The First One (#jammed daily devo, day 331)

November #jammed: Gracious.

Day 331: Thankful for Brianne.

“The Lord will hold you in His had- a splendid crown in the hand of God.” Isaiah 62:3

My first-born daughter will never know the gravity to which God grabbed my heart and 330, 1threw it in another direction the minute I knew she was to be. It was as if He screamed at me, “THAT’S ENOUGH! STRAIGHTEN UP!”

I prayed with all of my heart when I was pregnant with her …to be a good mom, to lead her to Him, to be strong and wise and set a good example of how to honor Him. He is still answering those prayers, and growing me in the process. Past mistakes will attempt to trap us while the consequences play out throughout life if we don’t keep moving forward with Him.

This little girl, in every stage of her life, has blessed me beyond what I ever knew to be imaginable. In her graceful and quiet way, she walks through her days looking at me …and it’s a lot of pressure. So, we go to Him together. We pray together, read the Word together, go to church together, sing praise together, and talk about our faith together. In some ways, she’s helped me grow up more than I’ll ever be able to help her.

All of my motherly mistakes typically lie on her shoulders, being the first-born. And with every apology I owe her, she simply smiles and forgives. As she gets older, and life gets harder for her socially, it gets harder for me to guide her. I come running to God more than ever. There are things in this life that I still don’t handle with grace, and it makes me panic to think I will mess up my kid.

330 2He reminds me that she is His. It’s nothing I’ve done to deserve or earn. Motherhood is a gift, a calling, and a journey that will bring us closer to our Creator than we ever thought possible.

Today’s verse in Isaiah reminds me of Brianne. He holds her in His hand …His little princess. Guiding her …and me along with her …step by step back home to Him. What a joy to journey in Christ with my girl.

jammed-click-to-tweetFather, Praise You for Brianne. Thank You for choosing me to be her mom, and forgive me when I try to take too much control of her life. Forgive the mistakes I make and poor examples I set. Strengthen me to be a better mom, each day striving towards the person You created me to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 Get the conversation started by commenting below, and let’s encourage one another as we face life in 2017 armed with grace! 

#greatgrace17

Happy First-born-ing,

Megs

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The Audience

“Sorry!” My oldest called out as she sent her Daddy’s peg flying off the game-board.

“What?!?” he retorted, “You just broke your own rule!”

imageMy little one lined up a teeny tiny animal audience as they argued. The table melted down into assigning blame, hurt feelings, and an unfinished game. It’s impossible to declare the winner of a game with no rules, and I was not going to take sides…

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Life’s a lot more complicated than the game of “Sorry.” It’s easy to forgive someone for knocking your game peg off the board, but not so easy to swim through the hurt of being bumped. There are times I feel unqualified to wipe away my daughters’ tears as I choke back my own. Praying for the right way to raise them, I discovered two words to help me piece together a plan.

Though they appear synonymous, “favor” and “favoritism” communicate opposite messages in fostering a healthy community. These three steps will help you land on the right side of the coin.

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1. Say something.

“Favoritism: the practice of giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another.” Google.com

Life can be a lot about choosing sides and shifting circles, causing hurt feelings to be hidden in fear of being cut out. But it’s important to put a voice to hurt in a non-accusatory or defensively dramatic fashion. I try to guide my daughters (and repeat to myself) to talk directly to the one who hurt them, not around them in circles. For example:

“When you said that, it hurt my feelings.”

When we align with the audience of favoritism, we fail to notice God’s favor; when true hurts of the heart are spoken out loud, we allow God’s favor to defend us.

“He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart…he who does these things will never be shaken.” Psalms 15:2,5

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How is one to know they’ve hurt me if they have no idea they’ve wounded me? God doesn’t care about the clamor to click and the clack to belong. Speaking up when my feelings are hurt without putting my foot in my mouth is an impossibly difficult task, but it’s more conducive to community than seething to attain sympathy out of thin air.

“We hide pain in the weirdest places…broken souls with smiling faces…Just look around and you see that people …are scared to say how they really feel …we all need …a little honesty.” ‘You are Loved,’ by Stars Go Dim.

#saysomething

2. Voluntarily forgive.

“Favor: an attitude of approval or liking…an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.” Google.com

Forgiveness is an important extension of the grace Jesus died to give us. It is something a human to human relationship is not 100% capable of without His presence. We consult our circle, but Christ didn’t have a clique. (Luke 4:19)

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Cliques offer protection, status, guaranteed friendship, trust, and acceptance. Though we look to each other for these things, only Christ is capable of fulfilling a lifetime of love and belonging. God wired our desire to seek His Son.

