the time no one showed up

This picture showed up on my facebook time hop recently: 

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Eight years ago on a Sunday morning, Jason was teaching 4 children in a middle school band room. This particular Sunday in August, right before the official launch of our church, is known as ‘the time no one showed up.’

We had selected a few Sundays during the summer to have preview services leading up to our launch date in September. We had been holding Sunday evening services at a different location and had been gathering with a few families during the week at our Bible Study. The June and July preview services went great – we had some guests visit as well as the families that we had already connected with over the past year we had been in Washington.

Our anticipation was building as we looked forward to the fall and the official launch of the Commons. We set up the church one Sunday morning in August of 2008. We unloaded a trailer, set up pipe and drape to turn a middle school hallway into a foyer and a library into a preschool and a gym/lunchroom into a sanctuary. We made coffee and we waited.

No one showed up.

We were discouraged, to say the least.

We had been ready. We had been obedient to do what the Lord had called us to do.

But no one showed up.

A month later, several families came to our launch. They came back and they brought their friends. In time, the Lord filled that middle school gym with people and the band room with elementary kids and we eventually outgrew the library because we had so many preschoolers.

I happened to be reading through the book of Joshua last week and this verse lept out at me:

Think back and you will know without a doubt that not one single good thing that the Eternal One, your God, promised you has been left undone. Not a single one. Joshua 23:14, The Voice Bible

I thought about that picture from eight years ago. And I was also reminded of when I couldn’t get pregnant with a second child and the Lord said to me, “You and Jason will raise spiritual children.” And then He called Jason to children’s ministry and me to preschool ministry.

And now, all these years later in Austin, Texas, alongside an amazing team of volunteers, we are able to lead and teach over a hundred children each Sunday morning.

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I still think about that Sunday – the one where no one showed up. I believe God was teaching us to trust Him more. He was stretching our faith and developing our character.

Maybe we were the only ones who were supposed to show up.

That Sunday prepared us for our move to Seattle where we would try to plant another church and spend two years waiting for someone to show up. Honestly, there were days we wondered if God Himself were still around. I learned that my obedience and my faith would not always immediately yield fruit, but they would dig roots.

I am still learning to wait on God.

But now, I can look back and know without a doubt that not one single good thing that the Eternal One, my God, promised me has been left undone. Not a single one.

I write this to remind myself and maybe anyone else that needs to hear – He is faithful. While some of the things the Lord has promised have come to fruition, others have not. There are still dreams in the making and visions yet to be revealed.

Let’s keep going, you and me. Don’t worry whether or not anyone else will show up.

You show up, and I’ll show up. Even on days when our feet seem heavy or the path before us is dark and we can only see enough light to take the next step. Let’s do the thing The Eternal One, our God, has called us to do.

Because one day, when we are on the other side of eternity, we will look back and see that not a single good thing He promised us will be left undone.

Not a single one.

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waiting on God

After 15 months of praying for a child and trying to become pregnant, the Lord said to me on May 27, 2002, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son.” (Judges 13:3)

And He kept His Word.

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I named him Samuel because I asked the Lord for him (1 Samuel 1:20).

On March 2, 2003, Samuel David Cole was born.

And now he is thirteen.

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EEEEKKKK!

I was looking back through a prayer journal and I found this written on October 12, 2003:

Sam is the most precious gift. He is absolutely adorable, so handsome! He is so curious and smart. Already climbing up our stairs!

Clearly, I was smitten. Right underneath it I wrote:

The north campus (FBCC at American Indoor) – God has blessed our church. Our plans to build are on hold but we are growing. It is so exciting. . . .

The “soccer church” as we liked to call it, was the north campus of our church First Baptist Church Carrollton. We met at an indoor soccer field for a year and then those of us that gathered there went back to the main campus because our plans to build our own church building were on hold. The neat thing about finding this journal entry yesterday is that the FBCC north campus – now called the Church at The Fields – is opening in two weeks. The plans were on hold in 2003 and now they not only have their own building, but a sports complex that serves the community.

