Holding Grudges

Holding grudges comes way too naturally. I think I’m above that kind of petty nonsense until I’m faced with someone who has caused me or someone I love deep hurts. Then I realize how angry I still am.

Holding grudges is our feeble attempt to balance the scales, hold them accountable, but I’ve found, the only person paying for this anger is the one holding onto it.

When I think about holding grudges, I think about a woman who has destructively sought to ruin my reputation as a Godly woman. She decided to do her best to hurt me and any witness I might have without any obvious reason.

I have prayed for her for years. I have prayed that my actions regarding her be absolutely the best witness I can demonstrate, that I never stoop to gossiping about her to make myself look better, but it is hard. Are you holding grudges? Is there a hurt you can't let go? What does the Bible say about moving past those rejections to forgiveness?

The completely unwarranted lies she has told about me (using words so dirty they hurt my heart) has cost me friends, made me cry, and literally made me sick to my stomach to walk out my front door. I still have several damaged relationships three years later.

I could tell the truth about her and discredit her, but I don’t.

Titus 2:7-8 ESV  “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”

I have tried to live this, and it made a difference. She quit her slander campaign, for the most part, and most people can clearly see my growing heart for Christ.

Yet, it’s hard to truly let it go. I know that she must be hurting inside and need Jesus if this is the way she behaves toward someone trying to be a Godly friend to her. But it still hurts. I still feel anxious when I see her, out of discomfort and fear of confrontation.

And it would be really easy for me to stand all self-righteous on my side of the street, but I am not without my own sins.

John 8:7 “. . He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus convicted the Pharisees and people who were just waiting to stone an adulteress, the typical punishment of the day, of their hypocrisy telling them if they were sinless, they could cast a stone.

I’m still not sinless today, and if you had met me before I came back to Christ, you wouldn’t have seen Him in me.

Thank God, I’ve been forgiven and redeemed.

Matthew 6:14 “if you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”

That is easier said than done. Every time I see or hear about her, I still feel hurt and angry. I hear God telling me to forgive her, not because she deserves it, but because she doesn’t have Jesus and is drowning in sin, and because He doesn’t want me living captive to it anymore.

Inside I feel like crying, “But God, you don’t know what she did, ” in my whiniest voice. “She was so mean!”

God convicts me to remember who the real enemy is.

Forgive by focusing on the real enemy between us. We are on the same side against him. Click To Tweet

Then today, I listen to Paul speaking to Timothy from prison.

2 Timothy 4:16 Paul says no one stood with him at his first trial, everyone deserted him, but “. . . May it not be charged against them!”

Other believers left him alone on trial for his life, for his life! And he prayed that it not be held against them!?!?

He prayed for their forgiveness in the midst of suffering.

I still don’t have complete peace about it, but God has been bringing me through this for years. He will continue to use even this for my good (Rom. 8:28): to teach me humility, forgiveness, how to live a Godly example, and to share with others walking this painful journey.

If Paul can forgive his friends deserting him in the fight for his life, why am I holding grudges?

I know I need a savior. I know how I lived without one. I can’t have any pride in my own salvation.

She is just as worthy as saving as I am.

Hard to stay angry if I let myself be truly humbled by this truth. If I didn’t have to deserve or earn it, neither does she.

She is as worthy of God's grace & forgiveness as I am. Letting go of grudges starts with humility. Click To Tweet

I’ve got many hurts stored up in my heart that I need to learn to let go, because it’s about grace, not holding grudges.

And holding grudges prevents me from healing from my past, from being an encouragement and blessing to those around me, and from giving all the glory to God for who I am today.

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Be careful little tongue

Washing the dishes this morning, I accidentally sliced my finger on a rough edge of a pitcher lid. I groaned. Speaking from experience, a deep, bleeding gash on my fingers or hands is about the worst for a mom. For the next few days, I am going to have to think about every time I go to wash something or wash my hands. As a mom, this means pretty much every chore is going to require planning so I don’t use my weight in band-aids.

‘I am going to have to be intentional about how I use my hands,’ I thought. Then I felt that God-nudge, the way He usually puts a thought in my head. What if you had to be that intentional with your tongue? What if there were a cut on your tongue and every word had to be planned carefully? How would that change the way you talk all day long? Would it change the way you speak?

Does God ever convict you so hard you cringe?

If you’re like me, I can usually get a hold of myself before I DO something I’ll regret, but too often my mouth just keeps on trucking. Because we can’t see words, we sometimes mistakenly believe they do not have the power that they really do. I don’t know how I ever convinced myself to be less than perfectly careful with my words. I have lived most of my life with the scars of cruel and careless words.

