From A Father’s Heart

Father and daughter relationship is one of the most beautiful gift to human being. Our God himself is always take a position as a Father and embrace us as His daughters. A daughter is safe when her father fulfils his calling by protecting and loving her with all of his might. Sadly, we know that in reality it doesn’t always happen. We have seen a relationship where father and daughter don’t communicate so much because he is busy with his occupation or think that it is her mother’s job to nurture the children. We have seen a father who emotionally and physically abuses his daughter. We have seen a father who abandons her daughter. If you don’t have the gift of father and daughter relationship as it supposed to be, then I want to encourage you to embrace your loving Father in heaven. His love is more than enough to heal your wound, disappointment, and hunger for father’s love. This is important because without our Father’s love in heaven, we will eventually become limp in the area of love and also may not have a healthy self image.

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Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. -Psalms 68:4-6

Hereby, I would like to give a father’s letter to his daughter. It is made by Ps. Philip Wagner, the one who has become a true father to his daughter. I know that most of us may not have this kind of earthly ‘ideal’ father, so I am deeply convinced that his letter will share a bit of real father’s heart for you. Take this letter as what our Father in heaven would like you to know. He always wants the best for you. He always wants to protect you. Nothing sadden him most then when you make wrong decision for your partner of life. May it blesses you all 🙂

January 12, 2009

Dear Paris,

Today is your mother’s and our 24th anniversary.

Those are kind of rare these days. Many times, relationships just don’t make for a marriage that will last that long. Sometimes people stay married that long, but they just kind of endure it and don’t really enjoy it like they once did.

My wish for you is that you enjoy a loving relationship and have a marriage that will last.

After having been married 24 years and helping hundreds of others in their relationships, I believe it has a lot to do with who you choose to give your heart to. A father wants the best in life for his daughter, and I’m no different.

You once said in a video message that when you got married, you wanted a man like me. You may not need someone like me (although I loved hearing that), but I do hope you end up choosing someone to give your heart to who will be a great match for you. As a dad, I would say to choose someone who is good enough for you, someone who is worthy of you. Ultimately, this is your choice … no one can make it for you. Others can only hope that you guard your heart above all else.

I’ve given similar advice to thousands of others but I thought I’d share it with you on this special day in a more personal way. My advice to you, as your daddy, is to find someone who is:

1. A Christ-follower.

This should be the number-one thing. I’m not talking about picking someone who says he is a Christian; we’ve met many people like that. I’m not talking about someone who knows a lot of Scripture or has been a church member; there are plenty of people who do those things who may not make a very good spouse.

I’m talking about a young man who has a genuine love for God.

Find someone whose faith inspires you to believe more and live with a higher focus, a person who wants to honor Jesus Christ in how he lives and in the choices he makes.

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This kind of faith will cause the person you choose to look for direction from a Source beyond his own thoughts and feelings. He will be compelled to be a servant at times when others focus on themselves; he will forgive when others want to hold on to little disagreements; and he will try to trust God when others just do it their own way. He will look to God’s Word for guidance and will be accountable to God for his choices.

I’ve seen some people compromise on this number-one quality and regret later because it affects so many other areas.

2. Respectful

A person who respects you will think about your feelings and desires before taking action and making decisions. He will make decisions that demonstrate that he genuinely honors you.

Respect changes everything about how we talk to each other, how we work through differences and how we arrive at our ultimate decisions.

He will respect God’s plan for your life. He will never encourage you or support you in disregarding what’s best for your life.

Respect causes us to be kind in way that others are not. It affects how we speak about each other to others and how we approach life together.

3. Protective

This does not mean that he is defensive. He is protective. To me, this means he is considerate of you. In our world today, it’s easy to be self-focused. When the pressure is on, we tend to take care of our own needs first. A person who is protective will think of you before himself.

He will protect you physically from harm and from his own desires that would put you at risk. To young people this includes pregnancy and disease, but it also means meeting your physical needs in everyday life.

He will protect you emotionally by stepping up in times when you may need that extra sensitivity.

He will protect you spiritually by keeping a watchful eye over temptations and distractions.

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He will protect your relationships, conducting his relationship with you in a way that does not jeopardize the other relationships that are important to you. He will not be competitive or unnecessarily jealous, forcing you to choose him in order to feel more important.

Love inspires someone to care for others enough to protect them.

4. A Man with Vision

A person with vision has ambition with purpose. A person with vision has direction.

Some people may have goals, but vision takes you somewhere.

Most young boys have big dreams. Some young men have interesting ideas about ways to make money. But ultimately you will probably want a man that is focused on “making a life,” not just “making a living,” someone who wants to make a difference in the world,

Vision brings confidence, confidence brings strength and strength brings greater vision. (Confidence is a quality that brings so much to a relationship, because it allows us to deal with situations that come up by focusing on those situations alone -not on our own hidden needs that subtly affect every conversation.)

Well, these are a few important qualities … Maybe you can stuck this note away somewhere and let it speak to your heart in the months and years ahead.

My wish for you is to enjoy love in its greatest form.

Love,
Dad

When it comes to men, please do aim high. 
Characters matter more than you can imagine. 

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As a man on his own, a father knows the best what to look for in a man to became his precious daughter’s partner of life. If a human father hopes the best for his daughter, wouldn’t be our heavenly Father wants the best of the best for his children?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. -James 1:17 [NIV]

A Godly partner of life is a gift from God. Ask him to guide your path to choose wisely. He knows the future. He knows which one is the best for you. God is not a God who wanted to hide the good things from you. But you have to let him guide you. And while you wait, grow in such a way that you will be the right partner for him too 🙂

Blessings,

Leticia

Photos by Baby Axioo Photography

True Love

When I ask people what is true love, they will reply with various kinds of answers. Some people may not believe in it, some people believe but they still have not experienced it. Some has lowered their standard regarding of their love story because the ideal so-called ‘true love’ is too good to be true. Some wait for the mr/mrs right because they believe that will be the moment they will experience true love. So they hop in one relationship to another to seek ‘the one’ meant to be for them. I’m not an expert of love. But in this writing, I’m going to share my definition of true love.

