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 ūüôā

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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 ūüôā

“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 ūüėÄ 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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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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 ūüôā

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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 ūüôā

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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

Rich Man and Poor Man

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Money … is something that so familiar with our lives. We work to earn money so that we can buy food and drinks, stuffs, houses, and live a good quality of life. What’s interesting here is the “good” quality of life can be different from one man to another. Here I divided people into three categories regarding how they interpret their quality of life. For the first category of people, money is their everything. They think money as the solution of most problems in their lives. More money is equal to better quality of life; more money, more happiness. But for another, money doesn’t have such a big value in their lives. Some may have already have a plenty of them, they spend it without thinking too much, but somehow still feel hollow inside. For them, more money doesn’t equal to more happiness. But they can’t figure out what’s the better equation to replace that. And here we come to the third category of person: they are those who may not have plenty of money, but they can be content with what they have. They work, of course (we are not discussing about lazy or idle people). They have enough to pay the bills, they live a simple lifestyle (not a poor life) to match with their income. But the most important thing is they are content. Now, we have seen three categories, which one do you think really is a rich person? And which one is the poor person?

I think you understand what I am trying to say. Rich and poor … at last aren’t determined on how much money we have. Why is that so? It’s simply because of true wealth talks more about our hearts’ attitude rather than the amount of our possessions. People with lots of money but never satisfied, always wanting something more and more, can’t be said as a rich person. They can’t be content with what they have no matter how much it is. This discontentment will lead them to endless pursuit like running on a treadmill but going nowhere. Their lives can be either full of jealousy of what other have and craving for what they have or their lives perhaps are too busy to work to earn more and more money. The poor attitude will think that, “If I have more money, I will be happier.” But at last, we know that when they already have more money, they always want more. Meanwhile, people with lack of money can also have the “never say enough” mentality. So both people (whether those who have lots of money and those who lacks of money) are actually poor. If people who can never say enough are categorized as poor people, who are then the rich people? Yes, the answer is clear enough.. the rich people are those who can be content with what they have.

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“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”¬†
-Philippians 4:12-13 [NLT]

Paul has experienced both having plenty of money and lack of money. But he has mastered and trained himself to be content in either situation. That’s truly a rich person. But a rich person doesn’t stop there.. not only they do content with whatever they have, but they also love to give. Now, that’s really something!!

“The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.”¬†
-Proverbs 11:24-25 [MSG]

People who are truly givers are the rich one. People who dislike giving are the poor one. God loves to bless the givers! Why? Because He knows His blessing will be poured out to others in need. It won’t stuck with that person for too long. His love will be spread out and finally His name will be glorified. Do you know why the Dead Sea is called so? The dead sea has only one major water source: The Jordan River. It flows from the Jordan River and ends on the Dead Sea. There are no outlet streams which can make the water flow into the larger seas. With 33.7% salinity, which makes it the world’s saltiest bodies of water, the Dead Sea gives a harsh environment in which animals can’t flourish. There is no life in the Dead Sea. The same thing will happen to our heart. When we don’t give to others, we make our condition of heart grows hard. It makes us becoming more insensitive, uncompassionate, cold, bitter, hollow inside. As time goes by, we can still be alive but not really ‘alive’. You know.. it’s kind of seeing a person with no spirit that can makes others’ day happier because of his/her presence. Just as Robert Frost once said, “There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and compassionate.”

“You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It s more blessed to give than to receive.'” -Acts 20:34-35 [NIV]

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The issue of money is ALWAYS the issue of heart. Our attitude of money is always a good guidance of where are the location of our hearts.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Luke 12:34 [NIV]¬†

Giving is a way to protect our hearts for not too attach to money and stuffs. It keeps our focus on God. ¬†It’s an act of faith to God. Knowing that he will always provide.

