When you need to break free from worry

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,

because they trust in you.  

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord,

the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.  

Isaiah 26: 3-4

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Perfect peace.

The sun glitters in the slanted blinds, and a word glints in the depths of me – this maddeningly elusive and perfectly impossible word…

Peace.

In a world of rush hour traffic, ever-increasing internet speed, and stress as a badge of honor, peace feels impractical, even self-indulgent.

The more I allow my thoughts to swirl over my children –  about the risk of injury, the fragility of life, the pressures to keep up in school, the endless online world, the hazards of just walking this earth brushing up against other humans who hurt each other… the more I think, the heavier my burden, the tighter my grip around the children I’m desperate to protect.

Dangers are real, and we suffer in this life.  We know and hate to believe that our children will, too.

As much as I love to hear a comforting “They’ll be fine,” from a mama who has gone before me, I can’t help but scream inside “How do you know?!” and let my mind jump to friends whose children were not fine, or times that my worry seemed to be the reason I made the right decision about going to the ER.

Truly, the answer to endless worry over our children is never in logically determining that it will all be ok.

I envy the beautifully shameless relaxation of the perfect little face of my sleeping babe, and I wonder at what it must be like.  To fret not.  To rest when sleep calls.  To never fear for the events of the day.  To explore the world with eager expectation and hope.

But we’re told in God’s word that this kind of peace is available to us in Christ – not a life without responsibility or hardship, but a Life. Without. Worry.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6-7

As we make choices of trust, of gratitude, of prayer, of supplication, God’s peace enters in and stands guard over our hearts and minds.

Our hope must rest on something more secure than our circumstances.  The irritatingly simple truth is that one thing keeps us in perfect peace…  One thing allows us to walk through this life free from a mind full of worry…  One thing allows us to remain steady, unflappable… Trust in the Lord, the Rock eternal.  

We all know this is easier said than done, but I am seeing my own mind of worry transformed in a million tiny choices to trust that God is who He says He is.  

Rather than feeling victim to life’s circumstances, weak and powerless, we can instead – by the power of Christ – walk in peace, strong and empowered to make choices for our families, free from worry and fear.  We can strongly choose to take reasonable precautions with our children – not out of fear, but LOVE.  We can powerfully choose to set boundaries on what they are allowed to do, where they are allowed to go, or when they need to see a doctor – not out of fear but LOVE.  We can strongly choose how to guide and shepherd them, using the powerful minds God gave us, but reject the worry that so easily partners with us.

We can choose to believe that the Lord is always good (Psalm 145: 9).  We can choose to believe that his grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12: 9).  We can choose to believe that he will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31: 6).  We can choose to believe that God hems us in, behind and before (Psalm 139).  We can choose to believe his promises for our children, and for their mamas.

As you care for your littles ones today, sweet mama, may you go out in sparkling joy and be led forth in perfect peace.

 

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Hope for the inside of a mama’s head

 

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“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND.’”

Matthew 22: 37

Last night, with sweet friends filling our home, sounds of laughter and connection reverberating, I took notice of the little one who seemed to have no concern for how to interact, or with whom.  Driven by impulse, unabashed in her every move, she ran and spun, crumpling to tears, bursting with excitement, running off with confidence, coming close for reassurance, stopping to tackle her baby brother, running off to grab a friend by the cheeks, taking a quick lap around the house, just because.

Her shamelessness is puzzling and refreshing.  Her haphazardness amazing, beautiful, innocent…

But I’m struck that I sometimes allow my mind to run wild in this same way.  How unfitting.  Unlike the sweet innocent freedom of my baby girl, my chaotic and haphazard thoughts, if left unchecked, threaten my joy, steal my peace, distract and burden me…

I should have reminded the babysitter to keep the basement door closed.  I need to put on the cabinet locks.  I hope the big kids got to swim practice ok.  They all need more of me.  And more play dates, too.  And more alone time.  And probably more sleep.  How am I going to keep the boy from falling behind on reading this summer?   He’s worked so hard.  What if…?   And what am I going to do about that sweet little overlooked middle child who often disappears in her room with her hurt feelings?  What if…?  And how can I get my kids to stop fighting? And how should I cut down on our clutter?  The crafts are everywhere.  Are they learning to take responsibility for their things?   

Are we reading enough?  Are these tantrums normal?  Maybe they need healthier meals.  How do I keep my picky eaters from running our house?  I need to schedule a babysitter for next Friday.  Have I had too many babysitters lately?  Did I schedule check-ups for my summer birthday kids?  Babysitters for those, too.  Maybe we should cut out TV.  And artificial food dye.  But what about birthday parties?  I don’t want to be that mom.  Maybe I should get that wheezy little one allergy tested.  What if…?

