Two Great Resources for Figuring Out What to Do With Your Life

In my most recent couple of posts, I’ve shared a bit about the wisdom that comes from numbering your days, and about Four Ways To Hear from God once you’ve numbered those days and then want to start figuring out what the heck to do with them. I hope you’ve been encouraged by these posts, because truly friends, this is what we have. These are the days and we don’t know how many we’ll get! It’s scary deep that simple old saying:

If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.

Along with numbering our days and digging deeper into the heart of God to find the things He created us to do, I want to make the most of this opportunity (while I might have you thinking these deep thoughts) to share a couple of practical resources with you. These have impacted me in a significant way, in helping me recognize both the limitations of my time on Earth, and the possibilities.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… {Hebrews 12:1}

Perhaps it goes without saying, but let me still say it: any other practical resource is no substitution for running after the heart of God and asking Him to lead you personally toward the destiny He has for you. With that being said, I believe there is a place for practical resources, like books that can help us think these things through and better understand deep and important concepts about the race we’re running. Even though C.S. Lewis (for example) died before I was born, he still remains a part of the Great Cloud of Witnesses that has formed and informed my faith, and ultimately drawn me closer to Jesus.

Simply put, the pen is mightier than the sword… and I am mighty grateful for it!

I’ll just mention a couple of favorite books in this post, but I’m sure more will follow in the days ahead. First…

Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro

I hope you’ll answer no to this question, but have you ever arrived at a season in your life where you felt like you were completely spent in every way possible, and if something didn’t give, you weren’t going to be able to survive another day? Well, years ago, Wayne Cordeiro hit that wall and just kept on running… for quite a while. He eventually found himself on a curb weeping uncontrollably when he’d gone out for a jog before a speaking engagement. His journey through complete burn out and full-on depression, which he describes as a “three-year odyssey” changed his understanding of life, his core values, his goals and even his understanding of his calling.

In Leading on Empty, Cordeiro recounts this journey, with illustrations (you know I love my word-picture analogies) that have stuck with me since when I first read it six or seven years ago. The most important insight I gained from this book was the ability to look at the balls that I’ll juggle over the course of my lifetime, and to recognize which ones will bounce if I drop them, and which ones will break. As a daughter or a wife, a mother and a Christian, there are roles that only you can fill, positions that only you can hold. It is essential for you to understand which roles those are.

My thoughts? Learning to recognize what’s breakable is perhaps THE MOST important part of the process of numbering your days and gaining understanding about what on earth you’re here for.


Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy

If you want someone to tell you exactly how to start figuring out your primary goals, how to “triage” the different dreams and responsibilities you have for your life, and what to do once you think you’ve got those priorities figured out, this book is FOR YOU. I think this is the most practical, step by step approach to “Life Planning” I have ever read or even heard of. This quote sums up why I was challenged to take the concept of Life Planning seriously:

Most people spend more time planning a one-week vacation than identifying the outcomes they want to see in the major areas of their lives. Is it any surprise when life doesn’t turn out the way we want? {Hyatt and Harkavy, Living Forward}

What kind of parent do you want to be? What kind of co-worker or boss? What kind of husband or wife? What practical goals can you set to make sure you’re moving in the right direction? Living Forward is full of VERY practical wisdom to help you systematically plan how to achieve the goals you might set for yourself in every role in life you choose to take on.


My thoughts? You are MUCH more likely to achieve your goals — no matter what category of life they fall into — if you have a plan in place to help you take practical steps toward crossing those finish lines. 

Another favorite quote I’ve mentioned here before, from Michael Hyatt, is that “A goal without a date is a dream.” If you are not taking any steps toward turning your goals into reality, they are truly just dreams. If you’re okay with that, then okay — but if you want to do something about it, this book will help you figure what that something out to be.

I have followed Michael Hyatt and been grateful for his practical, instructional guidance for a long time now, and when he advertised that he and Daniel Harkavy were looking for a group of folks to preview Living Forward, join the Launch Team and give feedback on their personal experience with the book, I jumped at the opportunity to grab a free copy and dig in. I was not disappointed.

