Learning To Pray The Psalms

At a recent Lifeway YouLead event, Kelly King shared a method for using the Psalms as a language for prayer.  Here’s the process…

  1. Make a numbered list from 1 – 30
  2. Find the number that corresponds to today’s date (i.e. September 16 = Psalm 16)
  3. Add 30 to each date until there are 5 numbers listed on each line. When you are finished, you should have numbers 1 – 150 in groups of 5  (i.e 1, 31, 61, 91, 121). This should give you 1 Psalm to pray every day for 5 months. For months with 31 days, choose a Psalm or a passage from a longer Psalm to use on day 31.
  4. Read the Psalm for that day.
  5. Using the language from that Psalm, say or write your prayer(s). Use personal pronouns to customize the words for your thoughts, praises and needs.
  6. If you don’t get all the way through each verse of the Psalm, that’s OK. Use whatever portion that speaks to you in your time with the Lord.

Here’s an example of what this might look like for Psalm 16…

Read Psalm 16

Lord,

Thank you for protecting me! Even today, You have kept me safe in ways I don’t even know. There are situations where You provide shelter so I know I can trust You completely.

Unfortunately, there are times when I don’t remember to trust You…I believe there are parts of my life that I can “handle alone”. Of course, I would never say that. My actions prove that’s what I think, though.

Like David, I can say ‘YOU ARE MY LORD’. None of my words are ever enough to thank you for being my creator and my savior before You became my Lord.

Lord, You are the only good thing about me. Without You, I am nothing but a sinner condemned to hell! Help me be honest about that when I am tempted to try to trust more in myself than in You.

When I am focused on You, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by how well You provide for me. Help me ALWAYS look at You first – Help me ALWAYS trust You completely – even when I don’t understand where You are leading.

Thank you for helping me “rest securely”, no matter what! Because of You, my heart can be glad, regardless of my circumstances or emotions. I want my life to point to You, above all else. Help me remember to let You guide me!

Amen.

Going To Work

For years and years, I have watched my mother listen. Don’t worry, she does her share of talking to! But her listening helps her talking make an impact. Wherever she is, she usually ends up in a conversation with someone – salesperson, waiter, friend, handyman, cashier, etc. Instead of just talking to pass the time or fill the silence, she listens. Then, she responds to what she hears …with encouragement, humor, an invitation, her story, and even Scripture. In an inviting, simple way, her faith “goes to work”.

For a LONG time, I didn’t realize that all her talking and listening had a point. As an adult, I have come to see it’s how she bears the fruit of her faith. She listens and takes interest in the people she naturally comes in contact with. Then, she engages them where they are. If they have never heard of Jesus, she invites them to learn. If they know Him but are not acting like they do, she challenges them to recommit. If they can’t see Him because of pain or needs in their life, she offers help.

It’s not complicated.

It’s not programmed.

It’s not overbearing or “in your face”.

It’s her faith. And it goes to work every time she leaves the house.

What’s YOUR story? We’d love to hear it and help you share it with others. Visit our website & answer 5 questions  to tell your story!

 

Storytellers

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From the earliest moments of our lives, we hear, read and tell stories. Stories are a form of communication and education. They are new every day and continue as long as people are alive. They are universal. In fact, Scripture tells the one, most powerful, most important story of all time!

Stories are meant to be shared and they are powerful tools for connecting with and loving others.  Because the disciples and Christ-followers throughout time have shared their stories, you and I know about Jesus and how He gives us a hope beyond ourselves. As believers, we are commanded to tell those same stories and “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Several years ago, a young woman attended an event at a church she had never been to before. As people were arriving and finding their seats, one of the hosts from the church went over to the woman and introduced herself. When the young woman responded by telling her name, the host said, “So tell me your story.” Immediately, the young woman became a storyteller and it was such a welcoming moment.

You have a story and we invite you to become a storyteller!

How can you do that?

It’s very simple. You can tell your story by answering 5 Questions on our website. We’ll use those answers and your photo in a future blog post to help people meet, connect and walk with Dawson Women everywhere!

 

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reboot!

Often, when electronics are not performing the way they are supposed to, they need a “reboot”, a pause to turn it completely off and restart it. That’s what we are doing with our Women’s Ministry Blog and we couldn’t be more excited! After a LONG PAUSE, we are restarting the Dawson Women’s Ministry BLOG and we hope you’ll join us here, often, as you engage with all the ways God is working through women at Dawson.

