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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent Letter 2014: A Celebration of Gifts


Christmas is a gift-giving season.  Indeed the very first Christmas the Magi arrived bearing gifts for the newborn Messiah.  Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were bestowed on the King of the Jews who was a gift in and of himself: “for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our LORD.” (Romans 6:23)  The heavenly hosts proclaimed this wonder singing in splendor, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” (Luke 2:14) I envision the shepherds having just another day in their fields when the entire night’s sky illuminates with radiant beauty and the voices of angelic harmony begin to surround them.  The shepherds ran to the village to “see this wonderful thing that [had] happened.” (vs 15) and when they returned to their fields they were “glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.” (vs 20)  They celebrated the gift of Jesus Christ born in their very village that night!

This advent as I focus on Christ the gift, I’m also focusing on celebrating the other gifts I’ve been given this season. This is a meaningful yet, very simple idea.  However, I have found the entire Christmas story simplified this year.  We were teaching Rayna about Christmas being a celebration of Jesus’ birthday.  She asked where Jesus is now and I told her that He’s living in heaven with God. 
“Will he come again?” She asks.
 I reply, taken slightly off-guard, “Yes, yes he will.”
“When Mom?”
“Nobody knows, that’s why we always have to be ready.”
 “Hmmm.  We always have to be ready. Maybe Tuesday?”   

Tonight in my home Christmas songs play in the background and I have just finished wrapping Christmas presents.  I anticipate the joy on Rayna’s face when she opens her gifts on Christmas morning and as she gives her gift to her father.  Truly, these moments as a family are a treasure.  Daily I am taken by my daughter’s beauty and by her compassion.  Her eyes are soft with love and her smile is playful.  My husband and I are blessed to be responsible for raising this beautiful girl, for teaching her, and for equipping her to thrive in this thorn-filled world.  What a gift!  In these moments I also celebrate my beautiful marriage to a man whom I respect, cherish, and appreciate.  I have a partner in adventure and a man who keeps life light by not taking anything too seriously.  I love that each year I learn more about this man and each year as he learns more about me I feel more cherished than before.  I celebrate these gifts of husband and child which I hold in my heart this year, this advent, this day, and as long as my mind stays sound!

I have placed gifts under my Christmas tree for my nephews and niece which I am able to hand deliver later this season.  On New Years we will be travelling to my parents’ to celebrate Christmas together.  This is perhaps the sweetest gift I have been given this season.  Mom battled hard against cancer this year.  I have only seen her ill this year.  But, she is now in full remission.  Beautifully, she is (a new version of) well and we can celebrate together this year.  We can celebrate the birth of our Saviour.  We can celebrate the gift of time, of more precious moments with mom.  I celebrate that Mom can play with her grandchildren this Christmas.  I celebrate that I can cook turkey dinner with my Mom this year.  I celebrate that Mom sounds like herself again.  I celebrate that there is no detectable cancer in Mom’s body.  I anticipate the celebration of extended family! Praise God for what he has given my family this year!    


 I don’t know what kind of year you’ve had.  Maybe you too have many blessing and gifts to celebrate as we enter this celebratory season.  Maybe this has been the hardest year you’ve had yet and it’s going to be the toughest, most emotional Christmas you’ve ever experienced.  Wherever you find yourself I ask you to consider the one gift that we have all been given this season: Christ.  Christ himself came to Earth to offer redemption.  He came as a baby, he lived as a man, he died to forgive our sins and now he lives in heaven with God the Father.  And guess what? Praise God, Jesus is coming again!  He is the one gift we can count on when there’s no other gifts under our tree or when our hearts feel empty instead of full.  He is the light of the world.  He is who the angels announced in marvelous splendor all those years ago.  He is who the shepherds ran to meet and the wise men journeyed to see. He is Christ our King, the gift who everyone can claim this Advent and every day of the year.  Would you celebrate with me? Because, perhaps Christ will return on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

THIS is the day that the Lord has made

This is life right now: my life.

It has taken on a visceral quality so that I find myself often referring to “the guts of life” these days.   Life has become untidy and wretched with emotion, heightened senses, and amplified feelings. Here you will read my snippet of real life.  As it has been months since I last blogged, let me back up to a few months back.

