Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When Did You Give Up?

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,
Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
~ Hebrews 12:1-2, AMP ~ 

Several groups of our mamas are wrapping up this latest session of our Side-By-Side Parent Mentor Small Groups' study of Nicki Koziarz's 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn't Quit.  I'm going to be blunt as a train wreck here:  It's been one of our most contentious studies yet.  Even the wrestling our moms did with Amy Simpson's Anxious: Choosing Faith In A World Of Worry doesn't compare to this.  We humans are predisposed to making excuses to avoid the necessity to change, but there is something different here.

While both Simpson's and Koziarz's books require a good, long look inside, it seems we moms raising kids with disabilities or chronic illnesses are prone to give up in more ways than we might first think.  We view ourselves as fighters, relentless advocates in the classrooms, hospitals, and community for our children.  We are!  Yet, I find myself deeply convicted along with the parents I lead of throwing in the towel when it comes to other critical pieces of our lives. 

We tend to give up on our homes.  We're so tired from running to appointments, administering extra therapies, and enforcing every educational right for our child that we give ourselves a pass when it comes to keeping the home.  There seems to come a tipping point where housecleaning seems like, "Shoveling while it's still snowing," so we don't bother to tend to things like we once did.  The inside might still look great, but gardening or other extra touches that make a house a home just fall by the wayside. 

We give up on meals.  Trying to plan family dinner each night when the budget is thin and we don't know when to anticipate the next meltdown or ER visit seems futile.  We're too exhausted to do battle with the picky eater in the family.  Our brains are so full of have-to's that meal creativity seems like a luxury.  We end up following the path of least resistance, eating convenience foods as our waistlines expand.  The family would hardly know a raw fruit or vegetable if they saw one. 

We give up on friendships.  The emotional energy it takes to pour into friends who just don't "get it" finds us leaving certain relationships in the ash heap of our personal history.  The judgment and lack of help from people we once held dear just seems to be more than we can take.  As we wistfully glance backward, we press on into our new reality with our child.  It seems to be the only way we can cope. 

We give up on our marriages.  Dating our mate becomes a thing of the past.  Exhaustion robs us of a sex life.  We stop trying to look nice for one another or building a friendship beyond the duty of family.  If divorce doesn't pull us apart, emotional vacancy does. 

We give up on self-care.  Crisis has a way of changing how we view our personal appearance.  Where we used to give care to our makeup and hair, emergency hospital runs leave us resigned to the wash-n-go style (that is, if we even manage to fit in a shower).  Income that is disproportionately allocated to medical expenses no longer strives to pay for acceptable attire, accessories, massage, or manicure.  Exhaustion and busyness give us an excuse to opt out of exercise. 

What has been so convicting to me in identifying these areas where we seek to validate our cop-outs is that we don't face the truth that there are SERIOUS consequences to each decision we make.  Quitting, even when done secretly or silently, is still a decision.  
  • When we give up on our homes, we acquiesce to chaos, denying our kids a safe place to find comfort in a brutal world.  
  • When we give up on meals, we miss the opportunity to teach our kids cooking skills, or eating foods that we may not like, or basic table manners, or healthy diet.  
  • When we give up on friendships, we lose a piece of ourselves that is not involved in special needs.  We also miss the chance to spread more awareness outside of our little community.  
  • When we give up on our marriages, we open the door to infidelity and heartbreak for our entire family.  
  • When we give up on self-care, we tear down our own health, walking ourselves steadily to our own premature death.

I hate to sound overly grim or demanding here, but the simple fact remains that parents like us must simply put in a bit more effort than most.  There are days when we are up to it and others when we are not.  Even so, the trajectory should be upward with an eternal perspective. 

The Truth is that we cannot do this of our own strength and resolve.  The One who pressed on through the most horrid of circumstances is the only One who can give us what we need to persevere.  This life of ours is an endurance race.  Together, we must attack these issues in bit-sized pieces with the guidance and fortitude of the Holy Spirit.  Without Him, we have no hope. 

