Dead carnations; living God

My husband will go above and beyond to see to it that my greatest desires are met. He is a servant and leader in the image of our God, challenging me and cultivating spiritual growth. However, we are newlyweds who attempt to live frugally with a need to build up a savings account. We’ve got BIG dreams we want to see come into fruition, and we know that where there is no vision, the people perish. My husband will go above and beyond to see to it that my greatest desires are met, but he often gently reminds me of these bigger pictures when I start hinting around at the smaller desires of my heart.

Like flowers.

Among my favorite parts of getting married, very high at the list, is the GORGEOUS bouquet of flowers I received. Even if I only got to hold them for maybe three minutes before sadly parting and going our own ways…it to sit on a countertop and I to honeymoon in Gatlinburg. 1458656_10207011408058046_2682304188408142349_n

I like flowers.

Every time we pass by the bouquets in Walmart and Rouses, I bat my pretty little eyelashes, I say “Baby…“, and then I state what I know my husband is thinking. “We can’t eat the flowers. We can’t keep the flowers. They will eventually die. This is $5 that we can spend on groceries we actually need. We’ll be $5 closer to owning our first home or $5 closer to flipping houses or $5 closer to my brother’s in St. Thomas…”

So imagine my UTMOST joy when, after going on six months of marriage, Mark told me to pick one out one day while we were shopping. It took us nearly five minutes to pick a bouquet out and leave. They were just ALL so pretty in their own way! …Except for the spray-painted neon ones, but we won’t talk about those…

We chose the deep red carnations. I’m picky about carnations, but with this particular color (that mimicked our wedding color perfectly!) the bouquet was gorgeous. When we got home, I trimmed the stems, tied a white ribbon around them, and stared at their beauty.

One of the reasons we chose this bouquet outside of its beauty was because there were many buds still yet to bloom, so we figured these would last a while. And that they did. It’s been over a week, and we still have beautiful flowers in our formal sitting room!

They’ve lost their vibrancy. A few are beginning to wilt. But still, others are only now beginning to bloom. photo

Perhaps flowers are too impractical or feminine for you, but what about the majestic oak? Or the magnificent red woods? What simply leaves you in awe? What glorious creation just does it for you?

You see, I couldn’t help but think about my vase of flowers this morning as I read the first epistle of Peter. Verses 24-25 read:

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away. But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word by which the gospel is preached unto you.” (King James Version)

As gorgeous as these flowers are, they will die.

In college, I wrote a flash fiction piece called “Withered.” I used flowers as a metaphor for the human life. They can be so beautiful and breath-taking. They can be powerful, even. Goodness knows I’m grateful for plants like lavender and aloe vera, for example! But from the moment these precious flowers are picked and given to another person–as a gesture of endearment and affection, at that–they are dying. They’ve been plucked from their life-source. So you enjoy them while you can. Take pictures. Breathe in the sweet, gentle fragrance. Then you toss the dried up plant into the trash. Or press petals between pages of a thick book. Or hang them upside down. I had a roommate who did that.

The most precious, endearing, and glorious thing on this earth that we can appreciate and think of will fade. It will not last. Much less will it ever outshine God Almighty. Because after all, how can the creation out-glory the Creator?

Peter is here comparing the brevity of human life to the flower of the field. Time is precious to us, but the God we serve exists beyond the dimension of time!

Let’s be conscious of the glory and awesomeness of our Mighty God, and let’s be quick to redeem the time for it is oh so fleeting!

But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:13-17)

I encourage you to read past verse 17 during your quiet time if you are seeking the Father’s heart and desire to know what the will of the Lord is…or if you simply wish to shake away from the King James and read it in a simpler translation.

My challenge for you is to remember the word of the Lord. What promises has He spoken over your life? What word of hope or vision has He planted within you? What truth has others shared from Scripture that has forever shaken you to your core (in a good way)? The gospel that transformed you from within and that has brought you from darkness and into light is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and it readily stands available to all who embrace it…to all who embrace Him. Remember that the word of the Lord endures forever.

Be blessed!

Sammy

What can we learn from Jesus in the midst of persecution?

What can we learn from Jesus in the midst of persecution? A lot. I’m sure. But I want to look at just a glimpse of what God has been reminding me.

My students and I read through Matthew 26-28 around Easter time, revisiting the moments leading up to the betrayal of Jesus by his disciple Judas Iscariot, the crucifixion of Christ, and the promised resurrection three days later. Although I, as I’m sure just about any believer (or non-believer) raised in what was once known as the Bible belt of the US, have learned, discussed, and even acted out the events that unfolded to fulfill the prophecies of our Messiah, there were a couple of small details that truly caught my attention for the first time. Today, I’d like to bring these two points to your attention and encourage you to continue onward in your walk as a Christ-follower.

By all means, I encourage you to reread these chapters in their entirety for yourselves, but the verses specifically that I am looking at are first found in Matthew 27:12 and 14.

