Seven Things I Learned In May

1. Tuesdays Won’t be the Same 

We have been blessed to be part of an equine therapy program since August. Unfortunately, the program closed it’s doors this month and Jackson took his final ride. There was nothing better than seeing Jackson on top of a horse. I will never forget his first session. He hopped on the horse without an ounce of fear and said the word orange for the first time. From that day on he could say every single one of his colors.

He was super excited to receive a trophy during his last session. He kept saying, horse trophy, horse trophy, Jackson’s room. It sits proudly on a shelf in his bedroom. We will miss the staff and the horses; but we’re so thankful for the amazing memories we made during the past ten months.

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2. 21 Day Fix

I completed my first round of 21 Day Fix this month (the exercises anyway) and I really and truly love it! I didn’t follow the food plan or drink the shakes because I’m honestly a very picky eater and purchasing the shakes just isn’t in the budget right now. I decided I would make healthier food choices and drink a few less Dr Peppers. The number on the scale isn’t a whole lot different, but my body is changing. I’m toning up and slimming down. But the best part? I’m getting stronger. When I started the program I had to do the plank exercises on my knees; now I can do them on my toes! I’m learning it’s all about progress, not perfection. Each day as I sweat, I’m telling myself these ten things!

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3. The Best Mother’s Day Gifts Can’t Be Bought

Mother’s Day was filled with a sweet message from Jackson’s birth mother, a free family portrait (that Jackson sat still for) at church and Jackson talking my ear off. Not a single one of these gifts cost a dime; but they are gifts I will cherish forever. So very valuable in my eyes. And the best gift of the day? Jackson decided Mother’s Day was the perfect time to start taking himself to the potty! Hallelujah and Amen!

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4. IEP Meetings Are For Advocating

What do you do when your IEP meeting is the Friday before Apraxia Awareness Day? You take goody bags for each member of the team – filled with information about Apraxia. You also take a huge cookie cake to celebrate the progress your son has made this year – because so many words, y’all! He’s talking up a storm.

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5. My Worth Isn’t Found In What I Write or What I Weigh

6. Even Though It’s Difficult, Leave Him With Pop and Lolli

When you have a child with special needs there are very few people you feel comfortable leaving your kid with. My parent’s are  the only ones who watch Jackson for extended periods of time. This month he went to Pop and Lolli’s house for a few days so we could meet up with our friends in Boston and road trip  to Montreal.

This mama was nervous. It’s not because I don’t trust my parents. I do. I was just worried about the things they aren’t used to dealing with because they don’t see Jackson on a daily basis. There’s the meltdowns, lots and lots of words that can’t always be understood, sensory issues and the exhaustion that comes from keeping up with a sensory seeker. I was worried because my mom happened to mention a few weeks ago that Jackson gets sad and calls my name at bedtime (Why did she tell me that??) My sister reassured me that everything would be okay and she’d be there to help my parents out.

I was nervous but I also needed a break. So despite how difficult it was, we left him with Pop and Lolli and enjoyed some much needed adult time. While we made our way through Montreal, Jackson took on Texas! I’m sure there was plenty of Dairy Queen ice-cream, rides in Pop’s truck and trips to Whataburger. It doesn’t take much to make the kid happy!

7. I’m Lovin’ My New Summer Hair 

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Kicking Off Summer { And A Bucket List }

Yesterday was Jackson’s last day of school and the temperatures were a sure sign of what summer will be like in Oklahoma. Hot and sticky!  We celebrated the last day of school with 50 cent corn dogs from Sonic (that Jackson didn’t eat).

A nap was not happening when there was a water hose and sunshine waiting outside.  Jackson officially kicked off summer with mud puddles, popsicles and a much-needed haircut!

Can I just say how happy I am that it’s summer? Hair cuts are a breeze when I can give Jackson the water hose to distract him!

It’s hard to believe this is our last summer before Jackson starts school full-time. Come August he will be going to school five days a week (which will make having to answer his constant question “cool day?” a lot easier).

