When You Are Unsure of Your Purpose

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (1)

God made both you and me for a specific, unique purpose. He has a plan for every one of us, right? It’s something I have heard many times at church, youth retreats, and small group meetings. Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind, ” ‘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 a hope and a future.’ ”

Well, let me be honest for a second. Sometimes, I am very unsure as to whether or not I am living in His purpose and plan.

I am currently in my fourth year of teaching middle school. Like many teachers, I decided to go into education because I really want to make a lasting impact on students’ lives. I have dreamt of being Teacher of the Year, being my students’ favorite teacher, and leaving a legacy for students and other teachers alike to follow. That way, I would certainly know that I am where God wants me to be … or so it seems.

Here’s the problem. I look at teachers around me who have gotten these kind of awards and recognitions, and I wonder if my personality and abilities are even comparable. I can be shy. I am usually not the most charismatic personality or the life of the party. I am not the one leading meetings, organizing the next after-school club — and probably not thought of as the “coolest teacher.”

Because of these “flaws,” I begin to compare myself to other teachers and come up with reasons why it sometimes feels like everyone prefers them over me. Why can’t I be more funny, like that one teacher? Why is it so hard for me to be organized, like that other teacher is? Thoughts of inferiority swirl around in my head, and I start to wonder if who I am is enough for this job. I wonder if I am in the career I was MADE to be in. I start asking God these questions:

Are you sure you want me here, teaching? Is this really what I am suited for?

What about all those days when I feel like I am making no impact … anywhere?

Perhaps I should look more into something else that I am interested in? Psychology? Photography? Or maybe I should be a stay-at-home mom because my family really needs me there? Maybe I would shine more in one of those things? Yeah, any of that sounds better to me right now.

How have You gifted me? How can I use my gifts here in this environment?

This is not a cry for an award or recognition or any change other than the one that I know God wants to do in me. I believe that God wants you and me both to better understand who He made us to be — uniquely ourselves, in Christ.

Here are three simple things that God is teaching me to do when I am unsure of my purpose and begin to compare myself to others.

1. Acknowledge your gifts.

Make a list of the things that you are good at. Focus on them and how you can incorporate them into most days, if not every day. As my husband has told me MANY times, “God placed certain gifts inside of you for a reason.” Stop discounting your gifts, and start using them.

Romans 12:4-6 tells us, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.”

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (1)

I may not be the most outgoing person, but I do care about people and enjoy encouraging others. I enjoy having real, honest conversations. So instead of wishing I were the life of the party, I will tune in to opportunities from God to encourage those around me. I will seek to speak into their lives the way that I know how, the way that I was made to. I will focus on my gifts.

What are your passions? They are usually things that you enjoy doing and that come naturally. Pray that God would bring those to the surface.

2. Be thankful for the gifts of others.

Instead of comparing yourself to others, appreciate them. God places certain people in your life for a reason. They may be able to do things that you can’t and help in areas where you fall short. Be humble. Be thankful for that. Maybe you can even learn from them! Don’t try to exalt yourself over anyone or prove that you are better. We are all on the same level in God’s eyes. He has made us each with a unique purpose, and no one is greater than another. Celebrate the gifts you see in others. Thank God for them and believe that He uses those things to benefit His kingdom.

When I see others around me doing something well, I want to tell them. I want people to know that I am thankful for and appreciate them. I am blessed with the opportunity to co-teach with someone who has been teaching for almost 20 years! He has a great sense of humor and knows how to relate to our middle school students. His passion for the kids and for music shines every day, and I am grateful to work alongside him. I hope to one day be half the teacher that he is, and God knows I wouldn’t be able to do this job without him!

3. Remember whom you belong to.

There will be days when your gifts and works go unnoticed. There will be times when you feel like all of your efforts fall short. And they do, when you are trying to do it in yourself. Without Christ, we are nothing and can do nothing that is of true worth. Jesus says in John 15:4, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” It is only when we are in Him that we can produce much fruit and live a life that will impact eternity. Let us remain in Him.

Ongoing prayer is probably the only thing that gets me through those hard days. Prayer helps me to keep my eyes on Jesus and remember who I am in Him. It helps me to “remain in the vine” and to focus on my biggest purpose — to glorify Him in everything I do.

Dear Jesus, I pray that you would help me to actively use the gifts you have given me and to not compare myself to others. Help me to understand where I fit in Your body. May I remember that, apart from you, I can do nothing. Amen.

Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard

With a degree in music education, Rachel Howard is a middle grades chorus instructor who has a passion for teaching students about her love for music. In addition to inspiring adolescents in the public school system, Rachel is currently taking piano lessons and also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and Francine Rivers novels. A small-group leader at her church, Rachel also leads worship on occasion. In addition to these roles, Rachel is a wife and mom to two kids, Isaac and Evelyn. Rachel currently resides in Georgia with her husband and kids.

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Letter to a Newlywed: 4 Things a New Bride Needs to Know About Marriage

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (1)

I barely weighed 115 pounds when I got married.

I know some of you reading this may have decided you don’t like me now, but I honestly tried to gain weight and couldn’t. (I assure you this is not a problem for me any longer.)

When I went shopping for wedding dresses, most of the dresses were in large stock sizes, so the sales clerk had to clip back the dresses with massive clips just to give me an idea of what each dress would look like. And then, in a stroke of genius, the sales lady offered to show me some dresses on the clearance rack — in smaller sizes. Back then, even a size 6 was a bit roomy for me, and I finally slid into a size 4 dress that actually fit me. No alterations needed.

I am convinced I bought that particular gown more because it actually fit than because it was my dream dress. I had envisioned myself in a mermaid style number and instead walked away with a sequined tulle ballet-skirted gown. However, it was still beautiful, and we bought it on the spot. I didn’t get to try it on again until right before I was to fly down for our destination wedding.

And then I noticed that my dress no longer fit like a glove. Either I had lost a few pounds sometime between when I had tried on the dress in the store or the underskirts they had given me with the dress did not fill it out as much as the sample slip I had used. Thus, I had a little extra room under the fabric in the back where the dress met my tailbone.

The sales clerk assured me that that the space was so slight, it could be remedied with a fuller petticoat. The wedding was looming up in just a few days, so I took the dress as-is with the different petticoat.

But, if the truth be told — even with the recommended skirts underneath, I still had too much room in the waist of the dress. There wasn’t anything I could do with the wedding upon me. I simply wore the dress, and probably no one other than me even noticed that it did not contour to every curve as it was designed to. But it still bothered me a little at the time.

In looking back at my wedding dress dilemma, I have found that marriage is kind of like that wedding dress I wore all those years ago. Some days it fits better than others. It has taken some adjusting, some altering to fit into a life with someone who lived independently of me for the majority of his life.

Now, 15 years later, here’s what I would say to any starry-eyed bride walking down the aisle:

1. Educate yourself on gender differences.

You may be reading this thinking, huh? What is there to know? I got this! Let me assure you, from one woman to another, men have very different needs, communication modes and behaviors. Period. Even knowing this going into marriage, I still didn’t really get how these differences would crop up immediately. Some of our earliest fights occurred because I had no idea how to handle this man, this utter alien from outer space.

I had grown up with three sisters and a fairly distant father. I had no reference point for how to interpret my husband’s actions. I found it helpful to read several books in my early marriage. A few that I really enjoyed were Staying Close: Stopping the Natural Drift Toward Isolation in Marriage, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey; Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus, by John Gray; and The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary Smalley. We also benefited from joining a life group at church focused on couples and attending several couples’ events at church.

I am still learning what makes my husband tick, but understanding that males generally have different things that motivate them and make them operate (including entirely different wiring in their brains) has helped me to understand Keith better and not expect him to have the same reactions to life events and conversations as me.

2. Get involved in a church community.

As tempting as it is to run off together and never leave each other’s sight, you will have to come up for air eventually, and you need Christian community to support your marriage and help bring accountability and community into your life.

I can think of several turning points in my early marriage — and two important ones I can think of are when we went to church for the first time together when we were first married, and when we found a home church once we got established in my husband’s home state. A Washington-born girl, I was extremely homesick when my then military husband was honorably discharged, and we made the decision to move permanently to Georgia. That homesickness began to fade once we got plugged into a good church.

We both benefited from being part of a faith community where we could learn more about God and connect with other individuals in similar life stages (and in even more advanced life stages). We could know that we weren’t alone in some of the struggles we were having, and we could get advice and knowledge from couples further along in their life journey.

3. Adjust unrealistic expectations.

Not only is it necessary to learn about gender-related relational differences, it is necessary to make sure your overall expectations are not creating an unrealistic standard for your spouse. The day before my wedding, my then future father-in-law gave me some sage advice regarding expectations: he told me to lower them! I thought at the time that the advice sounded a little odd. Why would I do that? And now that I have been married for some time, I have a better sense of what he meant.