Jesus said nothing. Jesus was mocked and accused falsely of several faults. How did he respond? He said nothing. The elders and chief priests cried out: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (v41-43) Rightfully so, Christ could have answered them. He did save others. He could call down legions of angels to deliver Him had he desired. He was and is the true King of Israel. Jesus truthfully is the Son of God. However, he said nothing. Jesus had more than the momentary circumstance unfolding before his eyes on His mind. His entire walk, He spoke of the Father, glorifying God the Father, and living out His purpose. This did not change when it came time to lay His life down on the cross. He knew that it was God’s will to have a relationship with you and with me, and He also knew this was only possible through His sacrificial death. You see, our God is a righteous and holy God. He is fair. Because of that, our sins’ price of death could not simply be overlooked. Someone had to pay. And the only One spotless and pure and able to do this and live to experience that relationship with God afterward was His only Son, Jesus–fully God and fully human–Jesus, who humbled Himself, nobility a servant, and became obedient unto death.

First and of utmost importance, it is my true hope that you understand that yes, God is a loving Father who is perfect, but no, sin cannot freely be admitted into His presence. You see, sin is disobedience to God and separation from God. We do not want to enter His presence covered in our sinful stink. The wrath God has toward sin is real. And I hope you see that this doesn’t make God less than perfect or a God of twisted delights and of hatred. He cannot deny Himself. So, in His perfection, He gave up His Son to make a way for you and for me to be in right standing before Him. If you have not accepted His gift of salvation, it is my prayer that through His goodness and unfailing love, He stirs in your heart a desire to know Him more and that He removes spiritual blindness and confusion so that you can see His open arms before you.

Second, to those of us who already rightfully call God our Father and take on the weighty title of Christian, or “little Christ,” let us learn from our Teacher. He said nothing. He didn’t defend Himself. There are times that people falsely accuse us and believe lies about who we are and the things we may do or represent. Don’t get yourself worked up. Don’t worry. Don’t prepare a 1,000 word Facebook comment explaining why people are wrong and you are right. Remember that those closest to you know the truth, but most importantly, you and the Creator of the Universe know the truth. The time and energy you spend defending yourself could better be spend in reaching out to those who do want to hear the truth and experience love. Don’t give your enemies the time of day when it comes to this kind of rebuttal. Which brings me to my second point…

God’s but.

Romans 5:8 says that, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus called Judas Iscariot his friend. While celebrating the Passover with His disciples, Jesus boldly says that one of those gathered with Him will betray Him.

20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. 21 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”

22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”

23 He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

25 Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?”

He said to him, “You have said it.” (Matthew 26:20-25)

Jesus was not surprised by Judas’ betrayal. In fact, He had predicted it beforehand. Yet, notice that when Jesus is betrayed at Gethsemane, he calls Judas his friend.

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

Knowing that Judas had sold Him out for 30 pieces of silver, an action that would ultimately lead to His crucifixion, Jesus still called him “friend.” While we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins. 

Look at John 15:11-13:

11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

And in closing, check out Matthew 5:43-48.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Let’s go out today and be love, even to those who treat us poorly. Let’s not forget that it was our sins, as well as theirs, that Jesus was paying for when He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” We were at one time enemies of our Savior, but He still chose to lay down His life and to call us His friend.

That’s MORE than A LOT of bread!

Last year, the one post that received the greatest response from the public was That’s a lot of bread. In this post, I focused on Jesus’s ability and desire to take what we offer him, even when it doesn’t seem to be much, and to multiply it, a process that does three things: 1) brings God glory; 2) blesses others; and 3) blesses us.

Today, I’d like to play on this theme somewhat. I want to look at God’s faithfulness again; and yes, there’s actually bread in the story that unfolds.

Let’s begin by looking at scripture. Here are some selected passages from Psalm 37:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart. (vv. 3-4)

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday. (vv. 5-6)

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret–it only causes harm. (vv. 7-8)

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand. (vv. 23-24)

I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread.
He is merciful, and lends;
And his descendants are blessed. (vv. 25-26)

But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
He is their strength in the time of trouble.
And the Lord shall help them and deliver them;
He shall deliver them from the wicked,
And save them,
Because they trust in Him. (vv. 39-40)

When my dear friend Awshanay and I would meet for prayer our last year of college, she would often claim the Word spoken in Psalm 37:25: I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging for bread.

This verse instantly stirred within my spirit earlier this week when a student of mine showed up at school with a loaf of cinnamon and raisin swirl bread for me on the very day that we had run out of ours.

God has steadily been growing my trust in His provision. Were I to list every time God has come through during my time of need, I would have pages upon pages of blessings. First upon my entering college, then as He sustained me throughout my time at NSU, on to the season of life that I got by on my part-time librarian job alone, until He blessed me with my current teaching job–my first full-time gig–, and then there was the wedding…Oh! How we were blessed through all the planning for our wedding. We saved over $1,000 because of the generosity of friends, family members, and even strangers, by the grace of God alone.

Now, we’re in a tricky spot as we work on adjusting our budget as Mark is in the process of waiting on the Lord for a new job. And suddenly, our focus has been turned to the small things; for truly, it is through the small things that we often learn the biggest lessons.

My first electricity bill was outrageously high, to say the least. Even after considering the first-month deposit. However, at the end of August, God placed it on Mark’s heart to support me financially for the next five months. So, Mark took care of the bill, and we praised the Lord that he was able to cover it because I definitely couldn’t.

As what little wedding expenses we had started to add up and we began to pray for God’s provisions, I received a letter for the electricity company. There had been a mistake in the meter reading (duh!), and they were crediting the account.

Because of this credit, we were able to go through with the wedding, and enjoy our honeymoon, with one less bill to concern ourselves with upon returning to the “real world”. In fact, because of this oversight and credit, the October, November, and December bills were completely taken care of. The bill due in February will actually still have nearly an $8 credit.

