joy after trauma: living in the both/and

It’s been about seven months since the day doctors tell me I almost died, seven months since the birth of my son.

It’s funny how God works, though. Seven months since Jesus saved me from death and I’ve never felt more alive.

It hasn’t been an easy seven months, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been…somehow, is this a thing? It’s been a time of seeing and being more clearly. Seeing bits of heaven and glimpses of Jesus on His throne and in our presence…me being present in ways I just flat-out didn’t have the capability of being before.

What I’ve learned is this: on this Earth, for those in the fold of God’s flock, when we grieve, grief and joy will interlock fingers, go hand in hand. We must not be afraid of grief.

Jesus, the weeping Friend of Lazarus, is not afraid of grief.

And neither did He turn His face from the joy set before Him.

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash

How can I grow comfortable with this Both/And? This living in the Both? This joy over life itself and grief over things broken?

Now, after strapping baby into his stroller, armed with a paci and sunscreen for a walk in this sunny weather, I jog inside for a moment to grab a water.

The cool blast of the AC hits me and I close my eyes, suddenly bombarded with the memory of a hospital room.

A hospital room I wish I could remember clearly, but I can’t.

I won’t.

I can’t.

Not yet.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath, lean against the door frame.

Jesus, help me.

A nurse’s voice rushes back to me. “Push. Push. Good girl!”

I remember the pain – something hurt terribly, but it was worth it to me.

Soon I would hold Baby in my arms…just keep pushing…

Back in my kitchen, tears fill my eyes.

How I wish I could remember the moment I first held Baby.

How I wish they could have put him right on my chest, where he belongs.

How I wish the three of us – me, Michael, and baby, weren’t separated, torn from each other like Goodness from its home in Eden.

Here in the kitchen, as I’ve learned to hear in the stillness lately, Jesus speaks to my heart gently.

I understand; I see the things you lost.

I see, too, the things the Father has given you.

You may not see them yet, but I can. They are good.

And I rejoice over you.

Baby’s happy gurgles from the garage bring me back to the present.

I breathe deep.

The Father holds your baby.

Your beloved baby lacks no good thing.

And he is blessed by you.

I blink. Tears change from grief to relief. I wipe my eyes and jog back outside, put Baby’s favorite sunglasses on his expectant little face, say Thank You silently, and push the stroller out into the sun at a run.

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Baby and I sail through the blossoming trees, green branches waving hello, the wind in our faces, a podcast about Mommy Fashion on the phone speaker, giving me permission to wear leggings and tunics forever. I smile, inhale, exhale, listening to the uplifting banter, focusing on one foot in front of the other, Baby’s feet bouncing along with mine.

The time of grief is Good. And the time of sunshine joy is Good, too.

In every season, may we have eyes to see and ears to hear His Beauty in both joy and grief, for He makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him.

 

Blessings and joy to you,

Robyn

interrupted naptime: a new mom’s prayer

3-month-old baby sleeps softly in his crib, a pea in a pod swaddled all snug, surrounded by little spit up spots, milk stains…dirty socks, burpies, and onsies sprinkle the ground around the crib, disheveled reminders of his sweet life.

I sit now at my laptop, unshowered and wearing yesterday’s baggy shirt that’s easy for nursing while hubby naps upstairs. I took the night feeding, and he got up in the dark morning hours to give baby his spit-up medicine before his breakfast.

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The cat who knocked my water over this morning sleeps underneath the Christmas tree, and I finally have a moment to exhale before an hour is up. My last blood thinner injection sits on the counter, and I can’t believe it’s my last one – a token of mine, boy’s, and hubby’s victory over a traumatic labor.

How can so much beauty and so much mess live side-by-side? The baby I’ve dreamed of for years now lays in his crib, yet for some reason I’m irked that the house isn’t orderly, that life isn’t orderly…I dwell on the laundry piles, on the spout of frustration I feel when a nap is shortened by that perfect little squeal…

Why do I insist on counting the hours of sleep I get, wishing baby would sleep through the night, instead of letting our days happen simply as they do?

