8.07.2017

For Some Reason


A few months ago…

I was browsing through my Bible app in search of a new daily devotional to begin.  My eyes landed on one titled “Goliath Must Fall” - a shorter version based on a book by Lou Giglio.  I read the synopsis, started the devotional, but read too far ahead and, a devotional that should’ve lasted me a week, I was finished with in just a couple of days.  In it, Giglio refers to emotions and feelings such as fear, anxiety, stress, etc. as “giants in our lives”.  But by God’s power in and through us, they must - and will - fall.  It was a very encouraging little devotional and I wished I had made it last longer.

---

Sunday, July 30…

My church live streamed a message from our sister church in Montana where Lou Giglio was guest speaking.  The title of his sermon was “The Giant of Fear”.  There were a few things he said that really stood out and resonated with me.  But instead of going into a lot of detail, I’ll just copy what I wrote down in my note-taking journal:

“We can’t take down giants.  But the thing is, God never asked us to.  We aren’t the hero in the story called the Bible.  Jesus is our giant-slayer.  Fear is a crime scene.  It’s already dead, but it’s still deadly.  Yes, there may be giants in our lives, and you may not be able to control what happens in your life, but we can choose where to focus.  And choosing to lift your eyes higher than the giant, to Someone greater, can be what causes your whole life to change.  You can worship in the circumstance if you choose to see God in it.  And worship is a weapon that pierces the darkness and leads us to the light.  The antidote to fear isn’t courage.  It’s faith.  And the soundtrack to faith is worship.  You have the power over the playlist in your life.  And fear will fall at the sound of Jesus’ name.”

---

Thursday, August 3…

I had been having a pretty stressful day.  I was filled with anxiety, worry, and insecurity.  I kept trying to ward these feelings off by praying and listening to worship music, but nothing seemed to be piercing the veil of darkness I kept feeling around me.
After work, I decided to go to Ross to look for summer dresses.  I can safely say that I’ve driven to this Ross at least a dozen times, but for some reason, I took a wrong turn.
“Great,” I thought to myself as I turned a corner in the parking lot, trying to find an exit back onto the main street.  
To my left, I saw a building with the words “Life Way” on it.  A Christian bookstore.  
“I’ve never seen that place,” I said aloud.
Completely befuddled that something like a Christian bookstore had escaped my notice in the past times I’ve driven down the street directly in front of it, I decided I was in no hurry to get to anywhere and took the parking spot in front of its entrance.
Upon entering the store, I was greeted by a woman named Gwen who asked if she could help me find anything.  
“Not particularly, no,” I replied slowly, then blurted out, “Bible studies?  Devotionals maybe?”
“Right this way,” she said, and led me past four or five aisles until we came to one she waved me into.
“Thank you so much!” I said.
She laughed softly at my enthusiasm.  “Let me know if there’s anything I can help you look for,” she said before walking away.
I stood at the end of the aisle, looking at the shelves to the right and left of me.  I didn’t know what I was looking for.  I didn’t know which author’s name to search for.  I didn’t even know why I had thought of Bible studies and devotionals.
“Okay, God, for some reason, You had me make that wrong turn and led me to this place that I didn’t even know existed in this neighborhood.  You want me here.  Now show me what You want me to find.”
Immediately, I got this overwhelming sense of peace and felt God’s presence so strongly that tears came to my eyes.  He was here with me.  In this aisle, in this bookstore, in this city.  
I gently brushed the books in the top left shelf and mouthed the titles and author’s names.  I saw a few I knew but none of them really stood out to me.  I was waiting for confirmation.  I didn’t hear Him say “This is the one!”
I saw a thin little book tucked away in the others and pulled it out to take a closer look, but when I did, my fingers fumbled and I dropped it.  Reaching down to pick it up off the floor, my eyes went to the bottom shelf that I was now level with.  
“Goliath Must Fall”.  The words were big and bold in front of my face.  The book by Lou Giglio was displayed prominently, not like most books on a shelf where you just read the title on the thin edge of the cover.  No, this book was facing out, so I could read the whole front of it.
Now the tears really started coming as I reached for this book.  I turned it over and started reading the back cover.  Words like “fear”, “rejection”, “addiction”, and “anger” kept jumping out at me, but one line at the bottom said this - “…fix your eyes on the size of your God, not the size of your giant.”

