Unexpected Decision…

The end of July, I spoke to 70 women at our church’s Women’s Day Retreat (you can read my message here). I have shared my testimony and devotionals many times before one-on-one or in small group settings. However, this was the first time speaking from a platform at an event. I have always had a desire to participate in Women’s Ministries and try to get involved where I can at whatever churches we have attended over the years. I also love writing on my blog (however sporadic it may be around my busy schedule) and hope that one day God will open the doors for me to publish a book.

Throughout the past 8 years or so, I have researched going back to college to do some sort of theology or religious program. I have a passion for Biblical research, debate, and knowledge. I have thought that having a professional studies and/or degree in the field will benefit my path towards whatever God may call me to do in the future (women’s ministry, speaking, writing, etc). I have never actually pursued going back to college because of lack of finances or how full I already keep my schedule.

Earlier this month, I once again started researching programs. I found an online Biblical Studies Associate’s Degree that I liked at Colorado Christian University. They also have a good military discount which extends to dependents. So… I decided to put in a request for more information. Five minutes later, I received a call from a CCU Enrollment Counselor. We discussed what I was interested in doing and he emailed me all of the relevant information. I went ahead and submitted an application and all of the required documentation. I had Delaware Technical & Community College send them an official transcript so that I could find out if any of my former 62 credits (for Nursing LPN) would transfer. I submitted a Financial Aid-FAFSA application just to see if I would qualify for financial assistance. I should mention that I did all of this spur of the moment… while my husband was out of town. I did mention it to him over the phone so he knew the conversation was coming. I made it very clear to the enrollment counselor that I had to speak to my husband and get his support before committing to actually taking classes.

By the next day, I received an email saying that my application to CCU was accepted. The day after that, I found out exactly how much financial aid I am eligible to receive. The following day, my husband returned home and I excitedly ambushed him we discussed all of the information that I had to show him. He agreed that I could register for classes with the stipulation that if we found out we couldn’t afford it (based on book fees and how many of my former credits would transfer) that I would drop the classes before penalty.

By the end of one week, I was registered for my first semester at CCU. I was able to find all of the books that I need way cheaper than I expected! I also found out that 24 of my former credits will transfer which is the equivalent of two semesters!!!

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As my girls enter their first week of school in 3rd and 5th grades, I will be preparing my mind and home for me diving into college again next week. I am as prepared as I can possibly be leading up to my first class next week. However, it is a bit intimidating to return to college at age 35 later in life (the last time I was in college was 2003). My immediate goal is to get my Associate’s Degree. Then, if finances allow, to continue to get my Bachelor’s Degree. I am posting all of this here for accountability… If you think about it, pray for my family and I as we start this new schedule. A few months from now, ask me how I am doing. Encourage me to keep my eye on the end goal! I am excited to start this journey!

Do you have a later in life college story to tell?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

How Do You Forgive Someone Who Doesn’t Know That You Know They Hurt You?

Confused??? Me too! This post is seriously me asking for your advice. I would love to hear your opinions posted in the comments. 

Please note: I am not going to share the specific offense that someone (PERSON A) did because it affects another close personal relationship (PERSON B). I do not want to cause PERSON B any further heartache over this situation.

So here are the basics of the situation….

I just found out that PERSON A did something that wounded me in a very personal and emotional way. PERSON A is not someone close to me… however, the other PERSON B involved is very close to me. I have only met and interacted with PERSON A on one occasion. I thought we clicked as friends. We had an intellectual and a little bit spiritual conversation. My whole family interacted with PERSON A. We exchanged phone numbers, later exchanged texts, and friended each other on Facebook.

Tonight, PERSON B told me the offense PERSON A did over a month ago.

It hurts. It hurts badly…

As of right now, I assume that PERSON A does not know that I know what they did.

In my “FORGIVE THEM” post back in 2010, I talked about how forgiveness is more to help you heal than it is for the offender. I quoted the following from Dr. Davis’ “How To Heal A Wounded Spirit” sermon:

“If someone wounds you and walks away without doing anything to help; that does not mean that you have to lay there and die… If someone wounds you either knowingly or unknowingly and walks away; who is going to be in the worse shape 6 months from now if you don’t treat it? You or Them?”