My thoughts bounce from one worry to the next, often lacking direction, aimless and reactionary.  They mask their erraticism under the guise of getting things in order, problem solving, decision making.  But in truth, who of us by worrying can add a single hour to our lives? (Luke 12: 25).  

Often our words and actions take priority, and our thoughts are left to their own, seeming ungovernable, idiosyncratic, and presumed to be mostly harmless.

Every mama knows there is much to think about, plan for, change or organize, lead or coordinate, nurture or decide.  We use these minds God gave us for the benefit and blessing of our families…to be intentional, thoughtful and strategic.

But allowing our thoughts to pinball around, frantically condemning the past and resolving to some new future, worrying, fretting, and rolling over the “What if”s”— it is a joyless and peaceless existence.

Our worry is fruitless and distracting.  

Throughout the gospels, Jesus speaks to and answers the thoughts of a person, often instead of their words or actions.  He knows that our thoughts can govern us, drive us, control us, hold us captive.  He also knows that our minds can be renewed to align with his, that our thoughts can be steadfast on him, and lead us to all that he imagined for us as his children.  He knows that he can set us free, renew our hope, keep our peace.  And he longs to do so, through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12: 2).  Our thoughts can run rampant, but we are advised in God’s Word to never let them.

When we call to mind that God’s steadfast love endures forever, his mercies new each morning (Lamentations 3: 22-23), we have HOPE.

When we choose to believe we are whom God says we are – his children, in whom He delights – we have CONFIDENCE.

When we call to mind what God has done, we ENDURE.

When we set our minds on things of God, and not things of man, we live SUBMITTED to God’s sovereignty.

When we choose to believe God is who He says He is, that He will fight for us, we have VICTORY.  (Deuteronomy 20: 4, John 16: 33)

When we place our hope in God, He renews our STRENGTH.

When we cast our burdens on the Lord, we will NOT BE SHAKEN. (Psalm 55: 22)

When we come to Christ with our heavy burdens, we receive REST for our weary souls. (Matthew 11: 28-30)

When we reject fear, we receive God’s HELP and PRESENCE. (Isaiah 41: 13, Psalm 23: 4)

When we take our thoughts captive, and submit them to Christ… When we present our requests to him with thanksgiving, we have PEACE that guards our hearts. (Philippians 4: 4-7; 2 Corinthians 10: 5)

When we turn our thoughts to gratitude, we receive JOY.

These are all decisions we can make, actions we can take.  Our thoughts don’t just happen to us, mamas, we choose and direct them.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Philippians 4: 8

As our little ones grow out of toddlerhood, they need not simply lose the freedom with which they began.  As they mature, they can grow into the even more exquisite freedom intended for the children of God.  Mamas, let’s walk in the freedom Christ intended for us, and give our children a beautiful example of what true freedom looks like.

Today, sweet friends, let’s test our thoughts against the truth of God’s Word, grab hold of them and allow them to come under God’s promises.

And let’s drink of the boundless freedom, the steadfast joy, the unshakable peace, the enduring hope that God intends for us, his beloved children.

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When you can’t find Jesus in the daily grind

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Word of the day:  BECKONED

If you’re a mom, and you don’t drink coffee, you’re kind of like a superhero to me.  I could give it up if I had to, and I have for periods of time, but I actually believe that on many days, my cup of coffee in the morning is a pure vessel of God’s grace.  And just like when the cute guy was the reason you went to Young Life club when you were 15, or the free breakfast was the thing that got you out of bed to go to the church where you found a family, God beckons me into his presence…sometimes with the smell of coffee.  And I feel fine about that.  He is gracious with me and my weary body.

He greets me with the warmth of those first sips, with the freedom of new mercies, with the safety of his delight.