And I heard God say “This is the one!  This is the reason I led you to this bookstore.  This is the reason you needed to come here.  I wanted to give this book to you.”

The price sticker said $16.99.  When I got to the counter, the lady at the register said that for some reason it was on sale for $11.


Okay, God, I see You.

8.04.2017

Ten Seconds of Courage

  
  It was just another day at work - making coffee and serving smiles.  I was assigned to register, being the first person the customer would chat with and taking their drink orders.  

    And then he walked in.

    I knew all of our regular customers by name and their drink orders by heart, but I’d never seen this guy before.  We made eye contact and I felt a weird sensation vibe through me.  Not only was he attractive but there was something about him that made me feel like I’d known him forever.  
    “Hi,” I said.
    “Hey,” he replied with a smile.
    The rest of our interaction was kind of a blur.  He ordered a freeze, paid with a card, had never been to our coffee shop before so I told him that I’d buy his next drink.  I asked him what he was up to and he said he was headed to work.
    I’m not the kind of person who gets nervous easily or fumbles around when a hot guy is talking to me, so it was definitely out of character for me to be as scatter-brained as I was during my exchange with him.
    After he left, I turned to my coworker.  “That’s my custie crush.”  (It’s kind of a thing, I guess, in the barista world to have a “custie crush”.  I hadn’t really had one up until the day I met this guy.)
    “Oh yeah?” she laughed.  “He was pretty cute.”
    I waited and waited for him to come in again.  Finally a couple weeks later, he did.  But this time, he ordered two drinks - the freeze and also a blended chai.  
    Dang it.  He has a girlfriend.  He’s probably getting this for her, I thought to myself as I made it.
    “Who’s the chai for?  I know you don’t drink chai tea.”
    “Oh it’s, uh, for a friend.”
    “Oh okay,” I said with a nod and smile, and my heart was like “Yay! I was wrong!”
    “Well here you go.  Have a good day!” I said.
    “Thank you, sweetie.  You too,” he smiled and winked at me.

    I didn’t see him for a few weeks after that.  I was sad, to say the least, but then told myself that maybe he didn’t live in the area and the times he had come in were just because he was passing through.  Oh well.  My custie crush was someone of the past.

    “If he ever does come in again, though,” I told myself trying to be hopeful, “I’m gonna give him my number.”

    I’m a huge believer in men being the pursuers, but sometimes, they need a little encouragement, ya know?

    One afternoon, a week or so after I had made that decision, my coworker and I were outside taking pictures for our social medias.  I heard a car pull into our parking lot and its subwoofers were bumping.  I turned to see who it was and lo and behold, he steps out of the car.  I was giddy with excitement, and then suddenly nervous.  I had promised myself that I would give him my number the next time he came in.  This was my chance.

    I rushed inside (funny story - we have special keys to get in the back door, but I didn’t have one with me, so I legit climbed through the window…) and was assigned for register on that shift (again).  There was a sweet, elderly lady who was a regular giving me her order right before him.  As I relayed her drink request to my coworker, I wrote my name and number on a stamp card in preparation to give to him.  But I wrote my name very sloppily (my hands were shaking, okay?), so I threw the piece of paper away and grabbed another one.  This time, I wrote my number wrong.  The same cell number I’ve had for about 6 years.  I threw that paper away too.  Finally I wrote my name legibly and the correct phone number and looked up into his beautiful hazel eyes and kind smile.  
    “Hey,” he said.
    “Hi… I haven’t seen you in a while.”
    “Yeah,” he said, “I keep missing you whenever I stop in.  Do you remember my drink?”
    “24 ounce extra sweet white mocha freeze, no whip cream.”
    “Good job,” he smiled, then handed me a full stamp card (so his drink was free) and started walking towards the drink pick-up station.
I had missed my chance.  The stamp card with my name and number written on it was still in my hand.  I was too nervous to call out after him though.  
    Dang it, Raquel, I thought to myself.  You’re never like this.  Just give the guy your dang number!
    “Hey.”  He had walked back to me.
    “What’s up?” I asked.
    “Wanna go out some time?”
    “When?” I asked.  “Tonight?”
    He laughed.  “Naw, I’m working, but - ”
    I cut him off by pushing the neatly written note towards him.
    He looked confused for a minute, then grinned as he read what was on it.  “Nice,” he said with a nod.  “I’ll text you.”
    After what seemed like forever (but my coworkers assured me it was only about 20 minutes), I got my first text from him.  We exchanged messages for a little while before he asked if I was free on Sunday.  I said that I was, after church.  He said that would be perfect and that he was excited to take his favorite barista out on a date.