PERSON B is directly involved and because of that I have to work through some issues with them. I will eventually come to forgive them because of how close we are and that is what needs to happen in order for that relationship to heal. I need some time to process, but forgiveness towards them WILL happen. With God’s help, I know it will.

PERSON A is not someone who I have to interact with ever again. I could delete their phone number and unfriend them on Facebook. I may never have to see or speak to them again. There is always the chance that they could call or text me but I don’t know if they would or not. There is always the chance of seeing them in public but I never have before so… I would say that the chance is slim (just not impossible). I could ignore them if we ever come in contact again.

I know that for my sake and in order to be obedient to Christ, I must eventually forgive PERSON A.

My question is: Do I let them know that I know what they did and let them know that I forgive them (when I get to the mindset of being able to do so)? ~OR~ Do I forgive them and move on without mentioning it to them?

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

(please post in the comments…)

And if you think about it, please keep me in prayer as I seek God’s wisdom in this situation. Pray for God to heal my heart and help me to forgive all of the people involved.

“Shaking hands” image found here.

Princess Prayers

This book is written by: Crystal Bowman and inspired by: Jeanna Young & Jacqueline Johnson with pictures by: Omar Aranda. It is a board book marketed towards young girls. Each two page spread includes a prayer, scripture verse, and beautiful illustration based on The Princess Parables series. There are a total of fifteen prayers in the book.

I have always loved The Princess Parables series. My girls have enjoyed reading them over the years. Generally speaking, the series is geared towards preschool & early elementary aged girls. This book is no different but my eight year old daughter still reads the books in the series every once in awhile. This book is perfect for teaching young girls simple prayers. It could be read all at once, as a daily devotional, or as a certain topic is needed. It could could be an adorable gift for the little girls in your life!

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission I am required to disclose that ZonderKidsprovided this book for free in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Order at Christian Book Distributors through the following links!

I get credit for all purchases made through my CBD links!

Princess Prayers
By Jeanna Young, Jacqueline Kinney Johnson & Omar Aranda (Illustrator) / ZonderKidz

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Reflections: The Woman God Sees

I spoke to 70 women at our church’s Women’s Day Retreat. The following is the message that I shared with them. I edited out a few details to protect the privacy of personal history of people mentioned:

Let me begin by telling you two stories… Listen for which one you relate to the most…

Once upon a time there was a girl who was raised by Christian parents who loved her and her siblings very much. She asked Jesus into her heart when she was four years old and she was baptized when she was eight years old. She had several strong Christian role models in her life; including her grandparents, who would travel halfway across the country to spend time with her family. Throughout her younger years, the girl had several close friends who she remains in contact with now that she is an adult. During elementary school years, she looked forward to going to church camp every year. During middle and high school years, she enjoyed going to youth groups every week. She loved to sing solos or with worship teams and choirs and still loves to sing as an adult. She also enjoyed going on local, short term, and overseas mission trips. As an adult, she married a Christian man in the military, went to college, traveled the world, has had several fulfilling jobs, and has several children. She served as a Women’s Ministry Director at a church she attended. She has lead and facilitated Bible Study groups at churches and at her home. Over the years, she has mentored several women and teen girls. She currently serves in various jobs, ministries, and volunteer positions within her community.

That sounds like a pretty good life right? Maybe it is similar to your story?

Maybe you don’t relate to that at all. Maybe you will relate better to the next story…

Once upon a time there was a girl who grew up in a poor household. Her father almost died of a chronic condition when she was a toddler. Fortunately, her father recovered but the problems did not end there. The family constantly struggled financially with lack of money. The girl’s mother struggled with severe depression due to an abusive childhood and a stressful marriage. As the oldest of four, the girl often cared for the kids when the parents were not able to care for them. When the girl was 13, her parents divorced and her mother got re-married a year later. During her middle school and high school years the girl always looked for love from the various boyfriends she had. She started smoking cigarettes in secret with her friends. She rebelled against her parents with a bad attitude and anger outbursts. She got married as soon as she was able to at age 20 because she wanted to get away from her dysfunctional childhood and be on her own. She quickly realized that she carried her childhood baggage into her marriage. She experienced a very bad car accident with a semi-truck resulting in chronic pain. She had several miscarriages. She and her husband worked difficult jobs on different shifts and they hardly ever saw each other. They both allowed sin to creep into their lives, and as a result they were on the verge of divorce when her husband got notice that they were moving overseas for his job. During their attempt to reconcile, they got pregnant again. They decided to stay together and moved overseas and had two children. However, they never really resolved their sin issues and their marriage hit rock bottom. She continued to allow anger and bitterness invade her life.

