Lord of the Broken

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Lord, this world is so broken, so torn by the fall
My trials and weaknesses seem to crumble my faith
The mountains loom larger and the fires burn hotter,
And I look through my tears, but I can’t see Your face.
Then I see Jesus pleading, “Not My will but Yours,”
And I hear Your sweet voice say, “My grace is enough.”

Oh give me the faith
To see my pain isn’t wasted,
You’re building strength with each mountain
Refining gold in the fire.

You’re Lord of the broken
The hurting and bleeding
We’re desperately pleading
Calling Your name.
You’re Lord of the hopeless
The helpless and faithless
Who are crying to Jesus
Who is mighty to save!
You’re Lord of the broken.


      Lord, my heart is so broken, so weary with sin
I bow at Your feet again with guilt I can’t hide
The war in my soul is tearing me apart,
And I struggle and fight, but I can’t overcome.
Then I see nail-scarred hands stretched out wide to me
And open arms of love say “Forgiveness is free!”

Oh give me patience to trust
That You’re building Your kingdom
That You’re molding a masterpiece
From the shards of my life.

You’re Lord of the broken
The hurting and bleeding
We’re desperately pleading
Calling Your name.
You’re Lord of the hopeless
The helpless and faithless
Who are crying to Jesus
Who is mighty to save!
You’re Lord of the broken.


And if this clay jar must be cracked and shattered so that Your light can shine through —
And if I must die that the life You’ve put in me can blossom into something new —
Then break me and change me, and put Your light in me,
Until the whole world can see that

You’re Lord of the broken
The hurting and bleeding
We’re desperately pleading
Calling Your name.
You’re Lord of the hopeless
The helpless and faithless
Who are crying to Jesus
Who is mighty to save!
You’re Lord of the broken.


Lord, all that is broken will one day be new
This world that is groaning now will soon be set free
Your people are hopeful, expectantly waiting,
And we’re longing for You, to look on Your face.
But then we turn our eyes outward to the world that is broken,
As we turn our eyes upward to our home there with You.

Oh give us the hope
To look forward to heaven
And to pour out our lives
For this loved, dying world.

Because Lord, You were broken,
Rejected, abandoned,
Bleeding on Calvary, dying for me.
And because You were broken,
The way now is open,
The tomb now is empty
And I am set free!


Healing is possible, for Jesus, You have paid it all,
Oh Lord of the broken.

 

The Brokenness that Heals

Have you ever felt acutely aware of your own brokenness?  Like something very deep inside of you is broken, and irreparable?  Do you ever feel like you have tried every day to fix yourself, just to wake up later and realize that you are more broken than you were before?

That is where I was at about 1:00 this afternoon.

I found myself there, crying in a professor’s office, trying to face doubt and cynicism with courage and faith, and failing miserably.  Lately I have found myself trapped in a cycle of cynicism and unbelief, unhealthy life patterns, and hopeless pride.  What kind of life do I want?  A vibrant faith expressed in indomitable, feminine courage and compassion.  What do I feel I have? Exactly the opposite.  I desperately needed the fatherly hug and encouragement my prof offered.

Also in that moment, I desperately needed a glimpse of Jesus’ attitude toward people like me.

The Paralytic and Me

I was reminded of the story of the paralytic in John 5.  He had been lying beside a pool for thirty-eight years, hoping that somehow its rumored “magical” powers would heal him.  But his solution failed.  He was too paralyzed to get into the pool fast enough to be healed, if it would have healed him at all.  On top of that, no one even cared enough about him to help him.  Then Jesus came along.  The renowned Healer looked at that crippled man and said, “Do you want to be healed?” (I believe, “Um, YES, duh. And thank you,” is the correct response.)  But the paralyzed man was still so stuck in his human solutions that he said, “But I don’t have anyone to put me in the pool.  How can I be healed?”  He said that to God.  Like, the One who could raise dead people — so dead that they stunk (aka Lazarus).  The paralytic didn’t think he could be healed, not unless Jesus was there to put him in the pool.  He wanted Jesus to empower his man-made solution, but he couldn’t see that Jesus had a much bigger plan, one that didn’t include his superstitious, futile resources.

