Dawn Marie Perez

Dawn Marie is the Executive Director of the StandUpGirl.com Foundation. She has a passion for sharing God’s love with young mothers in crisis and communicating that God has a plan and purpose for their lives. She spent 25 years as a Christian school Educator and loves any opportunity to teach someone something new. Dawn Marie resides in rural western Oregon with her husband Mark, their 3 children, chickens, and 150 lb dog, Rambo. Dawn Marie loves exploring the Pacific Northwest, crocheting, snowboarding or skiing, and any travel that involves “jumping in the truck and driving until we find a nice place to stop”. Otherwise, you’ll find her curled up with a cup of tea, a cozy blanket, and a Christian Suspense Novel or movie in front of the fireplace. Being young at heart is her goal and her life Verse is 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV: "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity."

  • Finding True Friendships

    God has a great way of providing “teachable moments” in our lives. Recently, our family seems to have spent many of these moments on friendships. Each of our children’s approaches and perspectives leads them to work through the intricacies of friendships in totally different ways. They are at different stages of identifying the characteristics of a true friend, an acquaintance, and sometimes a friend who is not really a friend at all.

    As we navigate through these hurdles in life with our kids, it has caused me to reflect on the friendships I have had throughout my lifetime. Growing up, my dad worked for I.B.M., which, to families within the company, stands for “I’ve Been Moved.” So, having moved quite often as a child, I attended 3 different high schools in 3 different states. As a kid walking into new schools frequently, I became really good at making friends quickly but never truly developed the tools to continue these relationships long-term. God gave me a natural curiosity about people and things happening around me, so that helped me ask lots of questions and eventually build relationships. From the outside looking in, everyone assumed I was outgoing and an extrovert when I was really more of an introvert and a wallflower.

    Even as an adult, learning how to navigate friendships takes hard work and diligence. Listening and discerning is truly an art at any age. Add into that a culture that relates primarily through technology, and it can be difficult to make true connections with people. Being friendly is never a difficult task for me, but becoming a “friend” is a whole other level of commitment. I can count my closest friends on one hand, but I am confident that those friends are on my team.  So how do we find lifelong friends that always have our back? And how can we pass that skill on to the next generation?

    I decided to delve a little deeper into the art of friendships, how we define them, and how we navigate them in a Godly way. 

    Let’s start with the difference between friends and acquaintances. A friend according to Webster’s Dictionary is one attached to another by affection or esteem. 

    An acquaintance is someone with whom one has a small amount of knowledge or familiarity. Because we “friend” someone on social media does not define them as a friend, especially when we see how hostile some of our “friends” can be when they disagree with a social media post. In a classroom, classmates might seem to be “friends” because of the time we spend with them daily, but most are just acquaintances, and there is not a lot of affection being shared.

    God shares a great example of friendship in 1 Samuel 20-23. In these few chapters, tension grows between King Saul and David because Saul disobeys God and knows that David will replace him as King. At the same time, the friendship between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan, deepens. Jonathan knows he will never sit on the throne, but he seeks to protect and assist David from his father’s murderous plans. 

    Despite the conflict between David and Saul, Jonathan’s affection and love towards David is an amazing example of a true friend. Jonathan purposefully moves himself from being an acquaintance to a true friend. This transformation occurs over hundreds of miles and nearly a decade; ultimately, his efforts result in David’s success. Having a character like Jonathan’s, loyal, dependable, brave, loving, and most importantly, a Christ follower, can be difficult to find. Jonathan’s are rare in life, perhaps because the key to finding a Jonathan is becoming a David. 

    What does it mean though, to become a “David”?  His life was a rollercoaster of success and failure, and we see in the Bible that David was far from perfect. But David is called a man after God’s own heart because he had absolute faith in God. His heart was focused on God, and he deeply desired to follow His will and do what God wanted him to do. He never forgot to thank the Lord for everything that he had. He was truly a man after God’s own heart. In his friendship with Jonathan, David honored him, valued him, listened to his advice, and trusted him.

