Faithful Obedience by Kate Sumpter

God has ordained specific trials for each one of His children, but with each trial God has promised the grace and the strength needed to walk through it. In this series of Faithful Obedience we are being encouraged to remember that God’s children never walk through suffering in vain because God is faithful. And also, because we know that God is faithful, we can trust Him and respond in faithful obedience at every turn of the page.

Today, Kate Sumpter, a dear Sister in Christ who loves the Lord and His Word deeply, shares with us how she and her husband have walked from the day they heard the hard news of infertility to the joyous news of adoption -always taking the next step sustained by God’s faithfulness.

Read it, share it, be encouraged, and pray for Kate and her family.

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Waiting in Faithfulness

My husband and I are on an adoption waiting list for our second child. We also have a blonde headed six year old daughter whom we adopted as an infant. We’re so thankful to be parents as we were diagnosed with infertility not long into our marriage. Children are a joyful gift of marriage and the union of a man and woman used by God to create new life. And yet, Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Sin entered the world. And wombs are barren.

My husband and I are both from big families and our hope has always been to have many children. I remember having a discussion before we were married about raising kids and that we both thought adoption would be a really neat thing for us to pursue someday. I had watched my friend’s family adopt internationally and God’s goodness to them was evident. I saw adoption as a unique way for God to proclaim His glory.

Adoption is a visible reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness to us. He adopts each of us through the work of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:5-6 says He “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” He wills and predestined that we should be His children. Why? Because it gives Him good pleasure. Because He receives praise and glory. Our faithful response to His faithfulness is obedience, praise, and glory.

Faithfulness is practiced and taught. We start young with commands from our parents like make your bed. Brush your teeth. Say thank you. And we grow with each accomplishment into the next bigger task. Or the next harder task. Luke 16:10 reminds us that “he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”

I know that all things work together for good, for those that love God (Roman 8:28), even the hard diagnosis of infertility. God was so clear when He closed the door to pregnancy. Our doctor told us that there was nothing else that the medical world could do. Understanding that diagnosis was a time of grief for us, but God graciously brought us through the grief with His Word, especially in hymns and psalms. I had to curb my own desires and plans for my life to faithfully follow where the Lord was directing my steps (Prov 16:9). Contentment isn’t something I am naturally gifted in, but something that God clearly was teaching me through those years. The Lord strips away our own wants and desires to give us His best. The psalmist says “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26) Our fallen flesh had failed and my heart grieved. Yet God sustained my joy and peace by providing Himself for my portion. I cannot lean on anything, but His sovereignty so that I can heartily say, “Not my will, but yours!”

God’s will is always faithful. We followed Him to adoption and for two years we prayed and waited. Then, after only two weeks of knowing she was coming, we received our daughter into our arms! She was a whirlwind gift and one of my favorites. And as she grew, we prayed many times for her to have siblings, but God always said wait. This fall, we saw Him clearly say yes as we pursued Him in our desire.

We prayed specifically for God to bless us with our needs and He answered abundantly. As we told our friends and family that we were hoping to adopt again, they offered to spread the word of our adoption and to help raise funds for us. In the opening of Psalm 67 we find that God blesses His people so that He may be glorified. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.“ His blessings are a magnification of who He is and it’s something the nations see. His blessings enable us to glorify Him. As we reached each fee along the process, we were met by God’s people abundantly giving as much as was needed. We were overwhelmed by His goodness through His people and His clear answer to our prayers. The blessings poured over us.

A clear example of this came on the last day of last year. We had reached the end of the paperwork in November and our adoption agency told us to finish raising all the funds needed before proceeding. My husband and I brought this to the Lord. We prayed regularly that we could raise the final funds of $10,000 by the end of December. What a hefty figure! But we faithfully followed the Lord knowing that He would provide for us and open the door or He would close the door and give us something else. He is faithful.

