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Happy New Year!

31 Dec

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Today is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2012!!! Can you believe it’s here already?!

Remember our Top Ten Things We WON’T Assume this year? Let’s review our list:

We will NOT assume:
10. We know it all.
9. We can read people perfectly.
8. We have to be like someone else.
7. We have to be perfect in front of others.
6. Adventures only happen to other people.
5. No now means no forever.
4. We either “made it” or we “didn’t.”
3. We have the pressure to make all the right choices FOR YEARS!
2. Our prayers are not being answered.
1. Dreams come easy.

Julia definitely appreciates that final point by the end of The Mr. Right Series.

As those of you who have read it know, she eventually breaks if off with Mr. Wrong in novel 1, finally meets her Mr. Right in novel 2, and falls deeply in love with him in novel 3. (Did you like her Mr. Right as much as I did? ; )

Julia assumes that now she has finally found the right guy, all her frustration and heartache is over, no more tears in sight. But during novel 3, she sees how dreams, the really important ones, often don’t come easy. We have to fight for them!

Tonight is New Year’s Eve, the biggest party night of the year. Like many people, we may go out to celebrate or simply wait up until midnight, turn on our TVs, and watch the ball drop in Times Square.

Why is there such excitement tonight? It’s the thought of a new beginning with 2013! Anything seems possible with hope and a new beginning.

That’s why people start writing their New Year Resolutions, ones like:

I will study harder at school, waste less time on Facebook, spend more real time  with friends, eat healthier, get in better shape, enjoy the moment more, do a  better job at work, make new friends, chase dreams…

Yet before we know it, vacation/holiday time is over, everyday routines and pressures resume, and life seems to return to normal. Oftentimes those resolutions we made are just too much work to keep, and they fall to the side (until we pick them up again next New Year’s Eve!)

But if we know up front that dreams don’t come easy, we’re emotionally prepared to fight for them! Like Julia, we see that they are worth the prayer, planning, and effort it takes to see them through.

Do you have dreams for this coming year? Don’t assume they will come easy. Be ready to make choices that aren’t always easy. Be prepared to be misunderstood by some. Anticipate it being inconvenient at times. You might even shed a few tears.

BUT always remember that your God-dreams are safe in your Savior’s hands, that He has a master plan bigger than you even realize right now. He will help you walk out His plan and even give you kisses from heaven along the way, great things you weren’t even expecting, because He’s that good!

Like Julia, you will see the faithfulness of God and that while dreams don’t always come easy, they are worth it all in the end when they come true.

Believing with you for great things in 2013! 

Happy New Year!!!
Lisa & Barbara

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Whew!!!

4 Dec

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The holidays are now in full swing, and with them bring lots of emotions and introspection. What’s this season really all about? What’s really important in my life? What do I really value? Am I on track to seeing my dreams come true?

Because we all have dreams, big and small. Some of them seem so close, we can almost reach out and touch them. Others seems so far out of reach, we wonder if they will ever actually happen (like I talked about with my experience in last week’s post).

I want to encourage you today that God hears your prayers! Just because you may not see the answer yet, please don’t assume that your prayers are not being answered.

I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness, for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength. Psalm 138 :2b-3 (NLT)

Wow! As soon as we pray, God answers us! Yet oftentimes we look around and assume God hasn’t answered our prayers because there is no apparent change. But I promise you, God is working on your behalf in ways you cannot see, opening doors for you, preparing opportunities for you, moving key people into position, and preparing your own heart for what He has planned.

Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me. The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Psalm 138:7-8 (NLT)

Let these Scriptures encourage you today! God will work out His plans for our lives as we continue to trust and move forward. And He loves to blow us away with His goodness!

Much love,
Lisa

Today? I can do that!

5 Nov

Have you ever felt overwhelmed about making good choices? Choices in relationships, with your body, with your mind, with your future?

Have you looked ahead and thought, To get to my dreams, I have to make the right choices for the next 5 to 10 years! I’m not sure I can make it!

