#freedomin15--The Magic In The "Slight"

freedom in 15 It's February! Can you even believe it!? I saw an advertisement for something on February 25th and I thought, "yes... I can't wait for February 25th because then it's nearly March." Can you tell I'm over winter? Come on Spring! Caitlin and I are so very excited about all that God has been doing even in just a month of opening up to receive and experience all that is offered to us. He's been moving hugely, and it has been nothing short of blissful being able to excitedly share these things with one another and with you. So without further ado, let's get into what the Lord has given us going into a new month.

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Meditation

It has only been within the last year that I have realized I have been dwelling in a wilderness for the last ten years of my life. Have you ever been there? A barren, desert place in life that leaves you dry and wandering? This particular wilderness space has been a place of numbing loneliness and quiet for me--I haven’t heard or felt God because I haven’t been listening for Him. I was unfaithful to Him, simply existing and not seeking.

Yet, in His goodness and love, God has been there all along, whispering to me to come back

You see, sometimes the Lord actually leads us to these wilderness places. In Hosea, a scripture that has become near and dear to my heart, we get to see God’s love for his unfaithful people through Hosea’s story. God has called Hosea to love and marry Gomer, a woman he knows will be unfaithful to him, essentially living out a real-life allegory of Israel’s unfaithfulness to their Groom.

In chapter two, after God says all that He will do for Israel’s unfaithfulness, the Lord softly speaks saying: But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. (Hosea 2:14, NIV)

The Message version says I’m taking her back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.

What a revelation that was for me, realizing that the Lord himself leads us into the wilderness, not to punish us, but to romance us. He leads us into the wilderness not to leave us alone, but to pull us away from the distractions and to Him.

Though our wilderness spaces may seem barren and dry to us, though we feel as if we are wandering, we are never lost and alone. The Lord is with us in every moment of our wilderness, whispering to our hearts and romancing us to come back to Him. These are the spaces where He works deepest in our souls, bringing us back to the days of our youth. These are the spaces where He offers us restoration and transformation.

Where He offers us hope and freedom.

Has this first month towards freedom been dry or quiet for you? Have you hit some obstacles or faced emotional battles? If so, you are not alone friends. The Lord is working in all of us, calling us to a wilderness space of sorts for this year. To move forward in freedom, we have to let go of the chains, and that means we may have to enter into places that are uncomfortable and places where we must grieve. But our faithful God is ever present, romancing us, calling us to enter in, promising freedom on the other side.

-Caitlin

*Looking for a great print for this months meditation? Check out this one from Stephanie Moors. You can also print this one out or save it to your phone for a great repeated reminder of His heart and pursuit of you.

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Thoughts On Body Image

Entering into this year I felt so hopeful that this would be my year. The year that I ditch these haunting thoughts and replace them with freeing truth. I wonder what it feels like for God to watch us head into a storm totally thinking it's just a sunshower. That was me. January 1st. Ready to get a little sprinkled. Little did I know there was a hurricane coming.

From adolescence until now, I've been in one of two modes: hiding or protecting. There's been a lot of hurt, so my body and mind have learned how to cope--how to live in survival mode. So it's no wonder God is asking me to give Him my heart and trust that it's safe out in the open and in His rescuing hands. Having said that, it is important to recognize one very important truth if we are to fully entrust our hearts to Him: our body image cannot be dependent upon another person or persons. It must be dependent upon our God alone. Just when you think you've attained a healthy view of yourself something will happen, no doubt at the hand of another, and your lens will immediately cloud with doubt and despair. And going into 2015, my body image was still dependent upon another. You see, even your most intimate of relationships here on earth can and will wound you. Most of the time not even on purpose, but the reality is that these loves of ours are fallen just like we are. So our body image absolutely must come from our view through the lens of Christ.

My body image has been shattered over and over because of the actions of others or of my hopes of what others will give me. That, my sweet sisters and brothers, is a house built on sand. And you know what? Life happens... God allows certain things in our life to shape and mold us into our original design, and He doesn't do patch work--he does complete renovations. So while I may find a recent shot to my body image earth shattering, He sees it as vital in getting a good work done.  In love He lets me stumble and grasp after false self worth and knows that with each scraped knee and scuffed hand I'm getting closer and closer to giving up on all that is less than Jesus. He's a really patient God. He wants to give me the gift of wholeness but He wants me to appreciate the freedom found there, so He's not going to give it to me willy-nilly. He's also not a rich and disconnected daddy trying to win my affection with instant gratification. He's after my heart. Not always my comfort.