By the morning of Dec 31st we knew we were close, but still short by $1,670. But we’re never short on God’s faithful provision. He brought us to the last day of the month to answer our prayer. I received a message from a friend saying there was someone who wanted to donate anonymously whatever final amount was needed. That afternoon when I picked up a check with the exact amount I had tears in my eyes because here was tangible grace in my hand. “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9) God loves to answer our prayers and He answered this specific prayer. We asked for a certain amount of money and we asked for a certain day. He gave both.

So my husband and I are on an adoption waiting list for our second child. And if we wait 3 months or 3 years, we know that God has prepared us for His good work. Being faithful to Him through obedience glorifies Him. This is our portion and it is a good pleasure to be His children. We know what faithfulness is because we have seen it. We have seen Him. And so we can wait because He is faithful.

Kate Sumpter

NOTE: You can find the index to the posts in this series here.

Faithful Obedience by Liz Boyd

This week we will have one extra post on our series of Faithful Obedience because one of our guests writers will be going into surgery next Monday (05/06). Because of this, I would love to ask you , dear Sisters, to carry her in your prayers.

I need not say a lot about my Sister in Christ, Liz Boyd. The way she has responded to the news of being diagnosed with breast cancer has been a huge of example to all the women (and men!) in our church of what we read in 1 Peter 3:6: Liz is a daughter of Sarah, a woman who does good and does not fear anything that is frightening.

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I Do Not Deserve This by Liz Boyd

Becky asked me to write a bit about God’s faithfulness during my trial with breast cancer, so here I go! I will warn you first I’m not a writer!

If you don’t love Jesus with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27) this whole blog post might sound counter-intuitive, that’s because it is. The gospel itself, that Christ died for me, is completely counter-intuitive. I must die to live and if I seek to save my own life, I will lose it. This battles our flesh every moment of the day. I was reborn, born again, never to be the same 15 years ago and this post will reflect that, I can’t help it nor do I want to.

I struggle with cheerful obedience in the mundane. Yes, I know the small moments of life make up the big picture…that scares me! I fail in those small moments. I am often like Paul, doing what I don’t want to do and not doing that which I know that I should. (Romans 7:15-24) I struggle doing my chores cheerfully, making lunch cheerfully and folding laundry cheerfully. Other times I am so very cheerful, just not doing the good work the good Lord called me to do! It is so much easier to be cheerful writing a blog about cooking, schooling or potty training than it is to actually do those things in the flesh. It might surprise you to hear that obedience in cancer has been relatively easy. It is so big, so unplanned and so clearly from the hand of God that I ran right into His hands for comfort. For some reason, I fail to notice daily that laundry and making breakfast are from His hand as well and I hate making breakfast more than cancer most days!!!!!

I could walk you through this journey of mine, I could focus on cancer, the doctors, the fear, the exhaustion, and I would be right to do so. There have been a lot of those things. But that isn’t my focus. For some reason, I guess because it’s as clear as day, “you have cancer”, I know that this is God’s will. The fear and bigness of cancer have been replaced with the burden of preaching the gospel through cancer. This is a much stronger and sweeter burden.

The pain and fear of cancer have been present off and on. One minute I’m fine the next I’m weeping because I will never feel a hug from my children the same way ever again. That is a loss. I haven’t struggled with being angry, not at God, but when I explain that all of my nerves will be cut, that my feeling will be gone, that a hug will never ever feel the same again once both of my breasts are removed within the next week and someone reminds me that things are great…I get angry. I know things are great. God is good and all things that come from him are perfect. But I am mourning. I am suffering a loss. I am not suffering a loss of body image, I’m mama to seven children and that loss was suffered in my twenties, I am suffering a loss that is hard to put into words, a loss of feeling. Of course, it will be fine. I know this. But I am lamenting. Let me. Did you know that you could be sad, you could grieve, your heart could ache and it’s not a sin? It’s not. You can be sad and still glorify God, you can experience great loss, greater than your breasts, and still, love Jesus. I know that is true because I am experiencing that now. I love Jesus more now than I ever have before, and I am also suffering a loss.