    Applying these words of wisdom to our lives and choosing to follow God’s will by loving Him wholeheartedly transforms us into being more like God. We grow into more compassionate, trustworthy, faithful, and kind friends. As we work to build healthy friendships, we must also be thankful for all things and all parts of our friends, and we hope they will react equally. 

    To develop that “circle of trust” or “true friendships,” we must do our part to seek out Jonathans in our own lives! Seek out those friendships that lift us all to the next level and help us grow into Davids. Seeking God’s will for our lives helps us to be that person who is lovable, compassionate, trustworthy, faithful, and kind…a “David”!

    As we seek to build true friendships, I wanted to share one of the “Checklists” we are going to use to help guide our family in finding the Jonathan’s in our lives:

    -Choose someone who knows you fully and accepts you completely, even on your worst days.

    -Choose someone with whom you can share your deepest hurts and who keeps your confidence.

    -Choose someone who will listen, comfort, and encourage you.

    -Choose someone who will hold you accountable and help you grow closer to God.

    -Choose someone who will defend you when you are not around and not participate in gossip.

    -Choose someone who cheers you on and celebrates your victories, even when they aren’t in the spotlight.

    – Continue to pray that God brings us friendships that draw us closer to Him.

    Friendships can be costly, demanding sacrifice and sensitivity, but that is what makes them so precious. Learning to develop healthy and loving friendships takes work, dedication, forgiveness, and love. 

    Your healthy friendships start with choosing to keep God’s word close to our hearts. Seeking out the Jonathans in your life who lift you and your family up, who edify you with godly advice, and who seek to follow God, as you also desire to follow God. 

    And if you are in a season of waiting for those deeper friendships, ask God to show someone who needs a Jonathan, and show you how you might love and support them as their friend. You may be surprised how quickly a true friendship can bloom where we least expect it.

    I hope we can all impact the world by being Davids and Jonathans for our own friends, exemplifying God’s framework through the story of David and Jonathan in our friendships. God has given us the tools to choose our friends wisely and to help us create our own “circle of trust” with “kindred spirit” friends, which will reflect the love of Jesus to the world around us.

    “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” —Colossians 3:12-14

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  • Extraordinary Living

    In God’s kingdom, extraordinary living can look a bit old school, especially if we measure it against the world’s standards. It can be hard to recognize the line between loving service and performance. The heroes of our faith are the individuals, the overcomers, who put one foot in front of the next and did only what God was asking of them in the moment. 

    Corrie Ten Boom is one of my heroes. She is quoted as saying, “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”

    Our contributions matter to God, whether it’s praying for people, making their meals, cutting the lawn, watching their kids, or looking them in the eye. We must recognize that nothing is too small or ordinary in God’s kingdom. He sees you and values what you bring to Him. You are the contribution. And God tells us that He can do a lot with a little.

    Ephesians 3:20-21 reminds us “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

    I especially love the phrasing in the Message version: 

    “God can do anything, you know-far more than you could ever IMAGINE or guess or request in your WILDEST dreams!” (Eph 3:20 MSG)

    Surrendering to Jesus and living in the power of the Holy Spirit is exciting and empowering, but it also is a learning process that requires a community in which we can learn and grow. I can’t think of a better community of like-minded servants to engage with than my sisters in Christ. To share stories, hardships, and successes. We can engage with one another with no other agenda but to love. We can help each other avoid getting caught up in the whirlwind of panic or dismissal that is common to the world, but take hold of the power and the peace our God has given us. A God who created the universe and then came to his creation as one of us. He is in and around us. He has gone before us. He is behind us. And He is the One on whom we stand – with confidence, resilience, grace, and hope. 

    I love the opening lyrics from Maverick City Music’s song, “Firm Foundation (He’s Gonna Make a Way).”

