The Power of Your Influence

God created women to be influencers. We don’t have to look any further than the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3 to see how Eve influenced her husband to commit the first sin.

We use our influence every single day of our lives, whether we realize it or not. We either influence for good or for not so good. For the positive or for the negative. Our influence sets an example as to whether we are spirit led or led by our flesh.

We set the tone in our homes, in our marriages, with our children, in our workplaces, etc. by our influence. We just have a choice as to what kind of influence we will use.

NEVER underestimate the power of your God-given influence!

There’s a verse in Romans that leapt out as me when I read it that speaks to the power of the influence of an unnamed, uncelebrated woman. In this verse, the apostle Paul is sending his greetings to the Christians in Rome, preparing them for his coming visit.

“Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and HIS MOTHER, WHO HAS BEEN LIKE A MOTHER TO ME TOO.” (Romans 16:13 NIV)

Here is an unnamed woman that meant so much to Paul, he included her in his greeting and even went on to say that this woman had been like a mother to him.

I think Paul’s words of greeting to her are so beautiful, so honoring and so intentional. He didn’t have to add that phrase after he greeted Rufus, but he did. Because of the influence she had on Paul’s life, this precious mother is recognized in the Holy Scriptures.

I wonder why this woman, this mother, meant so much to Paul? Scriptures don’t tell us much about Paul’s family except that his father was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), and Paul’s sister and her son are mentioned in Acts 23:16. But nothing else in scripture tells us about Paul’s family, except that he was unmarried and without children (I Cor. 7:8).

I am speculating now, but I wonder if Paul’s own mother and father rejected him after his radical conversion to Christ? I wonder, if after Paul’s prestigious upbringing (see Phil. 3:5 for a list of his accomplishments) as a Pharisee, that once Paul turned from persecuting Christians to becoming a Christian himself, his parents no longer associated with him? Again, this is pure speculation on my part, but I could certainly see this happening.

And so in Romans 16, he sends his greetings to this unnamed woman who had become to Paul “like his own mother.”

One of the many things I LOVE about south Louisiana is its people. The greatest people in the world reside in south Louisiana! (I know I am hugely biased!) People here treat you like one of their own family members; if you need a place to stay, food to eat, a family to be welcomed into… look no further than south Louisiana!

When I think of Rufus’ mother and what she meant to Paul, I think of the precious people of our great state. Paul, who after his radical conversion to Christianity, wrote two-thirds of the New Testament and became the most influential man (other that Jesus Himself) in the New Testament and in church history. Did this unnamed mother have any idea who she had taken in as one of her own? Did she had any idea the heights that God would bring Paul? Did she know that thousands of years later, we would still be reading the writings of her “adopted” son?  And that those writings/letters would one day be included in the Holy Bible as the inspired Word of God?

Just a woman. Just a mama. Just someone who saw a young man who needed a mother in his life and she stepped up and influenced him in such a way that we are even talking about it today.

NEVER EVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR INFLUENCE!

There are young men and women, young mothers, college students, brand new Christians, and even seasoned Christians who deeply desire to be “taken in” and loved by someone, as if they were family. Welcomed in by a “mother” who loves God not only with her words but with her actions. Drawn close by a “mother” that may not be their physical mother but most certainly will fill the role as a “spiritual” mother in that person’s life. Someone who can lead by example as to what it looks like to walk with God, how to love her family, and how to influence for the GOOD in a world that is desperate for the GOOD that is out there!

So, dear friend… who in your world needs YOU? Who needs YOUR Godly influence? Your heart for people, your desire to “take in” those who others have pushed out? Those who just need a mama to cook a meal for them and tell them that everything is going to be ok?

There are many people in this world that God desires to use in a great way and just maybe your/our role is to be the “mothers” to this generation… to a generation that needs acceptance, not rejection, in the most desperate way.

“And I greet his (Rufus’) mother, WHO HAS BEEN LIKE A MOTHER TO ME.”  Paul’s words are so heartfelt and so very beautiful.

How many people are waiting to call you the woman “who has been like a mother to me”?

Begin to open your eyes and look around you. I promise you, they are already in your life, just waiting for you to recognize them as they are starving for the insight, wisdom, love, forgiveness and grace that you have to offer.  

