He Fills Us to Overflowing

I lay in bed with the singing and laughter still ringing in my head. When our family of four celebrates, it is loud. Not that we play music on a CD player or whatever, but we tell stories and jokes and speak all at the same time! We like pranking each other, whether child or adult, it doesn’t really matter. We cherish those moments when we gather together to enjoy food and each other’s company. We are used to celebrating on our own, no guests, and it’s really not a lack.

CHRISTMAS BUNDT CAKE. My original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Natalios via IG).

CHRISTMAS BUNDT CAKE. My original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Natalios via IG).

So, as I settled in bed after quite a long night celebrating my husband’s birthday, I only had praises and thanksgiving to God. These thoughts floated on my mind: He fills us to overflowing! Surely, He has filled us up tonight with good things and more than what we deserve.

For those who have not been tried and who have not experienced the pains and bitterness of life, such celebrations and rejoicing are taken for granted. But not for me and my family. We had known how to have nothing but fear and uncertainty and utter sadness when my sickness and suffering prevented us from celebrating. Or even eating a meal together. In our family, these words are more than a verse in the Bible, but a first-hand experience.

 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (Phil. 4:12)

A villainous voice speaks to my mind, asking how I could possibly say that He fills us to overflowing when everyday, I still go through such difficulties brought by my illness. I still suffer.

But that night that we were drenched with singing and laughter and love, I could only see the goodness of God. I couldn’t focus on the daily hardship I experience, I only saw that our family was happy, period, and wanted to let God know I so appreciated it.

Every morsel of joy I could pick up from under the table, I will thank the Lord from the depths of my heart and soul.

How could I not say my heart overflows when I can eat all the food I want? For there were long seasons when I could only eat a few spoonfuls of runny rice porridge with clear beef broth. Felix savored the beef ribs I baked and ate only them. The Japanese cheesecake (our first-time!), though diminutive, virtually melted in my mouth. The gift I gave to the birthday man, he liked it a lot and he used it right away (I tell you, he’s quite finicky when it comes to his manly things). And the photos we took (there were numerous!) had been kind to me: they didn’t show telltale signs of my illness and suffering, or the warts, or any signs of aging like dark spots.

It’s not really about vanity. It’s about looking and feeling good in the midst of continued illness and hardships. It’s a blessing to look radiant despite the harassment of illness. And I believe it’s all because of Him.

Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Ps. 34:5 ESV)

Just a few days before my husband’s birthday, I was swiping away tears of sadness. For the longest time, I have desired to be able to travel by land and by air. But it’s not happening. If I’d be downright honest, I get terribly envious when I see friends traveling from place to place. And I can’t even go around our neighborhood. Not spitefully envious. Just pitifully envious. Or sometimes, trying-to-be-indifferent envious.

It was a weekend and Felix and I were in the patio talking. I just received a Viber message from my new artist-friend that she and the whole family were going to New Zealand for the holiday season. New Zealand. You have no idea what those two words mean to me.

Most people dream of traveling to America or Europe. I do, too. But when the kids ask me (which they do every now and then) where I want to go when I’m already well, I often answer, “New Zealand.” Personally, I don’t want to imagine going along with throngs of tourists snaking in and out of famous tourist spots around the world, swarming around a famous edifice or monument or museum. I want to go where the crowd doesn’t choose to go.

Like the countryside of New Zealand, where sheep graze quietly on a rolling meadow that just goes on and on to the horizon. I want to experience the quiet atmosphere of a remote B&B accommodations nestled at the foot of a mountain where there is an unobstructed view of fields and fields of flowers. I will set up my travel brushes and palette and just paint the day away. Then visit quaint shops where they sell artisanal whatever that you can never find in malls.

Whisper: I have a private board on Pinterest labeled, “New Zealand” where I collect all my NZ pins, scenes I want to visit and paint. Someday.

Then my good friend told me she’s going there, not for a few days, but the whole holiday season. I messaged back to remind her to bring her travel brushes and paints and told her that I hoped she would find time to paint. The things I had wanted to do. Then tears started to fall, silently at first. But when Felix asked, I couldn’t help but sob. A little.

There are deep longings in a woman’s heart that one cannot seem to reach and soothe. But surely, there is nothing that the Lord Jesus cannot do something about.

These unmet longings, they can either drive us to be bitter or to be more faithful to God and intentionally see what He is doing in our lives and to be genuinely grateful for it.

It is only when we refuse to focus on the things that He is not doing, and instead gather all the crumbs that fall and are there for the picking, that we can fill up ourselves and not be hungry. Ruth gleaned the few stalks of barley the harvesters dropped as she followed them resolutely. At the end of each hot, back-stiffening day, she brought home an armload of barley. And she and Naomi never went hungry.

Follow Jesus faithfully. Bend down and glean. The Lord will never suffer us to go hungry. May it be spiritual hunger, healing hunger, dream fulfilment hunger, joy hunger, physical hunger … He has them all covered.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

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For His Mercy Endures Forever!

Meditating on Psalm 136.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His mercy endures forever. (vv. 1, 4)

Psalm 136’s theme is giving praise to God for His enduring mercy. In every line of praise and remembrance of His works, from top to bottom, is the recurring phrase “For His mercy endures forever!” Beginning from the Creation, to the Israelites’ Exodus, and their arrival in the Promised Land, to God’s faithful providence – God is praised and His mercy remembered. This makes us to stop and consider –  however trying our lives might have been, His mercies are interspersed in all the hard places.

The other night, I was listening to Avalon’s Everything to Me over and over. I had been feeling melancholy, but as I listened to the song, the Lord brought me back towards the end of 2004. I was in my cot at the corner of the chapel in Pampanga Fasting House. We had been there for weeks. Every morning, I was wheeled to that spot in the chapel so I could listen to the morning and evening praise and worship. One afternoon during a lull in praise, when the workers and brethren who were fasting retired to their quarters, I found myself alone in the very quiet chapel. I only heard the birds chirping and the gentle whisperings of the December breeze.

Suddenly, almost 3-year old Hannah came running to my cot, crying. She said she had been hit by a playmate. With all the strength I could muster, I slowly sat up in bed, embraced my wailing baby, raised one arm, and prayed agonizingly. I prayed that the Lord would heal me and lengthen my days so I could take care of my daughter. This was one reason which urged me to go on living despite everything!

Between that scene in the chapel with my daughter and our home now with the addition of my adorable son Tim is God’s ocean of mercy. I, we, had journeyed that far, and all the years in-between, though interwoven with suffering, saw the enduring mercies of God at every turn, every change, every challenge, every hardship. How could have I swam that enormous gulf called life with its constant companions of illness and suffering had it not been the mercy of God that endures?

This brings me to the prophet’s lamentations:

Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.
20 My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
21 This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:19-23)

Everyday, I thank God for His compassions that never fail, how that they are new every morning! That He really loves us and cares for us. That He never really leaves our side nor forsakes us. Praise God for His mercy endures forever!

I share to you Avalon’s Everything to Me, a personal favorite. Listen and let the words come to life and grip you, touch you in all your hurting places and heal you!

But I’ll never be the same
Because he changed my life when He became…

Everything to me
He’s more than a story
more than words on a page of history
He’s the air that I breath
The water I thirst for
And the ground beneath my feet
He’s everything, everything to me.

~ Everything to Me

(Beautiful photo courtesy of Sis. Evamarie Fetter). 

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Bless the Lord! {With My Testimony}

Meditating on Psalm 134.

Behold, bless the Lord,
All you servants of the Lord,
Who by night stand in the house of the Lord!
2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary,
And bless the Lord.

3 The Lord who made heaven and earth
Bless you from Zion!

The effective antidote for disappointment, discouragement, and even discontent is to remember the goodness of the Lord; to count His blessings and name them one by one. Sometimes this is hard to do, especially to those who do not want to humble down and leave that place of brooding. We can choose to either grouse or give thanks. The former brings a fleeting and false relief, but after it has vented out, we realize it doesn’t really improve our situation. The latter honors God and ushers in a blessing. Although we may not see it yet, but we can feel the prompt effect by our having a peaceful heart and mind.

The best way to conquer the negative feelings that try to trample us is to choose to bless the Lord. Bless Him in the battle as well as in the victory.

How many of you, if there is any at all, thank the Lord everyday for being able to shower, bathe, or shampoo? These tasks are so mundane most people will not give them a second thought. But for me, they are not ordinary, easy tasks, and being able to do them means a lot.

In 2010, another bout of my illness attacked me. It was more severe to the point of death. For months my oesophagus couldn’t receive food and my stomach was too weak it almost didn’t function. I only ate soft rice with beef broth. I became skin-and-bones. I was very weak I couldn’t bathe even with assistance. When my skin became itchy, I sponge-bathed it with hot water and alcohol. Washing my hair was out of the question. I couldn’t sit long, and when I lay down with my head protruding at the edge of the bed so someone could wash my long hair, I couldn’t breathe well. Scrubbing my scalp, even done by someone, would exhaust me and make me feel dizzy. So, for half a year, my hair was not washed. It became so tangled from the dust and sweat that it clumped up at the back of my head like a huge basket. My husband and the kids joked that I should not be seen by the birds, otherwise, they might make their nest on my head.