Join me!  Let's fully rely on Jesus as we strain towards the goal! 

PRAY:  LORD, you know how prone I am to giving up.  Remind me to stay plugged in to You for daily encouragement.  Holy Spirit, infuse me with the strength and energy it takes to persevere as the parent of this child who needs extra care. 

 ~ Barb Dittrich

Monday, May 30, 2016

Transition Plans & Daily Bread

photo credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net/phasinphoto
“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread; [1]

We have started my son’s transition plan for what happens after he completes high school. Of course, like many of you, we have unofficially been working on this many years. But the official version of it is designed to be formalized into something that assures us of his future. Formulated to include a series of questions they will ask him during his high school career, he will be reminded of the goals he is setting for himself and the ultimate goal of “independence.”

At our last IEP meeting, the questions and his answers were read aloud and for the record for the first time. My son sat quietly by my side as they recounted his answers to “What do you think you will do for a job?” and “How will you get to this job?” and even “Who do you think you will live with when you are older?”

As they read both the questions and his answers to the entire group present, Noah began to tense. At the end of the reading, after everything was put “into the record,” he bravely raised his hand. Smiling, his teacher asked if he had a question about anything and he said, “Well, I did answer those questions like that but I was kind of wondering if this is it now? I mean, can I change my mind or is it final?”

What he has asking is: Have I just set my future in stone or is there any wiggle room to what I might want to do for a living for the rest of my life? Everyone around the table laughed as we realized the finality that this formal process brings to simple questions asked to a 15 year-old boy. My husband saved the day when he said, “Don’t worry Noah. I’ve changed my mind on all of those questions multiple times since I grew up.”

I’m so very thankful to be a part of a school system that is taking his after high school plans so seriously. We are grateful for this interview process and the way it has grown Noah into thinking about the fact that he is growing up and can’t just plan on playing with Legos in his bedroom floor forever. But it being “independent” isn’t everything. It doesn’t leave much room for daily bread.

When Jesus taught his disciples how to talk to his Father, he instructed them to ask for no more than their provision for today. After acknowledging his holiness and kingdom reign in heaven and on earth, the next task of the prayer is to trust. “Give us this day our daily bread…” places us in those holy hands that created the heavens and the earth, trusting that he will provide if we ask.

Now I’m a planner of the first order. I’ve by calendars, lists, and Evernote. I’ve not struggled with arranging elaborate summer study plans to Noah. I can have every minute of each week scheduled with enriching activities that will push us a little farther down the road to success and independence. But when I read Christ’s lesson on prayer, he instructs instead us to be grounded in knowing that it is not our strategies and schedules that bring peace and safety.

After attending several graduations this season, I see some of my strivings with new perspective. Each graduate that I spoke with seemed very unsure about their future plans – even the ones with scholarships to well-known universities. Many of these kids were typically functioning, without the disabilities with which my son lives. Still, they seem just as unsure about what the future holds as he did that day in our meeting.

I become more and more convinced that complete independence is not God’s goal for humanity, but rather an interdependence that begins by going to him daily for our provision and peace. Still thankful for our plans, I clench them a little less tightly in my palm than I once did. God will provide in the big and small ways he always has for Noah. Baked fresh daily…

Dear Father, forgive me when I forget that your desire is for me to seek you with my whole heart. The world tells me that independence is the goal, but you instruct me to ask for daily bread. Thank you for all the ways you provide it without my knowledge.  Help me to rely more on you for our long-term and short-term needs. In the name of your son Jesus, who taught us how to pray. Amen

-Vangie Rodenbeck

[1] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Mt 6:7–11.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Summer Time, Loaves and Fishes

 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. John 6: 5-6 NKJV

Fellow parents, as we stand here gazing into the abyss of summer, some of us may feel woefully unprepared. Some of you have planned every moment and some are just now realizing that school is out and those long lazy days of summer, teaming with endless rounds of "I'm bored" and "what are we going to do today?" are dizzily circling your brain. If you are among the group of us whose children struggle desperately and endlessly with this seasonal change in routine, I want you to know that none of you are alone.