You would not want to be that woman right? Which story do you relate to the most?

What if I told you that both stories describe the life of same woman?

What if I told you that… I am that woman.

Before you knew my story, you may have had preconceived notions of who I was based on the persona that I put forward in public… the smile on my face, my answers in Bible study, a brief conversation in the church hallway, what I write on my blog. You may have assumed I had a decent life based on the little that you knew about me. Does it shock you now that you know the truth? Now that you know that there is more to my story? My dysfunctional childhood, the pain of loosing unborn babies, the heartache of a marriage hitting rock bottom due to sin my husband and I allowed into our lives?

It is a misconception that Christians are supposed to have a perfect life and are perfect people.

Even though we often portray our best in public, we often put forward a persona that we want other people to see while hiding the struggles, heartaches, and sins that we are dealing with in private or within our home. Maybe you really have had a great overall life! But I can guarantee that every single one of us has had to go through a valley that makes us feel completely ugly, alone, depressed, and separated from God.

The stain of sin has ruined every person on earth. If you have ever hit rock bottom, you know that it is the worst hopeless feeling in the world. You feel like there is no way out. You feel like a minute in time is an eternity. You feel like you cannot continue on your own. You feel like you are not enough. Maybe, you are in the bottom of this pit right now.

Let me tell you a little secret: You will never be able to get out of your pit on your own. You may try different things that seem to work but eventually everything that you try to do will fall short.

God never promised that we would always be happy or have perfect lives when we have Jesus as our Savior;

instead he uses Paul’s testimony to tell us that Christians can have hardships far beyond our ability to endure. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11:

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Through our hardships; God wants us to fully rely on him so that he can deliver us and heal us. God wants to draw us into a closer relationship with him. He will always rescue us but sometimes it is in the midst of our hardships. He doesn’t always remove us from circumstances but allows us to go through them in order to draw us nearer to Him.

Remember when I said that you cannot get out of your pit on your own?

The good news is that JESUS can carry you out of your pit! JESUS can walk beside you through the valley. JESUS can fill the hopelessness in your life. JESUS can blot out the sins in your life.

One of my favorite Bible verses is:

Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

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Our theme for this retreat is: “Reflections: The Woman God Sees.” The name of God “El Roi” means “the God who sees me.” This name was only used in the Bible once in Genesis 16:13:

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

An Egyptian slave woman named Hagar gave this name to God when she was alone in the desert. When she was completely hopeless in the circumstances that she was facing, God answered her cry for help. God saw her right where she was. Although Hagar is the only woman recorded in the Bible praying to “El Roi,” there are several other women in the Bible who also went through hardships and hopeless circumstances. God saw them too and he answered them and delivered them.

Ruth: a pagan widowed woman moved to a foreign land with her mother-in-law after her husband died. Facing famine and ruin, she chose to follow the God of the Hebrews. She was rescued and married by a kinsmen redeemer. Her son, Obed, is in the lineage of Christ.

Esther: a Jewish girl who was taken from her family to be in the king’s harem. She eventually earned the king’s favor and became a queen “for such a time as this.” She fasted and prayed for God to deliver her people who were sentenced to death. God provided a way for the people to defend themselves against those that would try to kill them.

Bathsheba: a married woman whose husband was away at war, committed adultery with King David (whether by force or by consent we do not know). After she got pregnant, the king had her husband killed and then married her. Due to their sin, they lost their baby. Due to their repentance, their second son, Solomon, later became king and is in the lineage of Christ.

New Testament Women, there are too many to mention but here are a few that stand out in my mind in no particular order:

Mary and Martha: were sisters who along with their brother Lazarus were close friends with Jesus and his disciples. They often hosted them in their home. When Lazarus was dying, they sent word to Jesus in hopes that he would make it in time to heal him. Jesus arrived after Lazarus had already been in the tomb for several days. In their grief, Mary and Martha questioned Jesus’ timing. When he raised Lazarus from the grave, he showed them that he cared for them and that there is a purpose for the difficulties that we face.

