God is Not Worried About Me

God is not worried about me.

I get worried about me. I fret and fuss about the little things and the big ones. I wonder what to do with myself. What to do with myself in the next day to get everything done that needs to be accomplished. What to do with myself when looking for jobs or the next path for the future. What to do with myself in regards to all the big dreams and bursting passions that live inside my chest.

But my Father is not looking at me and scratching his head. He’s not wondering what to do with the crazy girl in Moorhead, Minnesota. There’s no shocking him. There’s no confusing him. There’s no twist or turn that my life takes that will ever throw him for a loop or take him off guard.

There are things that concern him. There are places where he looks at my life and whispers, “baby girl, let me take that from you. Because if you hold on to it, I see the end and it’s not going to be my best.” There are moments when I think he sighs because he sees me struggling with things that were never intended for me. In those moments, his heart feels emotions for me, but he does not worry.

Worry is a “state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems.”

There is no uncertainty in him. There is no anxiety in him.

Why would there be? He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He crafted and upholds the universe by the breath of his word (Hebrews 1:3). In him there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17). He doesn’t change his mind or lie when he makes promises (Numbers 23:19).

This is who God is. He isn’t fickle. He isn’t swayed. He isn’t distracted. He is steady. He is powerful. He is all knowing.

I’m not sure why I’ve spent so much of my life believing that God was confused about me just because I was. My first real encounter with God as a kid was a dream where God called out my destiny and I knew from the age of about seven that God had something in store for me bigger than I could wrap my mind around. But walking around with dreams bursting inside of you is no easy feat when you’re just a crazy, loud, overly friendly girl from a small town in Minnesota. I spent a lot of my life feeling like I was too much for myself or others around me and trying desperately to tame myself, while always wishing to live with the same abandon that I did as a young child.

And in my life, I’ve spent plenty of time being worried about myself. What if I don’t live up to my potential? What if I actually don’t have that much potential? What if I miss my chance? What if I never see my dreams become reality? What if I see every dream come to fruition? What if I don’t get any job after college? What if I take the wrong job after college? What if I am actually supposed to go do something crazy instead of get a job? What if I marry someone who quenches my dreams? What if my following my dreams means not having a husband and family?

Somewhere along the line, I think I figured that God was like me and was worried about these things too. But he’s not worried. He doesn’t ask these questions of what my life will look like, because he knows the end from the beginning. It’s all the same to him. He sees me as a child and me now and me in the nursing home and calls it all the same. He calls is all lovely. He calls it all important. He has the same destinies written on my heart and into my DNA.

A promise that I’ve been clinging to lately is from Psalm 25:15 (Message version). “If I keep my eyes on God, I won’t trip over my own feet.”

Seriously. Go back and read that again. And again and again.

How beautiful is that? God tells us that if we keep our eyes on him, we aren’t going to be tripping over our own feet. We aren’t going to miss anything.

So friends, I’m going to share with you what God has been speaking to my heart lately. “Eyes up here. Eyes on me. Look at how much I love you. Look at how much I care. Do you really think that I’m not going to take care of you? No, you are my prize. I created you. I went to the cross for you. I triumphed over death and sin for you. So trust. Trust. Trust. And keep your eyes on me because that’s the safest place you will ever be: with eyes locked and heart determined. I know what to do with you.”

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Well Water Fargo

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In the Bible, there’s this beautiful story about Jesus’ interaction with a woman at a well. This woman was ostracized by traditional religion, she was promiscuous and deemed immoral, lacking respect from society. Yet Jesus met her right where she was at and he offered her life. He offered her living water. He engaged her in meaningful conversation. He revealed Himself to her and changed her entire life.

This story is one that sets an example to people following Jesus as to how we are to interact with people, especially those who are outside of the normal confines of church. As I embark on a new chapter of loving people within my community, this story serves as a template for how to do outreach.

Three years ago, I was introduced to the concept of a strip club ministry and instantly, something in my heart jumped at the thought. In Duluth, there was a group that went in and brought pizza to the girls working and built friendships. They would pray over their friends, bring gifts on holidays, and became a support system. There’s something really beautiful about going to people exactly where they are at and loving them in the messy moments of real life.

