A Summer of Rest

It happened so quickly. Like walking around a corner and smacking into someone with hot coffee in hand, the liquid spilling, burning your skin as it seeps deep. Nobody meaning for it to happen.

My student’s actions and words cut sharp into my being a few days ago. It was unintentional. He never meant to hurt my feelings. But pain can happen by accident when you’re not looking.

I stood there with an undone heart and a smile on my face. He didn’t need to know how his actions ripped my teacher core. How the fabric of my insecurities clinched tight. How questions of worth and significance weaved their way into my heart.

The questions of whether I could ever do enough, be enough rose to the surface. The always striving. The needing to do more, more, more.

Because then I will be loved.

Right?

The biggest lie I believe?

That I can work hard enough to gain acceptance, to gain love. That if I keep doing, I will be loved more.

It’s the lie I believe about people.

It’s the lie I believe about God.

I know it’s a lie. Because there are those who love me with abandon and without reservation. And there is a God who loves me no matter what.

No matter what.

Yet, there are times I can’t seem to escape the darkness the lie brings. Conditional love does that. When we’re only loved for what we do and not who we are, we travel a scary road of insecurity. We’re left to spin our hamster wheels of doing, trying, go-getting.

I know all about the doing. I think you might too.

It’s exhausting.

Summer is winking at me from a close horizon. I can lift my weary head and see the sun glimmer through the trees. My Florida beaches and their salty waves call out. School will end for me in just two short weeks. I will be free (despite the list 10 books deep of classical literature I will be reading in preparation for August.)

While I yearn for two weeks from now, today I sat buried under papers and summer reading lists. But from under the stacks, I heard the call of my Jesus more than the call of the ocean.

The call to just be.

The breathing deep begins with those two words: Just Be.

Do you know what I want more of this summer? More than a slowing, I want a knowing. I want to sit at the feet of my Jesus over the next few months and be reminded His love for me does not increase or decrease by what I do.

No. His love is unchanging and does not hinge on my actions.

Life is full of seasons. Sometimes full and teaming with activity. Then other times God calls us to rest.

This is the call resounding deep in my soul.

Of course there will be responsibilities. Of course life will still be crazy with kids. Of course work will continue to be done even in summer months.

But there will also be rest. Not physical so much, but mental, spiritual, emotional rest.

And so, dear friends, I will not be blogging weekly this summer. Though there may be a few posts that come through from time to time as I honor commitments made to other sites, I will be breathing deep and refocusing on knowing the One who called me to write and minister in the first place.

I love this space, and I love you. I’m often overwhelmed by your steadfast commitment to these carved out petals of Joy in cyberspace. You are so important to me. You are.

I’m choking down fear even as I type these words. God asking me to take a break for a few months is paralyzing for this doer. Yet, even as I stare at the blinking cursor on the screen, I feel His peace and freedom.

And so I will see you in August, my sweet sisters. Until then, know I will be praying for those of you who, like me, need to sink into an unchanging love of a Savior who asks us to be still and know He is God.

Maybe there’s an area of doing He’s asking you to hand over to Him for a time? A handing over in order to be reminded you can never work your way into His love.

Sit with me at His feet this summer?

Love and Joy,

Heather

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A Mom Like Me

My hair tortured me for decades. High Florida humidity + not quite curly hair = disaster. On a regular basis.

I can’t tell you the hours I spent wishing I had been born with different hair.

Middle school was a horrific combination of pubescent awkwardness with a brushed-out perm. Granted, it was the 80s but I don’t think French poodle was the look I was after. I’ve sworn off perms since.

High school managed to offer a slight improvement. No more perms and a hair dryer managed to tame the wild beast a bit. Until I walked outside and met the blanket of wet air resting on my state 90% of the year.

If you want to know what my adolescent hair has to do with Motherhood, join me as I share my heart at Moms Magazine today

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The Test Doesn’t Define You

Tonight? A reposting of a favorite. Because yesterday began two weeks of national AP testing. Because new and old students take the AP Literature test tomorrow. Because students all over our country are in the midst of state tests. Because our culture attempts to define the value of a student based on a number they receive from a one-day testing snapshot. Because I want my students to know how wrong that mindset really is.


