Gitter in the Sand.

On my Grandmothers mantle piece sat a glass bottle containing layers of multi coloured sand. This little bottle was a souvenir gift from the Isle of wight (Alum bay). The sands are made of three minerals – quartz, felspar and mica. In their pure state these minerals are white with other colours being produced through contamination by other minerals.
As a child I would repeatedly ask my grandmother if I could remove the cork from the bottle of layered sand. I wanted to mix the coloured layers, to move them from order into a place of multicoloured chaos.
To pour the layered colours into a shallow bowl. Creating and uncovering unsymmetrical patterns in the coloured sand. To run the textured colours of history through my hands.
Somewhere in my loft wrapped in newspaper this little glass bottle of coloured sand is waiting to be rediscovered.
A static hour glass sitting out time. The separated colours  never changing.  The sand holds firmly to the stories of the past, tells of traditions and cultures of our ancestors.
We look to the past to discover lessons for the present.
What happens when we change the lens which we see the sand. When we see it’s true uncontaminated colours.

I don’t feel any desire to rummage into the depths of my loft to find the bottle of sand and mix it.
I am learning to see beyond the coloured layers to look at the individual grains, to the true colours/ true self.
During this past year I have started to learn how to see these true colours. To see the sparkle and glitter in each treasured grain ( person ). I’ve learnt the remarkable power of story. The value of spending time just listening.  Discerning the gifts of the spirit working in each of us .
I’ve come to realise and acknowledge that I have gifts too. To not underestimate the gift of being myself. The importance understanding my true colours . I’ve discovered how these gifts are working within me, how they relate to my context .

The gifts of the Spirit are being poured out upon us . I’m beginning to understand that these gifts don’t come in coloured uniformed patterns. We don’t have to comprehend them, but we do need to see them as actual, making them real.
I’m learning to see that it takes bravely and courage to mix the coloured grains of sand. Learning how essential it is to hold onto my true colours. I’m becoming more robust in my thinking and actions. Discovering how exhausting life can be when the landscape try’s to fade and erode my colours.

The colourful bottle of sand holds thousands of years of heritage and history. Its colours and traditions alone are not enough to hold the our future foundations.
God pours out the gift of the Spirit upon us, not as the historic re-enactment of static sand trapped in a bottle, but as the lived reality of the revelation of God, who is ever present and ever new.
It is our joy and privilege, not simply to share in those gifts, but to realise them, to see them sparkle, making them real in our lives, and for our time.
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What’s in a Tear.

Officially it’s a drop of water, containing elements which gives tears their characteristic salty taste.
Emotional tears also contain hormones which can improve our mood or ease our pains.
Tears release stories and emotions, expressing what our heart cannot say.
One single tear released in love is more powerful than a thousand tears cried in anger.
Just one single tear powerfully acted in the film “ Joker “ realeased me from the person I used to be.
In the opening few moments of the film before the story even starts, we watch the artist ( the clown ) applying his craft.
We see that familiar white clown face, with a coloured Blue  diamond painted over the eye.
Than a solitary tear escapes from the clowns eye. This single tear travelled through the perfect hues of White and Blue. Leaving behind it’s own imperfect trail. A tear trail …
God spoke so powerfully to me through this single tear locked into a frame of film.
It was in that moment that I realised  that this tear held the person I once was.
I was once a makeup artist. I would have scrutinised this tear from a technical view.
I would never see the true tear.. I saw the actors craft and the makeup artists skill. I saw lighting and editing. I saw film.
I questioned the products used, always looking for makeup continuity errors.
As that tear rolled I was released from thinking that way. Releasing me from the person I used to be.
In that one single tear; I saw emotions, I saw pain. I wanted to know the story behind the tear. Each tear holds more than we can ever imagine, more emotions more pain. Some tears hold stories that are just to painful to be told.
That one tear encapsulated my story. It was a tear that I was unable to cry myself . In the cinema God took that one tear and cried with me and for me.
I don’t miss the person I once was . Today I only see a life with Jesus . Sat in the cinema I said my goodbyes to the person I used to be.
It was not a time of my choosing, or a film of my choice. God spoke to my heart through the Jokers tear.
A tear that confirmed to myself that my recommendation for ordination training was real, realistic and from God
To serve God is a freedom thats full of creative energy, to serve is to remove chains and release love.
It is LOVE that inspires me and drives me to serve God . Only love can make such a choice. How different it is to serve another for love’s sake than it is to serve out of obligation or duty!
Jesus comes into the world not to be served, but to serve. He comes not to do his own will, but the will of the One who sent him.  He “empties himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.” He does this for love.
When we love we want to serve. We long to be given some task that will contribute to the good purposes of the one we love.
A mother longs to serve her children – out of love. We willingly set aside our own desires and preferences, we lay down our lives, for the sake of those whom we love.
I am a chosen servant of Christ.
I will make the wrong choices, I will mess things up, I will cry, laugh and seek those on the margins of our community. To be a voice of comfort and a voice of truth. I will freely and willingly give all of myself to God’s creative purpose.
Only love can make this choice.

