Making Bible Stories Come Alive

“The girls and I walked into the small, empty chapel. ‘Let’s sit up front,’ I said. I led the way, and we took our seats. I smiled, taking in my surroundings—my teenage daughters were with me at a women’s retreat. I’d just signed them up, without their permission, and they hadn’t given me any flack over it.”

I hope you’ll join me at WMU’s website for more of the story

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Have you had a moment where a Bible story just came alive to you? Maybe you’d heard or read it a thousand times. But suddenly … Want to share?

The Things A Mother Didn’t Do

It’s uncovered … once again.

I open the drawer to my daughter’s chest-of-drawers, shuffling a few items around to make room for the new. Beside me, my daughter’s sweet hands work, shifting and folding.

Ooh, what’s that? My hand glides over the shiny, smooth surface–the object lining the drawer. Stashed away. Purple. Paint. Prints. “Oh.” We carefully reveal and pull it out. It’s the baby, when she was a baby … her tiny handprints. Made in Sunday school.

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Frustration and disappointment sink to my lower tummy. My heart follows, weighing down a little heavier. “I never did hang this,” I admit. I look to my daughter. “I meant to frame this.” I stumble for words. “I just kept forgetting.”

How many times have I said that over the years? How many times have I stumbled across the thing I never did? How many times have I failed to make a change, make a difference? And now, it seems really too late.

“It’s okay, Mom.” She smiles, always assuring. Always forgiving.

We read over the words together, smiling, laughing, remembering how artistic and messy she could be. Oh, the stories there to share.

“Look how tiny your hands were.” She smiles and gives a little nod. It’s amazing how something so tiny can fill you so full … full of wonder and joy and love.

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We plop down for a game of Princess Uno. I marvel at how I manage to get my teenagers to play Princess Uno still. I never managed to shift to the older version. I guess I enjoy hanging onto all little all I can. And I laugh at the irony–that I played the older version when I was a kid, and now I play the princess version as an adult.

We eventually move to the bed, side by side, talking about her best bud, school, drawing, cats … The daughter who doesn’t love to dance jumps up and takes my hands in hers, and we waltz, laughing, tripping over each other. “You’re going to make me fall,” I say, with a frightened giggle.

Before I know it, best bud is joining us and sister, too. We’re looking and sorting through all the items stashed away in baskets on her bookshelf. And laughing. White wicker baskets, lined in pink-and-white polka-dotted fabric. It’s little items. Cherished items belonging to both of my daughters, from their childhood. Things I just couldn’t part with. Things I cherished too much to stash away in the attic. Because … what if we needed to see them, look at them, read them, breath them in … remember? Now.

I pull out tiny baby Bibles, framed baby pictures, tiny photo albums, and notice the dust covering the stuffed animals. A wave of embarrassment washes over me. I never did make my teenager a teenager room.

I mean … it’s cute, but it’s still a little girl room.

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“Do we need to change your room?” I ask. “Are you happy with the pink paint? It was named ‘Lauren’ … remember? After your best friend. Remember how we had moved away, and you were so glad the paint color had her same name?”

“Yeah. I think we should repaint and change things up some,” daughter says, with her cutest typical smirk–the smirk that tells me she loves me just the way I am, behind and all.

“What color would you possibly want? Other than this color?” I can’t think of one that would be better. Not a single one. Translation: do I have one more paint job in me?

She mulls over the idea.

“Can your room just stay little?” I ask. I know the answer to that. I love being a mama. I thought I’d never be one once. And I’ve loved every step along the way. But the uncovered truth is–I always seem to remain a world’s pace behind. What’s wrong with me?

I didn’t do this. I didn’t do that.

Days pass.

Daughter rushes toward me carrying something precious. She cups the tiny somethings in her hand, like she’s protecting it, guarding it, loving it.

Her eyebrows raise, eyes sparkling. Her smile grows. “Look, Mom. Look what I found in the basket on my bookshelf.” She beams, extending the treasured possessions to me, with her fresh prints anew.

It’s two tiny “A Little” Little Golden Books–The Poky Puppy, Little Golden Book Land. “I can’t believe I found these,” she says. “I didn’t know they were there. In my baskets. I loved these.”

