whatever it takes: a rallying cry for adoptive and foster families

Adoptive and foster families, this is for you.

You, who went through all the training, requirements, meetings, interviews, and red tape. It was crazy-thorough. Then you brought your child home.

whatever it takes: a rallying cry for adoptive and foster families

And you learned that all that preparation was kind of like going through earthquake survival drills – learning first aid, how to take cover, how to evacuate safely – versus actually living through an 8-point earthquake. It was like the difference between learning CPR versus actually having to administer it on someone who has no pulse.

Some of our kids came to us carrying grief and trauma equivalent to that 8-point earthquake.

And we love them. But it’s hard because they are hurting, and hurting people hurt other people, and we are here to do everything possible to break that cycle.

But some days we don’t know what to do with them. There your kid is, doing that same behavior that’s driving you both crazy: Rages. Lying. Something unmentionable involving bodily fluids. And yep, we love them, but they don’t always believe it so they test our love. Sometimes they push back hard. These attachment issues are no joke, friend.

Some days we pray and do one thing, and the next day we pray and feel like we need to try something else. We’ve learned to live in grace on a moment-to-moment basis.

I know your house used to be your sanctuary, but now, some days it feels like a warzone. The atmosphere’s changed and you barely recognize it: tense, palpable, high-alert, heavy. Sometimes you feel the weight and pressure of it in your gut. You’ve learned that you need God’s wisdom and presence in every moment, too.

And I know it may not feel like it anymore, but this is still your turf. Your territory. The spiritual attack is real but you own this space. You are the boss here. And as much as their behavior might contribute to the chaos, your kids need you to fight for dominion.

Don’t lose yourself, friend. Your kids need you to still be you – and they need you to find them in the darkness. There’s a uniquely brilliant person in there behind all the trauma and behaviors who is dying to get out and be known.

And there’s a real you in here, too. You may feel like you lost yourself somewhere between the airport and the millions of appointments, but you are becoming refined. Strong. Whole, and more you than you’ve ever been before. You didn’t think you could be this tough, did you? You had no idea you’d be able to do all this. And here you are. This is you, doing all the stuff.

I hear your excuses; I’ve said them to myself plenty of times, too. I know you don’t feel like you’re enough. You don’t feel like you’re getting enough done, getting enough sleep, getting enough exercise, giving enough smiles, giving enough hugs to those kids. But those feelings aren’t the boss of you. They don’t change reality.

You are enough. You’re doing enough. God is enough to cover you in this time as you’re seeking Him, trying to shine light in darkness and find truth in trauma.

You’ve spent hours making phone calls, researching, getting references, making appointments, sitting in those appointments, wondering if this intervention is going to work for your child. Wondering if this professional is going to help your child, or if they’re going to do more harm than good.

You’ve missed some friends and social activities because things are different now. You wonder before every engagement if it’s going to be worth the effort, or if all the hoopla will evoke too much aftermath. We used to take for granted how easy it used to be, back when we never worried about overstimulation, hypervigilance with boundaries, and attachment issues.

You are the families who’ve been not just willing to go to the broken and hurting, but you’ve welcomed them into your own homes.

You are on the frontlines. And the church will see significant, exponential victory to the extent that it cares for those on the frontlines.

You’ve given everything you’ve got for the advancement of the Kingdom, and you’re giving people a vivid picture of how much God loves them. You are showing God’s heart for humanity – the same Spirit of adoption that He showed us.

In pockets around the world, the church is waking up to the power lying dormant in adoptive and foster families. The church is realizing that assumptions and lack of awareness about what these families endure have hindered not only the healing of the broken, but the growth of the Kingdom.

And there is a contingent of humble, repenting congregations rising up to do whatever it takes to support those who have already been doing whatever it takes – and in some cases, it’s taken everything – to walk out the spirit of adoption.

These teams – those who directly care for the broken, and those who support them in it – are unstoppable. They are mighty, gritty, capable of exploits, and not afraid to play hardball with darkness.

They are changing nations and generations. Together, they are living out a message that the world cannot ignore.

So you, my friends, are rocking this. Keep pushing through, and do whatever it takes to get some rest. To get some space. To find the you that you recognize again.

Because you’re in there, and you’re powerful. You’re changing the very nations with your daily steps to love your family and maintain dominion in your sanctuary.

the year of deeper and wider

I first encountered one of my favorite books in sixth grade. I was pulled out of class for a gifted program, walked down the hall to an unfamiliar, sterile classroom, and listened to a teacher whom I did not know read The Wind in the Willows to us.

I hated it. If this was being “gifted,” I wanted no part of it.

the year of deeper and wider

Several years ago it showed up in Mattie’s curriculum. I approached it with doubt and suspicion, unsure about subjecting my kid to the same misery I’d experienced twenty years earlier.

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home.

We dove in, and within the first pages I was in love. Surely it was the same book from before – but this time it was beautiful and alive and magical, so it must be that I wasn’t the same person reading it. I’d grown deeper and wider. I’ve read it all the way through three times now, not counting that first go-round that almost inoculated me from it entirely. I’m so glad it didn’t.

The kids ate lunch while I stood in the living room and read the first chapter to them. This is the first time Cham, Andrey, and Reagan have heard it and I want their memories of it to be warm and filling, sticking with them.

Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said “Bother!” and “O blow!” and also “Hang spring cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously…

This is Mole, who has lived below in seclusion, discovering the world above for the first time. It’s also me, and probably you. I know what the spirit of divine discontent feels like. I, too, have flung work to the floor while yelling mostly printable expletives.

I came to this passage and stopped to look for a pencil. None were within reach, so I tore the cushion off the couch to check my stash and found five pens, a set of nail clippers, a broken animal cracker and, hallelujah, one mechanical pencil. I started marking sentences.

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before – this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again.

The story is fitting for all seasons – summer and winter, and especially those spiritual ones when you long for a river that runs deeper and wider than what you’ve been splashing in, and when you find yourself free of old barriers and able to test new waters that were out of reach not too long ago.

Testing new waters is impossible when you’re drowning in the deep end. We’ve spent a ton of time flailing and splashing there, but I’m thrilled to say that for the first time in four and a half years, it’s not where we are anymore.

Or, more accurately, it’s not that we’re no longer in the deep end, but that we’re no longer drowning in it – we come up for air sometimes, and can finally venture out into other waters a little.

Four and a half years.

By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.

A big part of it is that one of our kids who needed his world (and therefore, our world) to be as small as possible is starting to experience victory like never before. I mentioned here a few months ago that choices are unsparing things. Sometimes we need the spirit of divine discontent to propel change, and over recent weeks his choices have been markedly and consistently different, by the grace of God.

He is experiencing the joy of a river that is deeper and wider. It’s a marvelous miracle. Most days (not all, I won’t lie) are warm and filling, and we hope it sticks.

The Kingdom is always of increase; our deep and wide is an insatiable sea.

This day was only the first of many similar ones for the emancipated Mole, each of them longer and fuller of interest as the ripening summer moved onward. He learnt to swim and to row, and entered into the joy of running water; and with his ear to the reed-stems he caught, at intervals, something of what the wind sent whispering so constantly among them.

– Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Physically it is winter around us, but we are approaching a spiritual summer like a fast-moving train. There is running water, a full-bodied river; we are learning and growing and anticipating fullness that overflows the banks and spills into thirsty places everywhere.

I wish I could read the whole book to you, but there’s a terrific version of it on Librivox here instead. You’ll hear more about it soon, though. We’re only on chapter three.

Wind in the Willows, and Bingley

#highlights: just the funnies from 2016

We’re starting off the year with a serious dose of silliness. Grab your coffee and enjoy.

hashtag highlights: just the funnies from 2016 at Copperlight Wood

a summary of our 2016 

I’m no real estate expert, but never once in the last two years of avid househunting have I thought, “Wow, this is what we’ve been dreaming of!” by listings that include a reference to “great location for a marijuana business” or a close-up photo of moose nuggets.

Super productive night: Finished edits on Upside Down to send back to the publisher, and moved on to researching Han Solo’s Myers-Briggs personality type. #intjsarenerds #sendhelp

Been sick for a week. It started at the Cannot Operate Heavy Machinery level but rapidly declined to Cannot Operate Paper Clips. Urgent Care has informed me that the fancy name for this is pneumonia.

Turns out that if you’re sick for a month and never leave the house, your garden bed magically transforms into a chia pet.

I just heard a pastor promise his new congregation that he will never make them turn to their neighbor to tell them something. And this, my friends, is how you win elections.  #campaignpromises #hankiewave

Many emails and phone calls back and forth with the publisher today. We established the keywords for the book: adoption, parenting, foster care, special needs, and attachment. Also established the keywords for marketing it: arm & leg, lifeblood, second mortgage, mainstream media, longterm counseling, and prozac. #fixitJesus

cats

kids are brilliant

Cat reproduction according to Chamberlain, age six: “Mama cats never have just one baby. They always have giblets.”

Finn lets loose ten seconds of ear-splitting happy squeals. Afton leans over and murmurs, “Those are the shrieking eels…

fetch me another ninja turtle

 

Cham: I wish I could just SEE him instead of talking about him all the time. I wish we could have him over to our house.

Me: Who, Jesus?

Cham: No! TobyMac.

(This is the same girl who asked if her new dress could be considered an ugly Christmas sweater. She also thinks Wesley wears a manbun in The Princess Bride.)

kids

My son brings me the magnesium supplement and reads the label. “Contains no yeast, dairy, soy, egg, wheat, sugar, fructose, preservatives, starch, or artificial color or flavor. Cruelty-free.” He pauses. “Cruelty-free? What does that mean? That it doesn’t taste bad?”

Two hours after the kids bedtime. Or, as they see it, the perfect time to go to the bathroom, take a shower, ask how babies are made, tell about a bad dream they had last week, show off a drawing they made this afternoon, floss their teeth, ask you to check the spelling in their journal, and share a prophetic word of knowledge.

We saw a sweet hospital photo of a mama and her wee bitty premature babies. Cham yells, “Oh! Did she have giblets?!”

boys

 

#momlife

[insert quiet narrator’s voice, preferably with British accent]
In today’s episode of ridiculous parenting, a child makes a craft project and bursts into sobs immediately following its completion: “It’s SO ugly! And I was going to give it to my FRIEND! But now it’s too ugly and I CAN’T give it to my friend, so I’ll JUST have to give it to YOU!!”
#ohthanks #itslovely

The hero-husband painted an old ugly dresser white for me, then asked if I wanted to distress it. I reminded him that we have seven kids. We decided to just let nature take its course.

Dear Matanuska Electric Association: I’m sorry, but I cannot vote in the upcoming election because I used your ballot to smash a spider into oblivion. Our family truly appreciates this service you have performed for our community.

Afton just caught Finnegan dipping his toast in my 3-shot Americano, eating it, and liking it. Let the mutant superpowers commence. #avengersassemble

Child is disrespectful. Child earns a bazillion extra chores. Child is sent outside to wash all the windows. Child refuses and prefers to sulk instead. After several minutes, child complies and goes outside. It immediately commences to rain buckets, because God loves me.

The kids are practicing Spanish on the computer, and one of them keeps saying “Buenas nachos” instead of “Buenas noches.” Same thing though, right? #soundsgoodtome #muybien

Don’t tell my tomato-haters, but I’m not above chopping up a red bell pepper in front of them while cooking dinner and letting them jump to conclusions about the pasta sauce.

…and speaking of food…

10:32pm: We decide to live on the edge and fry cheese in the waffle iron. What could go wrong? We need to buy a new waffle iron anyway.

10:33pm: Sizzling. So far so good.

10:34pm: I lift the lid to check and behold utter chaos of every dairy nightmare imaginable. Goo everywhere, burning, running over the sides, and Vince has mysteriously disappeared somewhere in the vicinity of the garage. I yell “Pat Sajak!” so the kids who are still awake don’t know I’m swearing and mentally write hatemail to the foodie blogger while scraping cheese off the griddle.