When we were overcharged for September’s usage, God knew exactly what He was doing. Even then, He was preparing our provisions. Mark was led to support me financially for five months. September. October. November. December. January. He has income enough to help pay our bills through this month. That’s five months. Even in August, before either of us could foresee ANY of this, God was moving on our behalf to make a way.

Tonight, we finally decided to spend our Bed Bath and Beyond gift cards and splurge on the Ninja blending system we wanted. Although, originally, we were just going to go and use some of it to buy some more coffee flavoring syrups to shave a few dollars off of our grocery bill later on.

Before leaving, I searched online to look at the prices and in hopes of finding some sort of promo code or coupon…to no avail. *sigh* If we got the one we wanted, which was on the cheaper end, we’d only pay about $40-50 out of pocket with taxes.

But we hadn’t budgeted for this, so I told Mark we were just going to look and walk away with the syrups. We didn’t need the Ninja today.

When…low and behold…of all Ninja products, the very one we wanted…was ON SALE. The bright yellow tag said $30 off. What! We could walk away paying only $140 instead of $170+ tax. Okay, okay. It’s not in the budget, but this may be a wise investment. Let’s do it! After all, we have $145 in gift cards. 

“If I don’t buy the coffee syrups, we can walk out of here without paying anything out of pocket,” I told Mark, doing the math in my head. “But we have just enough. I can put the two bottles back. I don’t need syrup. I can live without it.”

But then I started going back and forth, and Mark encouraged me to get the syrup because of how badly I wanted them. It was the whole purpose of our trip to BBB after all. So then I said I could get one bottle instead of two. And I went back and forth. 0 bottles. No, just 1. Well, 2. It’s not a bad price. It can come from our grocery allowance, right? You know what, “Pray about it! Whatever you say, goes.”

To summarize what happened next: Mark told me to get both bottles, I overheard a customer mention that the store accepted expired coupons, so I mentioned to the cashier that I had an expired 20% off that I couldn’t pull up on my phone (which was the truth…so, it expired in 2012, but expired is expired, right? and there is a new one I’m awaiting in my inbox any time now…it just hadn’t arrived yet!), so the kind lady gave us 20% off of the already lowered price of the Ninja. Yay!

Regularly priced, the Ninja alone costs $169.99. The two syrups were 5.99 each. However, our grand total with tax was right around $135. We walked away with $10 left to burn in the store, courtesy of wedding blessings. We paid zip out of pocket. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

So, not wanting to take advantage of God’s generosity, I insisted we get bread and milk only at Walmart. We have to be wise in our spending.

But you know that God is a good, good God, right? One of the bread’s had a ROLLBACK sign, and Mark asked for another loaf of the Everything Italian, which technically is bread, so… when I went to grab the loaf while Mark waited in line…I saw it.

I saw the basket filled with Honey Nut Cheerios. I’d just told Mark this week that we should have bought more since we both eat that kind. What was so special about this basket of cereal? I’m sure you already know what I am getting at…it was on sale. A DOUBLE PACK…so not just ONE box of cereal but TWO!…for just $3. How could I resist? 😛

We left Walmart having spent less than $10, a record!

We stopped at Murphy’s for gas, and then we returned home just in time for a lovely storm to run its course.

All in all, we should have spent $216.31. How much did we actually spend? The $6.87 at Walmart for bread, MORE bread, milk, AND two boxes of Cheerios! + the whole $22.88 it took to fill my car up! We spent $29.75. For everything pictured below + filled gas tank, not pictured. Hehe. 😀 God is SO FAITHFUL to provide. ALWAYS.

12565453_10207187862589299_2244876309487747762_n

I want to remind you of the Word of God. In Matthew, Jesus promises that when we seek His kingdom FIRST, all the rest (food, shelter, basic needs), WILL be taken care of. God is a good, good Father, and I challenge you to press into Him with every single need. These are just examples of financial provision, but He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Creator of all the Universe. You better believe that my God will meet ALL of your needs, according to His riches…that includes healing, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs, as well! Take Psalm 37 at its word…Trust in Him.

Look Alive!

Greetings, and Happy 2016!

One of my student’s mom had given me a beautiful peace lily as a wedding gift. Unfortunately, as I was loading my car, it fell to the ground, and every single bud was broken in half. I brought the beat-up plant home, placed it near a window, and began to water it.

It started to look nice again.

And then. Just like that. At least a week went by and I forgot to water it.

I’d look at it every day, note its wilting appearance, and go on about my day.

I want to begin this new year by looking at one of my favorite passages of scripture.

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LordThus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. (Ezekiel 37:1-5)

What dead things are lying around you today? No. Seriously. What dreams of yours have been long buried on the top shelf of your closet, steadily collecting dust as the months pass you by? What relationships in your life have you determined to just count losses and move on? Or how about your joy? I know many who would admit that somehow, some way, their joy has sizzled out.

While there are many, many instances recorded in the Bible that we see stories of restoration and resurrection, there is something powerful to me in this particular passage. Perhaps it is the image it creates in my mind.

I watch Castle a lot, and I grew up fascinated by crime and murder shows. So, I’ve been exposed to bones fairly often. (And, let’s not forget that as a fifteen year-old, I did stand in a room with multiple cadavers. There, I was able to hold a human heart in my hands, yet I was more amazed as I watched the med student at work on another cadaver’s foot. I could see muscles and tendons connected to the bony structure of the foot, and as the student pulled various muscles, I watched the toes of the lifeless body curl up then relax.)

