In Stormy Political Seas, These are Words To Remember about Faithfulness

As far as colors go, gray might just be one of my favorites. I’m sitting on a gray couch beside gray arm chairs resting their feet on a gray area rug. I painted the clock on the wall gray. And, how’s this for timing, I’m wearing a gray t-shirt this very moment.

But when it comes to life decisions, ethics and even Theology, gray is a hard color for me to swallow. In the university setting, during an ethics discussion, I didn’t like it when I felt like we were in gray territory and there wasn’t a clear black or white solution at the end of an hour’s discussion.

In the years that have followed, I’ve since come to have a different understanding of gray areas. Gray has become a new color for me, so to speak.

Earlier this year, many of you might’ve read this post I shared about my word for the year: Faithful. This word was like a tiny whisper to my soul from the Lord, just nudging me to keep my ears open and my heart listening to what He had to say.

This year, I’ve come to realize faithfulness and perfection are not the same thing, and I don’t have to be so hard on myself.

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I’ve learned that other people might not know what faithful looks like for me — so I don’t need to fear judgment or outside opinions. It’s the Lord first and foremost I’m called to be faithful to.

And this bullet shot out of a speeding train pierced my heart through while I was writing the Swim Your Own Race series a few years ago:

Your Race is in Your Lane.

Translation?

Your faithfulness and my faithfulness are going to look completely different. But that does not mean we are not both being faithful.

I have friends who have never taken their kids trick-or-treating because they feel it’s wrong to celebrate Halloween. I have friends who make a big deal out of Halloween and see it as an opportunity to connect with their neighbors.

Will I give the one side a high five and tell the other side they’re ridiculous? Obviously not.

Faithfulness looks different for different people, because God has different plans for each of us.

Am I saying there aren’t cold hard black and white areas where I think there’s no room for discussion? Of course not. We had some friends over for dinner this weekend and were discussing their denomination’s stance on a particular faith issue. The husband of this sweet couple commented, “We try to speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where the Bible is silent.”

That’s wisdom worth taking notes on.

Thousands of years ago, do you know how Alexander the Great became the ruler of one of the largest and most expansive empires of all time? War. Battle. Great strategy and Physical Domination.

How did Genghis Khan found the longest contiguous empire in history? Think the Mongols took a vote? Think again. Invasion and domination.

In Ancient Greece, Athens was known as a city where people had voices, and political decisions were discussed in an open marketplace. Down the road in Sparta, strength and physical domination were the most highly valued prize. But the Athenians were on to something we still believe today: the idea that an uneducated mass of people can be very easily ruled over, even bullied, truly. But educated individuals, given the right to vote, can elect officials that will represent their ideals well. It was a novel idea in those days.

Today, my fellow Americans and I have the privilege of casting a vote to elect the officials that will rule over us. I think about a very dear friend back in Zimbabwe, where elections aren’t really true, honest or real. My Hero Hubs is a resident alien, (and a South African Cowboy Gentleman) he watches from the sidelines. We mustn’t take it for granted: the democracy we call a “unalienable right” is still in many places a far off dream, a hoped-for-someday privilege.

If we do have the privilege, we should not take it lightly.

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Paul once wrote these words to the Corinthians to encourage them in their generosity:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. {II Cor. 9:6-7}

Like the Corinthians in their decision to give, before we make a decision and fill in a bubble on a ballot, we should wrestle in our hearts before God. This soul-searching is the most important part of the process. The Corinthians would have had to consider whether they were being greedy or trusting God for their provision, perhaps how much they were able to give and still meet other commitments. Similarly, we must wrestle with what we value most — are there certain political ideals we want to hold most firmly to? Certain character traits we feel are the most important? Are we valuing the right things most?

At the end of the day, some Corinthians would’ve given one amount, and others would’ve given another. But those different amounts didn’t mean one was being faithful and another was not. Each decided in his own heart and hopefully gave as the Lord led him.

I’m sure I don’t have to spell out the parallel to you — based on what’s on our hearts, what ideals we value, what character traits we are looking for, we will perhaps come to different conclusions about how to appropriately mark a ballot on November 8th.

But there is a beautiful conclusion for all of this:

We can feel differently about issues and still each be faithful to what God is speaking to our hearts. God might lead one friend to choose not to trick-or-treat at Halloween, and another to be out in the community with her kids in costume.

We can all do different things, and still be faithful to what God is leading us to do.

The most important part of the process is perhaps the wrestling. The drawing near to your Creator and doing your best to bare your soul and hope to live your days with a clean conscience before God, trusting that you listened to the Holy Spirit to the best of your ability.

