From Nagging Wife to Walking in Newness of Life

I was rocking my daughter to sleep one night and there was a constant dripping of rain onto the air conditioning unit outside. It was driving me insane. The sound of falling rain on our tin roof is such a relaxing sound. This was not that. It was just this constant little noise that grew more annoying as it continued on and on. This is what the Bible compares a quarrelsome or nagging wife to in Proverbs. As much as I hate to admit it, I am so often that annoying dripping rain in my home. So often I'm the Proverbs 27:15 woman instead of the woman of Proverbs 31. I can give you a lot of excuses as to why this happens. I'm exhausted. I can't keep up with the dirty dishes or never ending loads of laundry. I never get time to myself to relax. I mean even when I go to the bathroom I'm trying to keep my darling little girl from nose diving into the bathtub or eating toilet paper. The list could go on and on, but these are just excuses. The reality is I'm putting what I want above everything else. I want clean dishes. So when my husband makes the dishes dirty I just cleaned, I nag. In that moment I decide to value clean dishes over loving my husband. I don't want to be the nagging wife. I want to love my husband well, be a great mom, and a great housekeeper all rolled into one cheerful put together in shape woman! I want to have it all together, but I don't. I just don't.

In and of myself I fall short daily, hourly, and minutely! I feel the words of Paul so deeply from Romans 7, "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." All of this can leave me in a bad place of feeling inadequate and having a nice little pity party with a bowl of ice cream and a Hallmark movie. While ice cream and Hallmark movies are 2 very amazing things, they only help temporarily and they definitely don't make me a better wife or mom. The truth is there is only one place I can turn to truly be comforted and encouraged. There is only one place I can turn to be transformed into a person that encourages and loves others well. I must turn to Christ!

What does this look like practically? How do I keep from turning into that annoying dripping of rain? How do I turn to Christ on a daily basis? I live out His Truth. I can forgive others and seek their forgiveness because of God’s forgiveness in my own life. I can love others because God has loved me (1 John 4:19). When life doesn’t look the way I want, I can be content because I know contentment doesn’t come from my circumstances being what I want. In any and every situation I can trust in God to strengthen me (Philippians 4:13), but I must trust in God and not Amanda. I have to rest in God’s strength, not try to muster up my own. I have to die to myself and walk by faith in Jesus who loved me and died for me (Galatians 2:20). I have to pray and trust the power of the Holy Spirit to work these things in my heart and in my life. I need to wake up everyday and fix my eyes on eternity not on the temporal things of this world. For example, more Bible less Netflix! More prayer and seeking God, less Instagram and seeking likes!

Bottom line, to turn to God I need to talk to Him (pray) and listen to Him (read His Word). I must trust the words of Ephesians 2. I have to believe God is rich in mercy and that even when I was dead in sin He loved me and made me alive with Christ. I don't have to pull myself together; God pulled me together by Christ's work on the cross! Now, I can walk in newness of life (Roman 6:4) and know with confidence that God will complete the good work He began in me (Philippians 1:4). I can say with Paul, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)” Bottom line, I have to rest in the Gospel EVERY SINGLE DAY. This Gospel, these Truths that initially set me free over 10 years ago, are the same Truths I must be reminded of every day and every hour of every day!


To the Stay At Home Mom: Let's Drop the "Just"

About a month after going back to work part time, my husband and I made the decision for me to stay home. I soon came to learn of the abbreviation SAHM for "stay at home mom", so in trendy fashion I'll use that as I continue. 

Before I continue, let me stray a bit for naysayers sake. My husband and I made a decision together, with equal input, for me to stay home. I wanted to stay home and he wanted me to. We have a partnership so we discuss and pray about things together. One more disclaimer, I have no problem with moms who choose to work or have to work. This was a decision we made for our family and what we believe God wanted and works best for us. Honestly, a lot of what I'm about to say could go for those who work as well!

Ok, now that the disclaimers are out of the way, let me get back to the topic at hand. So I find myself having conversations similar to this:
Person I meet or haven't seen in a while: What do you do?
Me: I just stay home with my baby.
You see that little word there between "I" and "stay". Why do I say the word just? Why don't I confidently say, "I stay home with my baby" or even better "I get to stay home with my baby." Am I ashamed to stay home? Honestly no, I love it and view it as such a privilege! Am I worried what that person's opinion is about me being a SAHM? Probably, because I worry about what people think too much and the mommy wars can get pretty intense! 