10:36pm: We try it. Not too bad. Recommence frying cheese now that the waffle iron is “properly seasoned.”

10:39pm: Round two is iffy. A little better but still not nearly what the foodie blogger’s perfect photography promised. We try one more time.

10:40pm: Vince decides the cheese slices need to be a little thicker. He slices, breads them, and inserts them into the waffle iron. While my back is turned, HE LEAVES THE ROOM. Quietly.

10:42pm: Round three explodes out the sides of the waffle iron and Vince is nowhere to be found. We assume he is driving to Sears to see if there are any waffle irons on sale that come packaged with Ghiradelli chocolate and flowers.

bingley apron

The recipe for these brownies says, “Cut them into quite small pieces, almost like fudge.” Whatever. I just blew through these like a hobbit with elvish waybread. #chocolatelembas

Daydreaming while chopping mushrooms, garlic, and onions.
Pondering cooking shows while adding chicken thighs to skillet.
Considering taking a photo of dinner-in-progress (in spite of Vin’s disdain of such photos) while adding tomatoes and coconut milk.
Wondering why the chicken is so slow to brown.
Checking the burner to turn up the heat only to realize that the burner is still off.
And this, friends, is why I do not write a foodie blog.

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#wecandohardthings

God calls us to do things we’re not naturally qualified for. This is why we have to do things like change diapers, which is an aerobic activity akin to chasing down a baby kangaroo after it’s had an espresso.

Feeling super Alaskan today; sharpened my eyeliner with a pocketknife. #geterdone

You think it’s hopeless, it can’t be done – but then you do it. I’m not talking about life goals or big dreams; I’m talking about nine people and three cats going the whole day with less than two rolls of toilet paper. Oh, yes we did.

 

filling the lake: thoughts on rest from a mom of seven

It was cruel. No doubt about it.

Right in front of the kids, I scooped vanilla ice cream on top of two fresh biscuits with strawberries. It was for me and I wasn’t sharing. And to add insult to injury, two of the kids can’t have dairy and one is fasting from gluten.

I ate it right in front of them, shameless, because a) my own lunch was two hours late, and b) they do similarly cruel things that I’m jealous of all the time, like going to the bathroom by themselves.

filling the lake: thoughts on rest from a mom of seven

I don’t want to push them away, I just want to breathe my own oxygen every once in a while…and eat ice cream for lunch.

But my body isn’t cooperating with this and I need to rest from sugar once in a while. I haven’t had ice cream in months. No sugar in coffee, no jam on toast, and aside from a half-eaten brownie a couple of weeks ago, no chocolate. No cookies. Not even a stinking animal cracker. When we eat pancakes, mine are topped with tears and self pity.

(Kidding. Please don’t eat pancakes around me.)

One day in desperation I threw together some no-sugar, banana-oat-raisin cookies. Too impatient to bake, I fried them in a skillet like hoecakes and they were so divine you could hear angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus. I immediately thought, These would be perfect with vanilla ice cream, then mentally slapped myself and poured whipping cream over them instead.

curbing-sugarMy body needs to rest from sugar. I can’t ignore the symptoms no matter how much I want to eat everything on my Pinterest board.

But I am learning that it’s not just my body that needs rest; my mind and routines need rest, also, beyond a weekly Sabbath. God and I have been talking about this a lot lately. Just as I over-do sugar and have to cut way back, I over-do…well, a lot of things. And He’s telling me to cut way back there, too.

I’m not very good at it. My idea of “rest” is to check something off my list, revel in a brief four seconds of exhilarating freedom, then move onto the Next Big Thing that has to be done. Somehow I think this isn’t what He means by resting.

What is rest, anyway? Is it to stop doing something, as in, “resting from your labors?” Because there’s no rest from mothering, housework, discipline, the tasks that hound and hang over us and are never done.

So it must be that we are to also rest in those labors that we can’t rest from. We must rest in motherhood. We rest in our homes, in the midst of washing dishes and sorting piles of fermenting laundry. It must be the difference between sautéing and scorching – which is what I did to my soup veggies while Instagramming about rest. Scorching, that is. Because I told you, I’m still not very good at this.

All the behaviors, all the needs, all the stuff on my list drains me during the week, and yet I feel guilty for taking quiet time to rest. My lake runs empty but I neglect filling it, thinking it’s my job to fill others until all I give are the dregs of what churns up. The simple, white-space-filled life of several years ago is now covered in scribbles of nine different colors of handwriting.

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And I love the colors, but somewhere we lost our ability to keep clean margins. I don’t recognize my own handwriting in the midst of everyone else’s anymore. I live for the weekend, pushing through full, frantic days until Vince carries more of the burden of diapers, cooking, discipline, and consequences.

What if you lived like I was home with you, Love, and I carried the burden? God asks me.

But You don’t make dinner or change diapers, I argue. He does not strike me with lightning, ground me, or take away my car keys.

Those are less of a burden if you let Me do the heavy lifting, He says. Trust Me with your kids. Trust that I’m speaking to them, growing them, and transforming them. That’s not your burden to carry.

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We feel nothing when we’re on empty – no pain, no pleasure, no up or down, no nothing – just a numb plodding on from one day to the next, a flatline of exhaustion in a stagnant wasteland. The same thoughts, the same words churning up from the same sludge at the bottom of the lake.

It’s where I’ve been. To be honest, it’s a big reason why I can barely keep up with one post a month lately. My thoughts feel repetitive and I hate to think I’m boring any of you or wasting your time. I don’t want you to come here for the view only to see the same muddy water at the bottom of the lake.

But we know relief and comfort because we are first acquainted with pain and discomfort, and to be refilled after being sucked dry for so long is like a rebirth.

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

– James 5:11, ESV

So He gave me a new to-do list. It includes reading, journaling, processing things out that need hard thinking, and making time for those neglected projects that keep getting pushed to the backburner. It also includes writing down dreams I’ve been afraid to look in the face, to see what they really look like and if they’d like to come into existence.

But mostly, it means viewing these things as non-negotiable. They are just as important as making sure everyone has breakfast and clean underwear.

This new army doesn’t get tired. You know why? They know how to lie down in His presence. They know how to rest in His arms. They know how to lay their heads on His chest and listen to His huge heart. They weep with Him over the dying, the crying, the broken, the abused and the lost. Do you really think you can work hard and start a revival? Just run out there and get them? Sorry. You can’t. But when Jesus shows His face and He breathes life into the dry, dry, bony Church, and that Church stands up full of His presence, carrying His glory, nobody can resist anymore!

Heidi Baker, There is Always Enough

I’ve been coming upstairs in the afternoons for my own refilling whenever Finn is napping. The kids who aren’t napping are under strict instructions to not knock on my door unless a) someone is injured, b) something is on fire, or c) they’ve shot an intruder (which should technically go under “a,” I guess).

I bring my tea (with cream, no sugar) and sometimes write a page or two. Sometimes I work on those projects, sometimes I read a little. Sometimes I just goof off on Instagram. And sometimes, I cry like a woman in labor while we wait for God to birth this new season out of us.

Then I go downstairs and pour out with joy, rather than serving on empty and feeling sorry for myself. Our location on the spectrum between drudgery and joy is determined by the depth of water in our lake – and our rich overflow comes from rest, when abundance bursts out of a life filled with His water.

Recommended reading: What is Mother Culture? by Karen Andreola

meant to hold us: when we’re restless to move

We’ve reached the stage where nothing is safe.

There ain’t no counter high enough to keep things away from Finnegan. He pushes stools, chairs, bins, stacks of books, whatever, around to get where he wants to go. And where he wants to go is up.

meant to hold us: when we're restless to move

He climbs on the chairs to stand on the table. Stands on top of the cats’ scratching post to get on the windowseat. He scales up the toilet to stand on the toilet paper roller, his hands inches away from the edge of the bathroom counter, to turn on the faucet. Have mercy.