One tee-tiny book, having been read so much, is bound by tape. Bound by love. Some things, some actions are just bound to be. Do you agree?

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And something is uncovered right at that moment. Embracing that second-in-time to my heart like a cherished friend, I’m so thankful I didn’t do what I never did. I’d never do what I never did again for another moment like that.


Happy Mother’s Day! Do you have a similar story to share?  Have you found a little favor through your failures? 

A Return to Family Devotion


I inch open the door. Two teeners are playing. I’m so happy to see them playing, taking life by the reins. Like they used to. When did life get so serious? 

One’s perched on the other’s back, having turned into some type of cowgirl. The other’s on all fours, and somehow I’m waiting for a “neigh” to bellow out of her mouth. Instead, all contagious laughs, giggles, smiles.



“What?” I nearly fall over laughing.

They jump up, place sweet hands in mine.

It’s bedtime.

“Do y’all want to start reading together through the New-Testament-in-a-year?” I ask the girls, switching gears and interrupting their Lone Ranger and Silver moment. But it’s been weighing heavily on my heart. 

Both nod so eagerly.

Whew! Because I’m going on fumes right now.



And I need to get at least one weight off my heart. Taking something off my shoulders would be nice, too.


We always did pretty good at family devotions when the girls were small. But things shifted somehow. I tried to get them started on Bible Gateway, helping them establish their own routine. No more “we” but God in thee. That went good for a while, but like with all things, discipline tiptoes out the door, and we’re left crumpled on the floor. And that’s a complete disservice to my girls.

I need jumper cables. Um, okay … spurs kicking into my sides.

Because when serious sickness enters your home, even teens can only go on fumes for so long. Anxiety hugs the heart, pinching in the night, demanding conversation.

And one daughter wraps her arms around me. My teetertotter emotions …. “I understand, Mama. Shh. It’s okay.” I adore her motherly way. What gave it away? Hands that I used to hold everywhereonce so tiny with tiny nails that I used to clip with the baby clipperssoothed over my face, wiping away the moisture. Tight hugs. My other daughter gifts me with one, too.

Life has been so busy. Where has my time with them gone?



Is it okay for a mama to admit she’s scared? She’s scared of the present, the past, the future. She’s scared of every day she tried to make it on her own and failed miserably. She’s terrified of the scars etched into her heart from days without holding her Savior’s hand. She’s scared of every reminder, every memory. She wishes for white-out, do-overs, the delete key for her heart. 

What does she yearn for more than anything for her girls? A clean piece of paper, a clean heart. One prepped and ready to type God’s beautiful future, beautiful present on their hearts, to accompany their beautiful pasts.

But we can’t pour out our heart’s desire on that blank page what we aren’t pouring in. The page will be written on, but it won’t be desirous, the Godly way. It’ll never sell.

And when I’m too tired, I’m reminded I’m too tired not to. I’m loading dirty dishes in the dishwaser, and I don’t think I have the stamina to finish, but I will. That’s my disciplined, determined self talking. And I’ll collapse into that bed.

And a brush of wind swirls past me, sweet arms envelope me. “You ready to read our devotion?”

“We better do it now, while I can.” Anxiety only falls away when we fall into the arms of God.

We plop down onto the floor, circle around, maybe hit the couch, maybe climb into my bed …. She takes my phone, hits the Bible Gateway App.



“The verse of the day,” she says, “is Ephesians 4:2‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.'” She clicks on “Begin A Reading Plan” and continues right where we left off. “Matthew 20:1-16,” she says. 

Verse 16 ends with, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

We all chuckle. “I used to say that to you when you were small all the time,” I say. “I wanted you to be giving. It feels good to give.” And I didn’t want them to fight. But my version usually came out like“If you want to be first, you have to be last.” And that’s where I might blow a raspberry, if I were that kind of mama.

fishing in the swimming pool … caught a plastic fish each and every time




floaties in the shallow end

They laugh. Then nod.

“I remember, Mama. I say that to all my Sunday school kids,” one daughter admits.

Yes. They haven’t forgotten. Full circle. God is writing on their hearts. The giving has been received. Because when we give, we always receive. An honest servant is always rewarded in time. It might seem like a rough draft, but it’s the real, published deal, where purchases are final. It’s sitting on the heart-shelf, waiting to be taken, to be given to their friends, anyone blessed enough to receive from their hands, maybe their future kids.