The Samaritan woman has had 5 husbands and was currently living with a man not her husband. Jesus met her at the well as she was drawing water during a time that was not typical for women to get water. She was avoiding being around other women who would gossip and shame her. Jesus not only spoke to her, which was not typical of a man or rabbi to do, but he also saw into her heart and gave her the living water of hope, forgiveness, and salvation.

The unnamed woman with the issue of blood: We know that she had a constant menstrual bleeding and hemorrhaging that lasted for 12 years. This made her “unclean” in the Jewish culture and everyone and everything that she touched would also be unclean. She would not have been allowed in the temple. People would have shunned her. As Jesus passed by, she recognized that he could heal her. She moved through the crowd and was able to touch the hem of his garment. Which means by the time she got to him, she was crawling on the ground… I wonder if it is because she was so faint from blood loss or if it is because the crowd was trying to push her away. Jesus stopped walking and turned to the woman saying that her faith had made her well. After 12 years of suffering, she was healed because she had faith enough to reach out to Jesus.

We all have to climb different mountains and walk (maybe crawl) through different valleys.

Over the years I have reconciled with my parents. God healed my mom of her depression and she is an amazing living testimony of how God can bring someone out of a pit. My husband and I will be celebrating fifteen years of marriage in a couple of weeks and we have three beautiful children. It took a long time for my husband and I to get to where we are today. God did not heal our wounds overnight and God still allowed us to suffer through additional heartaches and trials. I still have to deal with my sin stronghold of anger on almost a daily basis. I often struggle with complacency with my relationship with Jesus. However, God is continuously working on me. I can look back over past circumstances and see God’s presence in a way that I did not see him at the time. Knowing that he carried me out of my pits and through my valleys, allows me to trust in him whenever I face a new trial. It also allows me to minister to women who face similar trials that I have faced in the past.

I want you to know that God sees you.

God hears you.

God knows YOUR name.

God loves you.

Zephaniah 3:17 says: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Have faith and reach out to the God of the universe. Allow him to meet you right where you are.

Pray with me the following verse:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10-12

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“El ROI” image found here.

“The Woman God Sees” graphic downloaded from CTA.

Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal

This book is published by Tyndale and is in their Living Expressions Collection. It is hardback and has over 100 pages. Each two page spread has different themes. Throughout the book there are prayers, scripture, writing prompts, journaling lines, and designs for coloring. There are pops of color on almost every page. Scripture quotes are from the New Living Translation (NLT).

I already have the Gratitude Coloring Journal from the same series so I was excited to have the opportunity to review this book as well. I also have a couple of adult coloring books that sit in a basket by my bed for when I have some free time (not very often). I usually find the coloring pages relaxing but difficult to finish in a timely manor due to size or detailed design. Like the Gratitude Coloring Journal, this book is a smaller journal size and the pages could easily be colored in a short amount of time. Some coloring pages are simplistic and others are more detailed. There are several already colored pages as well. This book will be a good addition to a daily devotional time. Each of the two page spreads coordinate with the tranquility, prayer, and reflection themes. It would also be perfect for gifts (I have bought over 10 of the Gratitude Coloring Journals for gifts and plan to buy several of these as well)!!!

Here are some photos of a few of my favorite two page spreads in the journal:

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You can see several coloring and journaling ideas on the Tyndale Living Expressions Collection Pinterest Board!

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission I am required to disclose that Tyndale provided this book for free in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Order at Christian Book Distributors through the following link!

I get credit for all purchases made through my CBD links!

Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal
By Tyndale Momentum

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When The Holy Spirit Lays Something On Your Heart…

…Listen and Obey. 

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I am in the beginning stages of planning something for the women of my church. The idea came to me after several months of hearing about many friends within our church dealing with various difficult circumstances. Some are dealing with their own illnesses or that of a family member, death of a loved one, marital conflict, parenting rebellious children, keeping the home front functioning while their husband is deployed, financial struggles, sin strongholds, and several other circumstances. I know that many times women carry the burden of caring for others while often neglecting themselves. Our church is large and many of us do not know each other. I want to bring us together for a day so that we can fellowship together and build lasting friendships and support systems. I want the women of our church will feel the presence of God even while they are dealing with heartache, tragedy, complacency, or any difficulty within their lives. I want our women to feel loved by God and know that God sees us and meets us right where we are.

