Make Me More

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?  Do you want to be more?  I suppose we all might likely answer yes to this question, as I do not think I have ever met anyone who has said, “I wish I was less.”  Why is it that we want to be more? Why do we think that we are not enough just as we are?

We want to be more because that is how we were created to be.  We long for more. We search for more.  We ask for more.  We yearn for more.

We have hearts that are on a quest.  Hearts that search and long for something else that they do not yet have.  That something that we do not yet have is eternity.  God has placed a longing in our hearts for it.  A longing for a life that is full and vibrant and beautiful.

So, how do we reconcile the reality of what is and the reality of what could be? How do we get to this place of eternity where the longing will be fulfilled?  The answer is really quite simple.  We place our longing into the hands of God and we take into our hands what He offers in return for that longing.  He offers salvation first.  If we choose to accept that gift, our hands can then become so full that they overflow.

The gift of salvation opens the door to blessings unimaginable because it is the key.

Salvation is given to you when you give your faith and trust to God.  When you realize that there is a door between you and God, a separation that needs to be removed so that you can be together with Him, that is when your hand is about to grasp the key.

Jesus is the key–the key to eternal life.  He is the perfect Son of God who became a perfect sacrifice for you.  He lived a sinless life on this earth and died a painful death on the cross to become the key that opens the door to eternal life.  Each of us is separated from God by our wrongdoings and imperfections.  Jesus came to die on the cross to forgive us of those wrongdoings and make us perfect through His righteousness.  Your belief in His death to atone for these wrongs, and your request that He forgive you of yours, will cleanse you of them and permit you to enter through the door.

And then, there is more.  Salvation through Jesus gives you eternal life, but you also have the opportunity to have abundant life.  Into your hands–into your life, heart, mind, soul, and relationships–can come love, joy, peace, strength, ability, patience, kindness, and so much more.  You can be transformed in how you live–how you act, think, feel, relate.  You can be more.  More because of the gifts that will be placed into your hands.  More because you will have things that you never had before.  Things that cannot be measured.  Things that cannot be priced.  Things that are not tangible.  The “more” will be things that are immeasurable: like the grace of God that covers all sin, a peace that passes all understanding, a joy that is present even when there is no cause for happiness, and a supernatural ability to endure.

And then we, when we have “more,” can be made more.  We can be made into beautiful representations of the love of God, the strength of God, the passion of God.  He is able to do above and beyond all that we ask, think, or imagine.

As for me and myself, I say: “Make me more!”

I want to glow like I have never glowed before.  I want to shine like a star in the heavens.  I want to go in the strength of the Lord God.  I want to do what I have never been able to do before.  I want to tread a path that follows in the footsteps of Jesus.  I want to think like He thinks, feel like He feels, love like He loves.

Yes, God, make me more.

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© Text and peony time-lapse photos, Francee Strain, July 8, 2017, revised May 25, 2019

 

Easter—The Preparation, the Purpose, and the Promise (A Three-part Series)

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Part 2: The Purpose

When the fullness of time was come, God sent His Son Jesus to be the savior of the world. When the preparations were finished, the purpose was revealed.

As Jesus lived His life, He prepared to fulfill that purpose. He showed the people who God was—He said that anyone who saw Him was seeing God, as He was the perfect representation of God. Jesus was God in the flesh. He told them there is more beyond this life. He traveled, spoke, taught, and healed. He listened, prayed, explained, and performed miracles. But why? Why did He come? To be a good teacher, a good motivational speaker, to stir things up, to inspect and condemn the law breakers, to wow the crowds, to show off His magnificent abilities and command of power? No. He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Who are “the lost,” and why are they lost? Lost from where?

From the foundation of the world, a plan was made: to deliver people from the bondage of sin, the power of death, and an eternity separated from God. But from the beginning of humankind, people chose rebellion, to go against God’s desires, to live lives of imperfection, to taste the pleasure of sin for a season, and to do things to their own detriment. They wandered away like lost sheep. And like a good shepherd, what God wanted, and still wants during all of this unpleasant behavior on our parts, is for us to come back—to be with Him, to choose things that are good for us, to know freedom, to be released from pain, to have abundant life, and ultimately to have eternal life in His presence. He came to bring our hearts back to Him.

When did the purpose get fulfilled? On Good Friday. Was it just another day in history, or was it history in the making? How could something so horrible be so good? What was the purpose of this day?