This summer will be about making sweet memories.

Sticky, sweet, ice-cream melting memories. 

And we’ll eat our fair share of ice cream too!

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Here are a few of the activities we hope to mark off our bucket list this summer.

1. Play in the Fountains in Sundance Square.

2. Head Back to Destin for another Wonderful Week at the Beach.

3. Autry’s Annual Visit to Oklahoma.

4. Go Swimming.

5. Slurp a Sprittle from Classic 50’s.

6. Watch Fireworks.

7. See Dolphins and other Sea Life at the Aquarium.

8. Play in the Backyard Until Dark.

9. Spend the Day at the Water Park with Family and Friends.

10. Make Kool-aid.

11. Have a Pizza Picnic.

12. Explore a New Place We’ve Never Been.

13. Build a Sandcastle.

14. Go see Finding Dory.

15. Make Memories with our Friends.

 

What’s on your summer bucket list? I’d love to hear where you’ll be traveling and how you plan to stay cool during the dog days of summer!

What This Mama Learned From PreK-3

In August I wrote a letter to his teacher. I gave her a glimpse into our world of Apraxia and Sensory Processing Disorder. I asked her to look passed the limited words and rough behaviors, to the amazing, joyful, school-loving kid that I call my son.

I had no idea that letter would mark the beginning of a long year of advocating for him.

There have been many words written and spoken between myself and school administrators to ensure Jackson received the services he needed to succeed in the classroom.

It’s been a difficult year.

Fighting for my son; making sure they take his special needs seriously.

Educating teachers about Apraxia and Sensory Processing Disorder and how they affect everything he does.

There have been many tears shed by this mama and her son.

In the drop off line as he had a meltdown; when he didn’t want to leave school; and tears of anger when a school psychologist met me on the playground deeming my child a behavior problem.

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I didn’t drop Jackson off at 9 a.m. and just go about my day.

I was the mama who worried.

I was the mama who prayed.

I was the mama making phone calls.

I was the mama reading books about special education law and IEP’s.

I was the mama who requested meetings.

I’m the mama some school officials might come to hate.

Jackson isn’t the only one who’s learned a lot this year.

I’ve learned I am the only one who is going to stand up for my son.

I’ve learned communication is key.

I’ve learned if you don’t speak up, your kid will get shoved into a classroom where he will fall through the cracks.

I’ve learned a teacher has the power to make or break a school year.

I’ve learned who truly has Jackson’s best interest at heart.

I’ve learned this fight won’t likely end until the day he graduates high school.

Fast forward nine months and we’re taking photos on the front porch, celebrating the last day of school.

We survived!

It’s been a hard year; but it’s also been a year of growth.

A little boy who hardly spoke in August is now talking our ears off at home.

A mama, once defeated, is empowered to keep speaking up for her son.

 

 

 

10 Things I’m Telling Myself As I Sweat

If you read my post from Monday you know I’ve got body issues. What woman doesn’t, right? We live in a world that says you have to be skinny to be loved. I scroll through my Facebook feed and all I see are posts about the latest exercise fad and the tasty shakes promising to rid you of those unwanted pounds.

I have a love-hate relationship with my hips.

I have a love-hate relationship with exercise.

I have an addiction to Dr Pepper.

I have a tendency to get really down when the number on the scale isn’t as low as I’d like it to be.

I want to workout for one week and slide easily into my pants the next.

Wouldn’t the world be a lovely place if it were that easy?

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Last summer I worked hard to drop a few pounds before our beach vacation. I had one goal – fit into the cute shorts that were just a little too snug.

Guess what?

I worked out, I made healthier choices, I drank a few less Dr Peppers and I wore those shorts in Florida.

I also felt stronger, had more energy and proved to myself I can do more than I think I can.

But then I came home and life got busy and I stopped those healthy habits.

Those shorts I fit into last summer – yea, they’re snug again – and I’m so mad that I’m back to square one.

But there are 10 things I’m telling myself as I sweat these day….