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True love has one source, God. God IS love (1 John 4:8). In Him, we can find what is true love and what is true love in actions. I find it is impossible to try to define true love apart from this truth. God has shown us what love is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In Rome 5:8, Paul described it so beautifully: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” True love sacrifices even to the point of death for someone who may not deserve it. We don’t deserve that kind of love from our God, but He gave it to us. He has shown us what it truly means to love someone. Love is giving … your very own for the sake of your beloved. It’s always comes from within and not because of what others have done for you. Otherwise, it will be a business transaction, no longer a ‘love’.

Yes, true love nowadays is rare. Maybe because many people refuse to believe on its existence. Even if they do believe, they believe it for the wrong reasons and motive. True love is not when you find the right one for you. It’s unrealistic to depend entirely on someone ‘perfect’ who can make your life happy. If we see it closer, it’s a bit of selfish, isn’t it? If we strive for this definition of true love, we will always fail. We will end up in jumping from one relationship to another, looking desperately for ‘the one’, leaving more scars in our hearts. True love is also not when everything is perfect. No one is perfect. Therefore there will be flaws in your partner, obstacles in your relationships. Parents’ approval, emotional baggage, difference in characters, habits, and preferences may be obstacles that you have to face together. True love isn’t free from these problems, but it always find a way out and endure the hard seasons of life together. I know it sounds so idealistic. But it really takes two people who are committed to each other through the good and bad to make love lasts. Only a love that has persevered and conquered many obstacles in life can be called true love.

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The whole point in loving someone is sacrifice. Will you sacrifice your preference in watching movies that you like and watch his/her preference? Will you sacrifice your time to be with him/her? Will you sacrifice your money to satisfy him/her? Will you sacrifice your ego to apologize to reconcile with him/her? You can see that the standard of true love is so high that we find it is very difficult to achieve the perfect score. Yes, it’s difficult. Therefore we really need to connect with the Source of love itself and draw love supply from Him. Only people who has satisfying relationship with God can satisfy his/her partner of life. Only people who feel loved all the time by God can love their partner all the time. We may dislike our partner sometimes, but we can still choose to love him/her anyway. If you feel that your relationship with God is not right or you ‘feel’ distant [I emphasize the word ‘feel’ because it is always us who feel that God is distant, but actually He is always with us], then it is wiser to build your relationship with God first before you start with someone. How can you do that? Spend time with Him. Pray and spend time to read His words and let it works in your heart. Too many people settle  in their relationship with God. They think they have it enough. Keep Him involved in everydays of your life and let Him fill you with His abundant love.

I find that the partner who is ready in a committed relationship is the one who doesn’t need a partner anymore. Why? Because God is their partner. They find Him sufficient. An earthly partner will be an addition to their wholeness in God. Don’t let human being fill your loneliness in life. Go to God. True love is given to those who are mature enough to sacrifice and love the God’s gift of partner. You don’t expect partner who has so and so qualities while you don’t have it either. Grow yourself first. Make it a purpose that you will give the very best version of you once you meet him/her. Make them feel blessed when they have a partner who love the Lord with all of their hearts, minds, and souls. Make them proud when they have a partner with mature characters, responsible, committed, honest, discipline, and strive for growth in life.

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True love is a gift from God. It happens when you REST in Him and not frantically seek potential partner of life. Some argue that we need to pray and work to find him/her. Some argue that we need only to pray and wait. So which one is right? I believe it is both in the right proportion. We don’t expect that we can only pray and really do nothing in our home and hope God will send him/her right at our door. But we also are not frantically seek him/her as if it really depends on our own effort. Do you get what I mean? It is a beautiful balance between praying, developing pure friendships with opposite sex, and waiting. I highlight “pure friendships” because most of people do not intend for friendship. They intend for dating. It’s really a different stage. The very sign whether you are developing pure friendships or dating him/her is asking yourself, “Will you still be friend with him/her when they have boyfriend/girlfriend?” I find that most people who intend for dating draws their presence from their  opposite sex ‘friend’ when they commit relationship with other. There is also none of physical contact that can send different signals when it is in pure friendship stage. Don’t rush in to “dating stage”. Take time to really know him/her. Don’t let the flings or the ‘feeling’ of love blind you from defining the truth.

I believe that as a woman, my part is to wait and not to seek. My part is to develop Godly woman qualities that will be a gift to my future partner. My part is to preserve dignity and not tossing my feelings and bodies easily to men who may not committed for long term relationship. There is no space for trial and error for me. I wait for 21 years and not get into relationship until God shows me the right time has comes. I don’t wait idly but productively doing things for His Kingdom. And in spite of many ugly realities around, I preserve my faith that my God, the Source of love, is the best Author of love story. He really writes a beautiful love story for those who give the pen for Him. Surrender your love story in full of faith. Don’t expect less because the world around you give you bad examples. Expect more in God. When it comes to your love story, aim high. Get ready to make a lot sacrifices but also get ready to reap the beautiful fruits of it in the end. Choose a partner who has been tested through difficult times. Someone … who is worthy of you. Someone who fights for you. And wait patiently for God’s timing to make His wonderful plans unfold. I can ensure you, it will be worth the wait.

Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography

Blessings in Disguise

There are seasons of life. There are people who go through the same season like us, there are also some who face different season than us.  Among the crowd, I observed that there were some teenagers who were hanging out with their peers, some were young parents with their babies, some were families who were looking for a place to have a lunch, and so on. They are in completely different ages and seasons of life which later on lead to different priorities. For teenagers, their social life might mean the whole world. Their friends are everything. Hanging out with friends can make them feel cool and secure. For young parents, their babies are the attention grabber of their new life. They can’t do whatever they want without being interrupted by the babies’ needs. What about my world? Well, my role now in my home is as a young adult daughter with parents. It is quite challenging when we are in the age that society defines us as mature while we still need to submit to authority of our parents at many points in our lives. The culture I live in has a normal standard that a daughter lives their parents only when she gets married. Living alone when you haven’t got married for our typical parents can be regarded as dangerous. Moreover when our generation’s purity standard is in pitifully rate. So in sum, I feel stuck. I feel like I can’t be free as I supposed to be on my age. I can’t have a place to stay on my own, I can’t fully decide everything major without permission from parents. To ignore their  prohibitions will be regarded as an act of disrespect according to them. But my view has changed when one incident came into my life … and here I want to share what I find regarding obedience to parents.

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Parents … can be real enemy but can also be our true friends. It can be real enemy because they are mostly opposed your wants and current values in many areas of life. They are the one who can say, “No!” when everybody surrounds us shout, “Yes!” They are those who loves us but sometimes cannot express it the way it should be. Well, parents are still human you know.. In my culture, parents who can say, “I love you,” everyday to their children are completely rare. They perhaps express their love on their provision of daily needs and protection. Please do highlight the word “protection” before! The willingness to protect us can be actualized in the forms of prohibitions, rules, and restraints. If you are young, you know that way is totally ineffective. More rules will only make young people get more rebellious either in their hearts or actions. So, conflict between parents and children are totally unavoidable. There will always be difference of points of view, miscommunication, misunderstandings, and so on. Our language of love may be different from theirs. But on the opposite sites, parents are totally our true friends. Why do I think so? It’s because they are those who will be on our side even when the whole world leave us out. They will always be there in our toughest moments of life. Friends do come and go, but parents … will always forever be parents. They stick with us no matter what.

Apart from understanding this, I still find myself struggling with submission at times. Love … seems natural for parents to children. But for children to love parents? It takes what I call: REAL MATURITY! We can see that we are accustomed to receive since we were being born to this earth. We receive milk, food, education, compassion, attention, gifts, and uncountable things to be mentioned. It would be unnatural for us to love because love demands us to take position as a giver unconditionally. That unconditional part sounds hard, does it? Parents’ love are unconditional. They love us no matter what.. simply because we are their flesh and blood, their children. Keep a note that ‘love’ does not always go along with ‘like’. There are a lot of our characters and behaviours which they may don’t like. But no matter how many they are, they don’t change our parents’ love to us. That’s how amazing their love is! They can tell out the world about all your weakness and even pissed off with you, but at the same time they also can’t stop thinking and worrying about you [Okay, I do realise that not all parents are the same. But what I convey here is the truth in general which I see through my very own eyes :D) Back to my main point, so how can we love our parents unconditionally? And how can we submit to them more easily?

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The first fact we need to establish here is acknowledging that we are not love ‘producers’. Only God, who is love (1 John 4:8), can produce the wellspring of love within us. It takes us to catch His heart regarding honoring and obeying our parents and let Him work within us to will to do so. Realise that love is a decision, not a feeling. Like is a feeling. Love is the compassion you decide to give no matter how you feel. And that’s lift up love to entirely a higher standard! It is completely a decision to keep caring and loving no matter they ‘deserve’ it or not. I have learned that it is through loving the things I don’t like is where my character grows. When my parents asked me to do things I dislike, it takes a decision to obey as an expression of love to them. Since I was not a very good girl back then in this area of obedience, it is common that I am still treated as a disobedient girl most of the time. Parents can say many discouraging words that do not motivate us to express love further. I used to be discouraged because of such response. But as I grow now, I know that it should never hinder my very intention to express love to them.

What we don’t realise is, parents’ hearts have many pains caused by others in this world. It is not easy for them to receive love as love and be gratitude because of it instantly. For some, it takes continuous actions of love for years to make them believe that they are loved. Now we get into very important point here: our love is not love until the receiver feels loved. We may argue that we have done this and that but unless our receiver of love feels loved, that means nothing. It really takes … patience to be a lover. 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” – 1 Corintians 13:4[NIV]

In its origin language, “love”  here is using the word “agapao” which is the highest form of love from God to men. Unconditional and sacrificial love. And it becomes more interesting when “patient” in its original language is “makrothumeo” which means long-suffering, to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles, offenses and injuries of others, not to lose heart, slow to anger, slow to punish. A double WOW! Love is not that simple. Even the word ‘patient’ lost its deep significance to describe what love really is. Love is a gift that can only be given by a real mature person.

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As now I am growing as a young adult, I need to lift up my standard in my relationship with my parents. It is no longer about me as a spoil little princess who receive anything she wants and demanding love and attention from them, but me as young adult seeks to love, honor, respect, and serve them as my gratitude for raising me up this far. It’s not an obligation, but the way to express my gratitude to them. And through the ups and downs in my journey of learning to love my parents, I have learned that parents do feel loved the most when they feel respected. Respect is being actualised through obedience. Of course, it doesn’t make us to be like a robot who needs to do everything they want, but it is very very very (when I repeat it three times it means verrryy important) important to convey our opinions in respectable manner and neutral tone. Through my experience, it really sadden them a lot when you speak rudely to them.