I won’t forget driving home from work, talking with Mom, the specific March evening this Spring that she told me about her spinal compression fractures.  I was on the straight stretch of open road as Mom told me the x-ray results.  My initial thoughts were, “This is good, I know that Osteoporosis causes compression fractures.  Osteoporosis can be treated.” But then she continued to fill in the gap that she had had a very good bone density reading about a year ago.  As much as I tried to make that still fit an Osteoporosis diagnosis in my mind, it wasn’t possible.  And so I asked, “What are they querying?”  “Cancer.” She replied.

During those days of awaiting a diagnosis it was best if I kept busy, otherwise there was a continual loop of scenarios and diagnoses that would run through my mind.  In my gut and with the evidence before me, I knew it had to be a malignant rogue enemy destroying Mom’s spine; but, it wasn’t yet certain.  After a few days I couldn’t handle it, and so I made arrangements for a week off work and prepared for my family to make the journey to Swift Current for us to be with Mom and Dad.  At least then I could help practically and ensure there was a full meal on the table at dinnertime.  When we arrived Mom’s height loss was clear, her stature was hunched, and her pain was evident. 

That week I accompanied Mom to an appointment for the result of her bone scan which had been done in light of her compression fractures.  “It’s cancer.” The doc said.  Mom and I took the news in stride.  No big blow, no tears.  Isn’t it what we expected?  Yet there it was: certainty.  After that appointment Mom needed to have her pain-killers filled at the pharmacy.  We did “normal” pharmacy business; but, normal had just taken a sharp turn for us.  (Here my eyes opened to the reality of my own patients’ potential experiences prior to entering my pharmacy.)

I thought this diagnosis was what I was waiting for.  Living in the moment, I didn’t realize that the next question is “what’s the prognosis?”  I was certain this meant metastasized breast cancer, from the breast cancer mom had 2 years prior, even though Mom was assured they had got it all.  So, I researched how this could be; but, kept thinking that at least breast cancer has good treatment options.  That same visit to Swift Current I was able to accompany my parents to Mom’s first visit (this go around) to the Cancer Center in Regina. Here the oncologist told us it was not metastasized breast cancer, it was a different yet to be diagnosed cancer.  At this point I learned the internet is not always helpful.  I know enough to utilize reputable internet sources, but when you don’t have the right questions, you can’t find the right answer and I certainly didn’t like some of the answers I was finding.  So, I stopped looking for answers and I started hoping and praying for TIME.  Like many people in our culture, I struggle with the currency of time and over these days this commodity became precious like pure gold.

I scrambled to organize a family gathering with my sister and her family (from Okotoks, AB), as she was imminently expecting her 4th child and I had this burning need for all of us to be together because what if Mom’s time became numbered in days?  Ryan, Rayna and I journeyed again from Chilliwack to Swift Current, this time driving there in one day, so we could all gather for 1 and ½ days over Mother’s Day. It was lovely, there was no place else I wanted to be on that Mother’s Day.  And lovelier still was the days leading to Mother’s Day.  Mom had been hospitalized in Regina, and put in a neck brace for fear of spinal cord damage. But in those days in the hospital came the long awaited answer: Multiple Myeloma.  Not curable but treatable and a primary cancer.
All along this road God has been answering prayer.  I praise God for the safety of Mom’s spinal cord.  I am so thankful for the rides, the prayers and the meals from Mom and Dad’s church community.  I am kilometers away, but I know Mom and Dad are cared for and indeed I feel prayed for too in those moments I’ve needed it most.  And can I introduce my Father to you? My Dad is relaxed, motivated, and thriving in his humor-filled self. Praise God that in Mom’s illness Dad’s health is incomparable to how I’ve perhaps, ever, seen it in the past.     

Mom has responded well to her chemo and she had a stem-cell transplant at the beginning of September in Saskatoon.  Ryan, Rayna and I travelled to be with her in Saskatoon during this time.  On many levels this was a challenging week and a half; but, that experience clarified to me what “being human” is all about.  I lived out what it is to simply be present.  (I am so thankful for all those who enabled me to be just that, present, with my Mom: Brad and Ashley for graciously letting us live with them, my husband for fully supporting me by caring for Rayna and never complaining in his tiring days, the work of prayer which allowed no problem getting time off work and which held off illness in our family until our return to Chilliwack).  I was there when my Mom hit a low physically and emotionally.  It was as “real” as life gets.  I had no words for Mom to encourage her.  But I don’t think I failed by simply being there.  And I learned volumes on the human experience.  To be honest, in those 10 days in Saskatoon I didn’t so much as utter a prayer.  Thank you, for those who interceded on my (and my family’s) behalf.

