Posted in Living BOLD, My Faith

Resetting Expectations

A Birthday Party Story

Picture this. Your daughter has a birthday party coming up. Their 3rd birthday, and you want to make it as special as possible.

To prepare, you plan a month in advance for this birthday party. You even ask your birthday girl what she wants for the cupcakes and decorations. Things are going so well!

Shopping

Finally, it is time to shop and bake. You take your birthday girl to the store to buy decorations and party favors for her friends. Don’t forget the special, helium-inflated birthday balloons, matching the party theme.

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Your cart is so full, you wonder how over-the-top this party is getting. Your fears are confirmed, when the checkout lady literally says to you, “You are overdoing this, Mom.”

You know she’s right, but don’t want to admit it to a total stranger.

Party Favors and Cupcakes

The week of, you, the birthday girl, and her siblings, all work together to put the party favor bags together. The excitement on their faces is so inspiring, more for the candy than anything else, you know these are perfect for your guests.

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Two days before the party, you bake the cupcakes. The night before, you make the extra cupcake decorations, so they are ready for the morning of, when you freshly frost and decorate them.

You place them in the fridge, and you feel a sigh of relief and accomplishment.

Decorating

Last but not least, you stay up until midnight, with your tired husband, decorating. You start to pull out all of the decorations you purchased with the birthday girl, and your husband gives a sigh and intense eye-roll.

It takes hours to perfectly decorate with the party signage, party favors, streamers, balloons, even a large, plastic mural background for pictures and added scenery for effect.

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The Perfect Party

Finally, you’re done. Perfectly planned, purchased, and executed birthday party plan. You slip into bed, relieved, and happily anticipating the next morning.

You can’t wait to see the look on your birthday girl’s face when she beholds all your work for her party. You hope she feels as special as you know she is.

The Twist

Then it hits. The screaming, vomiting, and complete misery from – guess who? The birthday girl herself.

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The stomach flu or some similar, awful virus has hit your house, literally hours before the party is supposed to start.

You have to break it to your precious, birthday girl that her party is cancelled and now she has to spend her birthday sleeping and drinking water – no cupcakes.

Reality Stings Sometimes

As you might have guessed, this happened to me and my family last week for one of our daughter’s birthday. Let me tell you, it has been a rough week for all of us.

However, somehow God used this atrocious sickness to change something in my mind and heart.

As her mom, I was not only buying and doing things for her to make her feel special, but to show off to our guests, “Hey, look at me and what I can do? I’m such a great mom, aren’t I?”

My Aching Heart

Wow, that was a slap in the face and a prick in my heart. In my heart, I had let pride and the fear of insignificance drive me to spend more money, time, and energy than necessary.

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Also, I realized I was justifying my behavior with a false sense of what my daughter actually expected and wanted for her party.

I knew exactly what she wanted. We had planned it together, and the plan itself was pretty simple.

In my own prideful heart, I was making her party about me. How selfish is that?

The Real Party

Now, tonight is the night before her party. We have rescheduled it for tomorrow.

Most of the decorations we left up from decorating last week, but not all have stayed on the wall. The cupcakes are done and decorated, but I let my daughters help me, instead of pushing them away, and doing it alone.

For my daughter’s sake, and for my own good, I laid down my expectations of attention, glory and honor from my efforts as her mom. God is teaching me to be content in the simple, not frantic in the complex.

Finally, the party did not go according to my perfect little plan. To be honest, I’m glad it didn’t. I had more prepared and done last week, so I can just relax and enjoy my daughter growing up.

God’s plan is always better than my plan. If I am not careful, I will trade fear and anxiety for peace and joy in the Lord.

Which will you choose today, your finite plan or God’s perfect plan?

Scripture

These verses really helped change my expectations this week. I hope they help you, too.

Proverbs 3:5-12 ESV

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“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

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Posted in Living BOLD, My Faith

Habit Reflections

I have been doing a study lately, called “Habits” by Life Church, on the YouVersion Bible app.

