July 8, 2015

About Tonya Ellison

Tonya Ellison — Blog Contributor
Tonya comes to us from Rio Rancho, New Mexico where she lives with her four favorite people, three kids ages 4, 6, and 9, and her husband of seven years, Jamel. Her hobbies include writing and reading, crocheting, and spending time with her family. She earned her BS in Human Services/Management and works as a Bereavement Counselor.

This Is The Stuff


I lost my keys
In the great unknown
And call me please
‘Cause I can’t find my phone

This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that’s getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I’m blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I’ve got to trust You know exactly what You’re doing
Might not be what I might choose
But this is the stuff you use

45 in a 35
Sirens and fines
While I’m running behind

So break me of impatience
Conquer my frustrations
I’ve got a new appreciation
It’s not the end of the world

Francesca Battistelli
Songwriters: Tony Wood, Ian Eskelin, Francesca Battistelli

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If I had to choose one word to describe my life, I would have to choose the word ‘busy.’  But within the busy of my life is a fair amount of routine—certain things happen at certain times each week, tasks need to be completed over and over again, kids need to be fed, clothes need to be washed, bills need to be paid.  My busy can become very mundane.

Earlier this year I heard something that has stuck with me.  I don’t remember where I heard it, or who said it, but God has been shining a light on this theme consistently: ‘Find beauty in the mundane. ‘  The everyday happenings, the losing of keys, the washing of clothes…find beauty in it all.

I had a client tell me the other week that she loved ironing.  I’m sure I gave her a confused look, because she followed by saying that there is something about taking a wrinkled piece of fabric and working with it until it becomes something beautiful.  Now, I’m not going to say that I look at the pile of clothes needing to be ironed and see a work of art…but I understand what she is saying.  It is so easy to get pulled into frustration and irritation when we think of doing the things we truly dislike but that still need to be done. Whether it is work, or home, or church, or any other responsibility, there will always be a level of mundane we will be working with.

The days when I’m rushing to work, the days when I am struggling with motherhood and with being a wife…there is some mundane that life can be sometimes, a lot of the time.  All of these are tools God uses to show us who He is, to show us His love, to show us how blessed we truly are.  I can’t help but to wonder why I cannot find beauty in the mundane. Who said that I can’t look at a dirty kitchen or living room and see the beauty I can make of it, the beauty I can bless my family with.

As a counselor we’re taught to help our clients re-frame, or, look at their situation from a different perspective.  We have to help people think of ways to see the world and their situations differently.  But God!  But God gave us a book filled with ways to see the world as He sees it.  Verse upon verse about learning to love the mundane.  I am going to make an intentional effort to look at life differently, and consider what God might be using to speak to me….

Might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use

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Let’s pray: Lord, help us to see beauty in the mundane.  Help us to see You in the ins and outs of daily life.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Good Morning


Wave away my yesterday
‘Cause I’m leaving it behind me
Hello sunshine, come what may
I feel something new inside me

I hear the birds singing
Now my alarms ringing
Get up, get up

It’s a good morning
Wake up to a brand new day
This morning,
I’m stepping,
Stepping on my way
Good morning,
You give me strength
You give me just what I need
And I can feel the hope that’s rising in me
It’s a good morning

Slow down, breathe in
Don’t move ahead
I’m just living in this moment

I got my arms raised, un-phased
Jump out of bed
Gotta get this party going

I went to bed dreaming
You woke me up singing
Get up, get up

Now I’m smiling, and I’m kissing all my worries goodbye
Got the feeling, if I spread my wings I might even fly
You are my truth, my way
Give me the strength to say
Get up, get up, get up
‘Cause it’s a good morning

Hey, top of the morning to you ‘disa
You smoothie, me ice cold pizza
Cafe au lait, latte dah
You do the zumba, but I do not

Give me like half a marathon
I’ll give you the Gospel of St. John
Hits me like a wake-up bomb
Cuz’ we both know that His mercy flows
In the morning

Mandisa and TobyMac
Songwriters: James Moore, Aaron Rice, Cary Barlowe, Mandisa Hundley, Toby McKeehan

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  • We got a new puppy.
  • A puppy is like a baby.
  • My baby will be 7 this week.