The truth is that the shape of God’s pursuit of my heart is ever changing, deeply personal, brilliantly transfiguring.  His invitation to “Come” takes all kinds of strange forms in these days with little ones.  As I’m summoned to the restroom by a tiny voice, for some undignified duty, I hear God beckoning me to lay my life down to find it.   As I’m called to the kitchen sink by the towering mound of dishes, or to the dining room table by the endless piles of clean laundry to fold, I hear God beckoning me to do everything unto him, to find purpose in the secret romance between us.  As joyful pregnancies left uninvited marks on my body, I’ve heard God beckoning me into the freedom of my image-bearing identity as a co-creator of life.   As I’m faced with my weakness all day long, I’m invited in, to walk in Christ’s strength alone.  As I’m drawn to the nursery by the midnight cries, I am beckoned to a God who sees me – who renews my strength, even when sleep cannot.  As I’m charmed to the play room by my children’s giggles, I feel God’s joy over me drawing me in for a Fatherly kiss on the forehead.  I’m invited by the maddening slow of toddlers into the unhurried wonder of the Spirit.  In the million questions that could never quench my children’s endless curiosity, I am beckoned to enter into a sweet humility and thirst for understanding before my God.

We are ever and always beckoned to see God’s relentless pursuit of our hearts – in the moments that can’t be rushed, in the places where no one else sees, from the underbelly of our shame, by the captivating faces of our children, by all of creation…

Beckoned.

Tune in today, Sister.  God is coming for you.

 

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Isaiah 55:12

 

When you feel like you’re in the desert…Why you might need to look for a burning bush

Now Moses was tending the flock…There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”  When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”  “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.  

The Lord said…”I am sending you…”  

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go…?”  

And God said, “I will be with you…” 

Exodus 3: 1-12 (Paraphrase)

 

No matter how many words I spill about how we mamas don’t have to be the perfect heroes, because we have a perfect hero in Jesus…  No matter how I breathe in freedom that God chose me and delights in me and offers me his never-ending, ever-sufficient grace… I still rise in the morning and sit to this keyboard, feeling like I should offer strength, bring wisdom, do it better.  I wish I could tell you how to make it all easier.  I wish I could tell you that I figured it all out.

But truthfully, I grasp for my own encouragement as I sit with a heavy body, a burdened soul, a fickle heart, a cluttered mind.  Perhaps you feel the same as you grasp for a quick minute to read words that you hope can encourage you for your day.

I used to think being a mom was just about making good decisions, about doing it right, about meeting needs and saying “I love you” and guiding and disciplining with wisdom and patience and grace.  Yes!  To all of these things, yes….

But it felt so straightforward.

And then I stared back at these little eyes staring at me.  Eyes that didn’t look like mine and needed me to tell them who they are.  Eyes that longed, wondered, tested, and needed more than I could give.  I looked at a little body that was sick or hurt, and I couldn’t fix it.  I saw these eyes that stung when I was not patient.  I watched my unique children experience the same events, transitions, words completely differently — one laughs, and the other runs and hides.  One has days of tears and irritability after a change, and the other seems to have only relief.  I peered into little souls that were afraid of things that we could not control.  I have sent my heart out on legs into unknown places and watched them be scared, face hardship, get hurt, feel confused.  I faced eyes of tiny people who just wanted to know I was pleased, and I sometimes felt my face contorted into a scowl that I never wanted to have on my face.

At some point I was faced with the question that perhaps parenting was about something other than doing it all right?

In the midst of my soul searching God’s over the mystery of having children — a road of failure and uncertainty and giving beyond my limits and letting go beyond my comfort — I have become aware of a quiet invitation This invitation was set ablaze in me.  And in these wildly arduous and agonizingly beautiful days with little ones, I want no mom to miss this thing that now burns in my belly and drives me to keep spilling these words.

I hear a voice calling — in the middle of deserts of inadequacy and invisibility and uncertainty and mind-numbing repetitiveness – God’s voice is beckoning me to come closer…

When I feel weak, He says “Come, let my power be made perfect in your weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12: 9)

When I feel invisible, He says “Come, let me tell you how I see you…” (Psalm 139)

When I feel tired, He says “Come, let me renew your strength…” (Isaiah 40: 31)

When I feel pressure, He says “Come, cast your burden on me, and I will lift your chin and lighten your step” (Matthew 11: 30)

When I feel ashamed of my failure and inadequacy, He says “Come, let me cleanse you in my grace, and you will give away what you receive.”  (1 John 1: 9(

When I feel worried and anxious, He says “Come, let me give you my peace that passes understanding.” (Philippians 4: 6-7)

When I feel worn by the dishes, laundry, diapers, arguments, words, He says “Come, whatever you do, do it all unto me.  The work of your hands is as a song of worship to my ears.”

The very things that make me feel like I have nothing to offer…these have been a door to find God’s heart for me in motherhood.  The very things that stretch us beyond our limits and make it feel just too dang hard…these seem to be a key to unlock the elusive joy and peace and freedom we all know we should have.  When I feel like I’m wandering the desert, the Lord says “Come.  Draw close.  Fear not.  I am calling you.  I will be with you.  Though you feel weak and unimpressive and never enough — I am sending you to be my ambassador to my people…these tiny, adorable, royal bearers of My image.  To these, you will be a vessel of MY love, a mouthpiece of MY truth, a fountain of MY grace.”