What It All Boils Down To

There are probably thousands of books on the shelves that offer to help you figure out where the heck you want to go and how you’re going to get there. What Color Is Your Parachute? has sold some ten million copies and has a 2017 version coming out this month. The Purpose Driven Life has been translated into 85 languages and named the “bestselling non-fiction hardback book” in history.

We all struggle to decide what to do with our lives at one point or another — don’t be afraid to look for help, because that is an excellent way to take a step toward figuring things out.

If you read the stats on career changes, it seems people are struggling more than ever to find the things that make them come alive, and to focus in on what’s most important (which by necessity means choosing to say “this, that and the other are NOT as important.”)

Keep counting your days and giving thanks, and seeking a heart of wisdom from Jesus. But don’t be afraid to employ additional resources to help you figure out how to get to the places you believe God wants you to be.

I’d like to share (from personal experience) a bit about the danger of trying to do it all soon.

In the meantime, keep asking, praying and planning! I’d love to hear from you — do you have any questions about what I’ve shared above, or have you read a book that has helped form your future? Please join this conversation in the comments!


On Being Mortal and Living Well

You know what’s not really a fun topic of conversation? Death. That’s probably at the top of the uncomfortable discussions list, right?

But, you know what’s really an important topic of conversation? Death. Sometimes it belongs at the top of the list of conversations that need to happen.

At the recommendation of my awesome sister (who is part of the team launching this great website – check out some of her great workouts here!) I recently read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. In it, Gawande discusses the differences between the ways that humans spent their final years, weeks and hours a hundred years ago, with how we spend them today in western society. He also contrasts the methods of care most prevalent for the elderly in the United States at present with alternative options and the types of care the elderly (including his own grandparents) were/are likely to receive in his parents’ homeland, India.

In the book, Gawande describes the way his grandfather was treated in the last few decades of his life. He lived well past 100 and was cared for by his extended family in a way that allowed him to continue to live the life he loved until his death.

“He was surrounded and supported by family at all times, and he was revered—not in spite of his age but because of it. He was consulted on all important matters—marriages, land disputes, business decisions—and occupied a place of high honor in the family. When we ate, we served him first.” {Atul Gawande, Being Mortal}



I think I stopped reading for a moment at this point, just to ponder how radically different care for the aging — and respect for the aging — is today. The elderly seem more often the target of jokes than the recipients of respect in our society.

An important part of the premise of Being Mortal is that as modern medicine has advanced, we have become less able to come to terms with death, even when it’s knocking on the door. And, clearly related to this is that fact that today we’re more likely to “overact” to attempt to fight and stave off death with medical acts of heroism, which might actually do more harm than good. But our “overacting” can actually hasten death, completely change the experience of a person’s last days on earth, and reduce the time a person has to gain closure with loved ones and find a sense of peace before they pass on.

While Gawande isn’t writing from a Christian perspective, he is writing with the idea that there are greater and lesser ways for a person to spend their final years, and their final days on Earth.

So. Death. Is this something Christians ought to spend time thinking about?

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

As Gawande interwove his research with the stories of a few lives and deaths he’d encountered personally and professionally, I began to see emerging three important questions we would all do well to consider when it comes to numbering our days:

  1. How do my loved ones want to be cared for as they age?
  2. How do I want to be cared for, especially if there are circumstances which mean I might not be able to communicate my wishes?
  3. What am I going to do with the days I have between now and then?


I decided to do a little math (ya know, just for fun) and see how many days I might have left… and laugh at me because you know I’m a homeschooling parent, I made a funny little error. I was feeling generous and first said, “Okay, let’s say I live to be 85,” and without thinking I multiplied 85 by 365. That would give me 31,025 days right? Except I forgot to subtract the nearly 35 years I’ve already lived. Once I subtracted those 35 years and gave myself the 50, I realized I only have 18,250 left. That kind of seemed like a lot… but then, after looking at that grand total of 31 thousand something… it kind of didn’t.

In the most literal sense, taking a moment to “number our days” and think about how many days we might have left can really bring into perspective the idea that we aren’t going to live forever, and if we want to do something more than just trundle along and let life happen, we probably need to get our heads in the game and start making some decisions.

Michael Hyatt recently challenged my heart (or maybe even called my bluff?) by saying:

A goal without a date is a dream.