“Once I was young and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.”¬†
-Psalm 37:25 [NLT]

Now let’s get a more complete picture of what Jesus was really saying by reading further Luke 12:13-34. When you read the passage, Jesus gave us a clue that we will have two bank accounts in our lives. The first one is our earthly bank accounts, the second one is our heavenly bank accounts. We can accumulate wealth as many as we can on this earth, but when we don’t give, our heavenly account is still zero toward the end of our life. That’s what Jesus described as “not rich toward God”. We can be rich in front of humans’ eyes, but if we don’t give, we may be poor in God’s eyes. Which one is more important? The opinions of people or the opinion of God? The temporary living on earth or the everlasting living on Heaven?

Then Jesus continued to teach the disciple not to worry. Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than¬†clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:22-26)

This us leads us to a more complete tremendous truth: The issue of MONEY is always the issue of HEART. And the issue of heart is always the issue of TRUST. It’s not merely about “having to give because God say so” but it’s a matter of trusting God for every aspects of our lives. Do we dare to trust God’s goodness that he will never abandon us? He knows what we need. He nurtures the birds and the flowers, and we are much more worth than that! We are God’s children. As good parents, we will always¬†try hard to fulfil our children’s needs. How much more God will do that for us!

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” -Hebrews 13:5 [ESV]

Are you struggling to buy the property that you want but see it is so unaffordable? Trust God. Do your part in working smart and God will provide for you. Are you struggling to even pay the monthly bills? Trust God. Be content with what you have and give to others in need. Those who care for others will always be taken care by God. Adjust your lifestyle so that the spending will be less than your income. Make a financial plan. But always … start with be content with what you have now. Do you have plenty of money but finding it’s never enough? Trust God. Dedicate your money for Kingdom’s work. Give it to people in need.. people who may can’t pay you back. Bless those who are in God’s field to spread God’s words. Bless others generously, then you may find the true happiness you don’t feel now.

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Give not for to be given back, give with a cheerful heart. You are rich, because you are a giver

-Leticia Seviraneta

Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness

-William E. Gladstone

A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares

– Debi Mazar

Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by: Axioo Photography

Kindness Changes Everything

And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄďEphesians 4:32 [AMP]¬†

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Kind hearts are the gardens,
Kind thoughts are the roots,
Kind words are the blossoms,
Kind deeds are the fruits;
Love is the sweet sunshine
That warms into life,
For only in darkness
Grow hatred and strife.

-Kind Hearts by Unknown-

No one hates when someone being kind to them. Kindness is a language that even a baby can understand. It is simple, yet has a profound impact. Kindness is the quality of being gentle, considerate, helpful, generous. Kindness is simply doing something pleasant and helpful for the sake of others.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate kindest man ever lived on earth. One day Jesus went into the town of Jericho and was about to pass through it. In this town, there lived a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was,¬†¬†but because he was short, he could not see him over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.¬†When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”¬†So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.¬†All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But despite of all their grumblings, Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10, paraphrased)

For the Jews at that time, tax-collector was an occupation for sinners. Because the tax-collectors were Jews also, but they worked for Roman government to claim the taxes of their fellow nation. Tax-collector was regarded as betrayer of their own nation. It got worse because usually the nominal being asked for them to pay for tax ¬†was much higher than what was required by the government. That was the source of the tax-collectors’ profit and wealth. Zacchaeus was not only a tax-collector, but he was a chief tax-collector. Imagine the head of the outcast! So, he was hated so much because of what he did for living. Moreover, his physical appearance made him less attractive than others. He was short. But the interesting part is this: Jesus, the all-knowing God himself, knew his presence on the top of the tree. To add it up, he said that he MUST stay for a night in his home. This gesture showed that Jesus did not regard Zacchaeus as people need to be isolated as most people did. He accepted Zacchaeus for who he was (even when he had not repented yet). Jesus showed a mind-blowing kindness when Zacchaeus did not deserve it.