The Dawson Women’s Ministry is designed to involve ALL women. It is not something a woman “joins”. Rather, it is something a woman “is”! As Paul encouraged the Colossians, we seek to be “woven into a tapestry of love”. This ministry offers a variety of ways to be involved throughout each year: studies that focus on Scripture and God’s work in individual lives and the corporate body of the church; the TABLE ministry that opens homes in the community for intentional conversation about God; and SPECIAL EVENTS that focus on specific areas of need and/or concern.

Our goals for this blog, as well as our overall online presence, are:

  1. (the most important!) – Share how God is working in, around and through Dawson women.
  2. Provide a central source of information for anything and everything pertaining to the ministry.
  3. Provide a consistent place for interaction with our church members and ministry visitors.
  4. Direct members and visitors to the Dawson website for information about ministries and programs of the entire family of faith.

We hope you’ll visit here often, learn what God is doing at Dawson and share what He’s doing in your life as well!

Because of Him,

Kristen Torres, Minister of Spiritual Development

Dawson Family of Faith – 205.871.7324

Learning to Look for the”Great” In Every Day

by Erin Hollis

When I was a little girl, my dad often drove us to school.  Looking back I think those 15 minutes in the car each day have become some of his favorite moments in life.  He loved to sing loudly, scare us by abruptly screaming out at stop signs and wave to random people as we sped by.  He also found embarrassing us in the carpool line a daily requirement (still does, for that matter…).  Sunglasses with giant royal blue rims were his accessory of choice for the endeavor.  He would wait until we were just about to unload and throw those hideously gigantic shades on his face to greet our friends.  As our teachers and classmates would point and laugh I will never forget what he would say, “What kind of day are we going to have?!?!?”  He would wait until we responded.  Often times we declined.  So he would scream, GREAT DAY!!!”  No matter what kind of mood I was in, that one daily dialogue always brought a smile to my face.

Recently, I needed my dad to remind me of the importance of frame of mind.  The rain was coming down in thick sheets as we traveled down the road.  I had already burned the waffles that morning, slipped and fell down the stairs to the garage and now my oldest daughter needed to go potty fifteen minutes away from our destination.  I was ready to call it a day.  Crawl back in bed and hide under the covers.  As we crested a hill, I noticed a quaint little chapel nestled amongst some tall pines.  At the edge of the parking lot was a sign that read:

Every day will not be great.

But there will be something GREAT about every day.

Wow.  God shows up, doesn’t He?  Right when we reach the brink of desperation, He’s there.  Reaching a hand out to catch us from a fall.

I started to think about the message from the sign that day and my heart realized God was posturing me for an attitude adjustment.  Just like my Dad had done for me everyday as a child.  When we go through the motions each day it’s so easy to get worn down, beat up, exhausted.  That’s completely understandable.  We might even find ourselves leaning towards a “Negative Nelly” mentality at times.  But if we take a moment each morning before our feet even hit the floor to say, “Today is going to be a great day.  I have the gift of another day.  Let’s do this.” we have already taken the first step to start our day on a positive note.

So often in life attitude is everything.  Full disclosure: the fact that you woke up and continue to exist may be the only “great” parts of some days.  Don’t let that discourage you.  If we look at life through a positive lens (take for example giant royal blue rimmed sunglasses) we are destined to see the good in our reality rather than focusing on the bad.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.”  Ecclesiastes 7:14

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“I am a child of God, a wife and mother to my two greatest blessings. I dearly love my faith, my family and getting the most out of life!” Read her daily at http://www.erinbrownhollis.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am That Baby

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I looked in the mirror this morning and realized I am the most important person in the world to God. And so is the next person. And the next person. Because God is all-powerful and omnipresent, it’s as if each of us has God entire giving sole attention to us. Do we fail to ask for His attention? If so, we grievously fail ourselves.

I’ve seen a baby ultrasound face picture recently, remembered the one of my daughter, and visited a Chinese friend and her newborn son. As I looked at my face in the mirror, I thought of that, how I was once that beautiful, brand-new creation knit together in my mother’s womb. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, of course, but – also of course – I am just as precious to God today as I was when tiny, helpless, and innocent.

And so are you.

In late September we buried the last of our parents, Jeff’s 93-year-old mother. Pictures from her youth were quite impressive at the funeral visitation. How beautiful she was, an 18-year-old war bride! That face at 93 – the one under the lid of the casket – suffered years of declining health. But no wrinkle, no pallor, no weakness mars beauty except to us, who sometimes forget what beauty is.

In these pictures, granddaughter and grandmother show remarkable family resemblance at similar age!

