boy or girl? and a freshly picked moccs giveaway

Freshly Picked moccs baby moccasin giveaway gender reveal. Adorable baby shoes. Encouragement for moms // Many Sparrows Blog by Kayla Craig

It’s a bit surreal, but in few weeks, another little one is joining our crew. (Boy or girl? What do you think? Yes, we know! And no, we aren’t telling! Hehe.)

Thanks to the whirlwind adoption of our amazing little Miss Eliza, we’ll essentially have a sweet, squishy set of twins. As we prepare for two babies, our house is full of gauzy swaddle blankets, boxes of diapers, and — my favorite — itty bitty shoes.

Freshly Picked moccs baby moccasin giveaway gender reveal. Adorable baby shoes. Encouragement for moms // Many Sparrows Blog by Kayla Craig

Freshly Picked moccs baby moccasin giveaway gender reveal. Adorable baby shoes. Encouragement for moms // Many Sparrows Blog by Kayla Craig

I’ve been pining over some Freshly Picked moccasins after watching them on Shark Tank and watching their mama-ran business explode. They’re all-leather, handmade baby moccs that are pretty much the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

They’ve rocketed to cult-status among millennial moms, and I have to say: These teeny shoes are worth the hype.

Freshly Picked moccs baby moccasin giveaway gender reveal. Adorable baby shoes. Encouragement for moms // Many Sparrows Blog by Kayla Craig

Yes, so many shoes are swoon-worthy when they’re in tiny sizes, but rarely do they stay on those squirmy, wiggly toes.

Eliza has been wearing hers for a few weeks now, and thanks to the stretchy elastic inside, they actually stay on her feet. (This is so rare for us, especially because her toes are a little differently spaced because of her extra chromosome.)

Freshly Picked moccs baby moccasin giveaway gender reveal. Adorable baby shoes. Encouragement for moms // Many Sparrows Blog by Kayla Craig

I was so thrilled to parter with Freshly Picked for a review (And giveaway! You’re going to want to keep reading, friends!), because I really wanted to know if the little leather moccasins were worth the higher-end price point. (You can snag them online or at Nordstrom.) The honest verdict: They are.

Freshly Picked moccs baby moccasin giveaway gender reveal. Adorable baby shoes. Encouragement for moms // Many Sparrows Blog by Kayla Craig

Freshly Picked moccs baby moccasin giveaway gender reveal. Adorable baby shoes. Encouragement for moms // Many Sparrows Blog by Kayla Craig

Freshly Picked moccs would make a wonderful, thoughtful baby shower gift to go in on with one or two other people.

They’re really heirloom quality (and made in the USA!), and they’re made to take the shape to your little one’s feet. (I’ve heard that they’re great for crawlers and new walkers, but I haven’t been able to test that yet!) Eliza has teeny feet, so she is still in the newborn (size 0) size.

I like that so many color options are gender neutral, which means the soft-soled shoes could be passed on from child to child.
Freshly Picked moccs baby moccasin giveaway gender reveal. Adorable baby shoes. Encouragement for moms // Many Sparrows Blog by Kayla Craig
Freshly Picked was so sweet to send newborn moccasins in Petite Blush, Petite Sky, and Petite Birch. I’m having a hard time picking a favorite color. No matter baby #4’s gender, we’ve now got adorable moccs on lock.

Freshly Picked moccs baby moccasin giveaway gender reveal. Adorable baby shoes. Encouragement for moms // Many Sparrows Blog by Kayla Craig

What do you think? Will it be an even split of boys + girls? Or will Eliza and I be outnumbered? Only time will tell. (Though, I won’t lie — I wouldn’t hate it if baby decided to make his/her arrival sooner rather than later!)

giveaway!

Freshly Picked moccs baby moccasin giveaway gender reveal. Adorable baby shoes. Encouragement for moms // Many Sparrows Blog by Kayla CraigI’m so thrilled to join Freshly Picked in a giveaway of one pair of soft-soled baby moccasins. Lucky you, you’ll get to pick the size + color for your little one. I’ll randomly pick a winner on March 28. Good luck!

Enter below!

One Pair of Freshly Picked Soft Sole Moccasins
https://js.gleam.io/e.js

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a true story of hope: the world is smaller than we think

Leading up to the five-year mark of the Syrian war, CARE invited a handful of former World War II refugees — original CARE Package recipients in 1940s Europe — to write letters of hope to Syrian refugee children. Some truly moving connections have emerged between people who, though separated by decades and distance, share so much.

When I hear of the Syrian refugee crisis, I often think of my great-grandparents, who fled Germany with their two young daughters during WWII.

Their ability to resettle in the U.S. was only because of the kindness, compassion, and generosity of an Iowa family.

I grew up hearing the story told and re-told. My great-grandmother — in the middle of an air raid with sirens blaring — made her way under a tunnel where winter coats from America were being distributed. She received a couple of random coats and left.

Later, when she put on the wool coat, her hand found a small, folded note, tucked away in a pocket. There, in inky scrawl, was a note from a family in Iowa, sharing that they were praying for the recipient. An address was included.