I have had a lot of women, so many meaning well and meaning to support, tell me to feel angry. I’m not. I will say that I don’t deserve this! I don’t deserve any of this! I don’t mean breast cancer, oh no, not at all. I mean the grace of God. I don’t deserve all of the love we have been shown, I feel like shouting “Give this love to someone else, we’re not great people, we aren’t worth it!” and alas it keeps coming. I cry out to God, feeling overwhelmed every single day with his provision of grace, mercy, joy, and practicality “I DON’T DESERVE THIS”. I don’t. I don’t deserve the many, many, many cards, pictures, checks, meals, toys, clothing, games, flowers, dinners, gift cards, gift baskets, cakes, ice cream, lunch snacks and prayers that we have gotten over the past two weeks. I don’t deserve the friend that made me lunch, showed me her mastectomy scar and said: “Get ready to preach the gospel, no one stops you when you have cancer!”. I don’t deserve the letters filled with scripture or the child care offered for doctors appointments. I don’t deserve the offers to give my children rides to rugby and Logos. I don’t deserve my best friend filling my entire fridge with organic low estrogen foods and leaving her 16-year-old daughter here to love on my girls until my surgery was over. I don’t deserve the family doctor who wrote letters on our behalf to our insurance company with the hopes of them accepting our appeal and covering my medical bills and this was after he went down a rabbit trail to find my hiding cancer. I don’t deserve the many Christian doctors and nurses I have seen over the past two months who have prayed for me and over me. I don’t deserve any of this, and that my friend is the gospel. I am feeling the gospel every day.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Liz Boyd

NOTE: You can find the index to the posts on this series here.

Faithful Obedience by Robin Zarate

Welcome to another post on this series Faithful Obedience. The aim of this series is to encourage you to be faithful to God and His Word and persevere in faithful obedience. For this, I have invited some friends to share with us how they have learned to live in this faithful obedience to God in the “here and in the now” trusting that you will find good words that will exhort you to press on.

We all know that there are gifts that keep on giving. Well, let me tell you that Robin Zarate is a friend, a gift from God to me, that keeps on giving! We have been friends for many years now and she just keeps pouring into my life!  Robin is a woman that has learned how to be live in faithful obedience to God through many hard circumstances (for example, she has been a widow twice -with four sons, now adults, to raise on her own). And through all these hard Providences she has become more lovely, more joyous, and more like Christ each day. She is a remarkable woman and I am honored to have her share part of her testimony of God’s faithfulness with us today.

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The bathroom light pierced the dark, it was time to get out of bed. I wandered down the steps and caught the smell of fresh brewing coffee. Peter sat with his open bible near the fireplace motioning for me to join him for prayer and a few passages before taking our morning run. We were in our thirties and life was busy living in Mexico City, learning a new language, a new culture, growing a business and a family. I cherished the hours before the sun came up, before the responsibilities of life took us in separate directions for the day. I would joke with Peter that I got him “first” before the rest of the world. Seldom were many words spoken in those predawn hours. At that moment, I had no idea this mundane morning routine was soon to become a treasured memory.

The shocking news of Peter’s death came unexpectedly late that evening as I anticipated his arrival, a taxi robbery gone wrong. The headline of the newspapers the next day called it “Rogue Taxi Crime” as gangs would steal taxis in the city and rob unsuspecting passengers. I looked up the word rogue and found a definition that included, Rogue- “sinister in nature, meant cause to harm.” Like a demolition wrecking ball this news threatened to destroy the sturdy and secure looking life I had. I was heartbroken. Disbelief and shock obscured my view as I fought to make sense of my life being turned upside down.

Sleep never came that first night and as odd as it sounds, I could not cry. Oh, I cried out to God in anguish but not with actual tears. Sitting by the fireplace alone I felt the heat of the glowing embers against the numbing news that caused a deep agony in my soul. So many questions swirled in my head. Peter had been my rock, my husband and father of our children. Parenting four sons together was the joy of his life, how would I do it without him?