So body image is a journey, and I don't think I'll ever fully achieve full satisfaction in this body, but I wonder if I'm supposed to. Our bodies are decaying, and if I were able to find complete satisfaction in this one then why would I long for my heavenly one?

I think one of the very first steps to receiving freedom in our body image is simply accepting the journey. Taking a big, deep breath and gearing up for the long haul. Like venturing out on hike up a mountainside, we step out knowing what awaits us: challenge, fatigue, small victories, breaks to catch our breath, and always, always, always beauty along the way. One day we will reach the top and the view will be breathtaking. And He is good to give us such beauty along the way, too.

Take a deep breath and venture on, dear ones. He's got this.

-Laura

Yoga Poses

If you are working on your heart space, hang out here. If you are working into your hips and lower body, head on over to see what Caitlin has for you this month!

January brought with it some unexpected bumps, but God knew what I didn't and He was faithful to supply all my needs and show me that the change is not found in the yoga but in Him. With a few simple adjustments to my day to day life as well as to my practice, I've already been able to experience some incredible freedom in the opening up of my heart space. It's so very good.

Firstly, let me encourage any of you who are looking to correct your upper body posture and create some more space in your chest--it's so about more than just your yoga practice. How are you standing? How are you sitting? How are you sleeping? Begin to check your posture in all of these places. When standing have you let your belly go? Did you know that your entire core should always be slightly engaged when you are standing? It's not just your legs that keep you up; that core of yours is vital. It's so essential to all movement. Even just the movement of living out your life.

This month I have made a conscious effort to check my posture, and when it's off I draw my shoulders back, draw my skull back, tighten my belly a bit, and bring my weight back in line with my ankle bones. You can check out Christina Mroz for incredible insight into all things alignment. She is a wealth of knowledge and has helped me immensely.

Otherwise I've just made some slight adjustments to a few common postures in my practice. Consider moving into these variations as you practice at home or in a studio, as no instructor would (or should) tell you otherwise. It's your practice so do what your body wants and needs.

Chair Pose with Heart Opener (Or as my husband calls it, "ready to jump" pose)

Forward Fold with Heart Opener

Extended Side Angle with Wide Reach (that's my own made up name for it, anyways)

Crescent Lunge with Cactus Arms

Try incorporating these variations into your practice and see if you don't notice a significant difference in your heart space afterwards. It's freeing, reassuring and oh so wonderful. I've felt the goodness and closeness of my Father just in making these seemingly "slight" changes. He's doing the work of reassuring me that my heart is safe with Him. I'm beginning to trust Him in that, and willing to keep doing the work to receive and experience all that He has for me.

Be blessed this month, beloveds! Let's see what He has in store for us in February.

laura b

Don't forget to show us how God is encouraging you to join in on experiencing the Freedom He has given by hashtagging #freedomin15. You can also tag your yoga/body-image specific posts with #experiencingfreedom and your meditation/soul-changing posts with #receivingfreedom. We can't wait to see what He does in and for you throughout the year!

Being Set Right - #freedomin15

freedom in 15 When Caitlin and I entered into this year-long commitment of receiving and experiencing the freedom we've already been given in Christ, I knew He would have some deep heart work planned for me. But that's how it usually goes for those of us who say "yes" to more of Jesus--we go in, guns blazing, with no clue of what's waiting for us as we venture in. I'm actually thankful for my ignorance otherwise I don't think I would always choose more of Jesus.

I entered into 2015 on the heels of some major loss and grief and weirdness in life, assuming that the worst was behind me, and that it was "safe" to give my boarded-up heart to my Redeemer to do some healing and setting right. I sort of laugh at myself, and the control I thought I had in this act of surrender. It wasn't exactly surrender, it was leaving my thumb and first finger gripped semi-tightly as I handed my wounded heart to God.