The intersection of the preparation and the execution of the purpose occurred. Purpose can be defined as the reason for something, the cause, the underlying factor. The reason for Good Friday was that it was the way, the plan, God’s will. It was to make a way to establish a relationship between God and man that would never end. Purpose can also be defined as intent. There was purpose in Jesus’s fulfilling of the purpose. He was moving with intent, motivation, drive, and passion. Jesus set His face to head to Jerusalem where His crucifixion would take place. Good Friday was the intersection of purpose and purpose, where the reason met with the motivation.

Jesus was moved with purpose to fulfill the purpose for which He came. He could not be swayed or stopped—although plenty of opportunities were provided for Him to cease. He pressed on—in spite of betrayal, temptation, abandonment, and the coming separation from His Father. He could have stopped at any point along the course of His life. He could have declined to go through with His baptism and subsequent entrance into public ministry. He could have given in to temptation. He could have stopped preaching and teaching at any point along the way. He could have made himself scarce. He could have fled from the leaders in Jerusalem who wanted Him dead. He could have skipped going to the Passover meal where Judas was given permission to proceed with his evil plan. And after the Passover meal, He could have gone somewhere besides the garden where He knew the soldiers would come to arrest Him under Judas’s direction. And during His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, He could have said, “My will be done, God, not Yours.” He could have put up a fight at any point along the process: while being arrested, being falsely accused, receiving a mock trial, being condemned to death, being beaten, or even while being crucified. He could have called for the armies of angels He commanded in heaven to come to His rescue. The evildoers could have been wiped out with fire or Old Testament-like plagues. He had the power to take lives, as He is the one who holds each breath. But, He did none of these things to prevent His death. His surrender was great because His love and the purpose for which He came to this earth was greater. No one took His life from Him, He laid it down willingly. The purpose was fulfilled with purpose.

His death on the cross atoned for the sin of all humankind. Jesus went to the cross, not for His sins (He was perfect and had none), but for ours; not for His benefit (there is no benefit to torture and death), but for ours. His death served to redeem us, to purchase our salvation, to give us His righteousness so that we could come into God’s holy presence. All of this was offered freely, willingly, to any and all who will receive it.

Jesus held the power to lay down His life or keep it, but He chose to die rather than live without us. There was no other way, no other reason. He loved us to the death. Can we come to that same point? Can we return our passion to Him with the same intensity as He gave His to us?

This is a decision each of us has to make–no one else can make it for us, no one else can choose Him for us, and no one else is responsible to do this but us. So many say that they are following God. They give lip service. They point out a list of good deeds. They compare themselves and elevate themselves above those who are worse behaved than they are. But there is none righteous, no not one. We are all separated from God because of our sin. We cannot be in His presence without the covering atonement of Jesus’s blood. Jesus came to be the mediator between God and man. He victoriously did away with the penalty of sin by dying as a substitution for us. Jesus endured the cross and finished His race (Hebrews 12:2). He atoned, rescued, and redeemed. He provided us a way to escape eternal separation from Him. He removed the barriers that separated us from God. He bridged the gap between us and God. He paid the debt of sin we owed but could never pay. He exchanged His righteousness for our unrighteousness. Forgiveness was freely poured out. The crucifixion wasn’t to change a day in history, it was to change the future and rid us of the history of our sinful pasts, presents, and futures. He came to offer us the opportunity to be with Him forever. He gave us access to God, His power, and His kingdom. This was the purpose for Jesus’s life and death and why He lived with such purpose—to fulfill His purpose.

The purpose for Good Friday was a good purpose—to give eternal life to whoever would receive it. Jesus seeks the hearts of individuals and stands at the door of each heart and knocks. The way we can know eternal life is to answer that door and come to know Jesus Christ, to believe in what He did on the cross, to accept the life He offers to us now. The sacrifice was made once, but the offer remains open for all who live now, with an opportunity to receive it.

One particular day, I purposed to accept what He offered me, and my purpose now is to live out my remaining days with Him and for Him. What is your purpose? Are you living your life on purpose and with eternal purpose? Are you pursuing a relationship with God? He calls to us in love, with arms wide open to receive us. We have this moment now so that we can have Him beyond the now.

The purpose (the reason) and the purpose (the motivation) were the same. They intersected on Good Friday, and the point of their intersection is named you, me, us.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 10, 2020

Wise Men Still Seek Him

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𝑀𝑎𝑛𝑦 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑗𝑢𝑠𝑡 𝑝𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑓 𝑐𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝐶ℎ𝑟𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑚𝑎𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑇ℎ𝑟𝑒𝑒 𝐾𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑠’ 𝐷𝑎𝑦. 𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑠 𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑒𝑚𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟? 𝑊ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑐𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑑? 𝑊ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑠𝑜𝑢𝑔ℎ𝑡? 𝑊ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑔𝑖𝑓𝑡𝑠 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑔𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑛?