What he meant by that was that if you have ideas in your head of things you want to accomplish, but you’re not taking the time to make the necessary plans to see those goals accomplished, you’re really just dreaming. If you’re okay with having dreams but not putting your feet on the floor to see them happen, well, that’s fine — but don’t be surprised if life doesn’t hand you your dream and ask if you want fries with that next week.

I’m really grateful that I’m not the first Mom ever to have more than a kid or two. And about three years (and I think two kids) ago, I was visiting a friend of mine who had five kids at the time. She was a little further down the road than me in the homeschooling journey, and she was definitely further down the road in the parenting journey, and since I have more admiration and respect for her than you could fit in a backpack, I was busy making mental notes throughout our bit of time together.


As I watched her gently balancing a baby, an upset toddler moment or two, a few things that needed to be put away, and the little pile of this and that that had been swept but not delivered to the rubbish bin yet, this one sentence stuck out above everything else as something I felt I needed to write down and remember:

We can basically only do one thing a day.

What she meant by that was that with her five kids in tow, they weren’t going to be going to the library and the pool and stopping by Grandma’s and running to the grocery store. If they went to the library, that was probably the only adventure for that day. If they went to church on Sunday, they’d probably be home afterwards for the rest of the day, or just be out and about in their own neighborhood.

I thought long and hard about those words, and as two kids became three, and three became four, I began to see the wisdom in this slower pace. We could be running from this camp to that pool to this practice to that play date all summer long. But I’ve noticed whenever I try to squeeze more into a day than just one thing, I’m not exactly the Mommy I want to be to my kids. I’m not exactly patient. I’m not exactly relaxed. I’m not exactly peaceful. And the kids? Well, you know that old saying about them being mirrors? Truth.

When I drag my kids from this to that to the other in the name of “full” I end up feeling like the day has, in some strange way, also been empty. I never really got a chance to connect with each of their hearts. We never rubbed shoulders side by side on the couch reading a book, or got into more than a brief logistical conversation. The kids develop little “behavioral patterns” — but I’m so bent on doing the things, that that main thing — training them up in the way they should go — becomes a sort of side thing that I hope to be able to do when we’re not so dang busy. When I don’t speak to the patterns, they become habits. The kids’ patterns… and mine.

So, I’m recognizing this is the deal for this season of my life: based on the current nap schedule, and the idea that we will perhaps do one thing most days, my personal achievements are not likely to stretch far past one thing on any given day.

Besides your normal day to day responsibilities — whether it’s laundry or bookkeeping or bum-wiping or meal-cooking or teaching or homeschooling or all of the above — the time that you have is limited, and the quality time that you can devote to the things that seem like the big things? It’s probably even smaller than you think. Not just the number of days you have left — but the numbers of hours you have inside of those days for doing those big things.

What an irony to stumble upon: when I try to do less things, I seem to get more done. The right more. The good more.

And this is where I’ll leave you with a challenge. Take a minute to number your days. And perhaps even check out Being Mortal at the library or grab it on Amazon.

If you find yourself thinking, “Heck! I’ve got a lot to do and not much time to get it done!” don’t freak out. Come back for my next post, where I’d love to share a resource or two with you for turning those dreams into goals. And figuring out which goals are the best ones to begin with.

To you precious and incredible readers who’ve taken the 2016 Reader Survey — thank you again and again. It has been a gift to my soul. I hope to keep writing to bless your hearts. And if you haven’t but want to? Click here.

With Love…


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The Search for Meaningful Tradition (A Book Review and An Elf Alternative)

The Search for Meaningful Tradition (A Book Review and An Elf Alternative)

Each year, with more little eyes and more little ears and more little feet padding their way around our nest, I’ve been hungry to find traditions that would celebrate this most wonderful time of the year with reverence and sincerity. The commercialism seems to get bolder. The advertising seems to get better. And a few weeks ago, my eldest asked if he could start working on his wish list with some help from Amazon.

How do we glorify the Presence and de-emphasize the presents?

We’ll hang lights and remember the Light coming into our dark world.

An evergreen tree will go up, and we’ll remember the One who died on a tree, and how that tree gives us everlasting life.