In the kitchen last night he used an upturned box to reach dirty silverware next to the sink. He didn’t care that he was exceeding the structural capacity of the cardboard, or that one of his feet sank halfway through the slit in the middle while his other chubby foot compensated by gripping the edge with curled toes – he just wanted to see something new.

We scramble to put things out of his reach – scissors, craft projects, dishes, houseplants, elderly cats who don’t defend themselves, anything dangerous or breakable – and, oh, does he protest, wailing the Grievous Lament of a Baby Who Wants to Bash the Counter with a Can Opener. Or something like that.

climbing

But I get it. Don’t you? We could sit down with our coffee and give each other a list of things we’d like to reach for if we only knew how to attain them…because we’re restless to move, too.

I’ve been stalking five different real estate websites to find a house, and Vince says to wait. Apparently God agrees with him (so annoying). I’ve scoured one listing after another, none of them quite what we’re looking for, but close…ish… Okay, not even close, unless you compare them to a four-walled tent on an acre of swampland.

Vin is steadfast and keeps pointing me back to the list of standards and specifics we’ve prayed about. He says we should hold out for the gourmet pizza instead of settling for a hot pocket with allergens in it. But I am so hungry.

What will we do when we feel thwarted, hemmed in, and restless? Will we breakthrough by trusting Him above our fears, doubts, and insecurities, or will we breakthrough by rushing into something in disobedience?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

– Matthew 5:6, ESV

We looked at a house last weekend – it had plenty of space, acreage, bedrooms, and the right price. But we knew in the first minute that it wasn’t meant to hold us any more than Finn’s cardboard box is meant to hold him.

The baby on the dangerous block configuration, the kid bouncing on the fragile lid of a plastic bin, the false ideas we lean against, the wrong relationships we depend on, the easy answer we rush into because we’re tired of waiting – none of these are meant to hold us. They are the opposite of the fermata, where we hold and are held perfectly. How do we learn to be held when we are restless to move?

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That afternoon, Finnegan and I wandered through the yard collecting dried seed pods while Vince repainted our garage door. Almost all of the flowers in our yard came from Jess, who thinned them out of her own garden years ago when we were still new here, when this house held us with room to spare. And at this rate it looks like we’ll still be here next spring, but if not, I want these flowers to go with me. Whenever we go.

What do you do when you want to go – you are called to go, and the promise is that you will go – and yet, for now, you are told to stay?

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.

– Romans 1:13

We’re in good company, I guess. Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament, knew what it was to be held back from something he wanted. To just stay. To wait. To do what’s right in front of us.

My child, this world is a new place, and strange, and often terrible: but be not afraid. All will come right at last. Rest will conquer restlessness; faith will conquer fear; order will conquer disorder; health will conquer sickness; joy will conquer sorrow; pleasure will conquer pain; life will conquer death; right will conquer wrong. All will be well at last. Keep your soul and body pure, humble, busy, pious – in one word, be good: and ere you die, or after you die, you may have a glimpse of Me, the Everlasting Why.

– Charles Kingsley, Madam How and Lady Why

What are we hungry for? Pride is a violent thing, lying to us about our abilities and inabilities, stealing credit and dishing blame with liberality. The truth behind “in my weakness I am strong” isn’t that God-loves-us-very-much-and-has-a-miserable-plan-for-our-lives, but that He is more patient than we are, unwilling to settle for less than what He intends for us. And what He intends only comes to fruition after our character is developed in the dark places, ready to be unearthed. That’s when we’ve reached the point where nothing is safe.

We can go anywhere, do anything, and while we whine and protest about wanting to see what’s up there, He is moving dangerous stuff out of the way so we don’t hurt ourselves.

We want up so we can see more, do more, be more, and we’re tempted to prop up things to hold us higher – but blessed are you who hunger and thirst after what He has called you to. You will be fulfilled.

God is not slow, He’s patient: aligning people, events, and circumstances for His glory and our joy. He is meant to hold us.

And sometimes He holds us back, and our restlessness is a sign of momentum. Soon. Just maybe not as soon as we want.

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