Chapter 5  Hide and Seek (book excerpt)
I have seen a phrase on Christmas merchandise that says, “Wise men still seek Him.” The foundational reference is to the wise men who were seeking Jesus around the time of His birth, the ones who traveled many miles in order to worship Him and present Him with gifts (see Matt. 2:1–11). The reference for today’s usage of the phrase is that wisdom is indicated if we are spiritually seeking Jesus. We often put great emphasis on this story, focusing our thoughts onto it to see how we might apply the concept to our own lives. What does it mean today for us to seek Him? And will we be wise enough to do it? Will we do it even if it involves much time and great distances? What gifts will we present to Him when we find Him? These are important questions for us to answer, not just at Christmastime, but every day of the year.

***
CHAPTER 6 Lost and Found
We lose all sorts of things in life: money, homes, jobs, loved ones, health, quality of life, and sometimes even life itself. We also find all sorts of things: happiness, the loves of our lives, the perfect jobs, and sometimes even our car keys. But have we ever found the most important thing, the thing that we can never lose: the salvation of our eternal souls?

THE CALL TO THE LOST
There were specific events for which Jesus came to live on earth. He was given an invitation by His Father to be the Savior of the world, and He responded favorably to the invitation. He prepared for the event of saving the world by His first advent: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). During the course of His ministry, Jesus clarified why He came and why He did not come. He came to preach, to call sinners to repentance, and to save lives (see Mark 1:38, 2:17; Luke 9:56). Jesus came into many cities, and He came in with the intent to minister (Mark 10:45).

As Jesus traveled around, He gave people His time, and He gave them Himself. He did not blow through town like a whirlwind, forcing and rushing His way through. While He was going along His way, He focused His time and attention on the people He encountered. He sometimes spent all day healing the crowds although He could have done it in a single moment with a single word. He saw that the crowds were like sheep without a shepherd, and thus, had compassion on them (Mark 6:34). He gave people His personal touch. He asked them of their faith, asked what they wanted and needed, and took time to encourage them. And then the healing came.

… The underlying reason why Jesus lived like He did was that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came unto us! He did not come for Himself and His benefit, but for us and our benefit. Jesus offered life and help to the people He encountered during His lifetime on earth, and His offer still stands today. Let the love of Jesus find you, wherever it is that you are in life. Let Him shepherd your wandering heart and lead you safely to your eternal home.

Jesus is not only our Shepherd but also our High Priest, the Mediator between us and God (1 Tim. 2:5). Because He is holy, He was able to victoriously do away with our sin by dying on the cross for us. And because He did this for us and then was resurrected from the dead, we can overcome sin and emerge victorious through His power. His sacrifice gives us access to His Father, His power, and His kingdom. Jesus calls each of us to salvation. The wonderful truth is that the lost sheep (us) can be claimed if they want to be claimed! When we come, we will discover that we are welcomed, loved, and valued. Jesus came for us–will we come to Him?

All of the preparations for us to be found have been made, and the barriers that would separate us from God were removed when they were broken down at the cross. We now need to make our way over to His side, walking past those broken barriers instead of repairing them. A simple yes will do. The fighting in our hearts can stop and we can be at peace, if only we will come. We can stop wandering aimlessly through life like lost sheep. We can instead let Him minister to us, heal us, and save us. That is what He came to do, and we are who He came to find.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 57, 63-64.

Originally posted Jan. 7, 2019. Reposted January 6, 2020.
Photo by Francee Strain, January 1, 2020.

Perfectly Wrapped

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The redemption of humankind was carefully crafted. Before the foundation of the world, a plan was laid in place that Jesus would die for every person who would ever live. Each detail had to be exactly perfect. Each step had to be followed in the exact prescribed order. And when all of the steps were followed, the end result was stunning. There before us sat the perfect gift of redemption, salvation through Jesus Christ. Not tied up in a bow, but first wound up in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, then wrapped up in the arms of the crowds He ministered to, then wrapped up in the lashes of a tortuous whip before His ragged body was laid on the cross, then wrapped in burial clothes and laid in a tomb, and finally wrapped in the glorious light of His resurrected body.

