory I will behold. A glory I long for so deeply at times it aches.

So often, I believe we become discouraged because it seems as though we are moving in circles. Saying the same things to our loved ones and kids over and over. Teaching the same lessons.

But friends, the truth is always worth repeating. People forget because it is their nature. We are still living in a flesh that continually pulls us away from what is true, what is eternal, what is lasting.

We continue to fight because the fight is worth it, even if we don’t see the result right away or even if this lifetime. We fight because we are more than conquerors through him who loved us first.

We long for that which we cannot see because of Him in whose image we were created.

Do not give up. Do not lose heart. You were made for more than anything this world has to offer.

As you lay your head on the pillow tonight, ask yourself this: Did I love? Did I open my arms in grace? Did I help someone who needed it?

If the answer to any one of those questions was yes, it was not in vain. Keep pressing forward, dear one. Your reward will be great.

 

Guest Contributor

Abby McDonald is mom, wife and southern girl who fell in love with writing at a young age. She started Fearfully Made Mom because she felt God gently pushing her to share her writing with others who may feel alone in their struggles with self-doubt, accepting God’s grace, and finding their identity in Christ. Her desire is to show women they are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who will relentlessly pursue them, even during their darkest times.

When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, Abby enjoys hiking, photography, reading, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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