I thought I was a smart, funny,  and basically valuable person until I started kindergarten. I distinctly remember not fitting in, kids teasing me, and calling me names. It was the first time I felt like there was something fundamentally wrong with me, but not the last. A devastating level of teasing continued until I was in high school, which was better because I could choose with whom to associate, but I still heard plenty of judgmental words defining me. I searched the truth of those definitions. I questioned who I thought I was. I rebelled against who they said I was. But I rarely just flat out ignored those words.

I should be the first person to know how powerful words can be, how especially the cruel ones can cut a heart to pieces, but I’ve lived in some sort of denial bubble about the way my words can affect my child, even though I’ve grown much more conscious of how my words and tone can affect my husband and friends.

I don’t think I’m overly cavalier about my words. I don’t run around swearing or insulting people, but if one negative comment can haunt me nearly 40 years later, am I being as cautious about my mouth as the rest of my home? I’ve got plastic covers on my plugs, safety door knobs, medicines put up, but certainly haven’t given as much thought to filtering my mouth as I should, as God calls us to do.

Proverbs 13:3 Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

Proverbs always does such a good job of getting right to the point. We are to guard our mouths. Guard means to watch over to protect or control. Instead when we say the wrong things, we say it ‘slipped’ out, as if by some magical accident. The reality is we got so caught up in our own emotions, usually anger, that we didn’t choose to censor ourselves.

James 1:19“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”

James makes our responsibilities pretty clear. We are to listen first. What we are feeling and what we have to say are deliberately supposed to follow listening to others. If nothing else, when I stop myself from saying something when frustrated or angry, I often decide that nothing needed to be said. Sometimes, it is my own issue, not the other person’s; sometimes I decide I didn’t have anything uplifting to offer; sometimes I decide the other person isn’t in a place to hear me in love.

Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

My husband and I were about to have an argument, in the car, in front of our daughter. We were ten minutes from home and ticked off. How we talk to each other in front of her will have long reaching consequences into her life. How I respond to my husband will affect our marriage. He was angry. I was angry. He told me to drop it. I didn’t want to drop it. I wanted to let him know how I felt; I wanted to solve it right that second. The unhappy feelings inside me begged for an instant solution. I prayed for God to give me strength to control myself, to know that it didn’t have to get resolved this second, to wait until I could choose the moment and my words carefully. I quickly felt peaceful about it. Once we were home and had both taken a breath, I was able to choose words that respected him and loved him and explained my feelings without criticizing him. No more argument.

Learning this lesson with our little ones is all the more crucial because they cannot stand up for themselves, won’t call us out on our destructive behavior. They will assume it is their fault. They will ingest our poison as a statement about them, not us.

Old school parenting tells us to count to ten when we get angry. Sounds like pretty good advice to me although I find that praying during that ten seconds is more productive. Even if you feel so upset or angry that you feel out of control, if someone important called or came by at that exact moment, most of us could summon enough self-control to speak kindly to that person. If we could summon the patience and control to speak kindly to our boss, pastor, or neighbor, shouldn’t we even more so find the energy to filter our mouths for our most important audience?

Our children are going to make us angry. We need to search our hearts for the source of that anger, if it is selfishness or righteous, but even in righteous anger, we should be mindful of our choices.

Ephesians 4:26 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”

We quote this verse often as marriage advice, but in context is instructions for Christian living in general. If our closest neighbors are our family, our closest examples of Christian community are in our home.

We all fall down from time to time. We all need to seek forgiveness daily. But where we put our focus and heart is a big factor in determining where we let the rest of us go. The Bible even tells us that our mouth is a good gauge of our hearts.

Proverbs 15:28 “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”

James 1:26If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

As one of the ladies in my Bible study group likes to say, BAM, in your face, convicted! If you’re really struggling with being careful with your tongue, words, tone, are you seeking the Lord with all your might? I find the more time I spend reading the Bible, praying, meditating on what is good and wholesome, the less I lose control of myself. If I spend a few days thinking, I’m good, I’ve got this . . . well, let’s just say, we all know pride goeth before the fall.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

God’s word has a lot to say about what we say. I can’t even do this subject justice, but the verse from Ephesians sums up the main ideas nicely. Depending on the translation, the verse instructs us not to use corrupting, foul, unwholesome, hateful, filthy, or hurtful words. We are to use words that build up others, perhaps this includes Godly conviction of sin, but only when as an extension of God’s grace, his loving, unwarranted forgiveness, so that we are ministering to those around us.

Have you tried and tried to control your mouth, to seemingly no avail?