Our world needs women of Godly influence more now than ever before in history!

Will you become one of those women?

 


The One Common Denominator

My husband and I have been in full-time pastoral ministry for over 30 years, and over those three decades, we have had the privilege of walking with people through a lot of seasons of their lives. We have seen many people grow greatly in their relationship with God and, as a result, their lives have been radically changed for the better. However, we have also seen people remain in the “infant” stage of their Christianity, with very little change in their everyday lives even after years of serving God.

Both groups of people have heard the same teachings, sat in the same church services together, read the same passages of Scripture, received the same ministry, and been given the same opportunities to see great growth in their lives.

But there is one clear common denominator in the group of people who have seen life-transforming changes happen in their lives: OBEDIENCE.

Romans 2:13 explains why this is so: “it is not those who HEAR the law (God’s Word) who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is THOSE WHO OBEY the law who will be declared righteous.”

There is a vast difference between HEARING the Word of God and OBEYING the Word of God.

Simply hearing God’s Word taught, or just reading His Word, isn’t life-changing. Obeying what God Word says totally is!

James 1:22 reiterates this by saying, “Do not merely LISTEN to the Word, and so deceive yourselves… DO WHAT IT SAYS.”

Living in a technological culture that hears and listens to God’s Word so readily, I’m afraid that we’ve grown accustomed to listening to so many teachings and sermons that we walk away putting very little of what we’ve learned into practice.

HEARING doesn’t change lives. OBEYING does!

We have a responsibility to what we have been entrusted with through all the great sermons available to us. We have an even greater responsibility with God’s words and instructions we read in the Bible. And God’s Word clearly tells us that we are to put into practice… OBEY… what we have read, heard and been taught.

If you long for changes in your heart and life: DO WHAT GOD’S WORD SAYS TO DO.  

I am certainly not going to tell you that’s going to be easy because it won’t. For some of you, it will be the hardest thing you have ever done.  But it will absolutely be the best thing you have ever done, and with the greatest reward ~ a changed life!

My husband challenged our church congregation recently with this: “If you want to change your life, your marriage, your family, your mindset, the condition of your heart, etc. show up to church regularly for ONE year.  For ONE year, come to church and then walk out each Sunday and DO WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN TAUGHT. Put into practice and live out all that you’ve heard and read through the teaching of God’s Word. And in doing so, I promise you… your life will be totally transformed!”

It seems like it should be more complicated than that, doesn’t it? But it’s not. Obedience is a powerful force. DO WHAT GOD SAYS TO DO.  Then watch Him transform every area of your life.

I want to give you that same challenge. Commit to being faithful to whatever church you are a part of. If you haven’t been to church in a while, find a growing, healthy, Bible teaching church to attend. Then make a commitment to God that you will walk out of those services and put into practice what you have been taught. Make that same commitment to what you read in your Bible.

DO WHAT IT SAYS.  

Then watch how God will bless your obedience as you begin to see life-change happen in you!


The Day I Quit

I’ve never been a quitter…ever.

Not in a sporting game that involved me, an assignment given to me, a responsibility asked of me, or a dream entrusted to me. I am not a quitter.

But two years ago, I decided to quit.

Not in my marriage, not in my life, but in ministry. I had convinced myself, in my own mind, that I had completed my God-assignment as a teacher and leader of women. I had served in full-time ministry for 30 years, had obeyed what God had asked of me, and I was now done.  I began to look into my life, post 50 years old, and formulate in my mind what my life was going to look like.

Open my own antique shop? Perhaps! Manage a flower/garden nursery, helping people to create beautiful gardens of their own? Yes, of course! Buy and flip houses? Absolutely! If it’s that easy on television then certainly it’s that easy in real life! 😊

I had it all planned out…IN MY OWN MIND! Of course, my plans included my husband…he could continue to pastor and lead people and build God’s kingdom (how kind of me to allow him that privilege!)😊. I told my husband none of this, knowing what he would say, but in my own mind…I was done. Done with ministry. Done with teaching and leading women. Just D.O.N.E. 

Allow me first to fill you in on how I came about my decision to quit:

I was tired…really, really tired. My husband and I became empty nesters and instead of filling my extra time with things that energized me, or with much needed rest, or with new hobbies, I filled my time with work. More and more and more WORK. And after doing that for more than a year, I was exhausted. Totally and utterly exhausted. Plus that same year had been a very hard year in ministry.