I’m in awe of God and His perfect timing.

His Word does not return void. When He says He is going to do something He does it. Lately He has been teaching me to wait on Him. He is mostly teaching me this because I was not doing it. I have to admit, it is hard to wait on God when I can order anything I need from Amazon and have it in two days.

Just last week I ordered a tall flat white from the produce section of the HEB and picked it up at Starbucks a few minutes later. I didn’t even have to stand in line – my drink was sitting on the counter when I walked in.

But sometimes God asks us to wait. And there’s not an app for that.

I am reminded of all those who went before us in Hebrews 11.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40)

We will not take hold of all of His promises here on this earth. Yet, He keeps His Word. We will see it fully when we enter into eternity. There we will see how He wove the thread of our lives together into a beautiful tapestry.

I know that does not make the waiting easier – maybe that is where the trusting comes in. I felt the Lord telling me I didn’t wait on Him because I didn’t trust Him. It’s true. Jason was losing his job and I didn’t trust the Lord to provide for our family. He told me to wait but I ran ahead. Ironically, my running didn’t get me anywhere – if anything, it slowed me down.

Jason got a job. I got exhausted.

I’m still learning to trust God and wait on Him. I’m trying to remember His promises and hold onto them even if it doesn’t seem like they are going to come into fruition in this lifetime.

How do you wait on God? Leave your comment below! I would also love to know – is there something specific you are waiting on?

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On May 11, 2003 we dedicated Sam to the Lord at that indoor soccer field. “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:27-28

 

a new thing. part 2.

I haven’t blogged since we left Seattle. I know that you are on the EDGE OF YOUR SEAT waiting for an update! Here is a list of highlights from the past few months:

Jason and I drove from Seattle to Austin in 3 days with 2 cars, 2 dogs and 0 kids. We slept in our cars 1 night. You don’t need to mention this to our parents because we told them that we stayed at a hotel. They seemed to think we would get murdered if we spent the night in a parking lot so we did what any other grown adult would do – we lied to our parents. Look, the dog situation is complicated. And we had A LOT of stuff in our cars. Apparently, I would be murdered before my face cream got stolen. Moving on, we knew we were in Texas when we saw the Blue Bell Ice Cream Truck!

We met our neighbors the first day we were here and we absolutely fell in love with our neighborhood and our little street. We live on a cul-de-sac where the kids ride their bikes and scooters and play out in the street; and the grown-ups watch from camping chairs in the driveway talking about anything and everything. We celebrate each others birthdays and the guys have “garage beers” almost every Friday night. Jason and I are still pinching ourselves – we feel so blessed that the Lord led us here to this community. We have neighbors from Colorado, Nebraska, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and even a few native Texans. This area is one of the fastest growing in the United States. People – just like us – are moving here from all over!

Sam and Faith both love school. Love, love, love it. They have made friends and we have found a local church (Northpoint Austin) where we are serving. Jason is helping to lead the preschoolers at large group time. He is so good with the kids and he has so much fun teaching them.

the day my cup runneth over. there was coffee everywhere.
the day my cup runneth over. there was coffee everywhere.

For a while I cried every time that it rained because I missed Seattle so much. Don’t get me wrong, I love Austin. Things are wonderful here. But I missed what was familiar.

I was also afraid. I was afraid that my best days were behind me. I would grow old and tell stories to my grand children and refer to them my “church planting days”.

I felt lost. I knew that He was calling me to a new thing but I had no idea what it was. I wanted to go back to the old thing. I did.

The old thing was better than the idea of the unknown.

I heard Him saying, “Tell your story.” I have wanted to write for some time now but didn’t feel like I was good enough. I was good at fashion and decorating and making chocolate chip cookies. Maybe, I thought, I should do one of those things.

So, I applied for a job at Nordstrom because I am stubborn and disobedient and also because of shoes and employee discounts. And the part of me that wanted the old thing back thought that maybe one day I could move back to Seattle and do the old thing some more. But I can’t. And Nordstrom never called. And I am okay with that. And He still whispered “Tell your story.”