And the thing is, life has continued to happen, and because of that I've:

  • Exchanged regular practice time for regular study and reflection time.
  • Exchanged heart opening yoga postures for awareness and correction of my normal, every day posture.
  • Exchanged feelings of "rightness in the world" for questioning how things are the way they are.

See, all of those things I thought I'd do and feel as I ventured in were all within the realm of my own understanding. His realm of understanding is remarkably larger...

I taught this morning on 4 things: He is our protector. He heals our broken hearts and binds our wounds. He is still good. He is still God. I need all 4 of these things. I need to drink them in, have them hit me hard like a wave, and surround me and seep into me like the water does when I'm fully under it. But one thing stuck out to me as the Spirit moved and spoke today:

As he wraps up and binds my wounds, He needs to first set them right. The way I saw it in that moment is that in the midst of heartache there are two options: let the break heal as is, and heal incorrectly creating dysfunction in how life is lived thereafter, or let the wound be set right, so that it can heal as it was originally intended and go forward in victory and in wholeness and restoration.

When I entered into this year of asking my Papa to heal my heart, He knew He needed to do the painful work of setting some things right first. He needed to break some things so they could be moved and changed into their original design.

I began to question the other day if I should keep teaching, or if I should take some time to heal. But the Spirit kept telling me to get on my mat. So I planned a heart opening class this morning and practiced as I taught. At the very end of our active practice I ended us in a forward fold with heart opener, the very same pose I began my year of experiencing freedom with... And guys, I sunk into that pose like the comfiest of sweaters... Like the most perfect embrace... Like my heart felt safe to come out of hiding. I can't explain the feeling beyond saying that it felt like home. A smile crept across my face and in that moment I knew what He's been doing all along.

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Setting things right.

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"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."-Psalm 147:3 (ESV)

It's hard. It hurts. Sometimes I want to yell out in pain and sometimes I want to drown myself in silent tears. But I remember that He hears my cries and He collects my tears, so in whatever I do, it is all for a greater purpose--becoming more like Christ and less like Laura. Nothing is wasted.

I'm totally ok with that.

So if you're joining us on this year of Freedom in '15, let me encourage you to keep letting Him do the hard work of setting things right. Keep leaning into Him, in all the unbearably hard times, and reach out and ask others to lift you up when you can't do it on your own. It takes a room full of people to perform surgeries and fix bones... It's no different in the spiritual surgeries either. He's equipped some awesome people around you to assist Him in creating a good work in you.

Keep placing one foot in front of the other, friends.

laura b

If you are joining us on this journey we would love to see your progress or your postures you hope to find and experience space and freedom in. You can post them here or join us on Instagram by tagging #freedomin15.

My "Ocular Migraine" Season

receivingF Yesterday began like most Mondays--up by 5:45 and out the door to teach Holy Yoga by 6:15. As I drove I prayed over the Truth God had given me for these students on this day, but also noticed how fitting it was for my current season/struggle/wrestle match with God.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." -Hebrews 13:8

You see, I'm entering (or I thought I was first entering... Turns out He's been prepping the soil and gathering the tools for a long time) into this year choosing to receive and experience the freedom Christ gave me on the cross. When I wrestle with my insecurities, specifically with my body these days, it's easy to think I'm wrestling because I'm trapped. But really, it's sort of like how my son wrestles with his lifeless stuffed animals in his bed. He's grunting and thrashing and wearing the wrestle face like a WWE champ, but he's doing so with powerless beings. I'm wrestling with insecurities that have as little power over me in Christ as the stuffed batman has over M. So this uncomfortable season is always on my mind. A wise woman I know challenged me in considering that these deep things are coming out in a "purging" process of sorts. So I accept that--He needs me to really see how deep these things go so we can remove them one by one. Together.

Back to yesterday. I pulled into church, ready to rely completely on the Spirit as I felt ill-prepared (as per usual) and I read a sign. You see, since I was a kid I've randomly gotten Ocular Migraines. They come on quickly and they are completely random. And they almost entirely wipe out my sight. And every time the plans for my day are kidnapped by said migraines, it always begins with the reading of a sign... and then realizing that I, in fact, can't read the sign at all.

