The Light of Christmas in a Dark World

This Christmas looks different. Everything this year is different. The world seems darker, scarier and full of invisible threats to our families and livelihoods.

I live on the same street as my parents, and I’ve been very grateful for that during lockdowns and quarantines. My kids have lost a lot this year, but they’ve had a constant- their grandparents. We’ve all tried to be careful so we could keep our small bubble going, but sadly my parents caught covid.

I was walking back from delivering dinner to their front porch one night and my mind started going over the events of the year. I believe I can get a collective “amen” when I say this year has been hard. Hard is an understatement. For the first time in a long time the whole world is going through the same thing. Maybe same storm, separate boats is more like it. This virus has not discriminated its victims. This virus has taken livelihoods of all kinds as well as lives. As I walked home in the pitch black, I looked up to see my home and was taken aback. In the window I saw a Christmas tree lit up, I heard my husband talking gently to our 2 year old who did not want to go to sleep. I saw a glimpse of hope in that window, and in that moment it hit me…

This Christmas, this year and the next, we as parents have the opportunity to create a sanctuary for our children. In that small glimpse from the darkness outside I saw light and love, and darkness couldn’t swallow it up. There is far too much darkness, and we are called to be children of light.

“so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky. Philippians 2:15

In our homes the words we use can keep out the darkness. In our homes we can protect and shelter young hearts from the arrows we are constantly being attacked with. Each time I look at the news I see a world I do not want my children to grow up in, and being pregnant during a pandemic is terrifying- what kind of world am I bringing this baby into?

But then I think of Jesus. His father sent him, a helpless baby to be raised by a young clueless mother in terrifying times. They had to outrun infanticide, being awoken by an angel in the middle of the night, all that after birthing the savior of the world in a strange town away from family in a cave side barn. The beginning of Jesus’ story looks less than ideal from my human perspective, but this child was born with purpose and his mother knew he was the savior. He was raised in a sinful world by a young mother, and brought light into every dark and lonely place he walked.

This Christmas season, let us reflect on the sacrifice God made to send his son from heaven- from perfection, light and free from pain to a dark, broken world riddled with sin. There was purpose in the pain. And there is purpose in your pain. 2020 isn’t a lost cause, we as parents are doing kingdom work. We are raising children to know hope and light and one day they will go out into the darkness, and it will not swallow them up. The hope of Christmas is here. There is hope in the darkness, the light of the world has come!

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

*my parents are covid free as I post this!*

You’re not failing, you’re struggling.

It was minutes before six and my kids were somehow still asleep, so I snuck out onto the porch to listen to the world as it woke up. I began to pray and asked God to use me, to change me. I didn’t want to be at home and fail at that. Something came to mind so quickly, I knew it had to be from God.

“You’re not failing. You’re struggling. There’s a difference.”

What a freeing thought! My struggle doesn’t equal failure. Maybe it’s the evidence that day after day I keep trying. Maybe this is God’s character being built up in me.

“But that’s not all! Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope.” Romans‬ ‭5:3-4‬ ‭

The other night I was speaking truths over my son after a long hard day. I told him he is smart, kind, handsome, special and loved by God. He replied with “God is my happy!”

Joyful confidence.

In the midst of the struggle, I can have joyful confidence. In the middle of taking personal inventory and deciding some things need to go, I can have joyful confidence. Kids say it so simply and beautifully, maybe that’s why we’re supposed to have faith like a child. (Matthew 18:2-4)

So if my struggle doesn’t equal failure, it also means my struggle doesn’t automatically mean defeat. My struggle doesn’t sentence me to a season of gloom. I have have a joyful confidence within the struggle. In other words, “God is my happy!”

A prayer for my children.

This photo was taken after a week of being home with both kids having a stomach virus. My house was far from clean. The only thing I did was vacuum. I sent this accidentally to my mom, (was trying to send to my hubby to show that the boys were both playing! For the first time all week!) and she said, “Wow! Your house looks so clean!” I laughed. My house is far from clean, and I confessed that that’s not how it really looks when I went over later to visit. She told me, “Isn’t it funny how a picture can make something look beautiful and nice when in reality it wasn’t all that nice?”