Those were the times that lightness and laughter attempted to assuage all our sadness and fears. My husband offered 2-meal fasting for over 80 days while continuing to work in the office. He, too, became emaciated. Preachers and prayer warriors from our Church came to pray over me and lay their hands on me. Gradually towards the end of the year, I recovered and regained some strength.

For the fist time in six months, my hair was washed. But it would take many washes before the basket-like clump was totally untangled. Last year, we remodelled our master’s bathroom. We made it easily accessible for my wheelchair and walker. When the renovations were completed, I began to use it to bathe and wash my hair with the assistance of my husband. That is a tremendous blessing to me! I thank Him everyday for it.

One can either question God for the suffering in the first place or bless Him for His enduring mercy and unfailing love. I will always choose the latter.

(Beautiful photo courtesy of my sister in Christ Evamarie Fetter).

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Thankfulness

Since we can’t go away for vacations even during long holidays, my husband and I treated our kids to Walt Disney’s Holiday on Ice show at the Araneta Coliseum the Saturday after Christmas. My husband chose the location which was nearer the ice rink but it also meant pricier tickets. But we wanted to make the kids happy, so it didn’t really matter. Just to see them so excited about the show brought gladness to our hearts.

Late in the afternoon when they returned, I was anticipating them to be bursting with excitement and stories of their date with Walt Disney characters. But I was surprised to see them gloomy and sulky and not speaking a word. When I asked why, Hannah said that their Dad did not allow them to buy souvenirs. Oh. She said Tim wanted the light wand but Dad said there was no way he was buying it (P700 plus ~ $20). “Oh, yes, I wouldn’t have allowed that, either,” I said.

When their Dad came into the room, he murmured what ungrateful kids they were, shaking his head in disappointment. I was very disappointed, too. And sad. I just murmured for my husband to hear, “We’ll need to explain it to them. This is a serious matter and must be handled properly.”

Hannah quietly left the room while Tim continued to sulk, expressing his discontent by saying things like, “I’ll just give away all my toys because Daddy didn’t buy me the light wand.” And so it went.

As I pondered on this thing, I knew how far our old life in the province was compared to the life our kids were having now. When we were kids, life was hard. And even though our father worked in Guam, USA, life in our small town was generally simple, without the modern-day comforts. We were always grateful for what we received and enjoyed every moment of every treat that we were given, like a trip to the beach, for they were few and far between.

Yes, the life our children are exposed to now is far different from what my husband and I had. They are two different worlds. And I understood that we couldn’t force our kids to live that life which they hadn’t known. But we never wanted to rear our kids as spoiled brats, either.

In the early evening after I had rested, I called for them. I gently but firmly told them to bring their own plastic chairs and sit in front of me for we were going to talk about something very important. They were quiet now and subdued. In fact, they were no longer sulking. I began to tell them about the King who wore a sparkling robe and a crown that was bedecked with priceless jewels and who sat on a magnificent throne in heaven. And this King chose to come to earth, become a baby and be born in a manger.

“Do you know what a manger is?” I looked at Tim.

“It’s a — crib?” He answered, smiling.

“Yes, but this one is not made of brass and not lined with soft beddings like your comfortable flannel. A manger is actually a feeding trough where barn animals like cows, carabaos, horses, and sheep eat. And because these animals eat grass, what do you find in the manger?”

“Grass,” Tim answered quietly.

“Yes, and that also served as the bedding for the baby King, our Savior Jesus Christ. His mother Mary wrapped Him in swaddling cloths. They didn’t even have cute baby clothes or pampers.” I then demonstrated to them what a swaddling cloth was and how to use it. It’s just a long piece of cloth.

“Why did the Lord Jesus choose to be born that way  – prickly manger for a bed in a barn where animal dung and noise could disturb Him – and not in a very comfortable house or hotel?”

“To teach us to be humble,” Hannah answered.

“Yes. And to teach us that material things don’t really matter but love. He wanted to show His great love for us.”

I then proceeded to tell them about the things we enjoy: our big house, their rooms and comfortable beds, their clothes, the cars, the food on the table, their toys, their Mom and Dad who love and care for them. I reminded them how blessed they are, even going to shows like Walt Disney’s, while there are many children around the world who don’t even have food to eat.

I looked at two pairs of eyes becoming bigger and rounder. The two had become so quiet and listening intently, taking in my every word. My voice began to crack as I continued to tell them about the importance of being thankful with all their hearts in everything.