“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:34-35image

Christ loves beyond faults, and gifts grace without regard to requirement. Extend grace.

#forgiveaboutit

3. Let it go.

The puzzling and powerless feeling of injustice is agonizing, but I survive by crying out to God. The ugly cry. The uncontrollable, shoulders shaking in sobs and nose running down my face …desperate to understand “why?” cry.

Sometimes, life hurts more than we can comprehend because we’re not built to lean on other people …we’re meant to lean on God. He will fight our battles for us if we will faithfully hand them over.

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Before I drop them off at school, in sibling mediation, at bedtime …I’m constantly trumping my daughters’ excuses with my favorite soapbox.

“and we are…” I’ll bait.
“Kind,” they comply. Life’s most important rule.

“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” James 2:1

It’s hard to be kind in the face of calamity when I have a ferociously strong feeling about what is fair. But I believe God. Speaking the truth of our hearts, and forgiving without requiring apology …that’s our part. The rest is His area of expertise.

“There were three options for citizens under Roman rule: sell out, get out, or fight back… Jesus introduced a fourth option: serve…” Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (James 2:1-26 commentary)

I pray to mimic Jesus’ justice and fake it till I make it all the way into His arms; letting Him fill the gap of what I cannot accomplish alone, and fight what I was never equipped to battle.

#letitgo

imageLife is too risky to run without rules, yelling “sorry!” over shoulders when feelings flip and hearts are hurt. Reactions CAN land on the right side of the coin by determining which audience is driving our decisions. The audience of favoritism caters to cliques; the audience of God’s favor fosters community.

Speak. Forgive. Let go.

We say, “Sorry!!” Jesus says, “Grace!!”
#Whoseyouraudience

Happy Card Drawing!
Megs

The Auto-Correct 

“I DIDN’T SAY THAT!!!!” One sister yelled.

“YESSSSSSS YOUUUUUUU DIIIIIIIID-AAAAAAAA,” the other retorted.

“WELL THEN YOU HEARD ME WRRRRROOOONNNGGGG-AAAAAA,” she snapped back.

“Ugh,” I sighed, listening to them pile frustrated syllables on top of simple words, “they’ve BOTH gotten that from me.”

Faces twisted into eccentric versions of craziness, both seethingly glared into the review mirror. Apparently, that was my cue to magically apply logic to what had “actually” been said. Ironic, how they burst into laughter at Siri’s mistakes …or Mom’s …that’s always hysterical. But they take sisterly “corrections” very seriously.

imageGrown-up or not, we all fall victim to our own stubbornness. Right or wrong, few people have the ability to apologize on the spot for the effect irrelevant to the cause. Except Siri, she’s pretty quick to tell you, “I’m sorry, I did not understand.”

If you join me in the struggle to handle hot-tempered moments of kids quarreling in the backseat, I can offer a couple of tips that have kept me on the road. But don’t judge me if you hear me screaming “SHUT UP!” as I drive around town with the windows down. #trying #inthefield

1. Load up and line up your corrections. 

When we rely on the seat of our pants to apply sage wisdom, we conjure a stink full of bad advice. image

“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” Leviticus 20:7-8 (NIV)

Tense moments flare tempers, and words seem to fail us. No matter how many, or at what volume, they spill into the car … mistranslated like a text message surrendered to auto-correct.

God seeks to steer us, and applauds efforts to guide our children through tedious moments. Seek His wisdom. Set aside some space to clear the clutter and read the Bible. Everyday has five free minutes. The time I spend in His Word allows me to relay the motherly messages He always intended for my daughters to hear. image

2. Embrace The Correction

Imagine God watching from Heaven while we blow right by misinterpretations and hit “send” anyway …EVEN WHEN He’s waving both hands in front of our face?!?! Instead of ridiculing us for missteps and side-trails, He sent His only Son to die for us. The love demonstrated in sacrifice forever forgives our failed efforts. Through Jesus, God replaces every “fallen short,” with “grace and love.” image

What missteps have lent us the opportunity to spread Christ’s love? The story of Jesus naming Peter yields immense hope.

“And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas (which, when translated, is Peter.)” John 1:42 (NIV)

Peter was a fisherman that doubted Jesus at the rooster’s crow. But he was also known for having solid faith in Jesus, and for his leadership in the early church. The NIV Study Bible further notes that, although his name is literally translated, “Rock,”

“Peter was anything but a rock; he was impulsive and unstable…Jesus named him not for what he was but for what, by God’s grace, he would become.”