    “I’m sure you already know this, but you’re very beautiful:)” he said.  “And also, I’m glad I got your phone number today.  I’ve been trying to get a hold of you somehow.  I’ve even called around to other coffee shops in the area to ask someone for your name and to give them my phone number for you, but I’ve had no luck.  Until today.  My dad always tells me that it only takes ten seconds of courage.  Hey, are you free on Saturday?  I got the day off and I don’t think I can wait till Sunday to see you…”

7.28.2017

"Nothing Will Ruin Your Twenties More Than...


...thinking you should have your life together already."



This statement resonated so deeply with me.

The path to our destination is not always a straight one.  It's a rather scenic route.  But maybe it's not about which road we take, but what we embark on.  Is it on our own judgement and the way we feel?  Or the truth that our soul knows and can trust?

Life is amazing and awful all at the same time.  And in between these climax moments is the routine, the everyday, the ordinary.  But the truth is that each of these times has significance in your growth.  If you were to fast forward ten years from now and choose to look back on these moments, you will see why they had to happen and for what purpose.

God says, "You're gonna be happy, but first, I'm gonna make you strong."  Because without the painful times of maturing, you won't enjoy the good times as much.

I know people who graduated college at the age of 19.  I know people who were making a million dollar budget by the time they were 25.  I know people who are single and have children.  Or people who are married but waited 5-10 years before having children.  I know people who love each other but aren't together.  Or people who hate each other but are married.  There are people waiting to love and who have so much love to offer.  You don't have to do anything just because you see others doing them or because someone tells you that it's what you should do.  I promise that the day you stop giving weight to people's opinions of what you "need to do" with your life, is the day you will feel free.

The point is, everything in life happens according to the time allotted us.  It may not seem fair, but the beauty of trusting in a sovereign Creator is knowing that He has a purpose through it all.  You may look at your friends and think "Oh they have their lives together", "They're so far ahead, and I'm so far behind", or "Why can't my life look more like theirs?"

Be patient.

You're right where you're supposed to be.

The best advice I've been given as a twenty-something year old is:  l e a r n.  Ask questions, make mistakes, learn from them, don't regret things because you never lose in life.

You either win or you learn.

7.13.2017

Are You Ready To Be In A Relationship?


This article isn't some sort of quiz or step-by-step process to figure out if you have "what it takes" to be in a relationship.  It's an article to help figure out for yourself if you believe you are ready.

Since when is it hard to be loyal and committed?  Since when does "being in love" mean just a phrase, not a deep soulful promise?  Why even try to be in a relationship if you're not ready or willing to commit to one person?  Figure out what you want before you go around investing time, energy and emotions into relationship after relationship.

You want to meet someone, have deep conversations with them, hang out, feel a connection, see that they prove their loyalty, and if it leads to something more, that's amazing.

I get that.

But if you're still figuring your life out and trying to understand who you are as a person, then don't mistake love for lust.  No one is in a hurry, but almost everyone is looking for that special someone to spend the rest of their life with.  You can so easily make them think you want more than you're making apparent.  That's when it can get messy, and that isn't fair for either of you.

Sure, there are instances when people misread your friendliness as interest.  Or you really did like them, but after a few dates, you just don't see it working out.  That happens.  And that's okay.  But learning the difference between being ready to pursue something or not will save you a lot of awkwardness and heartache.

I think that one of the greatest mistakes people make these days is thinking that "all it takes is to have a boyfriend/girlfriend".  "All it'll take to make them happy will be to have a significant other".  "Being in a relationship will be the best thing that's ever happened to them".
And no matter if they verbally admit to this or not, more than half of my generation most likely believes this.

But the truth is, a relationship isn't going to fix anything.  It's only going to make life harder.  Relationships take work.  Of course they're not as difficult when both people know how to communicate and know how to deal with issues correctly and maturely, but that's a skill that should be honed before committing to a relationship, you know?
All these "taking breaks from him/her" isn't how relationships should work.  If a few months into dating, you "need a break" from them, it's usually you that's the problem.  If you truly care for someone, you deal with your crap before you even start a relationship.  And if you actually end up marrying that person, you won't be able to "take breaks".  So learn now, okay?

