Please God, Love People

But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 ESV

I’ve had three particular situations over the past few days that I have stressed out over.  Today, I stopped and asked myself if I had made the right choice in those situations. Yes, I do believe I did. Then what’s the problem? Why was I stressing?

I’m empathetic by nature, so if I know another person is upset or stressed or mad about something I’ve done, I stress. I want other people to be happy with me. And that is my problem.

Several years ago, I heard a great quote that stuck with me. “I used to love God and please people, but now I please God and love people.” I needed reminding of that today.

As soon as my brain logically admitted the following truths, I felt a weight lift off of me.

  1. Did my choice please God? Yes.
  2. Did I do my best and admit my faults? Yes.
  3. Did I act out of a pure and honest heart? Yes.

That’s when I saw this post by Rachel Miranda Kerry as I scrolled Facebook. I shared it, of course. “Don’t let anyone try to convince you that there is something wrong with you when you are pursuing the heart of God. You are doing right.”

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Perfect timing. It’s honestly not even that other people are trying to convince me that something is wrong with me. It’s my own natural tendencies that I am fighting against. It’s the natural path of guilt and shame that I find myself on that I have to repent from.

Other people may not like our choices, decisions, responses, or boundaries, but it really isn’t about pleasing them. It’s our job to please the Lord, pursue His heart, and to take care of ourselves so that we have the capacity to love others.

I hope this thought helps you as it helped me. I am not perfect, but I am on the right path. I can let go of my stress and rest in the Prince of Peace, His grace, and His love. He loves me as I am, which makes me want to worship Him even more.

Jesus is good, kind, merciful, and full of everlasting love that endures forever.

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Obadiah

A few days ago in a post, I wrote about my desire to buy a fish. Well, I did, and I named him Obadiah. Here he is, a little blue betta.

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You may be wondering why such a small fish has such a large name. As I previously shared, while in Bible College I had a fish named Jonah. I love the name Jonah for a fish, but I think it’s pretty awkward to name every fish I own the same name, so I figured I would make my rounds through the Old Testament prophet names. If you want to learn about the book of Obadiah, watch this short video.

In the meantime, I discovered that the name Obadiah means “servant of God” or “worshiper of Yahweh.” The form of Obadiah’s name used in the Septuagint is Obdios; in Latin it is Abdias; in Arabic, it is عبداللّٰه ʿAbdullah.

Every time I see my little fish, I think about what it means to be a servant of God. Sometimes, it does feel like I’m trapped a bit in a little glass bowl with not much going on. But the cool thing is that I don’t have to have a lot going on to worship God. I don’t have to be something super special or extra. I don’t have to have everything in my life the way I ideally want it to be. I just have to be what God created me to be – myself.

A short post, but I have some other fun pictures of my dogs’ reactions to Obadiah that I’d like to share as well. Have a great day!

 

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Contentment

2461889-Jeremiah-Burroughs-Quote-Contentment-is-not-by-addition-but-by.jpgIn my last post, I wrote about hope for the future and looking forward to new seasons. Though that is still the case, I had a huge reminder over the past few weeks about why it is important to be content.

I had two different situations occur that gave me quite a bit of “hope” for what I thought would be a change of season and would breathe fresh air into my life. One of those situations was a potential job and an interview at a very well respected company. The other was a possible new friendship.

I had an interview at the company that went very well. I also had a phone call with the potential new friend that I also thought went very well. Both “potentials” ended up as closed doors that left me wondering why the opportunities even showed themselves to me.

When we are in the midst of times of need and have spent so much time and life waiting and praying for breakthroughs that we just feel like we can’t go forward another step, these kinds of opportunities can feel like the weight of the world is about to be lifted. They give me a bit of wind in my sails and feels like the first day of fall after a scorching hot summer.

Until it doesn’t.

When those opportunities slam shut, the heaviness returns with a vengeance and the emotional rollercoaster jolts back down. It takes a few days before my emotions settle into a steady, even pace again.