When the Lord commands Ezekiel to prophecy life unto the piles of dead bones, the idea of God breathing life into what has already decayed and stinks just, well, sticks with me.

Because I have dreams that have burned in my heart since I was young–dreams that have been set on the back-burner and have even been forgotten at times. I have friendships that I thought would last forever end with no explanation, relationships with people who meant the world to me. And I’ve had seasons of my life where I swear my name had legally been changed from Samantha to Grumpy.

But I have also gently been reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness to breathe life into what has long been dead to me. Rekindled desires, reconciliation with friends, and unspeakable joy.

And God wants to breathe life into you, just as He did so very long ago, forming dust and dirt and water into the first human.

I close this entry with a brief anecdote from two nights ago.

My husband and I were having a disagreement, and I grew greatly discouraged. We sat there on the couch in silence, and I looked in front of me to see how pathetic the lily truly looked, with its flowers pointed toward the ground and leaves just…laying there. I’d watered it earlier, but I didn’t think much of it. Until then.

I looked at the plant and thought of my marriage. I know, I know. I haven’t even been married for an entire month yet. I have much to learn. And certainly our disagreement was NOT anything to worry about. But still, I thought of our hearts in that moment. I thought about how we had allowed the enemy (which at times can be ourselves) shove a wedge and create distance between us.

I looked at the dying plant and remembered Ezekiel in the valley of bones.

And suddenly, I saw it. I saw the plant move. Maybe I was going crazy? I began staring intently. There it was again! Slowly and sporadically, a lot like popcorn, the leaves began to perk up. Before my very eyes, I watched the plant drink the water and become more lively.

I began to pray. “God, if faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain, please let me see this plant shoot back up to life. I’m not moving until you move.” And it moved. “You say ask and you shall receive. Well, God, I’m asking.” It moved again.

I asked Mark to start singing a worship song he was working on, and I began to pray, blessing the Lord for His goodness. And again, the leaves began to rise.

And just like that, God reminded me of His powerful restoration and resurrection. But, like my lily, if we acknowledge what is dying our lives but do nothing about it, we can’t expect to see growth. We must do our part, reach out, ask for help, seek our Lord, and do whatever it takes to remedy the problem.

Place yourself in a path that leads to the accomplishment of those dreams. Tell that person, “I’m sorry,” even if you still do not understand the offense you’ve committed. Choose this day to smile because regardless of the storms you face, you can trust in the love of your Savior. Turn to the well of living water that produces everlasting life and be quenched. John 4:14 records Jesus’s promise, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Which Bible verses does God use to speak life into you? Please share below!

2015: What’s the story?

Forgive me for my unforeseen absence since the beginning of September. God, in all of His splendor and majesty, decided that 2015 would be a year (one, I’m sure, of many) of great change and busy, busy, busy schedules. I could post for days about all that God has brought to me and brought me through, but who has time for that? Like John writes in his gospel account of Christ:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:25)

  • September– Do you remember my last post? I wrote it during my final hours at work on September 5, where, much like this post, I updated you beloved readers on the craziness of life? Let me refresh your memory with the following excerpt: After meeting with my parents, Mark and I have formally begun a courtship relationship with every intention to marry–in fact, God has led our hearts to pursue said marriage MUCH sooner than we had originally intended and I now await the highly anticipated proposal which everyone seems to know about except me!  The first of my updates takes you merely hours after I published this statement to What’s the Story. That highly anticipated proposal? The one that everyone seemed to know about except for me? Yeah. It happened. That night. What a surprise!

September 5- Samantha and Mark are engaged.

September 10- Samantha’s last day working as a children’s librarian.

September 17- Samantha moves into her own apartment.

 

October…

Much as I’d love to share fantabulous news from October, only one thing has been burned into my memory. Late in the evening on October 9, my older brother called with grim news. My big brother was calling to tell me the news before I found out on Facebook. (Not making the news any better, the reason he was calling instead of my parents was because they were out-of-state. After being planted for roughly 20 years at the same Southern Baptist church where I was basically raised, my dad was preaching at a church in Oklahoma–where they ultimately voted him in as the new pastor. And ironically enough, they are–this very day as I write this–making the move to their new home. October 9, also, is the anniversary of the day that my Maw Maw Lil passed away 13 years ago.) The news? My great-grandpa had been diagnosed with cancer.

Stop right here.

If you are familiar with any of my creative nonfiction written throughout college, THIS is the man that inspired each word, each image, each satsuma…

This was something that, for at least the past three years, I’d been praying over, wrestling with God over, and pleading about. Because in honesty, when a person is 92 years old, you know that he isn’t getting younger…although…in spirit, he was young as ever. “Please, God, let him make it to graduation.” And then “Please, God, let Paw Paw Roy live to see my wedding. Let him be at my wedding, Lord.”

I think about God’s promise to work all things together for our good, and I notice the fact that just two months before, I began working in a city that required me to pass in front of the exit to his house every single weekday. During the month of October, I spent many afternoons after school visiting, quickly realizing how precious and fleeting our time together was.

