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Broken with Grace

“I would get too attached.”

Something that I have heard numerous times since being on this roller coaster ride of fostering. While I do know that God has different callings for different people, there is also the knowing that we had once made that same excuse. Afraid to have our own hearts laid bare and opened to pain.

It was when we (Dear Husband and I) FINALLY moved forward in obedience that God revealed more of himself to us.

  • Rescuer
  • Provider
  • Sustainer
  • Healer

These are just a few of the Lords characteristics that have been revealed to us in the last few years of caring for children from hard places.

“Too attached”… Yes, that I can promise happens… These are my children for however long they are with me. One night or more. For those moments in time our paths are crossed and I am their “Momma.” I love them with fierce abandon. I pray over them. I laugh and cry with them. I pray and wonder about their futures.  On my list of “Hardest things in my life” is to care for children the way I described above and then have them leave to be cared for by someone else. My heart will break. It will hurt. I will cry.

To hold on fiercely and loosely at the same time is not a thing that I have mastered…

BUT OH FOR THE GRACE OF GOD

I am able to “go on with life” once they leave, however, I am changed and will never be the same. I trust God that we followed in obedience and stepped where he told us to step for that season. That is our ongoing prayer, to step in obedience with each season we are in. Honestly, it has not been “easy” following in obedience. There has been many tears shed and anxiety over things that I can not control, and that is where God has been working on me. To trust that he is absolutely in control. I don’t have to be. I can lay that down. I can surrender to his wise sovereignty. He loves these children more than I can fathom and in his wise sovereignty he has their forever written by his hands.

No matter what name they have he calls them HIS.

 “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:2

I have found that anything worth something has come from stepping out of our comfort zone. There has been many blessings that have ONLY come about by following in obedience to Gods prompting.

 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105 

A lamp to my feet, so I can only see the very next step and not the whole path. If I could see the whole path it would either make me stop in fear or run ahead, missing what HE wants me to see and learn on the journey.

So as God is redefining himself to me through every child he has placed in my home, I will continue to seek HIS strength to sustain me as I learn continued obedience and how to be broken with grace.

 

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Crazy Obedience

FAITH

Crazy. That word –I really think– can mean obedience. I always seem to have a number. My number for now is six. SIX. That is how many little people I am privileged to tuck in at night, for now. That’s what my brain counts to when counting heads, for now.  Never in a million years would I have thought I would have this life…ahhh, but then comes obedience. Crazy obedience. (I used to wonder what kind of crazy a person was when I saw them with lots of kids. This is where Gods sense of humor comes in… I now get the “You’re crazy” look.) I always “dreamed” of getting married and having a few children. A boy and a girl. I would get to experience the best of both worlds and life would be grand. I got married to my childhood crush. His son became my son, through adoption. We birthed a beautiful baby girl. I was happy, in my own little fairy-tale bubble, or so I thought.  Then I had a gnawing feeling-there was more to life….so I prayed,

“Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours.”

Then Jesus said,

“Follow me. Care for the least of these.”   

In February 2012 Jesus called me to serve in Kenya, Africa. I obeyed. My world turned upside down and inside out. My fairy-tale bubble burst. I was drenched in sorrow.
In March of 2012 we were called to foster care. We obeyed. January 2013 we became an opened Foster home. Our Families “normal” was shattered. Our hearts broken. Our eyes opened.