That afternoon, after recovering from the less than enjoyable events of the morning, I spent some time praying about life... About this purging process... And about this season of unknowns. You see, so much of life is like these migraines. Unwanted, unexpected, debilitating and yet familiar.

Wrestling with The Lord over my insecurity is not uncharted territory--we've been here. Many times. But it's still hard. This season was not expected. It feels debilitating in how I live with and love those around me. And it's familiar. And in all of that Jesus Christ is the same.

The same as He was yesterday.

The same as He is today. 

And, spoiler alert, He'll be just as good, faithful, strong and loving for all the rest of my tomorrow's.

If you're facing a migraine-type situation, one that's familiar and leaves you somewhat blinded, remember Hebrews 13:8.

He's the God of the mountaintops and the God of the valleys. He's not the one who changes from location to location; we are. And we get to find so much comfort in the steadfast character of our King.

 

laura b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

freedom in 15

Rescued. Redeemed.

I have a lot of thoughts. Today was one of many times when all the loose threads seemed to intersect and make something beautiful in my head. A complete thought. A complete reality.

I've had several moments in the past few weeks where I've been reminded of my youth. My painful past, full of a significant amount of regret and many wrongdoings, both from me and to me. Isn't it just hard when you face those things again? And then immediately after you taste that ugly, you are washed with grace remembering that it is no longer a part of you anymore. You're clean. You're white like fresh fallen snow. The kind that when the sun shines on it it's almost blinding. That's how redeemed I am. And if you know and proclaim that Jesus came for you, to rescue you on the Cross, then so are you.

I'm often in awe of the reality that God set me apart... that He made the choice to save me for His purposes. This has always been a beautiful truth to me but not one where I've been able to recall memories of His hand on my life before I knew of salvation. Yesterday, while going through boxes of my old childhood junk (including my shrine to 'NSYNC, to which my 13 year old niece said, "Who are these guys?" I mean, can you even believe that?!) I was taken aback by how present God was in my life long before I ever knew Him.

I found a Veggie Tales journal, that I, no doubt, had because I thought the vegetables were cute, and inside I wrote what Bob the tomato always said at the end of each episode: "God made you special and he loves you very much." I was like, 12, so I didn't frequently watch those vegetables, but my little cousins did. While I was enamored with the animation and the cute veggies, somewhere in my youthful and fragile heart, He was drawing me. Without knowing it, each day that I wrote an assignment in that journal for school, I was doing so on a page with scripture printed on it. His Word was in front of me, long before I knew how life-giving it would be.

In Holy Yoga we often come against those who feel strongly against what we believe God is doing in the hearts of those who worship this way. And please hear me when I say this:

*I am not inviting debate on the topic by writing about this. While I am always open to discuss what I believe God is doing in this, I do not believe in doing so via comment reels. So please refrain from taking a soapbox here, and if you would like, I'm happy to speak directly. Just shoot me an email.*

I read a discussion between several instructors yesterday about this topic and as I drove home from attending a Holy Yoga class this morning I found my mind going back to the whole idea. Everything on this earth was created by God. Everything. The movements we make. The air that goes in and out of our lungs. The words that we speak. Everything.

My God is big. He's big enough to redeem everything back to Himself.

He was big enough to redeem me.

You see, He created me, but like yoga or sex or alcohol, I could have been lost for forever. All that bad that I did as a youth could have continued into adulthood and I could be contributing to corruption in the world I live in and influence the same way that alcohol, sex, drugs, adultery and violence do in others.

But He rescued me.

Because in the midst of all that badness was the imprint of the Creator on me.

As I drove this morning and listened to a beautiful song that spoke directly to my rescue, I couldn't help but think of a couple of specific poses that very personally reflect my adoration of God for saving me.

In my eyes, that is like His imprint on yoga.

Others can use yoga for their purposes, just as they use their bodies, which were created by God, for their own desires and self-fulfillment. But for me, and many others, so many of the poses reflect one beautiful action: full worship of the Creator God.

We don't live in a culture that often practices full-body worship. But I encourage you to try it once. In your own space, just between you and God, see what it's like to lay flat on your face while you cry out the song of your heart. Or stand in your room, close your eyes, lift your hands with fingers spread wide, and just move for Him. Show Him how worthy He is of ALL of your praise.

