I don’t know if a “Pastor Husband” is at all like a “Sister Wife”, but I do know that having a husband who happens to also be your pastor is unique.  October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and what better way to appreciate my pastor than by writing a letter of thanks for all that my husband does…as I see it from my inside perspective.


Dear “Pastor Husband”,

Words cannot express how grateful I am for you, not only as my husband, but also as my pastor.  I am perhaps the most opinionated and verbose member of your congregation.  I know that I often critique the sermons and have my own lengthy speeches about where God is leading the church.  So, thanks for putting up with me.  I appreciate that you listen to me, value my insights, and treat me (as hard as it may be sometimes) as a valuable member of the Body.  I also thank you for not always doing as I suggest.  I am thankful that while you listen to me, Jesus has the final say.  I greatly appreciate your leadership and ability to filter through the Spirit.

Thank you for not only leading the church, but also leading our family.  You are not only the lead repenter in the pulpit, but also in our home (usually around kids’ bedtime:) ).  Thank you for teaching us about grace, humility, and trust.  We are grateful that what you say on Sunday morning is a reflection of what you say Monday through Saturday at home.  We love seeing Jesus work through you and “on you” as you prepare to teach others about Him and love others as He does.  I wouldn’t know what to do if the man I saw on Sunday was someone other than the man I see brush his teeth every morning.  Thank you for being authentic and letting your call to be a pastor start with your call to be in relationship with Jesus, followed closely by your call as husband and father.

From my seat at the dinner table, I see day in and day out, that your job is more than mere means to put food on the table for us.  You carry the weight of the world on your shoulders through the work that you do.  The compassion of Jesus flows through you, and the people within our church are not simply coworkers, clients, or consumers.  They are family.  Their troubles and trials often don’t leave your mind once you come home at the end of the day.  It is the Jesus in you, that makes your job a 24-hour-on-call vocation.  Sometimes even when your body is present, your heart might be engaged with the hearts of the people.  Let’s be honest, I am not always appreciative of this.  But, I take this opportunity to acknowledge that this challenge comes with the job, and if you didn’t struggle to stop caring for others, I’d probably find that alternative pretty disturbing. 🙂

Thank you for loving our church in this way.  And as your wife, I thank you for loving our marriage, our children, and our family at home even more.  I know the sacrifices you make to serve the church…I often experience them with you.  The struggle is real, and I acknowledge that your call to love the church and to also love your wife and family can get complicated.  I thank you for turning to Jesus in these times.  I thank you for not abandoning us–trusting Jesus with His church–and in turn, being faithful to your call as a husband, father, and pastor.

I get it, Love.  I’ve not just seen the emotional roller coaster that is full-time ministry, I’ve been along for the ride.  And I am proud to sit next to you as the ups and downs come. I am thankful that while it gets scary, challenging, stressful, and heavy-hearted at times, we are still able to hold hands and scream a little.  It’s tough, but you are doing an amazing job simply holding on tight to Jesus as the ride continues.  He has joy for you on this ride…He really, really does.

Be encouraged, dear “Pastor Husband…”

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

For the days when you feel God’s call is too heavy, too great, or too much, know that as your wife and children (and congregational members), we stand with you.  Know that when your spirit is grieved by the sins of the church, of your family, or your own failures, there is always hope for God’s people.  The Israelites acknowledged their sin and asked their leader Ezra to make a covenant with the Lord on their behalf, promising to turn from their sinful ways.  They said to Ezra, “Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” (Ezra 10:4).  Thank you for being our Ezra, for having the tough task of leading us to repentance and helping us have hope in the promises of Jesus.  Thank you for being strong.  Thank you for doing it.  We stand with you.  We love you.  We thank you for answering His call.

Day 18: Snap Dragons

Earlier today, I finished painting my bargain-find chairs and recovered the seats.   Now, my earlier Lenten goal of friends gathered around the table is in sight.  I went to the store to buy the ingredients for the main course and dessert.  As I was rounding the produce section, I passed the flowers.  Ahhh, snap dragons.  I love snap dragons, and what better way to finish off my new dining room with a mason jar full of the pretty pastel flowers.

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Today I added beautiful flowers.  They were not a necessity by any means.  But it is in the nonessentials that the extravagance of God is seen.  Oh, the depth of a God who creates unnecessary beauty!  He goes above and beyond to create moments of artistry and loveliness for us.  It reminds me of the beautiful poetry of His Word.  It’s not crucial to the message, but communicates His character and lavish love.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” 

Psalm 27:4 


Day 19: K-cups

I recently made a new friend and invited her and her four kids over to play this morning.  She came bearing coffee…lots and lots of coffee.  In her recent move, she was given a plethora of k-cups.  She shared her wealth, unaware that coffee holds the key to my heart. 🙂

Today, I added boxes and boxes of k-cups and a new friend to Lent.  I am so thankful to God for His provision and His timing.