I'm not saying that you have to have your life altogether before even considering dating someone.  You'll never have it altogether.  That's part of being a human.  You're always going to be working at improving yourself and the environment around you - even while you're dating, even when you're married.  But do you think it's fair to someone for them to be dating an individual who doesn't know what they want in life, doesn't know who they are, doesn't have goals, doesn't know how to handle conflict, doesn't know how to trust someone because they have huge trust issues in their past, etc.?

I'll answer for you.

No, it's not.

So the next question to ask yourself is - are you ready to be in a relationship?

And I'll let you answer that one.


---

This article was originally a guest post over at Embrace This Joyful Life.

5.31.2017

When You Don't Feel Like Loving God

I was talking to a pastor a while ago about feelings.

"When it comes to relationships," he said,  "I prefer to use the word 'passion'.  For when you are passionate about something, it's an undying love and sensation that will withstand time."

Now that's a thought, isn't it?

I had been talking to him about dating relationships, but I think the whole conversation could pertain to our love relationship with God.

Do you ever have those days when you don't feel like loving God?  You're not in the mood to read the Word or pray or go to church.  I think we've all encountered moments like this.  But does feeling this way make us bad Christians?  Or worse yet, does it mean we aren't truly saved?

I know a girl who claims to struggle with this on a fairly regular basis.  She's been baptized four times, is always asking for prayer for her spiritual life, because she doesn't feel saved.
Key word there: "feel".

What does it feel like to be saved?  Well, like many "feelings", you can't exactly describe it.  But passion, on the other hand, is something you can - not only believe - but see.

Passion is a fervor, an eagerness, a zeal, fire, energy, and enthusiasm.  You may not always feel this way about the LORD, but does your heart and mind long for His Words?  Does everything you do, say and think make you pause and wonder if it's a reflection of Him?  Are you living in a way that He would be pleased with?  Can people see this passion in your life of an undying thirst for more of Him?

It's great - to see someone who wants to be passionately in love with Jesus, to mimic Him in their every day lives and to always desire to talk about Him.  But we must also be prepared for the times when that's not at the top of our priority list.
Because it will happen.
Why?

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
- Romans 3:23

This means that things happen, we commit sins, we take Him for granted, we forget who we are in His eyes, and when this occurs, we tend to lose sight on the whole love aspect of our relationship with Him.

Be prepared for these seasons, where you feel like you're barely hanging on to Him.  Be prepared for times when you don't feel like loving Him.  It's not the best.  It's scary, for sure.  Our sinful nature pulls us away from Him.  The enemy uses this to his advantage and whispers to us that we're better off without Him, we don't need Him, life is easier without all His "rules".  You'll start to feel yourself slipping away.  You won't want to read your Bible as much, you won't pray very often, you'll dread going to church or talking about God.
But this is where training and discipling our hearts and minds to want more of Him comes in to play.  Because it's not about feeling one way or the other.  It's about keeping that spark, that passion alive.

Be ready to fight.  Because love is always worth fighting for.  And honestly, loving God should be the easiest kind of love.  Why?  Because it doesn't cost us anything to love Him.  But it cost Him His very own Son's death.  A death that created a bridge over the chasm that separated our sinfulness from His glory.  Why do we take that for granted?  Why do we overlook His goodness and mercy?  His forgiveness covers a multitude of sins and yet we reach points in our spiritual lives where we don't feel like loving Him?

It's in these moments that we most need Him, though.  

And we have hope.

The passage in Romans continues... "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.  This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God, He passed over the sins previously committed."

5.26.2017

The Story of How I Met An Attractive Guy...and Was Not Attracted To Him

Disclaimer: Please do not read the following if you are under 18 years old.

---

You clicked on this because the title was intriguing in either one of two ways -

"What happened after you met him?"

or

"How is this even possible?"

(Or maybe both.)

Well, let me tell you the story.  

He really was extremely attractive.  Tall, dark hair, blue eyes, chiseled features, deep voice.  (Think Colton Haynes type of look).  I mean, there was no way to not be attracted to him.

