Seeing the Invisible- Laura Townsend

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, (visible) but at the things which are not seen (invisible). For the things which are seen (visible) are temporary, but the things which are not seen (invisible) are eternal.  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV)

 

A couple of weeks ago My Daddy left this earth to live forever with Jesus.

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In this season of loss, my soul longs to write because that is what I do.

Until last night, I couldn’t decide where to begin. So much is going on inside my heart and mind. My chest swells with grief, while my heart overflows with joy in knowing what my head is still trying to wrap itself around- Life and LIFE more abundantly.

Jesus spoke of this in John 10:10, stating it as the whole reason He came to this earth. In the depth of that- I find myself still reeling, trying to pull it all in: THIS REVELATION, in the season I am now living.

…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  (John 10:10 NKJV)

Daddy is now living that abundant LIFE. He is fully alive for the first time, dead to this world but more alive than ever.

Me, I am here on this planet; the one where death still comes to us all.

Living out my life on the earth, I am seeking the abundant life Jesus promised. I feel like my earthly life is blessed, even abundant. I know the life Jesus died for me to have; and so much more in the unseen.

Yet, while I exist here in this human body, I am constantly striving for abundant life, in the life I can see.  But beyond that; to begin to understand what I can’t see with these earthly eyes; the abundant LIFE that Daddy has now completely received.

I think I am now barely beginning to fathom the depths of why Jesus came to this earth.

 

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Nine Weeks before my Daddy met Jesus, I brought him and my mom, Susan to live at my house and begin hospice care. I had sensed fear in Daddy’s voice when we talked on the phone. It became obvious when I had seen him over Christmas that his health had declined to the point that Susan was needing help in caring for him. His inability to breath was causing episodes of panic. My travel to help for a day or two at a time was no longer enough. So on January 25, we moved my Daddy and Susan to my house.  A few days after he came I wrote this last entry in the journal that I kept for him-

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January 30, 2014

Daddy- We moved you to my house a week ago and began hospice care. It is hard to see you struggling to breathe, yet I know that in everything God has a purpose and that His Word tells us to “count it all joy” when we face trials or suffer. In one place I believe it even says that Paul considered it a privilege to suffer for Christ.

Of course, I have no idea of God’s amazing path for your life. I can only imagine and guess at what might be. I do believe that if we are living in His ways that we will find our lives in the center of His will.

I felt a strong desire to bring you and Susan into my home at this point on the path of your life. I hope to surround you and Susan with the peace of God, to practice His presence in my home, to envelope you with the love and support of children, grandchildren, in-laws and friends. I want us to celebrate with you and Susan as we enjoy all the days and nights of your life as we await your healing, whether you receive complete healing here on earth, or the ultimate healing when you leave this body and meet Jesus face to face.

Daddy, don’t lose heart- this pain and suffering is a part of the perfect plan God has for your life and for my life and for Susan’s life and your grandchildren’s lives. God knows what we need. He knows what each person you interact with needs to become the ones He created us to be. Your suffering may bring another person’s salvation- it may save a soul or many from hell. It may be the trial to strengthen your daughter or grandchild to be able to fulfill their God- given purpose. We simply do not know- BUT God does!

I love you Daddy and despite the difficulty and awfulness of this disease you are battling, I enjoy and treasure these days and nights with you here. So today, let’s press in towards God and wait in His presence and goodness all around us; recognize His grace for this moment, rest in His peace and receive His joy, (which cannot be stolen by the circumstances of life).

 

The weeks that followed were tough, some of the most difficult days of my life. There were moments of glory and peace. There were truly wonderful times during those days.

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There were also completely awful moments. It is so easy to get caught up in the life we can see and so difficult to look past the striving to the eternal or unseen.

There are moments I regret my thoughts or actions. For all of that there is grace. His grace is enough, truly all sufficient!

There was suffering and pain, yet not absent of His presence. Even in the suffering we could access His joy. We could know! Do you get that?

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When Jesus is Lord of someone’s life it changes things. There is a knowing. It is an understanding of His sovereignty, which causes all else to fade.

In His presence nothing else matters. Grace. Peace. Rest. Strength. It is all found in Him.

When all around you, life is raging out of control, you can have peace, and even know joy that cannot be taken away by your circumstances. Knowing Jesus in those moments causes the horrible to take on a sense of preciousness. The intimacy with Jesus in the midst of suffering is so sweet, you almost don’t mind that life is raging out of control all around you.

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Being held by the God who spoke the world into existence, you find the strength to get through it. Recognizing that He knows what tomorrow holds and that He designed this plan to bless you; you can embrace the pain and step into the unknown, fully knowing.