If you’ve talked to me since then, you may have heard me say that “the dream” is to be a soccer mom by day and run a strip club ministry by night. And while most of my future is unknown, the big thing that I’ve been praying into for three years is a strip club outreach. Part of me has been waiting for someone else to do it, to just be able to join in with someone else or move to another city with an existing outreach, but that hasn’t been the path God has led me on.

The time and opportunity has come to launch Well Water Fargo, a strip club outreach in Fargo, North Dakota.

I’ve been approved with Strip Church, a national ministry network that provides training, support, and guidance for outreaches. That’s step one in a process that’s going to be a whole adventure ahead. There’s a lot of praying, planning, and working to come. In the next few months, I’ll be assembling a team that has a heart to see women in the sex industry loved by Jesus.

The plan is that in January 2016, we will start meeting once a month for prayer, worship, and training. Anyone is welcome to come, check this out, and partner with us in setting the groundwork for God to move. (Location is still TBA.) If God gives the go ahead, we will be starting the physical club outreach in the fall of 2016. One thing that I’m really excited about as a ministry distinctive is that each outreach will be covered in prayer and worship.

Well Water Fargo will have two teams as a part of the outreach – a small team of women who are going to be in the clubs and building the relationships, but also a larger team that will partner in prayer and worship. This allows for anyone to get involved, but a high level of dedication, accountability, and intentionality to be present in the small team that conducts outreach.

If you have any desire to get involved, please contact me at wellwaterfargo@gmail.com! We are going to need people of different ages, skill sets, and giftings. It would also be amazing to get churches in the Fargo-Moorhead area involved and engaged in this outreach! The requirement for being a part of this ministry at the base level, is a love for Jesus and a love for people. There must be a belief that God has the power to change cities, prayer works, and no one is ever too far gone.

Women in the sex industry are real people with stories and families and futures. We want to see God come into their lives and display His love and mercy. And we are here to partner with what God is doing in this city and their own lives already. It may be hard and messy, but I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. I’d love for you to witness it with me.

Love Your Neighbor: Las Vegas Edition

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“Hey, do you have a lighter?” He asked me across the chain link fence and alley that kept my world from his. My world of worship nights and prayer rooms, financial supporters and the missionary label. His world of fasting for Allah and walking to the mosque, smoking marijuana and making drug deals.

In his request for a lighter, I kicked myself for not having one on me or even in the base. As I had to turn him down, I feared that it meant the end to our conversation, but he was back minutes later and called me over to the fence.

The questions started flowing. Questions about the worship night my teammates were having in the courtyard across the alley. Questions about Christianity. Questions about Jesus. He told me about himself – about being Muslim and about being high and about being Minnesotan. The Minnesotan thing got me jacked and formed an instant friendship as we bonded over having met so few Minnesotans out in Vegas.

In the half hour or so that went on, we talked about our state and religion and race and poverty and drugs and Jesus. He told me about making bank selling Adderall to the U of M students during finals week. He told me about how he took care of his 6 younger siblings for two years while his mom was in jail. He told me about dropping out of high school and running away to Vegas with his dad. He told me about being a student of the Koran and fasting for holy days. He told me about his overdose on pills that should have killed him and we both agreed, God has a purpose in keeping him alive.

And yes, he was openly high during this time.

And true to the nature of the neighborhood, a woman walked through the alley drunk as can be and when I said hi, she stopped to talk. She said that she was drinking to fix the brokenness inside. I got to pray over her and hug her and tell her of God’s love for her.

Loving your neighbor takes on a whole new meaning in the ghetto.

It sometimes means hugging a drunk woman or answering the questions of a stoned Muslim.

It sometimes means forgiving the men who call women over into their cars.

It sometimes means tracking down a sweatshirt for the woman who is mourning the life of her baby-daddy who passed away recently.

It’s a little crazy.

Each day is different.

There is no such thing as predictable.