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My daughters’ bickering in the backseat brings to light the natural struggle to be right …to be the best …the favorite … independent… No winner emerges from unjust conflict.  There’s no reason to put our individual mission on earth to death by comparison. Our kids need us to be who Jesus says we are.

“Peter was best know for his impetuous nature and fierce devotion to Christ.” -NIV Study Bible Text Note 

Impetuous means, “acting or done quickly and without thought or care.” (Google.com) It also can mean, “moving forcefully or rapidly.” (Google.com) 

Fierce means, “having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.”(Google.com) It can also mean, “(of a feeling, emotion, or action) showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity.”(Google.com)

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So by one definition we can choose to see Peter as a flip-flopping doubter with a temper. Or, we can choose to look a little bit deeper into the heart Jesus identified long before Peter knew his name. The “Rock,” who spread the gospel with force and speed throughout the early church, and loved Jesus with heartfelt and powerfully intense faith.

Embrace the correction.

Parents are glaringly aware of faults and annoying attributes, but our love blows any negative ducks out of the water. We’ve embraced the imagecorrection before it’s corrected.

“Girls…” I warmed up, as I prayed that a nugget of Spirit-led wisdom would fall out of my mouth, “…it doesn’t matter who started it or who’s fault it is …you both need to apologize and hug it out.”

Insert insane amount of eye-rolling and last ditch efforts to pinch each other…

“Love you,” I added with a smile.

The correction is love.

imageWe don’t have to fight to be fierce. Most of us haven’t even grown into our true “names” yet. When we’re scrunched up and mangled into frustrated faces, Jesus sees our hearts and knows our names. His gift of death in exchange for grace grants us new life …for life …for forever.

Fight with the fierce and ferocious power of the love that conquered it all. And if you let a hot-tempered phrase slip, apologize. It works for Siri …my kids think she’s hilarious when she admits she’s at a complete loss…

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When I want to quit, prayer is there to pull me through. I hope you know He’s there for you, too.

Happy Corrections!

Megs

The Lashes

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Up before the sun, and on went the glue.

“Hold still,” I chuckled nervously to my daughter, “I don’t want them to stick on crooked.”

My seven-year-old squinted to catch my expression as the first false eye-lash cemented itself onto her eyelid. We both laughed as I covered up what I’d messed up with black eyeliner. It may seem over-the-top, unless you’ve ever applied mascara to a child before. #dancemomproblems

When Brianne began to dream of pointe shoes and pirouettes, I jumped whole-heartily on board. I knew that her dream would be harder than she or I could ever anticipate, but the journey sounded awfully amazing. As we drove to that first dance competition, fake lashes and bellies full of butterflies, we both had visions of how this dance journey would end …but neither of us knowing how the middle would be filled.

Surrender to sacrifice avoids spoiling our people potential. There are people purposed in the reach of each gift. Even through the joy of those who witness Brianne dance. Don’t listen to the critical voice of impossibility; give in to God’s view of reality. image

 Pursue The 4P’s:

1. Provision

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God challenges us to reach people from where we are at. Brianne may have a lofty dream, but she’s not demanding I accomplish the dream for her. She works. She prepares. She practices. She prays. But she needs a ride to class. She brought her Bible to me one day and wanted to talk about Nehemiah. Her pink and purple princess Bible introduces the book as such:

“God gives us tools to rebuild the broken into something beautiful.”

Nehemiah had a position close to the King, where God placed him in provision for the mission at hand… to rebuild Jerusalem. Nehemiah didn’t need to go back and re-establish Jerusalem, but his compassion for his people there literally moved him. God’s Word motivated him to achieve beyond what he could believe.

With God’s provision our lives change. They become purposed for purpose. 

We are all placed by God with the same great care to detail as Nehemiah.  It’s no coincidence that God has entrusted me to be Brianne’s motherly provision …to be there when she can flip across the stage like the dancers she admires, and as she struggles to land a cartwheel right now. I can’t, and won’t choose to (#freewill) do it right all of the time… but I sure will try my best to honor my place in her sweet life.

2.Preparation

What will happen when I get there?

“I shot back, ‘The God-of-Heaven will make sure we succeed. We’re his servants and we’re going to work, rebuilding…You get no say in this -Jerusalem’s none of your business.” Neh 2:20 (MSG)

Faith in God will move you to prepare to do the work to obey God. There’s no room for comparative standards, or worry about whispering, within God’s call for your life. imageI have an intervention with myself every time I’m drafted to help my kids learn or practice something new. It’s uber frustrating to watch them fail, and beyond my level of patience to channel the whining. They cry and my forehead vein surfaces reality-tv style. During the last episode, I found myself yelping, “KEEP SMILING…” through a grit-toothed, probably crazy looking smile. I think I made her repeat the same ten seconds twenty times. Poor gal. Her dance teacher is definitely called to prepare my child for her dreams in dance. My preparation in helping is sometimes simply to prepare myself to let go …a little.

