Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Unexpected


If I could sum up our third baby and pregnancy in one word, "unexpected" would be the word that encompasses my feelings the best. Unexpected, because I was not expecting to get pregnant. Unexpected, because I wasn't really sure if I would ever be pregnant again. Unexpected because it has filled a want that I never realized existed. Unexpected pregnancy? Yes. Unexpected blessing? Absolutely. 


Let me clarify: yes, I do know where babies come from and I do know how pregnancies happen. However, "falling pregnant" has never been a part of our story. Our journey to Levi and Lucas included months upon months of negative pregnancy tests, rounds of failed fertility drugs, and several sweet babies whose journeys lead them straight to the arms of their heavenly Father before they were ever able to enter ours. But, what a glorious gift for your child to never know a day where they weren't in their Father's arms!

And through time, and prayer, and wrestling, and grace upon grace upon grace, I can honestly say that I am not only okay that this is our story, but I am thankful that it is our story. And words will never be able to express the thankfulness I have for the two precious little boys that came out of that journey. 

So when I say unexpected, unexpected is what I mean. I never expected to be able to surprise my husband with news of a new baby. I never expected to have a pregnancy that was not book ended by losses. I never expected to get share the news with unsuspecting friends and family. I never expected to have a first trimester that wasn't clouded by fear, and doubt, and extra appointments. I never expected it and I never wanted it. But the Lord, my deeply compassionate Father who freely gives, saw fit to gift me with one of the most precious experiences I have ever had. 

So this sweet, little boy inside of me is only part of the unexpected blessing the Lord has bestowed upon us. The journey to him, and every moment leading up to his birth, has been just as unexpected, and just as sweet. And I pray that I will never know a day that I do not remember the faithfulness of my Father, who went above and beyond to bless us- through 3 little boys AND the journey that lead us to them. 

As always, Jennifer Corcoran Photography has blessed our family immensely by perfectly capturing such a precious time in our lives. You can see more of her beautifully talented work at . 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Left Behind

Take this cup from me. 

Take this cup from him.

Take this cup from us.

These silent pleads have been strung through my prayers, my days, and my life for the last few months as we continue to walk through a season of transition, uncertainty, and deep loneliness. We are surrounded by faithful family, faithful friends, and a very faithful church community, but the loneliness has still been so heavy. Loneliness because we are unique. Loneliness because Levi is unique. Loneliness because the more he ages, the more he, and we, get left behind.

As Levi approaches his 4th birthday, we are entering, what should have been, a season of firsts: Pre-k programs, school programs, T-ball Saturdays, first trips to the movies, swim lessons, first school friends, and big class birthday parties. As much as these first are enjoyable for kids, they are such precious experiences for parents. These are the things I dreamed about as we planned for children. Camping trips; hearing all about his day at school; cheering him on from the side lines as he celebrates with his pee-wee soccer team. And as his peers and their parents, our friends, dip their toes in these life-changing memories, we stand on the curb and wave good-bye as they drive further into the distance. The getting left behind, and the overwhelming realization that one day we will watch them drive so far away that we will only see the horizon, has left me crippled in loneliness. And the loneliness has left us wondering where we belong, where Levi belongs, as life moves onward. And in these moments, I fall to my knees and beg the Lord to make me desire something else, anything else.

Take this cup.

Take this cup.

Take this cup.

This summer will be 2 years since Levi was first diagnosed with Autism & SPD. Although that day and the weeks to follow were extremely painful, they pale in comparison to the days, weeks and months we have experienced since as we are slowly beginning to truly process the weight and longevity of this new reality. I would never had admitted it in the beginning, but Levi's diagnosis shattered my dreams. The interesting thing about shattered dreams is that they do not just shatter once. Instead, they continue to shatter as time progresses and new aspects of your current reality emerge. I had never considered the reality that everyone else's children would continue to progress in life past ours. I had never considered how different church, and school, and vacations, and friends would look like for Levi and for us as he got older. For a long time, I never considered the possibility that Levi wouldn't "catch up" in time to be in a normal classroom for Kindergarten. I never considered the possibility that Levi might never be able to integrate into a normal classroom. I never considered the behavioral problems. I never considered that one day some people might think my child is dangerous. I never considered the speech regression. I never considered the pain and heartbreak that comes when you lose sight of who your precious child is during particularly bad symptoms days.