    Christ is my firm foundation
    The rock on which I stand
    When everything around me is shaken
    I’ve never been more glad
    That I put my faith in Jesus
    ‘Cause He’s never let me down
    He’s faithful through generations
    So why would He fail now?
    He won’t, He won’t

    I’ve still got joy in chaos
    I’ve got peace that makes no sense
    So I won’t be going under
    I’m not held by my own strength
    ‘Cause I’ve built my life on Jesus
    He’s never let me down
    He’s faithful in every season
    So why would He fail now?

    He won’t, He won’t

    So, on those days when you feel weary and have difficulty “seeing” how you are making a difference in the world, take a moment to reflect on how “the ministry of Jesus is flowing out of you.” How Christ is your Firm Foundation. Visualize the smiling faces of those to whom you have given a little “drop” of yourself. Go forth and comfort them and love them. Because of YOU and your HEART to let Jesus flow from you, others will, in turn, be a blessing to someone else!

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  • You Are More Than Your Mistakes

    As we charge forward into the hustle and bustle of the holidays, my heart hurts for those who do not get to experience some of the blessings of the season. I see them struggling because they don’t feel worthy of relationships with others or even worthy of being loved. Maybe it’s because they have made mistakes in the past, or have been hurt by the mistakes of others. Maybe they have always felt like they were on the outside looking in. 

    I wish I could shout from the mountaintops that they are so much more than their mistakes or the mistakes of others! I would share about my friend, Jesus, who always has my back, and who loves me despite my bruises and hurts. He always reveals my worth to me, even in the moments when I do not see them through my own eyes. 

    I would share how the world viewed the Samaritan Woman, how Jesus saw someone quite different in her, and how He has the power to see something quite different in each of us. 

    Her story is in the book of John 4:1-42, and there we learn that she is a woman who has been defined by her mistakes by her culture and community, and yet is among the first to believe in Jesus. For the Samaritan Woman, the culture of the day rejected her and viewed her as a person to avoid. She had been married five times and was living with a man outside of marriage. Needless to say, no one invited her to tea or asked her to be a mentor. She was an outcast and considered off-limits as a friend.

    But not to my friend, Jesus! He looked upon her with compassion and instead of focusing on her current living situation or her past marriages, he saw beyond her mistakes to the extraordinary potential of what He would do in her life. He saw her heart and knew that in His presence, she would be transformed and become the ultimate candidateto engage the people on his behalf. He knew that her transformation would open the hearts of the people there to an awakening that would make Samaria a key cornerstone of the early church.

    Jesus went on to ask the Samaritan Woman to call her husband to join her and to hear about the living water. Her answer was, “I don’t have a husband.” 

    But Jesus, while acknowledging her mistakes, also didn’t define her by them, because He knows He is about to change her life forever. She continued to ask Jesus questions, showing that she was open to His teaching. And do you know what? She later says, “I know the Messiah is coming, and he will declare all things to us.” 

    Here was a woman beaten down by life and her neighbors, yet she stillheld onto the hope of the coming Messiah, Jesus!

    This was the moment Jesus had been waiting for. Where the world saw brokenness and scandal, He saw a woman of humility, vulnerability, teachability, and hope. Without hesitation, Jesus chose her—this woman at the bottom of everyone’s list, rejected and cast aside, to reveal publicly that He indeed was the promised Messiah.

    Where others saw “sinner,” Jesus saw potential. And after being in the presence of Jesus, she was truly transformed. She dropped her waterpot and ran back to tell her fellow villagers about Jesus. Her faith and Jesus’ love resulted in many people believing in Jesus and choosing to follow Him. The door to Samaria was opened because Jesus saw beyond the surface. He did not define her by her mistakes but as one loved by God.

    What about you? Are you ready to completely open your heart? To leave your bruises, mistakes, and hurt behind you? The reality is we all have hurts under the surface. But Jesus shows us that love can penetrate past the outward mistakes and redeem the inner workings of our hearts and character. He can transform our lives too, and change how we see and define ourselves, not by our mistakes, but by His love for us. 

