When Faith is Forbidden: 40 Days on the Frontlines with Persecuted Christians

by Todd Nettleton

In one of the latest books to drop by The Voice of the Martyrs, Todd Nettleton takes us along as he travels to the frontlines of persecuted nations. He shares some incredible stories, gives his thoughts as he journals after long days, and guides us in prayers for those that are sharing their faith under such difficult circumstances. The most amazing part about this book is just reading of the joy our brothers and sisters have as they face prison time, beatings, harassment, and all sorts of unimaginable things. They count it as a blessing to share the Gospel in this way. They recognize that Jesus was willing to do the same for us, so why shouldn’t we be just as happy to face persecution?

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” –Hebrews 12:1,2

If you are not familiar with The Voice of the Martyrs ministry, I highly encourage you to check out their website. A free magazine is available too! Todd Nettleton also hosts a weekly podcast that is always available at the bottom of my page.

This is a book that I highly, highly recommend. It’s such an encouragement for us to read their stories and see how God always gives us what we need to handle situations when we want to bring Him glory. Also, the proceeds of these books go to helping spread the Gospel in countries where it is prohibited. So, it’s basically a win for everyone!

Can I Truly have joy in 2020?

So, this about sums it up.

I knew we shouldn’t have raided Area 51! 😳

Here I was all excited about the new year and all the things we had planned…I don’t even need to elaborate. You get it. You totally get it. I mean, just imagine trying to explain to someone that just woke up from a coma what’s been going on for the last 8 months. I think I’d tell them to go back to sleep!

Seriously though, it’s been one for the history books. With that being said, how do we maintain peace and joy in a year when so many things have completely changed our way of life, when the world is so unsettled, and when everything is out of our control? We are quarantined without others to lift us up and help us out of our darkest days. I mean, COME ON! I haven’t even been to Target in 6 months!!! That’s how I know there’s a major problem.

Simply put, how do we maintain control when that said control eludes us? We get so caught up in our life plans that we forget to do the most important thing!

Ask God what His plans are and how He wants to use me!

Now, look… I’m just as guilty! I often wonder what is going on! It just seems like it’s all too much. The truth is that we do not wage wars of flesh and blood, but of the unseen. Social politics are at an all time emotional high and we are quarantined and unable to gather and pray together. We’ve been cut off at the knees!

The thing is, we get so caught up in our own troubles that we forget to look at the bigger picture. It’s not about us. Nothing revolves around us. That’s a hard truth. You’re welcome.

Instead, what are we supposed to do? Consider it an opportunity for joy? According to James, that’s exactly what we are supposed to do. Remember, it’s not about us. What’s happening here is so much bigger. How is God wanting to use us through this?

Look, it sounds unattainable and ridiculous. I know. But joy is a choice. It’s a choice to look up at the Light, hold His hand, and journey together. It’s a choice to hope. It’s a choice to be willing to let God use you in whatever way He will get the most glory! If my heart is all about that plan, I can’t help but chuckle and just say, “I’m glad You’ve got this because I sure don’t!”

The weight is gone. It’s not my problem. I can trust that I serve a God that delights in me!

The best part is that He gives us a simple formula. We don’t even have to figure it out on our own! He’s that awesome!!

There are so many verses that can encourage you! I can’t possibly even scratch the surface. All I know is that God is amazing. He delights in me. I want Him to have all the glory. I can rest in Him and give Him control (which I don’t have anyway!). My job? Rest in that, be full of joy, tell God what I need and thank Him for all He’s done and is doing in the madness. I will choose to focus my thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable — things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

If this is where my mind is, I am not spun up by the news and the chaos around me. I’m focused. I’m at peace. I’m full of joy!

Train up a child

We’ve all read the verse. Easy-peasy, right? Then I became a mom. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, (or 36 hours of labor…I mean, whichever you want to go with…) every bit of know-how seemed to vanish.

Why is he crying all the time? Why is he giving me attitude, crossing his arms and telling me “no” at 11 months old? He’s supposed to be so innocent! Are they trying to stay up later, or do they really need to pee? Did they just bully the kid on the playground? What are they doing on their phones?!