 I never considered how much I would question where we belong.

And I never considered the loneliness that would come with each of these continuous shatters.

And surrounded by the pieces of my shattered dreams, in the depths of my unspeakable loneliness, in the fears and uncertainties of the future, and in the exhaustion that accompanies an unending wilderness, I encounter the Lord in ways I never would have.

And that gives every heartache, every regression, every stare, every fear, every uncertainty, every shattered dream, every single gut-wrenching moment eternally worth it.

And I can only pray for the strength and the power that comes from the Lord to remain faithful and steadfast with my feet firmly planted on this hope.

The Lord may not take this cup from me. The Lord will most likely not take this cup from me.

But the faithfulness of His hands upholding mine will never cease.

Side Note: We love Levi so much and we cannot even imagine him without Autism. Although these things are oh-so-hard, we are so grateful that the Lord made him exactly how he is and we are confident that the Lord is going to be glorified through this journey. However, we also believe God wants us to share every side of our journey, including the ones that are hard and full of weaknesses, doubt, and falters. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Levi Update: January 2017

It has been almost 7 months since my last Levi update, and what a busy and exciting 7 months it has been! The last time I dedicated an entire post to Levi's development was on his year anniversary with Easter Seals back in June. Although Levi had made some huge developmental leaps in his first year at Easter Seals, nothing could compare to the progress he has made in the last half-year.

As of June, Levi was saying 4-5 single words and was beginning to understand a little more things that were spoken to him. (e.g. DON'T KICK YOUR BROTHER) In the beginning, we were unsure whether Levi understood certain words or if he just understood our body language and tone of voice, similar to how a dog hears and comprehends. However, we are very confident now that Levi understands most of the commands and questions we ask him. Of course, we keep it simple. There is no "Are you afraid?" or "How are you feeling?" or "What is the square root of 144?", but we will get there before you know it.

Up until two months ago, Levi's speech comprised mostly of "parroting", or just repeating what others said to him. Levi's old (as in past, not age) and most favorite OT Greg, caught on fast and would say "Bye Mr. Greg!" when sending Levi off because Levi would emphatically parrot "Bye Mr. Greg!". As with all children, we have had a good time getting Levi to repeat funny things that we say. Thankfully, nothing inappropriate has been repeated yet but I am sure that time will come!

In the last few months, Levi has begun to venture away from "parroting", and has begun to say words and phrases on his own. My all-time favorite is "Hi Mamma". A few other good ones are "Come Here", "Sit", "Goodnight", "Hi Daddy", and "Honkin Horns" (Chuggington). Levi knows about 20-30 words now and several phrases, including "Hey Baby" that his dad taught him (and Levi thinks it's hysterical).

In addition to knowing and using new words, Levi has also begun to quote some of his favorite movies or tv shows. Sometimes he only has to see an episode or hear a song once in order for him to repeat phrases. It is fairly common for Autistic children to use phrases they have memorized from books or tv in order to "make conversation" with other people. He has also been mimicking "socially appropriate" actions he sees, such as, he now covers his mouth when he (fake) laughs because that is what he has seen others do. It's really cute. Now if he would only cover his mouth when he coughs!

Recently, we have realized that Levi knows So. Much. More. than we think he does. At the end of Thanksgiving, we were reading a book and I was asking Levi to point to the red dinosaur. Sighing heavily, Levi took the book and proceeded to point to and name all of the colors. In addition to knowing all of his colors, Levi also knows all of his shapes and he can name and identify several letters and all of the characters on his favorite movies (Mickey and Chuggington). We also discovered that he can count to 20 (I mean... what?!) He really is amazing us every day.

Levi is still attending Easter Seals 4 full days a week and he is still receiving both occupation and speech therapy weekly. At the beginning of December, we had Levi's very first IEP meeting (Individualized Education Plan). At this meeting, we discussed Levi's entrance into Muscogee County's STEPs program and the goals they had for him for the coming semester. The STEPs program is a state funded program that allows special needs children to enter the public school system a few years early in hopes that they will be able to "catch up" enough to be placed in a mainstream class once they reach kindergarten. In addition to attending school 2 days a week, Levi will also be receiving speech and occupational therapy through the school system as well. The amazing part about all of this? It is completely FREE.