James 2:5

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters. God chose the poor people in the world to be rich in faith. He chose them to receive the kingdom God promised to those who love him

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Choose life.

This is the first of five blogs;  Reflections from my retreat weekend at Hilfield Friary.

Hilfield’s vision statement shares and reflects many of my own personal values. It’s a place that’s Rooted – seeking to live simply and gracefully, caring for the land that we have been entrusted with.
It’s Christain – Following Christ caring for the poor and marginalized of our society and all of creation. It’s Family – welcoming all people and creation.

These values are choices that we choose to live by.
My first reflection is from a guided time of prayer “ choose life”

Choose a vision.
Choose a cause.
Choose a different way.

Choose to respect the past and the present.
Choose to look for the little things in the places you would least expect to find them.
Walk bare footed in dew laden grass.
Choose to plant.

Sow in context.
Choose to wait.
Choose new paths.
Choose to see what happens.

Choose to love those awkward shapes.
Choose to listen.
Accept we all make bad decisions.
Choose to change.

Keep pathways open for conversations.
Choose to stop .
Choose to ask for help.
Choose to be fruitful.
Choose to accept gifts.
Embrace the hidden path ways of the journey
Choose to be rooted and grounded in love.
Choose God.
Choose life.

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Marcescence.

 
Marcescence.

I’m stuck in a season.
A muddled dimension of a shifted lifetime.
Growing in a space that’s confused by its place.
I’m lost and visible chronology misplaced.
Papery texture of my withered leaves brings to the landscape, a different me.
I am the unnamed tree that’s forgotten to drop its leaves.

Tucked away colours.
Red, oranges and sad shades of Green.
Mixed hues that confuse.
Whispering and rustling all through my leaves.
Blurred memories.
They scare me.

Leaves cling to their branches waiting for the first winter snow.
It’s not a choice, I have forgotten how to let go.
Embarrassed and afraid.
Theirs no where to hide.
It’s only summer that I feel deep inside.

I can’t see the frost that crystallises and grows.
I can’t feel the cold on my roots in the snow.
It’s a time of change in this world I can’t share.
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ITS RUDE TO STARE.

Woodland crunching, deafening sounds.
Unknown faces with a warm winter glow.
Standing in my long ago.
They struggle to except I have forgotten how to grow.
They tell me I am a majestic beach tree.
Standing tall and strong for the world to see.

I am the tree that’s forgotten to drop its leaves.
Do not despair .
Touch me gently, whisper through the winter wind.
I am listening.

Call me by name.
Talk to me.
I am grateful for your company.
Loved knowing
My beloved believes in me.

marcescence the name given when tress retention their leaves in the winter. From the Latin meaning to shrivel ( withering without falling ) no one can say with any certainty why it happens. most agree it has something to do with protecting the trees

Unbumped.