I’m hungry to communicate the greatness of this incredible Presence — the arrival of the Messiah. This changes everything.  This is why we want to lead lives that honor God. This is why we want to show kindness to the least of these.

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A few years ago, I tried creatively placing the little elf around the house. It just wasn’t a good fit. I watched last year as folks decorated with powdered sugar footprints, came up with creative stunts, and competed to post the best imagery of elf shenanigans on social media. For us, it continued to emphasize the presents. Be good for the presents. The elf is watching. I just couldn’t put so much effort into something that is pointing away from the place I am trying to direct these little hearts’ attention.

Could there be a bright alternative?

Could we aim to forget the stacks of presents? Because this Presence — it’s the Greatest Gift of all time!

This year, in the days leading up to Christmas, we’re starting a new tradition. One that draws a line from Creation to the Cross, and sheds new light on the meaning of the manger.

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Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp, is a Family Celebration of Christmas. Starting December 1st, there is a lesson each day, right up to the 25th. You’re invited to create your own Jesse Tree — a tree you’ve made, perhaps from branches in your backyard — where you can hang ornaments that relate to each of the daily devotions you’ll read as a family. The activities related to each lesson involve things like praying about ways your family can give and serve others over the holidays (and all year long) or making a list of things you’re grateful for.

I’m envisioning creating these opportunities for meaningful connection with our kids at Christmas.

For it all to point to the one thing I want my children to know in this season: Jesus is the Greatest Gift.

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I’m very excited to do this together, as a family, this holiday season. The book is beautifully illustrated, and each lesson includes thoughts to discuss and family activities — all written to point to the significance of the coming of the Messiah, all encouraging us to anticipate and celebrate the arrival of Christ.

In addition to Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, last year Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift, was released. This devotional is about “Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas” and was written with adults in mind. It was named the Christian Retailer’s Devotional of the Year for 2014 and is absolutely worth considering in addition to the family celebration, or on its own. (They do cover the same themes and correlate to one another, but they are definitely not the same book.) The devotion draws you in to deeply considering the meaning of the lineage of Christ, and the love story of His coming.

{Voskamp has been one of my most favorite writers for quite some time and you might enjoy her website (very much) — She is also the author of One Thousand Gifts, which is a life-changingly awesome NY Times Bestseller that would make a great gift and I hope you will read it if you haven’t already. It. Is. So. Good.}

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So friends, consider this an invitation from me to you to consider welcoming some new traditions into your Advent Season. I’m excited about finding something to help our family truly celebrate the Savior this season and I’m excited to share it with you.

I’ll continue to write and reflect on the glorious goodness of the Savior throughout the season, but I wanted to tell you now, because there’s still time to grab a copy of one or both of these wonderful books, and allow them to bring your family into some meaningful conversation about the Presence, that might draw focus away from the presents! Don’t worry if you don’t jump in on December 1st!

And? I’d love to hear from you! Have any questions for me? Are you hungry to put more meaning into your celebrations this season? What is your family doing to point to the Christ in Christmas?



Just so’s ya knows — This post was not sponsored by Ann Voskamp or Tyndale Publishers. I bought both books and was excited to share them with you in case you’d like to create some new traditions with your family this season. The links to Amazon are affiliate links. You might also find the books priced well at — we just found it cheaper with free shipping at Amazon. 🙂

Hope for the New Year

While we’re inside this confession box, I’ll willingly admit it. The minute we brought a third child into the mix, here in the US, circumstances as they are, I got a little freaked out. Okay, more than a little. Perhaps not over-whelmed, but at least very-whelmed. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to manage a household, help with a business, wipe noses and bottoms and read stories and cook meals and clean floors and pay bills and design websites … you get the idea … and do it without feeling like I was going to fall apart.

I’m still not totally sure. But I have some hope, and heaven knows I’m thankful for a little extra wisdom.


The funny thing is, the answer was under my nose the whole time. It’s exactly the way life happens anyway: one day at a time.

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

I put Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider on my Christmas list, and started reading it a few days before the start of the New Year. The funny thing was, I thought it would probably be full of things I already knew, and I wasn’t sure it would help, but then I read the very first review on Amazon, and I thought “I could’ve written that review — I am so there!” (The before part, not the after part). Thankfully, I got over myself and admitted I needed help, which is apparently the first step anyway… right?