Another beautiful part came next was the response of Zacchaeus who welcome Jesus gladly and went further by his willingness to give away his money and give back four times of the tax he had claimed in his life. This was a generous gift and showed that Zacchaeus treasured Jesus more than all his treasures. Compare this event with the story of rich man who was reluctant to let go his wealth to follow Jesus (Mat 19:21-22). The life of Zacchaeus changed completely because of one touch of kindness of Jesus. Jesus also responded Zacchaeus by giving the most priceless gift: the salvation of Zacchaeus and his family.

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Kindness changes everything. Whenever kindness is given to the undeserving ones, it becomes a nudge of love for them to go back to the way of God. Of course, not everybody may respond our kindness in a good way as Zacchaeus did. There are also people who will reject our kindness, take it for granted, and ungrateful. But the true focus of kindness is never to get anything in return, even the word of gratitude such as “thank you.” The focus of kindness is simply we want to reflect the kindness we have already received from God by extending it to others. It is always about receiving from God and giving to others. By doing so we become the extension of the hands of God to touch many lives with his kindness. There is nothing that can make us more like Jesus than when we love and do good to others.

Therefore, be kind. Because every person we meet day by day perhaps is facing unimaginable problems that weigh them down. Be kind. Because kindness changes everything. Kindness can turn enemy into friends. Kindness can mend a broken relationship. Kindness can carve a smile in the face of a stranger. Kindness can turn sorrow into joy. Be kind, then. Because God first has been good to us.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8

 Just a kind word or a greeting;
Just a warm grasp or a smile‚ÄĒ
These are the flowers that will lighten
The burdens for many a mile.

‚Äď Leigh M. Hodges

  

-by Leticia

Photos in courtesy of Jennifer Phelps Photography

You Hold My World in Your Hands

“My greatest comfort is knowing that God is in our control.”

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We don’t like uncertainty. It is easy for us to be worry for our future. We worry how can we meet up our daily needs, we worry for our health, we worry for our future spouse who haven’t¬†showed up until now, we worry for the danger surround us as news broadcast it everyday, and many more. Yes, worry perhaps is inevitable in our lives. Yet when we allow worry to be permanent resident of our hearts, we allow it to cripple our faith and blur our eyes with fear.¬†Someone once says that worry means that we are praying to the wrong God. Our loving God¬†surely doesn’t want his children to live in worry and fear. He wants us to be victorious over all of concerns in this world. Why? Because he holds our world in his hands. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He knows you before you were born and he also knows your future. So¬†chill out and take a deep breath. Your future is safe in his hands.

“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will¬†fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” -Jeremiah 29:9-14 [ESV]

In this passage, God gave assurance and comfort to people of Judah in Babylon. Many people lost their hope when they were far away from their promised land. But God assured them that their exile in Babylon would only last for 70 years. After that, they would return to the promised land. God did not plan their exile for evil. If you read the context, God had sent his prophets to warn the Israelites to repent from their sins over and over again. Their exile was part of the¬†consequence of their generational sins. But even in their transgression, God still have mercy on them and promised that “this too will end.”

Isaiah foretold that, “I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but for for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 45:13) What is so interesting is Isaiah made this¬†prophecy 150 years before Cyrus was born, 180 years before Cyrus performed any of this feats, and 80 years before the Jews were taken into exile.

And yes, 180 years later, it was recorded in Ezra 1:1 that King Cyrus of Persia whose heart was stirred by the LORD to allow the exiles to return to Jerusalem and even rebuild the temple!

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God knows the future. That is why it is easy for him to predict someone who even has not even born yet to become tools to achieve his purpose. He knows all the decisions you even have not made yet. And yes, he is more than able to guide you to walk in his plans. What a comfort! We need not to worry of worry of tomorrow, because God has been there already!