We take the limited time in this life together by the reins.

A return to family devotion.

~~~


Do you have a family devotion? Have you had to take life by the reins recently? 


A Thanksgiving Giveaway


Gratefulness swept over my heart as I opened my editor’s email, revealing my article contracts for the upcoming yeara blessing and a gift. Another year of writing, of hearing amazing mission stories, of listening to the hearts of people across the globe and to the hearts of people just down the road. 



I don’t take the writing opportunity for granted because one, my confidence level doesn’t soar, and two, there are boo-koos of writers to fill my disposable shoes.



Every single story touches my heart, changes me, in one way or another. Thankful.

Two missions touched my heart so much that I’ve written novels about them. And I’m looking for a third idea, so if you know of a heart-touching mission, I’d love to hear about it.

Closing down my email, I realized that it’s been 8 years since I’ve been writing for Woman’s Missionary Union. Eight years. Thankful.

When I first received the invitation to write for WMU, it was July 4th weekend of 2008 and family was visiting. Excitement spiraled through me over the opportunity, but fear shook me.

My sister-in-law sat in the rocking chair next to me.

“I got asked to write a missions article. I don’t know what to do,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll be calling Africa, and talking to a 19-year-old young woman from Brazil. Her story is too important … entrusted to me? I’m scared.” Tears surfaced. “I’m scared I can’t do it or won’t do it justice. She deserves better than me.”

“Shelli, you can do this.” She smiled, rocking in that chair. “You can do this.” Thankful.



And I’ve been doing this for 8 years. I can still hear that sweet girl’s Brazilian accent … and I’m so blessed to keep up with her on Facebook, all the way in Brazil now. Her mother even wrote to thank me for the article. Her letter was written in Portuguese, and I had to ask for an interpreter. Thankful.

When I receive the magazine that one of my articles is in … my heart swells with gratitude. Seeing my work in print never gets old. But seeing God use the stories to bless people or encourage missions or support missions … that’s the sweetest. Thankful.

I’ll tell you that sometimes I feel a tinge of guilt that I write about missions more than I do them. But my editor continually reminds me each year that writers are important … that they help share what’s happening in missions around the world. That it takes everyone doing their part. Thankful.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret … I’ve been a stay-at-home wife and mom for most of my adult life, and because of that, I’ve always had to watch each dime. And here’s the secretI look forward to the day that I can take a week or two mission trip overseas. What group will God have prepared for me? What will their sweet faces look like? What will their hugs feel like?

But missions is everywhere and needed everywhere. My latest November 2016 cover story is on missions here at home, in Philadelphia, about being thankful in tough times. There’s much need all around us. And I have my sights set on a mission to help here in Texas … I’ve just got to get in gear and join in.




















So with this 8-year-mark, I want to shout out my gratitudefor writing opportunity, for God’s undeserved grace and mercy, for so many things, but especially for you. Thank you for always reading my “scribblings” and supporting me. Even a “hello” brings so much encouragement along this journey. Thankful.

And because of that, I’m so excited to do a fun giveaway, offering two one-year subscriptions to Missions Mosaic magazine. If you have a heart for missions or have a family member who loves missions, this giveaway is for you. It’s a perfect Christmas gift for yourself or a loved one.























What should you do to enter? 

Be a U.S. or Canadian resident and simply leave a comment in the comment section, stating that you’d like to be entered. Or hop over and leave a comment on my Facebook page or my Instagram @shelli_littleton

If you comment in three places, you can be entered up to 3 times, max. 

*2 Winners

And I’m so sorry that I can’t offer the giveaway to my dear friends across the water. I so love you.

~~~

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18


What are you most thankful for? Is there something you hope to do/accomplish one day?

*The giveaway will close November 17th at midnight Central Time and the winners will be announced on Nov 22nd. The subscriptions will be ordered immediately, just in time for Christmas.



When You Need Divine Intervention


One foot in front of the other. I leap over the one remaining stump on the property. And my muscles scream out in reluctance with each step. It’s been a while, a while since I’ve jogged. But I’ve been thrust into middle age, and I want to be the best middle-ager I can be.