My mind raced as I thought of how I was going to break the news to our four small boys, asleep upstairs, unaware of the event that would change their world. I was in shock, everything in me was trying to remember. Remember the last time I saw him, his touch, our last words, my mind naturally wanted to recreate these moments, trying to come to terms with the truth of these unwanted set of circumstances.

I remembered the contents of the last sermon we heard together from Luke 1, the birth announcement of Jesus. I opened my bible and was amazed at how the narrative of Mary encouraged me to consider perhaps, just maybe God was up to something, greater and grander and more glorious than my eyes could see. It gave me hope that night and in the years since then.

The angel Gabriel announced the stunning news to Mary that though she was a virgin she would conceive a son. The scriptures state that she was greatly troubled and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. She could never have expected to hear the most incredible news that she would have a son who would be the promised Messiah. Although she could not comprehend how she would conceive the Savior, she responded to God with humble trust and obedience.

God has used this familiar portion of His word to teach and encourage me to learn to respond to life’s challenges with an informed faith that obeys.

Mary was a good Jewish girl, she knew the Holy Scriptures, she knew the prophecy of Isaiah:

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

Although God’s plan for Mary held great honor, it required a costly obedience and would demand great suffering as well. There would be pain in childbirth and pain as mother of the suffering Messiah. Mary embraced God’s word by faith, despite her plans and how she thought her life was going to go. Her response was “Let it be to me as you have said, behold the handmaiden of the Lord”, she humbly put herself at God’s disposal. I pondered her response in a way I never had before.

In Mary’s famous song of Praise, The Magnificat, we see the evidence of her Old Testament knowledge and her wholehearted trust leading her to praise. As I rehearsed memories that led up to this night, it appeared while I went about my daily life, God’s providential plan was unfolding. No surprise to God, yet a big surprise to me. That’s what we find happening here in Mary’s story, and it planted a small seed of hope that God was up to something in the midst of my pain.

The first part of living a life of faithful obedience is knowing where our obedience comes from, how it is produced. Foundationally it comes as a result of God’s grace through faith because of our union with Jesus Christ. God gives the grace needed to strengthen us to live in faithful obedience amidst life’s painful and confusing circumstances. Genuine faith in Christ produces obedient lives that give God glory.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

It has been twenty-one years since Peter’s death. God continues to use Mary’s narrative to comfort and convict me. Her example of knowing God’s word and it’s call to trust, obey and praise God has been a constant theme. I have reared my four boys who are now grown men. That difficult part of what God called me to is behind me and yet, life circumstances continually give me fresh opportunity to trust God and the grace He supplies to bring about the obedience of faith.

There have been times of questions, doubts and deep wondering about how to live life this way, but God has been faithful. Through His word, the fellowship, love and prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ, God continues to expose the ways I still need be changed to the image of Jesus for His glory. By His grace my faith and love for Him has grown. When the circumstances of life threaten to overwhelm me, I especially remember Mary’s response to God’s appointed plan. Her example of simple but complete trust has encouraged me.

I look back after all these years to those difficult hours the night Peter died, and I see it differently through the eyes of faith. God’s loving care for me there in that room is evident in my mind now. He knew what it would take to grow me up and to this day it is a picture of His grace.

In my mind, I remember how the soft rays of sunlight began to illuminate the dark room in the early morning hours on my first day alone. The memories of my morning routine with Peter greeted me as I picked up the Bible sitting near the fireplace where he had left it. I opened where he had bookmarked and began to read these verses and as I did the first tears began to fall.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:21-25

Robin Zarate

 

Faithful Obedience -A New Series-

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One of the reasons why we love to read the biographies of Christian women -and the stories of faithful women in the Bible- is that we can see how they endured many difficult circumstances not with a bitter attitude or a complaining spirit, but always focused on doing the next thing in front of them by grace through faith. In prisons, in the jungle, in their sickbed, in their kitchen, in a marriage with unfaithful husbands or  unbelieving children, these women set an example to us of joyful and faithful obedience to God in all sort of situations.