Since this fresh breath of hopeful inspiration entered the lungs of my soul, I’ve still been taking it one day at a time, but I’ve been planning my days with much more purpose. Up till now, I often stopped in the middle of the day, looked around the house completely overwhelmed and thought “Okay, I’ve got twenty minutes to do something with — but there are so many things to do, I don’t know what to choose.” I worked hard throughout the day, but then kind of felt like I had no idea what I had accomplished.

It was kind of like life was living me.

When Organized Simplicity made simple suggestions like planning your day and choosing which tasks are the most important ones to accomplish, it was like a little lightbulb went off. I was inspired to begin rethinking how I do a lot of things, and when I do a lot of things, and why I do (or don’t do) a lot of things.

Tomorrow I’d like to take you through a list of ten of the small changes I’ve made that are beginning to make a big difference in making it seem like managing a household (and doing a lot of other things) is not an insurmountable task. I wanted to start today by just shining a light on this book, since it is already changing my life in a very good way and I haven’t even finished it yet.

To make it easy for you — here’s a little affiliate link to Organized Simplicity on Amazon. I highly recommend putting this book on your list!

More tomorrow!


We Really Like Good Pictures {Photo Contest}

When we decided to invest in a camera to take pictures of the little one we were expecting four years ago, I wasn’t half as excited as I should’ve been. Now that I look back on the years of memories that I have from the days when the Bear was just a wee little thing, and the glorious swaddled up images from the morning after the fateful nine-minute delivery of Tiger Tank, I am just so grateful that those memories are captured, especially since we’re now thousands of miles away from where any of them took place.

{Can you believe this is the Bear? Totally what the Tank looks like right now!}

Now that we are able to not only take quality pictures, but also print them out on high quality photo paper or on a gallery-wrapped canvas, (ya know, in the Quiver Tree Gallery) I have realized that I value that investment even more. It has already happened a couple of times that folks have brought in pictures that weren’t captured particularly well, and the Hubs has had to discuss with them the likelihood that printing them on a big old canvas might not come out as nicely as they might be hoping. Sometimes the images are just low-resolution, other times (in addition to the low-res problem) feet have been cut off or the angles are strange — and I remember that I’m a rather fortunate gal to have a Hubs that knows how to use a camera very well.

I digress. But it seems that’s what I do best!

I just caught wind of a photo contest I wanted to tell you guys about. Shutterfly has had a photo contest running for a few weeks now, and there are two weeks left. Each week they have a different photo theme — this week it’s Sports & Activities (7/30 to 8/5) and next week it’s Parties & Celebrations (8/6 to 8/12).

{Water Fun was last week — wish I’d taken a moment to send this in!}

They’re giving away prizes each week, but the Grand Prize winner will win a trip for 4 to the Bahamas, which will include a 4 night stay and a family photo shoot! Score. I wish Quiver Tree Photography was the outfit responsible for doing that shoot. (Preez?)

Anywho, you just need to head over to Facebook, like Shutterfly and upload a photo to enter. Apparently you’ll get a gift from Shutterfly just for entering, but I don’t know what dat is. 🙂 You can enter this week and again next week… so if you have a moment, I think you should go for it. And if you’re not already a family of four, I have a suggestion or two about who you can invite to join you if you win. 😉

The official rules are right here. And I feel like a responsible adult for taking a moment to share them.

And after this photo contest is done, I’m thinking I should maybe host one right here with a giveaway. Would you send in a photie for a chance to win a prize? I’m thinking the odds would be in your favour ’round these parts!


Lessons from the Help

I finally broke down and did it. I watched the Help. I’d been trying to hold out until I’d had a chance to get my hands on a copy of the book, but that just hadn’t happened yet. The Library copy was always checked out, too. Sunday night we were going to curl up on the couch, eat our dinner just us {special moment — waiting till the kids are in bed to have a quiet meal and not have to simultaneously feed yourself and somebody else!} and watch a movie. Woop!