    I am sure there are moments for all of us when we struggle to see beyond our failures, to the potential God sees in us. We may even have trouble seeing the potential in others. It’s hard for us to imagine what God can do with our limited resources and finite imaginations, but when God looks at us, He sees a bigger picture. He looks at us through the eyes of possibility, how we can grow, and who we can become. He takes our willing hearts and does amazing things. We just need to step back and realize that we are not defined by the sum of our mistakes but by the sum of our potential in Christ!

    When we have hope in Christ, we can better see the possibilities of what the future may hold, and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit not just to lean into our own limited potential, but the unlimited power and potential available to us as God’s beloved children. Like it says in Ephesians 3:20-21, God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us!

    So we can trust that God will guide our path and fill our lives, and the lives of others with joy and hope. Even when life goes differently than we plan, God uses the struggles and the hiccups, to accomplish His will for us. And because of the grace we have been given, we have the ability to show generosity, respect, and compassion for others and for ourselves. 

    Through Jesus, we can bless others, and boldly shout from the mountaintops about what is different in our lives, because we have a friend in Jesus. Like the Samaritan Woman, we can lead people in our own circles to become a cornerstone for God.

    I encourage you all this week to find that person who maybe doesn’t see their full potential in Jesus yet. Help them to see what the future could hold, and the abundant life that He invites them to. God created us each uniquely and for a purpose. As your life is transformed by your relationship with Jesus, show grace to an unsuspecting person, and let your full potential in Jesus shine! You’ll ultimately help them to shine too!

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  • Doing Small Things With Great Love

    Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so…

    It was the only song that would calm my youngest foster son down at bedtime when he first came to our family. Going back and forth between homes left him with little consistency, and we were going through a season where he would not go to bed without a fuss. So, I began a routine of rocking him and singing to him, just like I had done with my older children since birth. We would go through the same routine each night, asking him if he would like me to sing to him, and then singing the same four songs. He would look at me intently through the first 3 songs, sniffling and just on the verge of crying. But when I reached the last song, “Jesus Loves You”, his little face would transform into a smile, and by the end of the song, he would say contentedly, “Ready bed now.”

    I had tried all sorts of other things to console him, but he found his true comfort in hearing that someone bigger than all of us loved him. It wasn’t all the stuffies and cozy blankets, a bottle, or rubbing his back, it was hearing that he was loved. A song I have sung thousands of times over the years, sometimes purely as a routine, rang as grandeur in his ears. For the next several nights the same thing would transpire. He would listen, just on the verge of tears, until he heard “Jesus Loves You” and then a peaceful smile would spread across his sweet face and he’d say, “Ready bed now”. 

    I realized that this song, though it seemed small to me, was a BIG thing for him. It made me pause, thanking God for opening my eyes to what my son truly needed to hear, and how this little thing, transformed not only bedtime but ultimately our lives.

    The things we are called to do each day don’t always have to be the grand things; it’s using whatever you have for the sake of the Kingdom, whether big, small, or in between. It’s giving with a joyful heart and having the assurance that what you have to give, at that moment, is enough!

    In today’s world, we have so many hats we must wear and honestly, there are times when I am overwhelmed by the feeling of  “not being enough” for everyone and everything that needs my attention. I want to give 110%, but it can be a struggle to meet my own high expectations. Sometimes it’s exhausting and leaves me feeling drained, alone, and empty, because with every hat I wear, I want to give my all. But it’s in those moments when my little one is crying, seeking comfort, that I see how even a small thing to me can be a BIG thing to someone else. The best part is, that small thing is enough!

    Ultimately, “BIG things” for God are the kingdom purposes we help to promote, not the size or the impressiveness of the jobs we are doing. And it’s not even the number of hats we choose to wear. It’s when we can do the small things with great love, that we are truly following God’s will for our lives!