Will you unwrap the gift? Will you choose to be wrapped in the love that was perfectly crafted to enfold you?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)

 

Original text © Francee Strain, December 3, 2017. Revised December 28, 2019.
Photo © Francee Strain, December 24, 2015

Unbound–Part 2 of 3

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A glorious day came and went long ago. We were not there to witness it with our own eyes, but we can witness it with our hearts. Our eyes of faith can be opened. Our eyes can be unbound from disbelief, disillusionment, and distraction. A direct and intentional focus on an event that changed history will result in a direct and intentional focus on an event that will change the future.

Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified on a cross to pay the price of each and every sin that would ever be committed by all of humankind. He took the penalty that was ours. His back received the stripes of a beating. His head wore a crown of thorns. He was separated from God the Father while the work of redemption was being done. And finally, Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” The debt we owed but could never pay was paid. The forgiveness we could never earn was freely poured out. This day changed history. But then…

There came another day. The third day. “The Bible tells us about some women who were grieving because Jesus had just been crucified on the cross. They were headed to His grave to prepare His body for burial, but instead they encountered an angel who invited them to “Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matt. 28:6). This was an invitation to a past tense event, to see the place where His body had been. Jesus was no longer there because He had risen—He is risen! Talk about a cure for their grief! Talk about a cure for ours!” 1

Jesus was unbound from the graveclothes. He was unbound from the sting of death. He was unbound from the tomb. Do our eyes of faith behold Him? Do our hearts hear His voice calling out to us in love? Do we let this day change our future? Do we accept what He did for us, and do we accept that He lives, ready to prepare a place for those who will believe? His resurrection day was a glorious day, and ours can be, too. Choosing Jesus as our Savior will unbind us from our sin and shame. We will no longer have to bear these burdens because He bore them for us and purchased our redemption. The yoke of bondage was broken when He burst forth from the tomb!

And there will be one more day that is glorious. This will be the day when all who have chosen Jesus as their Savior experience His resurrection power for themselves.  He will gather all His own to be with Him forever.  No longer will death have dominion, for eternal life will triumph. Jesus’s payment nearly 2,000 years ago will be valid on that day for all those who asked God to accept the payment on their behalf. 

So, what about the now while we await that glorious day? We can choose to open wide our eyes of faith and see the Deliverer who unbinds hearts. This faith brings freedom. This faith leaves us unbound. We can be free indeed because He is risen indeed!

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36 NKJV).

 

1 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 65.

Photography,  ©Francee Strain

So We May Know

“The greatest evidence of God’s desire for us to know Him and be in relationship with Him was the sending of His Son.” *

Jesus came so we may know life: life eternal and life abundant.

He came so that we may know forgiveness: absolute and complete, with sins buried in the depths of the sea, spread as far as the east is from the west, and remembered no more.

He came so that we may know God firsthand: He is the mediator between us, through His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection.

We have an opportunity to know the extraordinary–the true and living God–but we have to take action.  We need to walk forward in faith and accept the opportunity to know Him firsthand.  We receive His forgiveness and receive eternal life by confessing our sins and accepting Jesus’s atonement for them through His death on the cross.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NKJV).

This is a season of resurrection.  Will you allow Him to resurrect your soul and give you a new and living hope?  Will you come to know Him?

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3 NKJV).

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I know whom I have believed.

 

                      ~ Francee

 

Francee Strain, March 27, 2018

*Quotation taken from Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 72.

Photo by Francee Strain

CHAPTER 6  Lost and Found

While we are on the topic of Advent and shepherds, here is an excerpt about the most amazing Shepherd of all. This is an excerpt taken from my book No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose.
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We lose all sorts of things in life: money, homes, jobs, loved ones, health, quality of life, and sometimes even life itself. We also find all sorts of things: happiness, the loves of our lives, the perfect jobs, and sometimes even our car keys. But have we ever found the most important thing, the thing that we can never lose: the salvation of our eternal souls?

THE CALL TO THE LOST
There were specific events for which Jesus came to live on earth. He was given an invitation by His Father to be the Savior of the world, and He responded favorably to the invitation. He prepared for the event of saving the world by His first advent: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). During the course of His ministry, Jesus clarified why He came and why He did not come. He came to preach, to call sinners to repentance, and to save lives (see Mark 1:38, 2:17; Luke 9:56). Jesus came into many cities, and He came in with the intent to minister (Mark 10:45).

