A different view of Haiti…and the stars

data=bNDg30grIK8Ch5lACXaMwEdS1GdGd0BLQTpfZb1D57PvZw_cj1bcbDcIKz731uHMIdJkFeI67BCAfwj77wL_IdRRIaXag2sbspFxVrLpWxzFBVEduUcZfINK7ptBmEc3-LcbEgVDsMQyXv9eCzSYTbTcYYZMNzTPM1lWx2hAXC5vPqwYKNKZORecently, we did something we’ve been wanting to do with our team and some dear friends. There is a hike well known by expats in Haiti from an area called Furcy to Jacmel.  27 miles.  TWENTY-SEVEN miles across some of Haiti’s tallest mountains that you ‘choose’ to hike, over a two-day period.  Up and down reaching an elevation of 6500ft at some points.

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As much as we looked forward to this hike…we were also slightly intimidated, for good reason.  This hike is not for the faint of heart.  We climbed rugged terrain with rocks larger and sharper than what we are used to walking on, surrounded by breathtaking views.  Because this was our first time (only time for some), I felt like I spent more time looking down, watching my step verses enjoying the beauty of the hills.  Endless beauty.

27497917_10215355117775813_374276007_nThere is an old Haitian proverb “Dye mon, gen mon”.  It means, “Beyond the mountains, more mountains.”  Whew baby…that’s no lie.  Living in Haiti, we know this but THIS hike brought THIS proverb to life.  And there ARE people, lots of people living back in ‘them thar hills’, walking these roads daily, sometimes barefoot, more often in flip flops carrying their produce to whatever destination.  Tons of green onions, potatoes and cabbage growing and being carried.

 

We started our adventure the day before at a little “hotel” in the mountains called Rustic in the small town of Furcy, a short distance from where we’d begin our hike in the morning.  It was a treat in and of itself.  Walls made of bottles, floors made of pieces of plywood…a tree house located in the cool mountains of Haiti.

 

We arrived early enough that we were able to take a short walk and enjoy the beauty found in the hills of Furcy around the Rustic.

27604779_10215355152376678_1362444034_oWHAT A VIEW…

 

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As the evening progressed and we relaxed on the porch it got downright cold.  Several young men working at the Rustic were gracious enough to make a small charcoal fire for us to warm our feet.  Anticipating the next day, we were in bed before 8pm.

 

 

In the morning we took motos down to the location where the hike begins, a path the people there call “Chemin Seguin”.  The scenery steadily changed, as did the dogs.  While they looked different than those in our area…fuzzy and fat, once again they all looked the same!!!!

 

We hiked for quite a while, up and down.

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Then we reached this massive mountain, that went up…up and up! Because we had no idea when it would end we pushed ourselves.  I was already noticing that ‘if’ I stopped, things would begin to stiffen.  This was not one of those moments where I felt I was aging gracefully.  Three teenage girls, in flimsy flip flops, walked alongside us for a long period of time…I was intentionally NOT checking the actual time.  They were especially intrigued by Quinn.  Finally, they moved on at a pace much different than ours.  Then, in the blink of an eye, it was over, and we sat!  There is a saying, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength”.  I had moments where it took all the strength I had to remember to embrace this incredible opportunity.

Upon reaching Haiti’s National Forest it all changes.  As we entered the forest through low lying clouds we were in awe.  Only God!!

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We walked on much softer terrain, we saw huge agave plants, pine trees and pine cones everywhere.

 

There is a “sinkhole” called Marassa which is creole for twins.  It’s a huge hole with a natural bridge filled with stalactites and ferns.

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20180122_185046                                                    We had been told to keep our eyes open for a tattered sign telling us we’d made it to Seguin. That would be where we needed to turn.  With some local help, we located the little cottage we’d stay at with the row of tents outside that we’d sleep within.