This is where the “right now” of what I’ve been learning picks up.  It felt good to return home from Saskatoon.  The three of us were tired and it was good to find a rhythm that September seems to naturally bring with it.  Yet, in these days a sensation, a feeling was beginning to well in my gut.  “What next?” It asked.  We’re through this now, Mom’s stem cell transplant.  Mom will heal from this stem cell transplant and she should be entering years of remission, God willing.  But, what next, when her rogue enemy returns?  These thoughts were just beginning to simmer when God spoke clearly and pointedly (but not necessarily concisely, so bear with me).  At lunch I came across a conversation on Facebook about euthanasia and the views of Kara Tippetts, a Christian woman with a young family living with terminal cancer, were highlighted by one of my friends.  I read them out of interest for that topic’s sake.  Then as I was about to go to bed I noticed a different friend, from a different circle all together had posted about Kara Tippetts’ story as aired on Focus on the Family and it was nothing to do with euthanasia.  Now that I knew who she was I was interested.  God spoke through Kara who highlighted that when we portray ourselves into the future we tend not to think of the element of God and His grace being with us there.  Those moments ahead that we wish were not coming- we have to remember that God WILL show up in those moments.  She cited Proverbs 1:33 which I splice here from 2 different translations : “But those who listen to me will live in peace and safety, unafraid of harm and [without dread of destruction].”

How was that for a reply to the emotion I was feeling?  Of course at this point I was reminded of Matthew 6:34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

But, God didn’t stop here.  He kept speaking.  Five days later I was tired in the morning.  I had made a commitment the week prior that I would full out strive for at least 3 days a week of quiet reflection/devotional time.  Since becoming a working Mom my fitness regime has been drastically toned down.  However, apart from illness or major extenuating circumstances I hold firm to 3 solid work-outs per week.  It’s just the way it is.  1 Timothy 4:8 states “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.”  In light of this verse I determined I could certainly commit to 3 days a week of spiritual exercise.  It was hard to honor my commitment that morning. I was very tired and probably really only gave 8 minutes that day; but, God showed up.  All I mustered that morning was a journalled prayer:

Fill me full, slow me down.  Breathe. Breathe true life into this body.  Still me so I can reflect on Your beauty, on the day before me, so I can hear the Spirit.  So I’m not just rushing through to get things done.  So I can engage.  So I can experience in full senses the moments of today.  So I can find the small moments of thankfulness and can ponder the beautiful gifts I have in my life.  Still me, so I can remember my humanity.  So I can remember that on my own I will wear out, but with the Saviour alongside me, with the Holy Spirit as my help-mate, I can do all things [because] He strengthens me.  And so I need your peaceful touch to be set apart from the race of this life.  Today I want to engage. Today I want to hear you, Spirit. Today I want to walk, not run, in tune with the Father’s voice.

Quite a lovely prayer as I reread it.  But again it was as I was driving home from work that God used my prayer to speak to me.  I usually listen to our Christian radio station which plays Focus on the Family at 9PM. So on my 10 minute drive home, the radio show which actually was speaking about marriage building, used the work “engage” a couple times.  It gave me a flash of my prayer from the morning and so I circled the word ENGAGE in my journal from that morning. 

The next day I was thinking of this idea of engaging in the present day.  It made me think of the Francis Chan study on the Holy Spirit that I’ve been working through with my “girls’ group.”  The most recent study had been discussing that we needn’t elucidate the big-picture plan that God has in place for us; but rather, we ought to focus on listening for what the Holy Spirit is prompting us to do today.