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Photo by Joseph Wood

I tear up, realizing boy won’t be swaddled forever. That tiny, warm, soft bundle of blanket and blue eyes and milk on the chin will most likely be out of the swaddle in a matter of weeks, and yet I find myself trying to fit him into vain wishes for a neatly segmented day.

Perhaps rather than holding my breath, closing one eye and waiting for my “free time” to expire with the coos and squeals I’ve grown to love more than I knew a heart could…perhaps instead, I could accept the season we’re in – baby, hubby, and me – and even embrace the constantly “interrupted” day.

Maybe the interruptions aren’t really today’s interruptions – maybe they’re today’s gifts.

Baby cries for me because he loves me and knows I’ll comfort him, nourish him, enjoy him.

Baby wakes up in the night because he’s hungry still, a healthy, growing baby. I’m the only one who will ever know the glow of the night-light and the warmth of his cheek on my chest underneath twinkling stars outside.

Laundry waits because Hubby got it started for me, a servant husband who puts his family first.

Lord, help us new moms to accept the season we’re in – the season You’ve given us. The world doesn’t often value these days of diapers and pajamas, but You do. Bless us with eyes to see the holy work we’re doing, and bless us with Your heart for our babies, Your heart for our husbands, and Your heart for ourselves. Give us Your grace, wisdom, and mercy to accept, embrace, and thrive in this new, unseen-but-seen-by-You season we’re in. May we value our babies and homes as the “meat,” as the grand gifts of our days, rather than interruptions in our schedules. Remind us that there is a season for everything under the sun, and that this season is a beautiful, royal one indeed, crowned by Your love for us.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

the nursery’s ready, so all that’s left is to do is…freak out

It hit me when Michael and I were at Ikea buying furniture for baby boy’s nursery. Picking out a bookshelf to hold all his baby books? Awesome. Picking out his diaper caddy? Yay! Picking out drawers to hold his pacis? Adorable!

Then we got to the bathroom section.

I literally stopped short in the middle of the toothbrush holders and nearly peed my pants which, let’s be real – isn’t that abnormal these days. The urge to pee, I mean.

Anyway, I stopped short.

Michael looked at me. “Hm?” He asked, eyeing me with concern. He was probably also afraid I might pee.

“It’s just…” my voice got quiet. I stared at the little plastic bathroom caddy I was holding. “He’s…he’s going to have his own…toiletries. And stuff.”

Michael blinked.

I raised my eyebrows and shook my head. “I mean…our kid will have his own toothbrush. And his own shampoo. And his own life. And…he’s like, he’s a real person!

He laughed. “What’d you think we were having? A cat?”

I laughed, we moved on, and I didn’t pee my pants, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the fact that my baby is his own person. Really though, he’s God’s person.

The point is, he’s mine – yes, such a gift – but mostly he’s God’s.

And so I have no control over basically anything. Like his personality, his likes or dislikes, his taste in food, his taste in music, his taste or disdain for *gasp!* books

Y’all. What is this new member of mine and Michael’s little family going to be like?

And then…even scarier… cue the urge to pee again…HOW AM I A MOM?

The fear inside yells, I can’t be a mom!!! I’m just Robyn! I still sleep with a stuffed animal at night and I still hate grapes and I’m still working on my temper PLUS I’m already a writer and a teacher and a tutor and a sister and a daughter and a wife and a friend…and so now, I add mom to the list?!

It all just feels really big.

Really big.

Like I’m five years old again, playing dress up but my feet don’t fill my mom’s high-heeled shoes – and I try them out anyway to see if they work.

I suppose this just reminds me why it’s so important that my true identity is Jesus. I’m His. I love all those other roles I get to be a part of this side of heaven, too, but I suppose even when I have little baby resting in my lap I’ll still be…Robyn. God’s Robyn. That won’t change.

Sleeping with a stuffed animal probably won’t change either.

I don’t think God will mind.

But change is scary, I think.

Which is probably why, when my freshman roommate and I were left alone for the first time after our parents dropped us off at UGA, we looked at each other like, what do we do now? and then just sat on the floor of our dorm room and ate an entire bag of dove chocolates in one sitting.

While I was telling God how afraid I am of this upcoming ginormous change (even though it’s the best change I can imagine after getting married to Michael), I felt like He was chuckling.

And He probably was. Because for some reason the fact that I’m afraid was shocking to me. 

But I suppose God knows me better than that. I don’t think I shock Him.

I was there in the moments you were joyfully excited, I felt Him whisper. I was there when I chose him for you and Michael. I’m there with him now. And I’ll be there every step of the way for you. That is the one thing, Beloved, that will never ever change. I have always loved you. No change in your life will ever surprise Me. I’m your True North – your Constant in every change.

It’s calming to think that right now, He’s there alongside me while I watch videos about breathing through labor and how to clean a pacifier, He’s there while I try on nursing clothes, and He’s there when I wake up from the dream where I accidentally feed my baby saltines rather than breastfeed him and the doctors yell at me.

When our identity as God’s children is simply and profoundly Loved By God, change will never shake us. Because then, I supppose…what’s there to shake?

So, here it goes: bring on the change!

And maybe definitely absolutely a bag of dove chocolates.

 

Blessings to you,

 

Robyn

p.s. – feel free to pray for my labor, and that everyone involved will keep saltines far away from me 😉

when being “happy” isn’t as hard as we think

Recently I’ve been reading a book called “Lord, I Just Want to Be Happy” by Leslie Vernick.

YES, it sounds totally weird and self-helpy. But it’s great – it could be better classified as Jesus Awareness and titled “Practical Ways to Actually Live Like the Gospel is Reality.”

It’s great. I recommend it.

Vernick talks about negative thought patterns, identifying the ones to which we particularly fall victim, and then goes to scripture and gives doable strategies for claiming the thoughts and actions Jesus came that we might claim in abundance.

Wa-bam. It’s awesome.

 

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Anyway, last week, I babysat for a family.

When I got to their home and walked in the door, I was going over the list in my head of things I need to get done before my own baby comes.

Finish book revisions, send requested material, paint nursery, fill nursery, read a book or ten about how on earth to take care of a baby, organize that bane-of-my-existence junk drawer in the living room, learn how to apply fake eyelashes (I don’t know. I just want to!), figure out how to schedule writing time with a baby, tour the hospital, sign up for a birthing class, try not to freak out about labor on a daily basis…all the things.

All the things!

After babysitting and reading books with the little nugget for a very enjoyable hour and a half (that’s all he wanted to do! Really!), he went down for his nap and I took out Vernick’s book to read.

Here’s what I read:

“Why has our doing overwhelmed our being?” ( Vernick p. 45)

Oh.

I don’t know.

“We live in a world that defines a person’s value and worth by his or her productivity and efficiency. How much we get done and how well we can do it are benchmarks of a good day…[but] God defines personhood and success very differently than our culture does.

From Christ’s perspective, success isn’t measured by how much we do, how much we earn, or how much we have, but by how well we love and by what kind of a person we’re becoming in the midst of life’s activities.” (Vernick, p. 46).

 

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I read these words and instantly thought about my own to-do list which, up until this moment, I hadn’t realized was being played on repeat in my head. I honestly didn’t even realize my mental to-do list existed – I was so used to waking up to it and going to sleep with it and working for it throughout the day.

So then I wondered, Does God really need me to do all these things right now?

I mean, my list is full of good things, but does He care more about me enjoying Him and just being rather than doing?

Suddenly I felt like I’d gotten rescued from a hamster wheel.

And it’s not that I won’t do all the things on my to-do list eventually, because I will. They’re important. (Well, most of them are. But I maintain the need to learn false eyelash application is important, too. Because makeup.)

It’s just that suddenly, there’s no imaginary person named Pressure standing over my shoulder and checking the things off my list, giving me a gold star for each one.

Vernick challenges us to allow ourselves to be silent before God for a time – not reading, not watching TV, not even studying the Bible, just being with God and listening.

So I tried it while the nugget was sleeping.

And suddenly, I saw the whole room differently.

Wait.

Let me rephrase that.

I saw the room.

The room I’m sure the mom wishes she could have cleaned perfectly all of a sudden showed signs of life. Of being. Of little ones growing and being, too.

Here’s a little bit of what I had the eyes to see when I got off my own hamster wheel:

 

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I would encourage you to take just 5 or 10 minutes to be silent before Jesus. It’s amazing what you’ll see, what you’ll hear, and how refreshed you’ll feel coming away from just being in His presence…just being with Him.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Target. 

To buy some fake eyelashes.

 

Blessings to you,

Robyn 

So we do not lose heart…

“So we do not lose heart…” 2 Corinthians 16.

 

I didn’t know how to weep – I didn’t know what weeping meant.

Not until my (mercifully short) season of infertility.

I quickly learned.

The carpet floors of our sweet townhome have known well the salt of my tears, my cries of ache, anguish, and fear, and my whispered prayers of mustard-seed hope.

I’ve learned what it is to simply get out of bed because I can do all things through Jesus, Who surely carries me through.

I’ve learned what it is to full-out wail for a child not yet.

I’ve stopped judging Sarah from the Bible for throwing her husband at another woman just to get a baby. Infertility is an ache like no other.

And yet…there’s this: Infertility also leaves space for a holiness, a sacred intimacy with Jesus like no other.

I have experienced the love the Father has for His daughters…the special nearness He gives to his daughters who ache.

I want to share my story here, not to give anyone an “answer.” Not to say “If you do ___, then ___ will happen.” That’s not at all what I’m saying. I don’t think God works that way, as frustrating as that is at times.

But I do want to share what God has done for me and for my family.

I want to point us to Perfect Love who heals, Who works miracles, Who does more than we can imagine.

I am here to share my story. Glory be to God.

“I am my Beloved’s and He is mine, His banner over me is Love.” This is the song I played to and from every doctor appointment, beginning with the one when Michael and I heard my doctor sigh and say, “Robyn, you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It’s a disease. It can be managed, but it cannot be cured. Your hormones – even for this disease – are very uneven. They make it so that your body doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. This makes it…very tricky to conceive.”

Michael held my hand on the way home from that appointment. It was a bright, sunny day. A beautiful work day, cars whizzing by, people going to lunch.

And I felt so alone.

No one knew.

No one knew what I was going through.

It was too personal. Too raw to write about.

Too raw for anyone but Jesus.

You know those trials we face that are so tender to the heart that if you tell even one person who speaks a careless word in response, you might just break?

Those trials where if ONE MORE PERSON gives you a contrite Christian saying, trying their best to make an uncomfortable situation feel better, you might (not so)accidentally punch them in the face?

This was one of those.

In her book “Every Bitter Thing is Sweet,” Sarah Hagerty writes, “While mothers cradled their babies at night, I cradled my barren womb.”

Oh, the pain. The pain.

I can’t describe it.

But in the dark, in the pit, in the nausea from medication trials, in the endless, quiet appointments, in the aching emptiness of my womb, in the heart-stabbing dig that was every baby shower invitation, Jesus was not only there, but He whispered a different tune.

Hear me, Beloved. I am bigger than doctors. I am bigger than your body. I am bigger than disease. I AM.

all bundles by Erica Zoller

photo by ashley mckinney

Michael came to me one day, strolling in the warmth of summer. “I get the feeling we’ll have a baby in 2018. I even…” he paused. “I think we’ll be pregnant before this year is over.”

I narrowed my eyes. I’m the one with all the “feelings.” He’s the one with very mature, rational thoughts.

“Why?” I asked. “Why do you think that?”

He gave a small smile, raised his eyebrows, and shook his head. “I don’t know. I just…I just do.”

“Do you think…should we, like, pray for that?”

Oh, gosh. I can’t pray for something that may or may not happen. I can’t open myself up to disappointment. Shouldn’t I only pray for God’s will? Because then I can’t ever be disappointed…

(I TOLD you. I had mustard-seed faith. Not the big, giant kind of faith. I had the little, scaredy-cat kind that wanted to pray “correct, A+” prayers.)

Michael nodded. “Heck yes we should pray!” (I love my husband.)

And so we did.

At first it was hard to pray. I didn’t want to ask anything of God that He might not want to do.

But then, as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and as the tears fell one by one into His hands, the praying got easier.

Because I knew Him more.

I loved Him more. Trusted Him more.

And yet, by the fall, my body still didn’t do what it was supposed to do. The medicine still hurt; my body still didn’t “work.”

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photo by ashley mckinney

I yelled at God. “Why me? Why? What have I done?”

God simply held me. Rocked me. Comforted me.

And by the grace of Jesus Christ who strengthens me, I forged ahead, continuing a trial of different medicines.

Fall leaves drifted to the ground, and Michael and I fell to our knees, eyes on the calendar.

We prayed fervently for our baby. Every night. In the hushed quiet of longing, we held hands and prayed.

Snow fell and winter rolled in.

And suddenly, gently, I felt strange.

Peaceful.

And…weird.

Hope against hope, praying silently “Can it be, Lord?” I drove to the doctor and took a blood test.

A few hours later, back at home, I got the call.

The smile in the nurse’s voice was unmistakable.

The miracle had happened.

I was with child.

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photo by emily youngo

 

I fell to the ground and cried. I couldn’t believe it.

What happened next, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t remember.

As I pen this now, fatigued with pregnancy hormones, full of baby in womb, I am still teary-eyed and at a loss for words.

“Wow…look at what your hormone levels were,” another doctor said, looking back over my file. She handed me the ultrasound of my baby, heart beating loud and strong and full of miracle in my womb. “How did you…?”

“Yeah,” I said, looking at Michael, shaking my head. “I know. It’s…it’s a miracle.”

Beloved Sister, this is my story. It will not look like yours, and yours will not look like mine. But something is the same in all our stories.

God hears. God heals. God is able. God provides. God does miracles.

Sister, I don’t know what your miracle will look like.

I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish I could comfort you and balm your ache and tell you it’s going to be all right, but only Jesus can do that.

Beloved, pray for what’s in your heart. Don’t ever stop. Don’t be afraid of disappointment. Let the salt of your tears be the fragrance of your prayer and rest assured each tear is held close to His heart in the quiet.

My prayer for you, Mother-to-Be:

I pray that the God of miracles Himself would bless you with abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine. I pray for healthy, strong, beautiful babies filling your wombs and homes. I pray for safe pregnancies and for anointed adoptions. I pray for healed bodies and for blessed marriages. I pray that you would soon receive the desires of your heart. I pray that you might know intimately the God who loves you, the God who heals, the God who is so, so pleased with you. May you know fruitfulness in every area of your life. May your family and your children and your children’s children be a lineage who rock the generations with His love. May you be a beautiful story of His faithfulness. May you quickly and safely have in your arms the perfect baby God has for you. May you know intimately His love.

 

In Him,

Robyn

 

P.S. – If you or a loved one are diagnosed with PCOS, it would be my privilege to share any information I have with you, and to pray for you. My email is rfieldwriting (at) gmail.com.

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photo by emily youngo

when chasing your dreams makes you want to stuff your face with chocolate…and maybe even give up

Sometimes, God’s answer isn’t “No,” it’s just, “Not yet.”

And so then you imagine banging your forehead on the keyboard in front of you. But you don’t, because you’re having a good hair day and also because you’re at the library and you would scare all the children.

But really. The love I have for my Asher series is big.

I love the seven year-old I created. Love him. Love his quirks and his imagination, love his freckles and his two best friends who wear capes to school and only talk by writing on mini-whiteboards.

I love them. But an agent hasn’t picked them up yet, and at this point, it’s been about a year shopping this little guy and his crew.

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photo by erica zoller

And so, for now, it’s time to move on from this particular series. I mean, I could self-publish Asher, but that route simply was never in my game plan. It’s a great route to take! I know BUNCHES of self-published authors, and they’re SUPER successful.

But for some reason, I just don’t get the feeling self-publishing is my route.

I’ve wanted to go the traditional publishing route since I was little, and by golly, I’m going to do it.

(Well. Maybe. If I can stop eating these dang Hershey’s chocolates and let Jesus pick me up by my bootstraps and kick me in the pants to snap me out of my pity party.)

Just kidding. Jesus doesn’t kick me in my pants. I don’t think.

Or maybe He does. Goodness knows I need it.

But my point is, I’m having a moment where I imagine I’m staring into Jesus’s eyes from across the table.

I say, “I’m done. Find me a cave. I’m moving to Alaska with moose and hubby and this bag of Hershey’s and I’m totally serious this time. Why haven’t you published my books yet? This is NOT how I would have planned it!”

And I can almost imagine Him sighing, tilting His head and looking at me with only Love in His eyes.

I imagine Him saying (with a touch of humor because my own mouth is full of chocolates like a squirrel with nuts), “Don’t you remember, Beloved?”

“Remember what?” **mouth still full of chocolate.**

“I have good plans for you. And there are many things you just can’t know yet. I promise, My plans are far better than your own.”

all bundles by Erica Zoller

photo by erica zoller

**Squints eyes accusingly. Tries to look tough and it’s not working but that’s fine.** “But my plan was really good. I was going to show everybody how easy it is to follow your dreams and I was going to make money from my book sales and shop way more at the Loft and take a vacation it totally would have been awesome.”

This is where I’m pretty sure He hoots with laughter the way one laughs at a puppy chasing her own tail. But not a mean laughing, a laughter laced with delight in His creation. In me.

“You’re funny, Robyn, Beloved. I love how I’ve made you.”

I can imagine Him smiling at me, and I try my best to frown in return because I want to stay mad at Him because He didn’t do what I wanted Him to do.

He didn’t follow my plans.

But I suppose Jesus is more exciting than that, right? More exciting than my type-A calendar squares. More exciting than dollar signs or likes on Facebook pages.

And I suppose He really does love us too much to let us settle for lesser things than the glory He’s got in store.

And now, just like that, I hear a whisper that’s more quiet than our conversation had been a minute ago. “Just keep your Eyes on me, Dear One. Are you not worthy already? Are you not already My Beloved?”

I exhale and I smile. Just a little.

Because, yes. I suppose I am.

I know I am.

Despite my forehead banging on the keyboard and my squirrel-esque consumption of chocolate nuggets, I am already enough for Him.

And you know what else?

I’ve got a 2-inch binder at home chalk-full of 320 pages of the most favorite words I’ve ever written. Words filled with magic and wonder and beauty and messiness and a character I’ve poured my heart into.

They’re untouched words, words full of the hope and excitement and the possibility of publishing.

So I ask Him what His plans are for this next book, and all He’ll tell me is that…

…I’m already worthy.

 

Blessings, joy, and an abundant knowing of your worth,

Robyn

why we can actually love our stories: a poem

why we can actually love our stories…

…and maybe trust that the Author loves us, too…

 

a poem, written by a heart that doubts more than I’d care to admit:

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You are faithful when I rest

You are faithful when I work

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You are faithful when I’m happy

You are faithful when I’m hurt

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You are faithful in the evening

You are faithful in the day

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You are faithful through the night

You sing melody at daybreak

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You are faithful when I’m right

You are faithful when I’m wrong

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You are faithful when I can’t

find the words to sing Your song

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You are faithful to the animals

You are faithful to the trees

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You promise to come back

and take the pain from them and me

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You are faithful when I weep

You are faithful when I dance

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You are the author of joy

You call us home in true romance

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You are faithful when I know

I need you all the time

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You are faithful when I say

“I’ve got this. This life is mine.”

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You are faithful every season

You are faithful in all Your plans

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You are faithful to me always,

for I am always in Your hands.

 

“Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6

“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands.” John 3:35

Blessings and peace to you,

Robyn