Christian Walk, Faithfulness, Marriage

God’s Goodness

Our lives are often viewed with the wrong perspective. We dwell on the things we don’t have instead of being grateful for the things given to us. Looking back in Genesis, Adam and Eve did the same thing. They fixated on the tree’s fruit they could not eat paying no attention to the bountiful forest right in front of them. The serpent easily persuaded them because they began to doubt God’s promises for their lives and lost perspective.

How often does this happen in our marriages? Something or someone captures our attention and we get easily distracted. We look to our friends and family to see what they have and where we may be lacking. Maybe we even get caught up in the world of social media and start playing the comparison game in our hearts and minds. Before we know it, we are coveting our neighbors and wishing for a life other than our own.

This may destroy more marriages quicker than anything else. When doubting God’s goodness, it is likely we have raised our problems as our highest reality rather than God’s Word. In such cases, a change of perspective is needed so we may view our problems through the lens of scripture. We need to be mindful that Satan still uses the same tactics he used with Adam and Eve, he just repackages the lie and delivers it by a different messenger.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalms‬ ‭34:8‬ ‭

Dear friend,
Don’t believe the lie that God’s goodness applies to everyone but you! Today I want to encourage you to believe in God’s goodness and trust He has His loving arms wrapped around you. In your time of trouble, don’t hide like Adam and Eve, but run to our Heavenly Father with open arms. If you are in a season of waiting, be patient and take refuge in Him knowing and expecting God to deliver on all of the promises He has for you. Chances are without the troubles, you may not come to fully appreciate the promises He has given.

In Christ,
Amy Larson

Divorce, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

The Hope of the Cross

The twelve disciples were taught by the greatest teacher and leader who walked the earth. When Jesus called them to drop everything and set out on mission with Him, I’m not sure they knew just how extraordinary of an adventure it would be. It was met with miracles, healings and teachings that defied logic. They knew Jesus was the Son of God, and were witnesses to the mighty power He possessed. Yet, in the end, Matthew 26:56 tells us the disciples left Him and fled. Peter with deep aggravation and profane cursing denied Christ three times and Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Jesus personally suffered through a tremendous amount of pain and experienced devastating grief. The betrayal by those He walked with side by side and was closest to was no surprise to Him. And, this is where we see the beauty of Christ’s character. Jesus knew they would turn their backs on Him, but still chose to devote His life to teaching them and poured out His love into their lives daily.

But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left him and fled. Matthew‬ ‭26:56‬ ‭

Dear friend, in your marriage circumstances, you may be suffering from an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. This Easter, take time to reflect on the hope of the Cross and the ultimate demonstration of restoration the world has ever known.

In Christ,
Amy Larson

Divorce, Faith, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Marriage

A Letter to God

During the painful and lonely days of standing for my marriage, there were times when I felt I couldn’t go on another day. The heartache of knowing my wife had left the marriage and the strained relationship that now existed between my children and I were oftentimes too burdensome to bare. It was during these times I poured my energies into writing personal journal entries. As I reflect back on the writings, so much of it could be described as me simply voicing my thoughts and feelings to God. I would ask questions of the Lord and wondered if He was even hearing me. From the standpoint of being able to release the pain and vocalize the suffering I was experiencing inwardly, these writing exercises proved to be quite therapeutic and emotionally beneficial. The most comforting moments came when the Holy Spirit would remind me of His promises as He directed my heart back towards the Word and His eternal message of hope.

The following is from a journal entry of mine dated July 13, 2016. I submit it here to serve as an example of the hurt and emptiness I was experiencing that the Lord, in His faithfulness, eventually delivered me through.

It has been a week now since I’ve seen the boys and Amy. And while I did go to the house yesterday to drop off a meal, I didn’t see anyone. Since they returned, Amy hasn’t initiated any contact. I feel abandoned, isolated and completely forsaken. Lord, I call upon you now. Be my all in all. May I depend solely on You. Bring me to a deeper understanding of your love. Help me to know and love You more. All I have is in You. Hear my cries oh Lord. Do not cast me aside and forsake me. Father, I seek your will. To lead, love and serve like a Christian husband and father should. I overhear conversations from the lost world as they speak of divorce, visitation rights, and child support. It’s wicked. You do not will these things in our lives. How long will Amy hold onto anger and unforgiveness against me? Lord, touch her heart. Right now it is like stone. Only You can change this. Help me Lord. I hurt all day and night.

Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

There were many times I did not feel cared for, valued or loved. When I found myself in those circumstances, it was usually the result of a negative interaction between my spouse and myself. Too often, instead of going to the Lord and spending time in His Word, I would dwell on the things that were said or done and retreat to a place that existed in my mind where the reality of my suffering took center stage. Thankfully, even in those moments, the Holy Spirit was there to constantly remind me of the 24/7 access to His promises and assurances ever present in His Holy Word. When I made the conscious decision to stop thinking about my circumstances and focus instead on the blessings I’d already been given, as well as the hope I had in Christ, the sooner my outlook, perspective and emotional mood changed.

As I began to regularly journal, the Lord would oftentimes guide me past the pain as the words would flow from my pen. The more I wrote and released the inner suffering, the more I sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit as I felt the weight of my burden being lightened as He took the yolk upon Himself. What a Savior we serve! Not only is He the Wonderful Counselor, but He is a real friend and encouragement when we need Him the most. Standers, as you suffer for the sake of Christ, remember that He is always right there beside you. He desires to hear and listen to you. Whether you reach out to Him through handwritten entries in your journal or speak to Him in times of prayer, I encourage you to fully give your burden over to Jesus. He is the only one able to sufficiently minister to your heart and mind during these times of trial and tribulation. In Him there is hope and rest!