Lowering expectations doesn’t mean that you don’t make your needs known. It also doesn’t mean you pretend like you don’t have any needs or wants or allow someone to de-value or disrespect you. However, what it does mean is that you don’t put the unrealistic expectation on the other person to know what to always do and say in the exact way you think they should — to make you happy.

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (3)

I have long since discovered that my husband is good at a lot of things. We have many meaningful talks, and I tell him just about everything. But he often doesn’t have the reactions I think he should or always meet every emotional need I have. And I can’t expect him to.

I remember after having my first baby, I was overwhelmed with the recovery, hormones, decisions, fear. I was having a hard time learning how to breast-feed, and I felt like a total failure. Everyone in my family breast-fed — my mom, my sister, but I absolutely hated it. I thought it was awful. I liked feeding my baby from a bottle better, but I was afraid to stop breast-feeding because I feared I wouldn’t be a good mom if I didn’t adhere to more natural practices.

Enter in unrealistic expectations: I wanted my husband to understand my emotions, what I was going through. When I shared with him how I felt, he just shrugged and said, “Just use formula if you want.” End of discussion.

I wanted him to understand what a big deal this decision was for me. In retrospect, I realize my husband was just reacting out of his reference point. I really needed the soothing experience of talking with other women who had gone through similar experiences. I get it. If my husband were unloading on me about a problem unique to men, I might have a hard time relating to it.

The bottom line: Husbands can’t meet all our needs. We have a God for that. We can also benefit from other friendships that can help us in whatever life stage we are in.

 4. Apply Christian principles in the home.

In my first few years of marriage, I was in a bit of a backslidden state as a Christian. I was distrustful of certain Christian principles I had seen abused or misused in my own family or other families I observed. Although I knew about the biblical verses that instructed wives to submit to their husbands, I really didn’t feel that those passages applied to me.

Wounded in two dating relationships prior to meeting my husband, I had concluded that I needed to stop being so needy and clingy. In an effort to protect my heart, I became very independent. I would make what decisions I wanted to, come and go as I pleased, and not act like I needed anything from him. As you can imagine, there was some friction caused by this self-sufficient attitude of mine.

One Sunday, I went to church mad. I don’t remember if I had had an argument with Keith or what the problem was, but I had a list in my head of things Keith needed to do differently in our relationship. While I expected God to side with me — God ended up doing a work in me rather than my husband! During the course of the service, the Holy Spirit strongly convicted me and showed me a clear picture of what I was like to live with. And the picture wasn’t pretty. I felt I was to apologize to Keith for not letting him lead. It was difficult for me to humble myself and go to him and tell him that I had been wrong, but I felt a sense of peace and relief after that conversation.

I came to the revelation during that incident that God designed marriage with specific roles in mind, and for my marriage to work the best way possible, I needed to obey biblical mandates. When I allowed my husband to take the role of leadership, I honored not only him but I honored God. I had more tranquility in my home and more in my soul when I obeyed what Scripture said about my role as a wife.

Does submission mean I am a meek doormat who never gives an opinion or speaks up? No. I tell him what I think. I give him advice. I would never participate in a wrong action out of a false belief that that constitutes as submission, but from that moment I had in church where God made it clear that my attitude needed to change, I have made the effort to support him as the head of the family and let him determine what direction we will go in terms of our major decisions.

While there can be days where marriage feels just as ill-fitting as the waistline of the dress from my wedding day, the good thing about a marriage relationship is that it is flexible — it can grow as you grow.

There have been moments where I have been so angry at Keith only to have other moments where I am so happy with where we are in our relationship. God cares about your relationship and knows the things you need to help make you thrive in it.

Above all — seek Him, and you will find that the more you grow in your relationship with Him, the more you will know what things you can do to make your marriage “fit” better than it does now.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why You Can Feel Loved This Valentine’s Day (Even If You Don’t)

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (2)

I remember the day Michael asked me to be his wife. He wanted to go hike to the top of a nearby mountain. I wasn’t too crazy about the idea, but I saw he had already prepared his backpack for the adventure. How could I say no?

Aside from the frequent breaks I had to take to catch my breath and rest my achy legs, the trek up the mountain was nice. I’ve always enjoyed being out in nature and drinking in God’s handiwork. After we made it to the top, Michael unpacked his bag. He laid out a blanket, some snacks, and a CD player (for those too young to know what that is, the modern day equivalent would be an ipod).