First day of school!
(If you are considering STEPs for your son or daughter, I would love to talk to you about it!)

So, this past Wednesday, I dropped Levi off for his very first day of public school at Eagle Ridge Academy! It was a scary and exciting moment but I am happy to say we both survived and he is going to (eventually) love attending! He will also be riding the bus from Eagle Ridge back over to Easter Seals when he finishes school each day, which is also an equal mix of scary and exciting!

Every day with Levi is such a gift and it has been so fun to hear his little voice and see the gears in his head really turning. He is exploring more, asking more, listening more, and exuding a confidence I wasn't sure he would ever have. For the first time, his days are full with laughter, joy and very little frustration with communication. He feels heard, he feels understood, and because of those two things, he feels appreciated. Levi is finally able to spend his days doing what all threenagers love: running, laughing and asking for a million snacks. We are so thankful for how far the Lord has brought us in this journey and we are excited to see how far he will take Levi in the future!

Monday, December 5, 2016

2017: The year I quit Facebook

I am deleting my Facebook account for all of 2017.

There. I said it. (Now I guess I have to do it.)

How is it, that something that didn't even exist for 3/4 of my life can influence me so much? How is it, that I can wake up in an incredible, tackle-the-day, self-confident, and thankful mood and yet within seconds of being on Facebook that mood can come to a screeching halt?

So much of this post is painstakingly embarrassing for me. Mostly because I cannot believe that I allow people I do not even know to influence my day-to-day life so much. Even more so, I am horrified by how much of a detriment Facebook is to my life and how long it has taken me to realize that.

Now, before I go any further, I want to clarify that this is my personal struggle with Facebook. There are many, many people who can use Facebook well and have it not influence their lives and spiritual walks. As you may be gathering, I am not one of those people.

You also may be thinking, "Deleting your Facebook for a whole year is a little dramatic." You're right. It's extreme. However, when you have an addictive personality like mine, a year might not be enough. (I also am a person that thrives on deadlines and goals, so this challenge resonates well with me.)

Let me also clarify that Facebook is not a bad thing in and of itself. It connects lost friendships, it unites people together under noble causes, and it enables my friends and family who live far away to keep up with our growing family.

But ,Facebook also makes me doubt myself. Facebook makes me insecure about my life, my marriage, my body and sometimes, my beliefs. Facebook makes me unbelievably angry and judgmental. Facebook makes me burn with jealousy, greed and envy. Facebook makes me crave other people's praise and approval. Facebook makes me think that I am not enough; I need to be smarter, prettier, fitter, richer. And the list never ends.

And the worst part is, I say things and post things on Facebook that make others feel these same exact things.

Any and all good things can become bad things when abused and over-invested in. And that is where I stand with Facebook. I have allowed Facebook to become too large a part of my life. I have allowed others opinions of me become what drives me. I have allowed Facebook to morph my perception of what is real and I have replaced that with unobtainable expectations.

Most importantly, Facebook has damaged my relationship with God. Facebook has caused me to question Him more than I ought. Facebook has caused me to doubt His choices for me. Facebook has caused me to believe it over the promises and truths He tells me in His Word. Facebook has caused me to grumble, complain and be down right ungrateful. And ultimately, Facebook has caused me to see myself in its image (and the opinions of others) rather than the image of my Creator.

And that, my friends, is the exact definition of an idol. Not to mention, a painfully accurate representation of something good being turned into something sinful. Satan will use anything to keep us under his thumb and he preys on our unawareness of the snares he is using.

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,...Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.” C.S. Lewis

Examine yourselves, examine your habits, examine your thoughts and examine your hearts. Be always aware, always on guard and always prepared to confront your idols. Most importantly, remain constant in prayer and petition to the Lord to reveal the gentle slope that you have been descending.