  1. It’s About Progress, Not Perfection.
  2. I’m Starting Two Months Earlier Than Last Year – and this time I’m not going to stop after vacation.
  3. I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Gives Me Strength – repeating this verse over and over and over again is what kept me pressing on last summer. It really is about getting your mind right.
  4. Yes, I’ve Gained Some Weight; but I’m Not Where I Was Four Years Ago – You have to celebrate the small victories. If I work hard, the shorts will fit!
  5. Eat Out Less – I got into a bad habit of going through the drive through. Last summer John and I gave up eating out for a month (we had a few cheat days) and we noticed a huge difference. I’m going to see progress if I eat at home.
  6. Drink Fewer Dr Peppers – I don’t have to quit cold turkey. Should I? Maybe. But I’m a Texas girl who loves a DP with extra ice. Progress y’all, not perfection.
  7. Keep Walking – I try to get 10,000 steps a day on my Fitbit. Walking really does make a difference.
  8. Finish 21 Day Fix – Sunday I will finish my first round of 21 Day Fix (the exercises). I really do love the workout routines; I’m not sure I’m going to love the eating plan (because I’m a super picky eater). Maybe I’ll try it the next go-round; maybe I won’t. Either way, I will keep doing the workouts!
  9. I’m Not Going to Get Tone and Skinny Overnight 
  10. Persevere!!!!! Exercise does not come easy for me. I’ve never really enjoyed it. It seems like a trial. But James 1:2 says, consider it pure joy brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

 

 

 

When Lies Threaten Your Worth

This weekend I felt defeated. Lies got tangled in my thoughts. I entertained them and was left feeling anything but stellar. We walked into church Sunday and the preacher’s words (truth) replaced the lies that had taunted me most of Saturday.

He said, your identity is never in who you are – a title, what you do – but in whose you are!!!

I spent most of Saturday believing that in order to really matter I had to be a skinny, successful writer.

I believed:

My Worth Is Measured By My Weight 

Two weeks ago I started the 21 Day Fix program (the exercises; I’m still working towards that crazy eating plan) because my shorts are a tad bit snug as we approach the start of summer. I’ve been consistent and have completed each daily workout. Although I feel stronger, the number on the scale still mocks me.

I’m disappointed in myself because last summer I made changes that led to a healthier Jennifer. Then winter came and I stopped, gained a few pounds and it’s back to square one.

Oh, and did I mention I have major body issues?

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It happens when you grow up with the nickname Betty Spaghetti and end up with PCOS which causes you to pack on the pounds. To make matters worse are the comments from ex-boyfriends that still haunt me – if only my hips weren’t so big; if only my chest were a little bigger.

I am my own worst critic.

I’m having to replace the lies that I have to be a size 6 in order to matter. My worth is not based on the number on the scale or the size of my shorts.

My worth is found in whose I am.

Saturday I believed:

My Worth Is Measured By How Far My Blog Reaches

Saturday I wrote a blog post for Apraxia Awareness Day, hoping it would be as successful as last year’s post – which is still my most read post to date. But it wasn’t.

It didn’t get shared by the national Apraxia organization; a lot of other blog posts did.

The lies were out of control: why are you being overlooked? Why can’t your platform be bigger? Did God really say you should be a writer?

I struggle with a lot of insecurity when it comes to blogging.

I want my words to matter.

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I want to reach the masses; but God always asks me to do the same thing.

Reach one person. 

Maybe that’s because I’m more likely to be obedient if I’m writing for an audience of one verses an audience of one million.

My worth can’t be found in the number of followers I have.

God won’t love me more based on the size of my platform.

My identtiy isn’t wrapped up in the words I write.

My worth is found in whose I am. 

 

What lies are you believing? Do you think you have to do more and be more to matter to God? Stop believing the lies and cling to the truth! Your worth is found in whose you are! 