So. Tomorrow you will take a test. Bubbling in A or B and sometimes E. Writing essays until your fingers cramp. It will be the test. The one we’ve prepared for by reading and writing and thinking and straining.

And now you’re here. Standing. Wondering if ready is a word you’ll ever feel.

But before the morning breaks and the sun crests over the hill with its pinks brushed against orange—before then. There are a few words I want to whisper. Words I’m desperate for you to hear. Words I hope will shape a thousand tomorrows.

The test you will take? It will not define you.

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Gray penciled marks filling in circles will never tell the world who you really are.

So many things will shape and mold your life, and while tomorrow may bend you, it will not dictate the person you are created to become. No schoolroom test will do this.

And really? No test or struggle in life defines who you are. It is how you prepare for the test, react to the test, and accept the outcome that displays your greatness.

As you discover the voice you will bring to others, there are lessons I want to teach you. Lessons not covered in a curriculum.

Lessons you need to know.

If you’ve heard nothing from me all year, I pray you hear me today.

Prepare for the battles. While you’ll never be ready for every test you’re standing in the middle of, your preparation will keep you tall when those around you crumble.

Stand strong during the trials. Giving in, even once, makes it easier to give up again and again and again. Perseverance isn’t for wimps. And you were never created for weakness. You are strong. I see it every day.

Learn from your struggles. You can bring meaning to the painful when you find even the smallest lesson. What can you better understand about the world because of the trial you walked through?

Admit your weaknesses. Arrogance is never respected—feared sometimes, but never valued. Society relishes in seeing the mighty fall, but will esteem those who recognize their limitations.

Act with conviction. Know what you believe and act on those principles. The world will never know your beliefs if you don’t live them fully each day. You are what you believe. If you hold no convictions, if you adhere to no beliefs, if you’re just along for ride, you will never understand yourself.

Know failing is never the same as failure. Defeat can bring focus—a singular clarity that success sometimes misses. You’re only a failure if you never get back up from the fall. And students? You have time to brush yourself off and rise again.

Choose to be brave. Acts of courage cannot exist without fear. It is the dread that requires bravery. The way to fight fear? Be courageous. Be brave because you’re afraid.

Strive for excellence. In everything. Every. Thing. Because working with diligent excellence is saying yes to the brilliant and refusing the idle. No one ever won the race with laziness. Consider Aesop’s Hare. Excellence may take time, yet it’s worth every single slow step.

Bring joy to others. Only when we put humanity before ourselves, do we uncover true value and meaning in this life. The way you give to people defines how society sees you—sees who you truly are. Your heart is always reflected in the way you treat the world.

Know comparison damages your soul. You were created with a voice uniquely yours. No other on earth can be who you are supposed to be for this world. No other can accomplish your purpose. Comparing yourself to another crushes your own potential for greatness.

Seek Truth. Your freedom in this life depends upon the Truths you grasp with both hands. The world and people you love will fail. Truth will not. If in this life you only seek Truth with your entire being, you will find it. And there is no greater success than to uncover its glory.

So. Tomorrow you will take a test. But remember the test will never define you, know the results of an exam do not place a value on your existence.

No.

You have worth and meaning simply because you exist. 

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When Your Motherhood is Tired

Hey, Momma.

I know.

I know those tired eyes and that sleepy soul. I see the dirt smudges on your knees from crawling through playground tunnels. I hear the sigh you heaved after changing your second diaper in five minutes.

You bind imaginary wounds with superhero Band-Aids. You can be found jammin’ out to the Fresh Beat band—not realizing you’re actually alone. You’ve scraped sticky-sweet syrup from the floor ten times this week, even though you can’t remember when last you mopped. What’s the use?

You have days when your motherhood is tired.

Are you tired, sweet friend? I’d love for you to head on over to Orlando Moms Blog today to be encouraged. Because your job? An exhausting-but-worth-it calling.

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When You Need to Move Forward

I don’t handle change well.

Does anyone?

Over the last two weeks Prince Charming and I packed up our home of 14 years. We scrubbed dirt and relived memories. We kept with the daily and added it to the moving of our lives.

On Monday we signed bank documents, sold our home, handed over the keys.

And more than once, I forgot to breathe.

The sale is nothing short of a miracle—a God-breathed shift in our lives.