As this political race comes to a close, remember that you are swimming your own race, and your race is in your lane. Faithfulness will look different for you than it will for the person to your right or your left.

Fix your eyes on Jesus, friend, love and respect your neighbors and their race in their lane, and just keep swimming your race with faithfulness.

xCC

 

Thoughts on New Shoes and Feeding on His Faithfulness

I mentioned the other day that we were at an end-of-the-fiscal-month-so-nobody-move-till-we-get-paid kind of moment for the past few days. (We get paid on the 25th.) I was also talking about “coincidences” a couple weeks ago and how things come together way too often in my life for me to chalk things up to Mr. Chance any longer. And this Monday I had another one of those experiences that, here it is Friday, I’m finally getting a chance to write down and tell you about. First let me share a Scripture to explain why I want to re-tell this:

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.

That was Psalm 37:3-4. So. It was an end-of-the-fiscal-month-so-nobody-move-till-we-get-paid kind of day Monday. The Bear had decided he was too cool for Sunday school the day before — meaning he wasn’t cool with getting left with the other kids in the babysitting area. Hero Hubs decided to walk him around outside for a while during church, and he spent pretty much the whole service doing just that. By the time we got home, he had little blisters on his pwecious little toes, and it was obvious it was time for new shoes. He had worn out the ones he got for Christmas with all the car-riding! But like I said, it was an end-of-the-fiscal-month-so-nobody-move-till-we-get-paid kind of week. And we wouldn’t get paid till Thursday.

The issue was, if we didn’t buy the Bear a new pair of shoes, he couldn’t go outside and ride his car, because he drags his toes to brake, and he’ll come home with bloody feet. But if he can’t ride his car, he is as bummed as the day is long. And that thought made me really sad. Going outside and riding his car is like his moment of freedom — and the boy’s a little Scottish, you know, he needs his F-RRR-EEEDOM!

So we were in a bit of a dilemma. But not for long. As we were discussing what to do about the shoe issue, I just happened to look at this card a friend had sent us a few days before that I had on display on our counter. And I just happened to notice something I didn’t see before. She’d put a sheet of stickers inside the card for the Bear, and I suddenly just happened to see some writing behind the sticker sheet, even though I’d read the card at least a couple times already. I picked the card up, looked behind the sticker sheet, and there she’d written us another wee note, and included $50. (THANK YOU, MY FRIEND!!!)

$50 will buy plenty of shoes for Bear Bear in South Africa — his next ten+ pairs!

It gets even better. On our way to buy the shoes, we prayed that the Lord would help us find them at a good price. Our finances are tight, so we were planning to be careful and make good purchases and make that $50 go a long way! So we shopped around the mall for ages and ages to try to find shoes that were the right size (challenge #1) and that weren’t a ridiculous price (challenge #2). Finally, we arrived at a store called Ackermans which has really cute baby stuff. They had a ton of shoes on their “Giveaways” (meaning decent sales) rack and I started hunting. Eventually, I found these adorable sandals (pictured below!) marked R19.00. Yes, that is 19 South African Rand. And in case you don’t happen to know the current exchange rate, ZAR19 is like $2.56!! Or £1.73!!! Or €1.93!!!!

There were several other pairs of the exact same sandals on the rack. I looked through them, and they were all marked R79.00. It was obvious we just happened to find a mis-pricing, but we asked the guy who was labeling and putting things on the racks, and he checked and said, “19 Rand.” So we were able to buy the Bear a pair of sandals, and a pair of trainers, on sale for R59.00, with a ton of cash to spare!!!

The thing about feeding on the faithfulness of God is that He works in different ways at different times. Sometimes it’s a check in the mail. Sometimes it’s a shoe on sale. Sometimes your brother reads your blog post and deposits money in your bank account!! But the faithfulness I want to feed on — the thing I want to chew on and remember over and over again, is that God is good and that He has come through for us — in different ways at different moments — but every time. That means I can trust Him. That means I can be at peace about tomorrow. Because the God who comes through for me is already there.

So I just happened to take a moment to share this with you this morning. I hope you just happen to be encouraged by it, and perhaps to believe that more often than we think, things don’t just happen. 🙂 Has anything special just happened for you this week?

Without further ado… BearBear’s new shoes!!

Here’s The (Practical Application) Sermon in a Nutshell: We’ve been recording testimonies of God’s goodness and provision in a special little journal for a while. Although we haven’t been writing them down nearly as often as we should, it is really, really encouraging to open that journal up and feed on God’s faithfulness in moments where we need encouragement. Perhaps you can start writing down things you want to remember, so you can feed on that faithfulness, too!