I praise Jesus that I was able to spend those evenings at the blue house behind St. Andrew’s. And I praise Jesus that Paw Paw was able to live past my proposal, meet Mark, and give his blessing. I praise Jesus that I had a picture of me in my wedding dress as I tried it on to show him his great-granddaughter in her glorious wedding wardrobe…because, unfortunately, just the month before our wedding day, on a gray Thursday evening, as I stood by his bedside, he breathed his last breath this side of heaven.

November…

was actually rather uneventful, and the majority of anything interesting happening would likely be wedding planning.

December

I believe it was December 9, but the date is irrelevant. As my students and I returned to the classroom that Wednesday morning after attending our school’s Christmas chapel, one sweet girl asked to speak with me in the hallway. To make a long story short, she wanted to accept Christ as her Savior, so, together, we talked and I easily discerned that she understood and knew exactly what she was seeking, and we prayed, thanking God for His love and mercy, and there, at that little school, was able to lead her in prayer as she accepted Christ as her Savior and invited Him to be the Lord of her life. This was a sweet gift from God reminding me of my heart’s calling and passion.

December 19…If pictures are worth a thousand words, let me spare your eyes from reading, and instead, allow these images to bring this post–and this year’s blogging–to a close.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(*New devotions coming SOON!)

Have a Blessed New Year
xoxo- Samantha
Olivier

A letter to the reader

My dearest reader:

Do not mistake my recent internet-silence to mean that I have nothing to share with you. Contrary, my life has COMPLETELY changed, and God has been accomplishing great work in and through my life, giving me much that I have longed to share with you.

It seems that in just a few days, several major decisions were made. I couldn’t help but picture my life as a chess piece (bear with me…I know nothing about chess but it seems appropriate?) that God carefully and strategically lifted from its place and put where it needed to be.

To sum things up, since I have last written:

  • I have become a 5th grade teacher at a small Christian school,
  • I have determined to quit my job as a children’s librarian, and my last day is this Thursday,
  • I am moving the following Thursday to a one-bedroom apartment closer to Houma, where I attend church, shop, and spend time with my promised man of God,
  • I have decided to regularly attend Bayou Blue Assembly of God church instead of FBC of Thibodaux,
  • and after meeting with my parents, Mark and I have formally begun a courtship relationship with every intention to marry–in fact, God has led our hearts to pursue said marriage MUCH sooner than we had originally intended and I now await the highly anticipated proposal which everyone seems to know about except me!

So. There’s all of this.

I do plan on keeping up with my blog…once I have time to take care of my basic needs as a human. A typical day for me lately goes a little like this:

  • Wake up at 6AM and sporadically get dressed, brush my teeth, etc.
  • Leave my house at 6:30AM and drive to school
  • Arrive at school by 7:25AM where I then drop my belongings off at my classroom/assume morning duties
  • Teach from 8AM-3PM, then get things in my classroom ready for the next day.
  • Leave school and drive directly to the library I work at, simultaneously eating if food has been prepared for day, and sit in car for ten minutes of silence before clocking into work at 5PM
  • Work 5-9PM
  • 9:PM-10:30 or 11PM is spent at the hotel lobby next door to the library where I grade, plan, and prepare for the next day at school, and
  • 11PM -11:30PM is spent driving home where I shower and crawl into bed to repeat the next day.

HOWEVER…(Excuse me while I do a little dance!) after Thursday I will have afternoons free again! (The first of which shall be spent packing up to move into my new apartment).

BUTTTTTTTTTTTTT

After that. I’m all yours, you guys. I’ll be blessed with an opportunity to invest not only 100% into my classwork but also into the gifts and minsitries of community, hospitality, and writing.

So please bear with me, stay tuned, and do keep me in your prayers.

With much love and grace,

Samantha<3

P.S. I would LOVE to hear from you guys. Now would be an awesome time to hear what the Lord is doing in your lives. Encouragement and testimonies of God’s goodness are a great way to offer your support during this AMAZING and challenging time of my life.

Get up and do something

This morning, I dreamed that I was wrestling an older man on the Golden Gate Bridge. The older man held a knife. To an outsider, it easily would have appeared that the man had malicious intentions toward me–what else could be happening when a grown man is holding a knife and struggle against a much smaller, younger lady? However, the truth of the matter is that the man never intended to harm me.

We were struggling with one another until I managed to toss the knife off of the bridge. The man had reached a point in his life where he had every intention to end it. And realizing this, I could not stand back and watch. I became proactive and got involved in something that was, seemingly, not my business.

I think about an illustration I’ve heard before. If a child is playing on a train track and a train is en route, the father will not simply ask the child to move and hope he listens. The father will run toward the child and push him off of the track, even if he gets scraped up a bit.

Why? Because he loves the child and wants to save him from the impending harm.

If a building is burning, and a person is trapped inside, does the firefighter ask the person and wait around for a response before rescuing him? No. Why? Because it is his duty to save lives.

As Christians, shouldn’t we be “struggling” with those we encounter? When we see someone holding a knife while standing at the edge of a bridge, are we just going to simply stand by and watch? “Well, he didn’t ask me to take the knife away from him. So, you know, I just let him die.” There is such an urgency for the love, mercy, and grace of Christ, and I fear that many of us have become complacent in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ that has saved us from the on-coming train, the burning building, the grip of depression.

If you share the love of God with someone and they reject it, they are rejecting Christ and not you. You were obedient to your calling. If you do not share the love of God, how can they accept His grace?