Well, don’t worry! It doesn’t have to be that hard!

Simply start by focusing on your relationship with God and His plans for you. Let them become important to you. You are a beautiful, critical part of the Father’s master plan; your life counts! So dream big! And be intentional with your God-dreams, each step of the way.

But don’t put undo pressure on yourself. You don’t have to focus on making all the right choices for the next 5 or 10 years…That’s crazy pressure! Instead focus on this thought: You only have to make the right choices today!

And when you wake up tomorrow, you can remind yourself again, With God’s help, I only have to make the right choices today!

Whew! That’s way more manageable!

Did you know that Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow, that today has enough for us to deal with? (Matthew 6:34 NIV)

I love how the Message Bible paraphrases that verse:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34 (Message)

Set goals. Dream dreams. Be intentional with your life and the choices you need to make to get where your heart deep down wants to go. But as far as pressure goes, we only need to concern ourselves with each day as it comes. As we stay close to the Father, we just have to ask, Lord, help me make the right choices today. And He will!

As we focus on one day at a time, we can do well for 5 or 10 years, even a lifetime, in God’s plan for us!

Does that mean we’ll be perfect? Nope. But we will be in a much better place to learn, grow, and make progress—and to avoid mistakes that leave big scars. We’ll be on a much safer path to seeing our dreams actually come true. And the best part? We’ll be closer to our Lord and Savior than ever.

So, as we continue our “won’t assume” series, let’s not assume we have the pressure to make all the right choices for years and years. Just let God help you with your choices today, and watch Him blow you away with His goodness over time!

Love you! Have a great week!

Lisa

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What if I didn’t “make it”???

29 Oct

Recently, my mom and I were on the radio show Teen Talk, chatting with the host, Nicole O’Dell, about some misconceptions we sometimes have as Christians, especially when it comes to choices and relationships. Ideas like Life is either all or nothing: I’m either “all in” with God, doing everything perfectly, or I’m “all out,” living however I want, making lots of bad choices. (We often think that being all in with God means no mistakes in sight.)

But is that really life? Is anyone spot-on 100% of the time? Is it possible to love God, want to live your life for Him, and still make mistakes along the way as you grow and mature in Him?

Julia learned in novel 1 that can definitely happen! Jesus was one of her loves as she was making all those mistakes her first year at college. He just wasn’t her first love. Something/someone else became more important to her, and that caused her to make lots of choices that brought heartache. (That was her biggest mistake of all since Jesus loves us and wants to be our first love in life. Only He is worthy of that position. Only He can meet our deepest needs and make the other relationships in our lives all they were meant to be. He wants to be your God, rather than some boy in your life.)

Many girls battle feelings of hopelessness with their choices. A lot of them think, I’ve already had sexual experiences before marriage; I didn’t “make it” as a virgin on my wedding night. So I might as well have sex with my current boyfriend since I’ve already messed up. I’m just not one of those “perfect” girls… (Remember Julia’s sorority sister Gretchen in novel 1? She felt like this after what happened to her with Brad—even when that first experience was not even her fault!)

But wait a minute! Are any of us perfect, except Jesus?

No! We have all made mistakes, whether with our bodies (like having sex before marriage, getting drunk, hurting ourselves), our minds (watching/reading garbage, thinking wrong thoughts about ourselves/others, having attitudes), our mouths (using unkind words, gossiping, lying), being impatient, being fearful, worrying…The list goes on and on.

So is life as a Christian about being perfect in every area at all times? No mistakes EVER? Or is it about being honest about the areas our lives where we struggle, the ones that are hard for us, those we need to bring to Jesus so we can be more like Him? Is it actually about love, forgiveness, surrender, dedication, obedience, growth, and progress?

Do you realize that even if you have had sexual experiences already, if you will bring all that to the Cross, to God your Father, laying it all down (the hurt, the wrong, maybe even the wrong done to you), God will embrace you, forgive all, and give you a new beginning? Jesus died to give you the best life possible both here and in heaven one day. It’s ours for the taking if we’ll cooperate with Him in an honest and real relationship, recognizing that God made us, loves us, and knows what’s best for us and others.