It made me think. As I left her house with my kids and went back into my house, I kept pondering this and I had a sudden prayer.

“Lord, let my kids remember our home, our family and our lives like the picture of my home.”

In the picture, the stains on the couch weren’t zoomed in on, the places where the paint on the floor is chipping off weren’t the focus, the pile of dirty dishes wasn’t at the center of the room. I’m not saying I want my kids to be in denial of any bad, traumatic, or ugly things they have witnessed. Our lives have already been filled with what seems to be more than our fair share of pain and loss. But my prayer is that when they look back at their childhood, our family, our home, that they will see a bigger picture. That they will remember laughter, reading books, mommy cooking their favorite foods, daddy coming home from work on Saturdays with their favorite snacks and ready to play, bedtime prayers. That when they look back, they will see the beauty first.

The other day I got an email from my Google photos saying I missed a video they had made. It was entitled, “they grow up too fast.” It was a video of my oldest son from about 1 to his current age (4, almost 5). As I watched the video, I felt the magic of him growing and learning. Saying words, doing sign language, jumping in puddles, dancing, eating birthday cake. Know what I didn’t see? I didn’t see the awful home we were living in at the time. I didn’t see the almost bare cupboards. I didn’t see the stress I was carrying. I didn’t see any of the bad. I know it was there, but the pure joy of my boy growing cast its bright light over any shadow there was.

My prayer is that the love of Christ and the love of our family will shine its light bright enough to cover any shadow of pain and loss my children have and will encounter. Because love covers a multitude of sins. I have this hope. And I have this hope for you as well.

Love covers a multitude of sins

If you’re anything like me, when you read 1 Corinthians 13 on what love is, you might cringe. I read it and see how I fall short. I see how I fail my family. My children and my husband. I replace the word love with my name. “Bethany is patient. Bethany is kind…” nope.

My heart aches. I want to love like this. To be known for this kind of love, but more often than I care to admit, I fall short.

It was a particularly rough morning. Lunches to be made, children to get dressed, errands to run, people to drop off and pick up, preparing for my classes I teach in the evening. And to be honest, I was not being the best version of myself. I felt this anger rise up in me. My biggest struggle and thing that causes me the most shame is anger. I hate that this is my biggest struggle as a mom. And most people don’t see it. But sadly my kids and my husband have front row seats. To be honest I have worked extremely hard on myself the last year, and God has helped me, and I do see growth. My biggest encouragement was my husband saying he didn’t realize I struggled so much with anger. There must be improvement. There has been so much grace for me and shown to me by my own kids.

When I’m struggling I sing the hymn, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies they never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness, oh Lord.” My son struggles with keeping his emotions in check. Extreme anger, extreme sadness. Always an extreme. And I explained the song to him. When he struggles now he sings the song. But the most beautiful thing happened. I was in the car. Struggling. Trying to be quiet and breath. And from the backseat I heard a little voice singing,

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies they never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness, oh Lord.”

I dropped my son off at school and drove away holding back tears. Why had I been so angry. I was praying. I was asking God for forgiveness. I was thanking him for his continual grace and how my kids are so gracious to me and that somehow my anger isn’t all they see in me. Every night before bed I ask Jordan what the best part of his day was. He always says, “You, mommy! You’re so nice to me! You love me!” Even on my worst day this is what he sees. As I drove home pondering this grace Jordan has for me a verse came to mind.

“Love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 mi My heart overflowed with hope in that moment.

Yes, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

It always perseveres. It never gives up. Even when I have fallen short, I don’t give up. I don’t give up trying to love better because I lost my cool. I breathe. I pray. I ask my kids to forgive me. I love them them so fiercely that in my sinful self I am still press on to love better.

Because “love covers a multitude of sins.” Love outweighs our shortcomings. And that, my friend, is good news.