Like I said, this is only the beginning stage… I have met with some church leadership who will present my ideas to the church board and staff. If approved, I can plan and organize to my hearts content. Just in the past week of meetings and creating a possible outline of events, I have felt the Holy Spirit working in my heart. I found myself crying for no apparent reason this morning as I was contemplating what to write for my presentation. The burden to encourage and to pray for the women of my church has swelled up in my soul.

I write this to you as a plea for your prayers. Please pray that if it is God’s Will for my ideas to come to fruition, that everything will fall into place:

  • that the church will give their approval
  • that a date can be set
  • that finances and child care will be available so that the women can attend
  • that God will give me the words to say
  • that the event team can create a plan that honors Him

Thank you for your prayer support! I’ll keep you updated!

Participating in Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday… the day that many observe the Lent season. The following I mostly posted back in 2014 Observing Lent along with some updated thoughts relevant to this year.

I was not raised in a family that participated in Lent. I always thought that Lent was a Catholic ritual. In high school I asked several friends why they came to school with ash on their foreheads and they could never give me a good reason for why they “observe” Lent. They seemed to be doing it because they were told to do it or because that is what they have always done. I never actually participated in an Ash Wednesday service until 2010 when we were living in Japan. When the pastor of our church did the service, I found that I really liked the concept behind Lent.

Got Questions?org gives this definition of Lent:

“Lent is a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21).”

I have found online that there is great controversy between Christians who think it is okay or not okay to observe Lent. It is important to note that Lent or any other Christian tradition or act of faith is NOT required in order to receive God’s gift of salvation and it will not win God’s blessing or make us more holy. It is not commanded in scripture to celebrate Christmas or Easter but we do so because it brings us joy to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. In the same way, Lent can be a focused time of reflection. While participating in Lent or other traditions, some people may have wrong motives or they will be doing it because that is what they have always done. For me, it is a time of reflection and a time to remove something from my life that is hindering a closer relationship with God and/or to add something to my life that I should have been doing already.

I think that this graphic gives a good representation of how I choose to observe Lent (I can no longer find the original link I had to the graphic):

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This, of course, is something we should keep in mind all year and not just in the weeks leading up to Easter. I think that observing Lent is a humbling way to focus our thoughts and actions. We also need to keep in mind that while doing any type of fasting/abstaining/self-denial that it should be personal between you and God. While there is nothing wrong with telling others that you are observing Lent, it should not be used as a way to bring attention and glory to ourselves. Instead, we should be humble and desire to bring glory to the Father.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 NIV

Some years, I do not feel lead to participate in Lent and do not give it a second thought once I decide not to participate. Other years, like this year, I have a strong desire to participate which leads to prayer as to what I should eliminate from and/or add to my daily life.

This year, after much prayer, I presented the idea of participating in Lent to my girls ages 10 & 8. I explained the basics of Lent to them and when I told them what I was giving up they were in shock. I told them that they did not have to give up the same thing that I was but that they should choose something that would be difficult for them so that they can use the time they desire to pray. Even more important than giving something up, I plan to use this season to do a family devotional with the girls.

Lately, the girls and I have been having daily struggles of frustration of completing chores, attitudes (mine included), getting out the door on time for school or church, as well as other things. My oldest and I battle it out with yelling matches that unfortunately remind me of how much anger is a stronghold in my life. With my husband overseas and a newborn in the home, I need to find a way to bring peace between me and the girls. So, along with implementing consistent chore charts and behavior plans, we will be doing a daily devotional during Lent.

The church that we attend does not do an Ash Wednesday service, so we will not have ashes on our foreheads today. However, my girls and I will still begin our reflection journey together. I am praying for peace, reconciliation, obedience, and respect to be present in our home. I have a bad habit of starting things and not finishing them, so if you think of me or this article sometime over the next couple of months, please consider taking the time to say a prayer for us!

How To Be A Noble Woman

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Proverbs 31:13-31 NIV

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