So two weeks into this season in my life, the one without my Daddy, I know Him in a deeper sense. He is so faithful! He is always good!

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I look back at the nine weeks that my Daddy lived at my house. I remember thinking I’m not sure I can continue to do this. Thinking, this is too hard. Wondering if my family could survive the suffering. Questioning if God could really be working in us, a far greater eternal weight of glory?

During the most difficult days, enduring the things a daughter hopes to never have to do for a father, I thought that it was a sacrifice on my part, a gift TO my Daddy. After all, I wrote that my intention in bringing Daddy here was to bless him, to spend time with him and enjoy God’s peace and presence with him for however long God had planned.

Today, on the other side, I have so much more than memories. I have seen into the unseen. I have known God’s hand in it all. Daddy did have a wonderful end to his life on this earth, not void of pain and suffering, but because of the pain and suffering.

There is a sweetness, a preciousness, a turn of events in the gifting. What I am left with is a wonderful GIFT not TO my Daddy but TO ME. The gift of selfless love, the gift that I thought was a sacrifice on my part turns out to be an abundance of a GIFT TO ME.

I have a “weight” of Glory residing in my spirit that could only be deposited in me by the Glory giver. It is a heavy sense of His presence that causes me to rest in the knowing. I have seen beyond the visible and touched the glory that words cannot describe. That momentary affliction produced in me and in each member of my family that walked through those days, an eternal weight of glory.

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We are eternally changed. We will never be the same, in the glory kind of way. We are sad that Daddy is no longer with us but overjoyed at his presence with Jesus. It’s a new season. A Glory Season. The Glory is in the invisible.

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“Happy” Thanksgiving- Thanksgiving Happy…Which Comes First The Happy Or The Thanksgiving? Laura Townsend

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Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord , I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV)

This scripture keeps appearing before my eyes, popping up randomly in my readings and teachings. It speaks deep inside me each time I hear it or read it. I don’t feel like I am in a place of complete desolation as Habakkuk describes here, however I could view it as such. It’s all a matter of perspective, I think. It seems Habakkuk knew the joy of rejoicing. Whatever may come my way, I will rejoice in God, my Savior

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Today I sit in a waiting room at University Hospital. My daddy is ill. He is in need of a lung transplant. My sister in another state cares for my brother-in-law who has a brain tumor. Other people, I love dearly are suffering from mental illness, depression, suicidal thoughts, alcoholism, drug addiction and are poverty stricken. Some of my loved ones are living in the pit mentally, physically and spiritually. One I treasure with all my heart is out of right relationship with God. Within my marriage, my finances, my home, my plans; My life can be difficult and at times disappointing. Regardless of all, today I choose joy. I choose to tread on the heights.

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Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NIV)

In all reality, I am blessed beyond measure. God loves me. He has never failed me. His plan for me is to bless me to give me a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) I can count it all joy as I face trials. (James 1:2)

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…The joy of the Lord is (my) strength. (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV)

I find strength for the day as I rejoice in the Lord. I pull myself up out of bed each morning and I put on a garment of praise. When my heart aches and is weary, I find a sweet rest, a calm for my soul, a kiss on the ache in my heart; in the presence of my God. The sweetness of His presence in the midst of my pain is indescribable. He is greater in every way. Greater than my grief, greater than my disappointments, greater than my struggles, greater than my difficulties, greater than all my pain. As I shift my perspective and focus on His goodness, my life becomes the thing He created it to be. I am blessed.

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The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4 NIV)

He must become greater; I must become less.’ (John 3:30 NIV)

I find that by choosing joy I can live, truly live in the midst of imperfection. I can have joy in the trial, in the pain. I can experience the awesomeness of my amazing God. I find that choosing to be joyful causes Him to increase in me. As He becomes greater, I become less. I begin to see that it is not about me. It is all about  Him. As I rejoice, I find joy for today that multiplies and overflows. As joy bubbles out, I bring Him glory. I point the way to the only source of true joy. It is a joy that cannot be taken away, (unless I allow it to be stolen). As I live a life of joy in the midst of obvious imperfection I am living the life He intended me to live. I find blessings and peace. God sees me as perfect as I clothe myself with Christ. I have the joy of the Lord on my life. It draws others to the Joy.

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So today, I rejoice. I am blessed, truly grateful. Because of God, I have all I need and more- a family that loves me, a husband to share in this joy journey, 4 wonderful children, a church home that blesses me spiritually with the Word, guidance and friends, a place to call home, plenty of food and clothing and more material belongings than I could ever need. For all of this and much more, God, I am thankful!