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Never forget how beautiful you are, and live accordingly! The world needs your beauty to shine forth in positive words and good works.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Psalm 139:13-14

Betsy Lowery is a native of North Carolina who has lived in Alabama her entire adult life. A Dawson member, she is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an employee at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. Her devotional book, Pause: Everyday Prayers for Everyday Women, was published in 2004. She is now offering regular excerpts from the book on Facebook at Books by Betsy Lowery under the heading “PAUSE to Remember.” She shares longer devotional messages at calledoutlife.wordpress.com and has two inspirational novels in the works that she hopes will be published. Betsy loves to spend morning time before work at Panera Bread, knitting or writing over breakfast. Betsy and her husband, Jeff, have two grown daughters.

A strange definition of “perfect”

The young boy was a runaway with nothing but the thin overalls he wore. No shirt under the overalls. No shoes. No food. No money. No destination except freedom from his pursuers.

The only good thing about his circumstances was that he had a friend traveling with him. This friend was not a same-age buddy also on the run, also suffering from a lack of resources. No; he was a guide and an advocate who not only offered hope, but also had the means of helping the boy find a practical solution to his problem.

Rested after a night’s sleep in the arms of his friend, and grinning from ear to ear over a breakfast of apples from a tree, the boy told his able friend, “Now we’re together, and life is perfect.”

That statement, “life is perfect,” certainly is intriguing when you consider the boy’s present plight and poverty. But, it makes a little more sense when you know that the situation he had run from was much worse. To him, the freedom he now had, as uncertain as it was, was “perfect” in comparison to where he had been.

Our true and pressing needs are not to be diminished, though many of us sometimes complain about minor things in addition to worrying about major things. Might it be helpful to check our general attitude against the story of a runaway child who, after escaping the worst oppression he had ever known, was immensely grateful for what would look at first glance like terrible poverty?

The family that worked young Pete like a slave bought him for $50 from an orphanage. Pete’s friend and helper was a real dragon that everyone but Pete thought was imaginary. The movie is Pete’s Dragon (1977). Worth mention are enjoyable performances by Mickey Rooney, Helen Reddy, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters – and Jim Dale (who narrated those cute Angel Soft commercials and performed all of the Harry Potter audiobooks).

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Elliott, Pete’s animated dragon friend in the movie, has magical abilities. He can fly, turn himself invisible, and communicate verbally with human beings (even though his own speech is a bit muffled and mumbled).

Once Elliott the dragon has connected Pete with an adoptive family, he leaves Pete in order to go help another child who needs an advocate. “I won’t ever see you again, will I?” Pete asks with tears in his eyes. It is a bittersweet parting.

The worst oppression we experience, whether it feels that way or not, is being a slave to sin. Jesus Christ, our Friend and Advocate, not only offers hope, but also has the goal and the power to help us find the remedy for sin and to meet our material needs (see Matthew 6:25-33).  And He doesn’t have to leave us in order to go help someone else.

Pete says to Elliott in one of the songs, “I’m glad I don’t have to be alone.” In Christ we don’t have to be alone, or poor, or lost, or aimless. Consider your own emotions at a low or self-pitying point, or the feelings of someone you know:

Feeling alone? Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5
Feeling poor? Ephesians 1:3, Colossians 2:10, Ephesians 3:8
Feeling lost? John 10:27-29, Isaiah 40:11
Feeling aimless? Matthew 28:19-20, 2 Corinthians 5:20

 

Common Grace

There is no better example of “common grace” than Spring-time. Common grace, also known as “general grace” is defined as “non saving grace in which blessings are given to humanity for physical sustenance, pleasure, learning, beauty, etc. as expressions of God’s goodness. It is particularly contrasted…. with God’s special or saving grace.” (McKim, Donald K., The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition). Common graces are the gifts given all mankind regardless of their belief system, faith, or acknowledgment of God the creator. How gracious and good is our God to lavish us with the beauties of nature, the breath of babies, the animals all around, intellect for scientific discovery even if we never choose to acknowledge Him as the giver?

Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. James 1:17

Spring-time walks made beautiful by eyes specifically created to see color, not black and white. Spring-time with the Forsythia shooting out from it’s bush, out from the winter neutrals, shocking our color starved eyes with life and beauty. The rest of nature snoozes in hibernation as Red Bud Trees awaken and sing of the new morning. Daffodils dwarfed under trees trumpet with their blooms God’s love song. Paper Whites shyly whisper beside….. Spring is coming. And in every petal, in every bud about to blossom is God’s message, “Broken humanity, I love you. I love you…..” The azalea flowers will soon clump together, every hue in the rainbow proclaiming, “I bloom for He is good….” The hydrangea bush in the shade will not collapse under their rotund blooms. They will hold their weight and will say, “God is gentle and kind. Masterful and sovereign over all creation.”