Take off your sandals, Mama.  You are on holy ground…

My friend, whether you have little ones or grown ones or simply dreams of a full home in the future, listen today for the voice that beckons you through the things that you might think are in your way.

 

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A sweet moment of invitation from the weekend… And the Lord says “Come.”

When you need to break free of a scarcity mindset

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  

2 Peter 1: 3

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When my middle daughter was a toddler, and we would give her two mini M&M’s for going potty, she would always find her big brother and give him one.  Every. Single. Time.

If we asked her to share a toy with a friend, she would say “You can have it forever.”

Her heart burst open at the seams with the desire to give away what she was given.  As a parent, you can’t teach – or even dream up – that kind of generosity.

But there’s something so beautiful about that fearlessness to give.  Something in me longs for the freedom to hold my hand so open.

My feet hit the pavement this morning, a new day’s sun hit the corner of my eye, and the thought of what I’ve been given as a mother to my children – the weight of it hit me afresh.  And I wonder, as I often do, if there will be enough of me to go around today.  I think of the sweet pitter-patter of tiny feet that will soon greet me, the look of tiny eyes that will bid me to tell them who they are.  And it’s easy to feel too limited, too weak, too broken for the job of being called their Mama.

How do I hold the job and not hold the burden?  How do I convince them that their identity rests in bearing the image of God, when I have a hard time believing it for myself?

There are only 24 hours in a day, only two hands at the end of two arms, only so many words that can be exchanged.  But there’s something that holds my hope, if only I can believe…  Friend, there is a deeper truth than my brokenness, and yours.

Though we may feel inadequate, God says he has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1: 3).

Though we may feel weak, God says we have been brought to absolute fullness in Christ (Colossians 2: 10).

Though we may sometimes feel like the very least – possibly the worst mom ever – we   truly have unsearchable riches in Christ (Ephesians 3: 8).

These days I’m trying to live a bit more like that daughter of mine, who gives with an innocent desperate love, and never worries that she will have enough.   Though we may reach the end of ourselves, our Father God never will.  We need never fear that the grace for another day, another moment, will run out.

You are free.  Today, break off all the “not enough’s” — not enough time, not enough energy, not enough patience — and believe that you have a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50: 10).

Go ahead, sweet friend, Mom your little heart out.

 

More on parenting generously in my latest posts:  Why you don’t need to be afraid to give it all  and How to experience the deep riches of generous parenting.

 

How to experience the deep riches of generous parenting

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Wednesday Word of the Day:  
Generosity

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

Proverbs 11: 24-25 ESV

Sometimes it feels like motherhood is a journey of never enough…an endless poverty of time, energy, sleep, capacity.  The needs don’t stop coming, and social media says everyone else is doing it better, and somehow we missed the memo that every mom is actually supposed to be Superwoman.

When I’m tired and I start to feel like I’ve given enough, I tend to get a little stingy with my children.  “Just one book tonight.”  “Ugh, are you sure you really have to go potty….again?  Right now?  Really?”  “No, we can’t go to the park today.”  “No, you can’t play that sport, go to that birthday party, do that thing, make that mess, have that snack right this second…”

Just “No” because I’m overwhelmed and tired and I need the world to stop spinning for a little while, please?

Of course, there is a healthy and appropriate place for “No.”  Of course, we have a responsibility to teach and shepherd our children, as well as show them that the world does not revolve around their needs and desires.  However, the types of “No’s” I’m describing are not in pursuit of healthy boundaries, they are plain and simple fatigue and exasperation.

My grip tightens, my patience shortens, my capacity shrinks, and I just don’t want to give anything else.  And you know what?  The tighter my grip, the more miserable I am.  Every request is an inconvenience.  Every need is an overstep.  Every touch is an annoyance.  Every bump in the road is catastrophic.  I get to where I’m just over-touched, over-noised, over-stimulated, over-needed, over everything.

Tell me I’m not alone?

From this fraught and empty place, I have eagerly looked for another way…  I have looked for the wealth of riches, the endless wells of grace, the renewed strength, the joy and life I’m meant to find when I give it all away.  I have looked for God’s promises in this sacrificial and often invisible life.  The way I’m finding is impossibly simple and profoundly obvious and completely life-altering.  And I don’t think I could have found it until I ran completely out of myself.