So our daughter did very well in school this past year and she asked if she could get her own dog. We have 2 large dogs, but she has been desiring a teacup dog of her own. We agreed that she could have a puppy if she earned the money and purchased it on her own. Well she did…and this week Miss Zailey arrived at our home.  A puppy is like a baby…cute as can be, but needing much attention. I have been awake at least three times each night since our new addition has arrived. Our daughter is doing a great job, but I know she needs more sleep than I do so I’ve been helping with the early morning care. This morning at 2:12, I can assure you that “Good Morning” was not on my lips, I was not ready to start my new day, and I was not jumping out of bed with my arms raised. Our youngest son will be 7 next week and I am not used to this…at all… This morning at 5:10, a frustrated 12 year old woke me, she wasn’t feeling well, and the puppy wanted to play. So we played. As I sat in the living room I looked at this little alarm clock and thought about my plans for the day. So much to do, and now it will be done on less than 4 hours of sleep.

At that moment I had a choice; how I approach my day is my choice. And I chose to approach it with joy. God woke me up. Albeit tired, but I’m awake nonetheless. Today my worry was lack of sleep due to a puppy. Yesterday it may have been different, but despite what my worry is, this morning is a good morning. It’s a brand new day, a brand new morning, how are you going to approach today?

Despite what you may be facing
God has given you the gift of life on this day.
He will give you strength…
He will give you just what you need.

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Let’s pray: Father God, thank You for mornings, for new beginnings, and for fresh starts.  You said You are our strength, and today we may need that strength more than ever.  We stand strong on Your promises, and I pray that each and every woman here sees beauty in today.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Who I Am


Another voice, another choice
To listen to words somebody said
Another day, I replay
One too many doubts inside my head

Am I strong…beautiful
Am I good enough
Do I belong
After all that I’ve said and done
Is it real when I feel
I don’t measure up
Am I loved

I’m running to the One who knows me
Who made every part of me in His hands
I’m holding to the One who holds me
‘Cause I know whose I am, I know who I am
I am sure I am Yours

Turning down, tuning out
Every single word
That caused me pain
Unashamed, and unafraid
‘Cause I believe You mean it when You say

I am strong…beautiful
I am good enough
I belong
After all
‘Cause of what You’ve done
This is real what I feel
No one made it up
I am loved

I am sure I am Yours
I know who I am
I am sure I am Yours

Fearfully, wonderfully, perfectly
You have made me

I’m running to the One who knows me
I’m holding to the One who holds me

Written by Blanca Callahan / Seth Mosley / Mia Fieldes

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I am sure I am Yours
And I know who I am

It’s quiet in my house sometimes…  Rare?  Yes, but it does happen.  In the early morning hours and late at night when everyone else who I share my home with is asleep. You would think that I would soak this quiet in…that I enjoy every second of it  (and there are times I do!)  but there are other times when the quiet is an opportunity for me to process my day, my week, and even my life.  I would love to say that this reflection is positive but more often than not it is filled with questions and doubts.

I think most women have played the words of this song through their minds and hearts…

Am I strong…?
Am I beautiful…?
Am I good enough…?
Do I belong…?
After all That I’ve said and done…?
Is it real…?
When I feel I don’t measure up…?
Am I loved…?

We talk to ourselves more than we talk to anyone else, and more than anyone else talks to us.  What are we saying?  Are we allowing doubts to cloud the image of ourselves?  Are we allowing the enemy to reinforce our insecurities?

In the rare quiet times I talked about before, I try to read.  I love reading and rarely have an opportunity to do so without being pulled in different directions.  One main theme in the books and articles I read is the importance of knowing who we are in Christ. Knowing how He sees us, and knowing who He created us to be.  Being reminded that we are fearfully and wonderfully made is like the light breaking through the clouds.  Knowing that the One who created us, Who formed each of us in the womb is still here, shaping us, and loving us, is like having a safe place to run to when the doubts try to creep in.  My goal for this week is to constantly combat those doubts with the words of this song.  I am going to intentionally run to the the One who holds me.

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Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, the enemy has a way of getting to us through our thoughts and images of ourselves.  We question and wonder…we worry and doubt….  But You, Lord, are there with Your arms wide open, fully embracing us in those times and every other time.  Thank You for how You see us. I pray for each and every woman remember to run to Your arms when they feel less than who You created them to be.

Into Your Presence


I came here to lose myself
To give all I am away
I’m offering all I have to give
And I will take nothing
I will take nothing but You

So take me into Your Presence
Into Your glory
I am surrendered to You
There You can change me
And rearrange me
I need You
Oh, I need You, Lord

‘Cause I need You, Lord
‘Cause I need You

BJ Putnam
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Having worked in the counseling profession for the past 4½ years, and with being a counseling student…a wife…and a mother, the words “I need…” have passed my ears on more occasions than I can count.  It has been determined by psychologists, theorists and intellectuals over the years that we as humans have basic needs, and I agree—there are elements in our life that we need to thrive and survive, such as food, water, connections with others, etc.  However, there is one need that is missing from the charts and graphs, from the lists of needs that have been expressed to me.  And that is the need of a relationship with the Father.

Throughout the day I will make statements like “I need coffee,” “I need a better pen,” “I need to go to the store,” “I need to make more money,” etc.  But I wonder how many times I say “I need God”?  How many times do I go past the assumed notion that I need His Presence in my life, that I need His hand on my family, and verbalize my need for Him.  As I hear the words repeating in this song, “I need You, I need You,” I have such a sense of peace.  Of all the needs in life, there is truly one that stands above the rest: my {our} need for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The next time I am tired, instead of saying “I need coffee,” I will say “I need You!”  Instead of saying “I need to make more money,” I will say “I need You!”  Today, what need can you replace with the words “I need You!”?

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Let’s pray: Father, we have many perceived needs in life, but there is one need that trumps them all—the need for You.  As the words of this song state, we need you to change us and rearrange us, we need You.  Thank You for being the one need we know for certain will be met.  Thank You for being ever present in our lives.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Touch The Sky


What fortune lies beyond the stars
Those dazzling heights too vast to climb
I got so high to fall so far
But I found heaven as love swept low

My heart beating, my soul breathing
I found my life when I laid it down
Upward falling, spirit soaring
I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground

What treasure waits within Your scars
This gift of freedom gold can’t buy
I bought the world and sold my heart
You traded heaven to have me again

Find me here at Your feet again
Everything I am, reaching out, I surrender
Come sweep me up in Your love again
And my soul will dance
On the wings of forever

Hillsong United
written by Joel Houston, Dylan Thomas, Michael Guy Chislett

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In life there are lessons to numerous to count.  In our Christian walk, these lessons seem to multiply.  Sermons are preached, books are written, songs are created to help us discover and learn and re-learn these lessons.  One of these lessons that is so prominent in my life is surrender.  Whether I have lost my car keys and I hear the soft whisper of surrender, ‘Stop looking’…at that moment I pray for God’s guidance to help find them.  Or whether I am dealing with a family crisis and God says ‘Surrender, give it to Me’.  Big or small, this message of surrender surrounds our lives.

Listening to the words of this song, the idea of surrender takes on new meaning.  It shows how, despite reaching certain heights in our life, we can feel so low.  And how at our lowest points—when we truly make the decision to surrender—we are higher than we will ever be.  “I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground”…

Surrender is not easy.  Relinquishing control is not easy.  But it is necessary.  We can live life and go through the motions, trying to manage every aspect of our lives.  But the truth is we are not designed to do that.  We are not designed to carry it all…all of the time.  We will not know or understand what true freedom is, or what truly living is, until we surrender to God.

Surrendering all of ourselves—our hearts, our minds, our families, our entire lives.  We will find our lives when we lay them down.