James 3:8-10 “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From IMG_3328 - Version 2the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

When James teaches that no one can tame the tongue, he is saying that we need to give it to God. We need to bring our entire selves to the feet of Christ and ask for the sinful parts of us to be buried with our sins. We need to ask God to give us the conviction and tools to be Godly.

Words like, “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me” have power too, but they don’t erase what came before. Having the humility to apologize and ask forgiveness is important modeling for our children. It teaches them we’re human, how to be real about being flawed, but it doesn’t necessarily erase the harsh words that came before.

Do you remember the children’s song “be careful little tongue what you say, for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.” Right now, I’m hearing it in a child’s voice in my mind, conjuring the image of my daughter standing next to Jesus watching me.

Matthew 12:37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

God’s condemnation of me is scary enough by itself, but my witness will be a large factor in drawing my daughter to Christ or pushing her away. If we believe that Christ is truly our salvation from hell, our salvation from a Godless world, then I want that salvation for her. It is a pretty frightening image, but with all I know of psychology, sociology, and Christianity, my words may not only condemn me, but also my sweet daughter, if I do not make sure they are full of grace, so be careful little tongue what you say . . .

Be Careful Little Tongue Part 2

Master Weaver – trusting God’s plan in the chaos

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I’ve had lots of messy, hurtful times in my life: my husband’s combat tours, gossiping neighbors, financial struggles, marital tensions, infertility, health crises, times that felt like they were breaking me apart.

During those moments that felt like my world was breaking in two, I’ve held tightly to this promise.

Romans 8:28 ESV  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Because sometimes in the middle of it, I couldn’t see how. I’ve sat in the mess holding my heart in my hands wondering how God could possibly being doing any good.

God promises He uses all things for our good, but sometimes, we can't see how. We have to trust our Master Weaver. Click To Tweet

And then I would start to see the hints of God’s hand using those messes, and I pictured the weaving of Persian carpets, some of the most intricate, most beautiful in the world, woven together with absolute precision.

But in the middle of weaving, it is a bit of a mess. Strings hanging in random directions, lots of white threads, etc. Only the master weaver knows what the finished product will become, while we only see how perfectly the pieces fit together once each part is completed.

Life is the beautiful rug hiding in the mess of our trials and struggles. Trusting the Master Weaver for the beautiful life He is weaving in me.

I can’t always easy to see how the messy parts fit, but they always do.

April 2013, I had an arthroscopic hip surgery that was supposed to “fix” my hip. Instead, my hip was completely destroyed. After a total hip replacement in January 2014, I was recovering nicely, then dislocated my new hip. I had to spend 6 1/2 weeks in an immobilizing brace. Unable to sit up, lay down, drive, shower, dress, live in any easy way in that thing, I was STUCK at home. Frustrated, I couldn’t see how all the injuries, surgeries and setbacks could be part of God’s plan.

I wasn’t able to do anything!

Exactly what God wanted. He wanted me to stop running, figuratively and literally. SIT DOWN. Be still. Wait on ME.

So I spent months just being home, spending time with my daughter, focusing on my relationship with my husband and with God. It became an amazing time of dedicating my life to God and His highest ministry for me, raising my daughter and serving my husband through what I could be, not do.

My perspective on my purpose and my value shifted tremendously.

I can't always see God's plan in the chaos, but I can trust Him through it. Click To Tweet

During the difficult years waiting to be a mother, I cried, I ached, I got bitter before I turned it over to God. But if you gave me a chance to change it, I wouldn’t. God used every minute of the waiting.

He used that time to introduce me to my husband, to move me around the country, meet new people, to become the woman who was ready finally to be a Godly mother, raising my child for Him, not myself.

God gave me the absolute right child for me at the perfect time. He was teaching me to be patient, have wisdom and strength, and definitely, to be selfless in an entirely new way. I couldn’t understand why He wanted me to wait, but He was preparing me to be this tiny tornado’s mother. This child is a force of nature, and I had to wait for her to exist. I couldn’t have known that then and wouldn’t have missed mothering her for the world!

My struggles with infertility and our journey through adoption has allowed me to witness, minister, and support many women in similar situations. What a gift to be able to be a friend and sister in Christ in this way!

I think of all the young mothers I would never have met if I’d been a mother earlier, young women I can walk beside and support now, facing the same challenges, but as a mentor in Christ.

God has used our seemingly random moves in the military, but each was part of God’s plan in many ways.

In Texas, I met some women who truly changed my life, becoming sisters in Christ.  I cannot understate how important they have been to my life. They befriended me, supported me, helped bring me to a deeper walk with God, helped love me out of my shell, changed my life.