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Should all that I give thanks for cease today, I pray I would still choose to rejoice in You! You are Joy.  You are the Happy in the Thanksgiving.

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So from my heart to yours I wish you a Thanksgiving Happy.

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Seeing You In Today By Laura Townsend

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I awake still weary from days past. This current journey I have found myself on, Your grace proving sufficient. You give me the strength I need to go on and face the moment. Your grace, it covers me.

Through this storm YOU, are more than enough. Words of hope, faith in healing, YOU offer to us. More than enough.

Other obligations do not cease.  During the storm, you cover me, with your grace, how truly precious, with your love flowing down. Your beauty in life so precious, your glory all around.

Your mercy, never ceasing. Your consuming love on me. You’re omniscient, all sufficient, your grace that covers me.

Attacks from the enemy. Try the soul to the core. Momentarily I am blinded, but your grace reaches for me. I’m reminded of who I am. I am yours and you are mine. All you are, I am. All you offer, I have become.

Never alone have you left me. Never without hope for my soul. You are all sufficient. Your grace is all I need.

Jesus it is You. You are all I need. In your loving presence hold me. Through this storm I will come.

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Pursuing Life

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Pursuit of life.  All that entails. Rewarding. Awesome. Yet never exclusive of trials, pain. All good and what “seems bad”. Experiencing now.

Excited for Life. Going higher. Blessings of coming through storms, evident. Feeling free.

Pursuing Him. Growth. Forward motion. Working into a jog. Steadfastly pressing in. His will. His plan. Use me, Lord. Obey. Reach. He leads. I follow.

His plan. My destiny. His calling. My answer. I am in. Desire transforming. Lining up with His. Going all out. It’s all or nothing now. I run. I run. Advancing. Progressing. Eyes on the prize.

Out of no where, it hits, not lightly. Knocked to the ground by the enemy of the soul. Satan, the liar, who fears forward momentum. Fears destination. Fears His plan, this pursuit. Knows exactly where I am most vulnerable, to strike with his hardest blow.

The initial impact, hurts. I know truth. He is not. I speak truth. He bellows lies. The mind, the mouth rebuke him. He reiterates deception louder, harder. Seems to pierce the heart. Faith shield goes up. Sword-Truth slashes lies. I speak Truth. Remind faith what I believe. The heart is strengthened. Lunge back The Defense. Jesus, The Name. Higher than any other. Name at which demons tremble, bow. Strongholds broken. Every high thing comes down. Under. The Name.

Not impervious to pain. Fear exists. Must be shut out. Hard. Trying. At times breaking. In all, Glory to God! His Word hidden in the heart. Defenseless, I am not. Satan, a victor, never!

Today, a new level reached. An old devil impeached. Much growth accompanies much opposition, trials, pain. Storms never cease to surprise. Through pain, growth. Joy the product. The blessing, the reward after every storm.

Standing. Standing. Standing still. Against the liar. In Jesus name. Victory.

Infinitely, pursuing. Future storms imminent. Exercising authority. Utilizing weapons. Each storm, growth, stronger. Transforming. More like me, the me, He intended, the me He created. The process, Blessings. Increase. Life. Freedom. Abundant Life. Mine. Constantly. Pressing. Pursuing Life. Awaiting the glorious return.

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Beautiful Diversity- Laura Townsend

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Last month, I spent the weekend with the love of my life, composing my first book proposal in a beautiful downtown hotel. Our 25th wedding anniversary, truly memorable…

As we park the car in the parking garage and walk into the hotel lobby, God begins to talk to me about diversity and the need to stretch outside my comfort zone and love His people for who we are.

It’s a beautiful summer day, our 25th anniversary. I feel a bit intimidated in the hotel lobby upon check in. I find myself in a collage of people from different backgrounds, different walks of life, different heritages. Some are quiet and reserved, others celebrate more obtrusively and loud. There are business men and women, a wedding party, a couple speaking a language I don’t recognize, obviously from an country far away. A girlfriends weekend getaway, an elderly couple in town for a doctor visit, a whole conference of Microsoft employees, a same sex couple wanting to be accepted in some way. I hear voices and accents all different, bodies shapes and sizes varied, skin colors, hair, eyes: diversity, yet we are all gathered here this weekend in this hotel to meet the common need for shelter and sustenance. When you get right down to it, how diverse are we?

I am uncomfortable. I stretch. My mind, thoughts, feelings, judgements…. Who am I? Does my discomfort line up with the Jesus in me? Do I love His creation, the diversity? Or does it terrify me and make me want to hide in my own little corner with only those who are like me? I DO want to embrace diversity! How? How do I do it? What can I do to break down the walls that separate? I want to love, learn, accept, make a difference.