“Dad and Mom treated you to a wonderful show but when you got home, all you did was —“

“— complain.” Tim butted in. Hannah and I burst out laughing. Tim, chastened, sounded like a grown-up.

But before I was finished, I could see how sorry they were. We closed in prayer, with bowed heads and raised arms, expressing our deep gratitude to the Lord for all His goodness and blessings. After the Amen, they both hugged me tightly and told me how thankful they were for everything.

 In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess. 5:18)

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Christ-likeness {Taking Stock}

The year is drawing to an end which gets us in the mood for counting. Counting the blessings and thanking God for each one. For that’s the least we can do. For most people, they will be counting how many vacations they had, how many new signature bags, shoes, accessories, and expensive jewelries they invested in, and properties they have acquired. On the contrary, I know that for my beloved brethren in Christ, they will be counting the myriad miracles received: the healings, deliverances, problems solved, every answered prayer, every moment spent in the glorious presence of the Lord. I would love to do that, too. Our family will be making a gratitude list which we will share on New Year’s Eve when we are gathered around the table for dinner.

I don’t have vacations or even dinners at restaurants to count. Would you think that I’d be inclined rather to count the many long hours that I suffered and struggled for breath? My days are peppered with them, but, no, no, no. I will not focus on the enemy’s work. I love and honor my Lord and King so much I just want to give Him glory in my life.

I rather want to ponder on the passing year – whether I had grown closer to the Lord and followed His will or followed more my own will and selfish desires. Am I closer to being like His image, or am I still pursuing that which will make the world admire me? What drives me mostly to do the things that I do? Is it genuine love for the Lord and His commandments? Or is it tinged with ulterior motive which I am even ashamed to disclose? Or, can I even decipher the difference?

The Lord knows I’m trying to be authentic in all things. I’m learning that there is no life that is acceptable to God other than an authentic one. Hypocrisy is out. We make mistakes but we are humble to own them. We become “ugly” but we are quick to repent and ask for forgiveness.

As I look back at the passing year, what amazes me most are the epiphanies that the Lord is wont to bring me. Yes, even in and out of suffering. Then, there are the endless lessons. Lessons that, I believe, are making me more polished in my journey of faith. And the showers of inspiration! How can I forget them? It’s the shining inspirations from the Lord which prod me to go on, even when suffering does its best to destroy me.

Epiphanies. Lessons. Inspirations. Those I can count. But there are also the stumbles, the expressions of anguish (read: complainings), the discouragements. But you know what? All these dissipate and are covered in the face of God’s enduring mercies. His MERCIES – there’s no counting them. The Lord’s mercies – I have a wealth of them. In terms of the Savior’s mercies, I am rich.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

What are you counting as the year draws to an end?

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3rd Blogging Anniversary {and a Giveaway}

From the same patch of earth where the grain of wheat fell and was buried, a new life sprouts, a seedling with tiny green leaves entirely different from its buried sire. From the same dark cave where the Lord was buried broke forth a new life, a resurrected life, and the hope of mankind has been shining ever since. From the same year of near-dying sprang a new purpose. Just when you think death is finally at the doors, God wreaks a mighty work and renews life. How can this be?

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Is. 61:3)

I’m celebrating three years of blogging and my heart overflows with thanksgiving to the Lord. On New Year’s Eve of 2009, another bout of my illness attacked again and it was much darker and harder than the previous years. The “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” continued excruciatingly for months through summer of 2010 and spilled over to the rainy season. But on 29th of September, after I was accidentally introduced to blogging through a post on Twitter by Ms. Twila Paris, I published my very first post, a testimony of a brother in Christ who was healed of bone cancer. My very first blog, Minister of Mercywas born. From the same place of near-dying erupted a new life, a writing life.

After about a month, I published my first post on my second blog, Our Healing Moments.

I’ve said before that I loved writing, but in my three years of blogging about the Lord’s testimonies, my faith journey, and the lessons learned in my trials and in His Word, I cannot count the times that I had been disappointed and discouraged to continue writing. Different reasons caused these waves of discouragement. But I’m in awe that I’m still here, doing what the Lord has called me to do.

I’m ashamed to say this, but I used to be disappointed and greatly discouraged by low site stats: zero or few comments, few blog subscriptions, visits, views, or “likes” on Facebook. But one day, I determined within myself that this must stop. From then on, I set myself to pursuing the Lord with all I am and not on how to up my site stats. I began to focus only on Him and to whisper through the day: Draw me near to You, Lord Jesus. Keep my love ablaze. Be glorified in my life. 