God has not and will not leave you unequipped to handle whatever the summer has in store for you.

The miracle of the five loaves and two fishes is one familiar to most. Jesus feeding the masses, providing what was needed in a time when it appeared there was not enough and no way to acquire what was needed. I think that we can all say we have found ourselves in similar times...

times when we did not think that we had what we needed,

when we saw no way to get it or figure it out.

When we become consumed with trying to figure out our situation...

we can and often do, miss the most obvious solution...


Faith in God, in his ever present and all knowing ability to provide what is needed...even when we think he has not and will not. When we look at and focus on our inadequacies and inabilities, what we don't have, and think there is no way we can accomplish what lies before us with what we have been given...

We have to remember those disciples and that miracle.

When they were faced with feeding those thousands of people that day, when Jesus tested them with his question, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" did they lead with their faith? Were their first thoughts, "The answer stands before us!" Were they quick to respond with answers born from the knowledge of what they had seen and experienced in their time walking the earth with the Son of God?


They immediately and instinctively fell back on themselves and trying to solve the issue before them from a purely worldly perspective. They knew, they believed, they had faith, but that faith...

it needed to grow.

Jesus knew in order for them to accomplish what they were called to accomplish...

Their faith had to be stretched and grown.

They stood before Jesus with their baskets, He blessed the bread and the fish, and distributed it to the disciples, each receiving what probably appeared to be a tiny amount...crumbs. They were then expected to turn and distribute what they had to the people. I think it took some real faith on their part. They took what Jesus gave them and stepped toward those people that they were to feed, in faith.

Faith that what they had, what had been given them by Jesus, would be enough.

What they saw, the growth and provision from something they had believed to be so insufficient, I can only imagine what a faith growing experience that must have been.

As we step out in faith into what ever our summer time holds for us and our children my prayer for us is this:

Dear Heavenly Father we are thankful for Your love and provision. As we step into this season may we always be aware of the fact that You will never leave us without exactly what we need to navigate through the long days and parent the incredible blessings that You have entrusted us with. When we find ourselves in doubt of having what we need, I pray that we remember what we need is You.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Food for the Soul: What are You Putting on Your Plate?

Recently, I concluded my first year of college and I couldn’t be happier to return to the warm embrace and company of my family. God has helped me battle through quite a few trials this year.  However, looking back I think I might conclude that there was one conflict which truly stood out. It wasn’t roommate troubles, it wasn’t trouble with classwork, it was the food.

From the beginning of my first semester, I remember being appalled by the state of the cafeteria food. I had always dreamed that college cuisine would far surpass my previous high school lunches. However, very early on, I was already dreaming of eating the cardboard-crusted pizza and strange sandwiches at my high school again.

The food never improved, either. The cooked or griddled meats were always swimming in grease, and if there were no greasy meats served, there were vegetables drenched in butter instead. The yogurt was like a strange sugar syrup, the lunch meats on their subs tasted of nitrate preservatives, and, about once a month, I would find wrinkled, squishy grape tomatoes and soggy, rubbery cucumbers at the salad bar. There was just no winning when it came to nutrition, which was debatably existent in that cafeteria.

For a while, I imagined I could survive off of pre-packaged foods and muffins, but the situation became worse after a sudden heart diagnosis hit me in the first week of February. The diagnosis was so abrupt and pivotal, as I imagine many here will understand. It meant an immediate change in my mindset and in many of my daily habits, including a crucial change in my diet: reduced sugar, no caffeine, more protein, and no processed meats. For any college student this change would be a struggle, but for myself this change brought on days of dietary dilemmas, as I could only safely eat just a percentage of what my school served.

If I ate what was offered at school, I would feel sick, and if I ignored my diet and ate how I wanted, I would feel crummy as well. If my body felt unwell (as it did for a great deal of time as I battled with my food choices) I would tend to act colder or indecently around my friends and coworkers, I would perform poorly in class, and I would be filled with an overall persistent anxiety that my body was falling apart with nobody there to help. It was as if nobody, not the staff of my school nor the cooks of the cafeteria, could understand or be bothered to hear my plight.