Okay, so I do need help. James 1 has my name all over it. Wisdom. I need wisdom. Everyone has something they are striving for, greedy for, willing to give up anything for. Me? I need God’s wisdom. Without it, I just make a huge mess. Thankfully, it’s freely available if we just remember to ask.

There’s this idea going around that really drives me crazy. I’ve heard so many pastors and teachers present the book of Proverbs as a “guide”. The idea that it is not a book with promises, but just a general guide for your life and what may, or may not happen. This is such dangerous territory! Who are we to pick and choose what is truth and what is a generality? It’s God’s Word!

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

I grew up as a pastor’s kid. Yep, a PK. I also grew up to be a single mother. A girl that loved to party. A girl that did not love Jesus. I was fine to leave Him back and home with my parents and move on with my life.

Of course, that left my amazing parents behind to clean up the mess. If you think that didn’t have any effect on them, their church, their ministry, their hearts, or their lives, you are so wrong. People threw this verse in their face. Some scoffing, laughing, so pleased to see failure. Others were confused, disoriented, and left to question all they had been taught. How could the pastor’s daughter be pregnant and unmarried? (Well, I won’t explain that part…)

My mom and her deep, deep rooted faith would answer ever so calmly, “The end isn’t written yet.”

She was right. The end had not yet played out.

You see, when your life is so rooted in Jesus and so intertwined with His heart, that’s what your kids are going to know. That’s what they are going to see. That’s what they are going to live.

The whole mothering thing just got a lot harder.

Basically, the burden is on you to intertwine God into EVERY. ASPECT. OF. YOUR. LIFE.

When my car breaks down, do I see it as an annoyance, or an opportunity to share God’s love with someone? When my plans get unexpectedly changed, do I throw a fit, or do I tell my kids how exciting it’s going to be to see what God has planned for us instead? When I have health problems, do I get frustrated and angry, or do I use that as a chance for compassion? How am I handling the things that I deal with on a daily basis.

So many families go to church and make big decisions based on God’s Word, but when it comes to the little things, that’s not so easy. Our kids are watching. They are little sponges that are growing up and learning how to react or respond to every situation. Are we teaching them to react with emotion, or are we teaching them to respond like Christ?

Of course there are so many mess-ups. I fail over and over on a daily basis. But, my kids know that and I am the first one to call myself out on it. I obviously need a Savior and my kids need to know that! That’s a good thing. My heart wants to do what God wants and that is a daily and hourly discussion. It’s not a foreign concept, but completely intertwined in our lifestyle.

My parents lived this kind of life. Their actions where completely in sync with their words.

So, why did I end up pregnant and away from God?

Well, that’s just it. I didn’t end up that way. Yes, I strayed away, but like the one lost sheep, God gently pursued me and brought me back. In my 40’s, I can look at my childhood and see that an act of sexual abuse by an outsider left me dazed and darkened for many years. It took God’s gentle hand and his outstretched arms to help me out from my hiding place. I needed to learn to trust Him. It took me years to see that He is happiness.

I want to encourage you to focus more on your relationship with God and your responses (or reactions) and get that aligned. Disciplining and raising your children are secondary to your heart. That is what your kids are looking at. Ask God for wisdom. I beg you! It’s there for you! I cling to that promise of wisdom to get me through life. God always delivers.

My kids often make up scenarios and ask me what I would do in this situation or that predicament. My answer, “Ask God for wisdom”. Oh, they hate that. I’m not playing along. Blah Blah. But you know what, they remember it. They know that’s my answer for a difficult situation. They will remember that someday. Now that my oldest son is a police officer, I sure am glad that’s how I answered all those times!

When we watch tv, there’s always a crisis point in the movie or show. Guess what I bring up? “If they were doing what God wanted, they wouldn’t be in this pickle! God doesn’t give us rules, He shows us what makes us happy and helps us avoid these problems!” Meanwhile, the kids, “there goes mom again” — laughing and joking. But you know what? It’s respectful and loving because they know I mean it and they know it’s true! They begin to see it themselves as we watch. They begin to see how it’s going to play out when someone makes a decision to go against God’s advice.