We will never can feel how hard it is being a mom/dad before being one. But trying to feel what it’s like on their shoes will help us a lot to change our attitude to them. Rules and restrictions they give can be translated as, “I am worrying about you when you do this and that..” So we need to ensure that worry-producer factor is being resolved. For example, when parents say, “You are not allowed to come home above 10 pm!” They are actually worrying about many crimes during late night especially when you are a girl and alone outside. They will feel safer when you go home earlier. Respect their feelings. Go home earlier will not make an end to our world  anyway 🙂 Our friends, if they are really good, will understand about that. For every restriction, there will always be a reason behind it. They may not able to communicate it clearly, but try to understand even it doesn’t make sense to our logic. It takes faith to obey your parents just like it takes faith to obey our God. We have to believe first that they will always think for our own good. If they have to change their mind, trust that God will do it in His time. It is never our job to change them. Our job is to provide a safe environment to allow the required changes to happen through continuous love and respect.

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Last but not least, for me, parents are blessings in disguise from the Lord. There are so many blessings hidden behind their words and actions that we may don’t like. We can only receive those blessings when we walk in obedience and faith day by day.  There are so many things that I am glad I obeyed my parents back then and it protected me from unnecessary hurts. God has given our parents for a reason. Embrace them the way they are as they have embraced you since you were in the womb.

Proverbs 10:1
The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.”

Proverbs 13:1
“Wise children take their parents’ advice, but whoever makes fun of wisdom won’t listen to correction.”

Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography

The Beauty of Submission

Have you ever thought why do married couple get divorced? How can a relationship that started so sweet and romantic turns into bitter and painful? How do they get from where they were to where they are now? What went wrong? Is there any way to prevent that happen to us? As you can see, it is hard to find a harmonious and long-lasting marriage these days. The celebrity whose movies we often watch may already have three marriages and they are going to divorce their current spouse. Most of the people are eager to find “the right one” and when they find their spouse isn’t “the-right-one-should-be”, they find an excuse to break the vow they made on their wedding day. Life has become an endless search for “the other half” and will not find rest until they find one. Reasons for divorce are also varying from unnegotiable differences, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, domestic violence, lack of money, no more love, and many more. I am not going to discuss whether we should or should not divorce out of these various reasons. What I would like to address in this post is to show us the picture of marriage as God has designed it to be. I know the world gives us many examples which are so different than what I want to reveal to you. But could it be the world’s way simply does not work so that they end up mostly in heartbreak and divorce? If we want a different result from most of marriages around, we need to take a different role model, a marriage that is designed by God and not human. Before we make any decision that will change our entire life regarding marriage, whether entering marriage or getting out of it, let us move backward and see marriage as God sees it 🙂

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Marriage … in God’s eyes is very special. God LOVES marriage. Jesus even made His first miracle, turning water into wine, in a wedding party just to save the party so that it would not ruin. One of the first thing happened in the beginning of the Bible was the  marriage between Adam and Eve, and also will end with a great wedding banquet in heaven. Marriage is very dear to God’s heart because it is the kind of relationship that reflects His love to human the most. Jesus consider us, sinful human, as bride while He is the groom. So man plays the role of Jesus while the woman plays the role as the church in a marriage (Ephesians 5).

I don’t know whether you are familiar with the Bible passage below or not. Some people think that the Bible is boring, but I’d love to help to show you God’s heart through this passage. So please bear with me and learn to read it slowly 🙂

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church -for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery -but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” 
-Ephesians 5:21-33 [NIV]

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Why do I include a long passage here? It’s because many people take only part of it but seldom see the whole picture. I found men who demand his wife to respect and submit to him because he is the head of the family. He can use Ephesians 5:22 which says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” or Ephesians 5:33b which says, “…and the wife must respect her husband.” But the question is, “Is it really what God want?” Nope. The verse before Eph 5:22 clearly says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” How can we submit to one another? What is it look like? How can the head of family submit to his wife?? Let us look at verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..” How does Christ shows love to us (the church)? By dying for us. He sacrificed himself for us. When Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives ..” he used the word ‘agapao’ for ‘love’. Agape is the form of love from God to human. Agape is unconditional and sacrificial! Men are called to love with the highest form of love to their wives! Amazing 😀 And what an interesting connection with what Jesus once said, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over them; yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” (Luke 22:25-26, NLT)

So, what the “head” in the family should do? To serve. The best way to go up is to go down. The best way to lead is to serve. That’s what Jesus was saying. He even gave us example though washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-16). In those days, washing feet is a job of the lowest of the lowest slave who cannot do anything else in the house! There was no way to be heard that a person in upper social hierarchy washed the feet of persons with lower social hierarchy! Jesus turned around the whole system. If you want to lead, serve. Don’t call yourselves as the head of family when serving is the least thing you would want to do for our family members.

Marriage in God’s eyes is the best place to practice servanthood. Marriage can only work when what we prioritise the most is “How can I serve my spouse better?” and not “What can you do for me?”. It is so important that we should not allow one day even passes without considering how to make our spouse’s life happier and easier. Imagine when both husband and wife serve one another daily like this! I bet there is no need divorce between marriage couple anymore. But of course, it won’t be easy. It takes us to die to ourselves to serve others. It takes us to let our ego and pride die to make a way for love to grow and live. But  I never get bored saying this: hard does not mean impossible. It is possible as long as we are willing.