But just because God moves doesn’t mean moving on is easy.

I keep trying to wrap my mind around the change. Knowing my traveling home will be different, and my entire landscape has shifted.

With this bend in our journey, emotions flooded. New opportunities for our family bring excitement. But as I sifted through the memories of a life lived within the brick and mortar of my home, I realized part of me didn’t want to move on—or move forward.

Because there is a deep comfort in staying where I am.

The hard work of moving forward makes me want to lock myself in my bedroom and stay under the covers, eating chocolate chip cookies while sipping triple-shot mochas.

Packing up the life I’ve known for 14 years, the longest I lived anywhere, overwhelmed me. Where to begin? As with any moving forward, I began with one step. One picture at a time came down from the walls.

Moving forward always begins by moving one foot forward.

And then another. And another.

With each step I felt my grasp on the past ease. I spent the last few weeks with arms reaching into the darkest corners of cabinets, pulling out glassware and plastic cups I forgot were there. How many glass 9×11 pans does a girl really need?

That’s part of moving forward—choosing what needs to be left behind. Realizing there are pieces better left in the dark corners. Chunks of our memories and experiences that may just need to be let go.

One night I dug through my hope chest, a cedar box of dusty recollections.

Pulling fragments of my past out, one after the other, I smiled and I cringed.

I also let go.

An unmarked envelope floated in the midst of my memories. As my eyes traced the words written over 20 years ago, I felt the bitterness I’d held onto loosen its grip. I released what I’d carried for so long, the weight lifted in the pen and paper lightness of the letter.

Sometimes moving on is about leaving things behind. Pain. Bitterness. Anger.

And in the midst of packing and letting go, you can completely break. I did that too. Because there’s this field trip to the zoo I won’t be able to attend. But it’s okay to be broken. When we’re banged up into bits and pieces we realize how desperate we are for the Creator to hold our fragments in His tender hands.

And then, when you know there’s nothing stopping this train of moving on, and you don’t know if you’ll ever be ready—friends show up.

They skip church and bring trucks and serve with their strong arms showing what the Body of Christ is all about.

They stop by to pack your pantry and remind you that you’re not as alone as you thought in this journey.

They watch your kids and pay for your dinners.

They lift the heavy burdens in cardboard boxes as your life spills out of one place into another.

They drive hours to make sure you have what you need the first night of your new life.

They drop off donuts to welcome you home.

Because if I’ve learned anything over the last few weeks it’s this: You can’t move forward alone.

Change is messy. It’s newsprint-blackened fingertips, cups broken from careless handling, and wondering if you’ll ever settle into the new.

But you have a choice.

You can either cement your feet to the ground, refusing the shift, or you can bring one foot in front of the other—ever determined to keep moving forward.

Joining my incredibly brave-because-God friend, Suzie Eller and learning to #livefree. If you want to read more brave sister stories, please follow this link.

More than you imagine

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To the Momma Who Works Outside the Home

Last night I broke.

I’ve been fragile lately, because we all get that way sometimes. The normal chaos of life has been compounded by a move across town. Packing and sick children and wrapping of memories and car pools and car loads of boxes have worn me down. My cracked places have been held together by thin strips of tape.

And then.

Prince Charming and I realized neither of us could go with our son on his field trip to the zoo in a few weeks. Like impossible. Like I would lose another paid day and my PE teacher husband is in charge of field-day on the same day kind of impossible.

And then

The guilt I feel because I haven’t been to a single event for the Court Jester all year, I can’t volunteer, and I can never be room mom, bubbled up and over the buried places of my heart.

And then.

My cracked places shattered and the ugly cry that came after still leaves me weepy around the edges this morning.

I’ve been a stay-at-home momma. Now I’m a full-time working momma. Believe me when I say SAHMs—you work. Hard. I know. Your job isn’t any easier because you don’t work outside the home. Anyone who says otherwise is blinded to your reality.

But.

Full-time working momma? Our struggles are different, and it is your heart I want to cradle just for a minute or two.

Because whether working is a choice or not, our hearts will always break when we can’t be there for our children. A mother’s first instinct is to protect her children, guide them, nurture them. When work keeps us from being able act on our instinct, the internal conflict is palpable.