That’s what I want! I want them to see God’s love! I want them to see God wants the best for them! I want them to fall so deeply in love with God!!!! That’s my goal as a mom. I don’t care if they become a garbage collector, a port-a-potty cleaner, or a doctor. I only care that they fall madly and deeply in love with our Savior.

So, is it true? If I train up my child in the way that is right, he won’t depart from it? Yes. It’s a promise. If we are actually living our lives in such Light, there is no way that they will stay in the darkness if they end up wandering there. If we are living a contradicting lifestyle of words vs actions, they will run to the darkness and never look back.

Ultimately, their salvation is their decision. It’s just on us to show them how much peace it brings. How much joy. How much love. Why it’s worth it.

Praying for you, momma!

Practical Insights for Everyday Christian Living

by Joyce Meyer

GALATIANS & COLOSSIANS

A Biblical Study


83E53BFD-1C24-4E04-AA4F-97085AD3289C_1_201_a I always tread carefully when I read Bible studies. Personal biases and interpretations inevitably abound. Also, there are often times a stigma is attached to a writer or speaker based on their “branch of Christianity”. If God has shown me anything this year, it’s to rejoice in others’ love of him. Instead of judging their background and denomination, I choose to be happy in their desire to serve God and leave it up to Him to show us all where we need to change things in our lives.

I feel like I need to preface this review with my thoughts because we will so often “throw out the baby with the bath water” if someone isn’t worshiping God exactly as we are. As long as nothing conflicts with God’s Word, I will choose to rejoice in their love of God. (1 Thessalonians is a really great book that deals with this idea). 222865AF-0752-483F-93B6-5137DC1207B9_1_201_a

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading  through these verse-by-verse commentaries/devotionals. Joyce Meyer knows the Bible well and understands suffering and perseverance. Her background is so dark and God’s mercy is evident in her change. 

These are a great companion to the Word. They are simple and straightforward to read and I would recommend picking one up each morning and having some time with God! As always, I recommend reading the Word on your own, as well as using other resources and materials. It’s good to hear what God has revealed to others and, ultimately, take it all and ask Him for wisdom on what to do with it.

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Thanks, Hachette Books for these! As always, this is my honest review. Here’s to many more!! Links are in the pics above. Enjoy!!

 

The Ranger Way

by Kris Paronto

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Of course you have heard about what happened in Benghazi and I’m sure you probably saw the movie 13 Hours too. (If not, it’s free on Amazon Prime right now!) For most of us, it is one of the biggest scandals of the decade. For those that lived it, it was one of the bravest acts of the century. 51Rf4lP9nZL._PI_PJPrime-Sash-Extra-Large-2017,TopLeft,0,0_AC_US218_

Kris “Tanto” Paronto is one of the six elite soldiers that protected and saved the lives of many of our American citizens that September 11th night in 2012. He was an ex Army Ranger that helped to ward off hundreds of anti-American fighters trying to overtake the “secret” CIA compound.

This book delves into his life and the professional and personal trials these heroes go through to protect our country. His faith in God is inspiring as he shares the things he’s learned over the years.

I will caution some readers as certain subject matters and language can be a bit offensive. Unfortunately, it’s not a world that loves God, so many things they face are dark and evil. If you can see past that, I think you will really enjoy reading his narrative of the things he’s learned over the years.

Be sure to pick up a copy – the link is provided in the pic! As always, thanks to Hachette for such great books!!

Finding Freedom

Hey, guys! I want to give you an update on my exciting projects. As most of you know, I have been working as a playwright and enjoying every moment of it! It’s been such an answer to prayer as I am able to still do this when I am not feeling well.

A year ago, I was approached by the LEAH group in Pennsylvania and New York. They asked if I could write a play based around the founding of our nation and with the theme of freedom – both in life and in God. As an avid history buff, I was more than excited to jump in.

I was able to write the play and be part of an amazing experience. In November, I went to New York to help with the casting. It was so much fun to see these kids just jump in and become part of a world I had created in my head! So surreal.

Opening night was April 27, 2018 and I was not sure if I was going to make it. As you know, I haven’t been well and I was mostly confined to bed rest over the last 6 months. As always, God is good and I was able to get some answers and make it up there!