The truth is, I am just like that guy. I’m still trying to figure out a way to get myself out of my mess so I can get back to Jesus.  But Jesus has come to me.  Jesus came to that man while he was still broken, when he was hopeless, when he had exhausted every human healing resource.  Now Jesus has come to me, and I am trying to use Him to empower my own human answers, when He is looking at me and saying, “Do you want to be healed??”

What I need is not another fabricated solution.  I need Jesus Himself.  I need to say “YES! I want to be healed!” And then I need Him to reach down His hand and lift me to my feet. To say, “Get up, take up your bed and walk.”

The LORD Who Heals

Jesus is Yahweh Rapha — the self-sufficient, promise-keeping God who heals.  He has reached so far into our brokenness that He even took on the likeness of our sinful flesh in order to restore us.  He is no stranger to the fragmented nature of our existence — “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).  The most happy, most perfect One, entered into our pain and restored us by being broken Himself.  “He took bread and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body that is given for you’” (Luke 22:19).  “With His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).  The hands that reach down to heal us are scarred, and their mutilation is their deepest beauty.  Jesus feels the deepest aches of our humanity, the desperation of our ineffective self-efforts to find peace.  And He doesn’t deride us for the duct tape that we put repeatedly on the cracks of our souls because we thought it could fix everything.  Instead, He gently peels it off and says, “Do you want to be healed?”

Every morning I wake up and take an anti-depressant pill.  I have a tangible reminder every day that my body and my mind and my emotions are broken.  Part of it is humiliating — I am too proud to admit that I need help.  The other part of it is thankfulness-producing — God has used the miracle of man-made drugs to help me.  However, my hope does not lie in resources crafted by human ingenuity.  It lies in my Lord Jesus.  He is the master of metamorphosing our pain into beauty.

Yet the fact remains that in this fallen world, part of me will always be broken, and I will constantly desire to be fully restored.  That final restoration will come, in the glory of heaven where in perfect wholeness I will worship at mutilated feet, be lifted up by pierced hands, and hug a body with a gashed side.  There, where I will forever be reminded of the brokenness that healed me.

Letters to My Future Self: Beauty

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Dear future Kristen,

Don’t tell me you are having an identity crisis again.  We’ve been through this before, haven’t we?  Calm down; it’s ok.  Can I tell you something?  I know about you, I know something deep, something fundamental to the feminine humanness inside of you.

You want to be beautiful.

You have a deep longing to be seen and recognized by those around you as an attractive person.  And do you know what?  That’s okay.  It’s a natural part of your heart; it’s an expression of being the person God has made you to be, and it is good.  However, I’ve seen recently the way that this good desire can become twisted and destructive rather than edifying and life-giving.  But what is beauty anyway?  What is this strange quality that our culture is obsessed with — that we have over-defined until it has almost lost its definition completely?  Beauty has become nebulous, based on whimsical societal norms rather than reality.  But God is the ultimate Reality.  He is the One who created beauty and caused you to desire it, and He is the One who tells us what it truly is. Yet how many times have we chosen to believe what our culture says instead of trusting what God has said?

God’s definition is strikingly different from that of the world around you.  Our culture screams that long lashes, and beach bodies, and photoshopped magazine models are where it’s at. God skips the external almost entirely and hits at your heart.  When God speaks of beauty, He speaks of beautiful character — a life of godliness that overflows into good works.

1 Peter 3:3-4  “Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair or the putting on of gold jewelry or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which in God’s sight is very precious.”

Proverbs 31:30  “Charm is deceptive and beauty does not last, but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised” (NLT).

1 Timothy 2:9-10  “I want women to be modest in their appearance.  They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do” (NLT).

Scripture also speaks of God as being the perfection of all beauty (Psalm 27:4; 50:2; 96:6; Isaiah 4:2; 28:5; 33:17).  Do you realize that God is the most beautiful person who exists? Lift the eyes of your soul and gaze on His beauty.  Look long and hard at Him — meditate on His Word, get to know Jesus.  Beholding is becoming (2 Corinthians 3:18).  By looking at His beauty you will become beautiful.