The purpose of this season is to reflect and prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus.  What I am learning through adding to Lent, is that His death and life continues to add to my daily living.  He is alive.  By adding daily, or maybe I should say “by receiving daily”, I am witnessing His resurrection.  He is alive…and finding ways to let me know it.  By opening my eyes to His blessings and bounty, I witness Him being alive and active.

“This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead… Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”  

John 21:14&25

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten Season, the 40 days that lead up to the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It’s a common custom to “give up” something for Lent.  Christians have historically fasted and prayed as they prepare their hearts for the celebration of that which defines their faith–a God who has conquered death.

Ironically, I started my 40 days of fasting by preparing a month’s worth of food…literally.  I’ve recently been on a freezer crockpot meal kick.  Last month, I thought I was easing into the idea with meals that would last approximately 2 weeks.  However, the meals were so large that they provided a month’s worth of food for our family of 6.  The simplicity of tossing pre-packaged ingredients into the crockpot was so freeing.  So yesterday, when the ziplock bags in the freezer drawer started to dwindle, without much thought I started packaging more meals.

Only today did the irony dawn on me.  It’s been awhile since I have given up something I love as an act of fasting for Lent.  I started to wonder this morning if I should pick up the practice again.  Then I opened the freezer…

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I am sure that being really hungry or intensely craving a Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffle could draw one closer to Jesus. It would exhibit great sacrifice for me to give up my morning cups of coffee.  I just don’t think I am strong enough.  And I really love my family.  I’d hate for them to have to live with the decaffeinated, chocolate deprived version of me for 40 days.  I don’t think that’s what Jesus wants for them.  So here is my alternative plan:

This year, during Lent, I will add something to life, rather than take away.  Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross, and nothing I can “give up” for 40 days will ever come close in comparison.  It is due to His great outpouring on the cross, that I have been covered in so much.  I am really excited about the possibilities of acknowledging over the next 39 days all that I have received because Jesus gave up everything.  I find myself focusing on “beautiful exchange” language: through His loss of everything, I have gained all.

Therefore, I will “add on” for Lent and truly be thankful for all that He gave me in His giving up.


 

Day 1:  Crockpot Freezer Meals.

Since I missed Ash Wednesday…and happened to make a month’s worth of food, I will cheat and say it was purposeful.  (Shhh…Don’t tell.)  I added nourishment for my family, which only points me to His amazing provision.  He meets and satisfies all of my daily needs.  How paradoxical, that as I start the season of fasting my freezer is supplied on day one with enough provision for the entirety of Lent!?

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:10-11

He not only supplies food for my physical needs, but He supplies the nourishment I need in my soul.  He enriches all of life which causes me to be able to enrich the lives of others.  He draws me close…even through bags of frozen beef stroganoff and mongolian beef.


Day 2:  Volume.

I might as well play a little catch up.  Today, I added volume…well, to be specific, loud obnoxious singing.

This morning, as with most of our mornings, our children were having a very difficult time waking up and getting ready for school.  It’s quite frustrating, especially when we discuss the importance of getting up on time each and every evening before.  It is precisely for this morning battle, that coffee is a daily neccesity.

Today, however, I greeted each of my children with a loud operatic wake-up call.  It was fun.  After covering their heads with their sheets and muffling their ears with stuffed animals, they eventually laughed.  Helen even warbled back with her own aria: “Where– is my schoo—ooool SHIRT?”

As the day has gone on, Judah and I have performed our own recitatives for each other.  His screaming (which has recently been driving me mad) has never been so adorably charming.  It’s amazing how my heart has already softened to gratitude, even though the volume hasn’t lessened at all.

All of this singing reminds me of Zephaniah 3:17:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

And so I add volume–loud rejoicing!  I am thankful that God is in my midst, rejoicing over me.  I am thankful that He taught me through silly overwhelming vibrato to embrace life (even toddler-screaming) in the moment and to be thankful.  I am beyond grateful that He has the ability to almost instantly shift my heart and my mind from overwhelming frustration to overwhelming joy.

I am excited to see what He gives tomorrow.  I’d love for you to join me in “adding on” this Lent.  We truly have been given a great abundance.

Yesterday was game day: my daughter’s debut on the middle school basketball team.  As most sports enthusiasts know, girls’ 5th-grade basketball is where it’s at.  The NBA has nothin’ on the drama of a 20-minute scrimmage of tweens.  The NCAA can’t compare to the fast pace surprises and amazing display of developing talent.  It truly was a memorable evening.