Did you know that if you choose to make the right choices from today until your wedding day, it counts? It counts to your heart, to God’s heart, and even to your husband’s heart one day! Instead of judging you for mistakes you’ve made, your Mr. Right will admire you for the person you are now, for choosing to do right (with God’s help) once you knew (and valued) the truth. And for turning to Him when you were tempted to make the wrong choices again.

Please don’t assume that when it comes to choices, we either “made it” or we “didn’t. Don’t let past choices define you. Let God redirect you! He loves you and has amazing plans for you. Get close to Him, and you’ll truly see how good He is!

(Click here to read more in our “won’t assume” series.)

Have a great week! I’m praying for you!

Much love,

Lisa

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No???

15 Oct

Remember our Top-Ten List of Things We WON’T Assume? Let’s hit #5 today…

We WON’T assume:

10.  We know it all.

9.   We can read people perfectly.

8.    We have to be like someone else.

7.   We have to be perfect in front of others.

6.   Adventures only happen to other people (or later in life)

5.   No now means no forever.

Sometimes we ask God for things, and He seems to say no. But we can’t assume He’s saying no for forever. He might just being saying no for a moment, so He can say yes very soon (or bring the answer to our prayer in a better way/at a better time).

My dad and mom were great parents and hard workers who provided a wonderful childhood for my brother and me. When I started my senior year of high school, they were naturally concerned about how they would pay for college. I wasn’t worried a bit. I had always dreamed of going to college, and I was confident God would make it happen for me.

I filled out scholarship application after application, answering a zillion questions, writing essays, etc. Eventually, I received news that I was a finalist for a $10,000 scholarship! That amount was huge for my family and me, so I asked God to give it to me, to let me win that competition.

I drove to Indianapolis for the finals (an impromptu live speech), did my best, and came home sure I’d be chosen. To my shock, I received a letter shortly afterwards stating I had not won. So the answer to my prayer? A big fat NO.

Yep, I cried big, disappointed tears as I read that letter. Then I dried my face and asked God yet again to take care of this for me. It didn’t really matter the exact when or how, just that He’d be faithful to take care of me (and my God-dreams).

Some time later, I received another letter saying I didn’t receive a $10,000 scholarship, but a four-year-tuition-free scholarship!  They would even pay for my books! And since I was being offered a tennis scholarship as well, my parents would only have to pay about $800 that year for room & board. (I ended up becoming a resident assistant at my dorm for the three years after that, which took care of room & board payments for the rest of school.) That meant my parents ended up paying just $800 for a $70,000+ education. Wow, God is so over-the-top good!!!

Please let my story encourage you today! God doesn’t play favorites. He will answer your prayers just as He answered mine. He may not answer them just as we want at the moment. Or on our timetable. But He’s faithful and will always bring something amazing to us if we cooperate with Him along the way.

I think back to crushes I had throughout high school and college, guys I begged God to “help it work out” with…Then I look at my amazing, handsome, best-friend husband and THANK GOD for not answering those prayers how I wanted!

So don’t assume that when things don’t go as you had hoped (or when you had hoped) that God has said no forever. He may very well just be saying no for a minute while He works things out for you…in a way you’ll be grateful for later.

Keep your eyes on Jesus and know that He loves you more than anyone else. Your God-dreams are safe in His loving hands.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:3-5 (NKJ)

Have a great week knowing that you are loved—and you are not alone!

Lisa

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All Around

20 Sep

Hi, everyone!

Just got back from Dream Chic, an amazing women’s conference hosted by my amazing mil, Pastor Victoria Raftery. 

My mom, Barbara, was there, too, and we spent three awesome days in worship, listening to powerful speakers, and having lots of girl fun! I even had the opportunity to share about the Mr. Right Series and pursuing our dreams in life.