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

 

Couseling, Divorce, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage, Suffering

The Reality of Getting Served

In today’s podcast, we walk you through the stander and the prodigal’s point of view when divorce becomes a reality and speak about what it’s like to get served divorce papers. Check out Ep. 2 from Purposed Marriage!

Christian Walk, Divorce, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering

Finding Freedom from Your Past

As a biblical counselor, I consider it a great honor to serve and walk alongside individuals that are struggling to find their footing. It wasn’t long ago that I myself was striving. I had lost sight of the cross and was lured in by the enemy who planted doubt and confusion in my mind specifically related to events from my past. (Remind you of Genesis 3 by chance?) I had allowed Satan a foothold into my life and he cleverly twisted my thoughts and skewed my view on reality.

I eventually gave in to the enemy’s temptation and started running in the opposite direction from the Lord and from my husband. I had communicated to Tommy that I had forgiven him, however, I neglected to connect the dots between forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation. Instead of accepting his sincere apology and addressing our marital issues, I paved the road to divorce with bitterness in my heart and wrath on my lips. My words were damaging and were intended to bring about vengeance. Reminding Tommy of his past failures was motivated by my desire to elicit sympathy for myself and inflict pain on him. I felt completely justified in my actions because my heart had grown hardened towards him and I felt he deserved harsh punishment for the way he had treated me over the past 10 years.

As I reflect back, I’m so thankful Tommy was receiving sound biblical advice. Several godly men directed him to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and disregard mine. He was not bound by my words because the soft whispers of the Spirit drowned out all the accusations I hurled at him. With time, I realized my words were no longer effecting Tommy or his stand for our marriage. I could have attempted to use other weapons in my arsenal, but thankfully God’s plan and pursuit of my heart came to fruition and the veil was lifted from my eyes. With clear vision, there was nothing left to do but turn to the Lord and address my past biblically.

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

Did you hear that dear friends? Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM! Aren’t those sweet words that we need to hear and be reminded of time and time again? We are not hopeless victims that can never recover from our past. We have the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to set us free and break the chains. Behind our bondage and every bad habit or behavior is a lie. When we speak falsehoods to ourselves and play untrue thoughts frequently, we convince ourselves that they are true. Commit your mind to the Lord so the lies can be eradicated and the Spirit can do a powerful work in your life. Christ made a way for us to find freedom from our past, in Him and through Him by His death on the cross.

Christian Walk, Couseling, Divorce, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

Conversations

Tommy and I are excited to introduce a new feature to you all that we are calling Conversations. Over the past year, we found ourselves discussing everyday life as well as ministry opportunities while sitting on our front porch sipping coffee. These personal conversations led us to the decision to record our discussions in order to give you a deeper understanding of topics from both the “stander” as well as the “prodigal’s” point of view. We also believe these talks will bring the authenticity we desire for Purposed Marriage since they are unscripted and won’t be edited or need to be rewritten like some of our blog posts. We hope you are encouraged by this new media outlet and we look forward to producing more in the near future. You can find us on iTunes, TuneIn Radio, or directly through Soundcloud.

Divorce, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

Stand in the Gap

Stand in the Gap

It was exactly two years ago that my and Tommy’s journey took a turn in the complete opposite direction in which it was headed. We were divorced, living in separate houses and sharing custody of our boys when a God-sized event woke me up to the reality of our situation. My mom, with whom I was very close, passed away unexpectedly. Just as unexpectedly, someone I viewed as an enemy became an unlikely hero. Losing a loved one can alter your perspective on life dramatically and God used my mom’s passing to show me what truly mattered in life: the value of love, commitment, and my covenant to God as well as to my husband.

For the first time since our separation, I wasn’t hostile towards Tommy, but rather I was accepting of his love. The walls around my heart began to crumble. It’s not that he was doing anything differently or loving me more than he had in the past, it was my perspective of his actions that had changed. I allowed him to take care of me and comfort me like no other human could. Only Tommy understood the hurt and pain the boys and I were enduring because he was there, bearing the burden with us. We all lost someone special in our lives that day, including my covenant husband.

I never saw the death of my beloved mother coming and I certainly hadn’t planned for what life would be like without her. But, God knew and had prepared my heart before it ever happened. He had also prepared Tommy’s heart by teaching him to patiently wait on the Lord. Tommy became a hero not because he possessed super powers or wore a cape, but because he had continually been obedient and listened to God’s prompting. He stood in the gap for nearly two years prior to this event waiting and looking to Heaven for the appointed time God had set aside for him. When that time came, Tommy stood up and stepped in to love me in a mighty way.

I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.
Ezekiel‬ ‭22:30‬

I’m so thankful when God looked for someone to stand in the gap for me, He saw Tommy. He interceded on my behalf and held me up so the enemy could not gain an advantage over me. Even in the difficult times, Tommy loved enough for both of us and believed God would work a miracle in our broken marriage. God used an unexpected event in my life to capture my attention and to lead me to repentance. He also used the death of my mother to restore me to Himself as well as restore me to the love of my life.

Dear friend, if you are standing in the gap for your loved one, I want to encourage you to continue your stand. You may be the only one fighting on your loved one’s behalf. Perhaps your God-sized event is just around the corner.

In Christ,
Amy Larson

Anger, Couseling, Divorce, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage, Suffering

Godly Grief Produces Repentance

Repentance

I’ve recently had conversations on a subject I wish I never had to address. Domestic violence makes my heart cringe because of the profound pain and severe damage it ensues. It’s terribly heartbreaking and difficult to discuss, but it can also be challenging because of the fear, stigma and misinformation that surrounds it.

There tends to be a prevailing notion that this is a male issue. However, domestic violence does not discriminate and is carried out by both males and females and plagues many families today. Studies have shown that in our home state of Tennessee, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by their partner.1 These numbers are alarming and even more so when we consider the numerous cases that go unreported every year. Although many of us may shy away from this sensitive subject, we need to address it with great care from a biblical perspective.