God wants to make your soul a welcoming estate, with beautiful gardens and a majestic castle to bring life to all who venture past.  He lives within you, and wants to make you a dwelling place fit for Himself.  But sometimes that means He must first do some painful purging.  There are weeds in your soul that are keeping you from being a delightful place of hope and rest for those who enter your life.  Sometimes He must tear down your self-built character shack, so that you might have a Spirit-built palace in its stead.  Sometimes that means your soul feels like ground zero for a time; you may feel decimated, worthless, ugly.  But God can always, always be trusted.  He will plant a new garden and build a new house, and it will be far better than you could have dreamed.  God is a Master Builder with an eternally green thumb.

But enough with the metaphor.  What does it look like when some unsuspecting fellow human stumbles across that garden?  How does this beauty of soul translate into real life when that random person meets you at the park or starts talking with you in the Starbucks line?
Here are some helpful questions:

  1. Do you genuinely see, love, and care for those around you or do you ignore them in a huffing hurry to get to where you need to be?
  2. Do you give sacrificially and generously to everyone around you with your time, your money, and your energy?
  3. Do you consistently show loving patience to those who frustrate you?
  4. Do you faithfully serve your church even in ways that no one will ever see because you know that you are serving Jesus?
  5. Do you live with confident peace no matter the circumstances surrounding you because you trust the wisdom and sovereignty of God?
  6. Do you show compassion to those who are needy and hurting?
  7. Do you live with radical joy and gospel boldness in whatever station of life you find yourself?

Who is the person behind your eyes?  Is your soul beautiful, or just your body?  Your outer beauty will shine for a time, and then diminish, but your personhood will last.  Make your investment count for eternity.

That is not to say that your external beauty is unimportant!  The question is why do you beautify yourself?

  1. Is your motive selfish: I want others to notice and appreciate me?
  2. Or is your motive spiritual: I want the words I speak about my Jesus to be enhanced by my appearance?

Your beauty becomes dangerous when you are so preoccupied with your external appearance that you cannot focus on those that you have been called to love.  Our culture says, “Build your self-esteem. Focus less on those around you and more on the person you are becoming.”  Jesus says, “Give me your life, live to serve those around you, and trust Me to take care of the rest” (Matthew 16:25).

You have been given a body, but it is a body on loan that doesn’t ultimately belong to you (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  It belongs to Jesus because His precious blood has bought it.  This body has been given to you so that you can shine the light of Jesus wherever you are.  You have a body and a soul so that you can adorn a beautiful Gospel with a beautiful life.  You did not get to choose which body is yours, but you do get to choose what you will do with the one you have been given. And to whom much has been given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). Steward it well.

So don’t push away your desire to be beautiful.  Don’t fight it or condemn it.  But do not worship it.  Rather, let it be an outgrowth of your worship to Jesus.

There is something else you need to know.  It is something you may not believe right now, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is true.

You ARE beautiful.

I know about all those moments you have spent inwardly wishing that God had made you differently.  But He hasn’t.  He has made you exactly the way He wanted to so that you are uniquely enabled to fulfill His calling on your life.  He has called you “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).  You have been distinctly fashioned by the Master hand of God Himself, and He never makes anything that is ugly.

You are beautiful because you are human.  You have been crafted in the image of God, and no matter how marred by sin that image is, His beauty still rests upon you.  In fact, the Gospel is all about Him restoring you to the beauty you once had when you reflected His image perfectly.  You are a “new person” who is being “renewed in knowledge after the image of [your] Creator” (Colossians 3:11).  The mistakes you have made and the past you have dealt with is being remade.  You are being transformed until His beauty shines through your brokenness with power that declares to a watching world the magnificence of your God.