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Dear Lord, let our knees hit the ground.  Help us to lay our lives at Your feet.  Surrender is a struggle for some…for most.  But there is true beauty in surrender, in allowing You to be the center of us and giving You total control.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

He Said


So your life feels like it don’t make sense
And you think to yourself “I’m a good person”
But why do these things keep happening
Why you gotta deal with them
You may be knocked down now
But don’t forget what He said, He said

I won’t give you more, more then you can take
And I might let you bend, but I won’t let you break
And no-o-o-o-o, I’ll never ever let you go-o-o-o-o
Don’t you forget what He said

Who you are ain’t what you’re going through
So don’t let it get the best of you
‘Cause God knows everything you need
So you ain’t gotta worry
You may be knocked down now
But just believe what He said, He said

Don’t fear when you go through the fire
Hang on when it’s down to the wire
Stand tall and remember what He said

Group 1 Crew featuring Chris August
Written by Jose M Reyes, Blanca Reyes, David Arthur Garcia, Ben Glover

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I was talking to a client of mine the other day, and an interesting conversation came up.  The topic of the conversation was that we need constant reminders in life.  Whether it is having to remind our kids not to leave dirty clothes in the bathroom after a shower…or to put their backpacks away…or asking our husbands to please remember to fix the loose leg on the chair… we all need constant reminders.  We have planners, beeping phones, sticky notes—reminders in many forms.  This is not limited to parenting or marriage, or even work; it includes every area of life.

And when times get tough in life we also need reminders that all will be taken care of, that everything will be okay.  We know in our minds that God said He will meet our needs, but our hearts oftentimes still need to be reminded of this.  We need songs, scriptures, and people to remind us that He will ‘not give us more than we can take, that we may bend, but we will not break,’ and in our best moments, we are not alone.

We need to be reminded of the truths in this song.  Perhaps we need to add these truths to our sticky notes, our alerts and alarms.  Write them in your planner AND write them in your heart.  Thank God for these reminders of His love and His reassurance.

So, ladies, never forget what He said,
and never forget that He is always holding us up
despite the storms surrounding us.

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Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we forget.  We are a society so easily distracted that we forget at times the truths You have promised us.  Forgive us for this and thank You for your continued reminders.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.



On a Sunday evening I’m looking back over all the years
And where I’ve been looking at a photograph
Remembering You were right there and You have been ever since
With very page that turns, I see Your faithfulness

The mountain where I climbed
The valley where I fell, You were there all along
You brought the pieces together, made me this storyteller
Now I know it is well, it is well, that’s the story I’ll tell

There were some nights I felt like they would last forever
But You kept me breathing, You were with me right then
And all that You have done for me, I could never hold it in
So, here’s to me telling this story over and over again

You hold the broken
You hear my every cry, every cry
My eyes are open, I know that it is well, it is well

 Morgan Harper Nichols
written along with Paul Mabury

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As a counselor, one fact I try to stress to all of my bereavement clients is that each of us have a story.  I encourage them to share it with me, with others…to write it down so it can be remembered. This does happen at times, but the usual response I receive is one of resistance.

As we are walking through life we don’t always see the significance of our own story.  Most times we feel we don’t even have one.  We minimize our lives and situations, with the word ‘just‘—I’m just a mom. I’m just a wife. I’m just one person. Whatever our “just” is, we cling to it; for whatever reason, we are unable to see the power behind our story.

God wrote a story for each one of us.  He penned every detail.  Every situation and every event was written by His hand.  Our story was not written for our benefit only, but to be used as a testimony for others.  Our stories are beautiful and inspirational.  They are our stories.  God made us the storyteller but (as the words of the song says), He was there when we climbed and when we fell, He knew what would be on our pages.  Yet He still made us the storyteller.

I hope this song inspires you to embrace your story and to tell it.  May it help you to understand that what we have experienced in life has a purpose, and to understand that He has a plan.