Like on the 3rd of July when the fireworks were going off and our next door neighbor got locked out of her house. As the boys on our team helped her break in, I had the opportunity to hold her precious six year old daughter who was terrified of the fireworks. For about an hour, I just held and prayed and proclaimed that she was safe. As we stood outside of their little home in this rundown mini apartment complex, we witnessed prostitutes going into cars and drug deals before our eyes. This family has the odd position of being situated with darkness on one side and YWAM on the other.

And while loving your neighbors in this context is definitely an adventure, it is anything but glamorous. It’s staring into the face of brokenness that is so raw and in-your-face.

But there is something so beautiful in the brokenness. It’s heavy, it’s painful, it will tear your heart into a million little pieces – but in those moments, I catch a glimpse of God’s heart for these people and for the world. I see how much He hates the pain. He hates seeing people screwing themselves over time and time again. He hates seeing babies grow up in an environment that breeds fear and sets them up for failure. He hates seeing people chasing after a mirage and passing up on the real thing.

It’s easy to ask Him in these moments why He doesn’t do more. I don’t understand how our neighborhood is full of churches side by side to drug houses and illegal brothels. The problem of human hopelessness is the one that causes me to doubt the most. But in those moments, where the situations and environment tempt to overwhelm me, He reminds me of my identity. My identity is that of daughter of the King, vessel of the Holy Spirit, and one who is redeemed and empowered by the blood of the Lamb. We are meant to walk in authority – to see change and to love the socks off of people.

God never promised us that loving our neighbor would be easy. He never promised that they would love us back. He never said it would be clean – in fact, in the story of the Good Samaritan, the man had to sacrifice, be inconvenienced, and get messy in getting to see a man rescued and healed.

That’s what God calls us all to – whether your neighbor is the drug addict in the ghetto or the middle class soccer mom. Love thy neighbor. Thy messy, broken, and a lot like you neighbor.

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My precious little neighbor girl. She completely and totally stole my heart.

Viva Las Vegas: Week One

Nowhere has felt like mine faster than Las Vegas. No church has felt more like a home church faster than Grace City.

Currently, I’m one week into my ten week internship and my heart is bursting at the seams. I am writing this from an airplane a few thousand feet in the sky as I fly back to Fargo for a wedding this weekend. Honestly, as excited as I am to photograph a sweet wedding, it hurt my heart to leave Las Vegas – even just for 48 hours. In one week, it feels like we’ve been here a lot longer, even as all of us interns are still adapting and just finally got our bodies on the right timezone.

I am going to do my best to do an update once a week complete with photos. I may also do a few other blog posts with specific stories throughout the summer. For the sake of organizing my thoughts, I’m going to share updates from 4 categories: Goonies, Grace City, Me, and Miscellaneous.

News from the Goonies:

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The Gospel Goonies (aka: any variation of goons or goonies) is the name that my intern team gave ourselves. And boy, are we a motley bunch! It’s so cool to see how God brought 10 individuals who are extremely different from each other and set them in place to serve, live, and worship together for an entire summer. We are from all sorts of backgrounds, life experiences, and personalities. Yet our prayer from the beginning was for unity and I really believe that as long as we seek God on that front, we are going to build some of the most amazing friendships of our lives and have an amazing summer. I have no doubt that God will use our unique gifts to compliment and grow each other.

We are already having a blast on the shenanigan front. Starbucks, smoothie, Target, Walmart, and thrift store runs have all been a part of the first week. We went down to the Strip on our afternoon off on Thursday to see a few hotels, and even though that’s a so-so thing for me, it’s great just hanging out with the goonies. They’re the type of people that are fun to get stuck in traffic with after long 12+ hour days. Which is a good thing, because that’s a pretty common occurrence. We are working over 50 hours a week and our first full day off isn’t for another week, so it’s really exhausting, but everyone has been a good sport thus far. We are guaranteed to be a bit loopy by this next Thursday, but it makes for the most laughs and the best quotes.