Perhaps part of the problem is an unawareness and a confusion of how to handle this issue.  When engaged in discussion regarding domestic violence, I often hear the same two disconcerting narratives. One is the belief the abused must remain in the home, pray harder and trust God will take care of them. The other is to never return home because the abuser will always be an abuser.

Sending someone into harm’s way and advising them to “pray harder and trust God to take care them” is reckless and unwise counsel. Although there is an element of truth, we need to trust the sovereign care of the Lord, it ignores other biblical commands such as Psalms 82:4 and Proverbs 24:11. “Rescue the weak and needy, deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” As Christians, we have a responsibility to rescue our brothers and sisters especially when they are vulnerable and weary in spirit.

While we should be diligent in not placing someone in an unsafe situation, we should also be interested in their pursuit of reconciliation in their relationship (2 Cor. 13:11). Scripture proves time and time again the Holy Spirit is fully capable of changing hearts and lives no matter how detestable the sins of someone’s past. There is ample evidence in the life of Saul who later became the Apostle Paul. God also changed the hearts of Moses, Rahab, and Zacchaeus as well as a multitude of others. We should never limit the transforming power of the Holy Spirit by believing some people are incapable of change.

If there are indicators of godly sorrow: earnestness, vindication, indignation, fear, longing, zeal, avenging of wrong, innocence in the matter (2 Cor. 7:11), that’s a good sign to carefully move towards restoration. A heartfelt conviction and a deep sadness as a result of the sins that were committed demonstrates a repentant heart.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭7:10‬

On the other hand, if someone has been violent and remains unrepentant, we need to recognize this as a serious problem. When a violator shows no remorse, often times there needs to be a season of separation. This will allow the abuser to work on restoring their relationship with God as well as establish trust with the person they abused. At any time, if there is a sense of danger, or we become aware of someone in danger, we need to involve law enforcement. When violence occurs, not only is it a sin against God and the abused, it is also a crime against the state and needs to be dealt with by the proper authorities.

Dear friend, if you are suffering the painful effects of domestic violence or know someone who is, please do not be afraid to speak up and ask for help. Abuse is abhorrent in the eyes of God because it opposes the very nature of His character. His plan for relationships, particularly those among family, is meant to be a beautiful depiction of God’s love for us. Our desire should mimic the Lord’s desire which is for those involved in domestic abuse to seek healing and full restoration by both the abuser and the abused.

In Christ,
Amy Larson


1. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Domestic Violence in Tennessee.” NCADV.org. https://www.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/tennessee.pdf (accessed August 24, 2018).

Christian Walk, Church, Couseling, Divorce, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

Zero Shades of Grey

zero

When defending my decision to divorce, one of the phrases I used often was, “The Bible is full of areas of grey.” It’s also a phrase I’ve heard others use since starting our marriage ministry. For me, it was a tactic to divert the attention away from myself and onto Tommy. I ascribed greyness in my pursuit of divorce, at the same time condemning Tommy for his past failures and defining them as black and white.

It was also a convenient way to shut down the conversation before it ever began, so I wouldn’t have to face the fact that I hadn’t done everything possible to make my marriage work. During our pause, I refused to attend Biblical couples counseling, neglected to talk with any pastors or church staff members, nor was I willing to allow God to help me forgive Tommy, although he was desperately seeking my forgiveness. I’ve found the majority of people that bring up areas of grey are those looking for loopholes in Scripture. Those wanting to justify their sin or provide a less guilty conscience for themselves tout the Bible as being foggy.

Reality was Tommy had been humbly broken before the Lord, submitting to the Holy Spirit and changed from the inside out. Although I saw clear evidence of God leading his life in the direction of holiness, I felt it was my right to condemn his sinful actions from the past. But, I had forgotten Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.” Instead of trying to guilt and shame my husband for his past behavior, I should have been seeking God and asking for His help to bring about reconciliation in my marriage.

Although I claimed to have forgiven Tommy, it was clear I had not by continually condemning him and bringing up his past transgressions . Forgiveness in my eyes meant saying a string of words (I forgive you), then proceeding with divorce. It looked like having a stranger knock on his apartment door unexpectedly to hand him a manila envelope followed by one simple phrase, “you have been served.” It was my push for divorce that left Tommy desperately heartbroken and confused at his front door that day trying to figure out how he could walk back inside and pretend like everything was okay in front of our boys.

Is that what forgiveness looks like to you? Is that the representation of Christ’s forgiveness in Scripture? True forgiveness was Jesus taking the sin of the world upon His shoulders, being beaten, bloody and bruised while hanging on the cross with a spear-pierced side and nail-pierced hands and feet. Forgiveness was Jesus crying out to the father in Heaven, “forgive them for they know not what they do,” as the soldiers cast lots to divide His garments at the foot of the cross. Forgiveness was Christ looking over to the thief hanging beside Him just before He took his last breath, assuring him, “today you shall be with me in paradise.” It’s about giving a second, a third and a fourth chance. It’s not seven times, but seventy times seven repeatedly forgiving the sinner that has sincerely asked for forgiveness.

How could I reconcile a decision that honors God when He makes it very clear that he hates divorce? I couldn’t because the Bible is in fact very black and white. It is true, the Bible doesn’t address every specific issue we may face in life. However, it does provide principles we should live our lives by to govern our thoughts and actions. When we examine our choices through the prism of God’s Word, we’ll find zero shades of grey.

There are a number of questions we can ask ourselves that will help bring clarity to our decision making. Will this help me grow spiritually? Is this harmful to me or to others? Will this decision cause my brothers or sisters to stumble? Of all the questions, I think the most important to ask is, will this decision bring glory and honor to God. We were created uniquely in the likeness of God to bring glory to Himself.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Are you pleasing God and striving for holiness or are you lost in areas of grey, excusing your behavior and rebelling against our Heavenly Father?