This blog has been sitting in a notebook since the summer. These scribbled notes have been crossed out, highlighted and binned.
I have been drawn this week to revisit my scribbles, to try and unpick what I want to say.
We are in the middle of baby loss awareness week, It’s a special opportunity to mark the lives of babies lost in pregnancy or at or soon after birth.
Social media / news stories supporting baby loss week tell of the indescribable pain and heartbreak of loosing a baby.
It’s is a pain that never goes away: it changes shape, it produces less tears, it slowly makes way for laughter and a different life, but it stays.
We celebrate pregnancy we share our scan pictures, our milestones we share our joys.
Their is no room for celebrations when a pregnancy ends early, It robs you of your dreams and the baby you never got to hold . Its a silent painful loss, often unspoken, not shared.
The Unbearable pain of repeated miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies has consumed me for many years. Each loss became another story in my dark twisted fairy tale. Happy every after was not in my story, a dark fear and disbelief left me empty and morning.
Twenty Two years latter I celebrated these precious lives by being “unbumped”
The unbumping as we called it took the form of a body painting. A work of art, not on paper, but on skin, my not so flat stomach provided us with a wobbly canvas. A stomach stretched by pregnancy, scared by pregnancy loss and the emergency surgery to save my life, ending the life of my unborn child.
It’s taken me along time to have come this far, to understand that the answer to infertility is not always healed by the arrival of a baby. Our journeys though grief are unique to us, time is not a factor. Letting go of love was only made possible for me when I found my faith.
My faith has helped me to hand over of my grief and pain. To ask God to deal with it for me / with me. Understanding and trusting that God will hold onto our children forever, hold them so I can let them go.
Spending time reading and reflecting on psalm 139 has helped me to see just how much our unborn children are loved by God. How much love went into making each and every one of them. How beautifully wonderfully made they are.
It was from those reflections the unbump celebration became a creative visual celebration of the six children that grew in my womb.
My companion in this unbumping was a trusted creative friend. Putting time aside from our busy lives we spent a weekend together on our own mini retreat . A prayerful time guided by the Holy spirt, a creative space that allowed us to pray through art.
We focused on the gifts that pregnancy has brought to each of us . My wobbly skin canvas was being transformed by the flutter of brush stokes. These butterfly fluttering strokes painted 6 little perfect hearts into a heart shaped womb.
Each heart was joined to one another and woven into my life story.
The painting was more than I could have hoped for, the bitter sweet emotions that surfaced during the day where mixed with friendship and prayer.
Unlike a tattoo this beautiful work of art was only temporary. One of many moments that have helped in the healing process. Praying and reflecting on the day I showered my skin soothed and comforted by the heat of the water . The painted images slowly started to run and mix into each other. Watching these colours swirl and fade away I realised just how healing the process had been. Thankful for the opportunity to have celebrated their being in such a perfect and beautiful way. These little people have made my heart bigger, taught me how fragile life is, how precious each moment is.
The Bible is filled with stories about normal everyday humans who struggle, whose stories of pain and suffering are part of their journey.
I have yet to read all these stories, the ones that I have read tell of journeys full of pain, but in that pain is purpose and hope. We only see that purpose when we look back. I can only know see just how much God was a part of my life when I look back. God was with me I was just looking in the wrong direction.
The more I learn about a life walking with Jesus the more I start to realise It’s not always for us understand why . I will never why I could not carry our babies to term or why I suffered infertility after my last pregnancy.
Today I understand my life is richer for their being. It’s a life lived today as a christian filled with hope and love.
It’s a love that has started to free me from the grief of pregnancy loss, To embrace a future knowing I am loved by the one who created me
We are loved and stay loved, we are not measured on our success in carrying a baby to term. We are not measured by our failure to conceive . We are just loved and watched over, as we grow into the person we become.
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Psalm 139:13-18

13For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother’s womb.

14I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works,

My first sermon.

Be Generous, Be Patient, Pray, Listen

If you’re wealthy be generous. If you’re worried be patient. If you have some possessions share them with others. If you have problems, give them to Jesus.

Our lives are full of noise yet we often fail to listen. We learn to stop listening, we become consumed in the noise of the modern world. We have to many options, to many choices.
Our lives are so full of noise we often forget  we can hear in the silence.

I’m not saying noice is bad far from it. We all have a favourite piece of music that we enjoy listening to. But what gives you that buzz of excitement every time you hear it?
Connects with your emotions deep enough to stop what you are doing and to just listen.