What God is doing in Grace City:

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Grace City is an incredibly unique (and wonderful) church. They have three locations: the high school where they have Sunday morning services, Grace City Flamingo (GCF) where they have Sunday evening and Wednesday night services + an outreach center, and the House of Prayer where they meet for morning prayer and have the offices. They really and truly embody the concept of loving God with your head, heart, and hands better than any other church I’ve personally seen.

This week was Burn week – where the church gathers every single night in addition to a prolonged time in the mornings, in order to worship God and seek His heart for the city. They are seeking to see revival and as Pastor Dave said on Monday: “God is revival. The more of God we experience, the more of revival we experience.” We have had times of repentance, confession, praise, praying over each other, reading truth from scripture together, and a fair amount of dancing. (Which is seriously so. stinking. fun. There’s so much freedom tied to so much biblical truth.)

Our schedule has looked like worship, prayer, and studying the Bible from 9am-noon and then again from 7-8:30pm every single day this week. Pressing in like this is incredible. It’s also amazing to spend so much time around the Grace City family. The mornings are heavily staff and committed church members (including former staff who have gone off support to get paid jobs, but are still heavily involved). The evenings are such a wide variety! Tuesday we had a ton of middle school students as it was youth group night and Wednesday night there were many families and homeless individuals as we served a meal before the service.

Though this schedule has been spiritually exhausting (us interns have also had orientation/staff meetings/testimonies most afternoons as well), it’s been such a good opportunity to get to know people by seeing many of the same faces every day. There are so many amazing individuals and families that come to Grace City: from nonprofit interns to single moms to college students to homeless individuals. It’s a beautifully diverse crew.

What God is doing in my heart:

This is the hardest part for me to write about and put into words. God is doing so much in my own heart, but there hasn’t been a ton of time to process it all. He’s growing me, stretching me, and molding me. He’s healing areas of my heart that have been broken almost all my life and areas that have just recently been damaged.

He is teaching me about humility, vulnerability, honesty, fear, forgiveness, bitterness, compassion, spiritual discernment, His worthiness, and about how to do this lifestyle of ministry + missions. If that seems like a lot, that’s because it is. It feels like a fire hydrant most of the time.

This summer is not about me saving Las Vegas. This summer is about three things: 1) obedience to God’s calling. 2) increased intimacy with God and knowing Him better. 3) learning how to better do ministry and be a missionary.

Honestly, this season is not about changing the world, it’s about God changing me. Recognizing that I cannot do anything apart from Him, that I need changing, that He desires my heart more than my service, and that He is worthy of obedience no matter the results.

Miscellaneous:

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One of the sweet things about Grace City is their close partnership with YWAM. We are living at the YWAM base, being trained/overseen by a lifelong YWAMer, cooked for by YWAMers, and making friends with the YWAM girls. The base is in the inner city in a very rough neighborhood. There’s a lot of poverty, drugs, and prostitution. Despite that, we are safe and use proper precaution. It’s beautiful being in a neighborhood that reminds you every single day of the brokenness that exists in this city. My heart is just in love with that neighborhood and I love that it focuses my heart on the mission.

We just got a short term church team in on Thursday from Indiana and us interns get to hang out and help out with this group of college students for a week. They are an awesome team of 6 that we affectionally nicknamed “The Brethren” due to their church having brethren in the name.

The weather is beautiful. 95 degrees never felt so good. I can understand now why people live in the desert. And the mountains… oh.my.goodness.gracious. I’m in love with mountains! Vegas is surrounded and I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of the sweet views everywhere you look.

Overall – we are off to an amazing start! Thank you all for praying for me and for following along on my summer adventure!

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Las Vegas: Summer Edition

In January, I wrote to you all about my weekend in Las Vegas.

What I haven’t put up onto the pages of this blog yet, but what all my facebook friends know, is that I am going back! For 10 weeks. From May 30th-August 8th, I will be a part of Grace City Church as part of their Missionary Experience internship.

This is an incredible experience that goes far beyond just interning for a church plant. This is a rich time of training and hands on application into the world of urban missions and a movement of revival. Grace City has a big vision. A crazy vision, even. They are praying to see 100,000 people come to know Jesus in Las Vegas. They believe in relentless prayer, loving people, training disciples, and living in community. It’s beautiful and incredible. Every time I talk with a staff member, watch a video, or listen to a sermon online – I’m struck by how on point it is and I get really, really excited.