Until we meet again, Facebook.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Fear That So Easily Entangles

I'm sitting at my desk at work, alone in the office, and my chest feels like it is going to burst as the air seems to be cut off from my lungs. Somehow, I am able to hold the tears at bay that are threatening to spill over. After a few minutes, and some sharp breaths, I feel my heart rate begin to lower and I feel myself coming back from the ledge. The ledge that I so desperately try to ignore until I am dangling over the edge. 

Since going back to work a couple of years ago, I have struggled greatly with the fear of losing my children. I wish I could say the fear is a simple fear of not wanting to live without them. However, this fear that knocks the air straight out of me at times, is so much deeper. Unkept fears, like weeds that are allowed to roam free, slowly crawl over every surface of life that surrounds them. They stretch over my heart, embedding themselves in every facet of my life until it is hard to see where fear ends and reality begins. 

When Levi was first born, this fear was so simplistic: I loved my son greatly and I did not want to lose him. However, as the years have gone by, this fear has grown, and implanted, and stretched, and devoured. I fear losing my children. I fear my children suffering. I fear that I will lose my children because I was unable to save them. I fear that my children will die from something I could have prevented. I fear my children will die and their last thought will be "Why is my mom not here to help me?" I fear my children will die without knowing that I love them.

And, my darkest fear, I fear my children will die without ever knowing Jesus. 

One of the hardest things I have stomaching about Levi's Autism is being unsure about what he comprehends and what he does not. I am very confident that he understands little things such as "All done" and "Do you want to watch Chuggington". However, when it comes to things deeper, like "That makes Mommy sad" or "I love you", he shows no signs of even vaguely comprehending what those things mean. And that is like pouring gasoline on an already raging fire. 

Although I had a more simplistic form of this fear when Levi was young, it didn't really start morphing until I went back to work full time a couple of years ago. There is just something about not being with your kids all day and not really knowing what is going on with them that makes little fears become big ones. It also makes you realize that as a mom, you think you can protect your child 100% better than anyone else (sometimes Dad included *cringe*). And lets be honest here, a lot of times, deep down, we think we can protect our child better than God (quadruple *cringe*). Although I would like to fight tooth and nail and SAY that isn't true, my fears and my actions say otherwise. 

Suddenly, my idolatry of my children has now morphed into my idolatry of my children AND my idolatry of control. I alone can save my kids. I alone can protect them. I alone am all they need. And out of those two very weighty idols, sprouts a never ending fountain of fear and anxiety. And out of these idols and fears and anxieties, comes a fast and furious stream of guilt and failure when (surprise) I fall short. Guilt because I am not with my children during the day and therefore, cannot protect them. Guilt because I was not able to protect Levi from Autism, nor will I be able to protect him from it in the future. Guilt because I don't always do a great job at showing my children that I love them. 

And the cycle goes on, growing deeper and darker with every turn until I find myself here, years later, drowning in a sea of guilt and anxiety, but too paralyzed by fear to take that breath of air that I so desperately need. And because of that, what once was just a small, single brick of fear, has now become a tower. 

How did I get here? How did I get to be so crippled by fear when I use to have such a deep trust in the Lord? 

I got here because I have spent close to 2 plus years living with unconfessed sin. I have spent 2 years justifying that the fear of losing my children is completely normal and okay. Is this initial fear normal? Sure. But what I chose to do with that fear is sinful. 

That is how I got here. Now where do I go from here? What then, moms (and dads), are we to do with this fear?

1. Confess these fears to God and continue to confess them AS OFTEN AS THEY APPEAR. Ask him to show you the underlying idols that cause your fears. 

Proverbs 28:13 "Whoever conceals their sin does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy."

2. Confess these fears to a friend or confidant. Bringing sin to light simultaneously kicks Satan in the teeth AND gives you person to pray alongside of you and keep you accountable. 

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

3. Battle your fears with scripture and with the promises of the Lord. 

Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble or its own. 

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears...The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them. 