I just want to have these reasons why I write: I love to write and I do it for the Lord because I adore Him. I want to live my life giving glory to Him. When I weave a life around my Savior and the wealth of love, mercy, and grace He has for me – I burst with inspiration! And if from this place I do write, the supply of anointing and wisdom from above flows interminably.

Now, it doesn’t matter if I’m writing for one or one thousand. What matters is, I enjoy what I do and I learn better when I put down to writing my wrestlings. It’s like engraving on marble the lessons being learned, leaving indelible marks. And when I’ve touched even just one single soul and etched the words that heal on his or her heart, then I would have fulfilled my purpose.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for visiting, reading, subscribing, commenting, liking, and connecting with me. It means a lot to me.

By the way, a little fact about me: English is my second language. But I do love the English language; the grammar challenges me; the vocabulary fascinates me. My three years of blogging only succeeded to intensify these.

3rd Blogging Anniversary Giveaway

To enter:

1. Leave your comment below.

2. Giveaway closes on Saturday, 6:00PM, and winner will be announced on next Monday’s post.

3. Giveaway is for Philippines only (I apologize to my readers outside the country). OFWs can join. If you win, the giveaway will be shipped to your Philippine address.

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My Strength and Song

Meditating on Psalm 118.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever. (Ps. 118:1)

Psalm 118 is a profusion of praise, thanksgiving, and exaltation to the Lord God Almighty overflowing from a heart that had seen and tasted the goodness of the Lord. The psalmist’s couldn’t hold his peace but needed to declare the faithfulness of God to those who put their complete trust in Him.

It tells of the mercy of God that endures forever. And truly, we can hold onto this promise as surely as the heavens and the earth are in their place. When hope is almost gone and we find ourselves in despair, we only need to remember that His mercy endures forever. Meaning, His mercy towards us will never ever be gone for good; we can cling to it even in the last vestiges of hope, and can trust that He will come through for us in our most desperate need.

It tells further of the trust in the name of the Lord that triumphs over fear and of its power to deliver, to deliver from the works of the enemy: perils, diseases, death. Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.” The name of the Lord – Jesus – has been my refuge, my sanctuary, from all of life’s storms. Even in sickness and weakness, I just utter His name under my breath or silently in my heart, and His peace that passes all understanding comes to me. Hallelujah!

This is what I love the most about Psalm 118 and I’ve been claiming it from early on:

 I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
But He has not given me over to death. (vv. 17-18)

Jesus is my strength and my song, my Healer and my salvation!

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Praise to the Faithful Creator

Meditating on Psalm 104.

O Lord, how manifold are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all.
The earth is full of Your possessions. (Ps. 104: 24)

Psalm 104 is a beautiful composition of praise and thanksgiving to the God who created everything. Stanza upon stanza, the author meticulously enumerated every good and glorious act of the Lord towards His creation. It speaks of His unending provision to man and beast, how He truly cares for them and nurtures them with His goodness. It speaks of His everlasting faithfulness.

Friend, when you feel like life has dealt with you cruelly or you often find yourself in difficult, painful circumstances, and you are beginning to believe that God may have forgotten you – stop and ponder on the words of Psalm 104. It reminds us to look up to God and remember what He unfailingly does 24/7.

If His eyes are upon the wild donkeys, sending them springs of water to quench their thirst, causes the grass to grow for the cattle, planted the trees for the birds to make their home, and created the hills for the wild goats, and the cliffs for the badgers – how much more would He think about you and care for you, you whom He created after His own image and likeness! Remember, friend. Then you will feel His great love for you!

…You open Your hand, they are filled with good.

You send forth Your Spirit, they are created;
And You renew the face of the earth. (vv. 28, 30)

Last night, I drafted a story for Monday post. It is a story that touched my heart deeply while writing it. And when I was done, I sat up to worship the Lord, the first words of praise and thanksgiving made my voice crack, and tears started to well up. We see the goodness and faithfulness of God everywhere, but we experience their depth, too, in our own lives. In my case, I bask in His enduring mercies. I feel the magnitude of His mercy towards me, and yet, there is no way to measure it!

So, in my private worship, I remembered again. Each act of mercy, deliverance, healing, His utter goodness to me and to our family! I sang and cried and worshipped, saying in-between the sobs and the lyrics, “I remember, O Lord! How can I forget? How can I ever forget everything you’ve done and continue to do?” My love and longing for Him overflowed to the surface. My face was drenched with tears as he also drenched my spirit with His lovingkindness. Ah, His love is heaven on earth!

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
34 May my meditation be sweet to Him;
I will be glad in the Lord. (vv. 33-34)

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Journey with Jesus,