    Over and over in the Bible, we see examples of the smallest things reflecting Jesus and his Kingdom priorities. In the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Matthew 13:31-31, Jesus makes the point that the beginning of great things can be tiny. Even though they might seem insignificant, their impact can’t be measured by their almost invisible origins.  

    In the parable of the Widow’s Offering in Mark 12:41-44 NIV, Jesus was not impressed with those who made a big show of giving “large sums” into the offering. Instead, he praised the widow who gave “two small copper coins, which make only a few cents”, because it was all she had to give. Our Lord focused not on the amount, but on the sacrifice involved and the heart behind it. 

    In Jesus’ parable of the talents, the master didn’t focus on the amounts given to each servant, but on the faithfulness each displayed in using his resources. (Matt 25:21-23 NIV)

    We see God’s Kingdom purposes in these stories and those little things, those matters of the heart, are ultimately the big things to God. What’s even better is that God is inviting you to join Him in the work he is already doing!

    I want to encourage you to not take stock of your value, or the impact you make in this world by measuring what you do, rather measure HOW you do it. Is your heart giving to others? Are you doing everything with great love? Are you planting the seeds to grow God’s Kingdom no matter what hat you are wearing? Remember, on your best day you are a child of God, and on your worst day you are a child of God too! The secret to having it all is knowing you already do in Christ!

    Missionary statesman, Hudson Taylor, said, “A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a great thing.” My prayer for you this week is that you will find joy in the daily tasks ahead of you and that God will reveal to you how those tasks are blessing others and ultimately blessing you!

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  • The Faithful Love of God

    I truly love living in the Pacific Northwest. My family moved often when I was a child, and I have lived in every region and climate of the US. My 20 years here have proven that are no more glorious rainbows in the country than in the PNW. The true bursting of color across a rain-speckled sky reminds me of a song I learned as a young girl, “Red and Yellow and Pink and Green, Purple and Orange and Blue, I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too. Listen with your eyes, listen with your eyes, sing everything you see, I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing along with me.”

    “Sing a Rainbow”, what a profound thought! 

    Isn’t this what God does each day for us? He truly sings a rainbow into our lives with His promises, forgiveness, and unfailing love. Just like the colors of the rainbow, we can see God’s handiwork in the little things in life. Like a maple leaf in the fall or a spring daffodil. And in the most powerful ocean waves or the flames of a campfire. 

    God goes out of His way to remind us of His love and faithfulness to keep His promises. He is ever present in my child’s eyes as he wonders and asks if a pot of gold is at the end of the rainbow. In response, I answer, “Why of course, because God’s promises are bigger, brighter, and more valuable than any pot of gold. He says come as you are, and in turn, He gives everything according to His will.” Each vibrant color gives us a reminder that He is with us in the moment and in every situation when we need to lean on Him. 

    Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”

    I especially love the way the Message words it, “God can do anything, you know far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Eph 3:20 MSG 

    The science behind a rainbow reveals how truly miraculous God’s promises to us are. When rainbows appear, raindrops act as “tiny prisms.” White light from the sun shines on one side of a water droplet, then reflects out the other side of the droplet as a circular bow or arc of color broken up into the color spectrum. What’s amazing is that rainbows contain a continuum of around 1 million colors that are invisible to the human eye. Instead, we can only really see the seven-color hues if the full spectrum is visible. 

    The powerful love of God can almost be as overwhelming to try to grasp as the 1 million colors we don’t see. We must have faith that the colors are there, faith that God is ever present in every moment.

    Our human eyes can’t truly see the capabilities of God and all that He has done in our lives. But, if we take a moment to focus on the blessings showered on us each day; a child’s hug, the unbelievable ability of a bumble bee to fly, a co-worker’s smile, food on our table, a roof over our heads, the blessings are innumerable and become the gold at the end of the rainbow. When God sings a rainbow, He lays a path for us to follow and marvel at the blessings of His covenant with us.