Because whether we think it's appropriate or not, He is worth immeasurably more worship than we ever feel free enough to give Him.

The enemy would like us to waste breath and heart on discussing whether something is right or wrong. God looks at the heart. He looks at your heart. Are you willing to look with Him? And believe me, if He knows your heart is out of line He will waste little time in telling you so. So take your Bible and your body and stand before Him. And do yourself and God a huge service and leave anyone else's opinions at the door. In this time, they will not serve you.

John 3:30 says, "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less." (NLT) The "less and less" in this passage means "to decrease in authority or popularity." Do you think that maybe, when it comes to matters of political correctness or "choosing the right side", "we", with our opinions and ideas, should become less popular and the Truth that comes from the Spirit through the living Word of God should be given ultimate authority?

Just remember, He was planning out your rescue plan long before you knew you needed it. And maybe, just maybe, He has a redemption plan, even for yoga, to be used to bring Him glory.

When I got home I just had to move a bit to that song, and worship Him for having His hand on me long before I knew of my need for salvation. While it is so far from perfect, and not exactly planned out, this is worship. Just move for Him. He gave you your body so that the Spirit of the Almighty would dwell there, so worship Him with it.

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Six Years Without You

Because of all of the excitement last week, I blew right past a pretty important day of celebration in my little life. It was six years ago that I "went under the knife" and said, "good riddance" to my always-troubling colon. I never had much of a chance to reminisce and soak in all the mercy and faithfulness of my God, but I have been these past couple of days.

 

Guys, God has been incredibly good to me-with and without my colon.

 

I wrote a post last year for my five-year anniversary, and if you wish to learn more about my story I encourage you to read it below. While this may not be a much talked-about subject, it happens to more people than you would think. In this past year God has carried me through a journey of wholeness-to a place where I have learned to not only appreciate this physical being of mine, but to praise Him for it. To love it. To care for it. My God is a God who heals-Mind, body and soul. Hallelujah! All glory to God!

 

Life can flourish, and your body can heal... even if that means your poo will be a little bit different.

 

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Originally posted May 18th, 2013:

This weekend I am reminiscing. Dreaming. Rejoicing. Soaking in His grace. Would you like to know why?

Tomorrow marks the 5 year anniversary of the day my life irreversibly changed forever. On May 19th, 2008 my five year relationship with Ulcerative Colitis officially ended and that lovely little colon of mine was headed for greener pastures… or something like that. For most, it is difficult to empathize with me on this because, well, you just don’t quite get all that this magnificent organ does. For others, like a few of my friends, you know all too well. To say that this is a relatively vital organ is pretty spot on. Is it needed to keep breathing and living? Absolutely not. Is the health and well-being of said organ important for your quality of life? Abso-freaking-lutely. I’m going to be extremely blunt and say that bleeding out of your butt and pooping 20-some times a day is no life. For anyone. I don’t care who you are. And don’t get me started on the pain. Aaaaanyways, I’m saving all that good stuff for the book I’m writing with my girl Katie one day.

This weekend I’m reminiscing on this event specifically.

Fear of the unknown is a b*#@%. But you know what I had? I had my Jesus. Who on earth is able to prepare for an 8 hour surgery that will leave them without an organ that cannot be put back in and NOT have fear? I’m pretty sure no one. THAT is why I can say with absolute confidence that HE is the only reason I made it through. His comfort came to me in this; “I saw the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will You let Your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.” (Acts 2:25-28). Sitting here, eyes closed, trying to remember the thoughts, the feelings, the words, I find my brow furrowed. The memory of those moments is painful. Then I remember… After more hours than promised in the pre-op room they finally came for me. As I was rolled away from my parents, and heading for those white doors, every ounce of me began to cry. I don’t mean I sobbed, I mean the tears that fell down my cheeks came from the deepest part of me. The little girl afraid to face this big life on her own. And as quickly as that loneliness came my Savior showed Himself along side me. I began to whisper His words from Acts and as each word came off my lips the tears dried up and I became strong- He made me strong.