 

 

Once there, our host gifted us with some of the most amaing hot tea made with fresh picked lemon grass, mint and another herb he wasn’t sure how to say in English.  It sounded like borage.  After the iciest shower I’ve ever taken, not just in Haiti but in my entire 52 years of being on this earth, we were served an incredible meal of fresh roasted lamb, potatoes and the most spectacular salad I’ve ever seen.  This is coming from a girl who eats a lot of salad but there was something about those flowers…a first for me and now I wanna grow some!

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Later in the evening, stiff, sore, full and grateful we headed to bed in our little tents.

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M36 RGB Pixi CombinedJust after 1 o’clock in the morning I awoke.  After ½ hour of trying to get back to sleep but needing to go to the bathroom, I begrudgingly left my tent only to witness the BEST part of this trip for me.  I am sure my teammates as well as others are tired of me saying this but “THE STARS”!!!!  I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.  It would be the reason I would make this hike again.  Mèsi Jezi for waking me up!  I only wish I’d awakened the others.  I really believe they too would have been awestruck!  I didn’t have access to a camera, so this is closest image I could find out on the web to share the blanket of stars that went from the ground where my feet rested, ascending high in the sky.  What I saw was better!  As I lifted my eyes to the heavens I couldn’t help but worship our Creator, grateful for this moment with Him.

20180123_062740As the sun arose, before breakfast was served and our second day of hiking began, still wrapped in a sleeping bag, sipping more of that warm, fresh tea I was thankful for a few more moments with my Lord.  I don’t appreciate solitude with Him enough.

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The first part of the second day of our journey was like a scene out of some crazy movie.  These rocks were bursting from the grounds everywhere, potatoes being grown in and around them!

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As we rounded a mountain top we came to a point where we could see our destination…the ocean.  It’s out there, waayyyy out there.

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IMG_5117The walk was all downhill with us in pursuit of ‘shortcuts’ we had heard about (yes, this is one of those shortcuts).  This day was so much more painful and while I was grateful for ‘shortcuts’, they put us walking on paths at awkward angles which this ol’ ladies knee did not like.  I was now holding the group up.  What goes up…must come down…but down was so HARD.

After several challenging hours, because of me, we hopped on motos for the remainder of the trip.  Not my favorite part.  3 of us girls, including my daughter sandwiched to a good-sized Haitian man propelling down, down, down.  I don’t’ know which hurt more, the walking down or riding down.  We made it and it was worth it.

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Were I to do this again, I would move a little slower and take more time to appreciate the view.  I’d soak in the scenery and pray for those who live among these winding hills, who travel these rough roads daily to bring their produce to market, to serve and see family and friends…with smiles on their faces.  They aren’t doing this for pleasure, it’s their life.

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The beauty of this country is second to the beauty of the people who live here.  Just like the changing landscape of Haiti, they too are each uniquely created by our God who adores them, who has made them strong, resilient, creative and full of joy.  This place continues to stretch and surprise me, to give me hope.

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Timely blooming…

passion fruit

On this overcast Easter morning here in Haiti, as I sit with my coffee looking out my window I can see passion fruit ready to be plucked from its vine.  Since moving to Haiti, each year at this time, I’m very aware of this beautiful vine that winds its way across the chain link fence that runs between our yard and our neighbors yard bearing its aromatic fruit and these unusual blooms scattered throughout.

The passion flower…29995046_10215962648283696_1793472227_o

I’ve read and re-read the story behind this flowering bloom which connects it to Passion Sunday and the crucifixion, the suffering and death of Jesus.

While each story is slightly different, all agree that each part of the flower holds a symbolic meaning tied to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The most common excerpts to this interpretation of the Passion Flower and the Crucifixion….