These are very small bumps in the road of life, but they can feel so intense after such a long time of waiting and praying. These ups and downs give me an opportunity to demonstrate my trust in God again. I find myself back on my knees surrendering the burdens and trusting that God will make a way when He decides to.

These times of disappointment can propel me down for a few days, but after that, I find myself in a place of contentment. I find myself in the exact same place I was at before those opportunities came my way, yet I am more thankful to be there than I was before. I am more grateful for where I am and the peace I have. I am more at ease walking forward carrying the same weight I was carrying before, yet knowing that at least I know what I have and how to deal with it.

Lord, Jesus,

Help me to stop seeking my own help and trust in You to meet my needs. Though I did not seek out either of those opportunities when they came my way I gave them a chance. It didn’t work out, but it gave me hope that You can change my life for the better anytime You want to. My life is at times unmanageable and confusing, but I am so grateful that I can hand it all over to You. You can choose to open doors and close doors as You see fit. I trust You with where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I’m going. One day at a time. Thank You for contentment.

 

Quiet Independence

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To be independent is a gift. There’s a peace that comes in knowing you can take care of yourself and even help other people at the same time.

Independence can be quiet. I like quiet. I am quiet. I’m sitting in a beautiful apartment with my two dogs sleeping quietly at my feet.

My to-do list is fairly completed. My laundry is put away (except for one load in the dryer) and I even vacuumed this morning. My bed is made and my place is presentable enough to have a guest stop by. I’m even days ahead in my quest to read the Bible this year.

Sure, I have some dishes to do, I need to grocery shop and meal prep, and I could deep clean. There’s a pile of books I’m reading on the cute new mirrored coffee table I recently bought.

But right now I’m just sitting enjoying the quiet. The dogs sat out on the porch for a while, so I turned off the AC and turned on the fan. We sat and listened to the birds chirp. They are still going at it.

My life is peaceful. I go to the gym five times a week. I listen to podcasts. I work 40+ hours at a job I love. I have a business that is slow right now, but I still have it. I’m about to spend the next couple of hours working on that business. I get to shape it into what it needs to be for the next season.

Independence is quiet and beautiful. My mind is at peace today. There’s plenty enough that I find to worry about, but not today. I like my life. I like the quiet.

But sometimes it gets too quiet.

I’m starting to surround myself with life. I bought a new plant and spent some time nurturing the plants I have. Of course, my little dogs always have my attention. We’ve found a good routine. I volunteer once a week teaching English to international people. I just signed up to be a “Big Sister” and was assigned to a sweet six-year-old. We are going swimming tomorrow.

I have a desire to get a fish. When I was in Bible College, I had a fish named Jonah. I will name my next fish Obadiah. I’ve been thinking about him for the past few weeks. I can tell he’s out there and ready for me to go get him.

There’s another someone out there too. I can sense it. He’s out there, but we haven’t found each other. I’ve looked, for sure, but he hasn’t materialized yet.

Quiet independence. I will enjoy it at the moment, but I’m looking forward to new life.

“We need to help people discover the true meaning of love. Love is generally confused with dependence. those of us who have grown in true love know that we can love only in proportion to our capacit for independence.” -Fred Rogers

 

 

 

 

Not Yet

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Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?
~Proverbs 20:6 ESV

Did you consider trying to win her?
Or even being her friend?
Where is the consideration, the acts of kindness?
Even saying, “Hello. I was just thinking about you today?”

Where is the admiration?
The time spent?
The building of friendship?
Do any of these acts even exist anymore?

Where is the foundation of commonality?
Shared interests?
Shared vision, passion, or purpose?
Who can find a faithful man?

All I know is, I have not found him yet.