The whole experience of how I’ve wound up going to Las Vegas is pretty crazy and completely directed by God. He’s orchestrated and set my path clearly when it comes to this summer. I know that this is precisely where God wants me. That living in Vegas for this summer means living in the center of God’s will for me. I know that I will be changed as much, if not more, than Vegas is changed.

My only expectations are these: to be grown + stretched and to see God move.

What that’s going to look like is a mystery, but that’s the exciting part. This summer is a journey of faith – not of certainty, but of stepping out to places so far beyond my comfort zone that all I have is God to rely on.

So on this blog, I’ll keep supporters updated. You can also follow along on facebook at LIV Takes LV and on my instagram @livcreative. Here are some bullet point details for your praying purposes and to get all the important information in!

  • I will be flying in to Las Vegas on May 30th! I will be flying back for 3 weddings that were booked before I decided to do the internship. So pray for safe travels and that the time I’m gone from Vegas will not be overwhelming!
  • I still have a lot of money left to raise! If you feel led to give, you can go HERE.
  • We (the interns) are reading the book of Joshua and John chapter 15 as we prepare our hearts for Vegas. This is the portion of scripture that will be used in our training. Our focus will be on how to actively pursue God’s kingdom, while also abiding always in Jesus and the rest He gives. Solid stuff.
  • Pray also for the other interns! I’ll be living in community all summer with a super cool group of college kids from Liberty University. God has shown me already what He can do through a bunch of college kids during my time at Chi Alpha and I am so excited to see it in a new context!
  • We will be all living at the YWAM Las Vegas base! This will be an experience for us to live with a missions mindset and constant reminder of why we are there. The neighborhood is impoverished and crippled by drug abuse and prostitution. It shows the brokenness of Vegas so clearly and it serves as a backdrop for the work we will be doing and bringing “loving your neighbors” a real face.
  • Pray for my health! I’ve been struggling this year with low iron levels that’s left me anemic. It’s been really hard getting my iron levels up, so much prayer is appreciated! I want to have the energy to get the most out of this summer.

This draws the first blog post to an end! I am so thankful for all the support I’ve received from the people in my life. You guys are truly going along on this adventure with me. I truly believe that. So I’ll do my best to keep you updated!

Stop the Meanness

“I have been so mean to myself.” 

 The thought washed over me all at once as I sat in my car and drove away from the clinic. I have been so mean… so mean… There was no prettier word that could come to my mind besides “mean” and as I felt myself sticking to that word, tears streamed down my face. After two years of brushing off my body and pretending that none of it matters, it finally hit me what I had been doing.

 For so long, I’ve been heaping ridiculous pressure on myself. I think it’s been a real problem since my senior year of high school when I really started trying to figure out just what kind of person I wanted to be – and that person is unobtainable. I started to put all these ideals on myself.

 Some days, I drowned in the person I wanted to be. I wanted to be someone so beautifully brave and kind and passionate and smart and talented that it would make a difference. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to fix everything.

 That perfectionistic idealism has manifested itself in a multitude of ways over the last few years. It’s manifested itself particularly in my schedule as I try so hard to do everything. School, job, campus ministry, church, friendships, photography, save the world. I have put myself through more 12+ hour nonstop days than I’d care to admit. Yet I get so burned out and I get so tired. I power myself with lots and lots of coffee, but it doesn’t seem to really help. I get not enough sleep at night and constantly feel like I’m lagging behind. This results in heaps of guilt and shame and doubt. The feeling like “I should be able to get this. I should be able to do this.”

But I can’t.

And it finally hit me that the way that I treat my body is exactly why I can’t.

 See, I have some problems with hormonal imbalances. It runs in my family and it’s this lingering nasty thing that’s made me gain weight and just messes with my body. In addition to that, I have a long history of being deficient in different vitamins and minerals – including iron.