In Christ,
Amy Larson

Christian Walk, Divorce, Marriage

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry entitled The Story of Us. If you missed it, you definitely want to read it before continuing, as this is a follow-up entry. The Story of Us is the true story of how Tommy and I met and the events leading up to our marriage, while this post focuses on the lies I told myself that lead to our separation and divorce.

IMG_0568

I had known for some time that my marriage was strained and attempted to do everything in my power to make things work. I kept our home a little more tidy and made sure our boys didn’t get out of line. I tried to be more encouraging and found subjects to talk about with Tommy that I knew he enjoyed. I dressed nice to impress him and planned outings for us, although they rarely turned out as I had hoped. Everything I did was an outward attempt to be a better wife, and a better mother.

It was fairly easy to keep up the “good behavior” for short periods of time. But, when I saw my actions weren’t resonating with Tommy, I veered in the opposite direction and my kindness turned into hostility. I would often avoid Tommy and even ignored him, showing disrespect by raising my voice or worse, rolling my eyes. My desire for wanting Tommy to change was not wrong in and of itself. But, when I didn’t get a loving response in return, I acted out in anger and allowed my emotions to rule my behavior. Placing value on my feelings over obedience, my heart grew further away from Tommy, as well as the Lord.

When I had exhausted all attempts to save my marriage, I convinced myself that God was not capable of changing Tommy’s heart so I began devising a plan to remove him from our home and from my life. After pleading with Tommy to leave, he agreed with the expectation of returning. Although I led him to believe this brief time apart was temporal, I had no intentions of ever letting him back into our home.

The story of us and all the beautiful memories we had shared together were now a part of our past. The further I moved out of God’s will for my life, the easier it became to believe the lies. The realization that our marriage had been a mistake from the very start quickly became reality. You see, I had never really been in love with Tommy. He was a convenient target of my affections, and had manipulated me into marrying him.

As I am writing these words, I am horrified to read them back, but I’m sharing in hopes that God will use our story to help save one marriage. That one wife or one husband will identify with these same lies and turn back from their march towards divorce. Now, backing up a bit to explain how God made a mistake (note the sarcasm)…

Keep in mind I had been serving in Egypt with very little contact with men due to cultural differences. I was not living in a foreign country as a tourist, I was fully immersed in the culture. I dressed and acted like an Egyptian–not making eye contact with men or conversing with the opposite sex and fully covering my body as to not attract unwanted attention. Up until the time Tommy arrived in Egypt, I had not talked to or interacted with any single men my age with the exception of a handful of interpreters.

Tommy had made no suggestions of desiring anything other than friendship prior to or during his trip. It’s also important to note that he was personally invited and encouraged by me to join the group that was visiting. Regardless of the clear facts, I concocted a story in my mind to believe he had used my circumstances to strategically work his way into my life. Somehow, he had masterminded a plan from a thousand miles away to take advantage of the fact that I desired male companionship. His sole purpose for visiting Egypt wasn’t to serve the Lord or experience the culture and the fare, it was to manipulate me into falling in love with him. (Stay with me… I know it sounds ridiculous!)

During our two weeks together in Egypt, Tommy had shown a different side of himself. He was funny, charming, kind, outgoing and someone I really enjoyed being around. Initially, I viewed this as God opening my eyes to see Tommy in a new light. The Holy Spirit was prompting my heart and cultivating a love for him I had never previously felt. But, that truth was quickly replaced with my truth, which equated to whatever lie was most believable or in this case, the most unbelievable. It was Tommy’s use of mind control and manipulative tactics that coerced me into a long distance relationship with him that eventually lead me to the altar. In my vulnerable state, Tommy had set a trap for me and I had taken the bait!

Upon returning to the States, I went through an extended weekend of debrief counseling. My counselors advised me to take the time to properly acclimate back into western society and warned me to wait at least a year before making any long-term commitments. I later used this to further justify my reasoning as to why Tommy and I should have never gotten married in the first place. It was crystal clear to me, God had made a mistake! Sadly, I voiced these lies to Tommy and deeply hurt him in my quest to end his stand for our marriage.

I was so blinded, living in darkness and completely deceived by the enemy. Paul warns us about the evil powers of darkness against that which we struggle (Eph. 6:12). It is in the darkness that we fall prey to Satan’s attacks. Paul also reminds us that we are not to be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.‭‭ 2 Corinthians‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭

The problem is, I had neglected to identify my enemy. It wasn’t Tommy; it was Satan all along. Like a lamb being led to the slaughter, I was heading straight into the den of the roaring lion.

Dear friend, don’t be outwitted! Heed the Word of the Lord and view Satan’s attacks for exactly what they are… detours on God’s perfect path for your life. If you are standing for your marriage, please know that you are not alone in your journey. There are others out there, holding onto hope that God will deliver their loved one from out of the mouth of the lion just like God delivered me.

In Christ,
Amy Larson

 

Divorce, Faith, Faithfulness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

As Long as We Both Shall Live

As Long as we both shal live (1)

A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:39

The phrases “till death do us part” and “as long as we both shall live” don’t seem to carry as much weight as they did in years past. These days, the aforementioned parts of traditional wedding vows have for many, become little more than words in the script that makeup the wedding ceremony. Unfortunately, the serious nature of the charge to both the husband and wife hasn’t resonated with a large percentage of those have entered the marriage covenant. It has been this casual approach to wedding vows that has led to divorce becoming a viable option for many (including professing Christians) when relationships go south.

During our separation and subsequent divorce, I remember being strongly convicted not to view the decree of a judge as license for me to abandon the vow made to my wife on our wedding day. There were many reasons for this perspective, but mostly it was due to the fact that the promise to uphold my vows wasn’t simply a promise to Amy. It was a promise to God.