The three mini-games played last night were purposeful.  Most of the young women participating were only just beginning to learn the rules of the sport.  So, the shortened matches were a chance to learn by doing.  (Sort of a toss the baby in the swimming pool approach)  Dribbling a ball down the court in practice alongside your teammate only requires one set of skills.  However, maintaining control of the ball while a ponytail covered in spirit ribbons whips you in the face is another.  Practicing lay-ups and working on jump shots provides some building blocks of the basics.  But, remembering which basket to aim at in the midst of screaming pre-teens and enthusiastic parents, now that’s an essential lesson all of its own.

A friend and I were laughing as we watched.  Some of the athleticism in unintentional plays was awkwardly unreal.  In the split-second of receiving the ball, the ability to chunk it towards the side wall as if it were a football (or a soggy sock) takes amazing muscle reflexes.  The agility required to scramble on the floor over jump ball after jump ball is not qualitative.  We both agreed that we probably couldn’t imitate was we saw, even if we tried.  And if we were to attempt such feats, there’s no way we’d last a full 20-minutes.

Thankfully, my daughter has wisdom beyond her years.  She was telling us before dinner the night before about this upcoming match.  With great excitement she said, “Ya’ll have to come!…Come watch me fail!  We are horrible!  There’s no way we will win, but you have to come!  It will be great!”  Oh, my sweet, sweet, girl.  I love that she held excitement in the sport, not in the hope of winning.  I love that she didn’t merely want to play the game, but moreover wanted us to enjoy simply watching her play it.

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“Come watch me fail…”  

Wow.  She has more self-confidence and security than most adults, including myself.  I don’t know if I’d invite any of y’all to be spectators at an event in which I was assuredly going to bounce my own ball into my own face.  She could have pouted.  She could have turned red in embarrassment.  She could have cried from the uncomfortableness of her awkwardness.  Her hope, however, was not placed in points or winning.  Her aim was to learn and enjoy the game.

Many of us are in situations or circumstances that likely require us to learn.  I’d argue that none of us is beyond spiritual growth, for sure.  2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  But how do we approach the opportunities to grow set before us?  How do we approach our transformation?  Do we listen to the Spirit to even discover chances to mature?

One tendency is to approach the court in fear.  There was another sweet girl on our team who avoided the ball at all cost.  I don’t think this was intentional, because she was happy to be there, she was glad to be a part of the team, and she had some occasional hustle.  However, at one moment in the game, as she stood next to a fellow teammate, the ball was passed in her general direction.  As it barreled towards her, she dodged to the side, in an instinctual response to avoid fast-flying objects.  The girl next to her reached as best she could to cover for this young lady’s evasiveness, but to no avail, the ball hit her elbow and bounced off.  Like a pinball machine the orange ball of danger was directly boomeranged back into the poor timid girl’s arms.  She caught the ball squarely in front of the chest, as coach had taught. But, as if it were an intense orb of fire, she immediately flung it in the air…into the arms of the opposing team.  Without hesitation, she turned her face to the coach and mouthed with distraught wrinkled brow, “I’m sorry!”

Our fear in situations can cause us to rely on instincts that are better reserved for real-life-danger.  Is it really necessary that I react to my children as if they were an attacker mugging me in the parking lot?  Is it really necessary that when confronted with conflict I hide in a back room as if an axe murderer was hunting me down in my house?  These reactions, while they seem completely rationale in the moment, only deprive us gaining wisdom and strength through trials.  Rather than soaking in and absorbing wisdom, we repel it like water on a duck.

We can also deflect the scary ball of responsibility onto others, but the lesson is for us.  It always ricochets back.  They have their own issues to deal with and their own path of maturity.  Only we can deal with our ‘stuff’.  Do we receive the hard things as opportunities of growth?  Do we instinctually fling them into the air?  Even if our acknowledgment isn’t as quick as the young girl’s, we will eventually feel regret that the opportunity to grow was lost.

Another tendency is to over-analyze the situation and our position.  There were some young athletes who really took to heart their defensive positions, that even after the ball had moved cross-court and was now in their team’s possession, they were still defending their territory.  They got so lost in their assigned job, that they missed the larger lesson and flow of the game.  There was no acknowledgment or rejoicing that their own team had the ball!

Man, I do this every stinkin’ day.  I get lost so easily in my tasks or seemingly designated position (usually self-appointed) that I miss the larger picture and the goal that Jesus is working me towards.  I can over-think what I should be doing and how I should be doing it, that I miss valuable play-time.  I forget that the purpose and plans to which God has called me are also ordained and controlled by him.  I can become very self-focused on what I feel is a valuable priority, that unknowingly I am left standing alone, in a very defensive position, with only my check-list in hand.  Meanwhile, the Spirit is yelling and pointing at me to get down court and help.  Your team has the ball!