1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 

4. Let your fears play out. 

Now this last point is more my own personal advice because it is something that has helped me. So many of our fears lie within the unknowns (i.e. How will I go on without my child/husband/parent?) So, for a few minutes, let that fear play itself out. For instance, my fear of losing my children. So what if that does happen? How will I feel? How will I ever go on? Take that scenario and repeat step 3:

I will go on because the Lord will uphold me (Isaiah 41:10). I will be crushed and struck down, but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4:9). I will be unbearably sad, but there will be a day when the Lord will wipe every tear. Even though I may never understand, the Lord is working for good (Romans 8:28). The Lord goes before me and the Lord goes with me (Deuteronomy 31:6). 

Does this mean that your fears are going to disappear? No. Rather, as you slowly build a tower of truth, brick by brick of confession and biblical promises, that tower of fear will disappear. Not because it is no longer there, but because it will become eclipsed by truth, promises, and the glory of the Lord.

Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Happy First Birthday, Lucas

They always say that time goes by faster which each child, and I cannot express how true that it. The past year has flown by, sweet Lucas, and I cannot believe that you are already a year old. At the same time, I also cannot believe you are ONLY a year old (mamas you feel me). 

The night before you were born, I cried as I rocked your brother to sleep because I didn't think I would ever be able love you as much as I loved Levi (#hormones). A few weeks after you were born, I could only laugh because OF COURSE I loved you just as big. Actually, you were born looking so much like you brother (and weighing exactly the same), that I kept wondering if we had some how fallen back to 2013. But then I quickly remembered that I had only had to do 12 hours of labor, as opposed to the 24+ with your brother, and I was brought back to the present (For that, I will always love you a little bit more. Kidding....maybe). The day you were born was peaceful up until the moment you suddenly decided you were ready to appear. So suddenly, in fact, that things were thrown around the room, your grandmother had to page for Dr. Thorne, and your grandfather wasn't even at the hospital because he had left to run an errand. 

Your birth and the weeks to follow were a beautiful time of healing for my heart. My labor with Levi was HARD, my recovery was even harder, and the months of colic that followed felt unbearable at times. Since becoming a mom the first time, I constantly felt insecure and questioned every parenting decision I made. I lived, breathed, and dreamed about failure. What am I doing wrong? Why does my baby never stop crying? Why do other moms disqualify my labor just because after 17 hours I decided to get an epidural (for the love)? 

Fast forward a year and we were pregnant again! After trying for well over a year to get pregnant with you brother and using fertility medications, we were ecstatic to be pregnant so quickly on our own. Unfortunately, a week later, we miscarried. 

....And then we miscarried again. 

Not long after our second miscarriage, our pediatrician sat us down and voiced his concerns about your brother's development. Fast forward through a few dark, trying months, and we found out your brother had Autism. We also found out that you would have a 30% chance of having Autism, too. If I hadn't felt the weight of darkness and wandering in the desert before, I certainly did during these months. 

Now, this probably seems like the most depressing birthday post you've ever heard. (And one day, when you read this, you will probably be annoyed that I keep referencing Levi so much in YOUR birthday post.) However, I tell you these things so that you can understand the depth of how you have impacted my life. 

In a year when it seemed like the darkness would never end, the Lord saw fit to drop mana from heaven in the form of a sweet, 6.13 pound little boy with dimples and a faux-hawk. 

In a year where all I felt was failure surrounding me, the Lord used you to remind me that my weaknesses are where God's power shines through.

In a year where I felt so overwhelmed by therapies, doctor appointments, and work, you appeared and reminded me of how temporary and trivial those trials truly are. 

Lucas, you were the salve we so desperately needed and we are so thankful that the Lord chose you to help heal our wounds. 

You are sweet. Oh so sweet. You have been giving hugs since you were 6 months old. And I don't mean the "i'll lean into you just to get you to stop asking me" hug. I mean you wrap your arms around my neck as if you will never let go. 

You are funny. You have kept our family consistently laughing with your "scrunchie face" and your old man chuckle. 

You are resilient. You have been hit by your brother, stepped on by the dog, fallen off furniture, and have sneakily eaten almost an entire bag of dog food over time and you are still alive and happy. (Parenting for the win?)

You are feisty. You have learned that you can defend yourself against your older brother by simply biting him until he leaves you alone. Not exactly the approach I would like, but hey, i'm proud you are at least sticking up for yourself.