You are beautiful because you are His.  Do you know what He says about you?
He says you are:
beloved — John 3:16, 15:9; Romans 5:8, 8:37-39; Ephesians 2:4; 1 John 3:1, 4:9
chosen — Ephesians 1:4
new  — 2 Corinthians 5:17
free  — Romans 8:2
delivered — Colossians 1:13
clean — John 15:3; 1 Corinthians 6:10-11; Isaiah 1:18
blessed — Ephesians 1:3
upheld by everlasting arms — Deuteronomy 33:26-27
forgiven — Micah 7:18-19
royal — 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:9-10
rich — 2 Corinthians 8:9
secure — Romans 8:35-39
reconciled — Romans 5:9-11
renamed — Revelation 2:17; Isaiah 62:2
healed — Psalm 103: 3
crowned with glory and honor — Psalm 8:5
known — Psalm 139
alive — Ephesians 2:5
accepted — Ephesians 1:6
victorious — 2 Corinthians 2:14; Isaiah 54:17; Romans 8:37
blameless — Philippians 2:15; Colossians 1:22
listened to — Psalm 4:3; Psalm 116:1-2
holy — Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 1:21-22, 3:12
uncondemned — Romans 8:1
treasured & delighted in — Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 62:4-5
complete — James 1:4; 2 Timothy 3:17-18

beautiful.

Look up those verses again.  Meditate on those truths for a while.  This is your identity.

Your looks, your personality, your abilities, your interests — everything that makes you you — none of it is a mistake.  He has made you impeccably perfect and He loves what He has made.  And do you know what else?  That will still be true in 45 years, when you turn 65 and finally lose count of your grey hairs and wrinkles.

So don’t be afraid of the mirror.  Don’t hate what you see there, or worship what you see, or even disregard what you see completely.  See yourself (your whole personhood) through God’s eyes, and thank Him for the amazing gift of being human.  Let it draw you up into worship to the One who created you and stamped His seal of approval on you.  But also don’t linger too long.  There is a waiting, watching world desperately in need of the Jesus that the person you see in the mirror has been uniquely enabled to proclaim.  Go — live fully, and tell them with your lips and life.

Yours truly,

Kristen

Each Strand of Sorrow Has a Place

crossstitch1 (1)If you really look for them, you’ll see them: the little fingerprints God has left all over our world, all over every day as if to say, “I’m here. I’m here too. Did you see Me there?” It’s easy to forget Him, to lose sight of Him, to live as though He doesn’t exist.  In fact He is here, and subtle tracings of His ways are found in everything and can draw up our hearts to Him. But are you looking?

Every moment, every circumstance, every encounter of every day of your life is a little thread colored by grace that your Father in heaven is weaving into the tapestry of your life.  You see it from your linear perspective, and puzzle at how He will weave it all together; He works from His own, multi-dimensional sightline so that every thread is a vital part of what He is making you to be, and how you will reflect His glory. He does it so that He can hold up your life before the world in ages to come and say, “Do you see it?  Do you see the incredible beauty that I can weave together?  Do you see the immeasurable riches of My grace in kindness toward this child in Christ Jesus?” (Ephesians 2:7)  And you’ll look back and say, “I see it now! I couldn’t see it then, but all the time You were weaving that blue one into the sky!”

One of my pastors recently gave me this analogy.  “My mother,” he said, “used to cross stitch.  I remember when I was little sitting on the floor and looking up at her while she was working on a particular piece and being so confused at how it would become a picture.  I could only see the tangle of threads and overlapping, disoriented colors on the back.  But then she would turn it over, and for the first time I could see how all those messy pieces of yarn were working together to form something beautiful, something good.”

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28), do we not?  We may not be able to see, but faith can never see, can it?  It wouldn’t be faith if it could.  No, faith trusts in the darkness. Faith says, “God, I cannot fathom in my mind how You are going to work this into good, but I trust You. I trust You because You said You would – and You always do what You say” (Numbers 23:19). Faith remembers that it is only seeing the back of the cross-stitch, but a master Cross-stitcher is doing the work. Of all the masterpieces He has worked on, He has never yet pulled a single wrong thread.

So, Friend, let’s step back into your life. 

Where are you right now?  What station of life are you in?  What happened today that made you happy?  Angry?  Despairing?  Look for His fingerprints, trust His promised goodness, hope in His grace.  Believe that it’s all bigger than what you can see.