For me I find that  buzz of excitement in the silent darkness just before dawn.
Siting outside in the garden or woodland waiting listening for the moment the first bird sings.
It’s that explosion of airborne joy. You can hear the Robin, Blackbird and sparrow so clearly. Yet they remain invisible in the twilight of the morning.
The first time I did this it was my 16th birthday . I remember being amazed by the energy of the bird song. The teenage me just heard birdsong.
The difference is today when I get up early and sit quietly in the darkened woods. I listen to  God. Its one of the few times and places I can be really still. Stillness in the presence of our Lord. Stillness in the anticipation of a new day that’s about to dawn.

God speaks out of the silence. It’s not just silence. Its a stillness full of positive energy and life. A sacred space where I can just be. A space that God speaks his word.
It’s as if everything is on hold in this silent place the atmosphere is charged: than the first bird sings. This little oasis of creation speaks and rejoices in the new day.
Imagine if we equally rejoiced in the new day shouted it out “We are loved”
Our voices also beautifully in tune with creation. Our message being heard above the chatter of our busy lives around us.

Listening to the reading today James is asking us to be Generous, to be patient and to pray.
He’s not asking us to be generous with our money, he’s asking us to be generous  with our hearts. Giving a homeless person a pound as you walk past is easy.
Stopping and spending time with them is generously that comes from Christ . It’s being with this person valuing them . A person like us, loved by God.
It costs nothing to stop and listen with our hearts .

When we stop to listen we must do just that – STOP.  We can’t solve all their  problems  but what we can do  may go a lot deeper than mere problem solving we  can  come alongside the  person in their  difficulties.
This involves listening to the story they have to tell, hearing their complaints, their fears or sorrows. It means empathising, feeling what they feel, and joining them in opening the Bible to seek hope and strength.

James asks us to go out to the people that have wandered away from God.
He asks us not to write them off, “but to bring them back.”
How do we do this ?
It’s a big question and one that’s constantly  being asked .
How do we Bring back those who have wandered away from God. The size of the question does not excuse us from taking any action. We know that we can’t involve ourselves in every problem, every situation in which there is need; but we can do something.
Maybe that something is to take an interest in one person or one family or one cause.
To give our time.
To share our resources. Simplify our own lives .
To pray for those in need of our help.
To bring them into the silent spaces that God holds open for all of us.
To live in the now.
For each moment holds the greatest possibles of the future.
In that moment.
listen to the voice of love.
That whispers your name.
It is the voice of the one who is love calling you.
To go and tell what you have seen and heard.

James 5

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With love from love.

It was a day of certainties. The sat navy planned our route; we would arrive at 9.50, the gardens opened at 10.
The leaflet given to us on arrival told us the history of the gardens. It was described as “ a living work of art” views like scenes from a landscape painting. We were told this timeless masterpiece was a showcase of garden design; gothic buildings, trees all centred around a large lake.
We followed our guide and together a small group of us stepped into this unfamiliar landscape.
I stepped into another world, It was almost as if I took a step every so slightly sideways. The vast landscape wrapped its self around me delighting in my willingness to journey along its paths.
Hands reaching into the rich canopy of this accident woodland I longed to hear it’s story. To allow the whispers of this magical place to engulf my thoughts. To clear the fog that dulled my imagination. Allowing for possibilities outside of what I thought should be reality.
The further I explored this landscape the more it talked a language that I understood. It connected my mind to the journey / plans that God has for me.

I need to rewind at this point at take us back to the beginning.
As I said on arrival we choose wait to take the garden tour. To be shown around this magnificent garden rather than choose our own route. We followed our guide. We took the paths she choose stopping at places of interest not of our choosing.
We did not rush to the magnificent view for which this garden is so famous for. We stopped and waited for our guide to show us the way.
It was sometime during that waiting that I took my sideways step into a slightly different world. The excitement of the journey ahead, the unknown paths, the wait lifted my mind to another place.
I walked the paths set out by this gardeners creator ( Henry Hoare II ) allowing myself to see the garden from his view. I saw what he wanted me to see.
Amazing to think that 300 years ago this garden was new. Carefully planted and designed to delight its visitors. Today it’s still capturing the imagination and delighting the visitors that travel it’s paths.
As I walked I shared something Henry Hoare’s vision. It’s a vision that has reached maturity yet its still growing and changing, at the same time remains true to its original purpose.
This garden really did have a story to tell.
Thats why I was so excited about my visit to Stourhead ( National trust house and gardens ).