I honestly think another reason is our culture has put a negative spin on being a SAHM and not working outside the home. By making such a big deal about women becoming CEOs or being able to "have it all" I think our culture has belittled what is truly the biggest privilege I have ever had, caring for my baby girl full time! I'm not saying women shouldn't pursue these things, but it is ok if we don't. I think when I say that I just stay home I am falling in line with the very thinking I disagree with in our culture.

I think there was a lot of good that came from the early women's movements, but I think it has now been taken to the other extreme. Women who choose to stay home to raise children are looked down on. People think we must be oppressed by our husbands or some set of religious rules. The very people who claim to want women to have the right to do whatever they want, ridicule women who use that right to choose to be home with their kids and enjoy making their house a "home" full time.

I am not writing this to tell other moms to stay at home or make them feel bad for not. I simply want to encourage those who are or who want to but fear what others think. In fact, a lot of this next part could be said to most any mom! :)

So hey there fellow SAHM! I applaud you for what you do! I pray you love and enjoy it as much as I do! Yes, it's hard. Our houses aren't as clean as we think they should be since we are here all day. That laundry gets higher and higher. The sink seems like a bottomless pit of dishes. Sometimes you think you will never get a break or sleep again, but hang in there! What you do matters! 

You are molding, shaping, and loving your family. You are making memories that you and they will cherish. You enjoy those extra snuggles before a nap. Let the dishes pile up without shame while you watch your little one learn to roll over, crawl, and walk. No the dirty laundry will never stop coming, but your family appreciates the clean clothes along the way. If they don't, the people they are around will!

So when someone asks you what you do, say with pride, "I am a stay home mom!" Don't be ashamed that you don't have a job outside the home and you just or only are a homemaker. It's ok that the only headshot you have is a scribble stick version drawn by your little one. You may not be on the cover of a magazine or speak to millions, but the impact you have on your family matters. You are doing important work!

When you are tired and weary and discouraged, remember Jesus says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew‬ ‭11:28‬ ‭ESV)

When you feel discontent remember the words of Paul, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content...I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians‬ ‭4:11, 13‬ ‭ESV)‬‬

When you worry about not having the approval of others remember the words from Galatians, "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians‬ ‭1:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

I hope you are encouraged fellow SAHM, or any mom! God has called you to be a wife and mom and He is there with you as you do it! Now go read that book for the millionth time or change the 100th dirty diaper of the day!


My Top 10 Things Learned Since Becoming a Mom

I chose this picture because this is my favorite thing to do with my baby girl, cuddle!

So I figured since I'm now a stay at home mom I need to write a blog post. It's what I'm suppose to do because I have SO much free time staying at home with a little one, right?!

Side note, said little one is currently staring at me plotting how she might could get her hands on this laptop and blow drool bubbles all over it.

Anyhow, as I contemplated what this post would be about I thought I could go the serious route and talk about the struggles and joys of becoming a mom. Then I decided that post would probably be so long no one could read it in a reasonable amount of time. Perhaps I'll write that one when my brain functions better than the mushy rice cereal I fed the little drooling girl this morning. So, I decided to do a list of sorts of the top 10 things I have learned since becoming a mom, a little serious & a little fun!

Here goes, in the past 4 months I have learned (in no particular order)...

1. A baby changes EVERYTHING. Everyone tells you this and all the books say it, but you cannot comprehend it until it happens. This little bundle of joy that can barely open their eyes will rock your world in the hardest, but best way possible!
2. The 10 second food rule applies to pacies. In fact, the time limit is extended to 30 seconds, or 1 minute, or longer...
3. Everything that I said I wouldn't do with a baby before becoming a mom, I have now done. The lesson here is be very careful when saying the words "I will never..." You will likely do whatever followed these 3 words at some point in the future. I'm pretty sure I said I will never write a "mom blog" or post a million pictures of my baby on social media, OOPS!
4. You can have a complete conversation using the sounds "ga", "ta", "gee", "mmm", & "da." 
5. I cannot come close to being the mom she needs without relying fully on God. Let's just say when I'm not fully following & trusting Him, you don't want to drop by! Or maybe you should to remind me that I need to trust Him! 
6. Poop can get ANYWHERE! Seriously, I don't even know how, but even ears aren't safe from it.
7. I married well. Not trying to brag, but my husband is amazing. You really learn how awesome your husband is when you watch him love and care for your baby. As cheesy as it sounds, you really do fall in love with him all over again.
8. Sleep is the most precious thing in the world!
9. No matter how ridiculously silly something is, if it makes your baby smile, you will do it a million times. 
10. Last, but far from least, I have learned to be thankful for the season of infertility I faced. God taught me lessons during that time I never knew I needed to learn. I don't know why God chose the timing He did to grant me the desire of my heart to be a mom, but I've learned His timing is perfect and I can trust Him even when I don't understand. 