You are pretty. Yes, pretty. I have lost count of how many "Oh what a pretty little girl you have!" I have received since you were born. I think its because of your big blue eyes and long lashes. The ladies will love that one day, so don't you worry. Actually, false. They will hate it. You are never dating. Ever. 

You are sweet and loud and giggly and flirtatious and fearless and busy. You are our perfect gift from the Lord and we love you so!

Now don't get any older, okay?

Love, Momma 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Autism: One Year Later

One year.

One year, 5 doctors, 132 therapy visits, 1 billion trillion melt-downs (approximately), 5 signs, 4 consistent words, 2 very tired parents, and one sweet, sweet voice that we are finally getting to hear.

One year ago today, Levi was diagnosed with Autism. One year ago today, I was sure we would not survive until today (Apparently, one year ago today I was a little overdramatic).

One year ago today, I remember crying to my mom in Chick-fil-a that I was so scared Levi would grow up and never have friends. And I mean, real friends; not friends who are only nice to him because their parents made them. One year later, and that is still a fear that stays at the forefront of my heart.
New Noise-Cancelling Headphones!

We have learned so much in the past year: things about Levi, things about Autism, things about genetics, and a whole list of new bad words to describe health insurance coverage or lack thereof.

Most importantly, I have learned a lot about God. In the past year, I have questioned, doubted, and accused more than I ever have in my life. Now, not all of this has come because of Levi’s diagnoses. A lot of it has spurred from watching people around me walk through deep, deep caverns of suffering. Some of it has come from waking up daily to the crushing reality of living in a fallen world.

However, Levi’s diagnosis was the first toppled domino that set it all into motion. I recently read a quote from New York Times Bestseller that said: “[Suffering] does not change you. It reveals you.” How painfully true I have found that quote to be. I’m fairly certain the questions, the accusations, and the doubts have always been there; shamefully hidden from even my own view. Hidden, because for some reason we have it in our minds that questions and doubts negate our faith completely. But in reality, these extremely low moments have only made my faith stronger, my trust greater, and my humility deeper. That is what moments (or years) of weakness do. They make way for the power of God as they slowly chip away the power of ME.

So what have I learned this year?

I have learned that I am a really, really terrible mom. In this initial post about autism, I wrote that I didn’t know how often I would lose my patience with Levi. Well, a year later, and I still can’t tell you how often because I just can’t count that high. I have been impatient. I have yelled (both at Levi and the ceiling/floor/air/etc.). I haven’t tried to understand him nearly as often as I should.

I have learned that I don’t fully love a lot of people in my life because I am too busy being jealous and envious of their lives. Jealous that they can enjoy the beach with their children. Jealous that they can leave their kids in the same room together without worrying about what the older will do to the younger. Jealous that they can stay home with their kids because they aren’t having to work to pay for therapies and doctors visits. How do you love your friends when you are secretly feeling these things? You don’t. That’s the problem with jealousy.

I have learned that I still expect Levi to act “normal” and I am sorely disappointed when SURPRISE, he doesn’t. I have learned that I can get really angry with God. I have learned that I care way too much about what people think of me. I have learned that I am WAY too quick to forget blessings and answered prayers. I have learned that I in no way put God first in my life. I have learned the hard way that I absolutely cannot do anything, say anything, be anything, without the Lord.

And that is the beauty in the ashes.

That is why I am so thankful for autism, for this past year, for my questions, my doubts and my desperately dark moments.

I absolutely cannot do anything, say anything, be anything, without the Lord.

That is why James says “Count it ALL joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” because the pearls of truth that are found amidst the temporary trials are eternally worth it.

So when I stare down this dauntless path of raising a special needs child, I will remember that this is light and momentary. When my heart aches for Levi and the hardships he is and will endure, I will remember that his earthly condition is just that- earthly. When the end of the day comes and I am so weary and defeated, I will remember that the Lord said to me “I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you…” (Isaiah 41:10).

And when, in moments of weakness, I am tempted to beg away the hardships, I will remember that “blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life” (James 1:12).

And that crown of life is what makes this a joyful journey. Not always a pretty one, not always a easy one, and definitely not always a Christ-like one; but a journey that is undeniably worth it.