You Messaged Me Today 

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You Messaged Me Today
By Rachael Hartman
July 13, 2019

You messaged me today
Just to say you were thinking of me
It made me feel important for a moment
Like I was not completely forgotten

You messaged me today
With nothing special in what you said
It made me feel connected for a moment
Like I was not completely alone today

I went out and looked around a store
A woman spoke to me and I realized
She was my first human contact all day
Except for your message
And my sister’s phone call

I cried today after you messaged me
Not because you hurt me at all but
Because I remembered I was alive
And that there was hope for me

I looked at myself in the mirror and said
“I love you” sixteen times to myself
I told myself I had what it takes
That I was still alive and attractive after all
And that if you remembered me I should too

 

Disentangled Thoughts

“Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” -Dawson Trotman

I heard this quote for the first time two nights ago and haven’t been able to shake it since. It accurately describes why I love writing so very much. I’ve said it many times before, writing is my best form of communication. I wish I could accurately convey my heart the way “normal” people do. I’ve come a long way in my social skills, but it’s still an area of struggle for me.

This past year, I have not written much, though in the past few months I’ve made more of an effort to blog at least. It is true, my thoughts have been very tangled up since I haven’t been writing as much.

Tonight I went to church and heard a message about God’s preparation in our lives for His purpose. The pastor made a statement that stuck out to me. He said if you don’t know who you are in God, and you don’t know God’s purpose for your life, you will constantly move around trying to find a place where you fit, but you’ll never fill that emptiness inside.

That idea resonated with me. I felt it. To be honest, lately, I’ve been struggling with the idea of moving and trying to find a new place to “belong.” I’m four months away from being where I am at for two years. It’s accurate timing for me to start feeling the “itch” placed in me growing up in the military’s mobile lifestyle.

A friend once told me that when I feel that “itch” to move that I should NOT scratch it. She said the itch means I’m healing, but if I scratch it, I will delay my healing. What she said made sense to me. I knew the day would come when the itch would begin again, but I really haven’t focused my mind on what I should do to keep myself occupied and not “scratching.”

I feel a little sad tonight. I feel passed over and forgotten. When I’m the new person, it is exciting. There are “places to go and people to see . . .” But right now, I just feel here. I feel unsure of what is next. I feel unsure even of what I’m doing right now. I feel unsure of who I am and what God’s purpose for me is . . . I want to “go” to find it, but as the preacher said tonight, I will keep trying to fill the hole in my heart, but I’ll never be able to fill it outside of God’s purpose and plan.

As I type, my thoughts are disentangling themselves a bit. I feel the need to quiet my mind and meditate on the Word of God. Who does God say that I am?

I remember a paper I once taped to the back of my apartment door. It was scripture-based affirmations of who I am in Christ. Anytime I felt down, unsure, low, etc. I would read those affirmations aloud. Whichever one pierced my heart is the one I knew I needed to be reminded of.

I searched for the affirmations online and found a couple of versions of it. Here is the one I had originally taped to my door. The version I read tonight had several additional affirmations. These are the ones that pierced my heart tonight.

I am a temple…a dwelling place…of God. His Spirit and His life dwell in me. (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19)

I am united to the Lord and am one spirit with Him. (1 Corinthians 6:17)

I am bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20; 7:23)

I am called. (1 Corinthians 7:17)

I am a member of Christ’s Body. (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:30)

I am victorious through Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

I have been established, anointed and sealed by God in Christ, and I have been given to the Holy Spirit as a pledge guaranteeing my inheritance to come. (2 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:13,14)

I thank God that I am healed (Isaiah 53:5). I thank God that I have been redeemed (Revelation 5:9).

God does have a purpose for my life. He isn’t finished with me. He has a plan and a place for me to belong. I am not forgotten. He has provided for me. He is preparing me for His plan for the future. I don’t understand it all today, but in the future, I will be able to look back on this time and thank God for it.

 

What do you have to lose?

I read a poem by Elizabeth Bishop titled One Art. In the poem (shared below), Bishop wrote about an art that isn’t hard to master – the art of losing. She talks about losing door keys, time, places, names, hopes, houses, cities, and even a continent.

It’s easy to lose things: our tempers, our hearts, our heads. Even sadder, it’s easy to lose friends or potential friendships. These things that are easy to lose are the things that matter the most in life.