It took some time and a good bit of wrestling. It took a lot of heart examining and a little bit of therapy. And it took a trip to IF:Gathering where I finally could not ignore Him anymore. There, surrounded by His presence and nearly a thousand other women, I wept for the new thing.

I wept because I heard His voice and I could not be disobedient anymore. He was still there saying, “Tell your story.”

I wept because I realized I was still so afraid. The new thing is to write. To be a writer. To tell my story. To tell God’s story.

I realized how afraid I was. I am afraid to fail. I am terribly afraid to promote myself on social media. I am afraid of criticism. And I am afraid to offend people. What if I offend my non-Christian friends with all of my Jesus talk? And what if I offend my Southern Baptist friends when they find out how much I love my gay friends?

If I’m honest, I have been worshiping fear. Fear is a terrible god to worship. I can’t bow down to fear any longer. So I’m just going to write. I am more afraid of missing out on the adventure that Christ has for me. Even if I fail. He never fails.

A friend sent this scripture to me just yesterday and I wrote it down in my prayer journal and have prayed it several times already. I am keeping it before me so that I do not forget.

Don’t revel only in the past, or spend all your time recounting the victories of days gone by. Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it is happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; waters will flow where there had been none. Isaiah 43:18-19, The Voice Bible

What is the thing Christ is calling you to?

What is holding you back? 

How can I pray for you?

Comment or send me an e-mail so I can be praying for you! Or message me on twitter @beckyanncole

a new thing

“I feel like we’re right in the middle of a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book.” he said.

Jason and I were driving home from our friends’ house late one night. These are the kind of friends who let you sit on their couch for hours and welcome deep conversations about life and God.

We’re moving back to Texas. The moving truck will be here in a week and I am a wreck. I am just completely undone. Because Jesus. Because of all that He has done here over the past seven years.

We have certainly had our share of hard times.

But we have also had some really, really good times.

We had every summer. We had the Fourth of July and fireworks and a sweet little small town parade. We had the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her mountains and lakes and long summer days that finally turned into nights. And we had camping and s’mores and conversations over campfires and starry skies. We had Sports Camp. We had that crazy cowboy hat wearing children’s leader that somehow managed to make over 300 kids scream when he held up a water bottle. We had the mission teams and the block parties and bounce houses and the cotton candy machine. We had the children from the community who received their very first Bible; for some of them, it was their family’s only Bible.

We had that Sunday when we set up for church and no one showed up. We had the times when we had to add more chairs to the school gym because everybody showed up. We had the snow in the winter and the time we had to push the church trailer up the hill. We had Wednesday nights where we all shared meals and coffee and conversations together. We had the times when the children ran in circles around the house and there were so many who came to Bible Study that we couldn’t all fit in the living room. We had Baptism Sundays; men, women and children bathed in that holy water from a portable baptistry in a school gym turned sanctuary.

We had community.

We had it all.

“It’s just so hard to turn the page when I love this chapter so much.” I told him.

Questions reeled through our minds. We admitted them out loud to one another hoping God was listening and that He would answer us too.

“I am doing a new thing.” He whispered to my heart.

He is doing a new thing.

He is doing a new thing in Arlington. Jason told me as I wiped tears from my face, “The Commons Arlington doesn’t stop. It keeps going. It touches eternity.” He is right.

He is doing a new thing in Seattle. Without me. And it is going to be okay. My prayers for this city and for the people – those keep going. They touch eternity.

He is doing a new thing in me and through me. And perhaps I am so undone because I am scared of what I don’t know and what I can’t control. I cannot tame the One who set the world into motion. I can only surrender.

Maybe you have sensed it too. He is speaking a new thing over you.

Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak,
and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert;
Waters will flow where there had been none. Isaiah 43:19 (The Voice)

how do we measure success?