Now, as with most earth-shattering changes that occur, whether they be medical, monetary, or otherwise, we as humans tend to battle with God, as if He is the source of our misery. After my diagnosis, I found myself in a one-sided shouting match against God, wondering why my family had to endure one more hardship. I didn’t wish for anybody to worry about me, and I didn’t want anybody spending more money so I could change my eating habits. I wanted to be irresponsible and eat all the junk and caffeine that I wanted, just like all of my fellow classmates.

Whilst I foolishly put up my dukes against the Lord, I stubbornly shelved my Bible for a time. As I did this, my frustration grew, my depression resurfaced, and my anxiety, brought on by my heart condition, inflated to enormous proportions. I put out so much energy fighting God on why I should stay healthy, and yet, I came to find out that I wasn’t being spiritually fed at all. Of course, I was feeding myself plenty of junk, like watching television, playing video games, and working up my worries around the clock, but none of this was the kind of healthy food that I needed for my spirit to grow beyond my fear and hostility.

Just like bad cafeteria food, when we aren’t feeding ourselves with the right spiritual food, or we refuse to retain or return to God’s holy sustenance, we have no way of performing at our best for our loved ones and for ourselves. We weaken when we do not take in real, nutritional sustenance—material that will feed our positive thoughts and strengthen our endurance to combat our fears and the hardships, new or old.

The Lord’s Word is our greatest feast, both in times of calm and in times of trial, and how we “digest” His feast is crucial in the way His Word shapes us. In the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples exactly what it looks like to choose His Word and fully digest the seeds He has planted into our situations:

“’A man went out to plant seed. As he planted the seed, some fell by the side of the road. It was walked on and birds came and ate it. Some seed fell between rocks. As soon as it started to grow, it dried up because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorns. The thorns grew and did not give the seed room to grow.  Some seed fell on good ground. It grew and gave one hundred times as much grain… The seed is the Word of God. Those by the side of the road hear the Word. Then the devil comes and takes the Word from their hearts. He does not want them to believe and be saved from the punishment of sin. Those which fell among rocks are those who when they hear the Word receive it with joy. These have no root. For a while they believe, but when they are tempted they give up. Those which fell among thorns hear the Word but go their own way. The cares of this life let the thorns grow. A love for money lets the thorns grow also. And the fun of this life lets the thorns grow. Their grain never becomes full-grown. But those which fell on good ground have heard the Word. They keep it in a good and true heart and they keep on giving good grain,’” Luke 8: 5-8, 11-15 (NLV).

You see, God’s Word is a precious life source, meant for us to utilize so God can flourish in and through us. We, with free will, have the choice to take His Word or leave it, to plant His Word in fertile soil, or plant it surrounded by our thorns of desire and pain. We have the choice to be fed by His Word so that, in turn, we may feed those around us, and choosing to be fed the right way means choosing to “keep on giving good grain,” to ourselves and to the special people in our lives. We become far more willing, empowered, and joyful over our situations and over ones' position as caretaker when we put the best food on our plates: the nutrients which God crafts in the words of the Bible.

Don’t stray from His divine diet when hardship throws another curve-ball your way: persevere, take a seat at His table, and feel mercies new every day when you choose to take His seeds and let Him produce His wonders in you.

Pray: Father, give me the strength to run to you when I face hardship. Grant me wisdom to turn to Your Word when I am downtrodden. Let your message fill me like a proper meal, energizing and strengthening my heart and soul to produce holy grain in the lives of my family, my friends, and in every life that I may touch. Amen.

~Alexandra Dittrich

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Because You Say So . . .