Romans 10:14-15 reads: How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

The Bible makes God’s command clear. We have all been “sent.” The question is: Where are you going? What are you doing? Who are you loving?

For further reading, check out a personal favorite of mine–which is referenced in the above scripture–Isaiah 52.

Dear Reader, it is my prayer that your faith be strengthened, that you stand firm in your convictions, and that you seek God’s power to step out and act as a catalyst that will change lives for the glory of our Lord. Be bold, my little lions. Be bold.

xoxo

Sam

This is amazing grace

I sat in the red leather recliner of a stranger’s home, feet tucked underneath me, teary-eyed as I stared ahead.

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder and leaves us breathless in awe and wonder? The King of glory, the King above all kings.

This is amazing grace. This is unfailing love. 

My friend Mark asked if I’d go to his band’s practice with him, and as I sat here, the words to this song by Phil Wickham, Bethel, and likely many other worship artists,  took on a new meaning in my life.

You see, if you remember some of my very first posts on Bigger Story, I mentioned that for seven+ years, I’ve kept letters to and prayers for my future spouse. I spoke about faith, about trusting God’s perfect plan for my life and believing that He was working all things together for my good and His glory–even if I didn’t always see that.

Over the span of several months, Mark and I began the getting-to-know-you process. And what made our friendship so significant was the fact that somehow, someway, our phone conversations nearly always ended with one of us reading a passage of scripture, of us talking about it, praying about something, or simply singing worship songs together at all hours of the day and night. Our friendship pushed us closer to God, challenged us to pursue Christ more wholeheartedly, and allowed us to share both struggles and revelations to encourage one another’s spiritual growth.

And the beautiful thing about fellowship with another believer is that the same Holy Spirit that dwells within me is the same exact Spirit leading and guiding him. So, unsurprisingly, God began to work in our hearts at the same time, causing us to realize the passions and callings that we share, to see that our friendship with one another is covered by the DNA of our Holy God, and that the Lord has far more planned for our futures together than we realize.

And the Spirit has allowed us a glimpse of that promise we both anticipate–the gift of one another–to realize that, just as we’ve heard throughout our lives, the wait is indeed worth it. But the Spirit of God also reminds us to daily seek God first and to allow and trust him with everything else.

And He reminds us to continue to WAIT on the Lord. To let God go before us rather than us go out in haste, trying to pave our own way. We are encouraged to wait as God paves the way before us in which we are to walk in obedience.

He reminds us that the glory that is to be fulfilled at the end of our waiting will by far outweigh any current struggles we face here and now.

So, last night, I watched Mark jump around, smile, dance, and glow as he praised God during his music practice. I saw his passion emanate from within him, bursting forth in an undeniable way. As I watched his joy, hope, and love for God overflow from within him, I could have cried at the realization:

This is amazing grace.

Because while Mark and I acknowledge that the wait until now has been worth meeting one another, and that the wait we currently undergo before the next season of our lives begins will be worth the fulfillment of the promise that awaits us on that special day, we didn’t always place God first in our lives or trust in God’s unfailing love.

So I sat there remembering the places I have been–places where I have dragged God’s name–His presence–that God should never be. That I, as a daughter of God, should have never gone.

I sat there thinking about the many, many mistakes I’ve made. How foolish I have been at times! And I see this beautiful man before me praising God, whose affections are, by the grace of God, so unshakably set on me.

I don’t deserve this.

I may have prayed for this man my entire life, but to finally have him, very tangibly before me, above and beyond all that I hoped for, doesn’t seem fair. I don’t deserve God’s very best.

And maybe I don’t.

But God’s love for us surpasses what makes sense in our minds. God’s love for us isn’t fair.

Because He loves us when we are unworthy of his love. He chases after us when we run away from him. By the grace of Jesus Christ, God invites us into an intimate relationship with him despite where we have fallen. God does not choose to rightfully withhold the very best of his blessings from me because I chose to walk in my own ways at one time.

So, maybe I don’t deserve a promise so beautiful–to be courted by someone who, although isn’t perfect, strives to place his confidence and life in the hands of the One who is.

But neither does Mark.

And neither do you.

Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No one is righteous; no, not one. We were born into a fallen world, and in our flesh, we will always battle against good and evil.

But we were given freedom through the presence of the Holy Spirit, our helper.

And although we deserve death in place of God’s unfailing riches and glory–Romans 5:6 says that, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. And again in verse 8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This is amazing grace!!!

I love that I could listen to Mark practice these songs of praise, and instead of my adoration for his talent and passion hindering my praise to the Lord, instead, it caused my heart to focus on the grace of Jesus Christ more than anything else. Instead of worshipping the created, I worshipped the Creator.

I was reminded of the amazing grace and unfailing love of our Lord Jesus, our King of glory, our King above all kings, who freely gave his life in place of my own, who loved me relentlessly–pursued me even when I rejected him–who sacrificed of himself, fully aware that I am unworthy apart from his grace and forgiveness.  But He looked at me, as He looks as you, and said, “She’s worth it anyway. I love her. I want her.” And He made a way where, before, there was no way. 

Because of this amazing grace, this gift given to me that I never could deserve on my own, I am a daughter of the King; I am chosen. My dry, dead bones have been called out of the sand. I am alive and restored.

And this is amazing grace, that I am given the command to be a light in the midst of darkness and to always, always share with those I encounter–with you–the hope we find in Jesus Christ because of His unfailing love that will never stop leaving us breathless, in awe and wonder. 
   