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The world’s ways of marriage turn into failure with one main general cause: because one or both of the couple use marriage as a place for them “to take” and not “to give”. They focuses on, “What can I get” rather than “What can I give.” Can you give me love, enough money to cover expenses, attention, faithfulness, security knowing that I am no longer single?” How about we think the other way around? Let’s ask ourselves, “Can I give you love as God loves you? Can I commit to serve you all the days of my life?” If we are not ready to serve, then we are actually not ready for marriage. That makes marriage is only for mature persons. Maturity itself is not defined by our age. Many people get married because their age says so. But we can find 40-years old person who only think about themselves only. Maturity is when we are able to think others more than ourselves, bear the responsibility and willing to sacrifice ego for greater cause (long-lasting and enjoyable marriage, for example.)

Love is not enough to be a strong foundation of marriage. Moreover, lust of sex will be much weaker foundation for marriage. Great marriage does not just happen. It requires intentional hard work. Our career is a work, but our relationship within marriage is the greater and more important work. A neglect of its importance can cause us a great heartache and sad ending as most people have. Submit to one another. Submission isn’t the sign of the weak, but the strong. Strong is the man who can put down their ego for the greater cause, happiness of both. I believe we don’t have to experience bad marriage as people do. There is a HOPE! What a good news! But we need to start and work on it with a different way, God’s way. Would you like to embrace His way and make it your own too?

Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography

First Thing First

One of my favourite TV Reality Show is Master Chef US. I love seeing people cook passionately as they pursue their dreams. After watching it, I was inspired to learn cooking by myself as well haha.. I started to watch some Youtube videos about the basics in cooking. What I love most is what Gordon Ramsay said in one of the episode of his Ultimate Cooking Course: “When you cut your ingredients, use your three-fingers-rule to hold it and start to cut it slowly. Don’t worry about the speed. If you get the basic right, speed will come along.

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It is kind of reminding me about the basic of piano when I learned when I was teenager. When I started to play piano, all I wanted was to learn a new song every week. I disliked practicing for fingering (which is not in a form of song). It consisted of a lot of repetition  of tones that are close in its position to strengthen your fingers.  All great piano players started with that since they were very young. But what I wanted was skipping that part and learning difficult songs right away. As you may guess, it didn’t work well. I might be able to play the song, but not as good as people who has more refined techniques and strong fingers. I think most of us who has a nature of being impatient struggle with this kind of stuff in many areas of life. We don’t want spend a lot of time to learn about the basics, all we want is to go to the advanced stuff so that we can be perform cool in front of others.

Unfortunately, this also happened in church life. You may often hear, “All we want is to get married, don’t tell us to join pre-marital classes to be fed up with lots of theories. We want to just do it and let it flow. We love each other. We can get married NOW.” Or you may also hear, “I can preach! I know lots of stuff in the Bible. I can preach NOW.” Wow.. such impatience can really lead us to disaster! Why? Because it is like building a tall building without a strong foundation. It just cannot be. Even if it can stand tall by now, it is only a matter of time, when trouble hits, it will be destroyed. Imagine if we start to cut the ingredients as if we are a Master Chef when we have zero experience with the knife. We tried to cut it as fast as we can just like what we watch in TV. We don’t want to cut it slow like a snail. We ignore the bla-bla-bla rules of how to cut properly and all we think about is the speed. We may cut our finger accidentally as a result.

Imagine, if we enter marriage without enough knowledge and skills about how to build a great marriage. Many failed marriages around us should make us think that marriage is not easy. There were things that they did which eventually make their marriages failed. And there must be also things that we can do to make it work. How can we know?  We can steal the precious lessons when we learn from those who have a great marriage! And the more we learn before we marry, the better preparation and the stronger foundation we have to move ahead.

As another example, imagine if we preach just out of knowledge without enough good practical example and character that we have lived in our own life. People will see our double-life and soon they will not listen anymore to our teaching. Why? Because people will respect what they see more than what they hear from us. So, if this is not the time for us to appear in front of public, call it a preparation phase to build our character, which will be a strong foundation in our future ministry. So, first thing first. Build the foundation of everything in your life, before you build anything. 

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We have known that foundation is so important. Now, what does a strong foundation look like? The Bible always points Jesus Christ as the foundation of everything. As believers, Jesus is ought to be the centre of our lives. A strong marriage is the one who place Jesus as the centre and build up after his wills.

“For by him all things are created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities -all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” -Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV).

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” -Psalm 18:2 (NIV)

We have seen many people tend to rush in building their dreams with least preparation or wrong foundation. For example, many people enter marriage with weak motives such as, “Because my age is already 29.” Many don’t realise that such weak motives can create cracks on the building of marriage they are going to build. The most common question which is being asked by psychologist when they face problematic couple is, “Why did you marry at the first place?” Weak motives are weak foundation and no wonder the road will get bumpier in days to come. So, first thing first. Find the WHY before you make every huge decision in life. And make the WHY become your strong statement so that each time you are tempted to give up in the middle, you can go back and be strengthened with it.

If you ask me why I choose to marry, I will give these answers:

1. Because I want to build a Godly marriage, family, and home. A marriage that will glorify God and become blessing for others. A marriage that will inspire others to love their spouse in the way God wants it.

2. Because I trust completely in my partner and together we can build a stronger partnership for ministry.

3. Because I want to grow more in Christ-like characters. I am fully aware that marriage will become the toughest school of character in life, yet it will also be the most rewarding. I realise that in order to make a great marriage, I have to die to self. I have to say goodbye to my ego, I have to serve, sacrifice, and prioritise my spouse and others to bring harmony at home and glory to God. I am also aware that marriage comes with a huge responsibility. I honestly feel that I haven’t ready yet to do it now and I manage to focus on keep building my character as foundation later on so that once I enter marriage I am already a fully grown woman (cannot be perfect for sure!) and mature in Christ so I will be more equipped to be Godly wife and mother.

These reasons may sound so ideal. But as we have discussed before, we need to set up the WHY so strong at the very beginning so that when we are tempted to give up, we can re-focus again and gain strength for the long haul.

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Your marriage and your dreams in the end are not about YOU. It’s all about JESUS. The question is not: “How can my marriage makes me happy? How can my dreams make me happy?” But instead, “How can God’s name be glorified through my marriage and dreams?” Many do whatever it takes to reach their success in life, but do we do whatever it takes to please God in every area of our lives? First thing first. Behind everything you do, aim for pleasing God in every step of it. Thereby, we won’t be confused of taking the wrong steps where God clearly won’t guide us to do. If our role are as husbands and wives, aim to be the best spouse we could ever be. If our role are businessmen, aim to be the successful one while maintaining integrity in the eyes of God. In everything … do as if  unto the LORD.

“Whatever you do, work it with all your heart, as working for the LORD, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” -Colossians 3:23-24 [NIV]

The fact that we have built a strong foundation and aimed for pleasing the Lord in everything we do doesn’t mean that we are immune from calamities, suffering, and failure in the eyes of the world. The fact that we live in a fallen world will keep being our background of our daily lives. We will be different from the majority who do things in worldly ways. We may be considered weird, odd, ‘holy’, conventional, and many others. We may be even mocked or get into trouble simply because we are different from them. That’s why we need to keep back on trusting the Lord day by day. First thing first. The whole journey of life is not about how many people you please. It is not how many achievements you get from the world. It is not about how much money you earn. It is a constant journey of trusting the Lord from the beginning until the end. Do we believe that the Lord will protect us from any harm? Do we believe that if I refuse to do things in worldly ways, God will reward me? Do we believe that God’s peace will abide in us in spite of our circumstances? Do we believe that God will provide for whatever we need?

“For in the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
 -Romans 1:17

Our whole journey of live began with faith in God and will end with faith also. Stay steadfast on your faith in God. Believe that God is good no matter what. Because with such strong and steady faith, we can conquer every suffering of the world and every attacks from the enemy. Of course, it doesn’t make any sense to our logic to believe the goodness of God when everything in our lives go from bad to worse. I have to admit that it is difficult. You know what I did when I face difficulties in life? I poured out my heart to God. My sorrow, my complaints, everything. I am honest with the Lord. I will tell Him when it is painful. I will cry. I live as a normal human being when facing difficulties. But after that, I will come back in track. I will seek what is God’s will for me at that moment. I will find my refuge back in His faithfulness which has been proven for thousands of years in the Scripture. I learn to be grateful and to praise Him even though it is hard. And I believe, by doing that, I grow. I grow stronger in my faith with the Lord and more intimate with Him. King David, a man after God’s own heart, wrote so many complaints to God in the book of Psalms. But I like his attitude after delivering those complaints, he would go back to praise God and declared his trust on Him.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,

    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

    by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;

    they trusted and you delivered them.

To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” 
-Psalm 22:1-5 [NIV]

There is nothing please God more than when we trust in Him. Trust will lead to obedience to His Word (because we trust that His Words will be a great recipe to solve ALL of our problems even it doesn’t happen in our time, but His time!)

First thing first. Build such a strong foundation in our lives although it will require us to have a long preparation. Do everything as if unto the Lord and make it a purpose for us to pursue. And trust God’s faithfulness and goodness no matter what. By then, we will grow strong in the Lord and live a life in a way that will give a meaning to God and others.

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Love,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography and Axioo

The Right Person

There is a saying goes like this: “Show me your friends, I will show you your future.” Wow.. that’s deep you know. I mean.. is it really you can tell more about me or even my future just by seeing who are my friends? Yup.. we may not realise it, but the people surrounds us most of the time influence us more than we can imagine. The way they talk will much or less influence the way we talk too. What they regard as right or wrong somehow will give influence in what we regard as right or wrong too. If a friend who may not live with you 24-hours and perhaps spend time with you only about three times a week will shape your future, how much more do you think your partner of life (spouse) will eventually influence you?

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I have been thinking lately about how much our boyfriend/girlfriend can start influencing us in many ways. I have felt that and I have seen that happens to other couple as well. I heard a mother says, “I do not have to know my son’s girlfriend. I need only to see what change she has made into my son’s life.” It sounds harsh at first, but as I think about it more, I find a hidden wisdom there. Yes, this mother knows exactly that a partner will unavoidably influence her son. She has experienced itself in her marriage anyway! The simplest way to know whether his son’s girlfriend will do good for her son in the future is by seeing whether her son grow in character and behaviour after dating with the girl.

When we are in love, many people say that we will be blind. We cannot see our partner’s flaws so clearly because we are under the spell called “love”. In contrast, our parents and good friends, can see much more clearly and objectively. Me, as a young woman, of course, there is so much energy to rebel and prove that they are wrong and my judgment is right. But reality has convicted me that most of the time, they are right, and I have to learn so much more. What a lesson! Yes, receiving someone’s advice and admitting humbly that they may be right is a process of falling down to your knees and put to death to our young ego and truly seeks what God really wants for us in romantic relationship. His will, not ours. His best plan, not our plan. His choice, not mine. So that makes me pondering what are the qualities for the right person to be with for the rest of our lives? Of course, I’m not referring to the perfect person which never exists. So we are talking about a person whose both strength and weakness can make our ship of love sail against all kinds of storm of life. The kind of partner who will build a love that endures and thrives until death set us apart.  Here are some of the qualities of “the right person”:

1. The right person will make you grow deeper in your relationship with God

This is the first and most important quality that our partner should have. The world often reverse the order in knowing someone to: body -> soul -> spirit. When we see hollywood movie, they all define the process of love backwards:

one night stand -> knowing who you slept with -> I don’t care what your believe system is as long as we are in love.