Good fruit

Tonight I took my boys out for a walk, not for pleasure, oh no. This was a desperate attempt to wear them out and I might have been praying the baby would fall asleep on the way home. But as we were walking my son was exploring in all his four year old glory. He found leaf cutter ants and crouched down so he could take it all in. He tried to see if they would think his finger was food, but they were not fooled. 😉

We continued walking and he kept picking up rocks and throwing them in the stroller and acting as if they were the best treasures. We live on a dirt road. We have rocks EVERYWHERE and every couple inches he’s picking up another and throwing it in for me to push around. I sent him off to go explore something else because I was getting annoyed with the load I was pushing.

He stopped to admire the mango tree. He wasn’t trying to pull one off as I thought he would be, he wasn’t looking for a ripe one, but instead he was drawn right away to an old dried shriveled up mango still on the tree. It obviously had been stunted in its growth and rotted out. He touched it and said, “Hey, there’s nothing in it! It just cracked!” Before I knew it words were coming out of my mouth. To be honest the day had been long. It started way too early and I had been running since the boys woke me up. I wasn’t in a great mood or even place to be honest. But my mouth was moving and I knew God wasn’t just speaking to my son, he was speaking to me. What I found myself saying was this.

“Sometimes our hearts get hard and dried up because they aren’t full of Jesus. We can’t grow without his love. We can’t grow and be good fruit without him. But when we love Jesus, and he’s in our heart, we become good fruit. We grow. We grow patience, kindness and goodness. We aren’t empty and dried up. We grow into good fruit like the other mangos.”

He looked at me and said, “ok, mommy” and ran off down the road looking for more rocks.

I want to be like Jordan, eyes full of wonder, exploring the world and hearing God’s voice through nature and not even seeming surprised but just replying with, “ok, Abba!”

There is Power

The other night my son came running into our room crying. This wasn’t a normal cry, this was a terrified cry, almost painful cry. My husband and I sat up and drew him close. When we asked him what was wrong he said he saw eyes. We asked if he had a bad dream and he said, no. He wasn’t dreaming. He was pointing to all the dark corners of the room and said eyes were looking at him. He wasn’t in a dream. I could feel that something was going on spiritually. The same time our baby started crying and I had to go and get him, I brought him back to find my husband helping Jordan pray that in the name of Jesus the eyes would be gone. He repeated after his daddy, “in the name of Jesus.”

The next day he spoke of the eyes and how they were scary but praying made them go away. Fast forward to bedtime. We did our normal routine. Jammies, teeth, a few bible stories, best/worst part of the day then I pray then he prays. It was time to kiss goodnight and he said he didn’t want to go to sleep. He didn’t want those eyes to look at him. I reminded him of the song we sing in church, “There is power in the name of Jesus!” I reminded him that when you pray Jesus listens and will help him. He prayed that he wouldn’t see those eyes again. He fell asleep. I sat up. I prayed fervently for my son. He is so attuned to spiritual things.

He knew I was pregnant before I did. He kept asking where “his baby was”. Before I told him I was expecting he lifted up my shirt while I did the dishes and told me, “the baby knows you love it and loves you!” He randomly speaks of “missing Jesus” and asks questions about God regularly. If he is so spiritually attuned he will surely be a target from a young age.

So there I sat praying prayers I never thought to pray. Prayers for the now and prayers for the future. I asked God to let him see angels. I asked God to speak to him through his dreams. The next morning he was laying next to me (I want him to sleep in his bed all night but these moments are so precious and I know will soon come to a close) And I was watching him wake up. It was early. He was smiling. He opened his eyes and the very first thing out of his mouth was, “I went to church in my dream! I was in Sunday school!” Thank. You. Jesus. !!!!!! That night when we went to bed, we were telling his daddy about his good dream he had. Then he pointed to the ceiling and said, “I saw an angel up there! It looked like a butterfly but it was an angel!”

To think that my (then almost) 4 year old has more faith than most people can summon up in a lifetime astounds me. He has taught me so much about faith and taking God at his word. That is childlike faith. When childlike faith and God’s power meet…look out world.

Break my heart for what breaks Yours

I sit here wondering how to begin. Do I go back to the very beginning of this story? Do I give a basic overview? How do you describe the relationship between a child you didn’t bring into this world and tragedy brought to you? How do you tell of the great joy that came out of such sorrow and somehow ended with pain?