As I mentioned in the previous post, The Lord has been speaking to me about two things lately: success and relationships. I am pretty sure that they are related. As a follower of Jesus, I wrestle with the word “success”. What does it mean? Is it a godly thing or a worldly thing? Is it both? How do you measure it?

Maybe the question I should ask is: How does God measure it? Then, I would know that it is a good and godly thing.

I wonder if it would mean loving your neighbor as yourself? Wherever you are, whatever you do, are you loving the person right in front of you?

And yes, your actual neighbors count to. I know this is not easy because sometimes our neighbors are really difficult people to love. Most of the time, it is easier to love the stranger at the grocery store than the person who is constantly in our lives. A stranger hasn’t had the chance to hurt us yet. They haven’t messed up in our relationship or had a chance to let us down.

I had a talk recently with some friends from church. We were being open about what the Lord was doing in our lives or teaching us and I shared that God had told me that I had not forgiven someone. I was struggling. I think the struggle was not so much that the other person was “wrong” but that there was no chance for reconciliation. In my life, when I have a disagreement with someone or when I do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing, I seek forgiveness and reconciliation. This was not happening in this situation. I realized that it wasn’t between me and this individual anymore though. It was just between me and God. I had to forgive this person regardless of if they would ever realize that what they had done was wrong or if we would ever speak again.

My friend and pastor said something that I had not considered before. He said that all of the fruits of the spirit are related to relationship: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. The fruits of the spirit are not based on our intellect, knowledge, wisdom or even discernment. The fruits of the spirit aren’t about what we know but about who we are.

This was a beautiful revelation for me.

As I’ve wrestled with the definition of success and a desire to be successful – I keep looking to the world and comparing myself. I know this is killing my soul. I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone else. And I shouldn’t give in to the world’s definition of success and think I should have a certain job or amount of money or influence.

Instead of defining success by these standards, I should ask myself: Does my character reflect Christ? Do I love my neighbor, my family members, and the parents in the PTA or the kids on the soccer team? In my life and relationships do I pursue love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness and self-control?

I know that I am going to mess up sometimes. I always do. But I can say “I’m sorry” and I can forgive and I can reconcile. I can talk it out instead of going to my room and slamming the door. And the times when it really isn’t between me and another person anymore – it’s just between me and God, I can go to Him and find comfort, and healing, and forgiveness.

Maybe to love and to be loved is all one really needs to be successful.

it’s me.

infographic by Petra Coach
infographic by Petra Coach

The Lord has been speaking to me about two things lately: success and relationships. I am beginning to think that they are related. (more on this in the next post!)

I have to tell you that I wrestle with the word “success”. What does it mean? Is it a godly thing or a worldly thing? Is it both? How do you measure it?

Maybe the question I should ask is: How does God measure it? Then, I would know that it is a good and godly thing.

I stumbled upon an infographic the other day much like the one above. It may have originally been intended for use in business but it works for anyone in any season of life. I was encouraged to notice that left off the list was a successful person’s salary – this is good news to me since I am a full time mom and I literally make zero dollars. I am so tempted to measure success with money. Also not on the list – a successful person is at the top of their career. Thank goodness that someone can still be successful and be starting a new thing or trying to make the current thing better. A successful person never makes mistakes was also excluded from the list. Praise the Lord! I am too caught up in my perfectionism to allow room for error. Sometimes I don’t do things because I fear that I will fail. I am getting over my fear of failure right now.

So here I go. I am setting goals and writing and blogging. I am starting a new thing. I am trying to make the current thing better.

I’d love for you to follow me along!

And since successful people share information – I would like to share with you what blogs I have been reading lately! These ladies inspire me, encourage me and make me laugh. Check them out!

Liz Griffin: larkandbloom.wordpress.com
Addie Zierman: addiezierman.com
Karley Kiker: karleykiker.blogspot.com

What blogs have you been reading?