Lastly, the tendency I observed in my daughter is the one that I hope to learn from.  This is the tendency to joyfully engage.  She was puzzled most of the time.  She kept up with the team and when the ball came to her, she dribbled a few times and then passed it off to someone who had a little more experience.  Over the course of the three-game evening, I saw great improvement in her understanding and her skills.  She never perfected her skills, nor did she ever fully understand what was swirling on around her.  She did, however, slowly transform from nervous and timid, hands glued to her sides, to quick feet with spurts of trying to steal the ball from the opponent.  I watched as she fervently sought out the coach and his instructions throughout play.  And, thankfully, she has a great coach, who is teaching the girls through encouragement and support.  He could have gotten worked up about the lack of points on the board, the number of turn-overs, or the amount of double-dribbles.  Instead, he guided each player only in a way that resulted in joyful participation.

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We left having lost, won, and tied at least once.  My daughter, though she expected to walk away a “failure”, left with new knowledge, confidence, and deeper joy.  I am thankful that she engaged the challenge of flying balls and twisted feet.  I pray that I learn from her to have the same joy and courage when it comes to potential failure.  I pray that I have the guts to invite others to come alongside me and witness my weakness and inability.  I pray that just like her I find my value in something other than winning, gaining points, or being impressive.  Instead, I hope to score steadfastness and maturity.  James 1:2-3 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  Every time a hurling challenge flies my direction, I can respond with thankfulness, knowing that the opportunity for joy and a strengthening of faith awaits…I just need to have open hands, elbows out, palms forward to receive it.

After the game, we went to a sandwich shop for dinner as requested by our star-player.  My jersey-wearing-girl ferociously downed her meal.  She said, “Man, playing basketball is a good workout!  I could eat two of these.”  When we also engage with the circumstances laid in front of us–when we don’t run or hide from the difficult and sometimes intimidating things to which God has called us–we get a good workout and a healthy appetite as well.  Our bodies and souls, while fatigued, become stronger and more steadfast.  Our desire for Jesus and His word intensifies.  We look less to unhealthy escapes or quick-fix wisdom because it just doesn’t sound good anymore.  We’d rather be fueled through these hard times by the healthy life-giving and recharging Word of God and His encouraging Spirit.

Thank you, God, for 5th-grade girls’ basketball.  Thank you for the awkwardness, the confusion, and the spirit to confront fear with the best of friends.  Thank you for my daughters invitation to watch her fail and for the safety she must feel in our relationship to take that risk.  Thank you for coaches that speak words of encouragement and refuse to let us quit.  Thank you, God, for the sovereignty of Your plan and Your testing through any circumstance.  Thank you for opportunities to grow and to enjoy having a position on Your team.  Thank you for gratitude and the joy that quickly follows.

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Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.

Psalm 147:7-8

He prepares all things for our growth.  What wisdom and beauty He is.  To Him be all glory and thanksgiving!

This week, the girls decided to start their own baking business.  They were inspired by a new 11-year old friend, who also is baking her way to the bank.  I have had to set aside control of my kitchen, handing over my favorite room in the house with tightened and gripped fingers.  I have been amazed at how trusting them with the kitchen has lead to greater responsibility and maturity in them.  The kitchen has been covered in sugar, flour, and raw egg–no doubt!  But, the girls have washed, swept, and scrubbed to return it back to the condition in which they found it.  And the cookies are good… 🙂

This week of Thanksgiving break has forced me to ponder gratitude and thankfulness, as I guess it does with most folks every year.  I look back at the past year and see how unthankful I have been.  I see how worried I have been.  I see how absent the lenses of thankfulness have been from my world view and the view of my personal circumstances.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Man! Really?  Always?  Continually?  In ALL circumstances??  Really?

Really.  Some might call this kind of person an optimist–someone who, unlike the realist, always sees the glass half full.  How, in a world with so many unsettling diseases, unstable people, and unbelievable disfunction can we possibly be told to be an optimist?

God’s will for us is to be people who are able to see the glass half full.  His desire for us is that we see through the frames of gratitude the things to be thankful for in the midst of even the least ideal of circumstances.  Some might ask: “How can I be thankful when my body is being destroyed by a raging cancer?”  “How can I be thankful when I’ve lost my job and can’t provide for my family?”  “How can I be thankful when my spouse has been unfaithful?” “How can I be thankful when the world is full of failing governments, dying people, and starving children?”  God’s will is not for us to be blissfully ignorant in these circumstances.  He does not want us to ignore them either. He gives us good things to which we can cling and a hope in a better tomorrow.  He gives us the strength to see the things of this world and offer a help and a hope.