Habits Devotional

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Though it is a short, well written devotional, it is so convicting! A sword of the Spirit piercing right through my heart.

Yes, I did choose to read this on purpose, because I know I needed to hear truth about my habits from God’s Word.

Our habits don’t just happen – they are triggered by a desire or need we seek to meet.

Habit Loop

Today’s devotional talked about the habit loop: cue, routine, and reward.

For example, you sit down to watch TV at night (cue), grab a tasty snack (routine), and your body feels better from positive chemicals released in your body (reward).

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Ouch!! So convicting! This has been a constant struggle for me to break this habit.

Since our bodies store more fat from food we eat at night, and the food keeps me awake, I’ve been reminding myself of a different reward. Better sleep!

However, when I get the snack craving, mint gum works for me. It actually tricks my body into thinking I’m not hungry.

Also, sometimes you think you are hungry, you are really just tired or thirsty – same chemical in the body is so confusing sometimes!

Scriptures to Reflect

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

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James 1:12-25 ESV

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

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But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

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But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.

For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV

…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Psalms 26:2 NIV

Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;

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Be Encouraged

Know you are not alone in having bad habits to break. Don’t be afraid to make the first step, just because you might mess up. Get back up, and try again. God is faithful to help you and give you a way out, to resist temptation.

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Remember, life isn’t just the here and now – with Jesus, it’s forever.

Helps put your life in perspective and ask yourself,

“Will this affect my eternity?

Will this still matter to me later in life?”

Be wise with the time you have in this life – don’t waste it.

Posted in My Faith, Uncategorized

Habit of Disobedience vs. True Purpose

This may be an odd title for a post, but it is on my heart to share with you today.

How many times has God asked us to do something or tell someone something, we don’t follow through?

Lately, I have been feeling stuck. I have been praying and praying for direction, what to focus on in my life, but nothing clear.

Then I realized yesterday, it has been clear for a long time, but I was choosing to ignore God’s direction.

The Miscarriage Project

Most of you know of my recently published book, The Miscarriage Project: Testimonials of Parents of Who Found Hope in God.

Finally becoming a published author is a dream come true for me!

However, I didn’t expect the before, during, and after process to be so hard! To name a few challenges:

  • First, you have to write your manuscript. Short like a children’s book, or long like a novel, both take a lot of time to brainstorm, write, edit, rewrite, etc.
  • Next, finding a publisher willing to publish your work is the hardest part. This is something I had to do a lot of research to find.
  • The publishing process is such a waiting game and is necessary to have business and marketing knowledge (or know someone who does), I’ve had to learn most of this from scratch – research and asking others a lot of questions.
  • Once you are published (and beforehand), comes the marketing. This, for me, has been the most challenging part.

How do I help people find out about my book without breaking the bank? How do I convince them to then read it?

Asking the Wrong Questions

I will be the first to admit, it is so easy to get caught up in the ways of the world.

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Be this way, and people will love you.

Make this sacrifice, and it will be worth it. Your family will understand.

You have to work 24/7 to make any dent in your business.

You will never make it in this business, unless you take shortcuts, compromise relationships for progress, and think of yourself first.

None of these statements are true, but we believe them so easily.

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Instead of writing to make money or to sell books (to provide for my family), I am only effective if I use my gifts for God’s glory.

The world makes so many empty promises. Why do we continue to believe them?

True Purpose

Our true purpose of our existence is not to spend our lives afraid of insignificance, and striving for impossible perfection, according to the world’s ever-changing standards.

We have God-given purpose – to love God, to love others.

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The world leads us to believe we deserve whatever we want. As long as we work hard enough, we can do or be anything we want.

This is faulty logic, when God really created us for a specific purpose.

No matter how hard I want to be perfect, only Christ is perfect. Only through Him can we be sanctified – continually made more and more like Christ in his attributes.

The God-Shaped Hole

When I think of this concept, I think of these song lyrics, “there’s a God-shaped hole in all of us.”