One is reminded of this as we look back to the Old Testament and read of the Lord’s relationship with his chosen people, Israel. Here, we see modeled a testimony of unending love, patience, and long-suffering.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8
“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Israel was a nation chosen by God himself, but time after time, Israel turned away from the truth and lived an existence marked by rebellion, disobedience and unfaithfulness. Despite this, God, who is full of grace, continued to pursue his first love. He demonstrated unparalleled devotion, kindness and forgiveness to a people who willingly forsook his affections, and in turn, chased after their own lusts and passions.

What an amazing example that was demonstrated for us so long ago. For those who have in obedience, chosen to stand for our marriages, may God’s faithfulness to an unfaithful partner serve as a reminder to continue to pursue, serve and willingly sacrifice temporal happiness for the sake of the God’s kingdom. How easy it is to fall into the world’s way of thinking by abandoning our covenant spouse when the circumstances of life have become too burdensome to bear. But, take heart faithful friends, for we know that the pain and suffering of this life is nothing compared to the joy and fulfillment that await us when one day, we are united with our Father in heaven.

Having gone through the horrible pain of divorce, I understand the anguish and emotional distress that can steal your joy and erode your confidence in Christ to move mountains and restore a broken marriage. The hurt and sadness is very real, but don’t let your circumstances dictate the resolve of your commitment to your vows and promise to the Lord the day you entered into a holy union with Him and your spouse.

Regardless of your current situation, and despite the reality of some relationships continuing to visibly erode, have confidence that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is able to resurrect any relationship. Take comfort in this as you seek to remain faithful to those the enemy has taken captive. Christ has the ability to set them free!

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

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Christian Walk, Marriage

The Story of Us

The Story of UsThirteen years ago today, Tommy and I stood before God, our family and friends and said, “I do”. Since we are celebrating our wedding anniversary, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share the story of us…

We first met one Sunday morning in church during the welcoming of guests. I didn’t recognize Tommy and figured he was visiting, so I made a beeline straight for him. With a friendly handshake, I introduced myself and asked him a few questions. He didn’t look a day over sixteen years old, so I assumed we were around the same age. When I asked him which school he attended, he replied very matter-of-factly, “I just graduated from college”. At the time, I was a middle schooler. I’m quite certain I stood there dumbfounded, staring at him trying to figure out if I should take him seriously or if he was only kidding.

Due to our seven year age difference, we didn’t spend much time together until I was in college. Even then, I went to school out of state so the time we did see each other was limited to occasional Sundays when I was in town and we attended the same Bible study group. Although we were friendly with one another, I didn’t consider us to be friends. Tommy came across as a very serious and well-mannered young man, but rarely spoke or attempted to converse with me at all.

Following college graduation, I traveled to Nicaragua on my first international mission trip. What was originally supposed to be several weeks of service, turned into several months and my passion for missions lead me to search for a long term position with a mission-focused organization. During this transitional period, Tommy and I briefly worked together at a childcare facility and became very close friends. After spending quite a bit of time together, I knew he had a fondness for me, but I purposely kept my distance as we didn’t plan on living in the same city, state or even on the same continent.

After months of prayer and preparation, I found myself on a plane with a one way ticket to Egypt where I would live and serve for the next two years. Due to my move and complete immersion in a new culture, I lost contact with many of my stateside friends including Tommy.  We didn’t reconnect again for approximately a year after I had been living in Egypt. When I heard from him, he reached out to me in an email. He wrote somewhat regularly and entertained me by filling me in on all the happenings in our church and in his personal life.

Six months after we reconnected, a small group from our church planned a trip to visit Egypt during Christmas. Tommy and my mom were among the group members. As soon as I met them at the airport and saw Tommy walk through the terminal gate, I noticed something about him had changed. I viewed him in a different light. When I went to greet him, I had a strong sense that I was looking at my future husband.

During his visit, there was an undeniable joy I felt in his presence and I trusted the Holy Spirit was opening my eyes to catch a glimpse into Tommy’s heart. We spent countless hours laughing and talking. For the next two weeks, I enjoyed time with both Tommy and my mom. Every evening, I poured out my heart to my mother, confiding in her how I was feeling and engaged in deep discussions on the topic of marriage.

When it was time to say our goodbyes, I secretly wrote a note on the back of Tommy’s plane voucher that read, “I like that you love me!” From the moment he read those words, he pursued me as his wife. In fact, he had been pursuing my heart all along. Although we lived in separate countries at the time, we kept in close contact and began making preparations for our future wedding. The six months we were apart flew by and when I returned to the states, Tommy greeted me at the airport along with my parents. Within three months of my return we were engaged and within six months we were married.

We had known each other for over a decade. We knew each other’s families and were a part of each other’s lives, yet it took traveling thousands of miles to a foreign land for God to unite our hearts. Only God could have written our story so beautifully! In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon tells us that everything in life is a matter of timing, for time and timing is everything. The events in our lives did not happen randomly or by chance; God purposed all of them.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:11‬ ‭

This is the story of us!

In Christ,
Amy Larson

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Christian Walk, Church

Gather Together

Gather Together

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬

By God’s design, we were created to be relational beings and were not meant to be alone. When God breathed life into Adam and Eve, He formed them to be in fellowship with Him and with each other. Scripture signifies the importance of relationships and weaves together a beautiful picture of oneness as depicted in the Trinity (1 John 5:7-8), amongst the church body (1 Corinthians 12:12-14), between husband and wife (Ephesians 5:31) and between Christ and His Bride (Ephesians 5:32). We were designed to live in companionship with one another, loving and encouraging our brothers and sisters as a unified body.

As we are growing together, we should be maturing in our relationships with the intent of becoming more like Christ in both our marriages and as a church. Our fellow believers are surrounding us to be the accountability partners and support team we need and vice versa. The church should be a sanctuary for those in troubled relationships, but more often than not, we disconnect from the very people that can offer us the most help. Whether we believe we are the only ones experiencing hardships, or we are just too prideful to ask for help, we forget our brothers and sisters are united with us in one body.