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20

Birds will hatch, goat kids will be born with ears floppy and soft. God will feed them from His very hand…

Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? Job 38:39-41

All this glory and yet nature is not where God sets His sight, pours His love. Mankind is the object of His love…

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:3-5

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 17:8

All mankind was given God’s very breath. All mankind was created in His image. But for those who choose Jesus. For those who surrender to His Lordship… we are the recipients of not only God’s common grace but also His saving grace….

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

After salvation His grace continues as He pours His Holy Spirit into us, allowing us to be beauty and light to the broken world around us.

As we are reminded in Altar’d, “You are the dwelling place. You are the place where He displays His glory. You are the place where His glory is ‘at home.’”

As followers of Jesus Christ are we shining brighter, acting more lovely, blessing more profoundly the world around us than the flowers blooming outside our doors?

Rest for 24 Measures

by Betsy Lowery

After I watched the series finale of Downton Abbey, in my wakeful moments that night, and first thing the next morning, the show’s theme song kept running through my head. After some time being aware of this, I asked myself, “Exercising energy hearing or thinking the theme song to a popular PBS drama isn’t going to advance the cause of Christ in any way, is it? Shouldn’t you be praying instead?”

Take a look at how seriously the writer of Psalm 119:1-7 took the matter of knowing and obeying God:

Be blameless
Keep God’s statutes
Seek God with the whole heart
Follow God’s ways
Obey God’s precepts (fully)
Have steadfast ways
Consider God’s commands
Learn God’s laws

Does that list shout “pressure to perform” to you? Feeling a considerable amount of that type of pressure (or desire) to do well – not to please people, but as a servant of God, I want to be sure my blogging time is spent creating posts that provide solutions that may make a reader’s life better instead of lofty-sounding challenges that make life seem more of a struggle. “Pressure” might not be the best word. Perhaps: longing, intention, or goal. It’s a very real effect caused by having a serious attitude about what one “ought” to be doing. So….maybe pressure is the right word, after all.

Picture a strong current that moves a person wherever it wants to, unless that person is swimming fiercely, every moment, to go in a particular direction. That mental image is of something that’s very tiring, isn’t it? Certainly, biblical teaching on spiritual warfare and on persistent service seems to support this notion of constantly battling and never letting up for a second:

· be aware of the devil’s schemes all the time [1 Peter 5:8]
· mature as a Christian [Hebrews 5:13]
· pray without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17]
· and, when it’s much easier just to go home from work and “veg” in all of one’s free time, serve one’s neighbor more readily than serving oneself [Mark 9:35]

Tired. Straining for progress upstream, with aching arms. Believing myself to be failing when my mind dwells on a particular song that I tell myself is “inconsequential” because, although it may be clever and pretty, it doesn’t appear to expressly exalt Jesus. Pressure. Is the water current I mentioned earlier really “the world” dragging me in the wrong direction, or is the current I’m swimming against the pressure I put on myself every day?

Now I picture the Holy Spirit towing me against the current. He’s doing all the work, and I’m being moved in the right direction. No, we can’t be lazy. Lazy people waste potential and opportunity; “sloth” is one of the seven deadly sins. We must put our hands to the plow and not look backward if we would follow Christ and inherit our spiritual reward. But, where does laziness end and reasonable, restful abiding begin?

Jesus said: I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in me. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Last March, I told my husband that our Sunday School literature, LifeWay’s MasterWork series, is almost too good. There is so much that I underline and dog-ear and scribble about in the margins, wanting to apply the well-stated concepts, to learn from them, to internalize them, and to live with more effectiveness as a Christian because of them. I have kept every quarterly issue for the past four years or so. It would take a monastery resident’s schedule, where hours every day are allotted to prayer and study, for me to make the best use of this material that others have prayerfully created and that my church has generously provided. But I don’t live in a monastery. I work full-time and commute more than an hour, round trip, five days a week. I come home to be stared in the face by dirty floors and junk mail and a weedy yard and a messy closet. And dishes!

In the discretionary time I do have, I want God to use my thoughts and my activities for others’ benefit and for my own health. In light of that, lately I’ve been looking for heaven’s Registrar office so I can officially drop out of what feels like “advanced studies” and sign up for kindergarten again, where objects are large and bright and hands-on, where I can learn amazing things like colors and numbers for the first time again. Jesus did say the kingdom of heaven belongs to “such as these” (children).