There is always this lingering emptiness in our hearts. A desire to matter, to be whole, to find peace.

The world offers so many counterfeits to fill this whole, but only our true Lord and Savior, Messiah and friend, can fill it and truly complete us.

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We lost this fullness and unbroken connection with God when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Ever since then, we have lived lives of brokenness, sin, and chaos.

However, our story doesn’t end there. Jesus Christ made this connection possible yet again with his death on the cross, and resurrection to the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

Hope in the Struggle

The amazing news: God doesn’t leave us alone in our pain and struggles. We have hope of a new, eternal future:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Rev 21:4 NLT)

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Now that is the true “happily ever after” you’ve been waiting for.

Posted in Living BOLD, My Faith

ONLY FOR THE LADIES: PMS

Yes, this post is just for the ladies, so if you’re not a lady, click out now. Thanks!

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PMS

Guess what time of the month it is? Not quite that, but the grr factor has begun.

You guessed it, the dreaded PMS – yes not everyone has this, but something changes in me every month, and it’s not roses and cupcakes I’m communicating, not by a long shot!

I don’t try to be crabby, or snap at people, but it seems to come out that way anyway. No matter how hard I try to be nice during this time, it seems to fail miserably, and ending with a stick of dynamite….KA-BOOM!!

Living Differently

So, as daughters of the King, as women of God, how do we combat this desire in us to do or say evil?

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Evil? Isn’t that a bit extreme? Not at all. Our sinful desires come from our sinful flesh, which is evil. Many times, we underestimate the roll our sinful flesh has on our thoughts, words, and physical wellbeing and actions.

Steps of Action

Here’s what I suggest:

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  1. Take a step back. Breathe, pray, and give yourself space. The more chaos around you, the more likely the explosion is to occur.
  2. Communicate clearly what you need. When you need space, especially during this time, communicate that. Not as the other person’s fault, but as your need.
  3. Limit making big or important decisions during this time. It is hard to think clearly, be patient, or be kind – and when working with others, you need all three.
  4. Rest and exercise. I feel like a hypocrite writing this, because I’ve been resting way more than exercising. The better your body feels, the better you will feel, and hopefully less angry or anxious.
  5. Last but not least, read your Bible. If you don’t have one, check out the YouVersion free Bible app website. Reading God’s Word gives me peace, relaxes me, and gives me hope things will be okay, because He’s got it taken care of.

Choose a step, and try it. Choose another, and try it. Find out what helps you the most.

Prayer

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From one Jesus sister to another, I hope this helps! Praying for you, too!

Posted in Living BOLD, My Faith

Call to Action: Use Your Voice

My Voice

So I realized something today. I haven’t been using my voice.

I have been letting my insecurities and doubts and fears keep me from sharing my heart and letting my voice be heard; not letting my light shine, for the good of others.

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Anyone else struggle the same way? You have so much to say, but are too afraid to say it?

The Struggle

Just last night, I was monologuing to my husband (I do this a lot, but he is so gracious to let me verbally process). At some point in the conversation, I asked him,

“Will there ever be a time when we don’t struggle?

Why is life so full when we try to keep it simple and slow paced?

Why is life so hard?”

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The struggle is real. The struggle is constant. The struggle is exhausting. The struggle is depressing.

Steadfastness Develops

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. …

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Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

(James 1:2-8, 12 ESV)

Scripture Reflection

Can I get an Amen on that one? This is my life right now! So much struggle, trial, testing and battering my faith from all sides.

Yet, I feel this inner strength I never had before.

Things that once shook me up or make me freak out, don’t get a rise out of me anymore. I’m able to show more grace, because I am more secure in the love and trustworthiness of God than I have been, for a long time.

Really?

You may be asking, really? Is that even possible? Yes it’s possible, but it takes time.

This is coming from a mama of five, miscarried one of them, and the other four are 5 yrs old and under. Trust me, the comments never end.

Again, this is coming from a woman who struggles with anxiety and depression after having said kids, but has probably struggled with it for much longer. I wish I could go back and tell me teenage self, “Don’t be so afraid to get help and admit you are struggling.”

People Need People

We are all human. This is not an excuse for our sin, it is the reason we sin, because we were born sinful, after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).

One thing I’ve learned through all of this – everyone struggles with something (or many things). We need friends and family who can help and support us through these rough times. We can’t do it alone, no matter how many times we may try (ME!).

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Challenge:

Here’s your challenge: Share one struggle with someone you trust, someone who’s been there. It might be asking a lot of some of you, but we need people we can count on, especially Jesus.

But if you really don’t have anyone to talk to, God is always there, first and foremost. No excuses, be brave and use your voice!

You will be surprised how much weight will be lifted off your shoulders!

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Don’t let your fear keep you from freedom. Don’t let your voice be silenced – you have something important to say. That something could be the life changing something someone else needs to hear.

Let your voice be heard!

Posted in Book Reviews

Reimagine Retirement by C. J. Cagle

Content

Reimagine Retirement, by C.J. Cagle is a great read. For those who are retired and those planning to retire, don’t miss this encouraging, yet informative resource.

Stewardship

Cagle focuses on the stewardship principle, but has the Gospel at the center. God created work and rest, not going on vacation all of the time, during retirement.

Work and Rest

Cagle includes helpful diagrams, such as the Work-Rest Cycle, to help illustrate his points. He even recommends other helpful resources by other authors, to help the reader further research this topic.

Review

The book flows well, has good information, and is well-organized. Is a comfortable read, as Cagle says things in comforting ways.

About the Author

C. J. (CHRIS) CAGLE is a retired IT professional, having worked as a manager and architect/strategist for several large financial institutions for almost thirty years.

He holds a Master of Business Administration from the Florida Institute of Technology. 

Chris serves as a deacon and leads the stewardship ministry at Crossway Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

When he’s not writing about stewardship or retirement or working in his church, he enjoys hiking and fishing. 

Chris and his wife also enjoy hanging out with their two grown children and six grandchildren.

Posted in Book Reviews

"The Complicated Heart" by Sarah Mae

Content

The Complicated Heart, by Sarah Mae, is a raw, well-written autobiography, describing her journey to forgiving her alcoholic mother.

DISCLAIMER!

In the prologue, the author does warn about the graphic content in the book and is not for children.

She recommends to self-examine yourself and your emotional health, to handle the triggers and weight of her testimony.

Well-Written Content

However, Mae’s book is well written, combining personal anecdote with her mother’s own writings, as well as Scripture and personal reflection.

Including her mother’s letters gives realism and personality to her mom, creating greater understanding of the relationship dynamic.

Review

I liked how the author integrated her personal journey to salvation in Christ Jesus and God’s work in her life, along the way. Mae has a poetic way of description and is melodious to read. I recommend this raw, yet easy, intriguing read.

About the Author

Sarah Mae is in the ministry of spilling your guts. Through the “spilling” of her own honest and vulnerable stories, she’s learned that no story is too unsafe, no past is too awful, no heartache is too great that God’s grace can’t cover, recover, and heal.

She has a real tender spot for the brokenhearted, especially those with mother wounds, and her writing and speaking is always in service to those who need to know that dysfunction is not their legacy or identity, and healing, redemption, and joy is always on the table.

Sarah is the coauthor of the bestselling book, Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, the founder of several events including the first national Christian women’s blogging conference, Allume (which was retired in 2015) and A Night to Breathe, an event for exhausted but vision-focused moms of little ones.

She has been featured on Focus on the Family radio, The Life Today Show with James Robison, and in Life Beautiful Magazine as one of 50 most inspiring Christian women of 2016.

Sarah makes her home in Lancaster county Pennsylvania with her woodworker husband and three spunky kiddos. Learn more and be encouraged in the tough stuff of life at sarahmae.com.

Posted in Book Reviews

"Epic Devotions" by Aaron Armstrong

Epic Devotions by Aaron Armstrong, is a great kids devotional, in connection with The Gospel Project for Kids curriculum.