We can see clearly that when we prioritise physical intimacy ahead of spiritual intimacy, our judgment will be clouded under the spell of ‘love’ or perhaps to be exact, ‘lust’. We cannot see the purpose of the relationship objectively anymore. We don’t even bother the necessity of such thing. “I know he has different belief with me, but we are in love. He promises to come to church when we get married.” If we are doing the order backwards, we are cooking with a recipe for disasters.

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God wants there is a unity in spirit –> soul –> body. We should be standing in common ground in regard of our faith. Does he/she believe that Jesus Christ is their personal saviour? Does he/she live out their faith? Does he/she has a desire to grow, to serve, and to learn God’s Word? Because many will admit as Christians, but many are doing that for lips service, or they might be in a baby stage of growth. They still need some time to grow. Their life will show whether their faith is genuine or not. We don’t want to be judgmental regarding people’s spirituality, but we are doing this to assess our compability in spiritual area with our potential partner. Be honest with your own eyes. You get what you see now. When you are in doubt, pray to the Lord, and ask what He wants for you and obey Him. The unity of body (sex) is preserved for marriage only. Outside of marriage, sex can only lead to misery: unwanted pregnancy, sexual diseases, heartache, and many more. The best time to control our sexual desire is now, when we are still single. When we can’t control it when we are unmarried, how can we be sure that we are able to control it when we are married? It is just the way our body works. Pray for God’s grace to enable you to do so. Because the best way to follow God’s way, is to use God’s strength and our decision to be willing to obey Him 🙂

2. The right person will challenge you to grow to be a better person inside and out

Let us recall what the mother said before. If her son gets worse in behaviour, in his speech, etc, there is no doubt for her that her son’s girlfriend has influenced him. We may not realise that we have changed in a certain way, but those who live with us and observe us continually will do. They see what we cannot see. When parents are pointing out something that they disagree with, our response should be to humble ourselves and listen although it’s hard. They give us a precious hint of what should be changed in our characters and behaviour. I dislike being treated with full of correction at first, but as I grow, I realise what my parents do is a favor. I mean, it is better for them to correct me now, rather than my (for example) mother-in-law to do so! It is better to be embarrassed in front our our own parents  rather than someone outside correct us more harshly.

The right person, will simply make you a better person. If you always late before, he/she will challenge you to be on time. If you are lacking of patience, he/she will help you to be more patient. A good relationship will be as iron sharpens iron.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” -Proverbs 27:17 [NIV] 

It may get uncomfortable for us, but if we are willing to grow in character, the process will go less painful and it will get easier by time. Real love is tough, you may have heard. Tough love is defined as an expression when someone treats other person he loves sternly with the intent of helping him in the long run. If we don’t want to make our partner uncomfortable in the process of growing their characters, we are actually letting them get into some difficulties in the future (same like parents’ love to their children.)

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3. The right person accepts you as you are, readily forgive your flaws, but also encourage you to be all that you can be in the future

Jesus accepts us the way we are. He forgives once and for all of our sins at the cross. He knows that we will sin again and again, but he has always been ready to forgive us on and on. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He challenges you too to grow so that you can fulfil His wonderful plans for you. He loves you too much to let you stay the same either. If we are still sinning as if we never know Him, we cannot fulfil His destiny for us. So he has shown us what real love is. There will be moment when we make mistakes. Our partner, too, will make mistakes at some point. But a mature partner will accept and learn to forgive continually. Ruth Graham Bell once says, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” The right partner accepts and celebrates who you are at the present, but he/she will keep encouraging you to grow to be what possible you can be in the future.

After reading this, you may think, “Is there any person who is like that? It seems to good to be true.” Oh yes, there is! Not many, to be honest, but there is 🙂 It always starts with faith. Do you believe that God is so good and He won’t forget to give you the right partner? But we ourselves, need to grow first. Be the one you’re looking for is looking for. When you want your partner to possess all these qualities, grow in such a way so that you may have it also. Be the right person first. The right person will attract the right person. And here’s a little secret: after married, your spouse IS the right person! No matter how awful you start your marriage, keep in mind, the person you made vow with at the altar, IS and ALWAYS BE the right person. It keeps our lives from unnecessary regret and close the door for another adventure of love when we have got married. Treat your spouse “as if” he/she is the right person, have faith in what God can do in human’s hearts, and one day (yes there will be some time.. and you need to have faith!) he/she will completely become the right person. Yes of course it will be easier if we choose carefully from the early beginning, it gives us a better start 🙂

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So, are you the person you are looking for is looking for?

Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography

Grace isn’t Just A Word

“I am a Christian. I make mistakes. I mess up.

But God’s grace is bigger than my sins.” -Unknown

G R A C E isn’t just a word. Grace is not just some kind of doctrine of theology. Grace is not an abstract concept that we find it hard to understand. Grace is a person, and his name is Jesus. We serve a God who is full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

We may come from different background of belief. Some people believe that they serve an angry God who set rules that they have to obey and punish if they disobey them. These people can become legalistic (they try to follow all the rules as many as they can and look down on those who disobey the rules) or on the other extreme side they can live in constant fear of “not good enough”. But the truth is, none of us can live perfectly, only Jesus can. So in effort to be flawless, we become helpless because we fail often. “Relationship” with God becomes an obligation or lists of things to do to make him “happy”. But I want to present to you the Good News. I hope the truth may engraved in your heart deeply. Because it will set you free 🙂

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1. God hates sin, but loves the sinners.