  

 It is my prayer, dear Reader, that if you have not accepted the powerful love of Jesus Christ, of God the Father, of the Holy Spirit that even now is sweetly asking you to let Him into your heart to begin healing you of your wounds, that you do so today. I pray that you place your trust in the One who will never fail you, who never gives up on you, and whose love will never run out on you. People may fail you. Abandon you. Say empty words and vanish. But God—But God is faithful, even when we are not. God loves you and wants you, if only you ask Him to work in your life. Believe in the Son of God who died yet still overcame death through the power of the Spirit–all in love for you–to make a way for you. I pray, Reader, that you find life in the One who created it.

Visiting a new church, getting another speeding ticket, and singing about Zacchaeus: What’s the common denominator?

Sunday evening, I visited Bayou Blue Assembly of God. I was very touched by the welcoming atmosphere and outpouring of love from the people there, and God truly spoke into many areas of my life.
Today…was a difficult day, and all I could do was pray (and call my big brother for sage advice! Which he faithfully delivered.). Gratefully, work itself was peaceful; God knew what I could and could not handle mentally. What’s best, though?
I walk into my house a little after 9:30PM to discover that while I was away, a couple of people from the church had stopped by to visit, leaving a box of cookies and a church calendar.
The cookies definitely made me smile after the day that I’ve had, and it reminded me of how much joy I personally find in the small things, like baking somebody cookies or making them a card. Or baking cinnamon rolls, pouring a cup of black coffee, and finding some Aleve. And I was challenged. As a church, as a body of believers of Jesus Christ, who are to be known by their love one for another, shouldn’t we always make those we encounter feel an outpouring of love?

Do you remember this post from March? What I learned when a state-trooper pulled me over and wrote me a ticket

Today, on my way to work, the same exact state-trooper pulled me over, at the same exact spot, for going the same exact speed. And. Wrote me another ticket.

But he responded in the exact same way again: He never spoke to me in a condescending way. He politely explained to me how to pay the ticket, mentioning that I had a little time. And after the fact, remembering that I’d mentioned I was heading to work, he asked where I worked and told me to be careful.

His simple statement, “Be careful,” touched my heart. The man was only doing his job, and it was never his intention to make my day complicated. Had I been paying 100% attention and been more responsible, he wouldn’t have had reason to pull me over. Because he and I were both very respectful toward one another, I easily saw his kindness.

Do the people we encounter on a daily basis feel welcomed? Remember that Jesus did not come to the earth to condemn but to seek and save the broken and lost. He didn’t choose the “religious” officials to follow after him and to disciple but rather those with careers that held a less notable reputation.
Strive to always speak life. If what you speak does not encourage or build, then you are choosing to use your words carelessly. And sometimes a silence can speak great volumes. And when you do not choose to speak with your words, your actions will define your character.

Today, I reaped the consequences for my actions. I broke the law by driving 15mph over the speed limit, and for that, I will have to pay my second traffic violation. I was irresponsible, and this consequence is what I deserve for my actions.

Praise God that in His love for us, He has given us the grace of Jesus Christ, that He pours out new mercy every morning, and that, if we accept that gospel gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we do not receive the penalty we rightly deserve for our sins. Jesus paid that traffic violation fine for us. 


Biblical accounts:

Remember Zacchaeus, the wee little man that climbed the sycamore tree? He was a tax collector known for taking money from the poor. In Luke 19:7, we see the reaction of the crowd: “But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

How did Jesus respond?

Luke 19:9-10: And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Or I think about Jesus’s words to Nicodemus, a rabbi who approached Jesus at night seeking the knowledge of the Father: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)

We are often quick to quote John 3:16 but fail to follow-up with verse 17. If we are to follow the example our Savior has set, then we must remember that our mission on earth is not to condemn the world but to share the gospel message of Jesus Christ that will save the lost.

Other passages of scripture that immediately jump to mind include the following:

1 John 2:5-6  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

1 John 3:16-23: The Outworking of Love

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.  And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

Heavenly Father, I pray that as we go about our week, that we would greet others with joy and kindness. Let love drip from our lips and shine by our actions. Give us the grace and power that we need to live a life like Jesus. We are imperfect, but your Spirit lives in us and empowers us to walk in Spirit and not flesh. Thank you for this. Thank you for your love that never fails. Thank you for pursuing us in love, even when we have tried to shut you away. You are relentless in your love for us. Open our eyes to see this and to reflect this. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

The gospel in Genesis, even when the beginning began

 

Dear Reader,

I can honestly say that I have never been more excited to write to you as I am this very moment. Today, I would like to share with you what the Holy Spirit has caused me to understand more clearly, more deeply. The word-nerd in is me overjoyed, and keeping up with this blog’s theme of a Bigger Story, I simply have to share with you several connections I just noticed between several passages of scripture. And I ask that you bear with me, because although perhaps slightly deviating from the previous posts studying John 1, God has faithfully shown me a connection to that, as well. So, hang tight, ask God to make it possible for you to follow my foolish roller-coaster ride of words, and let’s get started!

In Acts 26:17-18, we recount where the Lord told Paul:  I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. And just after this, in verse 23, Paul refers to Mosaic prophecies that declare the mission of our Savior, the Good News of Jesus Christ, to King Agrippa: Christ will suffer, He will be the first to rise from the dead, and will proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

^^Hang on to these golden nuggets. We’ll discuss their relevance in just a bit.