Life’s about the journey. A journey planned ahead of us, ready and waiting for us to walk on the paths that God has set out before us.
As I journey along these paths I do not travel alone. I journey with God even when I stray from the path. God waits patiently for me .
His plans for me are not my plans. The journey is mine to travel. I have the free will to take any path of my choosing, I have the free will to race though life going so fast I fail notice the beauty of journey.

God used this landscape to meet me, over flowing with emotions buzzing with excitement God talked to me though this landscape. Connecting me spiritually with my life journey.
The slippery paths, the difficult paths, paths shaded by woodland, paths across open countryside soaking up the summers sun.
All these paths told me stories of my own life; dark times, times when I have needed support, prayerful times, the good and not so good. All a part of the rich journey God has planned for me.
I felt a powerful reassurance that the path I am following is the right one. Even though I have no idea of its route or the difficulties ahead, it’s the path I need to stay on.

Journey to the final view ( the main reason for the visit )

The guided walk gave me glimpses of this view as I walked towards it. The view was often blocked broken up and fragmented by the mature tress that edged the lake.
As I walked closer to the view so my journey become more reflective. The follies that I visited at the start of the walk were now in the distance. The harshness of these stone buildings softened and changed by their watery reflections mirrored onto the lake.
The garden continued to gave glimpses of what’s to come. Amid the decay of the woodland floor new growth resilient and abundant pushed its way though the rich mulch.
The view that I longed to see lost its importance. The journey / story was far greater than any ending I could have imagined .
The garden told me a story of love that never ends. Written and told by a loving father to his child.
The father knowing exactly what his child needed to hear.
The story was told with love from love.
The story told me do not to worry! You need to follow these paths, trust them, learn from them. The delight is not where you will be, but where you are now.

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Isaiah 55:8-9
[8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
[9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The Happy Prince.

Last weekend I watched Rupert Everet’s film “ The happy prince”, the story of Oscar Wilde’s last few days.
Wilde’s body ailing and his mind spinning from past to present day we learn something about this poet and how during his time in prison he found God. A spiritual renewal, a fresh start – to be reborn.
Wilde upon release planned to turn his life around. Be a father to his sons, live once again as a family with his wife Constance. The film showed that while Wilde had faith he had hope.
Living in France Wilde’s old vices soon turned his life upside down, leaving him broken and in poverty.
As death becomes closer his friend/ lover Robbie Ross called for a priest at Wilde’s request. The priest spends time with Wilde, baptising him just before he dies. It showed how grace can transform and redeem us even when our pain is self-inflicted.
One question from the film has stayed with me. The priest asked the dying Wilde “ where did you lose your faith?”
I have been asking myself this all week, When did I lose my faith?
I have eventually found what was possibly my moment when things started to change, I was aged about 7. It was a baking hot day as it is today ( maybe that helped the memory ). I was dressed for the weather wearing shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops.
My sister I were playing that silly game of ringing the doorbell and running away. I can’t remember which one of us rang our front doorbell. I can’t remember my angry mum answering the ring.
I do remember running in flip-flops on a gravel path and falling over.
I remember the two bloody gravel filled knees, and the blood-soaked pillow from the large bleeding gash on my head. I was very scared and frightened.
I remember being told God was paying me back for ringing the doorbell and running away.
As a child I heard:  I’m bad and Gods mad at me, God made me fall over, God is why I am scared and hurting, God is causing me all this pain. I am so scared.