One week after I observed that our Bible study literature is too good for my own good, God gave me a helpful insight during worship. My attention happened to be drawn to one of the percussionists during a beautiful song by choir and orchestra. Holding a pair of cymbals, he played sizzling accents, well-placed here and there, and he played commanding crashes for dramatic emphasis as the music score dictated. A sizzle or a crash in every measure would have rendered that instrument’s sound much less noticeable, much less interesting. Anyone who talks incessantly begins to be tuned out by bored hearers. I found myself wondering how many measures of rest the percussionist had, on average, between “notes.” The title of this article tells you my guess. (It may be way off.) I have to make this a life lesson: Take the measures of rest that the Composer wrote into your part, then play audible notes (or a visible role) when the time is right.

(Gear) shifting metaphors now… We don’t have to be pushing the gas pedal of our lives every second. Sometimes we coast. Sometimes we have the brake on, waiting our turn to act or to speak, while it’s another’s turn to be moving. And sometimes the car is sitting with the motor off and the keys out of the ignition. Now, that is real rest.

 

Easter Monday

It is Easter Monday. Tomorrow will be Easter Tuesday and then Easter Wednesday and then…. well, you get the point. For those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, everyday is Easter Sunday. God’s power that resurrected Jesus on Sunday is still at work on Easter Monday.

Easter Monday, when the laundry piles too high.

Easter Monday, when the seven year old wakes up uncontrollably grouchy and you lose your temper, returning her bad attitude in kind.

Easter Monday, when you fought with your best friend of a husband the night before and you think, “Again? I thought we were over this!” And your heart hurts with the pattern on repeat.

Easter Monday morning, with a week full of appointments, meals to cook, counters to wipe, unbelievably sticky floors to mop, and hours of picking up and you think, “Is this what my day is about? It never seems to end.”

Easter Monday, when sticky floors make you angrier than they should.

Easter Monday, when Scripture reminds…

Control yourselves and be careful! The devil, your enemy, goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. (1 Peter 5:8)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25)

At some point on Easter Monday, the reality sets in. Difficulties, frustrations, and trials were not crucified on Friday and a carefree life resurrected in it’s place on Sunday. On this, the day after Easter, the world looks like, well…. the world. Tedious work, tempers, illness, old temptations, encountering others whose hearts are bent on destroying. Even death happens on this Monday after Easter. You are tempted to believe the power and hope proclaimed on Sunday, is rendered ineffective and lifeless today.

Then Scripture reminds…

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:18-20)

morlandthelivesOn this Resurrection Monday, Jesus is seated in heaven, all accomplished. The fact that, yesterday, He conquered death means that today He can conquer my bad attitude. He can destroy those patterns of thinking and behaving and sinning that break relationship with those I love. Are the, seemingly, insurmountable obstacles on this Monday after Easter really greater than death itself? Simply, NO.

The God who raised His Son after three days in death’s chamber can be trusted to give joy and purpose in the most tedious of tasks.  Work that, when done unto Him, with a thankful heart turns beautiful in its rhythm. This God of Easter restores brokenness, redeems those things the world would like to destroy, and equips us to face life’s challenges each day. This God of Easter is not just for Easter Sunday.

His resurrection power gives new eyes to see the blessings alongside the trials. Outside, I see azaleas and dogwoods and a new bright green that almost burns my eyes after a long winter. From where does this beauty come?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Beside this weary world is the whisper of a Savior who crushed Satan’s head on the cross (Genesis 3:15). While, for a time, the world moves forward in it’s sinful, broken state, His resurrection power is still working, transforming, and creating alongside the stench of a dying world. He is working miracles. Often, these miracles are in the transformed hearts of those who follow Him. Thankfully, I am not the same person I was last Easter. He is progressively changing my heart of worry to a heart of trust.

Because Scripture reminds, I will …

fix my eyes on Jesus , the author and perfector of my faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. I will consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that I will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3

Every day is Easter for those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ. We are not yet allowed to see His physical resurrected body but, between Easter Sunday and the unknown future when He comes again, we are given His power, His joy, and His hope. We are called to transform and infuse this broken world with His goodness and grace. I will pray to do just that today, Easter Monday, even as I mop the dirty floor and fold the endless laundry. I will not lose heart.

As Scripture reminds…

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Sarah, a native Texan, now lives in Birmingham AL with her husband and four children.  A licensed speech therapist, she now manages her home full-time.  With a cup of coffee by her side, Sarah writes about mothering, disability, and God’s good purpose in the lives of His children. You can follow her blog at www.morlandt.blogspot.com