  • The passion flower is the same species that Spanish conquistadors came to use as symbols to teach Christianity to the indigenous people of the New World
  • The five petals and five sepals of the plant were said to represent the 10 apostles who remained faithful, leaving out Judas, the betrayer of Jesus and Peter, because he denied knowing Christ
  • The purple corolla, a circle of hair like rays above the petals represent the crown of thorns Jesus wore
  • The three prominent stigmas of the plant were said to represent the nails used on the cross
  • The five stamens were claimed to symbolize the number of wounds in Jesus’ hands

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The crucifixion of Jesus was a part of God’s plan from the very beginning. Christ’s birth, His life and His death were for you and me.  As I write, it brings to mind the song… “Because He lives”

Mwen konnen L vivan
Map konte sou demen
Paske L vivan
Enkyetid mwen ale
Paske m konnen (wi m konnen)
Lap pran swen lavi mwen
Map konte jou pou l vin chache m
Paske L vivan

Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
All fear is gone
Because I know (yes, I KNOW)
He holds the future
And life is worth
The living just
Because He lives

How blessed we are because our Savior loved us enough to give His life for us.


 

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The Pearl

pearl(sand? or as some believe, a parasite)

In moments when irritants threaten to overwhelm me, I need to take a step back and ask myself…againwhat, instead of Who am I fixing my eyes on?

This week in a moment of frustration over ANOTHER dead piece of electronics, my phone, the Lord gently reminded me of the beauty of a pearl.  We all know this story.  A tiny little irritant (more likely a parasite, not necessarily a grain of sand) slips inside an oyster and immediately causes discomfort.

Because of the oysters suffering, lustrous pearls are formed.

The pearls God allows to be created in my life are often brought forth by the irritants in the form of wisdom, spiritual growth and increased faith.

The uncomfortable truth is, God will allow irritants.  Who am I to question ‘why’?  One pearl I took hold of this week is that each time some tiny irritant slips in, or even more challenging, a monumental one, I move closer to learning to embrace the moment with joy trusting that each irritant, challenge or suffering He allows me to face is an expression of His love.

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An ache deep within…

 

Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” – Isaiah 43:1-3 NLT

I would LOVE to be spared from all difficulties in this life. But since that’s not very likely, it’s become critical for me to lean into the precious truths of Gods Holy word in these challenging seasons.  In John 16:33, Jesus warns us to expect “times of trouble” while we’re here, and at the same time, He comforts us saying, ” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world “.  Because Jesus lives in me, through His Spirit, I can prevail over every difficulty and challenge that comes my way, as long as I lean into His wisdom and strength.

I’ve been battling with my understanding of scripture…

  • ”honoring my parents” … Ex 20:12, Matt 19:19, Eph 6:2 as well as several other passages…
  • “care for family” … 1 Tim 5:8, Gal 6:10
  • “family not coming before my God” … Mic 7:6, Matt 10: 34-37, Luke 14:26

I want to honor my parents; care for my family.  As I have wrestled with my own beliefs and perceived expectations from others, the Lord has challenged me to question whether ‘I believe’ He is able to care for my parents, our parents, better than we ourselves can?  Or do I really believe we can provide better care for them than God can?

Obedience to God will deprive us of things we value, especially relationships.  Am I willing to stand in steadfast submission even when it appears I should be doing something else in the eyes of others?  Even when it’s something  I feel compelled to do?  This battle within me is real.  In Matt 4:19 Jesus said, “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”.  He didn’t give me all the details as to how that would affect my life.  He demands obedience and trust.

I didn’t create my parents…God did.  I am not their Daddy…our Heavenly Father is.  I didn’t sacrificially give my life for my parent’s…Jesus did.  I can’t dwell within them and whisper sweet words of encouragement to their hearts…the Holy Spirit can.  God’s got this.  He did long before He led my family to Haiti.  He is enough.

May BonDye be made known through our obedience.

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My man lives with purpose…

 

 “Lè yon papa se moun serye,

li fè sa ki dwat. Sa bon nèt pou pitit li yo.”  Pwovèb 20:7

“The godly walk with integrity;

 blessed are their children who follow them.”  Proverbs 20:7

Recently in a large group setting, with tears in her eyes, Quinn thanked her dad for being a ‘man of wisdom’.  For spending time in the Word with her when she has questions or doesn’t understand what it says.  For inspiring her to grow and for genuinely loving to simply ‘hang out’ and watch a good action flick.  I know her brother echo’s that!