Are you walking through the valley of the shadow of death, that dreaded chasm of deep darkness?  Do not fear calamity: Your Shepherd is with you, right beside You to comfort and encourage. He might seem far away, but He has promised that He is not. In fact, that dank darkness is often where He draws close and we learn most of Him.  Lift up your head in hope that you will walk out on the other side knowing far more of Him than you can presently imagine, and that knowing Him will make it all worth it.

Does your life look like the same thing over and over again, an endless cycle of monotony that you seem unable to escape? It’s okay. Rest, trust. There’s a lot of blue in the sky.

Who are the people in your life right now? They are there on purpose. Invest in them. Love them.  Humbly allow God to use them to teach you what He wants you to learn.

It’s really about humility, isn’t it?  A sweet, humble faith that doesn’t have to figure it all out, but just rests on the God it trusts. Rests because it knows that God is doing this on purpose (Ephesians 1:11); God is good (Psalm 145:9); He never does anything that will ultimately harm me (Hosea 6:1); I am forever safe in Jesus (Romans 8:32-33); He will not keep back from me anything that is good for me right now (Psalm 84:11); and He will give me everything I need to keep my head above water and learn to walk more deeply with Him (Psalm 23:1).  Abraham was the man of faith; He lived this way.  God said, “Pack your things and leave Ur, and I’ll tell you where to go.”  He didn’t ask questions, He didn’t second-guess, He simply went (Genesis 12). God said, “Do you see the stars? Can you count them? It’s going to be just as hard to count your descendants.”  Abraham didn’t remind God that Sarah hadn’t had much success with children in the past, and even were that to be remedied, she was far too old to start now.  No, “He believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15).  God said, “Take your son, your only son [and the promised son of the covenant] whom you love, and offer him as a burnt offering to Me.”  Abraham didn’t fight, but “rose early in the morning” and went, believing that “God was able even to raise Him from the dead” (Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:19).  There were times when Abraham’s faith wavered, but even in those moments, God did not abandon His friend or His plan. God kept every one of His promises, and through Abraham’s greatest Offspring, He blessed the whole earth.

That humble faith is the same reason that we obey God’s commands even when our flesh screams to us about what it wants.  We look up to Jesus and believe that His way is best, and bow to His will, resisting temptation because He has promised that He is better, so much better. 

What about you?  Over what are you fighting Him?  What has you wrapped up in worry and frustration and discontentment?  What do you need to place in His hands, perhaps for the hundredth time today, and rest that He knows best and will do what is best in His time?  Will you patiently wait for His time?  Elisabeth Elliot once said that “waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”  So lift it up again.  And again.  When it threatens to weigh down on your heart again, lift it up. And open your heart to your Father, and let it go. You can trust Him.  He will always, always, always be faithful.

“Oh grant me wisdom from above to pray for peace and cling to love,

And teach me humbly to receive the sun and rain of Your sovereignty.

Each strand of sorrow has a place within this tapestry of grace.

So though the trials I choose to say, ‘Your perfect will in Your perfect way.’”

— Keith and Kristyn Getty, “The Perfect Wisdom of Our God”

I Went on a Walk

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The other day I went on a walk.  It’s really not a rare occurrence; in fact, my parents don’t even ask me any more where I’m going. I just say, “I’m going on a walk around the neighborhood, and I’ll be back.”  Might be long, might be short, who knows?  Most of the time even I don’t know, don’t know where I’m going or how long I’ll be. You just follow the curves of the road, and turn when you feel like turning, and know that eventually you’ll make it back home.

The last few weeks have been such a random mix of weather patterns, and the past few days have brought so much wind and rain that they left most of us wondering if any fall would be left on the trees when the sun finally decided to return from vacation. There’s something relaxing and aesthetically revitalizing about it all, walking all alone down the wet, deserted roads (minus the occasional stray car) and taking it all in. The multi-colored leaves plastered to the wet road by the rain and by merciless cars that drive over them again and again. The streams flooding over the dams that the fallen leaves have created in frustrating futility.  The occasional brave squirrel who knows that there are only a few short days left to gather nuts before winter comes, but turns to dart up that tree and hide as the leaves crackle under my feet.  The clear water droplets forming on the ends of barren branches.  That one red leaf struggling to hold on in the wind. My shoes are soaked now, my umbrella beaded with droplets from the perpetual drizzle. In Greenville, the early November air is revivingly crisp, but it makes rainy days like this one only cold and raw.