My family was blessed with a little boy. My M was sweet. I should say is sweet. I’m just not his mommy anymore. You see, we took him in at a crucial time. His mother was dying, died while in our care. We loved him as our own. The system was broken and let him go back to the abusive situation. I broke as they drove off with my son. Fast forward months later. My son returned. I thought it was for good. But somehow God has planted a seed in my heart. I clearly heard this before he even came back… “You will get M back, find out you are pregnant and after the baby is born you will mourn the loss of him.” I heard it. I hoped it was just fear talking. We got M back. I found out I was pregnant. I had my baby. I didn’t want for him to go… But I knew he needed to. You see, he had 4 siblings he cried for every night. They were all in the same home except for him, and his youngest siblings foster family went to the same church as the rest. He was the only one away. He asked me hard questions to which I would say, “I can’t fix it.” But I knew that when he was 18 that answer wouldn’t cut it. My stomach hurt. It felt queasy. I cried and cried with my newborn in my arms knowing I had to do what was best for my boy. I wanted to be his forever mommy but I wanted what was best for him even more.

I felt guilty… but I knew I had to do something. I prayed specific prayers. Laid so many fleeces before God. Every prayer answered. Everything confirmed. He went for a visit. He came back saying he didn’t live with me anymore.

His heart had moved on. But mine hadn’t.

He transitioned in a rush. There was no real goodbye. I felt numb. My emotions got swept under the rug. But recently a lot of anger has been showing its ugly face… I didn’t understand. I didn’t deal with the pain. I didn’t realize how much I had let the lies of failing him and possibly ruining everything take over me. I know I heard God. I know He worked out everything so specifically so I would know it was Him. But the shame followed me. Until I spoke to someone about it… the first thing she said was, “But sweetheart, that’s foster care. You did the hard thing and I’m so proud of you.” Then she prayed. Prayed against the lies I had been holding onto. The guilt, regret and shame. Since then they’ve been gone. The sadness of not being his forever mommy still comes… but I am thankful that I had the honor of being one of his mommy’s. I’m thankful I got to teach him English, manners, how to pray, I’m thankful he asked me to help him accept Jesus into his heart, I’m thankful I got to teach him how to read. I’m thankful for the opportunity to love him. A song from the musical wicked comes to mind,

“Who can say that I’ve been changed for the better…because I knew you I have been changed for good.”

I always asked God to give me the opportunity to save a child. I prayed that as a child. Now looking back… I see it. The hours I spent combing lice and ticks from his hair, holding him and crying with him as he grieved the loss of his mommy, soothing him from nightmares, hard conversations about why his dad was the way he was and all about heaven.

God answered my hearts desire. I didn’t know my heart would break in the process.

“Heal my heart and make it clean

Open up my eyes to the things unseen

Show me how to love like you have loved me.

Break my heart for what breaks yours

Everything I am for your kingdoms cause”

Everything I am. I didn’t get to be his forever mommy. But I loved him hard while I had him. I still pray for him. If ever a time came and he needed me I would do anything for him. But maybe sometimes it isn’t forever. And that’s ok. My heart is healing. And I’m ready to let God break it again for what breaks his. I have one life. And I want to use it well.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

Being someone’s world is exhausting.

There. I said it. I love being the center of my boys world. They light up when they see me. I love hearing things like, “You’re the best mommy I ever had!” or “The best part of my day was playing with you” or “Can I sleep with you all night, mommy?” (The last one sounds cute, but let’s be honest. There may be sleeping going on but I will not be having it with him in the bed!)

Ok. So it had been a long day. This particular day my almost 4 year old son had been very persistently asking me for things. Incessantly asking me to cook things, “help” him, buy him things or DO things for him. Can I be honest? I sighed deeply and asked him, “can you stop asking me for things for one minute?” And he innocently answered, “No.” In his mind why wouldn’t he? I am his world. I do it all for him. I have proven myself time and time again to come through for him (I fail him too, but a child’s gracious love is an amazing thing to behold.)