Yesterday, when I realized my son would be walking through the zoo without his father or me, it wasn’t okay. And nothing anyone can tell me will make it okay.

There are a million rationalizations we give ourselves just to be able to leave our children and go to work. We say remind ourselves of things like:

  • He’ll be having so much fun he won’t even think of me.
  • My friend will be chaperoning, so I know he’ll have a good time with her.
  • Times like these will teach him independence and self-sufficiency.
  • He won’t end up in therapy because I miss one field trip.

Most of the time these are accurate. They’re true. Most of the time they’re enough to keep us putting one foot in front of the other as we do our jobs, our important jobs (because they are.)

But sometimes, the truths we remind ourselves of, are not enough to ease the ache.

It just hurts.

I won’t tell you to suck it up. I won’t tell you it will be okay. I won’t attempt to ease your mind with platitudes that do nothing to bandage the wounds of our momma hearts.

Instead?

I’ll tell you it’s okay to be hurt and cracked and torn.

I’ll whisper in your ear—You’re not alone.

We’re a tribe of mothers, whether we work outside of the home or not. We all hurt when we can’t meet the needs of our children. We’re never alone in that pain, because there will always be moments when mothers can’t fix the lives of their babies.

The burdens we bear as mothers are heavy and words on a computer screen will never be enough to lighten the load.

But we have a Jesus that will scoop up the broken fragments of our hearts and cradle them close. And it’s okay to cry in the arms of Jesus. And it’s okay to hurt. We don’t have to be strong. We have a Jesus that is strong for us.

So, today, working momma?

It’s okay to not be okay.

DSC_0521Linking up this afternoon with my friend Suzie Eller…If you would like to read more stories of women grappling with difficult moments of life so you are reminded you’re not alone, please click here.

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When Friendships Keep Us From Drowning

Hello friends! Technology was not my friend…My links in this post earlier this morning didn’t work. My complete user error. They should be working now, and I’d love to have you join me over at (in)courage today!

I was only ankle deep in mothering when I knew I needed saving.

Looking into the black-night eyes of my firstborn, a gift without instructions, I realized the new momma skin I was wearing would scorch under the heat of parenting without a covering or shelter.

Despite the support of my rock of a husband and the wisdom of women whose babies were grown, I felt an ache of loneliness. My arms were filled-up with the newness of life while a hollow craving sat deep.

I needed the sisterhood of those walking my same road—the same road right then.

As much as I soaked in advice and read the books and relied on my Prince Charming, I needed more…

Friends, today I can barely contain my excitement. I’m downright giddy and honored to be sharing my heart with the women of (in)courage by Dayspring. Please follow this link to finish reading how friendships tether us to the shore when life threatens to pull us under. Praying you’ll be blessed.

If you would like to receive the blessing of daily encouragements from other (in)courage writers, follow this link to subscribe.

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The Clouds of Good Friday

My Grandma. The one who pinched my nose between the bones of her fingers, smiling with eyes lit and gleaming. The one who called me Shuga’. The one whose tender love was often confused with weakness.

She carried Jesus in her heart and thin-spread, southern superstitions around her edges.

As a little girl who endlessly climbed her porch columns, I allowed most of her sayings to float gentle and breezy in the air around me, most landing soft on the ground below.

Except one.

One floated in. Thirty years later I still pull her words out and unwrap them slowly. Maybe this one superstition rooted itself deep because I would always find it true.

Grandma always said every Good Friday afternoon clouds over.

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She was right. It does.

Since my hair was worn in two bouncing pigtails, I’ve looked for the darkness of Good Friday. Not once in all the years—even on cloudless mornings—have the clouds ever failed to drift over the sun at some point in the afternoon.

As if nature still mourns the tragedy of the cross.

Yet sometimes, we must experience darkness to recognize Light.

Because for healing to come, the body of Christ had to be broken.

Because for Easter’s morning sunrise to break through the dark crack of night, the cross was required.

Because sometimes we have to understand the hollowness of a black-dark tomb before we can experience the light of a resurrection.

My Grandma knew about resurrection because she knew what it was like to be beaten down by the world. She knew her own black-dark tomb—the one that swallowed her whole.

But she met Jesus there.

That’s what Jesus does. He goes into our tombs, our dead places, and He meets us there.