So with all those factors in play…I had talked myself into retirement.

Until one Sunday. As I sat in church listening to a guest speaker, he read some verses out of Luke chapter 5. He was speaking on how the disciples were instructed by Jesus to cast their nets on the other side of their boat, after a long day of fishing but catching nothing. The disciples obeyed what Jesus asked of them, cast their nets once again on the other side of their boat, and brought their nets up overflowing with fish. Jesus went on to tell them that He was going to make them into fishers of men.

But it was one simple phrase that the speaker read in that story that, when read, became God’s voice speaking loud and clear to me: verse 2 says, “he (Jesus) saw at the water’s edge, two boats, left there by the fishermen, WHO WERE WASHING THEIR NETS.”

The words leapt off of the page, straight to my heart! I can’t even tell you the rest of the sermon that day from our guest speaker because once I heard those five words read: “WHO WERE WASHING THEIR NETS.” I began to hear the tender, loving voice of God assuring me that HE. WAS. NOT. DONE. WITH. ME. I heard from Him how I had not completed my God-given assignment of leading and teaching women. In fact, my assignment was far from over…there was much yet to do for His kingdom and His people!

The disciples were washing their nets because they were done with their work for the day. They had completed a day’s work and were now cleaning up their equipment and their nets. But just because they were done, didn’t mean that God was done with them. There was still work to do, fish to catch, and men to disciple.

As I re-read that phrase over and over in my mind, I realized one thing: I had started “washing my nets” of ministry far too soon.  Just because I was done, didn’t mean God was done with me. There was still much work for me to do, still many women to lead, teach and disciple. And to think that I was dreaming about the antique shop I would open!

As God began speaking this truth to my heart, He started breathing fresh life into me. He began showing me all the work He had left for me to do, how that my God-assignment was far from over! And I clearly began to see how I had listened to the lie from the enemy telling me that God was done with me. 

In my weariness, I had allowed the enemy’s voice to become louder than God’s voice in my life. In my exhaustion, I couldn’t decipher the enemy’s voice from God’s. I had indeed “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25), and in believing that lie, I almost walked away from the greatest calling and God assignment of my life! 

I had to go back to the TRUTH of God’s word to combat the lies of the enemy. I had to believe those TRUTHS to expose the lies. And I had to walk those TRUTHS out in my life, every single day. 

I had to embrace and believe:

That my best days were ahead of me, not behind me.

That God was not finished with me yet.

That God would complete what He began in me.

That I am called by God, and just because I turned a certain age, did not mean that I could check out and determine my own future.

That I had to take out my “nets” and begin to cast them in areas I hadn’t cast before.  

That I had to believe for miracles in my life, and in the people around me.

That I had to obey God’s words to me to keep “casting my nets”.

That my life’s work was not yet done.

And that God was certainly not done with me either.

And so…I haven’t walked away. I haven’t quit. I haven’t opened an antique shop or a garden nursery. I haven’t started my own real estate business. I’ve opened up my nets again and have cast them to a community and a region of women who are desperately searching for an answer…looking for a Savior…seeking for a God who loves them deeply.

How about you? Have you washed your nets too soon? In your career, in your marriage, in your life?

Just maybe you’re washing your nets too soon also. Just maybe there’s more casting of your nets to be done, more harvest for you to catch, more people for you to reach, more love for you to share.

Don’t wash your nets just yet. And don’t go open your antique shop– God’s not done with you either! 

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Who’s Following You?

I’ve heard it said that you are not a leader if no one is following you.  And while some of you might not consider yourself a leader, it doesn’t change the fact that you have somebody following you. Every generation has a generation before them and one coming behind them.  It’s the way God intended. But whether or not we recognize it, embrace it, or even steward it, doesn’t change the fact that we have an entire generation (or two) coming behind us, and many of them have completely lost their way.