Also, our daughter was born there. Her birth mother chose us because she could meet us in person. God didn’t waste even the tiniest ripples of His hand.

Despite our struggles, the tiny ripples of God's hands in my life were never wasted. Click To Tweet

Then, again the army sent us away from all we knew. But it was here that I got to stay home and raise my daughter, play Candy Land instead of grade essays. Here, we found a new friends and an amazing church. Being here has absolutely grown me spiritually.

Right now, my husband and I are dealing with an assignment that is 16-18 hour days, 6-7 days every week. It is daunting for him, for me, for our daddy’s girl who misses him so, but God has been ahead of us, guiding our paths all along.

I can’t see why this might be the right place for our family, but I can trust God that it is. Surviving the storm together binds our hearts together in a way ease never did.

Surviving the storms of life strengthens us in ways that ease never did. Click To Tweet

I can rest knowing that God has a plan for my life.

Jeremiah 29: 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Many quote this verse from Jeremiah, but few put it into context.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.  .   .   . 10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 

God promises He has a plan, but it includes 70 years of exile.

Christians often cling to Jeremiah 29:11. We like to think it promises easy lives. However, God really promised that He was with them in exile. He had not forgotten them and had planned this for their redemption. He didn’t promise they wouldn’t suffer.

Can you look back at your life and see times the Master Weaver always had a plan? All the pieces in your life that seemed out-of-place but turned out to be part of the design all along. Maybe you’re in that period of difficulty right now and can’t see how all the pieces fit.

God doesn’t waste anything. Every struggle and joy are a part of His plan for your life, unique pieces of you He can use.

Remember, God sees the finished product, and He is making a beautiful and wondrous work of your life.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

So Master Weaver, sweet Abba Father, my hope is in Your complete plan for my life.

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Old Man’s Rubble

Do you ever have a song from your childhood just echoing in your head? I had an old Imperials’ (lyrics here) song that came to mind today. I’m not completely sure I can explain why, but I feel like God put it on my heart. Reviewing the lyrics, thinking about the Biblical truths that surround them, felt like answers to some prayers I had for some dear friends of mine that I was preparing to fellowship with this evening.

Take a moment, picture your heart as a home. What does it look like as a home for Jesus?

Is it dark, dirty, cobwebs in the corners? When I close my eyes and pictured my heart, I pictured a small cabin like room, clean and bright in the center with the warm glow of a lamp on a table stretching out into most of the spaces, but darkness lurking in the corners, gathering around the edges. God is cleaning up my heart, has made a huge difference, but I’m still a work in progress. Not many of us would like to describe ourselves as an old man’s rubble (listen here), but the state of our hearts might be just that.

“Are you living in an old man’s rubble
Are you listenin’ to the father of lies”

Today these words came to my head when thinking about some of the people I see just held down by sin, struggling with life. I wondered why do they seem so stuck? We all have times of trials, difficulties that are part of being Christ-like in a sin drenched world, but the issues I’m talking about are like the sloppy mud that sticks to your boots, the dredge of sin being tracked into what should be the newness of your walk with Christ. If we’re caught up by Satan’s lies, our hearts are the rubble of a crumbling shack. We need to build our hearts on the foundation of Christ.

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Today, I’ve been thinking about the struggles of motherhood and how do I communicate God’s truths to my child in a clear, consistent, loving way. And I thought back to just a few years ago. I was raised in the church, a physical building and in our home, but had been living for myself most of my adult life. From the outside, worldly view, I looked normal, rebelling against my strict upbringing, or even looked like a Christian at times, but I didn’t get it. I used to read a friend’s Facebook posts about God, Christ, being saved and thought, “sheesh, would you give us all a break already?” “Does every post have to be about God?” I was so hardhearted that my darkness couldn’t stand the redemptive light of Christ shining through her.

“Are you trying to live by your emotions
Are you puttin’ your faith in what you feel and see
Then you’re living just to satisfy your passions
And you better be careful, ’cause you’re being deceived”

I was using my emotions as my yard stick for my decisions, trying to fill the God-shaped hole in my heart with partying, friends, men, fun, and just kept feeling emptier and emptier.

This weekend we did a disappearing experiment at my daughter’s science themed birthday party. A huge box of packing peanuts, a small bottle of acetone, a 15 oz. empty can. I put the acetone into the can (slyly) and began to stuff packing peanuts into the can. They almost instantly disappeared. We were all shoving handfuls into the can just as fast as we could and they were dissolving. The kids were amazed and it was lots of fun, but the image of that bottomless hole, the empty can that can never be filled feels a lot like what my life was like in my days of serving self.