I decided to set the story in Boston as the tensions were rising. It centers around a group of friends as they make big life decisions. Which side is the right side and what are the reasons for choosing? What does God want? It was a tough time and I can’t even imagine going through it! It gave everyone a lot to think about – for sure!

I wanted to share some pics with you from my time up there! Hope you enjoy!!

Run-through and practice:

 

Opening Night:

 

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There are hundreds of pictures and I can’t possibly choose my favorites! I am just so proud of what they did. God used it in such an awesome way and I’m really thankful I was able to be a part of it.

I’m currently workin on their next project and can’t wait to share more with you! For now, here is a scene from Finding Freedom and I hope you enjoy it!


(Set: outside in a field as the boys are walking home from hunting together)

(All laughing)

Malachi: (laughing…) And did you see Titus tryin’ to chase that coon and fall flat on his ear?

Titus: Now hold on there a minute! ‘Twasn’t my fault there was a tree stump in the way! I reckon I gave that coon more than he bargained for though when I came flyin’ face first right at ‘im and even managed to get a shot off…

Adam: Truly? “Get a shot off’?” I am fairly certain you misfired and could have killed any one of us out there just because you fell on your face and lost all control! I sure wish Emeline could have seen you then!

(Laughter continues as they all speak over each other)

Malachi: (Malachi stops and puts his hands on his knees to catch his breath and they all stop) Look at us. (Pauses to look up with a crooked grin) I’m gonna miss this! Tomorrow, everything changes for us.

(The boys nod in agreement – still catching their breath. Malachi straightens back up.)

Malachi: Sure will be different…

Adam: Yeah, well you went and got yourself that fancy internship with none other than Mr. John Adams! You didn’t think that would be all coon hunts and dodging Titus’ bullets, did ya? (Said with a smirk)

Malachi: Blood and ‘ounds! I thought I might lose an eye today! ‘Tis best I be moving on to the law! (He tries not to grin and looks innocently up at Titus)

Titus: (Punches Malachi on the arm and starts for Adam as they are all laughing) I’ll have you know that I wouldn’t waste a bullet on either of you clods! I’m savin’ those for the redcoats.

Malachi: (gets serious) Alas, Titus, do tell us about this meeting you are attending tonight. I hear that Mr. Samuel Adams may be in attendance! Some say that he can be a dangerous fellow – always stirring up trouble.

Titus: (becomes more and more angry as he says) Dangerous? Do come on, Malachi. We live in dangerous times. Our own homes and shops are subject to the king’s royal army at their whim. What rights do we now have? ‘Tis as if we are the King George’s unwanted stepchildren and he hopes to punish us for the crimes of others.

Malachi: But we are only paying taxes to cover the war not long ago fought on our own soil. The king protected us from the French and the Indians and ‘twas a costly war.

Titus: (barely containing his anger) They invaded Boston, Malachi! ‘Tis not past wars I dwell on, but what is on our soil at this very moment! British soldiers are here, taking up residence and extending curfews as if we were their children! They tell us when we can eat and sleep and what we can buy! (He spits to the side)

Malachi: (Looks at Adam and asks) And are these your feelings as well? (Titus also looks up to see Adam’s response.)

Adam: (Adam is very uncomfortable and fidgeting) I thought I might tag along with him, Mal. It can’t hurt to see what they are saying. They call themselves the Sons of Liberty and believe that we should not be governed by a foreign power and that we should rule ourselves. (He kicks at the dirt seemingly lost in thought.)

Malachi: And where is this meeting?

Adam: Under the Liberty Tree.

Malachi: The Liberty Tree!

Titus: Nay, Adam. ‘Tis been moved to The Green Dragon Tavern as a storm looks to be a-brewin’.

Malachi: Aye! A storm is brewing, indeed! Did you not hear what the “Sons of Liberty” did to Mr. Andrew Oliver at that said “Liberty Tree”? They hung a man that was just doing his duty to King and country! They then proceeded to walk upon his dead carcass and burn him as if his body had been not defiled enough! (He pauses.) Are we, ourselves, not British citizens? (Malachi remains calm as if curious of his friends’ feelings on the subject, yet concerned for their welfare. Titus is visibly growing agitated and angry. Adam feels very uncomfortable.)

Adam: ’Tis just a meeting, Malachi. As Titus said, ‘tis not at the Liberty Tree, so you need have no fear on that account. I only wish to know what is being done in my own city. We have lost so many of our freedoms these weeks past. Julia says that soldiers come into Emeline’s family store and take what they please without regard to coin. How is it that she is to be paid when her employers are not compensated for their wares? ‘Tis a trying time, Malachi, and I, for one, shan’t turn a blind eye. I must at least have knowledge of what is taking place all around us.

Titus: (looked up when Adam mentioned Emeline and looks angrily at Malachi as if it is somehow his fault.)

Malachi: Can we not find a peaceful way to deal with the situation at hand? (He looks back and forth) Truly?

Titus: (Spits to the side) I’ll not stand idly by and let this happen in my own city. Sam says that all might be free if they valued freedom and defended it, as they ought. Shall I not defend my right to freedom?

Malachi: (eyes wide) Sam? I presume you are speaking of Mr. Adams? (Gives Titus a chastening look)

Titus: (rolling his eyes) If only I could be half as fastidious as you are, Malachi, I may not assume the world and these trying times shall trouble me either. However, I cannot. I shall not. I shall do my part.

Malachi: I did not intend to…

Titus: (waves him off) Say no more of it. I only pray that you shall not think less of me for doing what I must. We must each do as we believe is right in such a time.
Adam: He speaks the truth, Mal. We must look to ourselves to govern our actions.

Malachi: I believe not what I am hearing! (Voice raised) Can you truly say that you must look to your own selves for truth? If mankind is to look to self for truth, pray tell, what happens when we, each man, finds his own truth and such truth does not resemble the truth his neighbor has found? (Looking dumbfounded) We can only look to God for truth! Who’s to say that my truth is above your truth? Nay! I will not agree! For this very reason is why we have war and suffering!

(Titus begins to walk away while shaking his head.)

Malachi: Titus! (Runs to catch up) Do not walk away, brother. Indeed, you and Adam are my brothers in every way that can be – barring blood.

(They stop and pause in quiet. Malachi looks up at the sky and closes his eyes for a moment.)

Malachi: Today is the last of our childhood as we have come to know. No more coon hunts, late night fishing or even brawlin’ over who gets the biggest biscuit. I desire not to spoil such a day. So much of me wishes we could roam these woods with all of the innocence it has provided thus – to never face the injustices of this world and come face-to-face with the men we truly are. I, for one, fear to see my true reflection staring back at me. I know not what I shall find when I’ve the courage to look upon it. I do not think any less of you, Titus, or you, Adam, for being brave enough to gaze upon it and face the truth within.

(Titus visibly relaxes.)

Adam: You two are startin’ to act like a couple of women. I daresay ‘tis time for me to away! (He grins and punches his friends as they continue to pummel each other and walk off set)


* The issue of Andrew Oliver is cleared up later in the play. It was an effigy, not the real Andrew Oliver 😉

If you would like more info on Finding Freedom, please contact me at: aTransParentMom@gmail.com

An Inconvenient Beauty

by Kristi Ann Hunter

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Catching you up: Duke Griffith Hawthorne is the last of the siblings (Loudly_Crying_Face_Emoji_grande.png), thus ending the Hawthorne series. (TRAGIC!!!!!) He has been taking care of his brother and sisters for so long that he hasn’t even had time to find love for himself. Now that he is able, he has done extensive research and he has his sights set on…the wrong girl…

Isabella Breckenridge has come to London under false pretenses. She is to help her uncle by attracting as many eligible men as possible so that they might pass a bill through the courts. Everything about her feels this is wrong, but she knows that she must help her family and has not yet learned to trust God to do that for her.

My Thoughts: So, first of all…how does she keep doing this? Kristi is one of the most talented writers because she has the perfect balance of light-heartedness, deep characters, and Godly principles. It’s such a beautiful thing to see!!!

I am exceptionally sad that this series is over. It has been one of my favorite. As Griffith and Isabella’s worlds come colliding together, you will laugh, maybe cry, and most certainly be pulled in from the first page to the last.

The characters just grab on and don’t let go. You can’t shake them even if you wanted to (believe me, you don’t!). If you haven’t read any of Kristi’s books, definitely pick one up. They can be read as a stand alone, but you will appreciate it much more if you are to read them in order for the characters that are introduced in each book carry through to the next.

Be sure to click the link above to grab your copy! Also, if you would like to check out my fabulous face-off with Kristi Ann Hunter, just CLICK HERE! It’s loads of fun!!! Lastly, thanks to Bethany house for this great book in exchange for my review. As always, this is my honest opinion!!! Here’s to many more!

Click below to find the other books in this series. Aren’t these covers a-ma-zing??? #truth

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Counter Culture

by David Platt

Wow. This man, his faith and obedience, always inspires me so much. I loved, LOVED this book. He is such an incredible disciple because he is willing to obey God in all things.

The subjects tackled in this book are brave, to say the least. I don’t know many people that would be willing to even comment on most of these topics, let alone write a book with their name on it.

David writes on topics ranging from abortion, sex, ethnicity, and even refugees. Have questions about what God says in these areas? I bet you don’t want to know! Ignorance is bliss…or is it? Do God really know what is best for us? Are we willing to fall in love with Him, trust Him and, most importantly, surrender to Him?

I hope so. I know the road is narrow, but let’s make it a little wider.

Be sure to pre-order Counter Culture: Following Christ in an Anti-Christian Age. It is a revised and updated version of the original with an extra chapter added based on the refugee crisis. Release date set for February 7, 2017.

Thanks for this read! As always, this is my honest opinion. Here’s to many more!!

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A very personal story

I barely know where to begin. The last few years have been a whirlwind of events. Four years ago, God called us to bring a teenager into our home and pursue adoption. After disappointment after disappointment, we found our precious son. The was almost 2 years ago. As many of you know, he came to live with us and there were a series of ups and downs.

A few months back, our precious boy decided that he didn’t want a family, but wanted freedom to pursue harmful things. He chose to walk away.

You can imagine how that affected the family. He was son and brother.

We all fully trust that God is in control and is sovereign in all things.87273ccb5c71f4bad842039a160479c1 We will always be here for him and love him. We know that life moves in waves of change. It’s not always easy, but clinging to God is what we do. As I read story after story in the Bible of those God used and chose to highlight, I felt such a mix of emotions. Mostly, I felt Him holding me tightly and whispering His perfect love into my ear as I wept. We are not called to ease and comfort. We are called to obey, and we did. We do. We will.

As we worked through some really difficult things, my blog was put on hold. I thank you all for your words, emails, letters, boxes, etc… of encouragement. I am praying that in this new “wave” of my life, I will have a chance to return and do what I love so much. As always, your prayers are welcomed!!!

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Greater Than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption

by David Boudia with Tim Ellsworth

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Wow! Remember this guy?? You know, the awesome, American Olympic Diver that has won a bunch of medals??? Well, if you missed seeing him in the last few Olympics, you can get caught up with this great read.

David opens up and shares with us all about his past failures and the changes God has made in his life. He doesn’t beat around the bush, try to make himself look good, try to glorify the lifestyle he had, or even try to claim any of the credit for his complete 180. This book is simply to bring God glory with the huge changes in his life.

It’s a good one. Easy reading and perfect for your kids. He’s a trendy guy that has it all; yet he knows that those things won’t bring happiness. It’s an awesome message that you can share. I ABSOLUTELY recommend this book. Please pick up a copy. It’s so beautiful to see the changes in his life and what God is doing through him.

636060142715076602-001-boudiaOnce, he only cared about parties, instant gratification, and making himself happy at whatever cost. Now, he’s a family man that lives to bring God glory. Now that’s a great story! Make sure you grab this! Holidays are coming up and the Olympics are fresh on everyone’s mind.

–Thank you for this awesome read in exchange for my review. As always, this is my honest opinion. Here’s to many more!!

 

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