We don’t have to watch the news very long or read the headlines very often to see that our culture has lost its way, and so has the generation behind us. When I look at this younger generation, there is a fraction of them that brings me great excitement and anticipation for the future.  Many of them are seeking God with all their hearts and serving Him to their greatest capacity~ and that brings me great HOPE! But far more of them are not. They are walking away from God, away from church, away from their families, and away from their previous generation’s once held morals and standards, searching for something new, different, real and meaningful. Perhaps they are doing this because they feel as if the generation ahead of them has failed them. Or has forgotten them. Or maybe even lost their own way in the craziness of their busy lives. I don’t have all the answers as to how they’ve lost their way… I just know they have because I see it in the faces of the younger generation every single day.

Without knowing how to communicate it or even recognizing what they are truly looking for, this younger generation is begging us to show them the Way.  To give them the answers for a purposeful life. To lead by example how God and people are worth committing to and to show by our love that there really is something worth living for.

There’s a verse in Psalm 71 that speaks exactly to my point.  It’s actually a prayer from the Psalmist in his day and a prayer that I now pray regularly over my own life:

“God, give me grace to demonstrate to the next generation all of Your mighty miracles, and Your excitement to show them Your magnificent power!”  (Psalm 71:18 TPT)

Perhaps we’ve lost our excitement.  Perhaps we’ve lost some passion. Just perhaps we’ve lost some of our own faith… and belief… and hope… and grace.

“God, GIVE ME GRACE to demonstrate to the generation that is following behind me that You are still a God that performs miracles! Let my excitement and passion for You be contagious to all I come in contact with! And allow Your magnificent power to be displayed mightily in my life, so that the generation who is following me will see a true, real, mighty, powerful and faithful God! Amen.”

I hope that is your prayer too!  If not, make it your prayer today.

A generation is depending on us to show them the right way, even if they don’t say it with their words.  They are begging us to do so with their eyes… and their hearts… and their souls.

Just look around you.  Stop focusing on your own life and what you do or do not have.  Stop looking at only yourself. Lift up your eyes to look into the eyes of a generation that is depending on us and a God who is asking of us… to show them Him!  His ways, His heart, His grace, His forgiveness, His acceptance, His LOVE.

We have a responsibility from God to do just that and I truly believe that one day we will give an answer as to how we stewarded the generation that God put in our lives to lead them to Him.

Look behind you. Who’s following you?  And how are you leading them? Even by doing nothing, you are leading them somewhere… just probably not the place that God desires for them or you to go. Make a decision today, a commitment to God ~ to have the GRACE to lead the generation behind you well! And in doing so, our world and all of eternity will be the better for it!!


The Pain of Injury vs. The Pain of Recovery

A few months ago, I made my annual trip to Haiti to speak at Coreluv’s women’s conference. This was my 7th year to go, but this year instead of one women’s conference, we had three. We were at two different locations with three women’s services, seven FULL days of travel, speaking, prayer meetings, devotionals, staff teachings…a FULL FULL WEEK! And I loved every minute of my time there.

But this trip was different from all the others. I was in excruciating pain during my entire trip because, while on the plane from Miami to Port-a-Prince, during the hustle and bustle of trying to get luggage stored and into my seat, I twisted my knee…badly…and my knee totally gave out, causing me to fall on the plane. I knew I had hurt my knee, but I didn’t know the extent of the damage until I returned home and had an MRI. The worst-case scenario was confirmed: a ruptured ACL which would require a major surgery.

I had been wearing a knee brace since I returned from Haiti, was still in significant pain, and even fell a few times because my knee continued to give out. In spite of all of that, I decided to hold off my surgery until summer, when it was a more “convenient” time in my schedule (Bless my heart!). The pain kept increasing and the risk of me further injuring my knee became greater.

At that point, I had a revelation. I was going to have pain. Either I was going to keep putting off my surgery and continue to be in pain, or I would go through the surgery sooner rather than later, still have some pain, but that pain would be through my recovery time, not the continuing pain of my injury. I realized at that moment if the pain was going to be inevitable, I wanted to choose which pain it would be: the pain of my injury or the pain of my recovery.

I chose the latter and just a couple of weeks ago, went through my surgery. I’m still in some pain today, but each day it’s a little less because I am now well on the road to recovery.

As I’ve pondered more about my thought process in choosing to have my surgery sooner rather than later, I began to see a clear spiritual significance as to what I was walking through in the physical.