Every cell hollers, “What are you doing to me?” as they jostle around. “We need divine intervention,” they cry.

Trying to lead, the sheep bump into me. They haven’t quite figured out the follow thing, and I stumble to regain ground. This middle-ager thing has my joints crying out, too. In the last month, my pain-free legs have turned achy and don’t pound the ground with steadiness like they used to. 





The neighbor’s donkey and goats stare at me as I pass, wanting me to stop. Eeyore’s silky soft nose calls to me. Thank goodness for the trees, hiding me from plain view.



I turn the corner, pass the swing, and almost jump out of this middle-ager skin. I stop abruptly. 

My daughter is sitting there, huffing and puffing. “I tried to catch up with you,” she says, struggling to speak between breaths. Inhaling deeply, she continues, “I called your name, but you didn’t stop.”

She’d taken the short-cut to catch up to me.

Tears sprang to my eyes.

I wrap her in my arms.

“I never want to miss your call.” 

Never.

Arm in arm, this middle-ager and teen-ager walk side by side. We break loose, proceeding to finish this walk, one foot in front of the other.

“Do you want to jog?” I ask.

She’s still huffing and puffing. “No.”

We laugh.

My mind is still whirling with the fact that she had needed me. She’d been calling out to me. I’d missed her. 

But she’d caught me.



And I thought of the One who never misses my call. That very morning, only moments before the jog, God had answered my call. Not just my call. I’d been working on an article that was stumping me, knocking me down. I couldn’t get the path, the plan. I had the information. But how can I make this the best it can be? How can I present this to glorify God? To honor the person it’s about? 

Stumped. 

I slumped around the house all day yesterday. Sat at the computer and pieced together two stories, just a little different from the other. No good. “God, I need help.” This usually comes fairly easy to me. What am I doing wrong? What am I doing differently? Have I been trying to take the short-cut? But this? Ugh. “Help me, God.” 

I share the information with my family, in hopes to get pointed in the right direction. Nothing.

That’s it. Stop everything. 

I write for help. 

I’d covet your prayers for an article I’m working on. Sometimes it’s so easy, but sometimes, like now … it’s just hard. And I beg God to show me what He wants revealed from this precious person’s life.

Instantly, one person after another offers to pray. Prayed right on the spot. For me. For this article. 

Lord, give Shelli eyes to see what you see in this precious person, and words to let the rest of us in on the secret. Amen.Shirlee Abbott

I love your tender heart, dear Shelli.Wendy Macdonald

You need divine guidance. I’ll pray to that end.Norma Wieland

So many more. I went to bed, pulling the covers up under my chin, in perfect peace, knowing prayers were being lifted on my behalf. I thought of It’s a Wonderful Life, everyone praying for George Bailey. Peace. A smile broke out.

I woke up this morning with a plan. Didn’t do a single thing, but ran into my office and began typing away. The article came together, like always.

It is finished.



Tears sprang to my eyes. And my spirit clapped for God, clapped for His people for faith, His people of faith, for the chance at faith.

Where two or more are gathered. Yes.

He will be found.

We serve the One who answers the call.




Can you share a time when you needed intervention? 

Dear Me, Please Love Me For Me


Dear Me. 

I wake up feeling a frazzled mess. I look a frumpy mess, too. Hair going in every direction. My part off. Oily feeling. Bad breath. No make-up. Pale as a ghost.





I see you notice me. 

You watch the way I chew my breakfastmy “Mama cereal” as the girls call it, with fiberprobably thinking I’m chewing all wrong. I know I’ll never get that tooth straightened outthe one I can barely chew on because it’s so sensitive. I really can’t help it. No, I don’t have perfect teeth. Yes, thank you for reminding me that I ate too much sugar in my younger years. I regret that now.



You notice every new wrinkle. And you even have the audacity to say something to me about it. “Look at that new engraved wrinkle under your eye.” You point at it, touch it, probably measuring it.

Why are you so hard on me? Oh, Me. 

I’m not young anymore. I’m standing in the middle of the road. I deserve to have a few wrongs that are right. They are right. God made me, so they must be right.

From my head to my toesyou know. Nothing escapes your scrutiny. Do you not have anything better to do? Why do you care so? 