    “Behold, I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth… This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” (Genesis 9:8-16, ESV).

    The radiant theme that the rainbow illustrates for us is God’s gracious and grand purpose of redemption, to give humanity another chance to start again. Reflecting on all of the fresh starts He has given me in my life, each color reflects the forgiveness and grace offered to me through His redemptive love. God promises that he will never leave us or forsake us. He promises if we repent, He will forgive us. That can be difficult to rely on when we are amid troubled times, but He made a covenant with us, that He will fulfill! He is always faithful, always loving, and ever gracious to us. 

    So, the next time you see a rainbow filling the sky with the brilliance of His redemptive love for us, take in the moment and allow those raindrops of color to soak in. Let each color remind you of the promises our Heavenly Father has laid before us. Let the millions of colors you cannot see remind you of His unending love that gives you infinitely more than you can ask or imagine because God went out of His way with those millions of colors to remind us of His love and faithfulness to keep His promises.

    This week, I pray that you will feel the complete rainbow of God’s loving presence in every aspect of your life. That you will look at the world and “Sing a Rainbow” for others like God sings for us. And as you look across the sky and marvel at the colors that you can see, imagine each of those raindrops as an answer to prayer and have the confidence knowing that truly God is good, and that’s enough!

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  • The Overflowing Love of God

    I often find myself rooting for the underdog in life. Whether it be children, a friend, a single mom in need, or even an injured animal, I find myself seeking to provide hope and support for the most defenseless. The roles that seem to define who I am in this world often remind me of the African philosophy of “ubuntu” — a concept in which our sense of self is shaped by our relationships with other people. It’s described as a sense of moral obligation regarding our responsibility for others even before thinking of ourselves. The community members surround or encircle an individual and remind them of who they are and all the good they have done. Unity and affirmation help restore and strengthen the individual.

    This philosophy captures my desire to encircle the vulnerable people in my life. But as I help to remind others of their worth and value, I can find myself feeling depleted and needing the same “ubuntu” I can so easily give to others. With the rush of the day filled with commitments that “fill up” everyone else’s cup, my cup at times can feel so very empty. Sometimes it brings me to tears and ultimately to my knees. 

    It’s on my knees though where I find the fountain that can refill my cup. The one true “pitcher” filled with love that graciously pours until my cup runneth over.

    In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul reveals where we can find fulfillment when we are weary:

    For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

    When it comes to refilling our own cup, we often set aside our mug with just a swig left at the bottom and save it for later in hopes it will quench our thirst. It’s not long before we realize that our own emptiness is not healthy for our well-being. And even less for those that we are trying to come alongside and affirm. 

    In Psalm 23, David says, “My cup runneth over”. He uses these words to help us understand the overflowing, endless nature of God’s presence, protection, provision, and power. God wants us to bless others, but He also reminds us that in order for us to extend the love of Jesus to others, we need to be filled with Him. 

    God has more than enough to help us, regardless of the situation. His presence has no borders, His provision no end, HIs protection cannot be penetrated, and His power can’t be equaled. He is the ultimate example of “Ubuntu”, and His overwhelming love for us is what makes us His instruments. David shares with us that God’s blessing upon us wasn’t just for our use, but was designed to spill over so we can bless others. 

    In the moment when the tears are near and we are on our knees, lean on God to be the pitcher filling your cup. For when we are full of His love, we are then able to pour into others’ cups and point them to a deeper relationship with God.

    And when you feel you just can’t go on, can’t give another ounce of yourself to others, remember God will keep His word! God is faithful and true, and he will uphold His word. He is the source of your hope, your peace, your comfort, and your strength.

    My prayer for each of you as you head out to battle the day is that you can continue to provide a loving circle of support for the vulnerable in your life, but never forget that God is ever present to fill you up and make your cup run over. He will never leave you, and He is using you to bless others. May you enjoy the fullness of God in every aspect of your life!

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