I was listening to the Father of Lies, the darkness in me was definitely winning. Then one day, God reached into my heart, and I almost physically heard a click, like someone turning on the lights. The world changed for me in an instant. All of a sudden, I could see my husband struggling against his own demons instead of seeing him as the demon destroying what I wanted for my pretty little life. I ached with compassion for him instead of resentment and anger.

I saw everyone with new eyes, God’s eyes. I was able to offer love, encouragement, to serve strangers even in a way I’d never had the heart for before. I understood what Love God, love people meant. When we’re full of God’s love, we simply do for others, whether it be our friends, family, husbands, children or complete strangers.

1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

All of a sudden, I understood why I kept fighting the same battles and never getting anywhere. I was trying to do it with my own power, just by my own will.

“Are you puzzled by the way that you’re behavin’
Do you wonder why you do the things you do
Are you troubled by your lack of resistance
Do you feel that something’s got a hold on you”

I couldn’t. No amount of wishing to be nice, or kind, or gentle or good enough was making any difference. I would try so hard. I would be determined not to yell at the kids or nag my husband, but could barely make it a single day, if I even ever did. I felt like I was bloody from clawing and scraping to be a better person, but I could only hold out for so long before I was serving myself again. It all felt hopeless. I thought I was getting it, serving God, but I was following the external rules. I hadn’t let God just break into my heart and run away with me.

“Well deep within’ you there’s a spiritual battle
There’s a voice of the darkness and a voice of the light
And just by listening you’ve made a decision
‘Cause the voice you hear is gonna’ win the fight”

The difficulty here is Satan’s voice sounds a lot like our own, sounds reasonable, logical. In fact, the only way I know whose voice I’m listening to is when I am absolutely sure it is God’s voice. Reading and studying His word helps me know what He sounds like. And He is faithful to answer me when I ask for direction or clarity, or what do I need to see or learn. I almost always get a nearly immediate mental shift in perspective, a calming hand redirecting me.

If you are feeling stuck in the mud, are you standing your ground with Christ? Telling God, “I’m not going anywhere. I am going to follow you.” Beg Him to reveal Himself. He will. His timing is not ours, but He will. I definitely found I couldn’t unstick myself. I would get caught up in anger, telling myself I deserved better than whatever I was facing. That attitude got me nowhere, except nearly divorced, half crazed by the time I reached up for God’s grace and turned full force towards Him, refusing to listen to Satan’s pretty little lies anymore.

I’m not done healing yet, and I still have days or weeks that I slide back into old ways of thinking, but I feel God nudging me, reminding me that I don’t have to live in the muck anymore. I can usually climb out of it quickly, simply by remembering to turn my eyes and heart towards Him.

“If you’re living as a new creation
If you’re listening to the Father of light
Then you’re living in a mighty fortress
And you’re gonna’ be clothed in power and might.”

You may ask how is this entry about parenting? Because the first step I had to take toward truly parenting for God wasn’t about parenting at all. It was about refusing to live in the Old Man’s Rubble anymore. Until I could see that I needed to let the Holy Spirit batter my hard heart, break down my arrogant walls, and rebuild a humble heart, I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was living with a pretty face covering a roiling, fetid interior. I could be nice at the front door, but turn with rage onto my stepsons, daughter, or my husband in an instant.

Once the Holy Spirit began to convict me, piece by piece, of the hardness in me, of the sin in my life, I was able to change like shrugging off a lead coat because I wasn’t putting on a front, God’s grace and redemption was (IS) teaching me the truth about who I am in Christ. I am a prized child of God. Jesus paid my debt with his body and blood. I don’t have to be a slave to my sin anymore.

Colossians 3:9-10 Living Bible (TLB)

Don’t tell lies to each other; it was your old life with all its wickedness that did that sort of thing; now it is dead and gone. 10 You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you.

And I’m finding it easier and easier to shed the selfishness that bound me in sin; the great mystery of how the Holy Spirit works in us is that we’re whittled away, peeled like an onion, layers and layers get stripped away. Piece by piece, we change and yet also grow to see how far there is yet to go.

If you’re struggling, feeling at your end, reach for your Bible, seek God in everything you do, let Him come into the hidden places, let Him see the rubble you’ve been living in, let Him help you clean it up. It won’t be instantaneous, although the shift in your heart might be. It will take a lifetime of growing closer daily for His work to be complete in you, but those in your life will see the beautiful masterpiece. Because we can’t show our children how to have hearts that are palaces for Christ if we don’t first build a home for him in ourselves.