You notice my every gray hair. I had a breast cancer scare just weeks ago, afraid I’d lose life and all my hair to chemo. And you’re worried about gray hair? You even run your hand over my new ones, pointing them out. It kind of crushes my heart. You even encourage me to use black-and-white photos so that my gray hair doesn’t show as much. I just had my hair highlighted for the first time in my life, thanks to you. $$$ I’m trying to cover the discolored. But to be honest, I’m thankful you don’t pull my hair out anymore. That really hurt. My daddy’s hair is totally white. He used to pull out his gray hairs, but he had to stop that or he’d have gone bald. I know the thought of my hair color permanently changing forever hurts the heart a little … but if you pulled my gray hairs now, I’d be partially bald. So really, I’m glad you stopped that. Thank you very much.

Oh, Me. No, I’m not going blind. Well, yes, my eyesight is getting worse. So I guess technically I’m going blind. But readers are cute, right?



My nose? No, it wasn’t broken. The x-ray showed it wasn’t broken. And no, I don’t have nose cancer like Ma-Maw thought. Yes, I did fall out of the bed once when I was a little girl, but honestly, do you think it’s possible that my nose profile is the way it is because that’s how God made me? I know that one profile side is terrible. I know. You really don’t have to remind me. No pictures taken from the right side. I got it. I see you throw away pictures that accentuate that side profile. How do you think that makes a person feel?

My slightly deviated septum? Really? You’re actually gonna go there? You see me use nasal spray most every morning. No, I can’t help it. Yes, I have allergies.

That one dark hair that keeps popping up above my lip? No, I’m not growing a mustache. I’m a girl. I try to keep it pulled. But I just forget about it. This is all new. I’ll remember. I’ll try. I’ll get it pulled and any friends that try to accompany it in the future. Yes, I’ll try not to embarrass you.

My teeth. No, they aren’t as pearly white as they used to be. I know. But yes, I’ve started using whitening toothpaste, and I even stopped drinking Diet Coke and coffee. What else do you want from me?

My neck. How could you point out the wrinkles on my neck? Aren’t they beautiful? No, my skin isn’t as firm anymore. But yes, when I hold my neck a certain way, the wrinkles aren’t as visible. I’m trying.

My back. Crooked spine, I know.

No, my skin isn’t creamy smooth like in years past. Yes, my arms are speckled like bird eggs, like my grandmother’s and my mother’s. News flash: it’ll only get worse from here on out. We have fair skin. And maybe we spent too much time in the sun. I had a few brown spots removed the other day, causing sores temporarily on my arms. Face it, you didn’t like me with the spots or with the sores.

And I’ve been working on my biceps and triceps. I’ve improved. I’ve gone from lifting 2 lb weights, to 3 lbs, and now up to 5 lbs. 



My pectorals? Now that’s just cruel. But just between you and me, maybe the weightlifting will improve that, too. I’m trying to remedy the sagging. Stop nagging.

But could you just make up your mind about me? 

Could you just love me for me?

Don’t you dare look at my stomach. No. Don’t you dare. But you do. Don’t you? I’m not slim enough. When I eat anything with fiber, you comment on the pooch. And maybe there’s a pooch without the fiber. Okay, I’ll be honest. But why? Why do you always have to look and comment? Can’t you just keep quiet? Keep your thoughts to yourself? But no. And then you tell me not to wear those shorts or that skirt because they make my tummy look poochy. Really? Yes, I’m working on my abs. Haven’t you seen me doing tummy crunches? I ride the imaginary bicycle most every night, on the closet floor.

Don’t you dare say something about my thighs. I know you’re dying to. I don’t know how to fix the dimples there. If I run, I’ll just end up needing knee replacements. My grandmother needed knee replacements, living years in pain. My mama had knee replacements. Bad knees run in my family. I’m walking. I’m trying. I’m trying to age gracefully.

Stop looking so closely at me. 

Stop inspecting me.


And my glutes … stop it. I’m not 18 anymore. I know I wasn’t very consistent with the squats. I tried to be. I really did. Six months or more. But clearly, you didn’t notice an improvement anyway. 

Stop it. Stop it.

Dear Me. And you wonder why I have so many headaches.