In this life, there will be pain. There’s just no way to live on this earth and not experience some kind of pain.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Most times, the pain we experience, we don’t see coming or expect. Once the “injury” happens to us, we too get to choose which kind of pain we want to walk through: either the pain of the injury or the pain of our recovery.

They are not one in the same, in fact, they are very different. The pain of your injury is so hurtful, discouraging, and often times, hopeless. However, the pain of recovery is necessary for healing to happen.

You don’t get to move to the pain of recovery unless you allow yourself to go through the “surgery” to repair the injury in your heart.

Only then will you have complete hope and confidence that your heart will once again be restored, allowing you to live your life to the fullest!

There are other differences as well:

The pain of injury: is long-lasting and doesn’t end. In fact, the longer the pain continues, the higher the risk of further injury.

The pain of recovery: does eventually end, but only with hard work and dedication to the healing process.

The pain of injury: keeps you trapped in the season of your injury.

The pain of recovery: allows you to move past your injury and forward through your healing. Eventually, all that remains of your injury is a scar ~ a permanent reminder of God’s faithfulness to you during your season of pain.

The pain of injury: is a breeding ground for FEAR to take root and grow in your life. By re-living your injury over and over and the people involved in your injury, the pain and the fear continues to take over your life.

The pain of recovery: gives place for FAITH to grow. Faith in knowing that God has walked you through your injury and that He’s also walking with you on your road to complete recovery and healing.

Going through a surgery is hard, but staying injured is even harder.

I’m just a few weeks past my surgery now. I still feel some pain. It’s not ongoing pain ~ it’s just twinges of pain from time to time, but I know that there is coming a day that I’ll be pain-free in my once-injured knee. And I can’t wait for that day!

I’m so thankful I chose the pain of recovery over the pain of my injury ~ both in my knee ~ and in my life.

I pray you will choose the same!


Honesty & Integrity

Honesty and integrity aren’t feel good words in our world today, and certainly not a standard by which people aspire to live by anymore, or so it seems.

Ephesians 6 tells us to arm us with the “belt of truth”, or in other words: live a life of honesty and integrity. While living out those two words can be hard, God will bless us when we do so.

In striving to be a woman of integrity, the question that I ask myself in seeking integrity in all that I do and say is this: “What is right in the eyes of God?” Not in my own eyes, or in the eyes of others, but what’s right in the eyes of God?

There are only one approval and one smile that I’m looking for as I live out my life, and that is God’s. Not my own approval or even those of others. God’s smile and approval only.

I have found that when God is pleased with me, the people in my life that matter, are pleased with me also.

So as you go throughout your day, as you’re faced with decisions and choices, ask yourself that same question: “What is right in the eyes of God?” and then be obedient to what you hear. The smile of God on your decisions will be worth it!

 


The Test You Keep Taking

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“For our righteous God tests the hearts and minds.”  Psalm 7:9

In school, Fridays are always test days. You knew the test was coming. You prepared for the test all week. For those of us who are rule followers, we were prepared for the test on Friday. For you rule-breakers, you crammed for the test on Friday morning on the way to school. Either way, you knew the test would come on Friday.

God’s tests, however, don’t come on a scheduled day of the week. You actually have no idea when the test will come. More often than not, you don’t even realize you’re being tested until you are in the middle of the test; Even worse, after you are on the other side of it, you look back to see that it was indeed a test. One of two things happens: By the grace of God, you passed the test by the skin of your teeth, or you failed it miserably, wishing you had another chance at that test.

Good news.  You will have another chance. Unlike our tests at school, if you fail the test God has placed before you, you won’t move on to the next test. That same test stays before you until you pass it. It’s the “ways and character” of God. God loves you enough that He gives you as many chances as you choose to pass the test.  The testing of our hearts can be painful, though, and show us a brutally honest reflection of our hearts but Psalm 7 makes it very clear: God will indeed test our hearts and minds.

God doesn’t test our hearts for Him to see what is in our hearts; He tests us, for US to see what is really inside our own hearts. It’s amazing what can be in our hearts that will come out during a test that we didn’t even realize was there, but God did.  And He needs us to see it too.

In school, tests are given to see if you’ve learned the lessons taught by the teacher. God’s tests are given to see if you’ve learned the lessons He has been teaching you during that season.