It’s more difficult to lose other things that we want to lose: weight, debt, guilt, grudges. These things seem to cling to us (or some of us), and sometimes feel impossible to dump. There may be even more difficult things that are clinging to us: addictions, unhealthy relationships, apathy or a lack of compassion.

I thank God that He has made a way for us to be free from sin, and free from the weight of life. The Word says Truth sets us free (John 8:32); Jesus sets us free (John 8:36); where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

The Lord is also a keeper. He keeps His promises and His covenant with us (Deuteronomy 7:9). He keeps us from harm (Psalm 121:7). He keeps us from falling (Jude 1:24). It is our job to keep ourselves in His love (Jude 1:21).

Jesus will also help us lose things out of our lives that are not good for us. What will you lose today? Will you lose bitterness, hatred, judgment, or hurt feelings? Will you lose pain or low self-esteem? Will you lose the need to be right, or the need to defend yourself?

Today, my prayer is that I would lose the things I need to lose (hurt, bitterness, unforgiveness), and keep the things I need to keep (God’s love, mercy, grace, and kindness). I pray that for you all today as well.

One Art, by ELIZABETH BISHOP

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

When You Unintentionally Hurt Others

I experienced a really difficult situation tonight. You know that saying “hurt people hurt people” . . . ? Yeah, I lived that tonight. And the knowledge that I hurt someone else made me hurt really, really badly. It also made me think about the people who have hurt me in the past, mostly unintentionally, and how I pushed them away and clung to my pain.

To be honest, this past week has been a terrible week. I experienced some personal pain that resulted in the worst panic attack I’ve had in a long time. Other friends also had difficult weeks, seemingly all around the same timeframes. Our nation also experienced severe tragedy. Everyone is hurting.

When I hurt, it doesn’t take much to trigger me into deep pain. I’ve tried to heal the wounds, but they are too big for me. I’ve called out to God, and honestly, it doesn’t seem like He has done much about it. That complicates faith quite a bit. It certainly makes faith a choice when you aren’t feeling it.

Earlier this week, I saw something that ripped open the wound of rejection in my heart. After that, it seemed like I was facing rejection everywhere.

Someone stole my Open House signs on my first day hosting an open house as a Realtor. That small thing shouldn’t have made me feel as rejected and violated as it did, but it did.

Then, I tried to purchase an item from a person I know on Facebook but was ignored. It really wasn’t the ignoring that got me. It was that I had tried to purchase items from this person before, and also been ignored. And it wasn’t just her, but I experienced severe rejection from multiple people at the church she attends (that I also attended for a couple of years until I finally left), after going through some of the worst things in my life (i.e. when my brother was sentenced to 10 years in prison, I was stood up by the prayer “leader” and other leaders I set up appointments to try to meet with).

This girl sort of embodied all I thought was good in that church. The rejection I perceived to get from her via Facebook poured salt into the old wounds from the people I had once admired at that church and then been extremely burned and rejected by.

Being ignored on Facebook shouldn’t have bothered me so much, but it did. I was sick of being rejected and ignored, especially by people at THAT church. I had already unfriended most of the people who triggered my pain, but I didn’t want to unfriend her because I thought she was different from them.

So I contacted her instead. I told her I was frustrated about being ignored. Ironically, our last message from several years ago was me asking her if I had offended her, and if that was that why she was ignoring my request to place an order from her.

Back then, she responded that she was busy and missed the message and how sorry she was. Still, she never followed through with the order. I didn’t pursue it.

This time, she responded in a similar way. She said she was busy and that she’s sorry I felt that way, but that she missed the message.

I was talking to someone else at the time and didn’t read her full message. I responded with a curt explanation that I understood she was busy, but that this was the third time I had tried to order from her and been ignored, and that I wouldn’t be trying to order from her again in the future.

She responded that she understood and that someone else had wanted that item before I did, but that she understood.