 

 

 

 

8 Things Apraxia Has Taught Me {Apraxia Awareness Day}

Today is Apraxia Awareness Day. Today I raise my voice to advocate for Jackson and all the other kids with Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). Today I educate other’s about the speech disorder that steals the voices of so many kiddos; our little guy included.

We’ve been on this journey since Jackson started speech therapy at 18-months-old. I’ve definitely learned a few things along the way; both beautiful and gut-wrenching lessons.

This journey has been filled with joy and pain; hope and fear; laughter and tears.

If I could sum up some of the lessons learned, here’s what they’d be:

Love Needs No Words

Love is those big brown eyes sparkling. It’s his pouty lips kissing mine. It’s his little arms wrapped tightly around my neck. These moments between me and my son are just as powerful as hearing those three little words fall from his lips.

I’ve never loved so fiercely. And by love, I mean learning to love more like Jesus intended me to. Loving Jackson for who he is and not who he could be. It’s a love that doesn’t give up; but pushes past what seems impossible. It’s hugs and kisses and snuggles; but also heartache, challenges, and pain. It’s walking through fire; being refined; stripped of selfish pride. This love is fierce; daily changing me to be a little more like Him.

Every Word is a Miracle

A child with Apraxia must hear a word approximately 3,000 times before it becomes part of their vocabulary. Our life has been a constant game of repeat and we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor. In the past year Jackson has made incredible progress. He’s talking up a storm and with each new word, we celebrate! Hearing his voice never gets old!

Nobody Else Will Be His Voice 

I’m sure people get sick of my Facebook posts about our journey. I’m certain I’ve lost friends and turned off family members because of my constant updates about Jackson’s progress. But it’s my job to raise awareness and educate others about Apraxia. There are so many people who have never heard of the speech disorder. I have to speak up for Jackson until he can speak up for himself. Because I’ve learned the hard way that nobody else will.

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God Does Give Us More Than We Can Handle

Many people say God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but I don’t believe that anymore. Sometimes he has to give us more than we can handle; because it’s the only way we will fully rely on Him. And His grace is waiting to meet us in those hard places; in all our inadequacies.

2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 says: My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

I Speak A Second Language

Recently Jackson was saying something that John couldn’t understand. I was able to translate for John, which surprised him. I told him the next time someone asks if I speak a second language I’m going to say yes. I speak Apraxic.

All Therapists Are Not Created Equal

We’ve had our fair share and we’ve had a few doozies. But we’ve had a few that just can’t be duplicated. The kind of therapists who only come around once in a lifetime. The kind who still advocate for Jackson even though he’s no longer on their case load. They text to see how he’s doing. They text encouraging news and celebrate with us. They see the heart of my son – past the meltdowns to the miracles. 

Grief Is Not A One Time Thing

One of the most difficult parts of the special needs journey is grieving the life you thought you would have. And that grief isn’t a one time thing. It can hit you at the most random times. Life doesn’t go as planned after a diagnosis. This Apraxia journey is a roller coaster ride. There are days I feel strong and capable; Jackson’s biggest advocate. Other days I question my ability to get it right. I’ve learned to embrace every day as it comes.

There Is Hope

Even on the hardest days I hope. I cling to Psalm 71:14 which says, as for me I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. There is hope in Jackson’s smile. There’s hope in his eyes. There’s joy unspeakable in a little boy still learning to speak. Hope is hearing him say his name and the giggles that follow. Hope is there; even on the hardest days.

 

 

Raise Your Voice & Wear Blue

There’s a verse in 2 Timothy that reminds me of the amazing thing I’ve been entrusted with.

A little boy who has Childhood Apraxia of Speech.

2 Timothy 1:14 says, Guard that good thing entrusted to you.

Each day God reminds me that I’m Jackson’s biggest advocate.

Jackson is determined and he’s working hard to find his voice; but until he finds it, John and I are called to speak on his behalf. Our job is to fight for our son.

We are the only ones who will be his voice until he finds his.

That’s why I write about Apraxia. That’s why I educate and advocate. Because this determined little boy has been entrusted to me.