He meets us
…in the grip of depression.
…when our jobs shatter us and we think I can’t do this one more day.
…in the ashes of a burned-out marriage.
…after addiction has stripped us from every fragment of love we ever had.
…when disease multiplies and eats through our bodies.
…in our anger.
…after our choices expose who we really are.
…when tragedy leaves us alone.

He meets us in the tomb.

He meets us there because our cries are often loudest when the pain is the deepest—echoing off the empty walls of our souls. He meets us in the tomb so He can show us a new day. And while that new day may not be on tomorrow’s horizon, it is on the horizon.

Because the stone-weight of our burdens can only be lifted and rolled away by the power of a Savior.

I look for the gloom of Good Friday. I look for the clouds. I look for them because in their strangeness, they remind me Heaven was only trapped deep in the tomb for so long. Our pain, our suffering, while it seems to be endless, will ease.

Darkness can cloud our souls. But it can’t stop the light from breaking through.

Nothing can stop light.

Light reminds me of the Hope Easter brings.

Because one day? The burdens we carry? They will find an eternal grave, and the Jesus we cling to will lead us out of our dark world, into Heaven’s light.

This girl? The porch climber with pigtails in her hair knows this Hope because her Grandma left a legacy of Good Friday clouds and Easter morning sunshine.

I’m praying this Easter weekend you discover the Hope of Christ in a way you’ve never known before. May His peace rest heavy on your soul. And if this Hope is still a mystery? May my Jesus use His willing people to share His Light with you.

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Why I Refuse to be Embarrassed by My Kids’ Mistakes

We call Caleb the Court Jester. He’s funny, full of silly antics, and loves to entertain. Often he walks a wire-thin line between trouble and hilarious.

Target is one big playground for my little guy. He skips through aisles. His voice can carry from the lady in accessories to the teenager in electronics. Everything on the shelves must be manhandled and examined by his curious nature. And before I know it, he’s climbing onto stacks of water bottles.

“Mommy! Look at me!”

Caleb Water BottlesI’ve often felt the side-eyes of judgement when walking with him through the store. People who shake their heads at me and my boy. I come home weary.

My Ella, now eleven and a sweet Princess of a girl, has grown out of the tantrums of her early years. As someone with very real Sensory Integration issues, she made my trips to the store no less exhausting.

Her sensory meltdowns, complete with ear-piercing screams and alligator tears, would bring looks from all customers as I rushed to hide my embarrassment and console her, all while piling groceries in my cart.

We all know the feeling—the one when eyes bore into our backs and all we want to do is hide in the lingerie section remembering when we used to shop there. Alone.

I’ve never met a perfect parent. I imagine you haven’t either. And I doubt those staring me down in the corner of the supermarket had perfect kids.

It’s the statement all puffed up with indignation that really leaves me undone–the one that begins with, “Well. My children would’ve never (fill in the blank…) I think, what if they’re right? What if my kids really are the only ones?

But deep down in my momma heart I know all children make mistakes. All children misbehave.

For too long, I’ve allowed strangers, who judge my parenting skills, to cause me to feel embarrassment over my kids’ actions. Ultimately? How dare I? How dare I allow a stranger make me feel badly about my beautiful children? Or make me feel less of a parent because of their disobedience?

It hit me the other day, somewhere between my fun-loving Court Jester skipping down the aisles and me threatening to take away every electronic device in the house (and we all know who that punishes more), somewhere between there, I decided.

I will no longer allow my children’s mistakes to embarrass me.

Why?

Because what you see in Target for five minutes is but a snap shot of who my children really are.

And they’re spectacular.

The other day? The one when my Caleb climbed on a tower of water bottles and pulled every blessed food item from the shelves to tell me we needed to buy it? He also picked up items dropped by strangers, handing them back with a smile. He also jumped into my arms to say he loved me. And he also used all of his manners throughout the store.

Strangers don’t often see the amazing that happens in between the chaos.

Yet we allow those same strangers to tell us we’re horrible parents because they witness a sliver of a glimpse into our lives.

My children misbehave. They’re disobedient. Prince Charming and I correct them for their mistakes. But sometimes my children need to be corrected a thousand times before it sticks. And sometimes, no matter what course of action we take and how much consistency we have, our kids will still choose the wrong. They just will.