 That’s what brought on the tears after the clinic. My hemoglobin level was at 9.0, down from the already low 9.9 it had been at six months ago and the low levels it had been at a few years ago. It has just kept getting worse and worse – despite my wishful thinking that maybe if I ignored it, maybe it’d slip away in the night.

Nope.

 I’ve been pushing myself to these horribly idealistic standards for myself and beating myself up every single time that I don’t measure up. Yet I’m functioning on less oxygen flowing through my blood than what is good, normal, or healthy. So there’s no wonder that I have difficulty concentrating or that I’m constantly tired.

 This finally was a wake up moment for me. It was a sudden realization that dang, I really need to get this is order if I want to be half the person that I desire to be. But not only that, but it hit me that I really need to stop being so hard on myself. I need to stop squashing my soul under the expectations that aren’t meant for my shoulders. I need to shut up the voices of endless comparison and self-doubt. I need to fight the feelings of failure and shame and inadequacy. I need to learn what my life needs to look like between me and God.

 Guys, it’s a journey and a process and I am so in the middle of it, if not at the beginning. But I’ve just realized that I need to be kinder. Kinder to my body. Kinder to my heart. Kinder to my soul.

 That’s what I started out 2015 saying to myself. I discovered the thoughts in my journal recently and this is how I will end. I admit that 4 months later, I have made very little progress in this area. BUT I am starting to see more and more pieces that need to be adjusted – problems that I didn’t know where there. And my prayer is that daily, I learn a bit more how to just be a bit kinder to myself.

I hope you learn this too.

2015

Who do you want to be?

Someone who is brave + dauntless and doesn’t compare herself to others.

Someone who speaks positively about + to people.

Someone who unplugs + slows down.

Someone who breams big things.

Someone who creates + captures beauty.

Someone who loves deeply.

Someone who worships God passionately.

Someone who thinks hard + asks hard questions.

Someone who is healed.

but why do I put all this pressure on myself? Maybe I need to be someone who loves herself – broken, imperfect, and messy.

Maybe…

The Weight of Glory

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“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Some days, and if I’m being honest, most days, I live under the weight of anything but glory. I live under the weight of people pleasing. I live under the weight of perfectionism. I live under the weight of idealism paired with obligations. I live under the weight of insecurity. I live under the weight of fears of never being enough. I live under the weight of stress, busyness, and worry.

I live under anything and everything except the weight of eternal glory.

This is a sad reality when reminded of the brevity of life and the smallness of this world. Yes, life can be difficult. Heartache is handed to us in fistfuls that seep out from between our fingers. Current events wrack our minds late at night as we feel powerless to do anything to stop ISIS or end institutionalized racism. Love blows up in our faces and we are left picking shards of glass off the floor. Life gets so busy and stressful that we find ourselves with a never-ending to-do list that haunts us as we sleep.

Yet these days are short. There is glory ahead that outweighs all the junk that piles upon us. When the glory of God in its fullness is revealed, it will so far outshine all the muck of this life that we will be consumed with nothing else.

The eternal weight of glory is the very presence of Jesus – enthroned and glorified at the right hand of the Father. The presence of God is a weird thing sometimes. It’s part of that unseen world that we can’t describe in tangible terms. It is vital for being renewed day by day, even as we and our world waste away before our eyes. We get to taste it on this earth by being temples of the holy spirit.

Yet for some reason, I tend to live trapped under the weights that so easily entangles instead of resting safely in the weight of glory. The two weights are the difference between being under a heap of blankets while trying to run a race, and being under a heap of blankets when it’s subzero temps and you’re trying to sleep. One form of weight trips you up. One form of weight keeps you safe.

It’s time to break the habit of heaping on blankets while trying to work out and shivering all night in the cold because I don’t feel like reaching for the blanket. I want to live freer yet safer. I want to be free from the life-sucking burdens and safe because I’m dwelling in the presence of the Most High.

This is what I want:

To live with the taste of eternity ever on my lips.

To live with the renewal of my inward being daily.

To live with the weight of glory on my heart.

The presence of God and the faith in unseen promises means this:

We are able to not.lose.heart.

Friends, take heart.

There is glory ahead.