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But I love the rawness.

Something in it reminds me of my soul in past months.  The barrenness of the stripping season. Fall is the stripping season, the season of dying.  But the dying is necessary.  It isn’t until everything has died, until millions of leaves have let go and fallen to the earth, that new life can spring forth.  It’s not until I have died that life can truly blossom in my soul. Until all my self-made plans, ambitions, wishes, goals, and identity have fallen to the ground. “For you have died…” (Colossians 3:3). 

It’s one of the great paradoxes that make up the paradigm in which we live.  Try to live, and you will only die; come and die, and you will truly live. “Whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). I think Jesus means a lot more than we often live like He means.  He is saying, “Give up all that you are. Hold nothing, absolutely no part of your life, back from Me.  Stop snatching at your life, and let Me be your life. Come to Me, lose yourself in Me, allow your identity to be wrapped up in Me.” “…your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). But really, what does that comprehensive, all-inclusive offering up mean? What does it mean for your life today?  It means that all the nitty-gritty of your life (your body, your mind, your emotions, your resources, your time, your future) are no longer yours; they are His and He has the right to do with them whatever is most pleasing to Him.  But Lord, that seems a bit extravagant! Hence the promise: you will save it.  You will finally be free to be who you were made to be. Your individuality will not be destroyed but enhanced, and sanctified. But first, you must die.

We don’t die easily, and we don’t die quickly.  But God is committed to our good and His glory, and so He often walks us through many falls and winters as He teaches us to die. However, the glory of fall and the hope of winter is that spring is coming. Every death that we die is a doorway to life. In fact, the last death we will ever face will only open the door to eternal life — full, free, and forever, before the face of Him who is Life Himself (John 1:4).

I am thankful to be smelling the scents of a long-awaited spring in my soul.  I am rejoicing in the kindness of my God, not only for this new life, but for the winter as well.  For the stripping of the fall that has purified and refined my love for Him, and for the barrenness of the winter that has spawned a stronger faith and sweeter trust in His faithfulness to His Word.  And yes, for the rebirth of the spring that draws my heart up in worship by allowing me to see those things.  I am grateful for the unique way He says, “I love you” through them all.  Truly, He is “faithful in ALL His words and kind in ALL His works” (Psalm 145:13).

But for those of you for whom spring feels more like a nostalgic memory than a present hope: hold on.  I hurt for you and pray for you, and beg you to hold on. Look up. Keep trusting what you can’t see or feel (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Whatever your pain, you can know it isn’t unbearable — He will never give you a greater temptation than your faith can handle (1 Corinthians 10:9). The truth is, you can often handle more than you feel like you can, and He will stretch your faith because He wants it to grow.  He is more concerned with your holiness than your comfort. And you can trust Him in that because He always knows and does what is best.  So hold on. Anchor yourself in the promises of Scripture and trust what it says about God. Keep sowing good seed, because when spring does come (and it will!) all those good seeds will bear beautiful fruit, and all those Scriptures, as dry as they seem now, will suddenly break through with sweetness and joy. Surround yourself with those who know you and your struggle, and your God. Find those friends who will bring you to the feet of Jesus over and over again, allowing Him to shepherd you. Be wary of focusing on “good days” or “bad days”, because it is easy to become self-centered and to idolize the way you feel. Keep your eyes upward and outward, and trust the faithfulness of God.

There is still so far to go, many more winters to walk through and much more faith to be grown. 

But life is a long walk, a journey — might be long, might be short, who knows?  I don’t know, don’t know where I’m going or how long I’ll be. But IMG_2322I do know that I have a trustworthy Guide. He knows these roads; in fact, He carved them out and made this path just for me, only me.  So I will follow Him through every turn and curve of the road because I know: eventually I’ll make it home.