But our children also choose right.

This is the reason I will no longer be embarrassed. Because I’ve got two amazing kids. They love with their whole hearts. When given the chance, they sacrifice for others. They give to others in need. And they passionately follow their beliefs.

I couldn’t ask for a more incredible son and daughter. They are my joy, and I love them with an unworldly fierceness.

Oh, yes. They will fail. And sometimes their failings are my fault. But more often than not, my husband and I are doing a pretty darn good job.

So when they misbehave in public? I will no longer be embarrassed by the stares of those who don’t know a single thing about my two beautiful miracles.

Instead?

I may just turn around. Smile. And say, “They’re pretty amazing, don’t you think?”

 

PS…I need to also remember my own words when I’m about to judge another momma on a sliver of a glimpse of the behavior of her kiddos…Yeah. That too.

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The Sweet Mercy of Spring

Traveling down roads we’ve been on before can jar the soul. They can shudder us, shut us down. Because those road have a history—our history.

Driving through a painful past can keep us from our horizon dreams.

We get frozen on the path of our past mistakes, broken down and stranded.

On the way to an appointment the other day, I found myself driving down a backroad on my way to somewhere—a road paved with darker memories. The sun was shining and the branches of trees swayed softly. But I wasn’t thinking of the light or the wind.

I was surrounded by the haunting memories of my past.

The house-lined road with its curvy path was one I would’ve never known if not for an unhealthy relationship. A relationship I only associate with pain, secrets, and sin. A relationship leaving winter’s icy frost on my soul.

The wheels of my car were rolling steady while my heart stood still.

But then.

Then I saw the stop sign, signaling I could make a turn. A turn away from my past. And I was reminded…

Spring is here.

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Spring filters light into my soul in a way no other season can.

Leaves, hidden beneath the bark of stoic branches, unfurl their bright green hue warmed by gentle rays of the sun. Blooms burst up from the black, rich earth thawed by the rising thermometer.

This season ushers in the new. I’m so often in need of just that.

The bursting freshness of Spring, its awakening of life connects me to the deep mercy found in Easter—the cross remembered and the empty tomb celebrated.

I can’t separate the emptiness of the tomb from Spring. I need its brought-back-to-life victory because winter so often reminds me of the pain in life.

Flowers buried deep under frozen black earth. Trees stripped bare by winter’s icy wrath. Everything green is pulled into itself, hiding from dark of those cold months. I know what winter feels like. When life scars me, I want to shrink away. I look for ways to escape, ways to shelter myself from the harsh consequences and memories of my mistakes.

Guilt freezes the soul.

But the empty tomb calls me out of winter’s grasp. It thaws the glacial claw of shame clutched tight on my wrists—chaining me. It reminds me I’m not created to stay buried beneath my past. It tells me mercy is waiting to embrace me with soft blooming petals.

Spring is here.

Jesus entered earth to pave a way for humanity. To create a path through our sin, our shame, our darkest days, so we could know Him. And when we know Him?

Spring unfurls in our souls.

Newness comes to our lives.

Mercy warms the hidden, frost-withered places of our hearts.

Christ bared the raw lashing and harsh beating on His road to the cross. He stretched his arms across the rough wood of the cross. He broke forth from the cold, dark tomb. He defeated death and its icy grasp.

All of this?

To bring Easter to our lives.

When Easter bubbles in our hearts, when the mercy of its message becomes real? We can have the courage to break through the frozen layers of our hearts with the gentle rhythms of Spring.

This season reminds me I can be whole.

Sometimes I find myself traveling back down the roads of my past, living memories that stop the beat of my heart. But I don’t have to stay there. I don’t have to put on the breaks. Instead?

I can dwell in the mercy of Easter and celebrate the empty tomb.

The mercy of Easter tells me I am a new creation. I’m not doomed to repeat the frozen winters of my past. I can lift the fragrant petals of my soul to the heavens, claiming Spring is here.

The mercy of Spring is here.

To stay.


 Excited to be linking up with the amazing Suzie Eller and some other awesome women for #livefreeThursday. Join us as we explore mercy, what it means, how it can sink into our souls allowing us to breathe.

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