So there it is, from my mushy rice cereal like brain, the top 10 things I've learned since becoming a mom! 


Cry Out to Him who Knows

So it's been over a year since I blogged, so that's about my normal time to randomly do it again! Life gets incredibly busy and somehow blogging doesn't remain anywhere close to the top of my to do list. Things like cooking, laundry, dishes, and keeping my house clean end up being more important by the time I get home at the end of the day. I'm sure my husband probably appreciates this way of prioritizing, but I do really enjoy blogging when I get the chance!

The other night I was looking over my notes from a women's conference I attended a month or so ago. (Here's a side note plug for Fresh Grounded Faith conference. Please go if there is ever one near you, it's worth your time and money. God has truly gifted Jennifer Rothschild in presenting His Word and encouraging women!) 

While looking over my notes, I saw where one of the speakers was talking about God delivering the Israelites out of Egypt. This lead me to Exodus, which then lead me to decide I would like to read Exodus. All of this to set up how I ended up in Exodus chapter 2. I'll be honest, I tend to hang out in the New Testament and don't frequent the Old Testament. As I'm reading Exodus, I'm reminded of the sweetness in the display of God pursuing His people throughout the entire Bible! 

Ok, so getting more to the point of why I'm writing this blog in the first place and why I titled this blog "Cry Out to Him who Knows." I bet you Bible scholars and Bible trivia champs were thinking I would be focusing on Moses here since Exodus 2 primarily speaks about the background story of Moses, but no. God spoke to the depths of my heart and soul in those last 3 verses of chapter 2. 

"During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel - and God knew."

I found the cries of my heart resonating with the Israelites in Exodus 2:23-25. No I'm not in slavery and I'm not being oppressed by anyone in particular. However, I have found myself in a place this past year of being in circumstances that I would not choose for myself. I've actually typed and retyped this paragraph a few times now and decided to not beat around the bush. Steve & I have been trying to have a baby for a little over a year and a half now. It's interesting how when I look back to when we started this journey how many misconceptions I've realized I had. One being, it'll be easy and we can make it happen in our timing. Don't worry, God has very much so reminded me that He is the giver of life and things happen in His perfect timing. Another misconception I began to have is that when things didn't go as planned I began thinking no one understands how I'm feeling. Again, God has been gracious to place people in my life who do understand and to encourage me.

Let me stop and say, this is not me complaining or having a pity blog party. My desire, the desire I believe God is giving me, is to hopefully encourage others who may be in this same situation by sharing how God has given me encouragement through His Word this week. You may not be in this same situation, but there is no doubt we all find ourselves in the midst of struggles and circumstances that we would not choose for ourselves. 

This journey to conceive has been humbling, frustrating, encouraging, and hard all rolled up in a big ball of the messiness of real life. There is so much I could say about this struggle - how it affects my relationships with my friends with kids or who are pregnant, the struggle to be content, dealing with the dreaded questions of "do you have kids?" or "when are you going to have kids?", trying to smile politely and give answers to questions that will not leave people uncomfortable or thinking you are the most bitter person on the planet, and so on. But instead of focusing on these things, I am now turning back to Exodus and the sweetness of the Truth of God found in the end of chapter 2.

The Israelites groaned because of their slavery and cried out to God. I find myself groaning in our struggle to conceive. I feel the despair and temptation to throw up my hands in defeat because the feelings and emotions are so overwhelming at times, but how often am I crying out to God? How often do I truly get on my knees before the Lord and cry out to Him in my despair? How often do I come before Him with the honesty of David found in the Psalms? Now I do, but if I'm honest, I so often try to deal with it in my own strength and by my own feeble will. God continues to show me how I need to cry out to Him and trust that I can do all things THROUGH Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13), not through Amanda who just gives out of strength.

So I see that I need to follow this example of the Israelites and not just sit in my groaning, but cry out to the Lord. Then comes the really sweet part of these verses that brought me so much peace and comfort. Verse 24 says, "And God heard…" God heard their groaning and just as He heard the Israelites, God hears me and God hears you. 

It goes on to say that "God remembered His covenant…" God remembers His promises to His people. God has promised us many things in His Word. He has promised that He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) He promises that if we trust in Him and lean not on our own understanding but in all our ways acknowledge Him that He will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) I could go on and on listing promises God has given to us throughout His Word. God does not forget these. They are true and He remembers them!