I love the story of Rahab (found in Joshua 2). She was the kind of woman that we would encourage our sons to run away from and yet, one day, she believed that salvation comes from God alone. She had a change of her heart, which was evident in her change of loyalties.  Rahab hid the spies that Joshua had sent to Jericho and helped them escape through the window of her house. Faithful obedience was the first fruit of her conversion. Rahab didn’t submit to the king of Jericho, but to her new King, the God of Israel and God blessed her for that. Rahab’s story doesn’t end there, the fruit of her faithful obedience is evidenced in that she became part of the linage of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1).

Ruth’s faithful obedience was hard too. She was a widow with empty hands in a foreign land. The possibilities that her life would change for the better were few, but she chose faithful obedience instead of the despair of an unbelieving heart. Ruth came under the Covenant of the God of Israel leaving behind her false gods, and in doing so, she started doing the next thing  that God put in front of her. Event after event, all lined up as in a most natural sequence, God led her in His Providence to a path of obedience. And because she walked faithfully there, God brought her under the wing of a redeemer that  transformed all her circumstances and the history of the world -she became the grandmother of King David, and we know that from that line, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, would come.

Mary the Mother of Jesus is another example of faithful obedience in the Bible. She was chosen to carry in her womb the promised Messiah that would save the world. Faithful obedience could have cost her her own life, but she put aside her fears -which were real!- held fast to the Word of God (compare her song with the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1) and did the next thing: she answered to the announcement of the Angel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Her faithful obedience brought her to a place of true blessedness.

There are many more women in the Bible whom God used because of their faithful obedience. In the book of Acts, for example,  we read how women of great influence were key to the growth of the early church. Faithful obedience for them meant that they had to use their preeminence to support the apostles and the church. Persecution was always a danger, but they persevered faithfully where God had them and faithfully did the next thing.

And we can go on and on, telling the stories of many women in the early church whose faithful obedience led them to places in which blessedness looked differently than what the hashtag #blessed would mean today. The mouth of the lions, the stake, dark dungeons witnessed the day when they laid down their lives in faithful obedience to God. They loved Jesus more than life itself. They died as martyrs so that we could be encouraged to face opposition by the grace of God.

Monica’s faithful  obedience drove her to her knees day after day to pray for the conversion of her son Augustine. And after 17 years of faithful obedience -that in her case meant praying without ceasing for her son, the Lord answered her cries for mercy and she saw her son coming to the Lord. Augustine later became one of the most strongest pillars in the Christian faith.

Women in the Reformation were ready to offer their faithful obedience to contribute to the revival God was bringing to the world. They opened their homes, hosted meetings, sang hymns, wrote books, married and had children. They were faithful in the face of all opposition and set an example for us, so that we may too be encouraged to follow their steps.

Centuries later Corry Ten Boom and her family risked their lives hiding Jews during WWII . Why? Because they knew that obeying God rather men was where true joy was found. She and her family were taken prisoners into the Nazi camps and even there their faithful obedience to God was always present, always transforming the most horrible moments into opportunities that let them see God’s grace at work.

Darlene Deibler Rose tells her gripping story in her book, Evidence Not  Seen, A Women’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II. And as we turn pages, we see a woman who loved God and His Word so much that had a life in which faithful obedience was a mark of her Christianity. And her faithful obedience in extremely painful situations should make us want to persevere in faithful obedience where we are at today.

Elizabeth Elliot is another woman whose life was characterized by faithful obedience. She put aside over and over again her own feelings to do the next thing she knew God asked from her. She was never a slave to her emotions but at all times she submitted her emotions to the Word of God. Her faithful obedience is worth imitating.

The examples abound and they are not far from us or hidden from us. Even today, I can confidently -and very gratefully- say that we are surrounded by women whose lives are an example to us of faithful obedience to the Lord. They live faithfully in their own “here and now.” These women keep doing the next thing in front of them, and in their obedience they find their joy in the Lord increased and His peace in their hearts.