If (Like Me) You Want to Learn to Take It As It Comes

I never knew two thick and lovely slices of black cardstock paper could solve problems that seemed insurmountable. I also never realized what a hard time I have with making decisions until someone else articulated those words for me.

When our eight-year-old came home from his forty-eight days in the hospital, he was his old self in many ways, but also different in several. Unlike before, he seems to mention the grandfathers that have already passed away much more often than he ever did before, with a simple sigh and the comment that he misses them. He seems to laugh with his whole soul these days, and relishes in every slice of humor that crosses his path.

He also struggles with Math in a way he never did before. A worksheet that might have taken ten or fifteen minutes three months ago can now take a solid forty-five, with a lot of coaching and assistance. He can still read the problems, and he still seems to understand most of the concepts, but his short term memory deficits make it difficult for him to hold a number in his head while considering how subtracting a second number from it will change it. 

After a couple of visits to neuro-opthalmologist specialists, we came home armed with some ideas to try, some worksheets to copy and repeat, and, much to my surprise, a couple of sheets of black cardstock paper.

At the therapist’s recommendation, I used the cardstock to block out everything on Blake’s Math worksheet, except the one problem that he needed to focus on. It wasn’t a completely miraculous difference — he wasn’t back to finishing fifteen problems in five minutes, but there was a very discernible difference in how he faced the challenge of Math. And his speed and accuracy absolutely improved. 

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own. {Matt. 6:34}

Today, as I adjusted the margins and helped him, I realized how much sense it all made:

He just needed to focus on one problem at a time.

In life, I tend to get ridiculously overwhelmed by decisions. I don’t want to make wrong decisions. I want to do the things that are at the forefront of my own heart, but I also fear how my choices will impact the people around me for better or worse. 

In the book, Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot wrote to her daughter about the challenges of the days when she had an infant on her hip, she was newly widowed and she had a jungle mission station to run. She spoke of feeling overwhelmed and said:

“Well, I’ve felt that way a good many times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend, which I’m told is carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea. I don’t know where this is. But this is a poem which was written about that legend. […]

“Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.”  

I held onto those verses for quite some time. What a gift it is to be reminded that we don’t have to have all the answers! We don’t have to have an answer for every question on our Math worksheet. We don’t have to have an answer for every question regarding our future. What choice will we make when it comes time to decide about this thing or that? Perhaps the best thing we can do is live right here, right now, and do the thing right in front of us that it the next right thing to do.

I came across that poem again, just last week, reading a wonderful book called The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. She shared it in its entirety, and I was so blessed to read the whole poem — I didn’t know there was more! So struck by it, I felt I should probably be framing it and placing it on a wall in my home. Now you know what to get me for Christmas. Here’s the beautiful full version: {Often listed online as “Author Unknown,” Emily attributes it to Mrs. George A. Paull.}

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from heaven;
And through the hours the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “Do the next thing.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King;
Trust them with Jesus: Do the next thing.

Oh! He would have thee daily more free,
Knowing the might of thy royal degree,
Ever in waiting, glad for His call,
Tranquil in chastening, trusting through all.
Comings and goings no turmoil need bring;
His, all the future: do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who hath placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ’neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor!
In the shade of His presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance live out thy psalm;
Strong in His faithfulness, praise Him and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

–By Mrs. George A. Paull 

I hope you’ll read those words through a few times today, friend. Maybe come back to them when life starts to loom large in front of you and you feel daunted. Be encouraged that you do not need to know it all or have it all figured out to move forward. You and I can learn something from Blake, taking the Math work one problem at a time. 

Strong in His faithfulness, praise Him and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

xCC

*** 

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If so, I’d love to welcome you to 
subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

 And! If you’re like me and struggle with decision fatigue and choice-making, Emily P. Freeman’s book, The Next Right Thing, really is worth your time.

Still reading? Did you catch this post with some of our family’s favorite books this year? {We also love KiwiCo’s Tinker Crate!}

Oh! I know what you’re waiting for…

An Update on Blake

Blake continues to improve and to thrive at home and at therapy! His left side keeps gaining strength: he snapped the fingers on his left hand yesterday and was very proud. (I can’t even do that!) His physical therapist also observed, crazy enough, his left foot had a better range of motion than his right last week. Perhaps all the prayers are making his left side his strong side! He has the balance to ride a scooter (while his Mama watches nervously) and the strength to come home from a few hours of therapy and still walk the neighborhood.

He is also doing better with regard to his memory — recent events and answers to questions are coming to him more quickly and easily. This is helping him ‘slot in’ in playing with his sisters and brother more and more. At first, it seemed like he felt a bit lost and struggled to join in their play, but now he is running around the house or crowding around the coffee table with the rest of the musketeers. What a precious sight for Mark and me!