She wrote to them, they wrote to her, and the Iowa family became sponsors for their immigration. They helped my great-grandparents and their girls secure passage to the U.S., and opened their home to them when they arrived.

Hearts healed. Lives changed. Futures altered. 

All because of a seemingly random letter.

All because of compassion from the other side of the world.

it’s happening today

Intense fighting in Syria has forcibly displaced more people today than any other country – and there is no end in sight to the conflict.

It’s considered the worst humanitarian crisis since the second World War.

Every day, thousands of Syrians flee violence to seek out food, protection, medical care and other urgently-needed aid.

There are 12 million people inside Syria displaced or in desperate need of humanitarian aid. At least half of the displaced are children. 

 

sending hope #withsyria

CARE, a leading humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting poverty of the oppressed, has connected WWII survivors who were refugees as children with Syrian children who are current refugees.

These survivors, who were recipients of the world’s first CARE Packages, are paying it forward 70 years later, sending compassion — and so much more — to Syrian refugee children. The result? Deeply moving connections between people who, though separated by decades and distance, share so much.

Care to Syrian Refugees letters from WWII survivors compassion and love Many Sparrows blog

Care to Syrian Refugees letters from WWII survivors compassion and love Many Sparrows blog

Care to Syrian Refugees letters from WWII survivors compassion and love Many Sparrows blog

Care to Syrian Refugees letters from WWII survivors compassion and love Many Sparrows blog

You really have to watch some of these stories (and read the WWII survivors’ letters) for yourself. They’re incredible, and include correspondence from:

  • Former child war refugee Gunter Nitsch, now 78 and living in Chicago, shared his story – and more — with 8-year-old Zaher, a Syrian refugee in Jordan.
  • When 16-year-old Sajeda opened the letter from 87-year-old Helga, she couldn’t have known how it would bridge the distance — and the decades — between them.
  • Hope is exactly what Renata Senter wished to express when she wrote to 13-year-old Duha. “I would like to get to know you and hope that I will be able to help you … achieve your goal.”
  • Joe feels a kinship with 12-year-old Shadi, and it doesn’t end with their shared child-war-refugee experience.

CARE has created a free online letter writing portal so all of us can write a very short letter of support to a Syrian refugee child. A selection of these messages will be translated into Arabic and shared with Syrian refugee children. Here’s what I wrote:

Things might be hard right now, and maybe even sad or scary. You can be brave. There are people around the world who love you and are praying for you. Stay strong, and don’t lose hope. There is always hope. I love you!

I really encourage you to hop over and write a quick letter.

Syrians inside and outside of Syria have endured five years of war. Millions have been forced from their homes, seeking refuge in other countries.

I know writing a letter is such a seemingly small thing, but really, it can mean so very much. Never underestimate the power of words, and the power of hope. Reassure them that they are not forgotten. That you care. Send your message of hope.

It can be all the difference in the world to know you’re not alone.

Please also consider making a donation toward sending a CARE package for a Syrian refugee family. CARE has a high Charity Navigator rating, and a donation of any amount helps.

Care to Syrian Refugees letters from WWII survivors compassion and love Many Sparrows blog

If you’re unable to contribute monetarily, please join me in sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter to help share about the hope-filled work CARE is doing to come alongside children and families who are in a very dark situation.

This isn’t about politics or nationalities or any other lines in the sand that we draw to divide us. This is about compassion. About hope. About letting hurting people know they are not forgotten.

And that’s something I’m incredibly grateful for.

After all, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for someone scribbling a small little letter of hope and prayerfully tucking it away in a donated jacket.

 

Photos courtesy of CARE.

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more alike than different: world down syndrome day

World Down Syndrome Day Down Syndrome Adoption Many Sparrows Blog

Today, 3-21, is World Down Syndrome Day, and my first of many celebrating as a mama to a little one with Down syndrome.

By no means am I an expert on the extra chromosome, but I’m eager to share a bit of our story — a bit of Eliza’s story — with you.

When we learned of sweet baby with Down syndrome waiting for a family, Jonny and I both had misconceptions and myths pop into our heads. We don’t know until we know.

World Down Syndrome Day Down Syndrome Adoption Many Sparrows Blog

I am grateful for families and people who have been touched by Down syndrome that I have had the privilege of watching and learning from, which helped confirm our “yes” toward Down syndrome adoption. I have seen the joy and value of each life God has created, and most of all — I have learned that we are more alike than different.