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Much to my chagrin, both my kids, like their dad, LOVE the History Channel…really history in general, and can binge watch it like no one’s business!  They share a love for the incredible beauty of the great outdoors and the adventures experienced together, chopping things down in the woods, moments sitting around a camp fire (I think it’s more about playing in the fire for each one of them) and really… good… FOOD.

My husband shares my heartbeat for seeing our children to not simply be happy, but to become Holy.  Chasing after their heavenly Father.  Their ‘Papa’.  He too is in pursuit of holiness …more than comfort, more than pleasure, more than happiness.  

Those who know him or anyone who has spent any time with Dave, know he is the gentle voice in the midst of this chaotic life we live.  He is steadfast…solid.  Willing to continue to allow himself to not only be challenged in his growth, but to pursue uncomfortable growth.  To continue to step out of his comfort zone even when it begins to hurt.  My man lives with purpose.  He is a man of prayer.

He has chosen to lead us where God calls, knowing there will continue to be difficult days, but trusting that our Father will carry us through, using our little family for His Glory.  

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
    this is God, whose dwelling is holy.”  Psalm 68:5

When I read this verse, I am reminded of Dave.  His heartbeat for our neighbors…for the youth in our neighborhood.  His desire to be a reflection of his Father.

 

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My prayer for my kids is that my son would love his Lord and (one day) his wife and children as his dad does and that my daughter would be blessed to marry a man of God, as her father is.  My prayer for the youth we are surrounded by here is the same.  

We need men of prayer who’s lives are centered around and driven by “BonDye” who live with open hands….

 

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Lavi se bèl bagay… life is a beautiful thing

“It’s true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  (Margaret Hungerford).

Not all people have the same ideas about what is seen as beautiful.

Today is Mother’s Day in Haiti.  Even on this Sunday, before we left for church, our neighbors had already been hard at work caring for their families.  Beautiful.

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 We had the privilege to spend this last week with a beautiful group of young ladies in our community, many of whom are young single mom’s, some who are the caregivers and/or providers for their parents.  Just as I do, they have dreams for their children.  Children already born and those they hope to have.  They are the backbone of their homes, their communities and they are doing their best to find a way to provide.  Their days are long…they are BEAUTIFUL.

We spent a little bit of time teaching and whole lot of time learning!  We’ve come to a place in our relationship where these girls feel safe…free… to share their hearts desires and dreams.  Beautiful.

They are praying for opportunity.  They are praying for men of God to lead their families and love the children they already have.  They are praying that the Lord blesses them with a husband who loves God above all things and who loves the children they already have as if those children are their own.  They hope for a husband who will cook, carry water and wash clothes alongside of them.  A man who respects their parents and makes them laugh.  They long for God’s very best.  BEAUTIFUL!!

Open Our Eyes, Lord
Open our eyes lord
We want to see Jesus
To reach out and touch him
And say that we love him
Open our ears Lord
And help us to listen
Open our eyes lord
We want to see Jesus

Ouvè Je nou, Senyè
Nou vle wè Jezi Kri
Pou nou ka touche Li
E di L nou renmen Li
Ouvè zorèy nou
Ede nou koute ou
Ouvè je nou Senyè
Nou vle wè Jezi Kri

I want to be more like Jesus.  I want to see Jesus alive in my life.

These girls want to be more like Jesus.  They want to see Him alive in their lives.

This life our God has given us is a beautiful thing.

Kenbe fèm, pa lage!  Tout glwa pou BonDye!