Until, he opened his mouth.

And it wasn't exactly the foul language that was a turn-off.  But the way he talked - about himself, about what he did the night before, about women - the way he objectified them and the way he bragged about all the things he's done with them.  
Now mind you, I was (at the time) a twenty-one year old woman standing in a group of five guys as this one super-attractive-slowly-losing-points-guy was ranting on and on, with a big smile on his face, about the strip club he'd recently gone to and how many dollar bills he'd tipped the girls and how he was unhappy with a certain lap dance he was given and how drunk he got so that $1,000 went missing from his bank account - which he only discovered the next day after recovering from his massive hangover.  
Needless to say, I could feel the heat rising in my face and my muscles started to tense.  But before I could say anything, one of the guys in the group pointed to me and said "She got a $100 tip at her work." (I'm a barista, in case any new readers are visiting)
Mr. Attractive-But-Not turned to look at me.  "For reals?"
"Yup," I nodded. 
"I've given that sort of tip before."
"Yeah, but I kept all my clothes on," I stated, firmly.
He snorted, while the other guys laughed.

The topic changed to marriage and he encouraged my friend to "Never get married because getting married is the worst thing you could ever do with your life.  I was married for 3 months and it was hell."
(Raquel's brain is thinking: Really?  I wonder why...)  

Yeah, that was pretty much the last straw for me.  I was livid.  I quickly turned and walked away.  Not because I didn't know what to say, but because I knew that if I opened my mouth, it wouldn't be a very good Christian witness.  I chose to not say anything because I knew that the moment I did, I would only say things out of anger.  It also just wasn't the right place to start a debate.  

Now what I'm trying to figure out is... Why?  Simply why.  Why does this guy have to be attractive but be a major jerk too?  Why does he feel the need to brag about all the crap he's been involved in?  Why does he cuss so much? - not just every other sentence but more like, his vocabulary consists of verbs, nouns and adjectives that are all cuss words.  His own brother even told me "Oh you two met?  Yeah, I'd hate to be a girl around him."

I drove away from that "conversation" in fumes.  I went to my family's and everything I touched seemed to either get thrown or slammed.  I was more angry than I'd been in an extremely long time.

A few Sundays prior to this encounter, my pastor had spoken on Psalm 19:14:


"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD my Rock & my Redeemer."

I sure as heck don't live up to that verse every day.  I'm sure a few of my friends can testify that the words that come out of my mouth aren't always good or pure ones.  So that whole sermon really hit me in a convicting and humbling sort of way.  I was like "Wow.  Every thing I say or think about really does matter."  We will give an account before a holy and just God for every single thought we have, and every word we ever utter.

Meeting this attractive guy and seeing how unattractive he slowly became the more and more he talked made me wonder how often I have been perceived as such to others.  How many people have I met who thought I was a fun, cool, pretty girl but once they hung out with me for a while, they slowly changed their minds about me?  That really sucks to think about, because I'm sure it's happened on more than one occasion.  I wish I knew who I could apologize to and who I could re-meet so that I could live up to a better example of the One I serve.  It just goes to show how imperfect we, as Christians, still are.  Just because we preach about "having clean mouths" and "being good witnesses" doesn't mean that we won't be prone to fall short of our convictions.  But we need to constantly be aware of how we are portraying our Savior through not only our words and actions, but even through our thoughts.

Soon after we met, Mr. Attractive-But-Not tipped me a $2 bill for a coffee I made him.  He said that he had gotten it at a strip club when he pulled cash to tip the dancers.  (Apparently some strip clubs only give out $2 instead of $1 bills.)

I think beneath all the cussing and fake confidence, he really is just a kind, sweet, handsome man who has been hurt by the world and had made wrong choices in previous years that turned around and burnt him.  He knew he was hot stuff, though, and a lot of times, people like that will hide behind their outward appearance, hoping that others would just see them as hot stuff too - and not the real them.  Not the real person who doesn't want to show their broken heart, the scars, the mangled mess of torment they're in.

A year and a half later, I still have that $2 bill.  I pinned it up on my board to serve as a reminder to pray for him.  I haven't seen him since but hey, you don't have to be in contact with someone to know that God is using your prayers.