And finally in verse 25, "God saw the people of Israel" and "God knew." God doesn't just see us, He knows us. How incredible is it that the God of the universe who spoke everything into being "knows" us?! How well does He know us? Please quit reading this blog and go read Psalm 139 to see how well God knows us. I can't begin to come close to expressing how God knows us better than this Psalm. I will save you the time of even reading me make an attempt at it.

So as God has encouraged me through His Word, I encourage you in the midst of your struggles and groaning to cry out to God and know that He will hear you. He will remember His promises to His people. He will see you and he knows you. As a child of God you are not crying out to a distant God, you are known.

"O Lord, You have searched me and known me!" (Psalm 139:1)


"The old has gone, the new has come..."

I spent this weekend in Nashville at a Biblical Counseling conference. I went into the weekend expecting to learn a lot and to be encouraged in counseling others using a Biblical perspective. My expectations were definitely met, and then some. I did learn a lot, but I was also challenged personally. I spent much of the weekend being challenged in my own thinking and in my own sin. God seems to do this to me most when I am least expecting it. Then today after being home and processing some things with my husband, I had one of those "ah-ha" moments. You know when you understand something that you've probably heard a million times, but then one day it finally clicks and makes more sense or you gain a better understanding than you had before? I have a lot of these because I suffer from a condition called "stubbornness" or "thick-headedness". I'm sure no one else can relate to this condition and probably understands and accepts everything the first time it's presented to you. :) 

Please know, I'm not writing this to boast about myself & some ability I have to have insight. I just wanted to share & hopefully encourage people in something God graciously showed me this weekend & really throughout the past several years!

Let me start by sharing some verses.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" 2 Corinthians 5:17

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

These are just a few of the many verses I could have listed that talk about that when we are saved by believing in Jesus Christ, we are in fact a new creation. I think I have realized, that if I'm honest, I have lived much of my life in Christ more focused on who I was than on who I am. Which in turn, shapes my identity in how I view myself and therefore how I live. This leaves me living much of my life in Christ insecure, defeated, and lacking joy. Now I have had great times in my life of feeling secure in Christ and being very joyful, but I tend to cycle in and out of it. My focus shifts to my circumstances or my short-comings. This is not the life we are called to in Christ.

We are called to walk in the righteousness of Christ. We are not called to walk in the unrighteousness of our flesh. Notice in the verse from 1 Corinthians, Paul is talking to believers and says "and such were some of you...". Before this he basically listed out lifestyles of the unrighteous. He then makes a very clear statement that they are no longer the unrighteous. They have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God.

I remember clearly the day I first understood God's grace. I realized that I am a sinner and that nothing I do is good. (Rom 3:10) I understood that because God is just there must be a penalty for sin. In and of myself, my sin was earning me eternal separation from God is a place called hell. But by God's grace he lovingly sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay that penalty and that through my belief in Him I can be a child of God and walk in the righteousness of Christ. (Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 5:21) I believed in this with all of my heart and surrendered my life to Christ. I then began I journey of sanctification. A journey that will not be completed until I get to heaven. (Philippians 1:6) It's been a journey with a lot of "ah-ha" moments, but this has been 1 of the biggest truths for me to struggle to grasp. I am a new creation in Christ. The old Amanda is gone and the new Amanda has come. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. These are things that I knew & believed before this weekend, but is it what I focused on day in and day out? In all honesty, no. As I said earlier, I have spent a lot of time focused on the flesh, on who I was, on the mess ups or where I have fallen short. This is not where followers of Christ have to stay! We are to put off the old self and put on the new self. (Ephesians 4) By the power of God, the same God who created all of creation and raised Jesus from the dead, we can walk in newness of life!


Is relgion bad?

It seems this video Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus, has become viral and liked by many. It has also stirred controversy and critiques by many on blogs and social-networking sites.

First, I will say I don't completely disagree with what this guy says and I don't completely agree either. I will also say that that is the case with most an Christan videos I watch or books or blogs I read. The reason for that is that we are all human, therefore we are not infallible. The only things I believe to be infallible are God (which includes Jesus & the Holy Spirit) and the Bible (which is God's Word). I will go ahead and admit that this blog will have fallacies because as much as I'd like to believe I'm perfect sometimes, I'm not.

I think some people are getting a little too crazy in bashing this guy and his video. Based on some comments I read before watching the video I expected it to be completely off and not gospel centered at all. He is not the first person to use the whole religion vs relationship concept. Many people, including myself, have made this distinction. It is clear to me in watching the video that when he says "religion" he is referring to the institutionalized system of self-righteous pharisees. I will note that these "self-righteous pharisees" still exist today. Visit any local church and you will probably run into them. At the same time, you will hopefully run into genuine follower's of Christ. I really think the issue with this video is wording.