Content

Each devotion includes a Bible passage to read, encouraging kids to read the Bible. Also included, are a quoted verse, the event description to establish context, foreshadowing to Christ’s coming and the Gospel, and a life application section.

Life Application

I like that there’re several options for application: an explanation of relevance to the passage and reader, a step of action, a question to challenge the reader to share the gospel, and a memory verse.

The memory verse is most often from a different part of the Bible, encouraging cross-referencing and knowing God’s Word in its fullness.

“The Gospel Project”

This kids’ devotional has great illustrations, in connection with “The Gospel Project for Kids.” This way, kids can grow into the devotional, if they are already familiar with the curriculum and illustrations.

Review

Each devotion is lively and biblically authentic, and includes more scriptural accounts than most devotionals for kids.

This book is the real deal!

About the Author

Aaron Armstrong is an author, blogger, and Brand Manager for The Gospel Project, based outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

He has written several books, including Epic: The Story that Changed the World as well as the screenplays for the documentaries Through The Eyes of Spurgeon, and LUTHER: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer.

He writes daily at BloggingTheologically.com, and his writing has appeared on numerous websites including The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, Crosswalk.com, and ChurchLeaders.com.

Posted in Uncategorized

"Living in The Haven" Announcement!

Letter from Bold & Beautiful

Dear Devoted Readers,

I have been contemplating the new year, and what writing goals I’d like to set for myself.

Goal #1

As you already know, one of my goals is to publish two more books this year!

Goal #2

Secondly, I would like to start a regular blog schedule, called “Living in the Haven.” This means I’m committing to write weekly, to talk about what it looks like to live in the protection, peace, and love of God Almighty.

As my readers, I want to give you more. More to read, more post predictability, and more to share.

This year is a growth year, and I pray you’ll grow with me too.

Posted in Living BOLD, My Faith, Uncategorized

New Year, New Hope

Goodbye 2019!

I don’t know about you, but I am glad 2019 is over!

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all bad, but has been a huge struggle for me.

This year, I published my first book (The Miscarriage Project), launched my new business brand, Bold and Beautiful. My husband graduated with his MA, and honestly, forgot this until I was reminded, because this year has been so full – the good, the bad, and the ugly!

This year I struggled. This has been the hardest year in terms of dealing with anxiety. I don’t know which is worse, the anxiety or the depression. Either your’e too sad and sluggish to get out of bed, or you’re too jittery and scared to go to bed. It’s a toss up.

Just within 2019, we lost so many people. In our church congregation, there were 12 funerals. I lost my one and only college roommate to cancer, and one of our college brother-floor guys committed suicide, both just before Thanksgiving. One grandma-in-law died in August, and the other, was admitted to the nursing home 2 days before Christmas. Not to mention all of the miscarriages, (of people I know), experienced this year.

This was a sad, sad year people. Tears well up in my eyes as think about the preceding paragraph. So much loss.

Hello 2020!

However, every new year brings a fresh new season of hope.

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In 2020, I hope to:

  1. Beat anxiety and depression, as I gradually go off my meds.
  2. Invest in my personal and spiritual health.
  3. Be more intentional making “breathing room” in my and my families lives and schedules.
  4. Publish 1-2 more books this year.
  5. Not avoid what God has me to do, but boldly charge ahead to fulfill the call.
  6. Fully grieve those I’ve lost.

For myself, I know I have so many goals and hopes for this new year, and probably by next December, I will have forgotten them. Although, if I press on, be consistent, and remind myself what I’m aiming for, then I will stay focused on the prize ahead.

God, please help me to have a more calm and peaceful year. Give me eyes to see those I am to help, and give me strength to say no to those things that will steal my time, joy, and family time. Sustain me every moment with your love, peace, comfort, and joy. Protect me as I follow you, and watch over my family. Give me the boldness to follow your calling for my life this year. In Jesus name, Amen.