(For that journey please see: https://beautifullybrokenbyhim.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/answering-the-call-to-foster/ )
In September 2013 we felt called to also be an opened Adoptive home. We did the “extra” paperwork to make this happen. (We are still in the waiting for the appointed time that our child will come to us…which is exciting to see how God is changing and shaping our hearts for the child we do not have yet.)
I feel the need to add that after a crazy year of adoption/bio loss our God blessed us with the most amazing bio rainbow baby. January 2015:)
Foster/adoptive care WILL look like “crazy” to your friends. To your family. To your acquaintances. To random strangers.  I do not have all the answers, BUT I know who does (My Abba-Father-God) my trust remains in him. Satan has come to kill, steal and destroy. To destroy our children. Our marriages. Our life’s. He has waged a war on our souls. On our life’s. On our children’s souls and life’s. On our neighbors and their children’s souls and life’s. (You get the picture, right!?!) I do not say (type) those words lightly. My whole body and soul is aware of the spiritual warfare that foster care entails. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask any foster or adoptive parent. I think I can speak for (99.9%) of foster/adoptive families that WE COVET YOUR PRAYERS. For healing, strength and protection. Our God is so good and just. We know he can and will turn ashes to beauty…in HIS timing, in HIS way, for HIS glory. Always.

I want to BEG you. PLEASE. Get involved with your local DHS. THE CALL. AGENCY. FAMILIES. Our families, our children, our neighbors, our communities are at stake! Ya’ll, it REALLY does “take a village”. These children are worth it, oh how they are worth it. What if it was your child? Your grandchild? Your niece/nephew?

There are MANY ways to become involved.
1) PRAY (Can’t stress this enough)
2) Become a foster/adoptive parent
3) Become Foster Family support (Certified/approved child watcher, for brief times)
4) Volunteer as a Casa (Court Appointed Special Advocate, for the child)
5) Take meals/snacks/drinks to foster/adoptive families and Caseworkers (who work loooong stressful hours)
6) As well as many other things….the list is endless!

These children come into care by no fault of their own.  Many times because of all types of abuse, neglect, death, etc..
Regardless of the WHY the child was removed from their biological families…..these children endure great amounts of loss and trauma. That WILL follow them the rest of their lives. NO matter if they are reunified or adopted.  They see and hear more things than they ever should for someone, at ANY age. Healing takes time. A life time.

These children have faces and names. Oh how I wish I could make them more real to you then just words on a page. Oh how I wish you could hear them say thank you for the warm bath, meal, clothing, pillow, toothbrush . Oh how I wish you could see the miraculous change in them when they are given a safe place and chance to work on  healing.(While their bio families are doing the same.) Oh how I am begging and interceding, in prayer, for the least of these. BUT I need YOUR help. Please join me (and countless others) in praying for these children.

I am so thankful for the AWESOME support group and fellow foster/adoptive parents that I have met on this journey. They are bold and courageous and have the crazy-obedience that I admire. It spurs me on to be obedient.

My life has been ruined. Broken. Fullfilled. Mended. All at the same time.

There is a child out there that needs a safe place to stay.
Won’t you join me in this crazy obedience?

I’m hoping you will. I’m praying you will. May God call more to action. May more answer the call to action. To be bold. To be obedient.

-After all, don’t actions speak louder than words?

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” Psalm 82:3

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Return Your Heart

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Can’t sleep, Can’t eat, can’t even talk about anything else. My husband is like “are you serious?!” for the umpteenth time. Y’all I am in love. With My Savior. I am in complete awe and a huge mess when I think about how easy he made listening and obeying… okay, for those of you who don’t know, he’s perfect, which is kind of a HUGE deal in this mess of a world we live in. This consumer place where more, more, more is expected.  I don’t know about you, but almost nothing in the world gets under my skin than an ungrateful child that EXPECTS to get, get, get. SO WE, collectively, have decided to STOP, TO QUIT, TO GIVE UP, on living in excess and more, more, more. (Lord, forgive me for being this ungrateful child, more often than not.)

God you got me falling hard when you commanded me to, “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12

Yes, Yes Sir. Conviction came hard and fast and My Savior didn’t just let go lightly…fasting and weeping and yet he still pursued me and whispered to my heart, and pulled me closer to him. (That’s what someone does when they love you too much to let you go.) I don’t know about you, but I can be stubborn, 99.8% of the time. The other 0.2% is ONLY when I am too tired to be stubborn. Jeremy, my beloved, will vouch for me on this.

