My Childhood Best Friend

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Don’t be bitter.
Even if your friend walked away
As you stood with your hand reaching out
And your voice about to shout,
Don’t be bitter.

These words I tell myself
Whenever I think of her.
I’ve mourned for her as I mourned for my dog when he went away,
But it’s even worse.
I can’t be bitter.

We planned to be best friends forever,
Because as children we couldn’t imagine being without each other.
We shared laughs, we shared dreams;
There wasn’t much of a thing she didn’t know about me.

She won my heart from the start with her wild game plans;
She knew how to have fun like no one else I’ve ever met.
And when the day was over, and our laughter died,
We talked of deep things, the kind that make you cry.

I’d always ask her what she wanted to do,
She’d say, “How about this?”
And I’d let her choose.
We poured out our hearts like cement,
And I don’t know about hers,
But mine’s been stuck since.
Our sisterly love was like nothing I’d ever known;
She was my hero, she was my home.

When she drifted away, I felt rejected;
I felt like a worm being dissected,
Unworthy and small.
I guessed our personalities weren’t right for each other at all.

I blamed her for things that weren’t really her fault;
I opened my wounds and poured out the salt.
And when I finally gave up trying to make her be my friend again,
That’s really when I looked up from the ground,
And God got my attention.

He told me I was clinging to a plant that would die;
He told me I was missing out on His Son who was crucified.
He grabbed hold of my shoulders and looked me in the face, said: “Now you’re done with your best friend being your idol in My place.”

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Have Faith as You Feel

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“There may be various scientific or psychological reasons to my feelings, but regardless of those facts, I believe that through my emotions God is teaching me to trust in Him… no matter how I feel.”

via Have Faith as You Feel

The Gospel, The Light: 6 Things God Has Done For Humanity

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(Photo by Samantha Lynch on Unsplash)

I blind myself to the truth, do you? Am I the only one who runs from the Light, preferring the safety of darkness? 

When the Light pierces through the darkness, it hurts. It hurts when I see I’ve been trying to fill the void inside me with my passions, dreams, ego, or self-pity. It hurts to see that me, you, and the whole human race sin every day without realizing it.

Or maybe we do realize our weakness, but we’re too afraid to do anything about it.

Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
“Who sees us? Who will know?” – Isaiah 29:15

Without this Light, I feel so empty. I’m in constant pain, letting insecurity rule and darkness overshadow any good that’s left in me.

I’m blind to my own weakness.

Why are we like this? It’s my fault. It’s yours. It’s Adam and Eve’s fault for eating that fruit in the garden. Their sin began a chain reaction that spread to every generation of humans who have lived since.

Doubts come: Come on, I’m good enough. God wouldn’t send a nice person like me to hell. I’ve done enough good things to outweigh the bad.

But God doesn’t weigh the good versus the bad; no, He measures us up to a stick, and we have to reach the top to enter heaven—He requires us to be 100 % perfect.

And we’re not.

And God is truly sad about that: “[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

So, how did God provide a way for us to escape hell and to enter His heavenly presence, now and forever?

1. He sent a perfect man.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to live on this earth perfectly following God’s laws, like no human ever had before. He was the one person in history’s existence who actually deserved heaven.

Only God is 100% perfect all the time. And that’s exactly who Jesus was, and still is to this very day.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” – Hebrews 1:3

Jesus is the one perfect Light, the one true fulfiller of our souls. He spoke out against lies and injustice; He uplifted the outsiders in society. He was filled with deep compassion for people, healing the sick and preaching about the Kingdom of God, a place where hearts are free, a place their souls had been longing to hear about.

2. He sacrificed this man, His Only Son, for us.

What’s terribly ironic, is that the One person who deserved heaven went to hell in place of everyone else who deserved hell. Jesus was nailed to a cross to purify us from our sins, dying in our place so we wouldn’t have to eternally bleed.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – John 3:16-21

3. He, in the form of a man, came back to life.

But it doesn’t end at the cross. Three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the tomb, alive and well, and witnessed by hundreds of astonished people. He went up to heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.

4. He saves us not by any goodness in ourselves, but by His amazing grace.

This is the most crucial point I have, even though it’s number four (number 4 is a good number, right? ;)) So pay attention here.

The thing is, Jesus did NOT die so we would follow rules, He died so we would place our faith in Him and come to know Him. It is only by faith in Christ that we are saved.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Christianity is NOT a religion. It is a beautiful, everlasting, soul-fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ.

5. He shines His Light into our everyday lives.

Today, in the 21st century, Jesus offers this hope as we battle against anxiety, depression, temptations, grief, and feelings of emptiness: He is the Light.

Let those words sink in for a minute.

After Jesus left this earth, His Holy Spirit came to convict this world of sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

Wow! What an amazing truth that is. Throughout our Christian lives, we must bring our dark deeds into God’s glorious light, so that He may completely and totally outshine this darkness within us. His forgiveness is real, and He is waiting for you to simply cry out to Him with a repentant heart.

Once we believe in Jesus’ power to overcome death and sin on the cross, the Holy Spirit illuminates through our pitch black souls and guides us into more and more victories over our sin and failures, and more and more into the love and peace of walking in His ways.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:16

6. He fills us with joy—now and forever.

With God’s Light inside of me, I’ve found the absolute freedom of His grace. I am no longer empty. I am truly, definitely, totally forgiven, as far as the east is from the west. When I place my surrendered trust in Jesus, my heart bursts with this Light.

As Christians, we face hardship. But through it all, our joy is made complete through Christ.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11

I am free.

I am not floundering in darkness, but I am running out into the open arms of my Father, whose eyes ignite with unspeakable joy when He sees me. Without Jesus, I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know how I’d bear the fires of this raw, miserable life.

But with Him, the sword of truth has attacked my old self. Now I am new like a polished ring, waiting like a Bride for her Groom, until the day He returns.

Please, when He comes back, don’t let it be your first time to bow.

“[Jesus], being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:6-11

(All Scripture taken from NIV.)

 

Through Prayer Comes Life

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(Photo by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash)

A thousand voices echo in the night:

“I feel like I’m the only one trying.”

A girl falls to her knees at dawn.

Through praying she fights

for the people she loves.

 

Everything is intentional–

Walk the walk, don’t just talk.

She finds every corner of brokenness

and tries to fix it

but no one knows it.

 

Her tears breathe life

in the mother’s womb,

her prayers

move the heart of God

when all hope is lost.

 

She wrestles through the night

and fights the fight every day,

Smiling to the people she cares for.

She gives away the kindness stored up within her,

the Holy Spirit’s earnest, searching concern.

 

When she comes home,

she cries out to God in the silence:

“I feel like I’m the only one trying.”

But one whisper fills her with faith in the night:

“Your prayers have resurrected the dying.”

 

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” —  James 5:16

 

 

J14: 3 Tips on How to Write Powerful Fiction

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I’m far from being a bestselling author, but I have been working on a book for three years, along with writing stories, poetry, and articles on this blog during that time span. Through those things, I’ve gathered some ideas about how to write well. When it comes down to it, if you want to write well, you probably want to write powerfully, making an impact on your readers’ life long after they’ve read your words. I could write on and on about how to write in general, but I thought these were the most important tips I have learned for how to write the most inspiring, long-lasting writing that fills both a reader’s mind and heart.

1. Write for a purpose. Writing with a purpose in mind is so needed in this age of useless, even harmful stories, that eagerly step in time with the culture of depravity. The most meaningful pieces I’ve written have not only meant the most to me, but have meant the most to those who read them. When you write for a Reason other than applause, a Purpose other than man’s approval, that’s when God steps in and moves people’s hearts. It’s not what you write that changes people, it’s how you write. If you only write beautiful sentences without any meaning, your reader may enjoy your writing, but they won’t learn from it—it will just go in one ear and out the other. If you want to impact people with your writing, you not only need to write beautifully, you need to write purposefully.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” — 1 Corinthians 10:31

2. Write from your heart. Along with writing for a higher purpose than simply pleasure, most writers long to draw their readers into their story, feeling the same way they do. Unfortunately, this emotional method if gone to far can have dire consequences, such as exciting sinful thoughts, so this aspect of writing must be carefully balanced. This might seem odd for me to say this, but I really think if you want to write for the glory of God, you must write as both His child and as a human being—as a Christian actually living out their faith, yet also as a human who has emotions they have to deal with. Because in order to create meaningful writing, there must be deep emotions that readers can relate with. If you express your emotions on paper, you’re drawing the reader into very real emotions that you yourself have experienced. Yet after shedding light on this darkness, if you reveal the Light of lights, the Lord of Lords, who overcomes all the fear, anguish, and despair we’ve ever felt, we allow the reader to hopefully experience true confidence in the gospel of Christ. Without darkness, the light seems normal, but with it, its anything but normal—its your last chance, your forever love, your absolute desire. So don’t write blandly. Pour out your heart on paper your crippling feelings, but balance it out by passionately writing about the gospel that pulls us through trials, allowing the reader to both relate and learn from your writing, especially helping them if they ever go through a similar hardship.

“Lessons of wisdom have the most power over us when they capture the heart through the groundwork of a story, which engages the passions.” — Laurence Sterne

3. Create dynamics in characters, scenes, and plots. Although this one’s a bit more on the practical side of things, I think it fits in well with this article because it is, I believe, a main part of how to write powerfully. So, what do I mean by dynamics? You need to create opposing forces, such as an extravert versus an introvert, a mouse blinking up at a lion, a bad guy dangling a little girl off a cliff. Simple, right? Now think further. Irony, the presentation of something that is the opposite of what we’d expect, is also a huge part of creating dynamics. For creating dynamic characters, think of the character Reepacheep in Narnia who thinks of himself as an honorable fighter, which catches us by surprise, because it’s the opposite of what we expect from a mouse (Usually when I think mouse, I think timid, weak, and afraid.)

When it comes to creating dynamics in scenes, think contrast. You don’t want the same thing happening, or the same feelings going on all the time. This one’s hard to explain, so here’s an example from a book I’m writing:

“Early the next morning, I awoke with a feeling of peacefulness, until the sharp odor of death filled my nostrils. Suddenly, I was hit by the horrific memories of the day before.”

Instead of the character waking up immediately terrified, she wakes up feeling at peace, only moments later to remember everything and grow afraid. This contrast in feelings within a scene creates dynamics and tension, making the reader much more in tune with the characters’ emotions.

For fun, here’s a picture of what I imagine the main character, Sigrid, to look like in my book, The Thrall’s Sword, which you can read about here.

chelsea-ferenando-203544.jpgPhoto by Chelsea Ferenando on Unsplash

Finally, you can create dynamics within the plot by having both moments of success and failures, both happiness and despair. You especially want to create that high climax, truly putting your characters at their wits’ end, so the grand beautiful happy ending (if you choose to have one) is much more realistic and satisfying.

jared-sluyter-342881.jpgPhoto by Jared Sluyter on Unsplash

Overall, I’ve learned that writing powerfully has to do not with what you write, but with how you write. Are you writing for yourself or for something Higher than yourself? Are you writing mere words or are you writing from your heart? And are you simply writing a mild story with hardly any contrasting elements, or are you creating dynamics through characters, scenes, and the plot?

These are the questions I think every fiction writer needs to think about, and they can be applied to nonfiction, too. I hope you benefit from what I’ve learned. Now, fellow writer, the pages are waiting for you to shake things up a bit!

Do you have any writing advice you’ve learned? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

CW8: Insecurity vs. Security

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(Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash)

Insecurity
Trapped in an endless position of fear,
I don’t know what to say.

My mind blanks as I stare at the questioner,
and I cry in my heart, “Someone do this for me!”

Because I want this curse of insecurity to end,
but I don’t know how to stop it—

this embarrassment,
gripping my throat and telling me
who I am—
a somebody that no one understands.

Help me, help me,
but there’s no one who hears me;
everyone’s stricken in panic,
groping for a rock
in their own little worlds.

In the same room
we all cry for somebody who will understand.

In the same room
we’re all standing alone,
wishing we could lay down and die.

Security

Struggling free from my endless position of fear,
I try to think of what to say.

My mind blanks as I stare at the questioner,
and I cry in my heart, “Jesus, do this for me!”

Because I want this curse of insecurity to end,
and He’s the only one who can stop it—
this embarrassment
gripping my throat and lying
about who I am—
when the Author of me can only understand.

Help me, help me,
and I’m sure He hears me;
everyone looks up in awe,
seeking the Savior
in their own little worlds.

In the same room
we cry for the only Somebody who will understand.

In the same room,
we’re all lying down together,
getting the courage to stand up and live.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
Psalm 27:14 (ESV)

J4: His Power Made Perfect in my Shyness

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(Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash)

When you’re born an introvert, everyday conversations with people can be extremely difficult. Today I’m going to share with you what God has taught me through my struggles. 

It all started in the shaky, red-faced years of middle school. When I looked at people, I thought of what was going inside their minds. When I tried to think of what to say, my mind blanked. When I decided to talk to someone, I suddenly shrank back in fear I wouldn’t know what to say or that they wouldn’t want to talk to me. For the first time in my life, I realized like a blow to my face, that I had been born with a crippling shyness that tucked me inside a safe shell, which, unbeknownst to me, was a scarier place than outside of it.
Even today, trying to shine through the real me is a constant struggle (though to a lesser extent). If people didn’t label me as shy, maybe it would be easier for me to open myself up to them. But I don’t expect people to view me differently than what I appear to them; I can’t change how they view me, but I can change how I view me.
And, what I’ve honestly discovered, is that there’s no precise way to view yourself, because truly “being yourself” involves a total losing of yourself. A total surrender to God, a total desire for Him to take over. I will always be labeled as an introvert, but I must often remind myself that though God has created me to be more on the quiet side, my silence is not what defines me. He defines me.
Now before I meet people in social situations, I’ll often remind myself that my purpose is simply to glorify God. I’ll ask Jesus to give me strength to fulfill that purpose, rather than focusing on myself so much that I tuck back in my shell again. Time and time again, He has given me that strength.
I’m still quiet compared to most people, but that’s okay. It doesn’t really matter how many words I speak. My focus is not quantity, but quality; my focus is on loving people as Christ would love them, not trying to say as many words as I can.
But yes, that simple decision to center my heart on Jesus can be one of the most difficult decisions an introverted Christian must make in their everyday lives. I’ve failed too many times, squandering the social hour away with my petty doubts and fears. Thank God for His grace that constantly fills me up again, whispering to me to keep on going and to never give up. He has pointed me to opportunities to love people and shine His light, and I try to take them; I try to not hide away when there’s so many beautiful friendships to make and meaningful conversations to have.
And even if I can’t find the words to speak to the person in front of me, I can always cry out to Jesus with the silent language of my heart. He’s right here with me as I go through this. He knows exactly what I need to say, and He will give me the courage to say it. I’m thankful now for my introversion, because God has taught me to rely on Him through it. Without Him, I honestly don’t know how I’d survive the dreaded social life introverts must face. With Him, He is emboldening me with more and more confidence every day, strengthening me in the area of life I most feel weak.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Cor. 12:9
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2b (emphasis added)

A Whisper from God

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Have you ever heard a whisper from God? Have you ever paused to consider that the God of the Universe sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, in order that we might have His Spirit living in us? The Eternal God gave us His own Spirit to live and breathe and work intimately within the deepest canyons of our hearts, but so many times, as Christians, we fail to see the wonder of God’s gift to us.

Unfortunately, some Christians try to put God in a box, and they don’t believe that the Holy Spirit can speak to us through anything but the Bible. (But yes, God also uses the Bible to speak to us in this present day, and that is one very powerful tool we should use to seek Him!)

Just last week, I was listening to a biblical counseling podcast about God speaking to us solely through His written Word. Basically, they believed you couldn’t find Him in the silence of a whisper, in songs, in conversations, or in nature. They believed that God couldn’t speak to us through anything but the Bible because of an absence of anything in the Bible saying He could speak in those ways.

That broke me, because a belief I had just assumed was true my whole life about how God can speak to us was in a few minutes shattered by “biblical truth.”

The whole day I felt depressed. I didn’t entirely believe what they’d said, and yet I didn’t entirely believe my previous assumptions either.

I knew what I had to do: talk to my amazingly wise Dad. He told me that the Bible does tell us other ways of hearing from God. The Holy Spirit lives inside of us, so that we can hear from God.

I was so unbelievably relieved. My Dad showed me John 14 and 16, as well as shared what else he knew the Bible said about God’s voice being active and personally involved in our lives even today. (But the Bible does tell us we must test the spirits always, to make sure they are from God.)

Now I understand more than ever: the Holy Spirit truly is our Advocate who teaches us all things! God is with us, inside us, empowering us, and speaking to us every day, through His Word, as well as His Voice.

It is not a one-way conversation with God–it’s two ways, because God is always with us.

He’s already showed me a million little times after Dad helped me–my King Jesus is right here. He knocked on my shoulder to get me to help someone, He encouraged me with friends, and He radically shifted my view from myself to the people around me.

God is so good! And He is with us today, just as much as He was with us when He lived in the flesh on this earth.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:26 (NIV)

 

 

The Beauty of Service

Some of you reading this might know that I went on a mission’s trip this summer to Denver, CO with Youthworks.
It was a wonderful experience where God worked in amazing ways. The community was blessed. I was blessed.

A beautiful moment was at the end of the trip when we had a foot-washing ceremony. The group leaders washed the students’ feet. If you don’t know what a foot-washing ceremony is, it’s based on the love, service, and duty Jesus performed toward his disciples out of humility.

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.'” – John 13:12-17 (NIV)

After serving a community with a group of my peers for a week, I got a chance to experience the feeling of being served myself.

A lot of the students had been crying this last evening, knowing they would be leaving people they had come to love as siblings in Christ as they served beside them. Or maybe there was more to it, that I couldn’t understand. Maybe it had been a life-changing week for them. Either way, the mission’s trip had certainly blessed all of us, and it was soon time to leave it all behind.

I was one of the ones who sat there and didn’t cry. It takes a lot to make me cry in front of people.

But as soon as my leader bent down to wash my feet, tears streamed down my cheeks. Even as I write this I’m reminded of that sweet moment, and I’m almost crying. Yes, it was a sweet moment, because my heart was touched by my leader’s gentle spirit as she washed my feet.

When Jesus washed his disciples feet, He was symbolizing what He would soon do for the world on the cross. Jesus descended to wash our feet, in that He descended to the earth to die for our sins and give us the new, good life. He showed sweet humility and deep compassion toward us, when we did not pay attention. He gave us a chance to wash the dirt of our sins away, when we committed them carelessly. The Lord poured out Himself for us, so we would be empowered by His Holy Spirit to live a life poured out for others.

We can’t truly love if we don’t receive love. And love is the most important thing, more important than the doing.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Without the love and humility from my leader, I would have felt nothing. I cried that night, because deep inside, I felt my leader’s willing selflessness as she washed my feet. I felt what the community must have felt when my group reached out to them. I felt what we all should feel when we think of Jesus’ enormous sacrifice for us, that offers us life–the overflowing, supernatural life that pours out into the lives of others.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45

 

Never Alone

Dearest friends,
Don’t look at me as too quiet to care,
Too innocent to know,
Or too happy to sympathize.
I am here to laugh with you on the good days,
But I am also here to help you on the bad.
If you don’t feel comfortable to talk to me about the bad,
It makes me sad.
Maybe I don’t know how to be a friend to you,
Maybe I’m learning.
But I hope I can be better and stronger and kinder towards you,
Because each moment with you is precious to me;
Each second gives me a chance to smile
Or to ask you what’s wrong.
I am not loud or especially smart or particularly good at comforting you,
But I care
I know
And I sympathize.
Because God is so much more than loneliness;
He is the light in the darkness,
And He is here for you.
I started this poem pleading you to spill out your troubles
To me,
And that burden I would gladly bear
If it could set you free.
But I should urge you to first spill them in the gracious hands of God,
Who takes them and kills them
With His Shepherd’s rod.
Just as His Son trampled the serpent to death,
So His presence can now be our place of rest.
He is our Father
Who sent His Son to die in our place,
So you would have eternal comfort and grace.
He is your Father.
I am your sister.
The church is your family.
Even if you’re far from home,
We are here for you, so you never have to be alone,
And neither do I.
Together we can endure the storms
That slay our hearts
And rise up into the light
Whole again,
And stronger,
With a friendship that
Will never die.

“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” – 1 Cor. 1:3-4 (NIV)