We trolled through the tons of movies on iTunes, youtube and Hulu, and after much discussion and deliberation, the Hubs finally said, “Why don’t we watch The Help? I mean it’s at least something you want to see — if we’re going to pay for it, let’s watch something we want to see.” I couldn’t argue with that logic, and I was rather pleased with the choice, so I agreed as fast as I could {before he changed his mind.}

I cried.

I for real cried.

I mean to tell you, I paused the movie to go find more tissues cried.


{image via google images}

Afterwards, I thought about all the interesting details, plot lines and unexpected moments, (I almost always ponder a film for at least a week after seeing it) and the next evening, for the first time in our close-to five years of marriage, I cooked fried chicken for dinner.

I think that might somehow be related.

But one interesting lesson the movie immediately brought to heart for me {how similar to the book was it, you friends who’ve read & watched? Did they butcher it?} was drawn from the beautiful relationship Aibileen has with the adorable little toddler she keeps, (and is basically raising) Mae Mobley.

From one of the earliest scenes in the film, you’re introduced to their relationship with Mae Mobley sitting on Aibileen’s lap, repeating these simple sentences:

I is kind.

I is smart.

I is important.

As the story developed and you began to see Mae Mobley’s (nearly non-existent) relationship with her mother, you began to ponder how much thought Aibileen might’ve put into the words she’d chosen to speak over Mae Mobley’s life from such a tender age.

{In case you aren’t familiar with the story, Mae Mobley’s mother, Elizabeth, seems unable to accept her daughter, and it seems that part of the reason is because she does not think she is pretty enough — she is pudgy and it seems her Mama finds her homely. Instead of praising Mae Mobley for her successful potty training, Elizabeth publicly disciplines her for climbing up onto a potty that has been placed on someone’s front yard as a result of a prank. ‘Keeping up appearances’ is consistently more important than relationship — and her child is not helping her ‘keep up appearances,’ so she has to reject her. Aibileen discusses the problematic relationship between Mae Mobley and her mother when she talks about her experiences as a black woman raising white children. (She concludes that Elizabeth should not have babies.)}

The interesting lesson this snippet of the bigger story drew me to think about was first, considering the importance of questioning who tells you who you are, and second, giving great thought to the words you choose to speak over your own children.

As a toddler, I would imagine Mae Mobley could only conclude that her mother’s neglect and disinterest in a relationship with her had to do with her own inadequacy. She wasn’t pretty enough, or smart enough, or basically important enough to warrant being picked up more than once a day or having her diaper changed before ‘the help’ arrived to take care of that chore.

You’d think your own mother would be a good source for information related to what you ought to believe about yourself — who you are and who you have the potential to become. But in this broken world, it’s sometimes the people who are closest to us who speak words to us that give us anything but life. Those words we carry around for decades that tell us we’re not good enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not capable of succeeding — they often come from the mouths of the people we love the most. Sometimes they’re flippant and thoughtless comments, and sometimes they are intentionally hurtful statements. Either way, they tend to have a profound impact on us — and if we’re not careful, we can carry those words from cradle to grave, letting them tell us our can’s and our can’ts.

I heard the story of a girl who happened to be standing near her pastor at church one Sunday. After the congregation had sung a few worship songs, he turned to her, having never heard her sing before, and said, “You have an absolutely beautiful singing voice!”

She laughed and said, “No I don’t, I’m a terrible singer!”

He quickly asked, “Who told you that?”

“My mother. When I was a little girl, I walked into the kitchen singing one day, and I remember her turning to me and saying, ‘Stop singing! You have the worst singing voice in the world!'”

Perhaps this was just a flippant comment from a dead-on-her-feet mother with the pressures of life crowding her in. But the words planted a seed. The words left a scar. And the world was robbed of enjoying a beautiful voice for many years, because of the seed took root.

The fact that God just spoke the world into existence spurs me not to forget the power of words.

Could there be some words from your past that you need to let go of?

Or does anything you’ve said to someone else come to mind that you want to ask forgiveness for?

The irony is that the wisest words being spoken over little Mae Mobley’s life were the ones from a woman who didn’t have the privilege of an extended eduction. Don’t let the grammatical errors distract you from the beauty of the message. {Want to scroll back up and read it again?}

Who speaks words of life to you?