Okay, so what’s the point, what am I getting at. No, we aren’t selling all of our things and moving to Africa (half truth) (ONLY because God told us our mission field is right here in America, darn you heating and air conditioning.) (please don’t go out on me, that was only a joke.)

So back to the point, we are selling, purging and cleaning out…ALL the excess in our home. IF we aren’t using it, it’s going, going, going to be going to someone who can.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” – Matthew 6:19

LOVE how Jen Hatmaker says, “Do not be fooled by the luxuries of this world; they cripple our faith.”

I was in utter amazement when I was in Kenya, Africa and the believers faith there was great, and they had wayyy less than me and they had greater faith for God to provide. They weren’t caught up in more, more, more to be happy. They just simply trusted God to provide, and he did.

HEY LADIES (AND MEN) YARD SALE TIME!

AND here’s the kicker, We can’t keep ANY of the money. After prayer and deliberation with my lover and leader of our home, we decided to donate it. We have an AH-MAZING God loving-serving friend, Katie Clifton, that works for African Christian Outreach. This is where God told us to put HIS money. Sure enough, in true God fashion, Katie was just praying for more partners when I called and told her our not so little secret. The cool thing about ACO is that they spread the gospel to East Africa. (My beloved Kenya is in East Africa!) You can read more about it here. http://acokenya.org/who-we-are.

AND this is where I need YOUR help. If you are local and would like to donate any items to our yard sale we would be forever grateful. ALSO, if you would like to become a monthly partner (for as little as $5) to ACO you can go here. http://acokenya.org/

 “I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”-Matthew 19:24

I believe the point he is making is that you can’t serve two GODS… we either love money or love THE ONE TRUE GOD. When we are so preoccupied with money we are too consumed by it to love God with a pure and giving heart.

When we have a lot we want, more, more, more…. we feel entitled and like the Grinch, our heart is smaller than when we give, give, give. (That’s when our heart grows.) Money becomes our priority and we aren’t willing to let something come in between our money and us. (Preaching to choir here, I am GUILTY!) Let’s learn to give as Jesus commanded, TOGETHER.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10

When my son and I were doing our bible study in 1 John we both LOVED this verse,”Dear children let us not love by words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

We also decided we needed to be Salmon. These fish swim upstream, to go back to where they originally came from, where they were born.

We, as Christ followers, need to be set apart from the world, to go against the grain. We need to remember where we came from and return our hearts to our creator, our God and Father.

May there be more of you, Lord Jesus, and less of me. Amen.

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Compelled to Move

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Y’all…. I really truly “thought” we were done fostering. After having our hearts ripped out last November we absolutely needed a break. However, during that break God gave us the best little miracle to help heal the parts of our hearts that we thought would be closed off forever.  He used our little Rainbow baby, Ansley Lane, to help heal from the loss of our Shiloh and sweet Haven.  God is good and has poured out his grace on us, so much so that our cup over flows and we are compelled to let that overflow pour out onto the broken children around us.

For weeks we had been unsettled and agitated. We questioned if we should answer the call again. We said yes, again. HIS peace is surrounding us and we know this is why we had been feeling unsettled and agitated.  Compelled to move, again.

These children are worth it. Maybe they have never known the love of a parent. Never had structure.  Never had positive reinforcement. Never had discipline. Never had a space to call their own.  Never had someone to fight for them. Never had someone to call them by their name and say you belong to me.

Sometimes they are reunified with their parents and sometimes they aren’t. There isn’t a set time you’ll have them when you accept the call to foster. I believe the Lord desires these “original” families to stay together, but he also gives us free will to make our own choices. In this broken sinful world it becomes all too easy to get caught up in the world and lose sight of the right priorities.

Therefore

God created adoption. Adoption is created through redemption.

We have been created by God to be adopted into his heavenly family. Redeemed from the broken way it once was.

We have been created with the desire to be called by name. To be claimed.