I went for a run that morning, my coveted Thursday morning solo run.  As I was wrapping up my run Psalm 118:24 came to mind: “THIS is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  And that was the emphasis that reeled through: THIS is the day.  Not yesterday, not years away.  Today.  THIS day. 
I proceeded to read the whole chapter of Psalm 118 and started to lose my high of this great verse speaking into my circumstance as the Psalmist claimed the triumph the Lord had given him after he was surrounded on all sides, but came out victorious.  And I thought, “yeah, I’d sing ‘This is the day we need to rejoice in’ too if that happened to me.”  But, “no,” came the quick reply, “doesn’t God conquer battles in our everyday lives if we let Him?” 
So, in one week I went from beginning to dread and fear the future, to being refocused to Today, to not worry about tomorrow, but to engage in today, THIS glorious day where God will be present, because that is what He has promised. 

I think my Mom learned these lessons awhile ago.  I will never forget the beautiful moment we shared during my first visit the morning after the diagnosis came.  It was early(ish) morning. Rayna and I were awake and Mom came to join us for breakfast.  We sat in the kitchen, Rayna playing on the floor, Mom and I at the table and I broke.  I couldn’t keep it together, I began to weep.  My Mom stood and came to give me a hug.  I met her and reached down and hugged this now fragile woman and she said to me, “It’s going to be okay.”  It’s going to be okay.  Fill in the gaps and you hear it: “Cancer is aggressively attacking my body, but it’s going to be okay.”  “I don’t know the number of days the doctors may place on my life, but it’s going to be okay.”  “My body will never be the same again, even if I beat this, but it’s going to be okay.”

Indeed these last few months I have encountered the nasty and the beautiful guts of real life through my own experiences and those of friends near.  This is really what life’s all about.  Our culture seeks pleasure and elusive happiness.  But life is full of disaster and mishaps and loss and rogue enemies of the cancer variety and otherwise.  So in all this and all I have learned in my own brush with stark humanity I share Jesus’ incomparable solace to us:
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

To close I have two asides.  Firstly and simply, (not inherent in the living in the present mentality) there is value in planning (indeed I am a natural planner); but, all plans are ultimately in God’s hands.  I have learned this in the past (read my previous blogs – it was a big shocker when I realized I didn’t actually have the reigns of my “family planning”) and again I am learning every good gift is from the Lord and I cannot garner them on my own might.  Secondly, I committed 3 mornings to quiet times and with that commitment I realize what I was really saying is, “I am committed to you God and to hearing You” and then God began speaking into my days.  I understand the constraints on time.  Last summer I struggled to know how possibly to create such time as I was working and my daughter was rising at 6 AM daily.  But, I see how as I opened myself and committed myself God spoke as I ran, God spoke as I drove home from work.  God spoke. (Because to be honest I feel meek that 3 mornings is all I can muster, but God understands our realities.)  Come wherever you are, with whatever time you have, ready to hear God speak.  And He will.

             

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Moments with Mom

Life is the sum total of the moments we live.  This mantra has been bouncing around my mind today as I took moments to fully enjoy my daughter; as I simply laid on the living room floor and she crawled all over me and I told her that I love her and I reminded her that she is beautiful.  My moments with my daughter grow more precious as my own mother’s life hangs in the balance.  It has been one week since my mom called with the news: the doctors are querying metastasized cancer.  Our call was so business-like.  We talked symptoms, we talked medical tests, we talked about her pain.  But I knew. My mom’s life is seriously threatened.  And I don’t know.  What will the doctors say next week when the test have been completed?  The options clatter in my mind in an endless cycle. 

I am left with no other choice than to once more in my life take my Mother’s lead: I pray and I turn to faith and I remain positive. 

I ponder on the moments with my Mom which have shaped me, which have taught me, which have inspired me, which have given me the firm foundation to embark on adult life and beyond.  I contemplate the moments which converge to create my view of my Mom’s life thus far.  I have been given the gift of 32 years of moments with an incredible Mother and nothing can take away those moments.