I responded again that I probably shouldn’t have said anything, but that I respected her and her work, and that I felt if she continued to treat customers the way she had treated me that people were going to start going away from her. I told her that I hoped her the best in her endeavors.

Then I read the rest of her email response. And my heart dropped.

She said her reason for not responding and being busy was that her mother was diagnosed with cancer last week. Last week. That terrible week. That same day I had had the horrible panic attack that sent me into depression for the weekend.

And my response to her vulnerability was that I understood things get busy, but this was the third time I had been ignored and I wasn’t going to try again.

Wow. What a coldhearted, jerky thing to say to someone who just told you their mother was diagnosed with cancer. I felt like the most terrible person in the world, and I am sure she thought I was. I didn’t mean to be, but that is what it appeared I was.

I wrote back, telling her I had just fully read her message, and that I was sorry I hurt her and added to her stress. She had already un-friended me from Facebook.

To be honest, if I were her, I would have totally blasted me. I would have definitely told me off and been very hateful about it.

But she responded with “I understand . . .” and putting up the seemingly well-deserved boundary of unfriending–just like I had with all those “hateful” people from that church she represented who hurt me so much.

In the middle of complaining that she wasn’t listening to me, I failed to listen to her. I was so caught up in my hurt and my being tired of being rejected and ignored over and over and over again that I put up a boundary that said NO MORE. I was so selfishly caught up in my hurt, I hurt her.

I hate hurting others. I never mean to, but when it happens I have a very real knowledge that I cannot I stop the hurt I’ve caused. I know it because I’ve been hurt and no matter how much the other person is sorry (or maybe didn’t even mean to hurt me) it doesn’t stop the pain.

I felt so guilty for what I had done, I immediately wrote the girl a letter and bought her something simple. The package is on the table and ready to be mailed.

But something else happened in the middle of all of this processing. My pain from the past became too much again and I started spewing out hatred all over my apartment. I resentfully looked at the package and thought of all the people who had hurt me and how they had never done anything to try to fix it. I started cursing the people who had hurt me from that girl’s church, expressing my feelings of hate for them.

I started crying and asking God why He left me here in this pain. I asked God if anyone even cared in the whole world.

Immediately, I heard HIM silently answer, “I will not leave you comfortless . . .” 

Right there in the middle of the worst of my brokenness, in the middle of love that had grown very cold, was a still small whisper. God wasn’t angry at my anger, my resentment, or my ocean of hurt. He was just there.

To be honest, it took me a while to calm down, but then I knew I had to write about this somewhere because writing is really the only thing that makes anything make sense to me.

This whole world is full of pain, hurt, misunderstanding, rejection, and all sorts of misjudgments and broken relationships. People are facing far worse realities than I have ever had. They will never have the answer to their question, “Why me?”

Tonight, my blunder and self-defense cost me the acquaintance of a person I admire. We were never close friends, though I wished I could have been friends with her and her friends. I was never accepted into their group, no matter how much I tried. I’m sure it’s for the best that she and I are no longer connected on social media, but it is sad it has to be that way.

Who knows what kind of hurts she and her friends and her church experienced that caused them to be so rejecting of others in the first place. Their hurts turned into my hurts, which turned into more hurt for them and me.

Is it possible that somehow this entire situation can be turned around for the good? Not just this situation, but also the situation I had last week that left me reeling from the heartbreak and pain of a previous great loss?

I honestly can’t see it at the moment. How can any separation between people be a good thing? How can any brokenness be a good thing?

I looked up the words that came to me in the midst of my hateful rage. “I will not leave you comfortless . . .”  It came from a passage in John, chapter 14, verses 18-23.

I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall.” John 14:18-23

Yes, the world is broken and so am I. But Jesus is coming back to redeem His people from all of this hurt and brokenness. As the love in the world grows cold, sometimes it feels as if we sense God’s presence less and less. It shakes us to the core. The disconnection between Believers makes it worse. We hold onto hurt, pain, and unforgiveness and we let go of people.