Galatians 4:5 “God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”

Ephesians 1:5 “HE predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

Isaiah 43:2 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Honestly, I was more worried about our bio children and how they felt when considering fostering again. So we called a “family meeting” and that’s when my two oldest voiced wanting to help kids again. They do not understand all of the details, but what they do know is there are children who need a warm bath, a clean bed, clean clothing and full tummy. They know they have never went without, but some children have. They know they have excess where others have none. They want to share and want to give. I fail a lot at parenting, but hearing my 11-year-old and 5-year-old state the above, made me thank God something is sinking into their brains. 🙂

A valuable lesson

“We learned that orphans (abused/neglected children, in the case of fostering) are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” – Radical by David Platt.

Yes, David. You are right on the money there. EVERYTHING does change.

We can’t un-see their little faces or un-hear their adult-in-a-tiny-body testimonies.

BUT we are compelled to move and not sit still waiting for “someone else with more money and more time” to move.

Praying there are more movers and doers instead of idle sitters. Praying there are more hearts broken for the least of these instead of excuses made. Praying there is more conviction instead of guilt. Praying there is more healing instead of brokenness.

Praising God for the lives that are yet to be changed because one of HIS children is Compelled to move.

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Dear 12 year old me

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Dear 12 year old me,

You know that boy you are writing about in your diary… The one who you think is “dreamy” and “handsome“… The one you have a major crush on and are even practicing writing his last name?…(all girls do that, right?!?!)… Yep, that’s him, the one, you just “think” you know it now. See that picture up top… in 8 years that girl and that boy will be yall, picking up your marriage liscence.  In 7 years your paths will cross again. In 6.5 years you will be wondering who you are going to marry… you will be praying and pondering and preparing to meet “the one”. You will be intently praying specifically for your husband.

Qualifications:

  • Love God first
  • Love and adore me
  • Does the dishes
  • Someone I have met before

On January 14th 2007 you will begin praying/fasting for your husband. That you may talk to him in exactly one month. Deadline: February 14th 2007. Early on in January when you are feeling sad about having had your heart broken with the last few guys you dated and you think you “will never” meet a good godly man, God will lead you to a verse and a quote.

You will cling to Song of Solomon 2:7 “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you…Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”

“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.” -Max Lucado

Your list may be short and to the point, but God knows the desires of your heart that you have yet to have. In the man you will call husband God will create in him the passion and desire to be a great daddy to your children. You will have daughters and a son that he will adore and put as a priority over any job. Your heart will swell with love when you watch how gently he changes the diaper of your fourth child when she in the nicu, when he holds you as you sob and grieve for the loss of your third child, When he wipes away the tears of your second child after she falls and scrapes her knees, when he shows your son, his first born, how to get back up after he falls off of his bike. You will love to see the look in his eyes as he watches your children with complete adoration. He will teach you about true love, forgiveness, loyalty and how a husband and daddy should be.

These adventures and so much more God has in store for you, together, the three strands of you. The three strands that will not be easily broken-although the ruler of this corrupt, unfair world will try his best to distract you. From the good God has given to each of you. From the beauty of God that is yet to be had, from the ashes of brokenness.

Be patient. God has it all under control. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

When you stand before your God, your family and your friends and proclaim,  “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.”  The man you will promise these things to will adore and cherish you through it all. He will be an even better man than you prayed for. Our God is so good like that.

So when you are crying because some guy broke your heart or when you feel like you can’t go on because life just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t have to make sense when you trust and know God is preparing your heart for your husbands heart. Your husbands heart for your heart. God is so carefully laying the foundation of a beautiful love story. No hollywood producer can compare to the love story that is being perfectly written for you and the love of your life. Hang on… life is a crazy, beautiful, wild ride. Enjoy your childhood because one day you will be raising children of your own. One day you will look back and see that God, your God, is the author of life and has paid attention to every grand and minute detail.

So when a boy from your childhood asks you on a date, say yes, that will be the beginning of a grand adventure and it will start on February 14th,2007.

Love,

28 year old me

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This is my fourth year being a NICU RN. I couldn’t imagine having any other job. Sometimes I stand beside an isolate and just stare and pray for the miracle inside. I am in awe. I actually get paid to do what I love! It is rewarding, joyful, scary, exciting and nerve wrecking all rolled into one.

As a nicu nurse we are constantly running about doing what needs to be done, making lists, grabbing supplies, answering call lights, checking on a crying baby, checking lab levels, oxygenation, milk, medications, linens, and the lists go on and on…..

BUT from behind the curtain, on the other side of the door, is a whole different world…..

Anxiety, exhaustion, fear, letting go of control, trusting “strangers”, and watching the newest little love of your life struggle and go through moments that they shouldn’t have to, in a perfect world-which is far cry from where we are now or will be-this side of heaven.

Living hour by hour is the new “normal”. Every drop of blood, sacred. Every drop of milk, a celebration. Leads monitoring heart rate, oxygenation and respiratory rate, iv lines, pumps, monitors and lots of noises.

July 2011 I became a NICU RN and entered a world of little people that couldn’t speak for themselves, but desperately needed an educated, loving voice to stand up for them. I have always told nicu moms that If I ever had a nicu baby there is no other place I would want my baby to be. I said that before our nicu stay and I will absolutely say it now.

January 2015 I became a Nicu Mom, just for a brief time.

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On January 7th my rainbow baby was born at 40 weeks and 3 days. Which was such a relief after a preterm labor scare at 26 weeks. That landed me on bed rest for 3 weeks and only moderate activity until she was born. For someone who runs and works out a lot, that was a challenge, but certainly worth it. I couldn’t believe she was finally term! I thought, “Yah, no nicu stay.” Then I ate my words…….

On January 8th, during a routine bilirubin check, her level was 11 and being less than 12 hours old was way too high. So away to the NICU we went. Running on exhaustion and adrenalin I didn’t sleep the whole week we were there. I was afraid I would miss something.

As a mom- different nurses and doctors, oh so many doctors. Not everyone introduced themselves or knew what the previous doctor had said. So many questions and ramblings that everything was a blur. I knew these faces, these names and the condition of my child, but somewhere in-between the days and nights of constant feedings with lack of sleep the boundary lines blurred in my brain from being a nurse and being a mommy.

As a nurse- The constant flow of nurses and doctors and they popped in and out and made rounds were “normal” and completely made sense.

Having a war inside yourself is oh so frustrating, knowing if this was “someone else’s child” how much more cool, calm and collected I would be, as the nurse. Knowing in my heart of hearts how everything would turn out just fine, but when the Mommy part of you overpowers your nursing brain, it is pure exhaustion and momma bear wakes up.

When Ansley’s bilirubin levels weren’t responding to treatment in the way any of us had hoped, my mommy brain began to panic at the thought of a volume exchange. (Removing her blood and giving her donor blood to filter out the excess bilirubin. Usually 22.5 is the bilirubin level to indicate need for a volume exchange.)

I had only recently found out that the reason her bili levels were so high was because of an ABO incompatibility. (We had different blood types. Unlike the RH factor.)

Praying, oh so much praying, as I watched my newest little love sleep under the blue lights. Not knowing exactly when we would go home, but clinging to the truth that this time would pass and we would go home.

Finally, her bilirubin levels started to decrease. We were able to go home the following week, on a Tuesday. We had to return daily for the next few days to have her bili levels checked. They started to increase again and by that Friday her level was 18.7. So we returned to be readmitted. Again, we waited, we prayed and prayed some more. The following evening her level was low enough and we were able to go home. For good. Praise God.

A very wise attending MD told me, “You may not realize it now, but this will make you a better nurse in the long run.”

His words are ringing oh so true. I am thankful for the experience that we were able to have. My sweet little love was able to be cared for by some of the best nurses, doctors and co-workers I could ever have. My husband got a glimpse of what I do. Not just rock and feed babies all day. ;)We were overwhelmed and beyond thankful for the prayers, meals, visits, gifts and love that was poured into our family. I will never be able to thank you all enough.