Dear Evangelical Church

Dear Evangelical Church,

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31

I need you to know that I love you. You are my family. I was baptized in a Southern Baptist Church in Bossier City, Louisiana when I was a teenager. You saved me. I attended another Baptist church when I went to college in College Station, Texas and another when my husband and I moved to Carrollton, Texas in 1998. You raised me. I have nothing but love for my churches, their leaders and lay people. They are my family.

My husband and I have been helping to plant churches in the Pacific Northwest since 2007 through NAMB and the SBC. Here is my dilemma: the evangelical church, the ones who raised me and sent me out into the world to save the lost are the very ones hindering my ministry to the lost. Maybe this isn’t personal to you because you do not know any gay people. I do. I live in Seattle, Washington and I am living out the gospel and fiercely loving anyone who crosses my path. That includes members of the LGBT community. I love them. I genuinely do. I love them because I know them. Honestly, once you get to know them, you can’t help but love them. They are funny, kind, incredibly hospitable, and overall magnificent people. That should not surprise you as they are beloved children of our King.

Church family, it is not our duty to take a stand against them nor to oppose or oppress them. Our responsibility, while we are here on this earth, is to love them. That is it. We must love. We must live out the gospel so that we can share the gospel. Then, let the gospel do its work.

This has been on my heart after all that has happened since the World Vision announcement on Monday. I wanted you to know from one evangelical to another how your reactions affect the church and our work here. We are on the mission field. We are on the front lines. We are on our knees fighting daily battles against the enemy. We are wrestling for lost souls and we will not stop preaching the gospel and loving everyone and anyone who comes in our path.

Please, let us love the world and not condemn it.

We have kingdom work to do,

Becky Cole

walk with me

I went on a walk with my son the other day. I had to persuade him with a vanilla-bean-no-coffee frappuccino to be seen in public with me – but whatever. Anyway, Jason was out of town and Faith was in preschool so I thought it would be a good time for Sam and I to spend some intentional time together. As we trekked around the neighborhood he wanted to walk about four steps behind me. I assured him that no one was watching him and that it was okay to be seen with me in public. And also, I’m really not that uncool (I might be biased.) He said, “Mom, anyone in this neighborhood could be watching me at any time.” Fair enough.

We continued our mini journey and had a good talk even though he seemed more interested in the frappuccino and I had to keep convincing him to walk beside me and not behind me. He informed me that he had homework. Really? My ten year old son would rather do homework than talk with me? There was no mention of homework when he accepted the vanilla-bean-no-coffee coated invitation. Realizing he had a point and I actually had to pick Faith up from preschool within the hour, we headed back towards his school where our car was parked. As we winded through the neighborhood Sam said to me, “Mom, I think we are going the wrong way. I don’t remember any of these houses.” I said, “Sam, I have been down this road many times. Trust me, we are going the right way.” He doubted me, pointing in the direction we had already been. “Sam, ” I said, “I know where I’m going. You may have never walked down this road before but I have walked down it many many times without you. Now, come on!”

I couldn’t help but realize our conversation was a reflection of my relationship with the Lord. I confess that I am so eager to ask for and accept His blessings of frappuccinos and such yet so busy “doing” that I don’t spend time just “being” and sitting still in His presence. After all, He is our Father and He wants to spend time with us! And along the journey, how often do I dig my heels in and say to Him “Are you sure, Lord? This doesn’t look familiar. I have never been this way before!” All the while He is saying “Becky, trust me. I have been this way before. Now, come on!”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

Oh Lord, help me to be still in Your presence and simply enjoy You. Teach me what it is to seek You with all of my heart so that it is as normal to me as breathing the air. Take me to places that I have never been. You know the way Oh Lord, as you created the very path where we tread. Nothing is unfamiliar to You. Help me to trust You more.

roller coaster ride

Honestly, 2012 was a roller coaster. I was hoping that 2013 would be the year that I got to sit on a park bench and eat a funnel cake. Not so much.