This is the heart behind this new series: How does faithful obedience looks like today in the life of ordinary Christian women? Some friends of mine will be sharing with us some of the stories in which they have experienced how choosing faithful obedience to Christ and His Word is better than anything else. I trust that the Lord will use these stories to encourage you to will and to work towards a life of faithful obedience.

As you read this series (every upcoming Wednesday)  you will notice one thing, faithful obedience to Christ is not possible because of the determination and forbearance of hard-core women. Faithful obedience is only possible when we are in Christ (read Ephesians). And it is only because of Him that learning contentment through the hardest circumstances is possible. It is only through Christ that we can do all things that He calls us to do. It is only by His grace that these women can say, “Faithful obedience to Christ and His Word is possible even in the midst of this.”

Let me close now with these words from Elisabeth Elliot,

“Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today? How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person’s seemingly small act of obedience! Rest assured: Do what God tells you to do now, and, depend upon it, you will be shown what to do next.”

May we have a heart willing to obey God in the here and in the now.

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

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LINKS TO ALL THE POSTS IN THIS SERIES:

Screen Shot 2019-04-27 at 4.14.21 PM 1. Norma Tochijara writes about how looking up to Christ in the midst of various hard circumstances, like the loss of her daughter at birth and some difficult marriage trials, is how the Lord has helped her to respond in faithful obedience to God.

2. Noai Meyer shared with us how it looks like to live in faithful obedience with MS as a young wife with little ones.

3. Robin Zarate writes about the day in which she lost her first husband and how faithful obedience looked like at that time.

4. Liz Boyd shares with us how the Lord has helped her, in His mercy, to face being diagnosed with breast cancer.

5. Kate Sumpter shares how she and her husband have walked from the day they heard the hard news of infertility to the joyous news of adoption -always taking the next step sustained by God’s faithfulness.

6. My turn to write: I shared here how to cultivate faithful obedience in our own lives.

7. Rachel Jankovic writes about the importance of holding fast to our profession of faith.”The Christian life is a life of profession. We profess Christ in whatever situation we are in. And so the work of faithfulness is no different if you are being crushed by the weight of blessing or crushed by the weight of trial. The calling is the same – cling to Christ. Grab hold of your profession, which is found in Jesus Christ. For He that is faithful has promised.”

8. Laurie Ditton shares with us how God has been faithful to her and her husband after they obeyed Him and brought her elderly and sick mom to live with them. She writes, “We were honest with God, and while He did not always provide the specifics, He did answer. Gently but clearly, both from circumstance and from scripture. He called us to be faithfully obedient. To live out what we believed. To trust Him. My mother was to come home.

This kind of obedience is not difficult. Knowing exactly what God wants you to do is a great blessing. It’s afterward that’s sometimes a bit harder.”

9. Lisa Leidenfrost writes a super encouraging post on which she says, “So how do you handle a great disappointment, or disastrous turn of events? The first thing you do is to run to the one who gave you that trial. If you run away because God is too dangerous, you will be 
doubly hit, first with the trial and secondly from being cut off from the help you would have gotten. You must daily cry out to Him.”

10. My friend Hannah Grieser writes about the envy of trials, yes you heard right. This is a must read.  She writes, “There are women (and I’m afraid it very often is the women) the world over who must constantly and forever imagine themselves in the role of the martyr. They cannot bear to allow that anyone else has suffered more or could deserve more pity.”

11. Nancy Wilson writes a super encouraging post about the times in which faithful obedience means waiting on the Lord. Go read it now! It is so good!

12. Lindsey Tollefson encourages us to be faithful in the face of fear. Very encouraging! She reminds us, “Whatever circumstance you are in, faithful obedience to God means that you resist fear. It means that you use thanksgiving to crowd out your fears. ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PC of Red Kettle (used throughout all the series) by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash
PC By Nicole Honeywill