To all the Nicu Nurse’s: You are doing a great job. All of the hours and running around is noticed. Your tiny patient reaps what you sow. Thank you for loving and caring for these babies when their Moms can’t. Thank you for being their voice and defender.

To all the Nicu Momma’s: You are brave. You are beautiful. You are doing a wonderful job. Ask questions. Ask for nurses to repeat themselves when you need clarity. Call a thousand times. Sing to your baby. Pray for your baby. You are your baby’s best voice and defender. You are part of the team. Your precious little is blessed to have you.    Faves (17)Faves (18)IMG_9002

christ, faithful, family, healing, hope, jesus, prayer, restore

On the other side of the Curtain

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Stolen Moments; Broken Dreams

 

imageThe house was quiet and they were once again alone. For the last time. More stolen moments together. Tears stain the woman’s cheeks and fall onto the plump cheeks of the infant she is cradling. So many tears cried and prayers prayed over this safe haven baby, who sleeps soundly as the motion from the rocking chair had lulled her to sleep.
The song Amazing Grace quietly fills the once silent room and through the cracking of her voice she manages to slowly get the words out. This family and home is all this little one has ever known in her short life. It is about to be ripped away from her, and in her innocence she is unaware.

Perhaps it’s better that way. Maybe she will forget. She prays this sweet one forgets. May she forget the snuggles and the singing and the rocking and the playing. May she forget these faces, the ones that call her daughter and sister. Oh but may she remember the love and the prayers and the verses prayed daily over her. May she deep down know she is so loved and cherished.  Not only by the people that she has come to know as momma, daddy, bubba and sister, but by her Creator. May she one day know and feel HIS love. May HE become her best friend and may she hide his words in her heart.

Because if she forgets them It will be easier for her to be comforted by strangers. If she forgets them the pain won’t keep her up at night. If she forgets them she won’t wonder where they went or what they are doing. If she forgets them then she won’t feel abandoned.

All that burden belongs to the one cradling the precious sleeping infant.
No birthday parties. No potty training. No first day of kindergarten. No first beach trips. No teaching her to pray. No hearing her soft little voice as she sings or says Jesus. Every year when her birthday comes around she will be thought of and silently celebrated. When milestones should be reached, she will be thought of.  She will be prayed for.  She will be cried for.  She will be loved, by people she won’t even remember. By people she won’t even know exist. All these once hoped for dreams that now have become just broken dreams.

Nothing is a surprise to HIM.
HE knew exactly the amount of days this sweet Safe Haven baby would be in this family.  Once on the other side maybe this season will make a little more sense. Maybe the heartbreak and unexplainable loss will make more sense. All for HIS glory.

This world is so broken. This system is so broken. That is exactly why a savior is needed.  If the world didn’t need fixed, if the system wasn’t broken there would be no room for HIS love and mercy. For HIS sacrifices. Praise God for sending us a savior, Jesus Christ. For in this world we will have trouble, but take heart for HE has overcome this world. He delivers on his promises, in his timing. He will break your heart for what breaks his, when you ask, and you will never ever be the same.  Once you have craddled a child in your arms, once you have fearlessly loved a child as your own, that doesn’t share the same blood with you, it is impossible to not see the need. The need to stand in the gap and be Jesus with skin on. The need to radically love children when you are not promised tomorrow with them. The need to cover them in prayer and carry them to the throne of our Father, long after the sun has set on them being in your arms.  

So thankful we were chosen to love and cherish this sweet one. She will never be gone from our hearts, minds and prayers. She will not remember us as we remember her. I pray that God’s peace will cover us. For I always tell my children, I love you so very much, but God always loves you more. Our Safe Haven baby is no exception. We know God loves her more. He will fight for her. He will rescue her. He will deliver her. He will make everything beautiful for her, in his time. He will give her a hope and a future.  For that I can have peace. Without pain and heart ache there would be no need for healing peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

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