The most profound image I have of my Mom comes from my high school years.  Each morning as I would go downstairs to finish getting ready for school I would find my Mom on our living room couch either reading the Bible or deep in prayer.  Her habit of daily moments with God showed me her character of diligence and reflected her unwavering faith.  Three years ago I succinctly described the faith of each of my immediate ancestors. For my Mother the adjective I chose for her faith was “devout”: deep commitment.  I still remember the day I officially asked Jesus into my heart.  I was a very young child in my parents’ bedroom; the vacuum lay beside the bed, and in an ordinary but life-changing moment, my Mother guided me in a prayer asking God for the gift of salvation.  Years later when I was in Grade 6 or 7 I recall walking home from school with a couple of friends.  It was blistering cold and my Mom was driving by so she gave us a lift saving us a couple blocks of facing the wind chills.  My friend commented that my Mom was a “saviour”.  My mom quickly and naturally replied that there is only one Saviour.  This is how my Mom lives her life.  It has been a great gift to have been raised by godly parents who have taught me to love God as part of the natural rhythm of my life.

Another moment which I have been reflecting on highlights Mom’s wisdom in understanding what I call the humanity of others.  I always get the sense that my Mom ‘knows’ people.  Like she really knows exactly what they need and therefore she knows what to do for or say to others.  There are no games, there is no delay, and there is always genuine care.  This wisdom is a gift of my mother’s that I hope to learn more of because it has a way of meeting people in the exact moment they are in. 

It is my Mom who initiated my relationship with Mrs. Peters when I was in high school.  In fact, my Mom has had the greatest role in fostering my compassion for seniors.  Mrs. Peters called my Mom when she was volunteer coordinator.  Mrs. Peters was blind, but had written a memoir which had been typed and she wanted a middle-aged woman to reread it to her.   My mom suggested me instead and my Monday nights for the rest of my high school years became time spent with Mrs. Peters. (Mrs. Peters’ impact on my life is a whole other piece on its own.)   I recall this beautiful moment one Monday when Mom picked me up from Mrs. Peters’.  Mrs. Peters had just that week received the devastating news that her grandson had passed away.  As a teenager I found myself uncertain how to handle this loss in the life of a person special to me.  My mother, as she heard the news that evening, demonstrated with genuine compassion how to love people in moments such as these.  In that moment Mom said, “Oh Nettie, I am so sorry.” and she stretched out her arms to Mrs. Peters and embraced her.  It was so simple and yet this was a pivotal moment as I watched two women whom I both respected and loved share genuine care despite a lack of mutual history.  Looking back this is a shaping moment in me learning how to show compassion and in experiencing how deeply my mom cares for others.

In these days as I have palpably felt what it is to be my mother’s daughter, I view my moments being mother to my daughter with a new clarity.  In 30 years I want to be a woman who has spent faith-filled, inspiring, teaching and joy-filled moments with my daughter that will be captured forever in both our memories and go forward into next generations.  Indeed, I look back to my mom’s mom.  I loved my Grandma and respected her; my most prominent memory of her is her standing in the congregation on my baptism declaring that “God will never leave me nor forsake me.”  My mom was shaped by her mother.  I am shaped by mine.  Physically, I see Mom in my hands and in my face (though Mom, that’s the stern, focused, show every ounce of concentration and thought on your face – which I am still determining if it is a good thing). Furthermore, I have been taught to work hard particularly in academics including achieving “Highest honor” in Pioneer Clubs at church with the help of my Mom.  I have been shown to value hobbies through the many crafts Mom did with us growing up.  Mom demonstrated the value of being involved in the church through organizing Vacation Bible School, billeting visitors, participating in classes and teaching in Pioneer Clubs.  I have been shown to be involved in people’s lives whether that be immediate family, extended family members or the new Canadian who need to learn how to drive.  I have always felt that I could achieve whatever I set my mind and energy to.  I have always felt loved.  My Mom only says what she means and so her words may be fewer than others.  So, when Mom told me a few years back that she felt I had figured out life well at a very young age, I appreciated the words and draw on them when I feel unravelled. And when Mom told me last week that she is thankful she educated me, as in becoming a pharmacist, so I can help her manage her pain (though to be specific Mom and Dad really only paid for my first degree and Ryan paid for my second) I felt proud to be there for her.  Indeed I will always be thankful for all these gifts my mom has given me.