Blake’s eyesight is something we continue to ask for prayer for. With helpful cues, he is finding his way to the left side of a page or the left side of a room, but he will tend to eat the food on the right side of his plate first, color the right side of a picture first (and maybe stop before the left is fully done) and so on. There is a definite difference there. 

Thank you again so much for your care and concern and for lifting Blake up in prayer. He is absolutely doing miraculously well and we pray the improvements will continue. Please join us in praying his AVM will disappear, his eyesight and memory will be fully restored, and he will grow up to be the man of character and integrity he was created to be! Thank you for joining us in giving thanks for all the Lord has done! Hallelujah!!

Psst. Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

How to Tell You’re Not Following

I scurried across the room during our homeschool community’s morning assembly at the request of the sweet lady in the doorway. One of those ladies who knew my Mama by her maiden name, bearing a gift for Blake. We chatted for a few minutes and she talked about how she’d been praying for Blake:

“I think I’ve told you before, I like to pray, ‘Lord, Your will be done, but let me tell you how you need to do it.'”

We giggled together at that.

I returned to the meeting with the bright and thoughtful package, and some food for thought at the same time.

One evening while Blake was in the hospital, I was praying and asking the Lord to help me rest in Him, and follow Him, and walk with Him as Blake’s journey continued. And I was so struck by a thought, I had to scribble it down immediately, where I found it in my prayer journal this evening.

If one of Your followers tried to walk ahead of You, he would no longer be ‘following’ and would not know the way to go. Let me be covered with the dust of Your feet as You lead me, Rabbi Jesus.

We love to go for walks and hikes with our children, and the Hero Hubs and I are often frustrated by their desire to run ahead and lead the way… when they have no idea where they are going.

Skipping and picking up pine cones and stopping to examine interesting artifacts, I often wonder where they might lead us if we decided to let them just go ahead and blaze the trail. We frequently have to reel them back in, and Mark often makes the declaration: Walk beside me or behind me, please!

And yet I imagine we so frequently want to blaze a trail ahead of Jesus. I picture an eager disciple on a dusty road from one village to another, lifting his tunic a bit to stride on ahead and prepare the way, only to discover Jesus headed in a different direction and he will have to backtrack and catch up.

The momentum of our sweet boy’s recovery has been incredible, and we are eager to do our part to keep things moving. But there is a difference between walking alongside the Rabbi — where you are close enough to hear Him teach — and forging ahead of the Rabbi, hoping you’re plowing your way forward in the direction He intended to go. 

So if we can’t make this therapy session or that appointment happen with a phone call or five, perhaps we need to make sure we are not trying to run ahead of the pace, and we must trust that the Author of Blake’s healing, and Blake’s story, has this in His hands, too.

Lord, show us, your sometimes over-eager children, how to be faithful.

How is it in your life right now, friend? Are you perhaps unwittingly praying some “Your will be done, but here’s how You need to do it” prayers?

Soak in these words again for a moment:

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.
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. {Psalm 37:3-6}

Trust requires relinquishing control. Committing your way to Him means You’ll follow Him down the trail.

We’ve enjoyed some long walks by still waters, and we’ve endured some steep climbs and tough trails together. But we’ve led our kids to places where they’ve seen waterfalls and sunsets and beauty they would never have seen if they weren’t willing to follow us on the trail.

God can do beautiful things. Trust in the Lord. They take place in His beautiful timing. He can bring it to pass.

The best choice you can make is always?

Follow.

xCC

 I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

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Update on Blake:
We hope and pray that this Friday will mark the end of a season of adventures at Vidant Medical Center for Blake. He is scheduled for a CT Scan (to reexamine the state of his AVM) and an arteriogram (to get imagery of the AVM’s exact status and location) and possibly, if necessary, he will also have Gamma Knife Radiation to “zap” the AVM away. {If you need a reminder, “AVM” is an arteriovenous malformation — the little cluster of vessels in his brain that were formed improperly and caused the aneurism on September 1st.} If the AVM has completely disappeared (which is what we are praying!) the Gamma Radiation will not be necessary.

Blake is doing incredibly well at home. He is enjoying his siblings and able to play with them inside and outside. His balance continues to improve and going up OR down stairs seems to be just about “no sweat” for him. His left arm and hand aren’t 100% yet, but we continue to see such wonderful improvements we feel so sure they will recover completely! He is not sleeping particularly well, but we are seeing improvement in that regard. Our main concerns at the moment are his vision issues and his short term memory loss. We continue to pray and hope we can do our part to help him recover. He is a laughing, giggling, joking, reading, walking, talking, jumping, running miracle!