As Jesus traveled around, He gave people His time, and He gave them Himself. He did not blow through town like a whirlwind, forcing and rushing His way through. While He was going along His way, He focused His time and attention on the people He encountered. He sometimes spent all day healing the crowds although He could have done it in a single moment with a single word. He saw that the crowds were like sheep without a shepherd, and thus, had compassion on them (Mark 6:34). He gave people His personal touch. He asked them of their faith, asked what they wanted and needed, and took time to encourage them. And then the healing came.

… The underlying reason why Jesus lived like He did was that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came unto us! He did not come for Himself and His benefit, but for us and our benefit. Jesus offered life and help to the people He encountered during His lifetime on earth, and His offer still stands today. Let the love of Jesus find you, wherever it is that you are in life. Let Him shepherd your wandering heart and lead you safely to your eternal home.

Jesus is not only our Shepherd but also our High Priest, the Mediator between us and God (1 Tim. 2:5). Because He is holy, He was able to victoriously do away with our sin by dying on the cross for us. And because He did this for us and then was resurrected from the dead, we can overcome sin and emerge victorious through His power. His sacrifice gives us access to His Father, His power, and His kingdom. Jesus calls each of us to salvation. The wonderful truth is that the lost sheep (us) can be claimed if they want to be claimed! When we come, we will discover that we are welcomed, loved, and valued. Jesus came for us–will we come to Him?

All of the preparations for us to be found have been made, and the barriers that would separate us from God were removed when they were broken down at the cross. We now need to make our way over to His side, walking past those broken barriers instead of repairing them. A simple yes will do. The fighting in our hearts can stop and we can be at peace, if only we will come. We can stop wandering aimlessly through life like lost
sheep. We can instead let Him minister to us, heal us, and save us. That is what He came to do, and we are who He came to find.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 63-64.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version.

Make Me More

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?  Do you want to be more?  I suppose we all might likely answer yes to this question, as I do not think I have ever met anyone who has said, “I wish I was less.”  Why is it that we want to be more? Why do we think that we are not enough just as we are?

We want to be more because that is how we were created to be.  We long for more. We search for more.  We ask for more.  We yearn for more.

We have hearts that are on a quest.  Hearts that search and long for something else that they do not yet have.  That something that we do not yet have is eternity.  God has placed a longing in our hearts for it.  A longing for a life that is full and vibrant and beautiful.

So, how do we reconcile the reality of what is and the reality of what could be? How do we get to this place of eternity where the longing will be fulfilled?  The answer is really quite simple.  We place our longing into the hands of God and we take into our hands what He offers in return for that longing.  He offers salvation first.  If we choose to accept that gift, our hands can then become so full that they overflow.

The gift of salvation opens the door to blessings unimaginable because it is the key.

Salvation is given to you when you give your faith and trust to God.  When you realize that there is a door between you and God, a separation that needs to be removed so that you can be together with Him, that is when your hand is about to grasp the key.

Jesus is the key–the key to eternal life.  He is the perfect Son of God who became a perfect sacrifice for you.  He lived a sinless life on this earth and died a painful death on the cross to become the key that opens the door to eternal life.  Each of us is separated from God by our wrongdoings and imperfections.  Jesus came to die on the cross to forgive us of those wrongdoings and make us perfect through His righteousness.  Your belief in His death to atone for these wrongs, and your request that He forgive you of yours, will cleanse you of them and permit you to enter through the door.

And then, there is more.  Salvation through Jesus gives you eternal life, but you also have the opportunity to have abundant life.  Into your hands–into your life, heart, mind, soul, and relationships–can come love, joy, peace, strength, ability, patience, kindness, and so much more.  You can be transformed in how you live–how you act, think, feel, relate.  You can be more.  More because of the gifts that will be placed into your hands.  More because you will have things that you never had before.  Things that cannot be measured.  Things that cannot be priced.  Things that are not tangible.  The “more” will be things that are immeasurable: like the grace of God that covers all sin, a peace that passes all understanding, a joy that is present even when there is no cause for happiness, and a supernatural ability to endure.

And then we, when we have “more,” can be made more.  We can be made into beautiful representations of the love of God, the strength of God, the passion of God.  He is able to do above and beyond all that we ask, think, or imagine.

As for me and myself, I say: “Make me more!”

I want to glow like I have never glowed before.  I want to shine like a star in the heavens.  I want to go in the strength of the Lord God.  I want to do what I have never been able to do before.  I want to tread a path that follows in the footsteps of Jesus.  I want to think like He thinks, feel like He feels, love like He loves.

Yes, God, make me more.

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© Text and peony time-lapse photos, Francee Strain, July 8, 2017, revised May 25, 2019