(My mom and me w/ a lovely girl at our book table.)

I loved that several speakers at this conference were young, ages 19 to late 20’s. I loved hearing their hearts as they shared how they are pursuing their dreams right now. And I thought of you reading this blog!

In fact, three things jumped out at me:

1) God likes to put valuable dreams inside of us.

2) God has many adventures for us as we walk toward those dreams.

3) The adventures start now, not simply years from now when our dreams “come true.”

Because often times we think important dreams are for someone else. Can my dreams really be that valuable? Do they really matter?

Or we assume that the adventure part is for later, when certain things are in place…

But sitting in that conference, I was reminded that getting to big dreams takes a lot of little stepsand those steps matter! So as we move toward our dreams, our big adventures, God has lots of daily adventures for us to experience as well. We can see God move in our lives in exciting ways now. We can reach out with seemingly simple things, like a smile or Facebook message, and make a difference in people’s lives right now.

We’ve all heard someone say something like, It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. And while we might roll our eyes for hearing it so much, there is truth in it.

But I would argue that it’s about both of them. Because our destination matters. We want to be heading in the right direction! But it’s on the journey there that you learn, grow, and make a difference in the lives of others along the way!

So as we continue our “Top Ten Things We WON’T ASSUME” series, let’s add the following to the list:

We won’t assume that adventures only happen to other people—or at a later time.

Because if we walk toward our dreams keeping our hearts tender to the Father, our eyes and ears open, we’ll find adventure all around!

Much love,

Lisa

Slipping Off the Beam

30 Jul

Let’s keep going with our “Top-Ten” things we WON’T ASSUME this year.

We will NOT assume:

10.  We know it all.

9.   We can read people perfectly.

8.    We have to be like someone else.

7.   We have to be perfect in front of others.

The Olympics are here again, and perfection is on everyone’s mind. The perfect 10, the new world record, or just the best performance of an athlete’s career, is the hope of all competing (and watching).

But even the very best in the world aren’t perfect every. single. time.

Sometimes what was done countless times in practice, becomes the very thing that goes wrong and costs an athlete the gold medal she’s been dreaming about for at least 4 years. And that’s how she fears she’ll be remembered—not as the skilled Olympian at the top of her sport, but one who made a costly error when the pressure was on.

But that’s how competition goes on the biggest stage in the world. And that’s how life can be as well.

Sometimes we assume that we, too, have to be perfect every. single. time. in front of others. After all, we’re Christians. We have the Lord to help us and shouldn’t blow it, especially when others are watching.

And sometimes, when we fall short in front of watchful eyes, we feel like failures. How could God use me now? Does He even still love me?

But we must remember something: God loves us regardless of our “performance.” As a good Father, He simply loves us.

For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:5b (NLT)

But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful. Romans 5:8 (CEV)

God our Father loves us. He is kind and has given us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope. We pray that our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father will encourage you and help you always to do and say the right thing. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (CEV)

Naturally, right choices benefit your life (so you’ll always be glad you made them). Because of that (and His own nature), God sets the bar high, desiring we always do and say the right thing (as it says above). But when you make mistakes, you have a Father who embraces you, works with you, and helps you grow from what you’ve experienced. (He’s the best Coach of all!)

For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. Psalm 86:5 (NKJ)

Our Heavenly Father knows we can’t live this life successfully without His help. We need Jesus! So life isn’t about projecting perfection to everyone around us, hiding struggles, weakness, and mistakes, pretending we have it all together at all times. It’s about having an honest relationship with God, learning His ways, growing in Him, bringing mistakes to the cross and starting fresh each morning, letting Christ transform us day by day. Instead of stressing about imperfection, it’s about trusting in a perfect Savior to take us from glory to glory. We’re “perfect” simply because we’ve accepted Christ’s sacrifice for us (and He is perfect). That’s what people really need to see.