Oh and trust me, it reminds me to pray for myself.  God alone can testify to how many times I've had to bite my tongue to not utter negative words.  And I know my family, coworkers, and church family can say that there have been occasions when I said things that shouldn't have been said.  There's a fine line between honesty and too much bluntness, Raquel.  It's all a part of life.  It's a learning process.  The tongue is untamable, yet the Spirit of the One who made it resides in us.  Kind of a crazy thought, huh?

---

My pastor is currently teaching through a series called Voice Control.  Check out his messages here.

5.16.2017

Grace Defines Me

Today, I was thinking about my worth and how I view it, what I base my value on.  Do I define myself through the eyes of others, myself or God's?

I try to be as honest as possible, with everyone I know and through everything I do and say.  I want the way I live to be a reflection of who I am, a representation of my heart and soul.  Isn't that how it should be?  But so often, I find myself basing my actions on how I want others to see me - and it's not always honest.  For example, when I want someone to find me fun to be around, I have tried to do "cool stuff" that would make them think I'm trendy and hip.  It's stupid how shallow my immoral self can stoop for the approval of others.

And the world encourages this by saying we need to find value in what others think of us.  Or by the decisions we make.  "What you do defines who you are."  But by putting my view of what I think I am over who God says I am is simply wrong.  Why?  Because when I do that, I am basically telling God that what I say is more important that what He says.

And this is what He says:

God says to find my worth in how He sees me.
He reminds me that He loved me while I was unfaithful.
And He continues to love me through the many times I fall short of His glory.

Trusting in this truth defines me.  My mistakes don't define me.  Grace does.

Do you think that maybe God gets sad when He sees how we view ourselves and wonders, "What do you mean you don't love who you are?  I worked so hard on you and to Me, you're spotless and beautiful."

Don't let the shame of your mistakes cause you to walk away from God because you think you're somehow unacceptable, not good enough, or damaged beyond repair.  Look past your shortcomings and see the beauty of His love through His sacrifice on the cross.  Nothing you do will ever be too big, too great for the cross to cover.  He forgives you no matter what.  No matter when.

Grace defines me.  

And with confidence, I can say "It is well with my soul for I am deeply loved by the One who made it."


P.S.  Trust me.  I wrote this more for myself than for you.  My blog posts are pretty much just my thoughts that I choose to share because I feel that someone else out there can use the encouragement and reminders that I so often need myself.  You are not alone.  <3

5.11.2017

Chosen & Forgiven

We sometimes tend to focus more on our mistakes and regrets than on our victories.  But when we put things into perspective and realize that there is something bigger than our flaws, we can move forward with hope, knowing that Jesus is greater, Jesus is victorious and Jesus is on our side.

When God chooses you as His own, He did so already knowing every little detail about you.  Think about how He created you, yet He still purchased you - with the blood of His own Son.  He put Jesus on the cross for you, all the while seeing your sins and knowing your future ones.  He knew you would fall short of His glory, yet He did nothing less than to make a way of redemption and to bring you closer to Himself.  He knew, yet He still chose.

That's grace.
That's forgiveness.
That is love.

The Gospel of grace teaches that Jesus came in bodily form to this earth to take the penalty for our sins, to acquit the guilt, to be judged in our place.  The just accusations against us were more than we could ever try to defend and be freed from.  But He came to relieve us of it.  He came because our efforts would amount to nothing.  They would be in vain.  How can a mortal, sinful creature make itself right again the eyes of a holy God?

But grace declares that our guilt has been atoned by for the only One who is perfect and blameless.

We don't need to live under the burden of trying to gain back a right view in God's eyes.  "The ultimate demand has been met, the deepest judgement has been satisfied."

The good thing we can look back and learn from our mistakes because the LORD specializes in redemption.  He redeems us from our mess ups and allows us to warn others of how not to live.  What you do with the lesson you learn is up to you.  From this point forward, you can either live as confirmation of that redemption (a victory!) or your failure to learn from it and continue on in a lifestyle what will only continue to hurt you.

And no, you may not always "feel" forgiven, but the reality of it is, you probably never will.  Because grace is something so hard to grasp...  How can we receive such a free gift of something we do not deserve?

Simply because He chooses to forgive us.

Come what may, I can rest in the truth that I was hand-designed by the Creator, chosen to be His, bought with a price, and fully forgiven.  There is nothing greater than to know I belong to the only One who loves me and calls me His.