Please pray for our sweet boy’s 100% recovery! We look forward to sharing the good news of his progress again next week! And please mark your calendar for November 23rd. We plan to Raise a Hallelujah in downtown Washington that afternoon to give thanks for God’s goodness to our family! Please join us!

The Already, the Not Yet, and How to Set Your Compass Accordingly

If I had to describe the past 52 days, I might use a word like hurricane.

If I had to describe the past three days, I would probably liken it to holding your breath for as long as you possibly can, and then coming up for air at the last moment possible.

Air is filling our lungs and we are breathing again — glorious good air, air full of hope and joy fills our lungs — but we are also probably exhausted.

There’s a hard thing I’ve observed about life. And it’s that I do the most learning when things are hard. I do the most growing when I’m being stretched. It’s as if maybe the strongest trees are the ones that get started in adverse conditions and have to push through hard dirt, or drought. And maybe they also learn to intertwine their roots with the trees around them, because they know somehow they’ll be stronger if they stand together and grow together.

Our precious eight-year-old son is home after 48 days in the hospital. We’ve been eating meals as a family. We’ve been cuddling on the couch and reading books again. We’re in the early stages of figuring out a temporary new normal as we watch our boy progress day-by-day and it is nothing short of glorious to behold. To think just a few short weeks ago we really weren’t sure who would wake up — and what he would remember, what he would be capable of, how his future might be severely limited — and instead to find it seems there are no limitations. No boundaries. No ‘no’s’ or ‘impossibles’ even being whispered. 

Instead we are experiencing what we fought tooth and nail to believe all along: With God, nothing is impossible.

Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
{Matt. 19:26}

We don’t know exactly where our story is going. We don’t know how God is going to author the chapters yet to come. We have already seen the beauty of knowing that so many people have been encouraged out of this journey, and that is a gift we are incredibly grateful for.

Today we watched the video of a precious seven-year-old that wanted to send $11 to help with Blake’s medical bills. I am confident in the kingdom of heaven, that is the very biggest gift we have ever received.

We are fully confident our precious Blake is moving toward 100%, and he will get there. We are fully confident God will provide with exceeding abundance for our family and those medical bills. We will get there.

And all of life, all of our existence as fragile, amazing human beings on planet Earth? Is exactly this — we live in the already, and we live in the not yet.

Christ has already died for us. We are already forgiven. We are already blessed, redeemed, chosen. But we are not yet who we will become when we are fully, face-to-face with our Creator, the heavenly creatures He intended when He first dreamed of you or me at the beginning of eternity.

Already, Blake is so very healed. But in some small ways, not yet. And in truth — even our beautiful eight-year-old is going to live his own precious life and grow old and his days will come to an end. He is not yet the glorified creature he was created to be.

The best is yet to come!

How do we settle into this already and not yet way of living? It reminds me of being at the beach and letting your feet sink into the sand as the water washes over you again and again. You stand for a while. You soak in the sun, the cool of the water, the splash of children nearby, the good salty air that fills your lungs. You let gratitude be what you feel and breathe more than anything else. 

And then, you wriggle those feet out of the sand, and you keep going. You keep going because not yet. You keep going because you are still here for a reason and there is still so much for you to live. There are even more storms for you to weather. You will learn more. You will grow more. It will be hard and it will be beautiful.

And you’ll return to sink your feet into the sand again. You’ll stop and smell those roses and give thanks. And then you’ll start walking again. 

Set your compass in the direction of faithfulness and you will not get off course. Can you really live a faithful life? Can you really do it all for the glory of God?

Well, with man, this is impossible. But? With God, all things are possible.

xCC

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I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

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Thank you for your prayers for our precious Blake! He is adjusting so well to life at home. Sleeping better. Making great progress. We are watching him do something new with his left hand every day! He is more and more steady on his feet every day. He is more lucid, more himself, more sure of himself all the time. We’d love to ask you to pray for his full healing, his vision, his headaches and tummy aches, the further treatments that may be necessary (that we pray will not be necessary!) and for the Lord’s hand on our family as we continue to navigate this journey together. We have so many hallelujahs to raise! God has been so good to us! We want to live this story with faithfulness.

You can get regular updates on Blake at With Love, From Here on Facebook or on our GoFundMe page. And if you’re looking for an awesome new t-shirt, I think there’s about a week left on our t-shirt Fundraiser right here. Please keep lifting up our family, and please Raise a Hallelujah to the God who is so worthy — He has done such great things for us!!