For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:14 (NLT)

Now may the God of peace…strengthen (complete, perfect) and make you what you ought to be and equip you with everything good that you may carry out His will; [while He Himself] works in you and accomplishes that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (the Messiah)…Hebrews 13:20a & 21 (AMP)

Let’s go back to the Olympics. When you see an outstanding gymnast do her very best, but then suddenly lose her balance and fall off the beam, do you instantly dislike her or think she doesn’t belong in the sport? Or does your heart go out to her instead? Do you admire her for choosing to climb back up on that beam and finish her routine with excellence?

So for the rest of this year, let’s afford ourselves the same compassion. Keep that bar high! Absolutely! But don’t beat yourself up if you slip off the beam somehow as you’re giving your best. Just pull yourself back up and listen to your Coach. If you do, He’ll get you to glory, and others will admire you along the way.

Much love,

Lisa

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Please Be You

18 Jun

Let’s keep going with our “Top-Ten” things we WON’T ASSUME this year.

We will NOT assume:

10.  We know it all.

9.   We can read people perfectly.

8.    We have to be like someone else.

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”  Judy Garland

Isn’t that a great quote? Because sometimes we look at others and assume we have to be like them—instead of being who God created us to be.

Do you know and value who God has created you to be?

My husband is a great musician and singer. Sometimes I wish I could join him up on stage and sing my heart out with him, like on the show DuetsBut that’s not my thing. I guess could try to make it my thing, to pursue it anyway. (But the sound man would probably mute my microphone!)

A better idea: focus on the gifts God has given me. Recognize that He has a plan for my life, that He’s created me for something very special. Something He needs me to pursue for His glory and for the benefit of others. Because it’s not all about me.

Doesn’t our culture sometimes make us feel like it is? That if our gifts/talents aren’t things which could make us famous or grandiose, they aren’t worth very much?

But that’s simply not true!

Question: What is Billy Graham’s mom most famous for?

Billy Graham, of course! (Her name was Morrow Coffey Graham.) I’m sure Mrs. Graham had lots of gifts and talents, but the ones she used raising her son helped shape him into a man who would eventually bring millions of people to Christ. In that way, she had a part to play in the lives of all those people, too…That’s pretty amazing!

I once heard a story regarding Dr. David Cho (who has pastored a church of  1 million people in Korea). It was said he first heard the Gospel from a pamphlet given to him by a young girl who was passing out tracks, door to door. She had no way of knowing to whom she was giving one of those pamphlets (someone who would eventually accept Christ and pastor a huge church). Even so, she influenced the lives of millions of people from her decision to be who God wanted her to be: a girl willing to go door-to-door and hand out tracks to strangers.

Do you realize that you have gifts & talents that God has given you for a reason. And that reason is eternally important. Way bigger than what you can see or imagine right now. If you spend time trying to be someone else, then the rest of us miss the benefit of you being who you were created to be.

Have you ever read an interview of a famous person and realized that this beautiful, talented person doesn’t see it in herself? That, even though she may be gifted and admired, she is still longing to be someone else? Or longing to know who she really is when the glitz is stripped away?

Do you realize that if you’re trying to be someone else, people who love you may be shaking their heads, wondering why you don’t see how beautiful and valuable you are?

So don’t waste a moment feeling bad about not being like certain girls you see at school, work, on TV, in magazines, or on friends’ Facebook pages. God doesn’t want you to be them. He has a plan for you that’s all your own. (And it’s incredibly valuable. Eternally so!)

Actually, the only one we’re supposed to be like is Jesus, and as you become more and more like Him (day by day, year by year), you’ll better understand the you that God considers a beautiful masterpiece.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

Have a fabulous week being you!

Remember: you are loved—and you are not alone!

Lisa

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Perfect People Reader???

13 Feb

Let’s keep going with our “Top-Ten” List!

(David Letterman style ; )

This year we will NOT assume:

10.  We know it all.

9.   We can read people perfectly.

As women, we know we are great at reading people. We feel confident in our ability to see what’s really going on, words unspoken. But no matter how good we think we are at this, sometimes (to our complete surprise) we get it wrong.