People have different understandings and definitions for various words. Especially words related to "religion".

Here's some definitions of religion I found via the 3rd infallible thing in the universe "google". (Obviously I'm joking about google being infallible.)

"the service and worship of God or the supernatural"
"commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance" 

Here's some definitions from an even more credible source, urbandictionary.com (obviously again, I'm joking)...

"The biggest lie in human history."
"cults and a form of brainwashing"

Ok, the point in all those definitions was to point out that words are defined differently by different people. Words are also defined differently throughout various cultures and generations. Context plays a big part in definition. That's why I think it is crucial for Christians (which I will define for you as follower's of Christ, not just people who go to church or live moral lives) to use the Bible to define not only their lives, but their words too.

James 1:27 defines religion this way, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Jesus himself explains that he did not come to abolish the law (which is what some think of as religion), but to fulfill it.

So do I think Jesus hates religion or that religion is bad? No way when that religion is defined by the Bible and is centered in the gospel. I do believe that Jesus hates the religion that is defined and described in this video, religion based in self-righteousness. Religion that says I can be good enough and I can do enough to get to God. For the most part, if you insert the word self-righteousness for religion, I like this video. And to be honest, if you look at most "religious" people in America, self-righteousness is what you will see.

I think this video is good for the audience it's trying to speak to. An audience that when they hear the word religion they probably get a mental image of that judgmental, self-righteous person at their church growing up that made them not want to go to church anymore. I also think there is a need for people to understand that religion does not have to be this way.

I think there is a strong need for the words religion, church, and Christian to be redefined according to the Bible and centered on the gospel. The religion of the gospel says. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23) Another favorite passage of my is, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4)

Maybe believers, Christians, followers of Christ, disciples of Christ, or whatever else you want to call us need to work at defining our own words according the Bible & not based on the culture. I think we tend to view life in general through the lenses of the culture vs. the lenses of the Bible. To me, that is the biggest problem with this video. It approaches defining the Gospel through the lenses of the culture vs. the lenses of the Bible.

I guess the bottom line I'm getting at with all of this rambling, is that for me, all of this has caused me to examine myself and what lenses I'm viewing & defining life through.


Life in Transition...

Yes, we are still alive, I have just been neglecting our blog! Let's just say life and time definitely got away from me! If I could sum up the past 6-7 months in one word it would be "transition". Transitioning to married life, living in a new place, finding a new church, a new job (for me), and even just being responsible for finances and other things that come with being adults on your own!

We all go through times of transition. We go from crying to get what we want to talking (sometimes I think I'd like to go back to crying it seems very effective), crawling around to walking, depending on others to get us from place to place to getting that license to drive, graduate high school and go to college, graduate college and enter the real world, etc. I must say I think this has been the biggest time of transition for me. I'm pretty sure everything in my life changed in what seemed like an instant. I think I'm just now catching up with it all!

I'm finally settling into being a wife, living in Troy, a new church, and my internship on campus (in case you don't know, I am interning at the SAVE Project & Personal Counseling office at Troy & loving it!). I've decided that during life transitions is when I really seem to grow and learn as a person. It seems like God really uses those times when I am completely out of my comfort zone to open my eyes to things I miss when I'm just living life day to day where I'm comfortable.

I thought I'd share a few tid bits of things I have learned these past few months of transition. These are in no particular order and some of these are obviously more serious than others! Enjoy!

- Being in Christian community is essential, I will fail miserably at walking with God without it!

- As a sign I passed one day said, "a closed mouth gathers little foot." (Side note about this one, I passed this sign right after a lovely little marital dispute over something not even worth disputing over. If your married or have close relationships with others at all, you know what I'm talking about! Needless to say I wanted to run over this sign at the time because it was obviously true but not what I necessarily wanted to read at the time! But it has proven to be a good truth to live by! haha)

- I do not have a green thumb and flowers will die if they are in my possession for more than 24 hours

- Cleaning can actually be rather therapeutic

- Living a life following Christ takes daily surrender, daily sacrifice, daily discipline, and daily faith!

- Living for the world will always be tempting. This will not change by getting older, getting married, or anything else. I must continually remind myself of verses such as: 

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

- Married life is the best, hardest, most fun, craziest, most challenging, most unpredictable, most exciting thing!

Can't wait to continue experiencing life and growing and learning every step of the way!