We chatted and enjoyed our time together. Then he said he wanted me to hear a song by country singer Michael Peterson, “From Here to Eternity,” and he got it ready to play. As soon as the song started, he began to sing along.

I did everything I could to get you here tonight

Without telling you why

Now girl if you only would please hold out your hand

And just close your eyes

I’ve been dying to ask you this one burning question

‘Will you be mine?’

It took me a minute to process what was happening. I heard the song, but the words took a few minutes to sink in. And before I knew it, Michael was kneeling before me with a ring in his hand. I think I was shaking as he placed it on my finger after seeing my smiles and my nod of yes. I remember there were people passing by, and one woman shouted, “Whoo hoo! There are still good men in this world!” To be honest, the whole event, 16 plus years later, is a bit of a blur, but I do remember the immense joy I felt upon hearing him ask me to be his wife: I was loved by this great guy, and now, I was forever his and he mine.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, these thoughts concerning the engagement to my husband have me thinking about the day I got engaged to my ultimate love, Jesus. The day I asked Jesus to come into my heart and life was the day I accepted the engagement ring He offers us all in His outstretched hand. It was the day of my betrothal to the King of Kings.

A Bible study entitled Restore My Heart, written by Denise Glenn, further explores this analogy by looking at Jewish customs surrounding marriage. Glenn draws parallels from those customs to what Jesus has done for us — He being the groom and we (the church) being His bride. One particularly impressive aspect of Jewish tradition is that of the arrabon.

Basically, a Jewish man — after paying the bride price for the woman his father chooses for him to marry — gives his chosen bride an engagement ring (arrabon) — if she decides that, yes, she would like to marry him. The arrabon is like “earnest money” — a deposit to ensure that he will follow through with the marriage. It’s a betrothal ring much like the American engagement ring custom.

Jesus has done the same for us — His bride, the church. He paid our bride price with His death on the cross for our sins. After we decide that, yes, we would like to accept his sacrifice for our sins, He then gives us an arrabon — the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the guarantee that one day Jesus will come for His bride, and following that, we will be at the marriage supper of the lamb.

For those of us who struggle with finding our identity in Christ, the image of Christ as our bridegroom is a beautiful picture we should use to remind ourselves of who we truly are in Him. In it, I see three principles about the believer that are central to knowing our true selves.

Who you are in Christ:

1. You are loved.

Ephesians 5:25 admonishes husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church.” To restate, husbands are to love their wives as the Bridegroom (Jesus) loved His bride (us, the church) — by sacrificing Himself for her. By paying our bride price and securing our engagement. Jesus gave up so very much for you and me because of His great love for us. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world [you, me, everyone] that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Scripture time and time again validates this about our identity: We are loved.

2. You are sanctified.

Ephesians 5 continues in verses 26 and 27 by explaining that Christ paid the price for His bride so “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Our Bridegroom cleanses us, makes us holy and sets us apart. Each of us is special to Him. As a man chooses one woman to be his wife for the entirety of this life so Christ sets us apart (sanctifies us) from all others for eternity. This is who you are in Christ — chosen.

3. You are worthy to be rejoiced over.

Isaiah 62:5 explains, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” This is an amazing image to let settle into our hearts and minds. Jesus rejoicing over you. He is delighted by you, and you bring Him great joy.

It is like when the bridegroom sees his bride walking down the aisle toward him. He is excited by her and proudly smiles as she makes her way toward him. Imagine your Jesus, your bridegroom, looking at you in a similar manner. This is yet another reality of who the believer truly is in Christ.

If you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are His bride — loved, sanctified, and continuously rejoiced over. Let these truths settle deeply in your heart and mind. This is who you are in Him.

However, if you’ve never come to a point in your life where you have received Him as your Lord and Savior, let me encourage you to take a moment and accept the engagement ring He purchased at great cost to Himself. He is down on one knee, proposing marriage.

Beulah Girl Feb 2016

To accept, all you have to do is pray: admit you are a sinner (Romans 3:23), tell Him you believe Jesus is God’s son sent to save you from your sins (John 3:16), and confess Him as God.

If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

Don’t waste another minute. Let your engagement begin. It’s as if Jesus is singing to you now — as my husband, Michael, did to me that day he proposed marriage — the chorus of Peterson’s song:

From here to eternity

I’m asking you to share your life with me

Now and forever I guarantee

I’ll always stay by your side

I promise my love to you

I’m willing and able and ready to

Whatever you need I am here for you

And I’ll always be

From here to eternity

Hear Him. Say Yes! I guarantee, you won’t regret it.


Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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Why Should I Be Humble?

Why Should I Be Humble_

“Now, Suzy was a very humble woman.”

Can you imagine reading that in a blog post somewhere? Well, maybe, but what if the post were written by Suzy herself, as this one is? It wouldn’t seem very humble then. According to the Oxford Dictionaries, my understanding of humility can either be qualified as a person taking a low opinion of himself or having limited resources.

So you might be surprised to learn that in Numbers 12:3, which was written by Moses, it reads, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Again, it’s funny to read of someone who calls himself humble, especially because at certain intervals of his life, Moses didn’t seem to fit either definition that old Mr. Oxford presents for the term. He had all of God’s resources at his disposal, and he had been reared in a king’s palace, certainly not a circumstance which would warrant lowliness of self-opinion.

You know what’s even funnier, except not the ha-ha kind of funny? It’s the fact that we are losing our reward sometimes by becoming pharisaical and doing our good deeds for others to see, thus losing our humility. Or by showcasing our talents in a way that detracts from the glory of God.

Although I was disappointed with its follow-up novel, To Kill a Mockingbird will always been one of my favorite books, and it’s because of the character Atticus Finch. I can quote whole parts of the book from having taught it so many times; and this line, spoken by Miss Maudie of Atticus to his children, always stood out to me: “People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”

Here, Miss Maudie was explaining why Atticus didn’t call attention to his shooting ability. Whether Moses was the one calling himself humble, or whether it’s that literary character whose children tried to bring undue attention to their father, humility will be a struggle when we see anything we have or are as coming from within.

Whatever we have, God has given it to us. Whoever we are is being conformed to the image of God as we allow him to do it. You will hear people say, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” They use that to justify everything from wearing revealing clothing to being a braggart. However, as is the way in Jesus’ upside-down kingdom, we find that He urges His followers to use discretion, secrecy, and humility as we do good, reminding us that all of our good comes from Him.

So why be humble? When we post the latest, greatest Instagram photos of ourselves, aren’t we just appreciating God’s creation? When we share our good deeds on Facebook, aren’t we just encouraging others? Your motive is between you and God, but if you find yourself questioning your intentions, keep these truths in mind:

1. Bragging may bring attention to the Christian, but it deflects that attention from God.

There are so many great churches in America, so this is not intended to be a knock on any of them; however, if we use advertising about our great band and our great preacher to get people in the door, will they stay when the church loses those things and there’s only Jesus? Bands and preachers aren’t bad, but I think we often miss the crux of what church is about. It’s about Jesus, not the cool stuff. Not the hipster people. Not the killer “worship.” Let’s humbly draw people to an altar where they can meet the Savior who happened to also call himself “gentle and humble in heart.”

2. People prefer a humble friend.  

I will admit that I have been the talked-too-much-about-myself friend. (Maybe I should change my past tense verb there to present … ) Anyway, although we are all annoyed by the friend who turns every one of our stories into a conversation about herself, admit it; we sometimes do it as well. In the name of Jesus, we ruin our chances of storing up treasure in Heaven by telling all the good things we’ve done. It’s almost like we’re high on the approval of others instead of trying to glorify the Most High. Expand your influence not by using the world’s method of selling ourselves but by drawing others through our low-key humility.

3. There are too many people in the world who need us to focus on them instead of ourselves.

I am convinced that focusing on others is a pretty good cure for what ails ‘ya. Now, I don’t mean that we run ourselves in the ground due to self-neglect, but if we look at most American lives, that’s really not what’s going on. We may be tired, but it’s because we’ve been focusing on our work, our friends, our family, and our good deeds. Humility urges us to serve “the least of these” and to perform kindnesses in such a stealthy way that not even our right hand knows what the left is doing. If we’re serving in that way, people who have felt invisible for so long will be lifted up and drawn to Christ, all because we have chosen to take none of the credit for ourselves but to point it to Him instead.

The message of this post is not that we should hold our heads down and act depressed about what God has blessed us with. That’s false humility, and it won’t attract anyone to us for us to tell them about the cross. Instead, let’s focus the attention where it’s due, and if “the whole world is a stage,” as Shakespeare claimed, let’s use our on-stage opportunities to glorify the Lord from our hearts, for real.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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