Somehow I don’t think it was meant to be that way. If only we would love each other enough to not cut each other off to protect ourselves. Maybe we would see that we never meant to hurt each other in the first place.

I don’t understand why the hurts I’ve experienced happened. But I do know I do not want to hold onto them. I don’t want to go through life in pain. I don’t want to reject people because they reject me. I don’t want to be filled with hurt, bitterness, or resentment.

God, have mercy on my heart. Please heal me. I can’t fix these things myself. I can’t fix myself. I am at Your mercy.

I will send the package and the card to the girl. I will not try to be her friend or purchase items from her. I won’t try to comfort her because of her mother’s situation; that is for her real friends to do. But I will remember her. I will remember that she didn’t respond to me with hatred, perhaps indifference, but not hatred. She simply put up a boundary to protect herself. And I totally understand that, because I do it too.


Rachael

Rachael Hartman is a 30-something with two dogs, and a passion for writing. She owns Our Written Lives, LLC an independent Christian publishing company.

Dreams

And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams . . .

Acts 2:17 ESV

The Bible mentions dreams and visions as a mode of communication between God and man multiple times throughout the Old and New Testaments.

I don’t know about you, but I can say that most of the dreams I have had in my life have not had much spiritual significance. But there have been a few I felt were from the LORD. In fact, some of the most significant times in my life that I sensed God leading me, or warning me, have come through dreams.

I recently heard someone say that dreams are the way our mind tries to figure out our lives. As well, there is quite a bit of research on the rapid eye movement that occurs during sleep and how it is beneficial in therapy such as EMDR to ease PTSD. There is certainly something special about dreams, especially when they stick with us long after we have woken up.

Throughout my life, I have had a few different series of dreams that became a progression of sorts. The dreams come out of nowhere and carry similar themes. This week, I had another progressive dream, and I’m thankful to say it shows that I have progressed in my life. Before I share it with you, let me share the previous dreams I had that belong to this same series of dreams.

I had the first dream two or three times. In the dream, I was a college graduate, but I was stuck in high school! I would talk to the administration, trying to convince them I didn’t belong in high school and that I had already graduated. I would suggest that I take the GED and test out, but each time they would tell me I had to stay in high school for two more years, and that I had to sit through the classes.

Those dreams were very frustrating to say the least, and mirrored what I felt in my life–stuck. The accomplishments I had made in my education and experience didn’t seem to matter to anyone at work. I couldn’t seem to “graduate” to the next phase of my life no matter how much I knew I was beyond where I was stuck.

This week I had a new dream in the progression of this series of school-dreams. In my dream, I was in college! Yea, no more high school! At least I moved on from there. In the dream, I forgot I had registered for a history class. I made it through the semester when I realized I hadn’t gone to history class for weeks!

I was determined I would get to the class, but it started in 10 minutes, and I was waiting on my parents to give me a ride to class. I kept telling them I needed to go, or I would be late. Finally, I climbed in the backseat of their vehicle and we were on our way.

It was a silly dream, and one that doesn’t make sense at all on the surface. I graduated college years ago, and have no desire to formally further my education. And riding with my parents? I haven’t depended on them for a ride since I’ve had my driver’s license.

Despite the silliness of the dream, it stuck with me. I couldn’t shake it when I woke up. What was it about this dream that I needed to remember? In a moment, a flash of meaning entered my mind. In the dream, if I didn’t get my life straightened out, I was going to have to repeat history–something I desperately did not want to do!

I’ve been facing some pretty large life lessons over the past two years. They haven’t been easy, and I desperately want to move forward beyond them. With this simple dream, I felt the Lord was getting my attention. I can’t blame anyone else for my problems–not teachers or my parents or just being forgetful. I have to take responsibility and learn the lesson, or history will repeat itself.

Have you had any significant dreams lately? Is God trying to speak a word into your life through the dreams you have? Please share. I would love to know how God is speaking into your life.


Rachael

Rachael Hartman is a 30-something with two dogs, and a passion for writing. She owns Our Written Lives, LLC an independent Christian publishing company.