3.Pray.

While the lashes were being peeled off on the car-ride home, Brianne asked if I had noticed her shaking while she danced on stage. I hadn’t, and inquired as to what she attributed her strength from.

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“I prayed out loud to God about it last night,” she responded.

“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b

Prayer was Nehemiah’s power source. He leaned into prayer to propel him to action. He was smart, and hard-working. He planned and prepared. He resisted all manor of insult and attack with prayer.

“He consistently linked hard work and prayer together…the rebuilding of the city walls had to be arched by the reforming of a lifestyle.” -New International Encyclopedia of Biblical Characters.

4. Praise

Brianne cried all the way home when I told her she’d be dancing a duet in competition this year. “But you love to dance, I though you’d love this…” I stammered.

“With only two people on the stage?” She bawled. #terrified

…but she knew she did truly love to dance …so she prayed …and worked…and prepared.

Brianne conquered some serious stage fright, to let her light shine bright for the Lord. She learned where her strength comes from and what her gifts are for …at least for now. May she always…

“Stand up and praise your God, for He lives from everlasting to everlasting.” Nehemiah 9:5 NLT

After Jerusalem had been rebuilt, the people praised God.
I should often be praising God for the “sacrifices” I’m spoiled with. Dictionary.com defines sacrifice as “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” 

By learning who God is, I remember who I am. I’m not privy to the middle. Day by day, prayer by prayer, I will eventually look back and know how it was filled in and what people God placed within my reach.

It’s imperative to step out of the bubble of familiarity to face the fear and the whispers. To get up on stage no matter how afraid we are, if that stage is where God put us to be. I’m confident Nehemiah’s motives for leaving the comfort of the castle were whispered about… It’s human nature to criticize what we can’t comprehend.

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What’s your stage? Where has God placed you to shine bright in the name of Christ?  I would love to hear about it.

Pray to Him out loud in the dark. Step outside of your bubble. Pray. Be brave. Shine.

Happy Bubble-popping,

Megs

The 5 Fights Before 9.

Fight the fall into fear, failure, and doubt by giving up guilt in exchange for grace; fetching forgiveness for faults.

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I have kids. If I want to entertain the notion of a “quiet” time before the chaos erupts, my alarm can only beep a maximum number of three times. In the dark of dawn, I silence the beep and gently shut my bedroom door so that my teeny tiny sleepyheads aren’t awoken by the tap of my toothbrush. Like 007, I swiftly breeze back out the door, shutting it to mute the snores echoing off the walls. I pad lightly down the stairs in my slippers, begging my bones not to crack until I reach the kitchen. My quiet little Keurig whirs on and steams my morning coffee, and I carefully stir the swirl of my fancy dark chocolate syrup and coconut milk with a plastic spoon to avoid cup clinks. Then, I meander to my place of morning bliss, steaming warmth hugging my hands.

I really do feel like I’ve accomplished a mission when I sit down at my desk…and crack open the Word for an instructional day-prep. Ah…the five minutes before the five fights before nine…are so glorious.

imageOnce the first piece of light cracks the dark open, little feet make passes down the stairs in competition for my lap. This particular morning, my daughters came down convinced that I did not have enough love to cuddle them both at the same time, and the jabbing began. Fight one…mom’s attention.
Morning cuddles met, they trudged back up the stairs to get dressed, and fight number two ensued…the headband.

“No, Lauren!” Her sister snapped.

“That’s my headband and your not wearing it today!!!”

“But it matches perfect…” Lauren wailed, and I could hear the snap back of the headband as it was forcefully removed from her head.

Making time back down the stairs to tattle, I pointed her directly back up, “I’m sorry, Lauren, it’s Brianne’s headband.” I hollered up the stairs over little sister’s stomping, “Brianne, you could have handled that a little nicer…”

Instead of tagging in to engage in the morning, I let my eyes remain glued to my screen, and ears peeled in awareness of the sharp murmured tones coming from the bathroom again. Even though I couldn’t make out he words, I knew Brianne was giving her sister an unnecessary lesson in sass, and taking a few elbow jabs in return.  image

“Lauren, I’m getting ready for work, you can’t come in here,” I heard my husband holler from our bathroom.