Only in Christ Jesus do we see something to be thankful for in light of poverty, hunger, and genocide.  It is only in Christ, that we are able to find the light in a dark, dark world.  It is only because of God’s will for me in Christ Jesus that I have a hope to be freed from all of it.  God’s plan in sending His Son to this wretched earth was to set me free from all wretchedness.  He conquered death on the cross to set me free from all the death and destruction around me today.  If I don’t believe this, I don’t have reason to be thankful in the worst of circumstances.  Because let’s be honest:  there is a lot of hurt and sorrow and pain in this world.

I am reminded of a song by All Sons and Daughters.  Here are the lyrics:

When the pieces seem to shatter
To gather off the floor
And all that seems to matter
Is that I don’t feel you anymore
No I don’t feel you anymore
I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
I need a reason to sing
When I’m overcome by fear
And I hate everything I know
If this waiting lasts forever
I’m afraid I might let go
I’m afraid I might let go
I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
I need a reason to sing
Will there be a victory
Will You sing it over me now
Your peace is the melody
You sing it over me now
Oh Lord
I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
That is a reason to sing

Thankfulness is not easy.  Gratitude does not come without a conscience decision, even for the Christian.  Reminding ourselves of what we know to be truth–the pursuit that our loving God has for us, the plan of His redemption for this world, the faithfulness of His provision and sovereignty, and the promise of His return.  We need to be reminded that He has the whole world in His hands.

Because I DO believe that Jesus was born of a virgin (which is crazy) and I DO believe that He grew up and performed miraculous signs and wonders (which is weird) and I DO believe that He died on a cross only to come back to life in three days (which is insane)–I also believe that there is a future hope and a day when He will come again and make all things new.  (It takes faith in that which the world sees as foolishness.)  I have hope in His return.  I also have hope in His promises.  I have hope in His character.  I have hope in His love.  I have hope in a God who is relational and living and isn’t just a mythical creature locked in the words of a book on a shelf.  He is ALIVE.  He is breathing.  He is moving.  He is working to bring the whole world to a knowledge of Him.  His will is to know me and love me and serve me.  His will is know, love, and serve the hurting, the weak, and the tired.  His work in me and His compassion channeled through my heart gives me opportunity to also be a ray of light in this dark, dark world.

So, I can “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  (Romans 12:12)  I can trust the God I believe in.  He gives me the power to be thankful in all circumstances, because of the hope He sets before me in Jesus.  I can turn over all worries and concerns for the future in prayer to Him.  I can hand over the kitchen.  I can trust His responsible maturity.  I can look forward to sweet things to come out of it.

I sing a little song to Judah every time he goes to sleep for a nap or for the night.  Today as I sang it to him, I thought about the words and applied them to my need for gratitude.  They speak truth into my worry about the future.  It’s an old hymn that my first grade teacher made us sing every morning in school:

I am Jesus’ little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need, and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.

Day by day, at home, away,
Jesus is my Staff and Stay.
When I hunger, Jesus feeds me,
Into pleasant pastures leads me;
When I thirst, He bids me go
Where the quiet waters flow.

Who so happy as I am,
Even now the Shepherd’s lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within His arms to rest.

It’s simple truth found in this song that reminds me to be thankful.  I am forever grateful for a teacher who embedded those words into my mind and heart.  I can be a happy, care-free little lamb, when I acknowledge the presence of my Good Shepherd.

The reality is that I have much to be thankful for.  I have a God who provides for me daily and calls me by name.  I have a family that loves me and cares for me.  I have a faithful husband who loves Jesus and seeks to show me how much Jesus loves me through the ways that he cares for me.   I have four children in whom I delight and find much joy.  I have had the opportunity to set aside everything to be with them and undergo “family rehab.”  I have girls who now love to bake and clean.

I have a  warm house.  I have a refrigerator full of food.  I have clean water.  I have too many clothes, too many shoes…too many cookies.

I have a community around me that seeks to love and serve each other.  They love Jesus and live in His grace.  They share that grace with me and the rest of the body.   My family at The Well understands trusting Jesus and His mercies.  They don’t work for His love–they rest in it.  They get it.  They understand having a future hope.  They understand thankfulness in all circumstances.

I have much to be thankful for.  I have much to rejoice about.  I have genuine gratitude that my God has given me new life in Him.  I have freedom.  I have grace.  I have forgiveness.  I have hope.  I have cookies.