My feet? Really? I can’t help it that a toenail got crushed years ago. My baby dropped her full apple juice cup … it’s a sweet memory. My body is like a photo album full of memories. So stop picking on me. I keep my toenails painted in red to hide that nail. Ugh. What else do you want from me?

What? Is the roughness on my heels so horrific to you? So you bought me a sander. Stupid me … I grew up thinking only wood needed sanding. Thank you. I’m trying. And I sand my feet Sunday mornings so I can wear my sandals … maybe not as often as I should, but I’m trying.



Can’t you just love me for me? Please?

Me,  you are so hard on me. 


God wouldn’t be.

Dear Me, please love me for me.

~~~

Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them. Deuteronomy 28:14

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31

You were ready to pummel “ME” for me? You were, weren’t you? Thank you. 

How do we remain content with ourselves, when the world tells us we should look this way or that? Because how can we possibly accept others if we can’t even accept ourselves? Regardless of our size, shape, status, or color, we all need to be loved. But loving others begins at home.

Loving and accepting imperfect others begins with loving and accepting our imperfect selves.

The Day I Ran Away from Home

You take my hand. And one hand guides me. 

“Dear Jesus,” I whisper …

Do you remember that time I ran away from home? You do. I know you do. I was just an itty bitty thing, only in elementary school. I can’t believe I still remember it. But I do.

You take one step forward, and I follow.

My sister and I decided to run away from home. We didn’t have a good reason. My older sister thought it was a brainy idea, to the best of my recollection, and I followed.

We collected our baby stroller, our baby dolls, a little food and drink, and walked out the door as the sky was dusking. Mama even helped us pack, gave us hugs, and watched as we headed down our quiet neighborhood street pushing our baby strollermy sister’s hands on one side of the handle, mine on the other. 


As we neared the end of our street, we realized we had nowhere to go. We found ourselves surrounded by darkness and loneliness. Would we turn the street corner and continue on or head straight into the forest facing us? Neither choice seemed like a good option. Desperate, we looked behind us to see Mama, with the porch light on, up on the hill, watching us, beckoning us to come home.



We immediately turned around, with all our baggage, and ran back as fast as our little legs could carry us. 

You twirl me away from you.
Thank you for Mama. Because she taught us a valuable lesson that day. Oh, she wouldn’t have let us go far. She was waiting for us to see that we had no place to run but to her arms, where we were loved and safe.

You twirl me back in to you.

Jesus, the same incomparably comparable thing happened to you. Didn’t it? I’ve heard your stories. And I believe every one. 

You step to the side, and I follow.

Your Father let you go down the road for a while, as you carried your cross to the hill. And the light was turned off for three days. 

Three days.

I can’t even begin to imagine.



Your Father watched. He never lost sight of you. 

And then something beautiful happened. Something miraculous. Your Father turned on the porch light. He beckoned you home. And you rose from the grave. Nothing could keep you from home, from your Father, from me.



You take a step back, and I follow.

That day Ia little fair-skinned, blond-headed girlwalked down the street, on 1524 Milam Drive in Tyler, Texas, I’m so glad my sister turned around to go home, so that I could follow. But one thing I’ve learnedthere comes a time when we have to make our own decisions. Our own decisionto go home.

You step to the side, and I follow.

I haven’t always followed you the way I should have. My bucket of regrets from my youth is deep. What was I thinking? I wasn’t thinking. I followed after things and people I knew were wrong. They weren’t you. It felt like I died a slow death, and some days it feels like I’m still trying to dig and scrape my way out of the dirt, out of the open grave.

You step forward, and I follow.

But you, Jesus. Thank you for being the Light, my light. Thank you for your outstretched arms. For being my safe place. For giving me a place called home, a place to call home, a place to run to. For braving the dark and lonely for me. For loving me. Thank you for your testimony and for giving me one. 

You dip me, and I laugh. Your grip on me is strong. You lift me back steady on my feet.

You place your face to mine, and I whisper, “Dear Jesus” …

You are one decision I’ll never forget, one I’ll never regret.

Through the good and the hard, thank you for this beautiful dance.





















Happy Easter. What are you most thankful for this Easter? Did you ever see the movie The Passion of the Christ? I remember the first time I saw it, I walked away thinkingwhat can I do for you, Jesus? Do you remember what played through your mind?