The thought hit me as I lay in bed that night. It’s exhausting being someone’s world. It got me thinking about my relationship with God. A parent and child relationship should mirror Christ’s love for us. When I bring requests to God I have never heard a thunderous sigh. I have never been told, “Stop asking me for things/help/wisdom! It’s so hard to be your God!” He created me. And yes he is God,

but I can act just like a defiant strong willed child.

Then my mind went back to my own son. It isn’t that I mind doing the things for him. I love it. Making the sandwiches (So. Many. Freaking. Sandwiches. Did I mention he LOVES sandwiches?) I love putting his cute clothes in his dresser. I love packing a snack for him to eat at preschool. I love when he sneaks in bed early in the morning for snuggles and to warm up (Caz you know, in Belize we are freezing when it’s in the 50’s overnight 😂) I love when he asks me to watch him play in the sand. I love it. But sometimes when there are so many “Mom, can You…”‘s I just want some time. I just want to spend time WITH him not DOING for him. I wonder if that’s how God feels. Lately the song from Jesus culture has been coming to mind a lot. In the chaos and distractions. In the fast prayers of , “LORD give me strength and patience to survive these kids!” I hear “Come away with me…come away with me. It’s never too late for you.”

Being someone’s world is exhausting. So so true. I have no idea how someone could parent without the Holy Spirit. Without praying. Without taking parenting cues from their own relationship with God. Because I have all that and still think this is hard. So as exhausting as being their world is, it is also a privilege and an honor, and not one I want to take lightly. So he will continue ask me for everything because I am his everything. And that is ok. But instead of being frustrated maybe I should say “Come away with me. Let’s read some books and just BE.”

Finding Eternity in the Mundane

It’s been one of those days. And it’s just 8:18am. It’s been one of those weeks actually. Maybe more like a month and a half. I’ve been drowning in mundane and ordinary. I’ve been constantly doing and what I am doing seems unimportant in a lot of ways. It feels repetitive. It feels kind of suffocating. In the last month the number of people in our household went from 5 to 8 and one on the way (not me this time!) There’s been a lot of finding sheets, blankets, clothes that my oldest has outgrown for another, setting aside baby clothes for in a couple months, cooking (so much cooking. Why do we have to eat so many meals?!), unending laundry, listening to my kids and our extras, household renovations (not because we decided to but because situation caused us to have to) and having no sink for over 2 weeks. There’s been a lot.

Often times I feel I’m so busy yet doing nothing. Like I am running myself ragged all day taking care of my own and my extras and then I sit down at the end of the day and have nothing to show. No visible fruits of my labor. And this morning it hit me. Maybe the ordinary and the mundane day to day is the most eternal.

Maybe the things I keep showing up for day in and day out have the most eternal value.

At the end of my day I often see no list perfectly checked off. But you know what I did do this week? I loved my children. The ones I gave birth to and the ones God placed in my life. I listen to people’s stories. I pushed my son on the swing. I cooked for my family and made sure no one was hungry. I cleaned up my son’s cut and gave him a bandaid and magic kisses. I prayed with my son. I’ve breastfed on demand. I sat in the emergency room with our girl and her son. I then came home to take care of my own baby with fever. I read a couple chapters of Peter Pan to my big boy. I made do in some situations that didn’t feel ideal. I’ve driven people to counselling. I’ve gone to the gym (I have a thing for my personal trainer 😉 thankfully I’m married to him!) I held a dance rehearsal. I’ve cleaned. So many time but you can hardly tell. But I cleaned. I’ve grocery shopped. I’ve disciplined.

Stepping back I see how extraordinary the week has been. I can see that what I’m doing now is shaping not only my own children’s future but our extras futures as well. I can see that what I do and say on an ordinary day is what’s molding my family today. I can see that lives are changed not just in the big one time gifts or experiences. Lives are changed in the every day.

In the consistency of your love you are writing history.

So today… let the magnitude of the ordinary sink in. This is eternal. You cannnot see eternity or know the weight of what you are doing in this day and it cannot be measured outside of eternity.