I like Israel Houghton song, titled “You Hold My World”. The lyric goes below:

Take my heart
Lord will you take my heart
As I surrender to your will
I confess You are my righteousness
And until you move me I’ll be still
And know that you are God

You hold my world in Your hands
You hold my world in Your hands
And I am amazed at Your love
I am amazed that You love me
You hold my world in Your hands
You hold my world in Your hands
And I’m not afraid my world is safe
In Your hands oh
In Your hands

Take my life 
Lord will You take my life
You are the reason that I live
I believe You have forgiven me
And by Your grace I will forgive
And know that You are God
And know that You are God

Isn’t it amazing to know such a beautiful truth knowing that God already hold our world and future in his hands? We are not left alone in facing all of our problems on earth. We have him. We have God. And not just a merely ‘god’ but God of all created things. He is King of all kings.

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In order for us to¬†defeat worry in our lives, we need a constant reminder which says, “God is in control”. I was reminded about this truth about God as I made¬†cross-stitch [a counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches in a tiled, raster-like pattern are used to form a picture]. I made cross-stitch based on the pattern given. So what I must do was simply follow the pattern, count the stitches before I stitch, change the thread with other¬†colour as shown by the pattern. I¬†realised that was exactly how God works in our lives. God has a beautiful plan (pattern) for each of our lives. All we have to do is to follow His guidance step by step. We don’t have to figure out all things ahead today. Because mostly God’s magnificent plan will overwhelm us. He is gracious enough to let us¬†handle what we can handle for now.

It takes patience and perseverance to allow stitches formed clearer picture. There were times and I got bored ¬†moreover when I stitch the dark threads. It’s like the moment in our lives when we feel uncertain. But again, we must re-focus to the divine pattern and keep¬†walking not. If we stop now, the picture will be still unfinished.

IMG_5790

As I continued¬†stitching, I often committed lots of miscounting the stitches. So often I found that what I had stitched and the original pattern were not exactly the same. I needed to improvise to keep up with the original pattern and hope that my miscounted stitches would not affect much on the pattern. But as you can see, when finally I had finished all the stitches, the beautiful pattern had transformed into beautiful embroidery. You won’t notice anymore the mistakes I had made. So does our lives. We often make mistakes and deviate from God’s original plan for us. But it doesn’t matter that¬†much as we always come back to him and continue walking in his path. Many of us are so afraid of making mistakes that we never take a step of faith. When God lead us on certain direction, we doubt that it is from God. We demand God to give us complete picture on what is ahead of us so that we have no doubt anymore. But when we do have all of God’s plans unfold one time, we won’t need him anymore to walk with us. We won’t need faith anymore. And that is not what God wants. He doesn’t only want to take you from here to your destiny, but he wants us to enjoy the walk with him, grow in faith and trust to him.

“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again …” -Proverbs 24:16

We can learn to trust God more as we know him more. Our level of trust in God will be in harmony with our knowledge about him. We say someone is trustworthy because he has shown his strong character constantly over time. He has proven that what he says, he will do. Our God deserves our 100% trust because for thousands of years throughout the Scripture, God has shown faithfully from generation to generation how faithful he is. What he says, he will do. So we can hold him at his words.

“God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not¬†carried it through?” -Numbers 23:19 [NLT]

Today, it is time for us to redirect our thoughts to pray to the right God and place completely our trust in the Lord. When each time worry comes to settle down in our hearts,¬†attack it with words of faith through prayer. Instead of worrying, say instead, “I know this problems trouble me and I admit that I am worry. But I don’t want to stay in anxiety any longer. I trust you Lord that you are in control. May you¬†comfort my heart and let my heart remain in peace.” For many of us, it takes discipline to change our habit to worry. We need to be discipline to guard our minds so it will only be filled with good things.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix you thought on what is true, and¬†honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” -Phillipians 4:6-8 [NLT]

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength -carrying two days at once. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” -Corrie ten Boom

“The more you pray, the less you’ll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You’ll feel more patient and less pressured.” -Rick Warren

“Quit questioning God and start trusting Him!” -Joel Osteen

“You cannot expect victory and plan for defeat.” -Joel Osteen

Blessings,

Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography