All Your Waves and Breakers Wash Over Me

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All Your Waves and Breakers Wash Over Me
photo credit Susie Squirrell

I’m inspired by a friend tonight who courageously shared the trial she and her husband are walking through in Mexico. Each heart knows it’s own sorrow and I’m of the vantage point it is good for us to bare our souls in our struggles. In James it says to consider it pure joy when we go through trials, because the testing if our faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish it’s work so that we can be mature and complete not lacking anything. So clearly trials are an expected part of our walk with God. I can’t be the only one who feels pressure to share only the glorious, miraculous things God does. And he does do glorious things, in his rich and passionate love for us.

But he is not one to mess around. God’s ultimate goal is to conform us into the image of Christ, and I think his most effective way of doing this is through trials. A missionary spoke to me once about having a Doctrine of Suffering, and as I look around our broken world I see that suffering is a principle of our faith, something we shy away from but is an inescapable reality. It opens the way to glorious resurrection. We should not deny it’s power or the blessing of sharing in the sufferings of Christ.

My husband and I are visionaries. We are pioneers and see things black and white. We like to bring about change and influence the culture, wherever we are. We joke about having the Jeremiah anointing–to tear down and uproot, to rebuild and plant. We have been told we come on too strong. But apart from the ‘we’ I am non-confrontational by nature, I seek to bring harmony and peace, I am sensitive (sometimes too much so) and I want to encourage. Times of emotional stress and conflict are extremely hard on me. When one thing goes wrong, everything is wrong.

My gut feeling is that many of these qualities are not negative in themselves, but they need to be tempered by wisdom and humility. God is testing our character, our integrity, and our conviction of his word. We came to South Africa riding on the hope and expectation of starting a leadership school here. We are not the kind of people to have a Plan B. It’s all or nothing. In short, we considered our calling into missions to be specifically, at this time, to train others to go to unreached people groups.

In our minds, this took the shape of a program, a school with structure and commitment from students, where we could train and disciple and develop leaders to be fruitful and influence the course of nations. When our proposal for such a leadership school was turned down flat, we were quite stunned. What do we make of that? Isn’t the favor of God supposed to swing the doors wide open? Did we not hear correctly from God in coming to this place? Should we even stay in South Africa?

At this time of confusion God providentially arranged for us to go away for a week on a retreat to a quiet town by the sea. I had early mornings with my Bible searching out answers, soaking in the character and nature of God, and somehow God put my heart at peace. We returned home and I was feeling strong and ready to tackle the last trimester of my pregnancy and focus on the kids’ schooling, and support my husband as he goes back to the drawing board with our ministry plan to put our ideas for training into a different “on-the-job” model.

When I find out we have to move again. In two months, maybe three. I have 2.5 months left in my pregnancy. Raise your hand and wave if your want to move your family on your due date!! Yeah, not so much. I felt very close to what I would describe as an actual panic attack. I haven’t had many of those. And not only that, my husband will lose his supplemental income that has enabled us to afford medical insurance and make it without being short every month.

After phone calls and hours scouring the internet for houses and advice that we need to live in the city instead of a suburb to be closer to our team, we are no where closer to finding a house to live in. One realtor told me for every house that opens up for renting he has 30 people standing in line waiting for it. He ended the phone call by saying ‘sorry, just can’t help you. Good luck.’ A house for sale is on the market a matter of days before it’s sold. It’s the most unreal housing market I’ve ever seen.

I recognize the dark place I was in and am still struggling through as the work of the Enemy, bringing discouragement and doubt and desire to pack my bags and leave. I want to be organizing, preparing, settling in to get ready for a new little one…not putting things in boxes…again…

Now, for the life-speaking, peace-sowing, faith-steadying, words from my Great God, as he spoke to me over the weekend and gave me courage to share this blog with you.

YET he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21

Our dream is not dead–but God may manifest it in a different way. I am reading Romans 4 every day, as you will too if you listen to the podcast below from Bill Johnson.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. Romans 4:18

http://podcasts.ibethel.org/en/podcasts/hope-the-womb-of-legacy

From Psalm 42… Remember what God has done in the past.
Speak to your soul–put your hope in God!
Thirst, long, go and meet with God. We instinctively turn to Him.
Allow God to break you. All his waves and breakers have swept over me.

So this is where I am today. I see refugees in Iraq and Syria with only the clothes on their back and a donated meal and maybe a mattress and I feel some perspective. We don’t have it so bad. I know God will not forsake us. David says in Psalms he has never seen the children of the righteous begging for bread. I don’t believe God will put us on the street. I just somehow need to transfer this knowledge to my heart and live in the hope and promises of God.

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Dining With the Greats of God’s Army

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Photo by Susie Squirrell

We are excited to announce the upcoming arrival of no. 6! I am happy and feeling good and we embrace this new life and addition to the family. Yet with each new child comes a crisis of faith. Is God really asking more of me? How can I handle another baby? Can he provide for this one when it already seems we are stretched to the max?

And then I need another dose of vision. Of the why. Of the high calling. Of the purpose. I’d like to share with you this poem, which does exactly that.

I am a Woman

My willingness to carry life is the revenge, the antidote, the great rebuttal of every murder, every abortion, and every genocide. I sustain humanity. Deep inside of me, life grows. I am death’s opposition.

I have pushed back the hand of darkness today. I have caused there to be a weakening tremor among the ranks of those set on earth’s destruction. Today a vibration that calls angels to attention echoed throughout time. Our laughter threatened hell today.

I dined with the greats of God’s army. I made their meals, and tied their shoes. Today, I walked with greatness, and when they were tired I carried them. I have poured myself out for the cause today.

It is finally quiet, but life stirs inside of me. Gaining strength, the pulse of life sends a constant reminder to both good and evil that I have yielded myself to Heaven and now carry its dream. No angel has ever had such a privilege, nor any man. I am humbled by the honor. I am great with destiny.

I birth the freedom fighters. In the great war, I am a leader of underground resistance. I smile at the disguise of my troops, surrounded by a host of warriors, destiny swirling, invisible yet tangible, and the anointing to alter history. Our footsteps marking land for conquest, we move undetected through the common places.

Today I was the barrier between evil and innocence. I was the gate keeper, watching over the hope of mankind, and no intruder trespassed. There is not an hour of day or night when I turn from my post. The fierceness of my love is unmatched on earth.

And because I smiled instead of frowned the world will know the power of grace. Hope has feet, and it will run to the corners of earth, because I stood up against destruction.

I am a woman. I am a mother. I am the keeper and sustainer of life here on earth. Heaven stands in honor of my mission. No one else can carry my call. I am the daughter of Eve. Eve has been redeemed. I am the opposition of death. I am a woman.

By Christianna Reed Maas

Why We Have 5 Children (and are open for a 6th)

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Sweet baby Viola, proud mama Kristen Brooke

An interesting question came up in our small group discussion Monday night.

How can we influence our culture?

“If you don’t pro-actively influence the culture, the culture will influence you.” (Jim Anderson, Unmasked)

This is known as The Influence Principle. We want to be part of a movement leading the way to true revival!

While there are many effective ways to influence the culture around us, the most significant for me right now is through our family.

Early on in our marriage, I had a terrible fear that was actually quite rational. I was afraid I would get pregnant! I felt so inadequate and certain I would be a terrible mother. I felt clumsy and awkward around babies and little kids and although I knew I should want to be a mom, I was terrified. I hoped someday I would be “ready” but that day wasn’t in sight.

Yet I was reading passages like “…Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies I the gate.” (Psalm 127)

Clearly we decided to step out in faith and say yes to the blessing of children. Each pregnancy required a new level of faith and obstacles to overcome. We had three miscarriages; especially difficult times of mourning the loss of life right after we embraced it. We didn’t set out to have five children! I’m the type of person who needs to take things one step at a time, and knowing we would have five would totally overwhelm me.

Most people now look at us, stop and count our kids, ask if they are all mine, comment on only one boy, etc. I usually don’t mind at all and look at it as an opportunity to speak words of life over the vocation of motherhood and the blessing of children.

It was when we packed up to leave the beach one day I knew we are influencing our culture through our children. Someone thoughtfully left a condom for me on my diaper bag, as if to say, ‘don’t you know you can do something about this?’ After I recovered from the shock of it, I recognized the flurry of lies so prevalent in our culture today.

The earth is not overpopulated. We are not running out of resources. The world will end when every nation, tribe, and tongue has heard the gospel, NOT before, no matter what the global warming alarmists preach. God has given us a mandate to raise up a righteous generation, to be fruitful and multiply, to pass on the knowledge of his glory and goodness to the next generation. Motherhood is a task worthy of laying down my life for. It is not a waste of my talents or a drain of financial resources. It is a High Calling and my job is to live a life worthy of this calling.

This is where my faith meets my reality. Can I trust God to provide for the children he’s given us? They are his, aren’t they? My faith-reality is that he can provide for them far better than the best of planning and even unlimited financial resources could do. He has a destiny, a calling, a purpose, and a plan for each life that is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

It is a colossal responsibility to be a parent, it takes a huge amount of faith and sacrifice. I’ve never heard anyone say they regretted having more children. But how many times have I seen the look of longing in a mother’s eyes saying, ‘I wish we’d had one more.’ Or from an older woman saying, ‘I just didn’t think we could handle another, but after they grew up a bit, I realized we could’ve had one or two more.’

I didn’t set out to be a voice of influence in our culture through our family, but here we are, like it or not. The question to ask is, “How can I influence the culture around me?” And maybe the harder question…”How have I been influenced by the culture?”

Why Submitting to Your Husband Gives You the Upper Hand

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I believe in the biblical principle of wives submitting to their husbands as to the Lord. This was not always the case.

My wordly views stemmed straight from our corrupt culture. That a strong, independent woman would think for herself and submission meant being meek and insecure and dominated by a man.

Yet as an 18 year old, the truth of the gospel slowly unfolded before my eyes and a new image of submission appeared. One that grew into a spectacular cathedral of thinking.

Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Wives are to submit to their husbands, as husbands are the head of their wives like Christ is the head of the church.

I love the way The Message paraphrases Ephesians 5:22-28.

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage. (Ephesians 5:22-28 MSG)

So when I submit to my husband, I am doing so in obedience to God, and thus it is an act of faith. I am entrusting my well-being to my husband, and in doing so trusting in his obedience to God to love me and do what’s best for me.

If I put my money on myself, and choose to do what I think is best rather than allowing my husband to lead, then ultimately I limit my experience of the sacrificial love of Christ evidenced through my husband.

This may or may not make sense to you. But God continues to challenge me with just how far I will take this concept of submission. Because the little things do matter, they add up, and bigger things are on the horizon.

Early in our courtship, a friend also in a cross-cultural marriage relayed this wisdom to me: “Remember, you are a team, and you are on the same side.”

So we are on the same side, my husband and I, and I believe in marriage God can use husbands and wives to do things together that they cannot do separately. But this is contingent on his leading, her following. Often I am glad the burden of leadership and can we say decision-making doesn’t fall on my shoulders. You don’t want to know how long it takes me to figure out what to order in a restaurant or what toothbrush to buy!

If my husband is actually willing to lay down his life for me, what do I have to lose by submitting to him? If he loves me as he loves himself, he will give me nothing but the very best. As he seeks out direction from God, he has my best interest in mind. As I honor him, respect him, and submit to him, the door opens for God’s abundant blessing and provision in my life and marriage. In humbling myself through the act of submission, God can raise me up through the nobility of a husband fulfilling his call to protect and provide.

I’ve had a recent struggle with submission. After a series of moves in 2013 I said something to the effect of “I am happy to die right here in this place, I shall never move again.”

That sounds like a song. Maybe I sang it.

And then I hear the words I scorn. I resist hearing them. I am sarcastic and unyielding as I know what he wants. To move.