A few years ago, my husband and I took our four kids to the mall. After some shopping, we made our way to the food court for lunch and plopped down at the closest table of six. As we sat laughing about one thing or another, I noticed we were just a table away from a woman eating peacefully by herself. By the look on her face, I could tell she wasn’t very happy about it. My kids weren’t being obnoxious or anything, but they were definitely being kids (read elevated noise level : ).

After a few minutes, the woman sighed, gathered her things, and moved to a table much farther away. I felt bad and smiled at her several times with a “sorry about that” look. But no matter how many times I caught her eye and smiled, she refused to smile back.

Now I was annoyed. After all, my kids weren’t doing anything wrong, yet she was staring at them like they were. (She must not like kids very much.) Plus I was trying to be gracious, smiling and apologizing for making her move. The least she could do was smile back! This woman was obviously very grumpy and unhappy. So, very unlike me, I said something to that effect in a low voice to my husband.

As I did, the woman met my gaze, stood up, and marched right up to our table! I couldn’t believe it! The one time I blow it and mutter something I shouldn’t, I get caught. I was mortified.

When she got to our table, she looked right at me and said, “Excuse me. I know that you saw me move from my table a few minutes ago, and I wanted to explain myself.” Then, flashing a beautiful smile, she explained how she watched her grandkids every day for her daughter and that this was her day off. She thought our kids were so cute, but she had just wanted a few moments kid-free for a change. She hoped she hadn’t offended us by moving.

I was completely taken aback (and so relieved she hadn’t heard my thoughtless comment). We had a pleasant exchange of words, and this delightful grandmother ended up sitting down at our table and chatting with us for about ten minutes!

I learned a lot that day: 1) to not make comments I don’t want overheard. 2) to not assume I can read people perfectly. I may be good at it most of the time, but in this case, I was totally off. That woman wasn’t upset with my kids, grumpy, or unhappy. She was just taking a well-deserved breather.

I’m reminded of a woman in the Bible who met Jesus one day (John 4). Seeing Him sitting there by the well, she probably thought she had Him all figured out. It was only as she talked with Him that she came to understand who He really was—and it changed her life.

Let’s continue this year refusing to assume we can read people perfectly. Let’s take a minute to get to know someone first, to hear their story, to understand what’s really going on in a situation. Who knows? It might just change our lives!

Much love,

Lisa

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Top Ten List–#10

23 Jan

In my first post this month, I asked you to think about what you were assuming about 2012. Because assumptions are powerful! They guide our behavior and don’t always set us up to succeed.

So to help us deal with assumptions, I thought it would be fun to take a few posts and go over a “Top Ten List” of things we WON’T assume this year (David Letterman style ; ).

OUR “TOP TEN” LIST

This year we will NOT assume that…

10. We know it all.

Ohhh…that’s a good one! We may not come out and say we think we know it all in a situation, but a lot of times we find ourselves acting like it!

Years ago, when my husband, Eric, was just beginning to pursue his dreams, someone he really admired shared this valuable piece of advice: “Be instantly correctable.”

In other words, realize that you might not know it all yet, that others who have been there before, might know something you don’t, something that will help you. Be willing to be corrected—and then make the adjustments and keep going!

For example, when you see the truth from the Bible about the dynamics of a situation, don’t fight it; receive it! Give the Creator of the Universe credit that He knows what He’s doing, that His wisdom really is wise! His principles are not only true, but are in your best interest in the long run. Following Him will take you where you deep down want to go.

So as you forge ahead in this new year, let the “know it all” assumption go. Be open to seeing a better way, accepting what’s right and true, and then changing. It’s then that situations can really change, that you can move forward in the right direction and head into the future God has prepared for you. (A good one, by the way! Jeremiah 29:11)

Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights. Proverbs 18:15 (MSG)

Let’s be wise women this year and watch God amaze us again and again!

Praying for you!

Lisa

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