 

The other way is simply this:  Cheerful giving – the kind that requires faith.

Once in a while, when I run out of myself (which happens quite regularly, now) I step in faith and give from the places that I think are empty, and I watch the Lord keep filling me up.

I’m not really talking about giving of our finances, though the Bible has a lot to say about that, specifically.  I’m talking about this powerful thing that happens when we give out of the places where we feel most impoverished.

When I feel impoverished of energy, I can choose to bring my measly offering and give of all the enthusiasm I can muster for our breakfast song of blessing, or our evening dance party, because we all just need to smile… and I reap bountifully of joy.

When I feel penniless in attention because my brain is full and my inbox is full and my calendar is full, I can choose to bring my offering and listen generously to that little one’s nonsense story, with the same fervor I would bring to the most critical subject…and I reap bountifully of connection.

Friends, in whatever ways you are feeling spent today, I invite you to join me in this different way of parenting generously. 

Because we have a generous God who has great riches in mercy and mighty power to restore us, we are free to cheerfully throw our two copper coins in the bucket, and trust that we will reap bountifully in our hearts and homes.  

Mama, may you sow bountifully and reap bountifully in your home today.

 

The point is this:  whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one much give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  

2 Corinthians 9: 6-7

 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)

 

Why you don’t need to be afraid to give it all

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A short-antlered buck gnaws at the lime green leaves of our freshly planted dogwood, and the fresh anxieties of the day begin gnaw at my heart.

My first sip of hot coffee touches my lips with all it’s promise of a boost of energy for the day, and the first cries of precious voices touch my ears, and my heart opens desperate wide for a touch of grace from my King.

Yesterday was one of those days when I drove my van sputtering into the gas station after my gas light came on way too late to be helpful.  And last night was one of those when my body and soul came sputtering into bed, having run the last few hours on empty, as well.  I should have noticed the needle creeping down on the fuel gauge, and I should have seen the signs of my patience and grace wearing thin.

But sometimes we just don’t know what we need until it’s almost too late.

And I want to think that these are just little insignificant moments, but then life is just a collection of little insignificant moments, and what does it looks like to live them well?  These few short years when my kids are here and listening…what does it look like to give them my best?

Sister, it frustrates me to no end that I sometimes try to function like I was made in the image of my gas tank – when, truly – you and I were made in the image of the Almighty God of the Universe.  Our gas tanks and our hearts are actually nothing alike.  We don’t have to use up all our resources, only to hit empty with sputters and short-fuses and failure and fatigue and desperation.  We don’t need to refill with some magical boost of energy and wisdom that will last us the next week or two.

We are far more like a branch on that sweet little tree in my front yard, with roots that grow further down and sit steadier and drink deeper and stay connected.  Unlike our gas tanks, we can choose to keep our souls attached to the source of grace, trusting that the supply will not run out.

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There is a still small voice that beckons and pursues our hearts, and offers a lot more grace than my gas light.  We can listen and align and drink and stretch to new heights, as we give the refreshment of that grace away.  

As a mom, I often feel like I’m giving away what I’ve had for about two seconds.  I wake and decide where my spirit and attitude rest, then my children wake and I set the tone with that thing I just decided.  In ugly moment, I have to stop and breathe, and receive the grace not to react – and in that very moment, I get to give away the grace I’m receiving.  My children ask me what’s wrong as I hang up the phone, and I have an opportunity to speak out loud the truth I am deciding to believe right in that very moment about the news I just heard.  The truths we speak reshape our hearts.

 

There is a time to draw away and be alone with God, yes… seek and pursue this!  But a mama’s reality is that often when we wish to draw away, we cannot…and so, we are invited to give away not what we received yesterday, last week, or even this morning, but to give away God’s grace, as we are drinking from the fountain that never empties.

Don’t be afraid of running of steam today, sweet sister.  Go ahead, give your service, your attention, your caring, your patience, your grace.   Not in a way that is resentful, or martyr-like, or neglecting self-care, but in a genuine fearless offering of yourself through those moments when you are needed beyond what is comfortable to give.

As you give your life away, you will find it in your Savior who gave his for you.  

There is an ever-flowing, never-emptying fountain of grace available for you, sweet friend.  As you pour yourself out today, don’t empty out like a gas tank… stay connected to the source of refreshment.  Breathe and drink of God’s grace right there in the midst of your moments, believing that the water only gets sweeter and the color of your life only get’s richer, and the heights of your joy and peace only get higher, and the fruit only gets more plentiful.