The teacher is always quiet during the test; he/she has done their job and the test on Friday will prove whether or not you’ve learned the lesson. It’s the same with God. When walking through a test in your life, it can seem as if God is far away, but He’s not. He is very close but very quiet as you take the test He has laid out before you.

A test is never for punishment.  If you find yourself facing a test in your life, it’s never as a punishment for something you did wrong. In fact, it’s just the opposite. God is testing your heart to see what you learned through the season or circumstance you’ve walked through.  It’s actually an opportunity to see what you’ve done right or an opportunity for you to do it right this time.

If you find yourself facing the same test in your life over and over again, you must ask yourself this question:

What is the lesson I need to learn from this? Or what is God saying to me through this, so that I can pass this test and move on?

God is very patient with us in our times of testing.  He’s not mad at you because you haven’t learned the lesson. He is committed to you and loves you enough to not allow you to move on to the next season, without learning all the lessons that He’s trying to teach you in THIS season. Don’t despise the testing of your heart.  Don’t despise God’s season of testing for you. God needs you to see what’s really inside your own heart so that you can address the issue, ask forgiveness for the sin that might be there, and eventually pass the test that He’s laid out before you.

The test might not happen on a Friday.

It might come when you least expect it.

God’s tests are coming to you, though, I promise you that. Embrace the testing of God, knowing that He desires for you to pass that test by teaching you some valuable, life-changing lessons along the way.

 


It’s Time to Plant

Spring is my absolute favorite season! The cool weather, the crisp breeze blowing through the open windows of my house, the trees, grass, and bushes coming back to life after winter, with green foliage and flowers. I. LOVE. SPRING.

Spring is also a time to prepare flower beds in my yard for planting. I weed out the old flowers to prepare for the new ones. In order to have a beautiful yard for the summertime, I have to plant and prepare for the spring.  If I want the benefit and beauty of summer flowers, I have to work hard and plan for the spring season.

Often times, in our spiritual life, we want to walk in a season of harvest without working in the season of planting. It’s impossible to enjoy a season of harvest without first working in a season of planting. Harvest season is fun, enjoyable, and exhilarating.  Planting season, on the other hand, is hard work, not too much fun and exhausting! Planting season requires discipline and patience, trusting that a season of harvest will come as a result of your hard work.

We all want to see harvest (fruit, blessings, prosperity, etc.) in our lives, but not all of us are willing to walk through a season of planting first. We want our marriages to be blessed, our children to be obedient and blessed, and our finances to prosper. We pray and ask God to bless those areas of our lives to allow harvest to come but the question is: Have we been planting seeds into those areas? Have you been disciplined in planting seeds into your husband and marriage?  Have you been consistent with your seed planting into your children?  Have you been a faithful, wise steward of the finances and resources that God has blessed you with?  Or are you praying for and expecting a harvest in an area that you haven’t been faithful in planting seeds into?

Galatians 6: 7 clearly tells us: “A man reaps what he sows.” Your harvest is dependent upon your planting. 

It’s not only the way of the natural world and its seasons, but it’s also the way of God and His seasons of life for you. Have you put as much time and effort into your seasons of planting as you have spent praying for your harvest to come?

This principle is true in every area of our lives: marriage, family, relationships, money, ministry, and the list goes on and on.

Seeds of time, investment, obedience, faithfulness, encouragement, discipline, and hard work will reap a harvest of blessing in your life. Far too many of us desire the season of blessing without the hard work of the season of planting. You simply cannot have the first, without the second. It’s not the way of nature and it’s certainly not the way of God.

What area of your life is lacking in fruit or blessings? What area are you asking God to bring a harvest in?  Have you spent as much time planting in those areas as you have in praying for the blessings of harvest?

Perhaps, it’s not just springtime on the natural calendar, but it’s springtime on your spiritual calendar as well. Maybe it’s time to go to work by planting those seeds of life, hope, encouragement, and faith in your husband, your children, your family members, and friends. Maybe it’s time to roll up your sleeves and work hard at your job, go the extra mile with your co-workers and have a great attitude!

The season of planting is NOW.

Roll up your sleeves and get to work.

If you’re faithful in your season of planting, the season of harvest will come. I promise!