Like the body, there are many parts, each with differing roles to help make it function more efficiently. Knowing the purpose for unity in the body, why then do we forsake the assembling of ourselves together? There are a multitude of reasons ranging from church member hypocrisy, to worship style preferences but ultimately, in light of the charge to attend church, they are merely excuses. It speaks to a heart that is disinterested in close Biblical fellowship with the Lord if we don’t make it a priority to attend church. We focus on how the body can benefit us instead of how we can benefit the body, and the selfishness of our hearts causes us to lose sight of the true design of the body of Christ.

But, it’s not just enough to “go to church” we need to make sure the church we are attending is Bible believing, gospel-centered, and doctrinally sound. Many churches today have strayed from the Biblical path and have welcomed worldly and false doctrines into their preaching and teaching. We must be mindful and always seeking God’s truth so as to discern what type of yokes we form with other professing bodies of believers.

We shouldn’t gather as a body just out of a sense of duty or obligation, but to participate in the profound mystery any person or group could ever experience: a wholeness within the body and as the Bride united together with Christ. There is a presence of the Holy Spirit where two or more are gathered in His name and a fullness of joy reserved for the Bride. When we gather this Easter to celebrate the single greatest sacrifice in history, praising the name of our risen savior, let us unite in Christ’s name not just this Sunday, but every week, serving one another together so we can experience the fullness of God as He intended.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:15-16‬

In Christ,
Tommy & Amy Larson

Christian Walk, Divorce, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

Grace Abounds

grace

A little over ten years ago, when Tommy and I found out I was expecting our first child, I was over the moon with excitement. I read daily about the growth of the baby, the developmental process and what to expect during pregnancy. Each doctor’s visit, I took delight in watching our little one move about, turning over and sucking his thumb as he grew in the womb. I carefully studied the intricate details of our ultrasound photos imagining what our son would look like when he arrived. The anticipation of his birth was an exciting time in my life and a welcomed distraction from our marital problems.

When Micah finally made his appearance after 42 weeks in the womb, I was overcome with emotions. As Tommy held him up and my eyes met his for the first time, I cried tears of happiness. No matter how many tears I wiped away, countless more streamed down my face as my heart leapt with joy. Our little blessing had made his way into the world, and I had become a mother. A few years later, I welcomed Elijah and then Jacob with the same joy-filled tears and overwhelmed heart. The births of our children made time stand still. It brought periods of calm and a sense of normalcy in what was otherwise a very strained and contentious relationship.

Our boys were happy babies and brought so much contentment. I enjoyed nursing them and cuddling each before laying them down for nap time. As they grew, I poured my love into them watching as they transitioned from sitters-crawlers-walkers. When God knit them together in my womb, I was fully captivated by their development. I had been so attuned to their needs when they were babies and toddlers, but over time my loving attention began to diminish the more I focused on my failing marriage.

The years of Tommy’s distance and neglect, wore away my confidence in him as a husband and father, as well as my faith in the Lord to bring about lasting and meaningful change. My heart began to hardened and I became unresponsive to the Holy Spirit. I successfully deceived myself into believing divorcing Tommy and moving forward without him, would make life easier for everyone. Although our children were aware of the tension and lack of affection between Tommy and I, nothing could have prepared their little hearts for the changes ahead. Their world took a drastic turn at the ages of 6, 3 and 15 months old. Our precious boys were no longer sleeping through the night, snores turned into sobs, and their delightful spirits were crushed.

Once we separated, I appeared to be happy, but that was all an illusion. Inside, my heart was aching as Christ’s light was dimming and darkness began to creep in. I was doing my best to keep up the facade, but I was living in a whirlwind and too blinded by sin to realize our three boys were being tossed about like a wave in the sea. My life was not reflecting the beautiful picture I had presented to the world, yet I continued to deceive myself and others.

I got so caught up in trying to sell the lie, I didn’t realize the emotional damage that was being done. I missed all of the warning signs despite phone calls and messages from the boys’ teachers telling me they were struggling to keep their emotions in tact. My judgement had been so clouded, I unfairly blamed Tommy for their suffering. I had convinced myself I was moving forward to a happier and healthier life for their well-being, but that was not proving to be true and was having the opposite effect in which I had intended.

As I drifted further away from the Lord, Tommy drew closer and began intense Biblical counseling. One by one, the strongholds the enemy had in his life started to crumble and as a result, he became a changed man. Our boys took notice and began opening up to their daddy, pouring out their hearts to him and sharing a deeper bond than I had ever witnessed before. Over time, I noticed a change in my relationship with our children. I wasn’t the loving, attentive, patient mother I used to be. I had become quite the opposite and was every bit of distant and neglectful as I had previously accused Tommy of being. I had divorced him for past behavior that was now present and ruling in my own life.

Despite my actions, Tommy continually showed me kindness and sacrificial love. His acts of obedience began to have an effect on me and my eyes were opened to the reality of our situation. The more the Holy Spirit revealed to me, the more broken I became. No matter how miserably I had failed, God’s remarkable gift of grace abounded.

But where sin increased, Grace abounded all the more. Romans 5:20

When our family reunited, not only did I ask forgiveness from my husband, I also admitted my faults to our children and apologized to them just as sincerely.

Throughout the past couple of years, God has been so compassionate and merciful to me. He has taught me the beauty of His son’s sacrifice and the importance of granting forgiveness to others as graciously as it has been given to me. There is no greater joy than giving God the glory for the miraculous healing and redemption that’s taken place in our family. Though it was brought about with heartbreak and suffering, I rejoice knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. My hope isn’t invested in something that is temporal, but in the only One that can bring about everlasting change, Jesus Christ my Savior.