I still remember

The other day I was getting fresh produce and I saw a big bag of calaloo. I don’t know if there is another name for it, but it’s a type of greens. It reminds me of the greens I ate as a little girl in Africa (missionary kid, remember?). As I went into the kitchen to cook them I remembered the last time I made it.  It was a few months after my husband and I had gotten married, so I was still 18. We had run out of cooking gas and didn’t have money to refill it. So I pulled out the electric griddle and put a pot on it and cooked the greens for dinner. For a solid week I cooked every meal on the electric griddle. I was thankful  I still had something to cook on. Have you seen this quote floating around social media?

“I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now”

I do…until I don’t. I’m prone to have an answer to prayer and quickly move along onto the next thing I see on the list that I need God to come through for me for and fail to remember. So here goes. I’m going to remember.

I remember when I was a teenager and after 3 years of depression I prayed and said, “I will love you God, even if the depression never leaves.” Today I don’t battle like I did before. I can tell when it’s creeping back in, especially after having my boys, but I know how to fight it. I recognize it.

I remember when we first got married and 3 friends were living with us and I was pregnant and we ran out of money and groceries. They were looking for jobs. My husband was doing personal training at his first little gym in the village and I was teaching dance part-time. I looked through all my wallets and purses and couldn’t even find coins. That’s how bad it was. I closed the empty wallet and prayed and said, “We need groceries.” I opened the wallet to find some money ($20 or $50… I can’t remember exactly) and I was able to buy food that night. We all ate.

I remember when we had our first son and it turned into a csection delivery and we had him in a private hospital because it was the safest option. We sacrificed like crazy just to have enough for the normal delivery and were then handed a bill for over 4 times the amount we were prepared for. No payment plans. I started to sweat. Then we were told it was paid for in full. Someone we knew had been given a large blessing and decided to use some of it to bless us.

I remember when my husband and I took our first foster placement and needed…well, everything. We didn’t technically  have three bedrooms so we turned one into two and cut a door into the wall to create a third. I remember the body of believers who gave toiletries, bought shoes, dropped meat off at our house and got us a bed. That room has now hosted 5 kids in the last 2 years.

I remember when we needed financial assistance to continue to run the youth ministry we had been leading at a church before it closed down, and a business generously sponsored us for a year and another ministry graciously opened up their space to us to continue doing what we were doing.

I remember the countless miracles and supply that happened after that year of sponsorship ended and we continued to do what God wanted even when we didn’t see the answer. I remember once saying to myself, “we can get groceries or we can take the kids to youth group and church this weekend.” We took them to church and God took care of the rest.

I remember a year ago when my husband was waiting to hear back if the loan for his own real gym would be approved. He had recently quit his job in anticipation and a step of faith in the next season. A few days after he quit I found out I was pregnant. I remember praying and waiting in faith that the Lord would provide. A couple of weeks later it was approved. Today his business is thriving and God has blessed us.

I remember when I needed $300 for my doctor’s appointment while pregnant with my second son and I prayed and prayed. The day before the appointment I pulled one of my sons books off his shelf and $300 crisp bills fell onto the floor. We live in a humid country. They looked like they just came out of an ATM.

My husband shared at youth group a few of weeks ago about his/our story since we got married. Of living by and stepping out in faith when there was no plan B and no backup plan. And I totally agree. But we do have something to fall back on…we can fall back on the promises of God and remembering his faithfulness in coming through for us at the very last moment when all hope was lost. When there seemed to be no way and God made a way. The past few weeks were hard. Everything seemed to be breaking and not going “right”. I got frustrated. Discontented. And God had to really wake me up to remind me that he has never failed me yet. And he never will. To remember how he always comes through and to be still, content and wait.  And after I remembered a peace and a joy filled me. Right after that peace and joy came I got really bad news… and I didn’t flinch. I just prayed and went about my day. I prayed for grace. For favor. For a better outcome but no matter what I’d trust God with it. The next day the awful news got a little bit better. Not completely but it was better than I had thought. Then everything that had been broken somehow got fixed in the very same day and some incredible news came my way. And I realized that if the bad thing hadn’t happened I would never have been given the good news. He worked it all for my good.

So let’s remember more often. Let’s remember that there was a time we waited on God for what we have in this very moment and believe that for now it’s enough and he was always come through when we need him the most.

“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13