There are also many small things that I appreciate about my Mom:  The money that came in the mail the first December my sister and I lived in Saskatoon going to school, so that we could buy Christmas oranges.  The Easter decals that came in the mail a couple years ago.  The homemade Christmas decoration angels that arrived one of the first years Ryan and I were married.  The care packages with extra candy and licorice that arrived when I was a camp counsellor.  The small money gifts that Rayna is receiving already which I am banking in a piggy bank until she really knows what it means to want to shop.  The practical gifts that my sister and I often get which indeed are very practical!  The special pillowcases and duvet covers that Mom sewed for me when I was in Grade 8 which played a role in my (probably not very serious) decision not to run away.  The non-important piece of newspaper clipping that came in the mail when we first moved to Chilliwack so Mom would be the first person to send us real mail here.  These are a handful of the little things which characterize Mom.


An appropriate way to close this blog is to unveil some of the several adages Mom has; such as, “It will show up” when you lose something (though it doesn’t always) and “never back up further than you have to” when driving (advice I still follow) and “Be good”, the very general advice I received growing up nearly every time I left the house.  I think of these now because I have felt in the last few days like I am so very far away from my Mom.  The Kilometers feel like a barrier that the phone can only partially overcome.  But, one of Mom’s newer adages is “better to have family that lives far away and you are in touch regularly with than to have family in your town that you never talk to.”  I agree!  Thank you Mom, for everything you continue to teach me and the moments we continue to have, even those only on the telephone.  I love you.    

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Words for Ella

(For those of you who do not know, Ella Smith is the heroine in the novel I began penning a few years ago.  I have surpassed the 50,000 word mark and so my work can indeed be deemed a novel; but the book itself has been sitting still for the last while)

This is it! This is what I want Ella Smith to know.  This is what I want every woman to know: you are beautiful because you are created in the image of God. 

I’ve been struggling the last couple of months with self-image.  It’s not a new struggle (and I’m quite certain it’s a very ubiquitous one); but, it is one that hasn’t even remotely shown its face in my life in the last year.  So it’s fresh for me. Trying to remind myself why I’m beautiful and not dwell on physical flaws and to reaffirm my self-worth.  I’ve also been struggling the last (too long of a) while with prioritizing my faith and listening to God speak.  I felt particularly down in the dumps the last couple of days and so committed to go to bed early last night.  I read a few pages of a parenting book that was given to us by the church for Rayna’s child dedication.  It spoke of how parenting requires you to listen to God. “Humph,” I thought “I should try that again: listening to God.” So I decided to ensure that I would rise in the morning to some personal time. When I arose and walked into my living room a spectacular sun rise lit up the sky above the mountain line.  It was a brilliant orangey pink and I was stunned.  It was just what I needed to be reminded of God’s spectacular creation. During the moments that followed I was reminded of 2 things that God has spoken to me in the recent days which I haven’t really pursued; so, I left my couch with a reminder to not only listen but act.  Sort of a “yes-God” compliant attitude. 

But God spoke to me again.  As if a gift and as if to say I’ll continue to speak to you if you will listen.  It was this evening at the gym while I was stretching and the pump-up tunes were blasting in the background. It was not a quiet, tranquil moment; but my heart was ready and so I heard it “You are beautiful because I made you in My image.”  And I was given a vibrant visual reminder of the sunrise this morning and the beauty of God’s creation and God saying that His creation is “good”.  I am beautiful.  Like that sunrise.  Created in God’s image.

I’ve been thinking about my novel and actually wanting to complete it and as of a month ago I actually have an outline formulated to finish it.  Part of the details require me to figure out what lasting and final words to give to Ella through the voice of her grandmother.  I love the verse in Ephesians 2 where it states “we are God’s masterpiece.”  And I think Ella will need to hear that.  But (I don’t think this will create too much of a spoiler for those of you who will actually read my book) in the minutes after I savored God’s words and finally wiped off my work-out mat and packed up to come home, I found my mind wandering: “Did I need to be here so I could know better what to say to Ella?” And the common thread of womanhood felt so strong to me: the need for security and the all-too-often search for it in the wrong avenues.  It’s a struggle, I believe, for every woman to be a confident woman who loves herself.  But this is vital so we can love those around us.  And what is vital to reach this place is to embrace our God who calls us His beautiful daughters.


So, Grandma Brown to Ella and woman to woman remind one another that you are a masterpiece, who is rightly called a daughter of God, and has been created in the very image of God! (Ephesians 2:10, 1 John 3:1, Genesis 1:27)