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Let’s Pray:

Lord, thank You for the beauty behind our story.  Please help us to see this beauty and to embrace it as our testimony.  You wrote our story and You made us the storyteller.  Please allow our story to bless others…allow it to bless ourselves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He Wants It All


There’s a Voice that cries out in the silence
Searching for a heart that will love Him
Longing for a child that will give Him their all
Give it all, He wants it all
And there’s a God that walks over the earth
He’s searching for a heart that is desperate
And longing for a child that will give Him their all
Give it all, He wants it all
And He says love Me, love Me with your whole heart
He wants it all today
Serve Me, serve Me with your life now
He wants it all today
Bow down, let go of your idols
He wants it all today
He wants it allAll of you, more of you
He wants it all today
All of you more of you
He wants it all today

Forever Jones
written by Dominique Jones
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Jesus replied:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Matthew 22:37

I am one of those people who needs to be reminded of the little things…it is easy to become caught up in life, the daily activity, and the ins and outs of trying to balance our responsibilities.  One of these little things is to remember to give my all.  I get tempted to handle situations on my own and to forget to pray about the little things.  Then I hear songs like this.  When I hear this, I wonder what have I got to offer Him?  What is the ‘all’ that He wants?  What can I possibly offer that God needs?

Well, He wants all of my heart, all of my love, yes.  But He also wants all of my worries, all of my troubles, all of my concerns, all of my day-to-day happenings.  The truth is I don’t have anything God needs.  But we all have something God wants—our whole heart.  This song reminds me that I need to step back and see what parts of me I am not giving to God.  The verse from Matthew 22 says it perfectly; we are to love Him

‘with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind

Even when we feel as if our “all” is not enough, to Him it is more than enough.  Remind yourself today to give Him your all.

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Let’s Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, my all is not a lot…some days it doesn’t seem like my all will make a difference, but to You it will.  You want all of our heart, mind and soul.  Thank You for seeing my all as acceptable.  I ask that You to continue to gently remind us to give our all—all our heart, all our mind, all of our worries and all our concerns. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

What Are You Afraid Of?


Being compared to the girl who has everything
Not living up when the whole world’s watching
Being the last to get there and the last to know

You scream at the top of your lungs
When no one’s listening
Being a basket case over anything
Giving your whole world for love
And the boy says no

So what are you afraid of
Show ‘em what you’re made of
The shadows that you’re scared of
Are usually your own
They’re not the great unknown
You don’t have to wonder
You’re not going under
Grace has got you covered
God is in control
Go on and let it go
What are you afraid of

Right on the brink of a breakthrough but you’re frozen
Hurting somebody you love in that moment
No, it’s not living if you’re always thinking of
The worst that could happen

Whenever it’s the darkest
Whenever it’s the hardest
Don’t you stop before you started
If you’re gonna dream
Dream it all the way

Kerrie Roberts
Written along with Paula Winger and Stephanie Lewis

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For the past few weeks God has been placing a name on my heart on an almost daily basis—Gideon.  I heard his name on a TV program and wanted to learn more.  Then the owner of the company I work for came to me asking me to lead a Bible study on Gideon (deer in the headlights response).  And then our pastor taught about him last week at church.  I’ve heard of him before, heard his story, but I didn’t know the details, I didn’t know the lesson behind the name.

There have been several changes taking place in my life and decisions that need to be made.  ‘Afraid’ is a word I would use to describe my initial reaction to these changes.  In the past, I have been the “what if?” person—‘what if I fail’, ‘what if I’m not enough’, ‘what if…’ ‘what if…’.  Gideon had his doubts also.  He was scared, and he questioned what he was called to do.

But the LORD said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”
Judges 6:23

No, in almost all cases, the thing(s) we are afraid of will not lead to death.  But there is a mile-long list of what could go wrong, a list we are skilled at creating.  But…what if we looked at another list?  What if we looked at the list of what could go right?  Consider our outlook on our circumstances and situations in this case.  What if we truly asked ourselves ‘What are you afraid of?’

Listen to the words of this song…. Is it our own self we are afraid of? Is it failure? Is it success? Is it the opinions of others maybe? There may be times we truly don’t know what it is, but the fear is still there. Whatever the source of fear, we can overcome it. God’s grace trumps our fear every time. Next time fear threatens to take over read Judges 6-8 and listen to the words of this song.

Kerrie Roberts says it best,

God’s got this.

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Dear Heavenly Father,
Fear is a crippling reaction to life’s events that only Your love and reassurance can overcome.  You are in control, and Your grace covers our lives.  You told Gideon, “Peace. Do not be afraid…”.  And this can be applied to our own life and our daily walk.  Thank You for this peace.  In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.

Give Me Faith


I wanna feel the strength David felt
With a rag and a rock, knowing that he couldn’t fail
And I wanna trust that would lead me up a hill
To give my only son, if I knew it was Your will
I want a faith like that, God give me faith like that

To speak Your word and mountains move
To reach beyond all I can do
‘Cause You’re doing things I cannot see,
So I’m gonna trust You and believe
You are all I need, give me faith

When my heart’s about to break
Don’t know how much I can take
And my soul is like a ship, overtaken by the waves
I need the courage to walk on the water and be strong
Like Peter in the storm until I fall into Your arms
I want a faith like that, God give me faith like that

I believe You’re strong enough to save
I believe every promise You’ve made
And when I just don’t understand,
You hold my world inside Your hands

I’ll speak Your word and mountains move
I’ll reach beyond all I can do
‘Cause You’re doing things I cannot see,
So I’m gonna trust You and believe
You are all I need, give me faith

Royal Tailor
written by: Tauren Wells, Blake Hubbard, David Cox, Jarrod Ingram

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I play music in my car almost constantly. And while most of my selections create a sense of peace and calm in the mornings with an uplifting beat as we began our journey, there are times when some songs do more than this.

Over the past few months faith has been at the center of my thoughts and prayers.  I have cried to God asking Him to give me strength, asking that He open my eyes to situations that will require me to walk in faith.  I read stories of heroes and heroines of the Bible walking in their faith…and great things happening!  But here I was—I felt faithless, helpless.  I didn’t know how to be like David, or like Peter.  I felt as if I did not have even an ounce of faith to stand on.  It was a scary place filled with what feels like very little hope.

I was talking to my husband and he reminded me that all God asks for is faith the size of a mustard seed.  I went and googled what a mustard seed looked like; and realized that a mustard seed was truly all I had.  I realized that I could be like David and tackle the Goliaths of my own life, and I could walk up the mountains in my life, move them, making the sacrifices necessary, all because I did have faith like that little mustard seed.  And slowly (and not without days of questioning) I realized that God was all I needed.  Some days my faith was shown by simply saying the name of Jesus when I did not know what to do.

All this week I have been seeking direction in finding a song to share in this blog. I wanted something different—something that spoke not only to my own heart but one that would speak to the heart of the women who read these words.  While driving I heard this song but kept missing the title.  Finally I caught it and pulled up the lyrics.  These words mirrored what I have been feeling, what I have been praying about.  They shared my fears, concerns, and shortcomings, but they also gave me hope.  The last nine lines of the song express what I want to and can tell myself daily.  These are truths I am making an intentional choice to stand on.

I believe You’re strong enough to save
I believe every promise You’ve made
And when I just don’t understand,
You hold my world inside Your hands

I’ll speak Your word and mountains move
I’ll reach beyond all I can do
‘Cause You’re doing things I cannot see,
So I’m gonna trust You and believe
You are all I need, give me faith

These words are my mustard seed.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith.
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,
you can say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20

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Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You that mustard seed!  You can do great things with something so small…this fact amazes me daily.  Forgive myself and others who have allowed our fears, our shortcomings, our life in general to hide the truths in the words of this song.  You are enough, and because You are enough, we are enough.  Because You stand by Your promises, we can move mountains, whatever they may be.  You are all we need Lord!  You and our mustard seeds.  In Jesus Christ’s name we pray.  Amen.