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Chosen by God to be a Mother…

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Our first gift on this day is that “Mother’s Day” is celebrated on a Sunday!  A day we choose to try to rest in the Lord, to focus on Him, to be renewed and refreshed by His Spirit.  I’m grateful to be empowered by the One, my God, who chose me to be the mother of two beautiful kids with 18 years between their births but a deep love for one another.

Being Mom is a complex calling…one of life’s highest honors yet in some moments it carries some of the heaviest responsibilities we face.  I fail frequently.  I start over daily.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
  his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”  Lam 3:22-23

I don’t know about you, but I long for my kids to fully experience all that God has for them.  To not shy away from the challenges, learning that it is in those moments incredible, personal growth happens.  Fully trusting the Lord desires the very best, His very best, for each of them.  I want them to embrace the fullness of life the Lord has designed for them each step of the way.

I desire for my kids to BELIEVE…

in who they can become…

in what they can do…

 in what they can overcome…

BECAUSE they are empowered by our Father.

“but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

It may seem like an odd thing to say, but I don’t want my children to simply be happy, I want them to become Holy.

To experience the rawness of life, to struggle, to fight for what’s of value, to persevere, to experience the fruit of hard work and an intentional prayer life, to learn to wait and sometimes even accept a ‘no’ as an answer to something they think they can’t live without.

I want them to experience victory, not because of anything I or their Dad has done, or anything they’ve accomplished within their own power.  I want them to experience the victory of living a sold out, risk-taking, intentional, loving life simply to be used by Him for Kingdom purposes.  I don’t want them to fear living counter-culturally because of what they might lose, but instead for what they will gain.

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 1:6-7

My kids call me Mom.  They stole my heart.  God knew what I needed.

 

 

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Will I ever learn…

…the Lord is ALIVE in me and FAITHFUL even when I’m not in tune to His Spirit.  His patience with me when I am completely wrapped up in myself can bring me to my knees…once I remember that’s where I NEED to be.  I want to be like Him.  I long to be a radiant reflection of my Savior.  I am a slow work in progress, but He desires to prevail within me.

This season of life since Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc on Haiti has been tough.  The picture below is what our garden now looks like because it hasn’t been tended too.  It looks like I had begun to feel.  Yet, because the Lord lives in me I am more like that lone kale plant than the rest of our garden…while struggling, I am alive.

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As I recently shared with some prayer warriors, in the midst of such good stuff I am finding myself tired, overwhelmed and frustrated.  I feel like the fire in my relationship with the Lord that has burned so brightly seems to be barely flickering.

I know I need balance. Got way too much striving, not enough trusting, too much work, not enough rest, too much expenditure, not enough filling… happening in my life.  I allowed it!  .

After reading Psalm 77 a few days ago I reached out.  As I meditated on what He has done, what His WORD says, I chose to intentionally seek the Lord to move me forward…mind, body and soul.  I reached out to people who pray…to a few I asked to hold me accountable.  I am now opening myself up to the masses knowing that the Lord has surrounded us with prayer warriors we are free to be vulnerable with.  Prayer works.  It’s powerful!

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While there is a lot to do, the need around is tremendous and has escalated, I can’t allow it to stand in the way of taking care of myself and my family.  Most importantly my time with the ONE who rejuvenates my soul.  I’m in pursuit of tweaking a few things I’ve let go awry….

  • STARTing my day in prayer, before my feet hit the cool tile and get into God’s Word so I can stay focused in my mind
  • Carving out time to eat sensibly for my body knowing my issues and exercise because it good for my mind and body, allowing me to serve well
  • Appreciating what God has made, what He has done and what He is doing, taking time to reflect and worship, in order to keep my soul fresh

God is the One who ALWAYS changes and shifts my focus, through prayer, praise and the determination needed to persevere.  I want to “live my life in Him,  rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as I’ve been taught, overflowing with thankfulness” because I belong to and am empowered by my Redeemer.   Praying God will infuse that passion back into my life!  He is able!   There is great beauty in my brokenness, especially as I bear witness to the moment He pulls me up, out of the slimy pit.  He’s been patiently waiting for me to grab His outstretched hand.