As an adult, I understand that God never dressed me in flip-flops that morning.  It was our free will that started the silly doorbell game.
As an adult, I have seen how God uses the circumstances we find ourselves in for good. It does no matter how impossible these circumstances seem.
God heals our wounds, brings us comfort and guidance. But best of all he brings love. Holds us in our pain so we in turn can hold others in pain and distress.
Everything does happen for a reason. I feel over as I was running scared in flip-flops.

My parents knew nothing of Gods grace and how that grace changes everything. It would be another 36 years before I would become transformed and my life enriched by God’s love and Grace.

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Ephesians 2:8-10 Good News Translation .
8-9 For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it. 10 God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.

One big long emotional prayer.

A wooden cabin located in the Somerset country side was our home for the weekend.
This beautiful location with its own private garden was a safe place to off load the burdens that we carry. Two friends on a weekend date with God.
We gave ourselves permission to be real, not just with each other but also to God. We talked about pain and fears. Being open without the slightest fear of judgement, knowing that we are loved.
The weekend was best described as one big long emotional prayer.
It was weekend of giving to God in a way that I have never really experienced before. I started to understand that the gifts I have do not belong to me or the church, but to God.
Gifts that have been freely given to me with the purpose of using them to help others, to praise God in my actions.
I experienced how astoundingly powerful just being with someone can be. How sharing and preparing food together is an act of gratitude, knowing that we are fed by God.
It was strangely exhausting, An emotional exhaustion that is almost neutralised with prayer and love.
As I listened, prayed and journeyed with my friend I grew too.
I showed myself that I can lead prayer. I can pray with someone that’s hurting and make a difference.
Showing my love the only way I knew how. Grounded in the ambulance of natural beauty that surrounded us. I shared the love that residues in my heart. We both felt that peace and love that comes from God.
The prayers we shared were personal and a beautiful reflection of our friendship. The loose itinerary planned pushed us both in many different ways but at no point did we feel uncomfortable.
Journeying with my friend giving her space to be with God, to share Gods love for us was a privilege.
To listen to her story, to be trusted with her thoughts and to share her prayers was friendship at its best.
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1 Peter 5:6-7 The Message (MSG)
6-7 So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.

Journeying beyond my boundaries.

Day 39 – Lent Challenge – Freedom.

My penultimate blog for lent. 39 blogs on people that have changed and influenced my life. It’s a thank you an acknowledgement to some amazing people that I have been privileged to know, and in some cases love.
Writing the blogs has been a little bit of an epic journey. Some blogs I have had to work desperately hard to find the words that tell my story. It’s been very emotional at times, I find healing in the writing.

This blog is a thank you to a very individual down to earth man. I have so much respect for him, he showed great friendship and kindness. He also took me beyond my comfort zone, allowing me to experience the joys of being happy in my own skin.

Understanding my own journey to happiness is individual to me, not to compare myself to others. Learning that expressing my thoughts even if those around me do not think the same as me is ok.
He helped me take my first steps to seeing the freedom of thinking different. He helped me find the confidence that was buried very deep within myself, bringing it slightly nearer the surface. I found joy in being myself, making me feel more motivated and more determined to challenge myself, to be adventurous.
He taught me the values of being me and never forgetting how important that is.
He believed in me, he trusted me to push myself but also gave me space for when things become to uncomfortable.
I smile when I think about our times together. The journeys to visit him and his wife. The evenings spent on the edge of the Mendips sat in their garden watching shooting stars.
His funeral that filled the tiny parish church. He was a special one of kind type of person.
Although I am shy and lack confidence.I am happy in my own skin and have been for many years. The confidence that he taught me was a inner confidence. It stayed inside without the voice until I found my faith.

I am revisiting the area that he lived more frequently at the moment.
A journey that followers the same roads but with a completely different destination.
I journey that will need me or push myself in ways that I have yet to think possible.
A journey that scares me far more than excites me. Discovering and responding to Gods call, journeying beyond my boundaries.

It’s stepping out to follow where Gods voice is calling me. Finding my faith has given purpose and reason to challenge myself. Allowing confidence that has been locked away inside to grow. God has given me a voice and with that voice comes adventure, love, hope to a destination yet unknown.

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Jeremiah 29:13 Good News Translation (GNT)
13 You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart.