Freedom in Knowing and Embracing Truth

Truth will set you free

Friend, I don’t know about you, but as the longevity of my walk with Jesus increases day by day, my heart is becoming more aware of the lies that I had previously believed and embraced over the years.

Time and time again the enemy whispered in my ear.  He told me I was not good enough and that my life would always consist of pain and brokenness, that there was no way out. After-all, I was a Christian and Christians endure the unthinkable.  They never give up on a relationship.  They sacrifice for the sake of others, just like Jesus.  They embrace brokenness and heartache as a good soldier of Christ.

When you begin to believe the lie that your heart does not matter and that God has called you to live a life full of brokenness for the sake of another – friend, that is called enabling.  Last time I checked, enabling another to continue in their repetitive sin and hurt those who love them only brings disrespect towards you and in no way do those actions bring honor to God.  I used to very much dislike that word.  That very word was penned to wives who found themselves in similar situations like mine.  How could I possibly be “enabling” sinful behavior when it was the very thing that broke me time and time again? All I wanted was to be the kind of wife who helped, supported, and encouraged my husband.  However, this is where the problem was.  I wanted it MORE than my (then) husband wanted it and therefore, I was blinded by my own skin in the game.

Read the Bible more carefully! What did Jesus do? How did he respond to those who chose to continue in their sin?  Don’t fool yourself, please!  Don’t think that what you are doing by loving without boundaries and allowing yourself  to be wounded by the same kinds of betrayal over and over and over again is honorable.  I have come to learn that we can live sacrificially in a way that brings honor to God but we can also live sacrificially and nothing about our sacrifice is God-honoring.  This kind of sacrifice does not at all help the person who is held in bondage.  We may color it pretty with all the right “Christianeese” wording, but this will only work for so long.  A high cost is being paid for you to continue to stay in the pit with your betrayer….something needs to change and it starts with YOU!

I recently read a quote by author Gary Thomas which said, “It’s not a failure to know when it’s time to walk away; it’s a gift.”  I agree! The key is KNOWING.  Until you know, you wait.  Until you know that you know…there will more than likely be MORE heartbreak but the treasure of KNOWING is worth the waiting. Be patient.  Knowing is a process.  It is NOT a quick fix nor an easy way out.  It is NOT a decision to be made based on emotions. It’s attained by much waiting, prayer, fasting, wrestling, seeking God, and counsel. To know is powerful.  Knowing will NOT leave behind a heart of regret.  Knowing will give you the courage and confidence to move forward with strength and dignity as your God-given shield to combat the unknown and possibly difficult season ahead. But remember, unlike what you are used to, it will only be a SEASON; not a life-style of messiness and brokenness! Big difference!

I know this sounds harsh and somewhat bold but these are things that I wish someone would have shared with me.  And maybe they did, but my heart wasn’t ready to listen.

I remember in my early days of my (then) marriage reading the book “You Can Be the Wife of a Happy Husband”.  I marked it up, I hung onto every word.  I highlighted most pages and rewrote quotes in my journal.  I tried my best to live out the advice from this sister in Christ regarding how a wife who loves Jesus lived to make her man happy and above all to please Christ. It seemed to be on point with my understanding of marriage at the time.  Somehow I came to believe that if I did all the right things, checked them off my list of “what Godly wives do” my (then) husband would forever love me and his commitment would never waver.  Unfortunately, as time went on, I learned from actions and my repeated brokenness I couldn’t trust this person.  So, what did I do?  I  determined in my heart if I couldn’t trust him, I would just trust Jesus and I penned this as victoriously living. This is how I lived – for 30+ years.  Yet, it was far from victorious.   There was a constant wrestling full of battles I could never win.  You know why? Because this is NOT how God intended marriage to be.  Marriage should be a safe place to land not one of continued betrayal.

In hindsight, I had some really skewed thinking when it came to forgiveness.  Actually, I had the forgiveness part down…but my mercy was way out of balance.  In my thinking, if someone says they are sorry then as a Christian I need to forgive 70 times 7, which is true, right?  You CAN (and should) forgive… it’s a process that we have to work through with much prayer and surrender.  Forgiveness is about YOU, not the betrayer.  Forgiveness sets YOUR heart free from the bitterness that brokenness can cause.  However, we get this so messed up.  Forgiveness is totally separate from reconciliation….it takes only ONE to forgive but TWO to reconcile.  You CAN and SHOULD forgive without giving the repeated offender, the proven untrustworthy person, access to your heart again.  Don’t do it!! Did you notice that I said, “proven untrustworthy person”?  I am not talking about a stand-alone moment or event that hurt you; rather, I am talking about a lifestyle or pattern of behavior – repeated consistently with no repentance  – which has proven unsafe for your heart.

And Boundaries? Hmmmm.  What were those anyway? This term should be reserved for markings on a softball field or lines on a basketball court, right? Once you are married – in my happily ever-after girl mentality – I would have never thought you even needed them.   I. was. so. wrong.

All I knew was I had waited all my life to be married; to have babies and be the best wife and mom I could be with a husband who loved me as much as I loved him.  I was stubbornly determined to make it work even if it meant living life as a broken girl. Was it pride? Maybe! Was it fear? I am sure it was!  Was it about my children? Of course! Was it the desire not to disappoint others, including God?  Yes, that too.  I adamantly held on trusting that God would fix it and would take care of what I couldn’t as long as I worked on making myself a better wife, kept the faith and kept believing.

Yet, there I was.  Depressed, lonely, and crying buckets of tears behind closed doors nobody knew about.  I was so broken.  Suicidal thoughts? Yep, nothing serious, but nonetheless…my heart was full of regret.   There were times I wrestled with feeling hopeless, stuck, and trapped. This was not what I had signed up for.  I didn’t know love could hurt so deeply and so often.  However, I began to think it was normal.  After all, every couple has problems and are told to work through them, stick it out, work on changing yourself and let God take care of the rest.  So this is what I struggled to do over and over and over again, but somehow, I always fell short and my (then) marriage and broken heart proved it.

I poured my soul onto tear stained pages of pretty covered journals during those long ago seasons.  It was therapy for me. A means of  letting out what my heart so deeply felt but I couldn’t dare tell anyone.  Recently, I read back through some of those journals and literately cried for the girl that was.  She was young and gullible and so wanted to get it right that her stubborn resolve resulted in a toxic mindset of jumping through hoops of religious “good enough’s” and enduring relational pain that was destroying her from the inside out. What was once done out of love for her Savior soon turned into acts done with selfish motivation in hopes to save herself from being hurt again and to save her family.  With each new heartbreaking discovery came words out of anger that led her to feelings of guilt and shame.  It was a vicious cycle. Feeling as though if she just tried harder….prayed more, read her Bible more, etc. things would change and her heart could finally have a chance to heal.  She  was a broken, trapped young wife who didn’t understand why this was the life she was called to live.  She had done all she knew to do and yet, her life was marked by a brokenness that only Jesus could understand.

I saw a quote which said, “Marriage is like having a sleepover with your best friend every night of the week.”  Sounds so sweet, right?  Thanks be to Jesus, I now can say a big “Amen!” to that! But back then, not even close!  Secrets and betrayal do NOT nurture this kind of relationship; they only destroy it.   I finally realized, after many years,  what I thought was cut and dry as a “Christian” wife didn’t quite work like I had believed to my core to be true.  Yes, God hears and answers prayers! Yes, God is a way-maker! Yes, God heals broken marriages everyday.  Mine was just not going to be one of those and today I am okay with this.  I have not only survived, but I have felt peace and freedom of my soul like I have not remembered knowing before.  My kids have survived and thrived and I can honestly say we are all stronger and closer as a family than ever before!  God is truly restoring the “years the locusts have eaten” and He can do the same for YOU!

Here is the truth…..marriage was created by God to be a mirror of His extravagant and sacrificial love for the church.  However, it takes TWO in a marriage, humbly submitting to Him, then to each other for it to be a true reflection of how God designed marriage to be.  When both are living as God designed, it is beautiful.  Not perfect, but beautiful, nonetheless.  Grace in action – knowing the other never intentionally seeks to hurt, betray, dishonor, or destroy the heart of the other.

Let’s be honest…life can be messy and break our hearts. Yes, especially in marriage. However, even when there has been an incident of betrayal (not a lifestyle), there are many testimonies where there was true repentance and the couple was able to restore their relationship and come out on the other side stronger and with a story that helps others for the glory of God.  Subsequently, this is not always the case.  Sometimes the betrayal never stops. My lessons learned do not come from a one-time, backsliding season but from a lifetime of lies, deceit and betrayal over and over again.  Just like everything else God created, Satan seeks to tarnish it and ultimately destroy it.  He may have won the battle and left a heart full of scars. BUT God!

The lies I believed were exposed and I have now have a greater appreciation for God’s abundant grace.  Everything I have today is all because of His amazing, extravagant grace.  Yes, there has been a divorce; hearts of have been broken and lives have forever been changed.  Does this mean I am headed for hell? Does this mean God’s grace isn’t enough for all the messy brokenness that has affected so many? Is divorce the unpardonable sin? Is divorce even a sin?  All of these questions can only be answered in truth by God himself.  Who are we to put marriage on such a pedestal in the Christian community and think that only those who are married and have been able to stay married are more holy than those who have walked through the devastation of such terrible destruction and still have their faith intact?  I know my Jesus.  I know his heart for me and my children is nothing but love and healing of our broken hearts.  I know that while I was a divorced single mom, I was still accepted by God and He was STILL very much ordering my steps with His wisdom while pouring out blessings in the midst of the pain and challenges.  I have stories that involve “only God” moments!  Nobody can ever tell me differently. I have walked through it and I have experienced His faithfulness in abundance time and time again.  The religious haters of our day who call me and others who have been divorced and remarried adulterers and bombard us with Scriptures about God hating divorce are focusing on the wrong thing.  Shame off us and shame on them! We ALL are in need of the extravagant grace of God; not to habitually take part in sin, but to overcome it and rise above the trials and tribulations that come from living in a broken world.

To my divorced sisters who love Jesus and never thought their story would include the “D” word…..I would say, you are the bravest and gutsiest girls I know.  It takes BRAVERY to finally stand up to toxicity.  It takes GUTS to open your eyes to truth and quit justifying, downplaying, and hoping your life away while taking responsibility for someone else’s unhealthy and hurtful choices.  It takes a HOLY RESOLVE to STOP the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome.  It takes DIVINE STRENGTH to rise up and realize you are valued and worthy to be treated as such.  It takes DETERMINATION to walk through the darkness of divorce with your dignity intact. It takes COURAGE to fight for what is right and not allow compromise and rules to be broken because of scare tactics and threats.  YOU are chosen; YOU are loved; You are called; and YOU are the beloved daughter of a God whose grace and mercy trumps divorce and all the bad accolades that come with it.  He, my friend, is your Healer.  He did not cause your divorce but He is the ONE who can bring redemption to your broken heart and beauty for your ashes. None of us would have chosen this.  Life happens and we cannot control how others choose to walk it out, but we CAN choose to grab on to the hand of Jesus as we step out of the sinking boat and walk with Him towards a future that is full of His abundant grace and sweet beauty.

As I am writing this, I am profusely  in awe of my God.  Back then, I would have never imagined I would be where I am today.  Instead of tears of pain on the pages of my new pretty covered journals there are tears of joy and thankfulness.  The really amazing thing is when I look back I don’t see as much of the yuck as I see of God’s love in every page of my story – even the worst parts!  No doubt, I am where I am today because because I serve a God who redeems and makes all things NEW for HIS glory!   The pages that are now being written are full of life I have never experienced before and it is altogether beautiful and lovely.

Our God is writing your story, too, my friend.  You may be in the midst of the most horrific chapters this very moment but it’s NOT the end of your story.  New chapters are already in the works.  Don’t get stuck on one page, one period, and certainly not on one drama-filled event or even the heartbreaks and wounds that never seem to heal.  Pause if you need to; catch your breath and determinedly hit the carpet surrendering your messiness and heartbreak to your Savior. Be Brave, sweet sister! Pray, wait, seek counsel then follow through in obedience to what God shows you to do.  Anticipate His goodness.  He is NOT finished writing YOUR story! Keep turning those pages.  Keep your focus on HIM knowing that the best is yet to come.  Your heart will NOT always hurt as bad as it does today.  Because you are in the midst of…in the middle of….in the trenches of…. you may be wondering where God is.  You may feel as though your prayers are hitting the ceiling.  Keep praying.  He hears you, my friend. He sees you.  In His timing, He will reveal what you need to know.   As your story continues to be written and revealed….. God’s fingerprints of faithfulness from the front cover to the back will be undeniably evident! True story! Believe it!

What I Love About You….Our Happily Even-After

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     I truly felt like a love-stricken teenager at heart as I taped each envelope on the door to surprise my sweet husband.  This was only our second Valentine’s Day together as husband and wife but felt even more significant than our first. Why? Not sure! But I think it may have to do with the fact that I feel like I fall in love with him more everyday! Yes, it’s true!

As I purposely wrote each thought my heart was overwhelmed by God’s abundant faithfulness and amazing grace.

You see, Just a few years ago I really didn’t think I could entrust my heart to anyone in marriage again. The risk seemed way too high for this messy girl.  From my past experiences, love to me was painful and it meant to live sacrificially broken with unrelenting heart wounds for the sake of another…..because that’s what Jesus-loving girls do, right!??? (Not!! That was simply WRONG thinking! Blog post or maybe I should say “rant” coming soon, ha!) Unfortunately, just when hope of change was sparked and healing was in sight the messiness would come again and again….and again. So the story goes. 

But God….

When I first met Chris, even though I was undeniably drawn to him, my fears told me to run and I listened…ha! I was understandably scared and with a determined  stance, I stuck a  “closed” sign tightly over my heart.  But thankfully, with much prayer and wrestling AND the support of my dear mentors and friends the story didn’t end there! Chris respectfully, patiently and gently continued the pursuit and the rest is our happily-even-after!!! 

Even after….. 

Even after we both had made our share of mistakes. Even after we both had hidden scars from our messy and broken past. Even after we both had experienced the tearing apart of significant relationships. All because our God is the God of the “even after”! Our God is so so good!! He truly does bring beauty from ashes!

The words I wrote on each note were a reflection of my heart being able to experience…for the first time ever, the love that was meant to be shared between a husband and a wife! It’s altogether beautiful and I can say that I am truly thankful for the lessons learned from our “before” scars that have brought us to our “even after” story today. 

Friend, whatever your gut-wrenching story looks like today, it’s not over! In Christ, it is only a chapter, a season, and a tool to propel you towards your God-ordained, God-weaved, God-blessed and God-planned destiny! YOUR happily even-after story is coming! Believe it! 

Romans 8:28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

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Over the past few years we have experienced the death of two marriages in our family. To say that our family dynamics have dramatically changed is an understatement.  To see where we are today is nothing short of a miracle.  Not the instantaneous kind but the kind that comes from wrestling and determinedly walking out your days with God’s gutsy braveness and strength not because you are super spiritual but because there is no other option.   The odds were certainly against us.  The chances of us coming through such huge changes with relationships still in tact were not at all in our favor.

To be perfectly honest, when my oldest daughter came to me and told me she was getting a divorce…I selfishly fought against it.  See,  I was in the midst of my own messy, crazy and hard divorce from her father.  I held it together for the moment and then as soon as I could get away, I hit the carpet in disbelief.  Really, Lord? Why now? This is absurd! I can’t carry her brokenness and my own at the same time let alone my other kid’s brokenness!!  This was just too much….for her, for me, and for our family.  “Like mother, like daughter” was not a phrase that felt good  in the midst of our unwanted circumstances though it would seem fitting, Ugh! Having five children experience the terrible aftermath of the destruction of their own family unit is one thing.  However, to have one of those five children also experience the same kind of loss……in the same season, was inviting chaos of the worst kind to reek havoc in the hearts and minds of ALL my children. Oh my word!! I knew I had to get a grip.  As I ugly cried into the carpet that day in prayer pleading with God to intervene and wallowing in my own pity party,  I was reminded that He knows all things.  This was absolutely no surprise to Him.  His grace would be sufficient.   What seemed like such horrible timing and so messy would be worked for good no matter how things felt or looked from my limited perspective.  I had no choice and I knew it.  I had to embrace what I knew to be true of God and not let my emotions get the best of me.  I had to be strong for all of us.  I eventually stood up with a stubborn resolve but it was only a short time after that the guilt bombs and accusations attacked my mind from different directions. Subsequently, this only gave way to even more stinkin’ thinking.   I went from “please, God” to “oh, no…did I cause this?  Were my children reaping the consequences of my decisions? Was my own divorce giving my precious daughter permission to give up on HER marriage?  After-all, God hates divorce.”  Reality is, I hate divorce and yet here I was on the cusp of the “D” word being a part of my story and now doubly so for my daughter. We all know as a mom,  it’s one thing for life to happen to us but when it hits our kids it’s a whole different kind of brokenness.  They had already lost enough.  The possibility of it being a part of my daughter’s story, too…broke me.  “How dare I claim to be a christian and put my family through this.  Have I opened the door of destruction for those that I hold most dear to my heart?”  This thinking and more attacked every aspect of who I have ever claimed or wanted to be.   I hated the helplessness I felt but I knew  I had no control over outcomes.  This was not something I could fix nor wish away.  In the midst of this overwhelming sorrow, I repented.  I begged for God’s mercy to cover and heal any brokenness in my children that I may have caused.  I was so sorry for my part in all of this messiness.  Then I rehearsed in my mind the road that led me to the decisions that I had made and  I had a renewed resolve.  Now was not the time to question what I had already previously settled in my heart and mind through much prayer and counsel.  I knew what I knew.  I needed to be extremely careful of whose voice I was giving power to.  Did what I was hearing line up with what I knew to be true, if not…then I had to choose to let it go!! Not to say that I didn’t struggle anymore, because I did. I just did not allow those tormenting thoughts to be the boss of me……..I surrendered them to Jesus over and over again and slowly but surely they lost their power over me.  Thank you, Jesus!

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.     John 1:16

Now, several years later we are living out our stories redemption style.  The losses we went through do not compare to the new joys we are now experiencing.  What was meant to destroy us has only made us stronger and has given us a story that shouts of God’s amazing grace and faithfulness.  Only my children know the depths of the chaos and craziness that we have walked through but with that they have also known and witnessed the greatness of our God as He has came to our rescue time and time again!

Just recently, as I had a few precious moments with my daughter before she said “I do”, I was given the opportunity to pray with her.   As the words begin to flow, so did my tears. God so sweetly reminded me of how He had given us each other to share not only in the pain that had been a part of our stories, but also in these specific joy-filled beauty-for-ashes moments.  I don’t know of any mom who would ever plan nor want to go through a divorce at the same time as her daughter BUT not every mom gets the blessing of sharing the season of being engaged and married with her own daughter either.  How precious and how special.  I could not see in the get go, as I poured out my heart beside my bed that day, that God would so graciously weave our stories so closely together and create a beautiful ever after from the ashes we both carried.  I could not see then that God would take the ugliness of divorce and bring a strength and closeness among my children that wasn’t there before.  I couldn’t see then that I would get to meet and marry a special man and have the privilege of being  a bonus mom to two incredible kids and a mother-in-law to a man that would love my daughter and her siblings like no other!

Our God is truly the God of abundant mercy and grace and He is no respecter of persons.  In the midst of the unwanted parts of our stories, God redeems. He covers our shame with His love and creates within our story HIS story of amazing grace.  His grace is even more beautiful to me now than ever before.  I have been ever so desperate for it and I have  experienced the extravagance of it.   His grace has anchored my messiness to His marvelous perfection and created something so beautifully new.  His grace has truly been sufficient for me and my children and I can assure you that His grace is truly sufficient for you. Believe it, my friend!

I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for and confidently expect the Lord;  Be strong and let your heart take courage;  Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord. Psalm 27-13-14 

I have set the Lord continually before me;  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

…May grace (spiritual blessing) and peace be given you in increasing abundance [that spiritual peace to be realized in and through Christ, freedom from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts]. 1 Peter 1:2

 

 

 

Fake or Faith?

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Recently,  I had a dear friend transparently express to me that she feels like a “fake” many times as a Christian woman.  Yay! Somebody was finally real enough to say it!  I can so relate and just maybe you can, too! Our feelings and flesh are at war against our Spirit. When life is not going as we had hoped, prayed and envisioned the wrestling is fierce. We put on our smiles and our best foot forward in front of the watching world as we battle against anxiety, stress, pain, anger, unbelief or doubt behind closed doors.

I vividly remember that feeling of “fakeness” during countless seasons of feeling betrayed and deceived.   I sucked it up and lived many of my days pushing aside my brokenness in front of the outside world.  I would intentionally put on my mask like makeup as I headed out the door, all the while hearing whispers about how “fake” I was being.   But what I didn’t recognize at the time was that satan wanted to not only destroy my family but the very foundation of who I was as a beloved daughter of God!   How? By accusing  me of being a  “fake” Christian, time and time again.  For a broken girl who wanted nothing more than to serve the Lord and honor Him, those accusations were felt to my core.   The majority of the time while attending church events, girl’s night out, small group meetings, family gatherings, prayer meetings, etc.,  I was there with my smile in tact but inside I was a train-wreck.   The accusations of the enemy left me feeling even MORE defeated.  Since then, I have gained a different perspective.   It reminds me of the verse in 2 Corinthians 2:11 in reference to satan…”For we are not unaware of his schemes.”  This feeling of “fakeness” is no doubt, one of his “schemes” to cause us to lose our footing and faith and give up all together.

Here’s the deal…I believe that when I chose to stubbornly walk in a room with my head held high,  replacing tears with a smile, forcing one foot in front of the other, faith was winning! Sister, that is NOT fakeness!   Did my smile make me fake?  Did my determination to hit the floor each morning in spite of wanting to give up mean that I wasn’t authentic?   All of this wasn’t because I was a “fake” in my walk with Christ, BUT because I HAD faith even though my feelings were all over the place.

It is true that sometimes, okay…many times, we put on our masks.  Let’s just be honest.  We ALL do it! If we all walked around allowing our feelings to dictate our lives, what a messy and ugly world it would be!  Therefore, we wear our masks.  We wear them NOT because we are fake but because we live by faith.  Faith that doesn’t reveal our brokenness but our hope that our lives can be a testimony of God’s faithfulness to those who need it. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about transparency, sharing our stories and by all means, inviting others into our brokenness….but I believe that the enemy tries to discourage us by telling us that we are less than and not authentic in our walk of faith when we choose to put on that smile while feeling as though we are dying inside.

I am extremely proud of my dear friend that I mentioned earlier. Why?  Because her wrestling proves that she is throat punching the devil every time she chooses to continue to serve Jesus even though behind her smile she may be filled with doubts, fears, anger, pain, anxiety and all that other unwanted yuck that life tends to dump on us.

As women of God, we cannot base our life on our feelings. You may feel “fake” but if you are holding onto Jesus and battling those negative emotions by believing His Word, you are anything BUT fake! You are walking out your faith in a way that trumps your feelings! “Faith it till you make it” wins!  The next time the enemy whispers that you’re living a “fake” life, sweet sister remember this;

Your faith is the very reason you can STILL smile even if it is forced for a season and  even if, behind closed doors, your tears cover the carpet.

Your faith is the the very reason You can STILL get up and show up even though you may not “feel” like it and getting out the door takes all the fight you can muster.

Your faith is the very reason You can STILL worship even though it may be the last thing your flesh “wants” to do as the enemy is relentlessly whispering his lies in your ear.

Your faith is the very reason you can STILL serve and minister in spite of the tears and wrestling that no one sees because your faith is not based on your feelings but on choosing to do the right thing, in spite of them.

It is God’s grace that upholds us in the darkness so that we can display His Glory in spite of our fickle and changing feelings and circumstances.  That is living by faith!

Let God lead you, my friend!  There are opportunities that God places before us for the purpose of being real, vulnerable and transparent that is beyond the scope of  our intimate circle. However, there are many more times that you may need to intentionally put on that smile and put on your faith as you walk out the door AND that’s okay!  You are NOT a “fake”!  YOU, my friend. are a daughter of God Almighty who is walking out her faith in a way to bring honor to her Lord! Keep walking, keep shining, keep putting one foot in front of the other and know that one day your faith will become sight!  Faithin’ it and smiling with you, my sister! Faith wins!!

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7