Toothbrush and hijacked toothpaste in hand, Lauren’s brisk steps flew across my desk and into the downstairs bathroom, peering over her shoulder and whipping the door closed before her older sister could catch her. Fight number three…tooth-brushing. “LAUREN…BRIANNE…” I commanded them both to my desk and then back upstairs to brush their teeth in their own toothpaste-globbed sink.

I drifted up and out of my sacred morning space of serenity to feed children breakfast and pack lunches. To buy me five minutes to get dressed without curiosity imploding in the kitchen, I dished out a practice math quiz and some sight words. Two minutes in, a math quiz emergency busted into my bathroom. Fight number four…even if dad did print out the answers to the math quiz by mistake…don’t bust in on mom in the bathroom to unveil the tragedy.

By the time it was time to leave for school, I mechanically shut down fight number five and all of its “my-winter-coat-is-too-hot-it-makes-me-too-sweaty-on-recess” grandeur before it could even grow legs.

“Brianne, here’s a tip,” I started, “anytime you ever ask me anything with that facial expression and that tone…it’s an automatic no…I don’t even know where you’re head’s at…”

I can see the look on her face still, the utter shock that she had been de-worded and denied before the first syllable passed her lips. Down went fight number five…I don’t want to wear my winter coat.

Seat-belts buckled to sound the final lap of the morning mile, with spelling word drills and hugs and smooches and cuddles and car dance parties, while they wait for their turn to hop out of my car and into the school hallway full of friends. My early morning prayers for their safety at school rushed to the top of my mind as I drove off, welled up, and wallowed in a sea of guilt for nagging them through the morning.

imageIt’s frustrating to lose fights with my feelings while the Bible is still sitting open on my desk. I’ve been making myself feel gullibly guilty for that lately…and for the general lack of measuring up to the state of “holy” that I feel I should be maturing to at this point in my life.

As I walked back into the quiet house, I noticed Brianne’s blanket lying on the floor underneath my desk. She’s had “Fuzzy Wuzzy” since the day she was born. Although she’s growing up and out of the blankly stage now, she still sleeps with it every night and drags it with her to snuggle in my lap each morning. This particular morning, she brought her little pink and purple princess Bible along with it…and a highlighter…and sticky notes. We both had so much fun as she asked me for verses and felt so accomplished as she found and highlighted them. In the chaos of fight number one, no one noticed “Fuzzy Wuzzy” had fallen to the floor.

She really is growing up…and picking up, His Word. Wow. Here I was putting myself imagethrough the guillotine of guilt, over things I can’t change about how we all are in the morning…and overlooking the grace of God to take my one small act of obedience and answer my own prayer with it.

“Please, let my daughters hear your call early in life.”

Seven years old, and her search has begun.

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the Saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19

“The eyes of your heart…” I looked up the verse at BibleGateway and clicked “Study This,” to discover through The Dictionary of Bible Themes that “eyes” are a much bigger anomaly than I had ever pondered before.

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Falling at the feet of Jesus with my faults is healthy, but getting up with the guilt and imagewalking off with it is not. From now on, I want to see the blanket dropped in the corner instead of the gasket I blew over fight number five. Through prayer and persistence, I choose to see a more positive perspective. Perhaps you’ll want to join me…and pass some peace around.

1. See what you want to see. Fight for the light. It’s everywhere. The sun comes up everyday, and streetlights dim-out even in overcast skies. Gaze at God’s creation. Glance at His Word. Start your day there. There’s something in this world that you would mourn over if lost…if your at a loss…start by saying, “Thank you” for whatever or whoever that is. Start to see…

“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Psalm 19:7-8

2. Look for the Lesson. Watch for what God’s showing you.

“For it is by grace that you are saved through faith; it came not through your own striving but it is the gift of God. Not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

This is where a lot of people confuse religion and holiness. Holiness is pursing a change of heart inspired by a relationship with Jesus through God’s free gift of grace. The lessons are laced in His Word and our prayers. No one person can know your heart like you do and God does. You have to work holiness out with Him. Come to Him in authenticity, and look for Him to guide you personally. As you see Him, you’ll seek more.

3. Lift your eyes. Tilt your head back. Pray. Ask. Seek. God is faithful and good.

“The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.” Psalm 34:15

He hears you, He’s with you… so talk to Him. Jesus is our lifeline to the Father, our gift of grace and forgiveness. I am learning that to pursue a life of holiness I also need to receive the gift of grace that was so freely shed in blood for me on the cross, and fetch the forgiveness that has been thrown up for me to grab.

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imageGive up the guilt. Replace it with grace. Take off your pretty shoes and wiggle your dirty toes. Be you and follow Him. He is faithful. Fight for Him.

Happy Fighting,

Megs