I was in surgery for 8 hours. I PRAISE God for nurses. You women and men are angels. Each hand you hold and word you say is what carries us from our fear filled consciousness into a dreamless sleep and I think I can speak for others when I say that you are appreciated to the fullness of the word. I woke up to a very annoying man in the recovery room and an inability to move really, but all I knew was that the damn tube in my nose and down my throat was probably one of the worst things ever. 

I really really woke up a couple of hours later, in my room, to my family. They were the strength I needed to face this day, and the joy and laughter I needed to face my new life. It wasn’t easy learning how to pass food with the new fandangled thing on my side but alas it would be removed a few short months after and life would continue.

The photos above are a testimony to God’s Sovereignty. The life laid before us will never go the way we planned. He is far too creative to let us live life the way we think we should. Why He chose for me to be unique in this way I won’t know until I see Him face to face but I pray, I plead, that He may be glorified in this. His faithfulness is… well, it’s the most beautiful thing we will ever see in this world. To see myself on that day, and to know that He went before me- to my wedding day, to the day I would find out I was pregnant, and to the days I have with the two best men I will ever know- fills me with more joy then I deserve to feel. Really truly…

how great is our God?

I am thankful. I am blessed. It is only because of Christ that I live.

Well, that’s a little of my story. I’m sure you’ll hear more or have already heard some. Just promise me something? Don’t ever take for granted your health. It is not promised to you. It is a gift and should be treated as such.

Day 26: He Will Heal And Make Whole

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"'I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security,' declares the Lord." Jeremiah 33:6

We have been given the above verse in our Holy Yoga Training to meditate on and bring with us to our mats this week. As it has been ruminating in me these past few days, I've felt a tug to bring it with me in my prayers for my husband.

It's of no coincidence, as our God is crazy Sovereign, that Caitlin's prayer yesterday was that we would be sensitive to the suffering's of their hearts. God, in His sovereignty and mercy, will not leave us without necessary hardship in our lives, and we are not in want of examples of this in scripture. This passage in Jeremiah takes places when God has done some sifting. He has shaken things up because of the people's sinful actions and hearts. They were far from Him and He needed to take action to remind them of who He is and the reality that they must die to these sinful behaviors and serve Him only. He does this to me too. He does this to my husband, and your husband and you. He sifts out the bad in us, in an effort to bring us back to Him, and this is never an enjoyable experience.

Today, I'd like to offer up a prayer of praise for the promise that He has given; that He will heal his heart and mine. That He will bring health and wholeness to our lives. As the Message translation says, He is "going to show them life whole, life brimming with blessings." He is "working a true healing inside and out." Friends, we are never promised that our lives will be without hardship- until the day we see our Savior face to face we will always struggle with the realities of this fallen world, as well as the refining of our Father. But I believe, with every fiber of my being, that there is a way to still experience wholeness, peace, and joy in these things. If we allow Him, He will do a mighty work, inside and out, allowing us to live a restored life. So whatever the hurts of his heart may be-whatever the wounds in his heart may speak- may he know that his God has promised to do a mighty work there, to bring healing and the promise of a life brimming with blessings.

-Laura

Beautiful Father,

Man, what an image you have given us in this- a life brimming with blessings. Jesus, your sacrifice alone should be blessing enough to carry us through this life in sacrifice to you, but you have chosen to give us even more. Thank you for being an active Father, one who takes so much interest in not only our outside actions but our deepest insides too. Lord, you know his deepest insides. You know where he hurts. Holy Spirit, I ask you today to whisper to those areas a promise of hope and healing. Lord, in the quiet of his day, softly remind him that you are there, doing a good work, that will carry him through these days of mountaintops and valleys. I ask that the healing you bring him would be unbreakable- a true healing that would not just patch up but would fill up and make new these hurts of his heart and mind. That they would be impenetrable to the enemy, who would so love to add them to his tiresome playbook of schemes. God, you have given him victory, and so today I thank you that he has such a beautiful opportunity to bask in your healing love and move forward in grace. Begin in him the journey towards wholeness in you, and show me where I can be a blessing and a support to him in it. Use me, Lord, in whatever way you can to carry him when he may feel unable to travel this road on his own. And in all of it continue to remind him to yoke himself, and all of the burdens that come with him, to you, for your yoke is easy and your burden is light. 

Thank you for loving him so much. For your Name I pray.

Amen.