I beg your pardon? Do you say it correctly? How can it be? Yes, we as human, when we dislike what a person do, we also dislike the person. When your friend constantly lying to you, you immediately dislike him as a whole person. So this concept might be weird according to our human nature. How can we hate what he does to us but at the same time love for who he is?? But that’s our loving and just God. God is holy. That’s why he can’t stand with sin. But God is also love. He is full of love to all human being who also are sinners. God is not mad at you. If you ever have confessed that you are sinners, you can’t save yourself, and declared how you need Jesus as Savior for your life, God sees you now in the light of Jesus. At the cross, God’s wrath to all sins of mankind have been poured out to Jesus and at the same time, His righteousness has been given to those who believed, believes, and will believe in Him! Now, that’s why we call Gospel as “Good News” because it really is a Good News! Call it as a beautiful exchange! This is what’s being described on the song sung by Hillsong, “Beautiful Exchange.”

You were near, Though I was distant

Disillusioned I was lost and insecure

Still mercy fought, For my attention
You were waiting at the door, Then I let You in

Trading Your life, For my offenses
For my redemption, You carried all the blame

Breaking the curse, Of our condition
Perfection took our place

When only love
Could make a way
You gave Your life
In a beautiful exchange

My burden erase, my life forgiven
There is nothing, that could take this love away

My only desire, and sole ambition
Is to love You just the same

When only love
Could make a way
You gave Your life
In a beautiful exchange

When only love
Could break these chains
You gave Your life 
In a beautiful exchange

Holy are You God
Holy is Your name
With everything I’ve got
My heart will sing how I love You

2. Nothing that you do could ever make Him love you more nor love you less.

Another weird truth, huh? To grasp this truth, put your feet on a shoes of parents. This is exactly the heart of parents (normally) to their children. They love their children no matter what. Even though their children messed up, no matter how deep their children fall into certain addiction, no matter how their children keeps making troubles wherever they go, they still love them. They love their children too much until they will feel pain whenever their children do so. They love them but at the same time deep down they wish that their children will stop doing those things that will eventually destroy their lives. The same thing goes to children who do everything good for their parents. Their parents may be proud of them, but that doesn’t change the level of their love to them. It will always be 100% unconditional love, because the fact that they are their children. Okay, some parents may not be like that. Because parents are human with flaws. But our God is certainly not human. He is God, He is the perfect loving Father. You can be sure of His love to you will never change.

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You know, I feel my life feels so much lighter when I believe deeply how much my Father loves me no matter what. It encourages me all the more to do good things as a testimony for others to know Him as well. I don’t do good things to earn His favor, as many ‘religions’ emphasise. No, God is already pleased with me because of what Jesus has done at the Cross. And knowing it’s all because of Jesus, gives me no reason to boast. It’s not because of my goodness, it’s not because of what I’ve done. Because in human effort, I will never achieve the ‘good enough’ or even I feel I am good enough, that will be a lie.

3. God is faithful, even when we are faithless.

Human’s relationships are fragile. We cannot stand of betrayal, disrespectful attitude, and so on. We will choose not to be engaged in those kind of relationships because it brings a lot of pain. But our God is not like that. Although we keep rejecting Him, we keep disobeying Him, He is still faithful. He waits for us to come back, to repent with all of our hearts. He is a God of covenant. Covenant is an agreement on ancient times in which the people who involved in it cannot break the vows they have spoken. If they break it, the penalty will be death. God is a God who will bring out what He has promised. When He gave His covenant to mankind first to Abraham, and then to the nation that came out from Him, the Israelites. He will carry it to pass. Even when the Israelites kept disobeying Him, He promised that one day He will embrace them back. The time will come when Israelites will know that He is and always be their only true God. He even used Hosea to describe the love He feels to Israelites. God still loves you and waits for you to come back. Remember, He loves you but not your sins, because He knows it will eventually destroy you.

By realising the depth of His love for us, how can we reject such kind of great love? The way God has done for us through Jesus is what we call as “Grace”. Grace is a gift to the undeserving ones. It’s a good thing if we realise that we don’t deserve it, because it makes us qualified to be receiver of His grace. I believe it is not the fear of the consequences which can change us, but the love and acceptance of God of the way we are. It is not a matter of “If you don’t believe in Jesus, you will burn in hell”, but “Hey, do you know how much God loves you? How much He has done for you at the cross? Come to Him and He will fill all your needs of love perfectly with His perfect love. Sure, you don’t deserve that. But God comes to the undeserving ones, so you fit the description!” The heaven isn’t just a place we go after we die, but the heaven is here and now on earth when we abide in His love daily and see the world as God sees it.

Christianity is not a religion. It is not about going to church every Sunday. But your very own relationship with your Savior, Jesus Christ. It happens daily, every moment you awake, every minute you spend. It gives you a purpose in life. It fills the emptiness of your heart that can never be replaced by human being. Human may disappoint you for there is no perfect one. But God will never disappoint nor leave you nor stop loving you, because He is a perfect God with a perfect love. He can’t deny how much He loves you and nothing can ever change that. Grace isn’t just a word, it is a person, named, Jesus Christ.

Your faith can only grow as strong as the knowledge of your God. Here are some Bible verses to know more about Him 🙂

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The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” -Psalm 103:8

“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?” -Numbers 23:19

“For the LORD your God is a merciful God; He will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.” -Deuteronomy 4:31

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,” -Psalm 46:1-2

“For this is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.” -Psalm 48:14

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LOrd.” -Romans 8:38-39

“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” -1 Cor 1:9

“…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” -1 John 4:16

Happy enjoying His love for you!

Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography