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 😉

tell me i look amazing, feed me a block of cheese, and show me to the bathroom: confessions of a pregnant lady

The florist smiled at me as I waited for her to finish trimming the bouquet I’d selected.

“Are you having a boy?” she asked.

I beamed. “I am! We’re so excited.” I cocked my head. “How did you know it’s a boy?”

The florist raised her eyebrows. “Well, moms pregnant with boys tend to look…tired and drained. Moms pregnant with girls look bright and energized.” Her facial expression was that of someone who just told me she ate the last of my ice cream and wasn’t that sorry about it.

I wish I could have seen my own expression at that moment.

 

There are lots of emojis I could pick to accurately describe my reaction, but Word won’t let me use emoijis. Alas.

I did laugh, however. Because what do you say to that? “Oh wow, you look tired and drained, too!”

No clue.

I’m chuckling as I write, because people are funny. And I’m assuming she didn’t mean it to come out that way.

Right?

Right.

Totally 😉

But for real, I am thankful and awestruck to be pregnant. Our journey wasn’t the easiest to get here, and I truly experience each day of pregnancy as an incredible gift.

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photo by Joseph Wood

And yet, no matter my overall attitude, pregnancy has also been a tidal wave full of awkward moments and emotions.

 

There are a few things I’d like to laugh about:

 

1. The lady behind the counter at Staples told me an epidural will ruin my life. However, I am not deterred. Give it to me.

 

2. Sometimes…I get stuck in the cushions of our couch. Like a wobble-weeble, if you will. I am okay with this! Because when else can I experience a day in the life of a Tellytubby? Hashtag blessed.

 

3. Our bed is tall. These days Michael hoists me into it, like we’re cheerleaders and he’s the base and I’m the fly. Unless of course I choose to instead grab the mattress and roll myself onto it with an adorable grunt like…yes, a Tellytubby. A Tellytubby who grunts.

 

4. The last time Michael went to the grocery by himself to do our weekly grocery shopping, the cashier asked him if he was stocking up for the whole month. “No,” he said. “Just for the week.” Apparently this confused her. “Wow. How many kids do you have?” she asked. “Uh…my wife is pregnant…” was his response. (P.S. – that haul lasted me five days.) Hashtag YOLO.

 

5. Everyone knows your belly gets bigger when you’re pregnant. But why doesn’t anyone warn you about your butt? Asking for a friend.

 

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Michael holding his own “bump,” naturally

6. I was awake for two hours last night because for some reason it hit me at 4 a.m. that I will be going through labor in a few short months. HOW DO YOU DO LABOR? Also asking for a friend. I’ve heard you can’t eat during it. I should probably sign up for a birthing class. I will add that to the list of things I keep forgetting to do…

 

7. I have lost the capacity to remember anything.

 

8. I have also lost the capacity to eat without burping. Hashtag sorry not sorry.

 

9. All I really want is for you to tell me I look amazing, feed me a block of cheese, and direct me to the nearest bathroom.

 

10. And, last but not least, these have been some of the sweetest months of my life. I love the way God has slowly been introducing me and Michael to our baby boy through sweet times of prayer and little baby kicks. I love nesting. I love talking to my baby. I love that he kicks when I’m falling asleep. I love that God hand-picked him for us, and us for him. I love that his nursery is blue. I love his heartbeat. I love my big belly. I love the way strangers go out of their way to hold the door for me. I love that baby is totally in God’s hands and not my own. I love that Michael is the daddy. I love that we have no clue how to be parents. I love that we’re learning it together. I love this gift of life in my womb.

 

So, ladies. Let’s laugh with the “florists” we come across, because we know the very breath we are breathing is the most wonderful gift.

And maybe…just maybe…when your “florist” gets home from work…someone will have eaten all her ice cream.

KIDDING.

Mostly 😉

 

Blessings to you,

 

Robyn

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 

Identity: You Are More Than a Writer

Guest post by Michelle Vandepol

 

I heard a keynote at a recent online conference I really appreciated. This author, who had reached the goals many of us are currently setting for ourselves, was saying that he now enjoys his writing more than ever precisely because he hasn’t made it the sum of who he is. This wasn’t always the case. He had to be intentional about expanding the other aspects of his life so he wasn’t talking, breathing, and living only in pursuit of his writing. This is especially important in the digital age when building a writing platform takes time and can quickly overshadow things that are actually of more importance. Not to worry.

 

Here are 5 easy ways to move forward on your goals while not losing yourself in your ambitions.

 

1.     Keep a sense of humour about the climb

Between aiming for growth on word counts, book sales, and social media followers; hyper attention or discouragement are both risks. Adopting self-deprecating humour and knowing that it will happen when it is meant to keeps the writer productive as well as happy. If our identities are not all wrapped up in whether a review is stellar or less so, whether a book takes off or needs a follow up to draw attention to it, or whether someone follows or unfollows us; pursuing the writing life is enjoyable. Humour lets us step back and gain perspective. Check out the hashtag #writerhumor or others like it to indulge.

2.     Think about the expanse of a lifetime and beyond

When the day feels like a write-off  because the words are not coming quickly or if they’re arriving, but you don’t feel like they’re ones you can rave about, know that there are still days ahead in which to polish and have flurries of writing happen. There is an oft quoted adage about examining whether something will matter in a week, a month, a year, or ten. The farther we go out (I recommend thinking lifetime and beyond) the more we realize that it is our small attempts pieced together for bigger use, our relationship building, and keeping our eyes on the real prize that builds something of legacy and purpose.

3.     Nurture hobbies and interests outside of writing

Other interests can complement your writing life (think book reviewing, bookstagramming, journal art, or a side craft business that builds on your bookishness), but it can also be something completely unrelated like a sport, nature, spiritual practice, your day job, or volunteer work. All of the pieces together make you a more interesting multi-dimensional human and in turn lessen the stakes of any one thing in your writing life. This, ironically enough, is what allows the emotional angst that prevents productive writing sessions to fall away and get replaced by something much healthier and much more enjoyable.

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photo by ashley mckinney

4.     Bond with your writer friends about more than who they are as writers

We may meet our writing friends primarily because of our shared interest, but if the friend chemistry is there, it will still be there when we are focusing not only on writing. It is a heart affirming thing to learn more about your writing friends, celebrate similarities and differences, and move forward with intention to be a part of lives beyond word count and market recommendations.

5.     Spend some time appreciating who you were created to be

It takes courage to out ourselves as writers so it makes sense that sometimes our writer identities take on lives of their own. To only celebrate one aspect of oneself though, is to limit greater joy. There are many ways to fill your bucket and thinking about what you’re good at, enjoy doing, want to learn, and would like to make more time for is a good place to start. You were created for more than one purpose. Live like it.

 

 Michelle Vandepol is a writer, editor, and bookish Canadian who loves connecting with other readers and writers on instagram at @michellevandepol. For more articles on the writing life, visit her website www.michellevandepol.com

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.”

*

You are faithful every season

You are faithful in all Your plans

*

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