Perhaps you are in the midst of marital struggles of your own or you are currently going through a divorce. Seek the Lord and ask Him to give you the ability to ask for forgiveness or grant forgiveness whatever the circumstances may be. Take comfort in knowing your hope lies in Jesus Christ! No situation or relationship is beyond the power of God to heal and restore.

In Christ,
Amy Larson

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Christian Walk, Faith, Forgiveness

Nothing is Hidden from God

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God.”Have you ever attended a Bible study or been sitting in a Sunday morning service and thought the pastor was speaking directly to you? You find yourself looking around the room to see if anyone is staring in your direction. Can others simply look at you and see the transgressions you have committed before the Lord? Is it that obvious?

You envision a bright neon sign above your head with an arrow pointing down as the lights flash GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY. This isn’t necessary an attack from the pastor in the pulpit, but rather the Holy Spirit convicting you of unconfessed sins. Sometimes we are gently reminded of our wrong doings and other times, a spotlight is shown on us so we are forced to face them. No matter how hard we try to conceal our sins, one thing is certain, we can never hide them from our Father in Heaven.

I look back on the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, immediately following their fall, when they ate of the forbidden fruit. For the first time, the realized they were naked and begin gathering leaves to cover themselves. When they heard God walking in the garden, they frantically looked for a good hiding place amongst the shrubs in hopes that God wouldn’t find them or look upon their nakedness.

Did they really think the creator of the universe, the God that breathed life into the dust of the earth and formed their flesh, wouldn’t be able to find them? Even if Adam and Eve managed to successfully camouflage themselves and blend into the foliage, God didn’t have to search for them. He was with Adam and Eve all along and knew exactly where they were.

One could look back on this story and laugh. Who did Adam and Eve think they were kidding? But, all too often, we play the exact same game of hide and seek with the Lord. Whether we deceive ourselves and legitimize our sins like Adam and Eve, or become complacent and no longer fear the consequences of our actions, we forget our God is omnipresent.

So much of our time is spent finding ways to cover up our wrongs instead of exposing them to the light and seeking help. By hiding our fleshly desires, we may be able to fool onlookers, and perhaps even our loved ones at times, but our Heavenly Father is aware of our intentions. He knows every thought we think and every action we take.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:13‬

God gave us His truth so we would learn from the mistakes of those that walked the path before us. If we are grounded in God’s Word, reading and seeking the Bible, we are less likely to be deceived by Satan’s cunning half-truths and outright lies. We cannot allow the enemy to twist God’s Words into what our itching ears want to hear.

When left to our own devices, we feed our selfish desires and let pride rule our hearts. The sin of pride led to Lucifer’s fall from the heavens. Pride also led to the fall of Adam and Eve, and has infected the hearts and minds of all mankind. We must put off pride and replace it with the desire to please God and promote His glory instead of our own.

In Christ,
Amy Larson

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Christian Walk, Divorce, Healing and Reconciliation

Beauty from Ashes

THE SPIRITUAL FORCES

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” ‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:12‬

The night of my mother’s passing will forever be ingrained in my memory as an evening I battled against spiritual forces. God was telling me one thing, but the enemy was shouting another. One voice was loud, and the other one was soft. As I recount that emotional evening, I look back and realize I was pleading with the Lord over a situation He was entirely in control of all along.

As routine would have it, I called my mom after tucking the boys into bed for the night. The phone rang and rang and then went to voicemail. In reality, what was probably only 15 minutes, felt like an eternity waiting for her return call, but never receiving one. Since my father was out of town, my concern grew stronger when I did not hear back from her. In my spirit, I knew something was wrong.

At the time, Tommy and I had been living separately for about a year and a half and were officially divorced. Although he only lived three minutes down the road, I never called him when I needed help. The thought of him knowing I was in need of assistance didn’t sit well with my prideful heart. Plus, I didn’t want him to get the wrong impression – as if filing for divorce didn’t already send that message loud and clear!

While contemplating what to do, I heard a still small voice prompting me to reach out to Tommy. But, another part of me heard a louder voice, shouting, “He’s a manipulator, liar. You know you can’t trust him. Call anyone but him.” In the end, I decided to listen to the voice of reason.

Upon answering his phone, I explained the situation to Tommy, and he immediately agreed to come over and stay with the boys. I especially remember his tone was one of genuine love and concern. In an attempt to calm my nerves and put my heart at ease, he offered multiple explanations as to why my mom may not be answering her phone. At this point, it had been around thirty minutes of constant phone calls, texts and voicemails, but all failed attempts to reach my mother.

When Tommy arrived, I greeted him at the door expecting him to follow me inside. I’m not sure what led me to that conclusion. It had been at least a year and a half since he had stepped foot into our home per my wishes. I could see his reluctance, and then he said something that stopped me in my tracks. “If you prefer, I can sit on the porch with the door cracked and listen for the boys until you get back. I don’t have to come inside.”

This was a pivotal moment and then it hit me…

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.

Tommy had always been a phone call or a knock away, but I never called or opened the door to let him in. As I stood there with my heart melting inside of my chest, I welcomed him into our home. From that moment on, I knew God was doing something big, I just didn’t know what.

As I dashed to my parents home, I barely remember the drive. Admittedly, I was afraid to find out if my intuition was correct. I didn’t know what I was about to walk into, so I prayed continually on the way. When I unlocked the door, I called out desperately wanting to hear my mother’s voice. But, all I could hear was stark silence. I ran into her room and found her lying lifeless in bed. I knew it was too late, but I began performing CPR anyway and screaming silently in my mind to her and to God in unison.

“You can’t leave me!”
“How will I live without you?”
“God, not now!”
“You can’t take her!”
“What am I supposed to do?”

Then the silence broke. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.”