On Saturday, our family will celebrate our second Apraxia Awareness Day. We share our story hoping it will encourage others facing difficult circumstances. We share our story to point others to our only true source of hope – Jesus!

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Most people know nothing about Apraxia, but it’s my job to change that.

We’re asking our family and friends to support Jackson on May 14th by wearing their Team Jackson t-shirt or the color blue!

It’s a simple gesture that will speak volumes! Words aren’t even needed!

Last year, so many of you joined us as we raised awareness for Apraxia. You sent us photos that we included in Jackson’s scrapbook, you shared Jackson’s story on your Facebook pages, you raised your voices for our little boy!

This year we’d love for you to do it again! Spread the word! The more people the better!

We’d love for you to take a picture of yourself wearing blue or your Team Jackson t-shirt on May 14th! You can use the hashtag #TeamJackson or #JacksonFindsHisVoice to share your pictures with us on social media.

Let’s raise our voices until Jackson finds his! 

Why Our Adoption Talk Has Been Delayed

Tomorrow we celebrate Jackson’s fifth Gotcha Day – the day we legally became a Forever Family. It’s a day to celebrate adoption, to remember his birth mother and to look back on the amazing story God has written for our family.

Tomorrow I should be sharing age appropriate parts of Jackson’s story with him. I should be talking about the anticipation we had driving to the hospital on that foggy, rainy Wednesday. I should be telling him how I listened to his heart beat all night long – scared and excited – about what the next day would bring. I should be sharing the sweet moment his birth mother held him and then placed him in my arms. I should be telling him about the tears of joy that fell from everyones eyes at 4:02 p.m. December 14, 2011.

We should have been talking about adoption by now.

But Apraxia has robbed us of that conversation.

Because how do you have those hard conversations when your son can’t communicate?

He can’t ask me questions.

He can’t share his feelings – is he happy, scared or sad?

We never hide the fact that he’s adopted; but the conversation has been delayed.

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I never want Jackson to be ashamed of his story.

I never want Jackson to feel as if I’ve misled him in any way.

It’s harder the older he gets; the more aware he becomes of the celebration we have on April 30th.

A friend and fellow adoptive mama gave me a great piece of advice the other night.

She told me to keep it simple and matter-of-fact.

That’s how she’s chosen to address adoption with her daughter who has Down Syndrome and Apraxia.

And that’s what I’m choosing to do this year.

I’ll start small and begin to share his story. 

Tomorrow we’ll read books about adoption.

Tomorrow we’ll look at photos from the day he was born.

The God who wrote our story, will guide me as I share it with my son.

Because it’s a story worth celebrating every day!

 

***You can read our entire adoption story in my memoir Bringing Home the Missing Linck: A Journey of Faith to Family.***

 

 

Seven Things I Learned In April

1. All about AAC, ABA and IEP

A few years ago I had no idea what these acronyms stood for, but then I became the mama of a kiddo with Childhood Apraxia of Speech and Sensory Processing Disorder. This month I’ve learned all about Individualized Education Plans, Applied Behavior Analysis and Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices. The special needs journey is all about educating myself so that I can be the best advocate for Jackson.

2. My Favorite Etsy Shop has Speech Therapy Stickers

I love my Simplified Planner. I love stickers for my Simplified Planner. This is my go-to Etsy shop when I need a sticker fix. I can’t even describe to you how excited I was to see her latest addition. I was tickled pink over the Speech Therapy stickers! We go to speech therapy twice a week and these are going to make putting those appointments in my calendar even more enjoyable!

3. One Little Guy is a Big Fan of My Book

Jackson’s friend Landry, who also has Childhood Apraxia of Speech, loves reading, “The Story of Jackson.” After reading the book the other night, he told his mom, “Mom, Jackson CAN talk!!” Melt my heart! I am so thankful for friends who walk this journey with us, encouraging us each step of the way!
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4. Jackson’s A Soccer Star 
Thanks to an amazing organization, we celebrated normal this month! My little soccer star ran around that field, kicked the ball and laughed. He stopped to gaze at an airplane. The Oklahoma wind almost blew him off the field. His cheeks were red and my heart was full. And could he look any cuter in his soccer gear??
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5. Monday’s Are For Jumping In Mud Puddles
Jackson needed a haircut and I was in need of a good distraction. I turned on the water to drown out the sound of the clippers and by the time I had buzzed his hair, there was a huge mud puddle in the backyard. He got a haircut and the mud puddle was the perfect distraction. Jelly Bean was even in on the action. Bath time was not an option after this – for Jackson or the dog!
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6. My Castle Days are Coming to an End
I didn’t start watching Castle when it first aired on TV, but I got addicted quick after buying the DVDs. I binge watched every season until I was caught up with the current one. I’m invested in Rick and Kate and look forward to solving murders with them on Monday nights. Yes, I do have a little Castle obsession. Apparently Beckett isn’t returning for the next season of Castle (and there may not even be one). I’m not sure what I’ll do with my Monday nights when there are no murders to solve or steamy scenes between a writer and a homicide detective.
7. We’re Going Back to Destin this Summer
John came home last week, handed me a piece of paper, and I got the surprise of my life! We are headed back to the beach in August and we are SO excited. Last year’s vacation was pretty much the best week we’ve ever had as a little family! It was so nice to get away from the daily grind of work and therapy appointments. We just got to be a normal family and that felt so good!  We are counting down the days until our toes are in that powdered sugar sand.
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What I’ve Been Reading…

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared what I’ve been reading. My reading game was strong when I kicked off 2016, but it’s dwindled over the past few months. I find myself in a hard season without much down time to turn the pages of a good book. But I’m trying to change that; because a good book can do wonders for the soul.

Here’s a few of the books that have sat on my bedside table the past few months:

1. The Friend’s We Keep By Susan Mallery

This was my first time to read a book by this author, and let me just tell you how disappointed I was to discover (a few chapters in) that I was reading the second book in a series. UGH! I was too far in to turn back. I had to finish the book because it really was that good! The book weaves together stories of infertility, teenage pregnancy, adoption and friendship. Stories I could relate to on so many levels. It was a great book to get lost in at the end of the day.

You don’t have to read the first book to understand the second one. That was a plus. It could stand on its own. I’m not sure I will go back and read the first book, but I am anxiously awaiting the release of the third one.

2. All About IEPs: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about IEPs By Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright and Sandra Webb O’Connor

When you have a child with special needs, you have to educate yourself so that you can be the best advocate for them! This past month I had to make sure I knew all about Individualized Education Plans as we prepared to meet with school officials to make plans for Jackson’s PreK year. If you have a child on an IEP, this is a great book to read. It will answer all your questions and prepare you for the sometimes dreaded IEP meeting.

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3. The Husband’s Secret By Liane Moriarty

I really enjoyed the first book I read by Liane Moriarty (The Last Anniversary) but I couldn’t even finish the second one (The Hypnotist’s Love Story). I was hesitant to start The Husband’s Secret but after hearing great things about the book I decided to give it a chance. And I’m so glad I did. Moriarty does a marvelous job weaving characters lives together in her stories; surprising you with lots of twists and turns.

4. Looking for Lovely By Annie F. Downs

I picked this book up at the exact moment I needed it. Sometimes it’s difficult to look for lovely when you’re stuck in hard places. This book is a reminder to keep going. To not give up. To look for lovely each and every step of the way.

5. The Armor of God By Priscilla Shirer

It’s been a while since I’ve dived into a good Bible study and I’m so glad I took a friend’s advice and started this one. Spiritual warfare is a very real thing – I’ve been dealing with a lot of attacks lately. I knew from the moment I pushed play on the first video session that God wanted me to dig deep into the words of Priscilla Shirer. I am expectant and hopeful for what God has in store over these next six weeks.

So that’s what I’ve been reading these past few months. What about you? Any books I should be adding to my reading list?