He had surrounded me with people here, near and far who are willing to get on their knees with and for us…daily.  He is at work in our midst…it’s pretty spectacular!

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Using the little things to make me stronger…

I sit here this morning considering what the circumstances of life may be calling me to do today that I don’t feel capable of doing on my own.

Dave is gone for the next 10 days.  This isn’t a problem for me, I know how to be alone.  However, in light of this past month, the reality is, I may be faced with decisions I wish I could process with him or some things completely out of my comfort zone.  I was heading into this time already worn and fervently praying about ‘one’ of those things.

Since the hurricane…we’ve had unwelcomed visitors, the creepy crawly kind entering our house frequently…not our team house…primarily our house.  However, for the first time since living here ‘a rat’ came to join us.  This is NOT ok.  They are not small here.  We do a good job staying clean, keeping all food in plastic tubs…we take all the necessary precautions.  But…we do buy local fresh eggs which stay on a shelf since they don’t need to be refrigerated.  He…she…it… found those, feasted and decided to stay.  We set a trap.  IT happily helped itself to the delicious peanut butter and went on its way.  Not ok.  Last night I saw it again.  I prayed.  Each time I woke in the night I prayed.  It’s silly, I know.   I begged the Lord that we would catch it before Dave left this morning.

God answered this prayer with a ‘yes’!!  I am more grateful than you’ll ever know.  I could show you a picture, but won’t.  I couldn’t bear to look at it.

It’s the little things that break our spirit sometimes when we are in the midst of challenging days.  God knew I needed Him to show Himself in this moment.  He uses these times, even ones that are no big deal to another to strengthen our faith, to remind us of His presence.

Because of moments like these instead of saying ‘this is too hard’ or ‘this is not my gifting, not my calling, not why I came here’, when things don’t go as I thought or seem too much, I can choose to invite God to use the process to transform me…however long it takes.

He knows our breaking point.  On occassion He does answer ‘yes’ to even what seems to be the silliest of prayers, but aren’t to us.

He promises to give the weary strength, power to the one who lacks it, wisdom to those who are clueless.  I trust Him to give me what I need.

I want to accept the invitation to become a different kind of person instead of one who runs from what’s difficult, uncomfortable.  I long to become more like Him.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11

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Motherhood

The moment a child is born…a mother is born.  It’s a thankless job at times…if I’m truthful, more often than not.

The worry, the work, the direction, the protection, that gave us security and a sense of belonging.  The freedom to explore, to recognize our strengths and weaknesses.  We fought for our independence and began to discover how God wired us.  We were lucky enough to be allowed to suffer the consequences of our actions…maybe because our mother’s knew the benefits we would reap…learning, suffering while under their wings.  Throughout the years they faced numerous challenges that they didn’t have the answers for.  They were strong, dedicated, and diverse.  They nurtured, taught, cared and loved passionately.  They slept little and forgave often.  They gave unmerited grace.

Mother’s need endurance, patience and a great sense of humor…they need the Lord.

We just had the opportunity to spend a brief amount of time with each of our mothers.  Upon our return to Haiti, I was reminded of how many children here…how many mothers… are missing out on this blessing.  It goes both ways.  My heart aches that they will not have the memories that we have to look back on.  They will not be able to say ‘thank you’.

We are grateful for our moms.  Without them, we wouldn’t be here.  We would not be serving in Haiti.  Without the years of prayers we might not even be together.  I may never have had the privilege to meet…to mother, our children.  To build into them as we were built into.

We are thankful to have been raised by women who love the Lord and prayed fervently that we would follow in those footsteps.

My prayer is that I can model motherhood well to the young people we are doing life with here in Haiti.  My Hope is that they will see Christ in my actions as a mother.  My Hope is that their families will be different.

We have this Hope because our mothers introduced us to the one who is Hope!

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