Photo Credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all 
night and haven’t caught anything. But because 
you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Luke 5:5 NIV

Last weekend was a tough one. The weight of the world was pressing down, and I don't have any of the answers I think I need to have right now. My mind wasn't really focused on the sermon. I've heard the account in Luke 5 countless times, but I found myself reading along in my Bible as the student pastor read the first eleven verses. And then it hit me: ". . . because you say so, I will . . . ."

In my quest for answers - and my demand that God supply them immediately - I have forgotten that God has already given me a lot of direction. It's direction that I haven't followed, so why would I expect Him to give me more information?

There's a lot I need to do before I can ask Him for more. He has told me not to worry, which I continue to do. He says over and over to not be afraid, and I'm failing there too. He wants me to not grow weary in doing good, and some days I just don't want to keep on keeping on. Perseverance is hard work.

God has told me to love and forgive others, and I struggle with this in certain areas of my life. I also have a hard time doing everything (like the never-ending dishes and laundry) like I'm doing them for Him. Then there are the endless doses of medication to give, therapy sessions to attend, doctor appointments to make and keep up with, and all of the new challenges that pop up daily. It's a lot to deal with!

It's time to get back to faith, trust, and surrender. I've got to face everything that happens each day with God's words in mind, and tell Him: "because you say so, I will." Then I've got to walk it out.

Pray: Father, help me to persevere during the hard times, knowing that you've got my back and are protecting and providing for us in every area of our lives. Help me to focus on You and what You have said instead of demanding my own way like a petulant child. Forgive me for thinking that I know what's best for me, and help me to trust You during difficult times and seasons of change. Amen.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

True Identity Is Not In The Disability

"...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, ..." 
Ephesians 1:4-6

Dear Fellow Parents,
It's time to take your life back. No, this isn't the latest Beachbody exercise routine or a diet to have your body 'beach-ready' (whatever THAT means).  What I mean is that it is time for us as parents to come back to live our own life.

Do you remember going through High School or College and daydreaming about what life would be like on the other side?  You would have a great job, fun vacations, great friends and then settle down with an amazing blessing called "family."

You made decisions based upon the direction you wished your life to go. There is an old saying that goes, "You choose the life you live".  It is true, you chose to make life decisions that would point you towards your desired destination in life.

And then you had a child with a disability.

Aside from the grief and struggle of adapting to an unexpected lifestyle, you have chosen to not be angry at God for your blessed child and you have chosen to move on with life in this new "normal."

But now, take a look at where you are. Perhaps your child is now 3 years old, 7 years old, or 16 years old. Doctors and therapies have moved onto IEP's which morph into life skills and job training.
Yet, you are still involved in every detail of everyday.

What ever happened to your identity?  Did it get lost? Misplaced? Or did your identity get sucked into the vortex of your child's disability?

Let's be honest...if you looked in the mirror who would you see? A person or a caregiver?

Who are you? What is your identity?

In the Bible we see a very clear look at who we are as a person (individual) according to God, who is the one who created us.  It says that we are HIS sons and daughters!  Let that thought sink in into our harden hearts like a hard cookie into a cup of tea.

God looks at us as an individual child of His, who has been chosen according to His purpose (Ephesians 1:6).

The Bible does not identify anyone by WHAT they do. It consistently identifies us by WHO we are IN Christ alone.

It's true, once you finish reading this you will probably have to race back to working, parenting, cleaning, cooking, disciplining and a thousand other "-ings."  But that is not what defines you.

It's worth noting that you do not need to feel guilty for NOT finding your identity in your child's disability.  Remember, advocating is something that only a third party can do on behalf of someone else.  Advocating for your child is something that we all must do.  But it is easy to allow emotions to overrule the moment and give advocacy undue emotion which gets you stuck on the crazy cycle of "doing" parenting and eventually, somewhere in the years that pass, your identity is lost and your assume the identity of your child.  You may have even taken control of you child's decisions.

Oh, dear fellow parents... let's rediscover who we are...it's not what we DO.

Yes, we are parents. But we are individuals primarily. We were babies before we grew into childhood. We were adolescent before growing into adults. We were single before finding the one we love.

You ARE a person.