I struggled with what to study during my quiet, devotional time of personal worship. For me, I lack structure. I tend to jump from book to book, failing to ever follow through and complete a particular study. Today, I decided to begin–well, at the beginning: Genesis. And, as can be seen in this picture, my original intent was to outline the first chapter of Genesis. However, each thought or word scribbled on this gigantic Chart Tablet was inspired by one single verse. That’s right. Everything this post entails was inspired by the ever-quoted, simple statement: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

 

In the beginning, God created…

As we continue reading Genesis, we see that God created by speaking.

To speak implies the presence of words. Let’s jump back a couple of posts, as we looked at John 1:1-5:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Using several passages of scripture to support the following statement, we concluded that the Word of God (Scripture) = Truth = Life = Light = Jesus Christ. 

In essence, God literally spoke life:

Nothing was.
God spoke, “Let there be…”
And it was.

God spoke creation.
God spoke God’s words to create, and upon creating, the beginning began.

[God spoke God’s words -> creation -> the beginning]

If we are called to live according to His righteousness and to pursue a holy way of living, then shouldn’t we imitate His example? Do we use our words to speak life? To create? To build and to build up?

Or do we speak death? Do we destroy with our words? Tear others down?

When we choose to speak constructively, we open the door to a new beginning–and what God begins in our lives, He will complete.

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:3-6 –emphasis added

The word “until” implies to me an on-going process, not a one-and-done action. Are your words always rooted in love, or do you speak one kind word and keep moving on?

I am reminded of James 3:9-12:

For with the tongue (our words) we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the similitude of God (made in His image, resembling Him). Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring can yield both salt water and fresh.

My friend, I am preaching to the choir when I say this: a pinch of salt taints the entire spring. I cannot speak mostly life. I either speak life or I destroy. There is no in-between. You’re in or you’re out.

I am also reminded of this passage found just before. James 1:17-18 reads:

Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures.

Remember Light = Jesus? The Father of Jesus, who remains consistent and faithful, has given us every good and perfect gift. Jesus is THE good and perfect gift to us from God the Father. 

He gives us Jesus.

He gives us light.

He gives us life.

Jesus is THE way, THE truth, THE life. We approach the Father THROUGH Him.

And of God’s own will, for His own desires and purposes, how did He “bring us forth” *ahem, creation?* By the word of truth. The Word = Truth = Jesus = Light

I believe that to speak life, we must first find life. To find life, we must find truth. Life and truth are both the very person of Jesus Christ. We hold the power to speak life, to speak blessing and creation, to establish new beginnings, by relying on the power of Jesus Christ. 

And what perfect transition into the next verses of Genesis 1?

Genesis 1:2-4 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

UMM. Please tell me you notice this?

  • God said, and it was
  • God spoke the light into being, and the light was good
  • GOD DIVIDED THE LIGHT FROM THE DARKNESS

Dear Reader, even from the first God-inspired word we have through scripture, God was breathing out the plot of His BIG STORY…God has called us out of darkness, out of void, out of nothingness, and into light. He has given us the good and perfect gift of His good and perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to open our eyes and turn us from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God, to receive forgiveness of our sins and a place among those that are sanctified through faith–to proclaim light to all people!

I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit, God allows you to see the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, both reflecting the mission of Jesus Christ. I fear that my words alone fail to shine a flashing neon light over the fluency of this post, but I am confident that through the grace and power of God, in the way that Genesis 1:1 blew me away, proving to be the living Word of God, it, too, will reveal to you pure truths and cast light in your life. I pray that as the Spirit has so preciously woven together Genesis 1, John 1, Philippians 1, and James 1 and 3 for me, that He, too, will reveal to your heart His truth.

I close this perhaps rambling post with one final thought. Paul describes the Good News and mission of Jesus Christ by saying that He has come to proclaim light

How did our Savior proclaim light to us, life to us, truth to us?

The word “proclaim” literally mean “to cry out.”

I pray that you read this final passage from Matthew 27 and reflect on the love of God, seen through the atoning sacrifice of His Son who has reconciled us with our Heavenly Father, the One who makes it possible for us to approach a holy God.

The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.


 

A PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I remember your words in Isaiah 43:18-19. You say, “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old. Behold, I, the Lord your God, will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

I do not know the details of the life that the person reading this post lives. I do not know what his or her wilderness is. I do not know what his or her desert refers to. However, you do know, God. I ask that you, being a God of new things, a God who speaks beginnings into existence, I ask you to speak life, this moment, into this reader’s existence. Please make a way; please come through. I pray that your words of truth bring light to the darkened areas of his or her life and that these words become a blessing and not a curse. I ask that those reading this post would see not my attempt to bring together words to share my own message but that they see your glory and your unfailing and unconditional love.

I pray that if the person reading this has not experienced a personal relationship with you, that today, they would ask for your forgiveness and allow you to pour forth light and life through your Son, Jesus Christ, a pure and living freshwater spring. 

And I pray that for the believer that is reading this, that we would walk, challenged to use our words in a manner that shows the God whose image we were created to reflect. Let us speak life. And let us walk in the power of the resurrected Christ. Open our eyes to see the wonders of your Spirit at work in us. 

Thank you for loving us, for hearing us, for teaching us, and for always extending your grace to us in times of need.

I pray this, in Jesus’s name.