How do I set aside the fear of our differences. I want to learn from diversity. Our differences make the world beautiful. Can I learn from you? Can I love what makes you different from me? Even when I disagree with your beliefs? Do I love you because you too are His creation and my fellow man?

We step outside the hotel lobby in downtown Houston. I take a deep breath, thinking I am walking away from the discomfort, diversity. It’s a beautiful day to take a walk, maybe look for a restaurant with some flare, something a little out of the ordinary, for our anniversary dinner. I am okay with diversity in that.

Before I reach the edge of the block, I am stopped by a man asking for help. Just released from prison, jobless, homeless, hopeless? On the streets of downtown Houston, how can I really help? I offer a $5 bill in his direction. Before he can even see what it is that I offer, he asks me to please just listen to his cause before I drop my money in his hand and escape his plight.

He wants more help than I can give, a job, a place to stay, just listen to his story, (or his excuse, I wonder)? I am not sure what to do. He tells me of a place he can stay for $12 a night, but how can he get there, it is not located downtown? I listen. I inquire of his belief in God and a personal relationship with Jesus? He tells me he has already tried all that and “he has his relationship with God”, as he speaks with a negative connotation.

I pray with him and give him a $50 bill, hoping he can get to a place to stay and find work. I don’t have a job or place for him to stay…. what else can I do?

I don’t know how, so I do what I can, to try.

This diversity thing, I struggle. I want a comfortable fit. I don’t like the feelings I experience. I don’t know how to embrace diversity.

Greg and I turn around. In front of the 4 star hotel, we walk past a prostitute, diversity. I am too uncomfortable to look her in the eyes. I know she needs what I have. Why do I pass her by. Still uncomfortable from my last confrontation with diversity. How can I overcome this? What can I do?

Back into our hotel room, sandwiches instead of dinner out. $50 to make a difference, a gift to fight my tendency to avoid diversity, originally money for our anniversary dinner. I do not regret the gift or the sandwich. I want to make a difference. I gladly eat a sandwich for our 25th anniversary. It is memorable, beautiful even.

I feel empowered, a little. Now on the rooftop beside the pool, a warm breeze blows as the sun sets on a panoramic view of our city. I defy the arguing inside my head that wants me to live small. I engage with the diversity around me. I strike up conversations outside my comfort zone. Amazingly, we can find something to talk about.

And what if different makes us compatible? What if differences could bring us together? I observe and process the differences, my thoughts, my feelings.

God’s creation is diverse. It is time for the body of Christ to rise up and embrace diversity. We are called to love one another, truly love one another, embrace the differences and use the differences as strength to reach the world for Christ.

There is a true beauty in the diversity God has created in the human race. We are a people of variety. Personalities, ethnicities, traditions, religions, beliefs. Colors of skin from darkest chocolate black to purest ivory white. Darkest, smiling, beautiful slanted eyes. Big round bluest sky. Eyes that resemble a window to the world. Slimmest lips of pink and red. Plumpest lips of darkest brown. Hands so fragile, hands so strong. Beauty is slender or in voluptuous curves. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

You created all things beautifully. Humans like flowers in the garden. We range in colors, shapes and size. We blossom and bloom in our own time and yet side by side intermingled we show off most gloriously.

Hearts that love You. One and the same. Hearts that don’t know You, yet beat to the same rhythm. A God to each of us, You show no favor. God of humanity diversity savors.
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Step Up to the Plate -Laura Townsend

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I have a stack of journals, the pages inside filled with my thoughts on God, and the beauty of the relationship He continues to nourish inside my heart. Today, as I looked at the stack of pretty, spiral bound books, I was drawn to one in particular.  Just looking at the cover I knew its contents as I do each of them. I know exactly which time frame of my life that they represent. This one though, is a stand alone from a particularly difficult period of time in my life. It is the only journal I have to span that period, the 10 years after the breaking.

For almost 10 years, I sat on the sidelines of my spiritual life. I did not engage in anything of spiritual significance. Early this morning as I opened the pages, I remembered the one memorable entry inside this journal. It is one that I will never forget. In my mind, I can describe much of the contents of each of these journals, based upon the memories of the times and seasons and the wonderful ways that God has spoken to my heart. This one, however, contains one of the most powerful entries in the whole stack. As I reread it this morning, there was fresh revelation and I realized that there was a season that God had allowed me to mourn. Then there came a day when He knew that I was ready and He spoke to me to reengage myself spiritually. The time that lapsed after that and before I chose to step into His calling, those years were years I could have been used for His purpose, but I chose not to.

Other entries in this journal and the fact that a journal exist in the time frame of my life signify that God was prompting me and there was movement spiritually speaking for me. There are children’s ministry messages and lesson plans inside this journal. There are prayer lists for my children on the inside cover. But I know the history that followed this journal from the year 2002 of my life, 2 years after the breaking, no other journals followed… Not until the flame was fanned and momentum returned another 8 years later.

Saddened my heart is to think of how God had wanted to use me, of the relationships I squandered by being of little or no significance, void of power, bold less for God. I know of people in my life during these days that needed the power that only God can offer. I do believe that God redeems the days lost and that every day of our lives He fits into His purpose but also that it does not mean that everything we choose to do is His ideal for us.

Joyful my heart is to recognize that despite my disobedience, God took the mistakes of my life and is reworking it all into something beautiful for His glory. I know that even during those 10 years, He used me, just not in the full potential that He desired for me.

Could God being speaking these words to you today?

The journal entry from 2002- edited… (This was during the years my daughter Chelsea played softball and I enjoyed life as a softball mom)

You are a mighty woman of God. You had come through a rough storm and I have allowed you to just coast for the past few years by your choice, because you wanted it. You felt stretched to your limit and you wanted the break. But now it’s time to step up to the plate.

You are a mighty woman of God. You have already put in the practice. You have done the training. Look at yourself, in high school, full of the Word- You were a witness even then, even without the full knowledge of My Power. See yourself – alone at the church anointing the pews, on your face on the floor, (praying for revival). I have used you since you were a child teaching My Word to the other children.

You are a mighty woman of God. The time for me to allow you to coast is over. It is time to step up to the plate. As you do you will find it will come easy. Home-run after home-run. You put in your time and now will begin to reap the benefits as you step up to your call.

What used to take much to pray through, will now be just a swing of the bat and I will help you put it over the fence.

I am giving you a great opportunity, the answers to all the prayers that have gone up. You are there. I am ready to place you, where your whole life, I have been preparing you for. So step up to the plate and bat.

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The Blessing After The Breaking- by Laura Townsend

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It was a beautiful, hot Texas day just a few weeks ago.  I was driving the back roads on my way home from a trip to Wal Mart.  Matt Redman, Brighten (my 5 year old) and I were singing at the top of our lungs, “Bless the Lord O my soul!!”  Then skip forward, “Never once did we ever walk alone.  Never once did you leave us on our own, You are faithful, God you are faithful!”  Then in my head a little conversation/ thought transaction took place between me and God.  I felt a huge sense of gratefulness as I felt His presence wash over me, then there was this strong knowing in my spirit that gratefulness had moved into that place, the place that at one time was a huge gaping wound, that wound that He so lovingly cares for as I go through the healing process.

At some point along the way the outer wound had healed over and a scar had formed.  The scar, over time had become stronger than that area had ever been before the injury and I knew that much healing had taken place.  I am not sure that we are ever completely healed from such brokenness.  I believe that healing is something God is constantly working in us up until the day that we leave this world and enter the glorious place that He has prepared for us.  On that day we will be completely healed and whole.  But on this day I can say that I am grateful that God allowed my marriage to journey through the depths of devastation and despair.  I am glad that my life and marriage were broken into a million little pieces, so many pieces that only God could take the pieces of my life and make it functional again.  Even more so, I am also grateful that He doesn’t just leave me as functional but is continually working on me, to make my life into something beautiful.

In that moment I knew that I had grown into a place of gratefulness.  God had allowed me years before to go through a trial in my marriage.  The days during that time were the most difficult days of my life thus far.  The pain I had experienced during that time was so intense that I had an overwhelming urge to check myself into a hospital and I don’t mean a hospital for mental issues.  I felt like I actually needed care for my physical body due to the extremity of the emotional pain in my body.  After God restored my marriage and the healing began, that hurt lingered in various strengths for many years.  Yet on this day, I discovered a recognition of a beautiful sense of gratefulness for what had taken place.

I never dreamed 13 years ago of the life that I live today.  I could have never imagined the beauty of the life that God desired for me to have and I know that today is just a glimpse of what He has planned for me.  Today I am grateful, God, I am thankful for what I experienced in that breaking process.  I can’t believe that I am saying this but, ” God I am grateful to you for allowing me to hurt.  Had You not allowed me to be broken in just this way, I could have never achieved what You are doing in my life today.  Thank you for your omniscience, for your sovereignty in my life!  Thank you for allowing me to be broken in the right place, in just the right way, at the right time so that today I can experience the life that you have for me and can be forever grateful for having been broken.

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