January has me back on the ride doing loop-de-loops and screaming “Make it stop!” It all started last year when we decided to follow Jesus. I mean, we had been following Him. . . literally. We had moved from Texas to the Pacific Northwest in 2007 to help plant a church. He called us to leave everything we knew and everyone we loved; and we followed Him. And then He stretched us to unimaginable lengths where there was nothing of us left so that we would depend on Him. And so, that He would be glorified. And He used us in spite of our many imperfections (and if I’m being honest, our moaning and groaning and temper tantrums – okay, maybe the temper tantrum thing was just me) to start a church. And over sixty people were baptized, including our son, Sam.

How could I not continue to follow Him after all that I had seen Him do? Wouldn’t He be faithful again? Sometimes my present circumstances cause me to doubt His promises. The temporary, momentary loop-de-loops make me want to scream, “Make it stop!”

I just want to be comfortable. If I wasn’t following Jesus I think I could be really comfortable in life. I could live wherever I wanted. I could spend my time however I wanted. I could always get milkshakes with my burger and fries. I might buy my kids milkshakes too if they behaved.

If I were comfortable I would stay in one place near the people that I loved. I wouldn’t move thousands of miles or even an hour away. I would live near my family so my kids could spend time with their cousins and grandparents. I wouldn’t move my son away from his wonderful school and all of his friends that he loves. I wouldn’t sell my house after the market crashed and worry about finances. And I definitely wouldn’t move to someplace unfamiliar and meet new people. That is uncomfortable.

But Jesus never promised following Him would be comfortable. In fact, He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” You will ride roller coasters and do loop-de-loops.  And then He says, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Sometimes the ride gets rough and you just want to make it stop. But you know how after you make it through the loop-de-loops and the ever-so-slow, I-think-we’re-not-going-to-make-it up-up-ups and the wind-in-your-face, hands-up-screaming, ever-accelerating, make-it-stop downs; you want to do it all over again?

That’s how it is following Jesus. It’s not comfortable. It’s thrilling! Hands up. Enjoy the ride!

Beckys Iphone Pics 515

the deep

“Put out into deep water, and let down your nets for a catch.” Jesus said to Peter in Luke chapter 5. Our community group read this story last January and I could not get this particular verse out of my head. I knew the Lord was trying to tell me something. I prayed for several days trying to figure out which country I was supposed to go to. After all, the last time I felt Him pulling at my heart so clearly was when He called us to move up here from Texas to help plant the Commons. He finally said to me, “Stay here and build relationships.”

I said, “Lord, I think there has been a misunderstanding here. I am willing to go to Africa. Surely You need more people there!” I heard Him again telling me to stay here. Peter also argued with the Lord. He told Him, as if He didn’t already know, that he had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything. But he obeyed.

I began to work through some issues that I had going back to my childhood. I opened myself up to let the Lord heal some emotional wounds that I had been putting bandages over. These wounds caused me to self-protect when it came to relationships. I didn’t want to be close to anyone because loving deeply would only lead to hurting deeply. It seemed easier to me to stay on the surface to protect myself from such pain. But He was calling me into the deep. And I went.

Peter and his friends were astonished by what the Lord had done. Their nets began to break and two boats began to sink because of the large number of fish that they caught! Peter saw that Jesus had performed a miracle right there in front of them. He had made a promise to them and they saw it fulfilled.

And then the Lord said to Peter, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” It puzzled me that Peter was scared. He was with Jesus! Why would he be scared? And then it hit me. What if in that moment, Peter realized Jesus was who He said He was and had come to do what He said He would do? He had just seen it with his own eyes! What if, in an instant, Peter realized He was going to follow Jesus, even if it cost him everything? What if he realized it was going to cost those he loved dearly something also? Perhaps he couldn’t bear the pain of breaking someone else’s heart so he could be obedient. I can only imagine that he weighed it all in his mind at that moment and Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid.”

So they pulled their boats up to shore, left everything and followed Him. Luke 5:11

Now, He is telling me “Go.” And it hurts. It hurts because I have loved you. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There were times I almost sank and times I walked on water. I wouldn’t trade the deep for one moment on the shore.