Initially, my desperate cry to God for taking something away, turned out to be a monumental turning point in my marriage restoration. I look back on that evening and vividly remember the raging battle I was up against. I was resistant and even angry towards God. I didn’t understand why He had taken my mother so soon or how this devastating event would change the course of my life.

I had built up so many walls to protect myself against Tommy, but he was never my enemy. He was my covenant husband, desperately trying to love me in a way that wasn’t familiar. He was loving me like Christ loved the church, a way he hadn’t demonstrated love previously. He pursued me with kindness, and showed endless examples of sacrificial love.

I witnessed the changes God had made in Tommy’s life and in his heart, but I didn’t want to accept it at first. I continued to believe the lies from the enemy, wrongfully ascribing harmful intentions that were otherwise good. It took the death of my mother to be vulnerable again, and stop resisting God’s purposed path for my life.

I knew God was presenting me with a new creation in Tommy. He was kind, gentle, servant-hearted, tender, and full of the love of Christ. He had become the husband I had previously prayed for during our ten year marriage, and I realized it wasn’t too late. God was restoring and renewing our love for one another.

That late October evening, when my mother met her maker, I was reintroduced to my Savior, and my life was brought back into alignment with Christ. I miss my momma dearly, however, I know without a doubt she would have voluntarily laid down her life if she would have been privy to the miracle God was about to perform. He breathed new life into my marriage, and brought about beauty from the ashes. That night, the Holy Spirit poured out saving grace on me, and amidst the battle, spoke softly and lovingly in a manner that demanded my attention.

In Christ,
Amy Larson

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Christian Walk

Delight Yourself in the Lord

04 - Delight Yourself in the LordDuring my marriage to Tommy, and prior to our “pause”, I prayed for his heart to soften and for his attitude towards me to become more like a representation of Christ’s love for the church. What I neglected to do was pray for myself and recognize my own sinful behavior. I spent so much time focusing on the speck in his eye that I refused to acknowledge the log in my own. (Luke 6:42)

Over time, when I hadn’t seen adequate change, I allowed my desire for a Godly husband to become an idol causing resentment and bitterness to take over my heart. While my desire was not sinful, the motivation for wanting this change on my terms eventually led to a hardened heart.

After pleading with God for years over the state of my marriage, He began the work of answering my prayers, but by that time I had thrown in the towel. I had given up on God and no longer had faith in God’s power to transform. My petitions had been heard all along and the Holy Spirit was transforming my husband right before my eyes, but I chose to ignore it because God’s timeline did not match my own.

Psalm 37:4 reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Many believe this means Christ will “grant our wishes”. This perspective places the emphasis on the second part of the verse instead of focussing our attention on the first half. In my situation, for example, I was not delighting myself in the Lord. My desires were no longer God’s desires, but born out of the flesh which catered to my own selfishness. God wants our idolatrous desires to be replaced with righteous ones.

It is not necessarily wrong to want a more Godly husband or wife. However, this desire can easily become an idol when we displace Jesus Christ as the object of our deepest yearning and affection. When things do not turn out like we want them to, frustration can lead to desperation. And, desperation often leads to sin. Our full devotion should be given to Christ because only He can bring the joy and fulfillment our hearts long for.

Dear friend, I want to challenge you this week to delight yourself in the Lord. Trust in His perfect timing, because He will make it worth the wait. Here are a few practical ways to do so.

  1. Seek to know God’s Word and obey it.
    (Matthew 6:33, Jeremiah 29:13, Psalm 119:2, 1 John 5:3)
  2. Set your heart on God, finding fulfillment and joy in Him.
    (John 15:9-11, Matthew 22:37)
  3. Learn to be content with what you have or do not have.
    (Philippians 4:11b-13)
  4. Give thanks regardless of your circumstances.
    (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

In Christ,
Amy Larson

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Divorce, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine

IMG_9494.pngSometimes God places people in our lives and we aren’t sure why. Other times we are privileged to view His divine intervention from the very start. I believe I speak for my friend Stephanie and myself when I say, “God purposed a time for us to reconnect.”

We had briefly been acquainted as she and her family were clients of mine back when I owned my photography business. Although we hadn’t been in contact for years, she followed my Instagram feed and messaged me when I posted a photo of Tommy’s new wedding band with the hashtag #restoredmarriage. Little did I know, she had been praying for me all along. It was apparent by my posts and my Instagram name change that my marriage had been on the rocks.

Unfortunately, her and her husband were (and still are) separated and she was looking for someone to connect with that could understand her situation, offer insight and hope. Being separated or divorced, especially when you are not pursuing this direction for your life, can be very lonely at times. The truth is your friends and family members may not know what to say or how to support you. For those standing for their marriages, especially in the case of adultery, well, you are just completely crazy! Whether your friends believe that or not, it is often the lie Satan plants in your mind to keep you feeling secluded and abandoned. Given the circumstances at the time, having gone through a divorce and in the process of remarrying my covenant husband, I landed at the top of the “understanding friend’s list”.

The unique relationship Stephanie and I formed has bonded us for life. Her simple comment on IG and the deep friendship we formed after was a catalyst for starting Purposed Marriage. It was also a milestone in her life as it was the first time she stepped out of her comfort zone and was obedient to God without hesitation. More often than not, He calls us to a place where we are uncomfortable so we will grow our faith and completely depend on him. Sometimes that means shedding light on our darkest moments in order to help others.

Stephanie and I have come alongside each other, prayed together, cried together, broken bread together and loved one another through it all. The journey isn’t always easy, but prayer, friends and a joyful heart is good medicine for when the road gets rocky! The alternative… a crushed spirit, which drys up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

I’m so thankful for Stephanie’s friendship as well as others like her that God has placed along my and Tommy’s path. Perhaps you can relate to her story and are desperately looking for hope. I can promise you one thing, Christ is your ONLY hope. He will never leave you nor forsake you!

In Christ,
Amy Larson

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