Ephesians 3:19 tells us that we can pray, "to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God".  You can't be filled in yourself if you are living someone else's life.

To take the thought even a step further, Ephesians 2:10 is very clear to let us know that the we are the result of God's workmanship. The idea that God expressly focuses on us as individuals for tasks that we are designed to do.

Parenting kids with special needs is a dichotomy of joy and struggle... however if we find our identity in Christ, and not in the never ending work load of responsibilities, we will discover the greater purpose in the work, which is to Glorify God...and that brings peace.

Dear God, I know that I have responsibilities, but please help me not to get confused between those responsibilities and who You created me to be as a person.  You promise to keep working on me until Jesus returns...please help me in this area of my life so that I can be at peace with who I am and subsequently what I do. Amen.

Be Encouraged,
Jack's Dad

Monday, May 23, 2016

Let This Blessed Assurance Control

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

He had played it perfectly all week, but now barely into the third canon, he found himself stuck, forgetting the next note, and stalled in his performance. I could see it in his expression: he was embarrassed. Before him, the audience of parents, fellow young pianists, and a local piano prodigy, waited silently. Quietly from behind him, his teacher prompted, and he recalled the missing note, completing the balance of the piece flawlessly. But I could sense his disappointment, and the rise of claps of encouragement did little to assuage his despondency. I had prayed for his brother and him for many nights, not only for clean performances, but that they would play to the glory of God. In fact, I was praying as he climbed the stairs to the stage, bowed, and began. As the remaining performers played, I sat pondering the purpose of this letdown.

At the end of the recital, a graduating senior among the students rose to offer her farewell speech and to share what she had learned over the course of her six-year tutelage. “I learned to persevere,” she revealed--when a piece was challenging, when practice meant a balancing act with her studies, and when faced with a tragic error in a public performance. The investment made in piano practice and performance built character traits of excellence, self-discipline, and fearlessness.  I was glad for her words, so well timed after my son’s upset. Setbacks like my son’s, and his pushing through to recover rather than giving up, would serve to build resilience and tenacity. At the end of her adolescent music education, this young lady looked back with joy at every hardship she faced along the way, knowing that each was integral to her development into a polished musician. And so her message to those still plodding through, and particularly to those discouraged by less than stellar recital performances, was that a hopeful culmination awaited those who would persevere.

My husband and I have long prayed another prayer for our sons: that they would each grow to have the mind and character of Christ. More than any earthly success, we want them to know Christ and be conformed to his image. As I considered the young woman’s words, I thought of the passage above on trials and endurance (or perseverance), and their curious pairing with rejoicing. I thought, too, to my husband’s sermon message earlier that morning: “Christ, in the process of conquering sin in our lives, ordains the difficulties we face as believers to mold us into his likeness.” God is as sovereign over the mundane as he is the crucible. Neither is without divine purpose, nor divine grace to endure to its intended purpose in our lives. In fact, the trials are themselves divine grace, because they produce in us hope. Later in 8:24 of Romans, Paul says, “hope that is seen is not hope.” Presently, my son cannot see how his pushing through to finish his piece after failure has accomplished something greater than if he had played his piece flawlessly. Similarly, on a weightier level, we cannot naturally see God at work through the trials and suffering of this life—that they are changing us and conforming us so that we will endure to the end. And so the word of God and the people of God are the means through which our hearts and minds are directed towards hope. But as well, there are markers in our lives where, having come through trials, we can look back and recognize his hand both guiding us into them and supporting us through them. It was painful in the moment, and for some of us, pain remains a constant in our lives, yet we can see the goodness of God and the good plan of God more clearly than one who has lived carefree.

Paul ends with a guarantee: “hope does not put us to shame.” Our hope rests in the love of God, and his faithfulness to sustain us through every circumstance.

Prayer: Lord, when trials and suffering come, give us the grace to endure. Give us a sure conviction that as believers they serve your divine purpose to mold each of us into your likeness for our salvation and your glory. God of hope, fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope (Romans 15:13).