From my point of view, it doesn’t matter that this other house is just 5 minutes from where we live now. Ocean view, shmocean view. I’m not impressed. So what if we will save money or that the house is being renovated with new carpet, paint, and backsplash as we speak. I can think of nothing good to say about another move.

I can feel the anger boiling under my skin and suddenly I’m sure he is just thinking of himself. He just wants that stupid view, I say to myself.

But didn’t I ask the Lord, way back when we contemplated a move to Cape Town, for a view of both the sea and the mountains? Nawhh, I don’t think so. I look around at our current home with rose-colored glasses, not seeing the broken tiles and fixtures and leaking tub and postage-stamp yard.

Since I promised to pray about it, I grudgingly go before the Lord and pour out my pitiful case, certain the Lord will stroke my pride and say I’m right and my husband is being selfish.

But as I pray, I clearly hear God telling me to submit. I think I actually stomped my foot! How embarrassing.

The truth is, even after I give the A-Okay to my husband on this move, I am still pouting. It comes out in my attitude, in a subtle hostility and undermining way. When God told me I needed to submit on this one, he didn’t mean go talk to my friends and tell them how much I’m dreading this move. He didn’t say go email your mother and sister and get them to feel sorry for you.

When I am confronted with my unpleasant attitude, then I see the disparity of it. I have been playing the martyr.

Yuck.

Instead of rising in my posture and position as a much-loved woman, by my God and my husband, I sulked in the ashes, not seeing the full blessing God wanted to release to me through the desire and will of my husband.

And then, I get the revelation of a truly biblical attitude toward submission.

“I am trusting the Lord that there is a reason for this move {my act of submission}.”

What I cannot see, I trust God for. When I am called to submit, it is an act of faith in the goodness of a kind and loving God. No sooner than these words are out of my mouth, I feel the anger dissipate. And when we arrive back to our house after 2 weeks away, my heart is in an entirely different place. A new song of praise is living there, and I am excited to move, to make another house into home. And I realize that all along I have been holding back, knowing that we are not really settled in the house we live in now.

So while the world scorns humility and submission, God celebrates it. It is another chance for him to radiate his supernatural grace through the covenant of marriage. Submission is beautiful and holy and evidenced in Christ himself as he lay down his life for us. And, as I now know, God will not be fooled into thinking you are submitting when you are not! Neither will your husband, for that matter. Submission is a matter of the heart.

Photo courtesy of http://www.cottonwoodstudiosworldwide.com
Thank you Todd & Dezi for sharing your amazing photo with us!

A Series of Unfortunate Un-adventures

Let me tell you a little story. Once there was a family who, bold, brave, and optimistic, packed their belongings tightly in their well-travelled mini-bus and headed north to a far-away place, on their way to a missionary retreat. Their foresight allowed them the prudence of departing one day later than planned, as to allow their sweet little children one more day to recover from a tiny cold. Long before dawn, five chirpy children nestled cozily into their car-beds laid out carefully by their daddy, their duvets, sheets, and pillows piled high. Eventually nodding off to a long-winded sermon CD, they slept soundly over a mountain pass and through an extraordinary tunnel carved through the mountains. Then one little head popped up and said, “Daddy, my tummy hurts.”

The mildy concerned but still optimistic mommy and daddy said, “Oh, don’t worry little one, you’re just a bit carsick. Sit up, and look straight ahead.”

They drove on, comforting this little one when she emptied out the scarce contents of her tummy. A few hours passed and it was time for breakfast, when the mommy noticed she didn’t feel so well. When she passed up an anticipated steaming hot Wimpy coffee, her husband compassionately asked if she is pregnant.

NO, I’m not pregnant!” came the disagreeable response.

The poor mommy turned green and ran for the bathroom.

Later, after consuming many snacks and yogurt drinks, after many construction delays and routine police checkpoints, the little boy started howling from the backseat. He, too, experienced the effects of what this bold, brave and no longer optimistic family realized was the sudden onset of stomach flu.

Again and again this unfortunate little boy headed for the side of the road, his daddy learning just how quickly he could pull over and hit the brakes while passing coal trucks and other inspired African vehicles.

bakkie

While on such a stop, another little girl popped up and said the now much dreaded words, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good.” Her devoted but barely standing mommy quickly handed her the second-to-last barf bag. Then the brave oldest daughter burst into a puddle of tears. “I don’t want to throw up!!!” she wailed, “Why does this have to happen every time we go on a car trip?”

It was then this mommy and daddy realized they were three for three with road trips and the flu.

Time for some prayer! That is not God’s blessing…and his word says he will watch over all our comings and goings! So they prayed and broke any curses off their travel time. Unfortunately the sickness still had to run its course.

The tired, nauseous, and edgy family finally arrived at their half-way stopover for the night. They phoned ahead to forewarn their lovely but temporarily crippled aunt of the sudden onset of stomach flu and asked to be quarantined immediately upon arrival. Unfortunately that was not to be the case as guests were already occupying her bed and breakfast rooms. So while the family tried to be polite and sit around the dinner table with an exquisite homemade lasagna and salad, events were not to move in a positive direction.

The high-context Afrikaans culture of the daddy’s family dictated a table set with china, a delicate table-cloth, wine glasses, and conversation with the former Dean of Theology at the University of Bloemfontein involving the merits of studying Latin.

When suddenly, while the mommy with bloodshot eyes tried to feed lasagna to her fussy baby, this sad fussy baby became the last child to serve projectile-vomit all over the dinner table. Both of them covered in vomit, the humiliated, weary, and queasy mommy quickly excused herself to find the recompense of a hot bath and bed for herself and sick baby.

The next day she awoke feeling much better after sleeping for eleven and a half hours straight to the greetings of an amazing, healthy, considerate and hard-working husband who took care of the baby and all vomiting children through the night.

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Enjoying a ride in Tannie Amanda’s walker as she recovers from knee surgery

Van scrubbed and disinfected and vomit-covered duvets, sheets, pillows, and clothing bagged for laundering they stopped for some Power-Aide and finished the drive to their destination, passing spectacular fields of blooming cosmos along the way, without further ado.

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cosmos

The End.

 

 

photo credit

I Will Give Them a Crown of Beauty

As I write this, it is Gabrielle’s 5th birthday, and a new tradition is begun. We take turns with each of our kids to have a special “date” with dad. This ranges from a trip to the grocery store (special to be alone when you have four other siblings vying for this privilege!) or out for a milkshake. Once it even involved shopping for clothes at a Thrift Store.

But today, on her birthday, it’s G’s turn. I fully expect her to in be in complete princess regalia as she goes out to breakfast with her Daddy. As the news spread through our home that G is going out for a birthday breakfast with Dad, each child smiled and commented wistfully…”I want to do that.” It certainly helps that our favorite restaurant in South Africa gives a voucher for a free kids meal on their birthday!

It is so important for Dads to make a habit of filling up their daughter’s hearts with words and actions of love, affirmation, affection. It’s easy for me to smother my kids with love and kisses. Yes, they need that too. But something different happens when their father kneels down and looks them in the eye and says, “You’re beautiful.”

GIGI

“A father-daughter relationship is the God-ordained birthplace of true beauty in a young woman. Just as God spoke words into a formless void and the world came into being at creation, a father’s words create beauty, security, and confidence in a daughter. When words of blessing, looks of love, and pure touch have gone forth from a father and done their work in a daughter’s spirit, she is not drawn to the other voices that may want to lure her. She is not dependent on those other voices to validate her because she has already been securely validated in her beauty through her father.

There has been a lot of talk about spiritual warfare in recent years. If you want to fight hell and the powers of darkness that seek to destroy the hearts of our daughters, I know a type of spiritual warfare that creates value in a daughter’s spirit. It is called “Taking your Daughter out for Tea” or “Going to Her Soccer Game,” and it works in direct opposition to the agenda of hell and darkness that wants to destroy their lives. They need our time, attention, questions, and interest.”

Jim Anderson, Unmasked, pgs. 44,48

We are so thankful for this princess, this daughter of the King; for her delightful spirit, easy smile, and way of bringing out the best in people.

The Mountain I Climbed

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“The only problem with a busy schedule,” my husband said recently, “is that we lose speed when our feet touch the ground!” He took this beautiful picture in the slide above while doing some good, old fashioned character building with our son.

But it’s true! Our family can run on adrenaline for a while, but at some point, something has gotta give. When our feet do touch the ground, I feel like our family can get a stress fracture and then its time to do damage control.

In the uncanny wisdom of Dr. Seuss, “You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace.” I’m not an advocate of running at the break-necking pace of the western culture. I have no problem with saying ‘no’ to events, meetings, outings and activities. Being busy is not necessarily better! I see my job as a mom in part as the Gatekeeper of the Home. To protect, guard, and sustain our home. Nothing gets in or goes out without going through that gate!

Recently, due to an unusually high amount of activities we’ve committed to, I’ve had to put the brakes on the kids and I attending evening activities. It is so refreshing to be home, get the kids to bed on time with a bath and story, and keep our hearts quiet. Instead of wearing ourselves thin with too much busyness, we are trying to live and parent intentionally.

So, to get to the point of this post! A couple months ago my husband and I sat down with the chief task of writing out a plan on how we want to Live on Purpose in regards to our family. We used 2 Peter 1:5-8 as a starting point in identifying the values we want to pass onto our children. It is by no means a perfect plan, but it gives us a reference point to intentional parenting and building a strong family identity. I’m learning we need to set goals and cast the vision for our family if we want to raise up a godly generation. Or else by default the world will do it for us.

A central value in developing our little disciples is Good Character. Of course this has been drilled into me since my days in Master’s Commission! On the list of character qualities we are hoping to develop in our kids is perseverance. To quote one of my favorite authors and the inspiration for our Living on Purpose plan, Sally Clarkson, “Teaching your child how to endure and how to wait with grace could change the whole story of their lives.”

Perseverance…the ability to strain ahead, endure, press on, strong inner resolution.

Perseverance is something that’s easy to get practical with. We’ve all learned it, to varying degrees. For me, the very best catalyst to develop perseverance is to be physically challenged in the outdoors. Where the natural elements of nature meet the spiritual. Its one thing to talk about perseverance while reading a book about it; its entirely another to talk about perseverance when you’re clobbering a mountain one heavy footstep at a time. Or when you are pushing through the middle mile in a 5k, 10k or if you are like my extreme-sport-loving brother in law, a marathon.

So we decided to make a point to physically challenge our kids through hikes, sports, and exercise in general. Which is some of the reason why we have a full-er schedule than normal! We are blessed to live in a place with ample opportunity for anything you might want to try, so the challenge is more to eliminate all the rest. My husband is training for a ministry trip to an unreached people group in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. It will be an arduous trek, over several 16,000 foot mountain passes. When our six year old son heard wind of a hike up the Helderberg to train with his dad, there was little we could do to prevent him from going with! In his mind, all he would need is a peanut-butter sandwich or two and he could easily conquer that peak.

He came back, four hours later, puffy and swollen, bruised, covered in red dirt,  scraped knees, holes in his shirt, and the tennis shoes that were almost done-in are now officially scrap material. After a soak in the tub…he went to bed! How many six year old boys do you know who tell you they need a nap?

But he learned something of perseverance, and before my eyes, he grew up a little bit. Now, when we drive past the Helderberg Mountain on our way to Cape Town, he reminds me…”See mom? That’s the mountain I climbed.”

As parents we aim to teach our kids the ability to strain ahead, endure, and press on through hard things in order to reach the goal of the upward call of God. Sometimes, it’s just carrying that heavy shopping bag home or finishing a tough math assignment. Later on in life overcoming challenges becomes more complex. We want all of our kids to look back and say…”That’s the mountain I climbed.”

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