So, here are four quick things I’ve learned about Down syndrome:

  • What is it? Down syndrome occurs when a person has an extra copy of chromosome 21. This extra genetic material can cause delays in the way a child develops. Down syndrome is a lifelong condition. With care and support, children who have Down syndrome can grow up to have healthy, happy, productive lives. (Babies with Down syndrome are not only born to “old” moms — and what triggers the extra chromosome is still unknown.)
  • What’s normal? Each baby, child, and adult with Down syndrome is different. We don’t define people who have Down syndrome as “one of them” or “a Down’s baby” — each person has unique qualities, strengths, and challenges. At three months, Eliza is much more like a “typical” child than a child with Down syndrome. She has strong muscle tone, rolls over, and holds her head up.She sleeps through the night and has earned the nickname of little snuggle bug due to her love of cuddles. She giggles, coos, and even belly laughs when something is really funny. My hope is not to hold unrealistic expectations over her, but at the same time, empower her. One of the most common things young adults with Down syndrome express? “Don’t limit me.”
  • Will she have health issues? We are so very grateful that Eliza has not had eating or feeding issues, and her congenital heart defects look to be healing on their own. As we have done with any of our other children, we will continue to have check-ups with proper doctors, specialists, and therapists to make sure we’re doing all we can to keep her healthy and strong. While there are medical conditions associated with Down syndrome (including heart and intestinal problems, visual and hearing loss, thyroid function fluctuations, leukemia) no person will have them all. Down syndrome is very rarely a complex or severe disability. It is more commonly described by experts today as a ‘mild to moderate developmental delay‘.
  • What does the future hold? People with Down syndrome have as much hope for the future as you and me. So much has changed, even in the last 10 years. In 1983, the average life expectancy of a person with Down syndrome was a mere 25-years-old. Today, it’s 60. While behavior, mental ability, and physical development varies from person to person, many people with Down syndrome grow up to hold jobs, live independently, and enjoy normal recreational activities. College, career, marriage…these are possibilities, and the more we support inclusion, the more hope becomes reality!

World Down Syndrome Day Down Syndrome Adoption Many Sparrows Blog

Community is so important in the parenting journey, and having people who “get it” is even more important when you’re parenting a child with special needs. I’m so grateful to have connected with Jen Jacobs through a mutual friend. Jen is a fellow Iowan and mama to a little one with Down syndrome, and she formed the nonprofit Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network and co-wrote The Parent’s Guide to Down Syndrome: Advice, Information, Inspiration, and Support for Raising Your Child from Diagnosis through Adulthood.

This book is written with compassion (not fear!) and clearly walks you through key points to expect as you raise a little one with Down syndrome. It includes lots of excerpts from real-life parents, and it’s easy to flip to the chapter you need. It’s clear and easy-to-read (not overly medical, which some Down syndrome books are). It uses positive language and I’m so grateful to have it in my toolbox.

World Down Syndrome Day Down Syndrome Adoption Many Sparrows Blog

What I want you to know is that Eliza is a blessing, not a burden.

She is treasured and loved and we are so grateful for the profound privilege we get in raising her. She makes the world sparkle by just being her, and the joy she has brought our family and friends is palpable. I pray I’m worthy of the calling of being her mommy. Eliza has two older brothers who love her beyond words and a daddy who would do just about anything to make her happy and make sure she knows just how loved she is.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

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little love letters from God

Little Love Letters from God book review and giveaway Many Sparrows blog. Parenting, motherhood, Christian living, Easter, Zondervan, Zonderkidz

Reading to our children is so important.

And in this season of babies and toddlers, I’m all for finding sweet books that share the story of God’s big love. We’re fans of Love Letters from God, which was such a big hit that Glenys Nellist and Zondervan released Little Love Letters from God — a board book edition made just for little hands.

This whimsical, rhyming Bible storybook keeps Asher’s attention, and studies have shown that babies as young as Eliza (three months!) benefit from being read to as well.

Each spread has a scripture reference, and a beautiful (not boring!) rhyming Bible story. There’s a “God’s Wonderful Words to You” blurb that gives an easy-to-remember verse, and my favorite part is the “Your Little Love Letter from God” lift-the-flap note, which personalizes the story.

Little Love Letters from God book review and giveaway Many Sparrows blog. Parenting, motherhood, Christian living, Easter, Zondervan, Zonderkidz

The illustrations are charming, aren’t they?

When picking children’s Bible story books, we’re intentional about finding brown skin tones, and the illustrator has done a such a beautiful job of bringing these people and stories to life.

giveaway time!

I’m partnering with Zonderkidz to give a copy of Little Love Letters from God to one of you as well! This would be a perfect Easter basket addition.

To enter: Hop over to my Instagram here and follow the instructions! xo

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yes, I have my hands full (and no, you don't have to remind me)

If You Think My Hands Are Full You Should See My Heart // Motherhood Many Sparrows Blog

Yes, my hands are full.

No, I don’t need you to pull me aside at the grocery store or the church lobby to remind me.

I’m a busy mama to busy little ones. We have an incredibly active five-year-old, an almost three-year-old, and a precious little two-month old. In April, we’ll welcome baby #4, and we’ll have four kids ages five and under. Our family doesn’t look like other families, so I’ve come to expect occasional second-glances and unsolicited comments. But recently, as we’ve welcomed Eliza into our family through adoption and my bump continues to grow, I’ve been receiving the “OH, your hands are full!” and “OH, you’re going to have your hands full!” remarks at an increasing rate.

A few weeks ago, we stopped at a fast-food restaurant for lunch. My kids were thrilled at the rare treat and sat with me in a booth while Jonny stood in line to order. The boys were being super calm, and Eliza was sleeping in her carseat. It was actually the most peaceful I think our tribe could have possibly been, and I was feeling pretty awesome.

But thank goodness, an older woman made her way to our booth to pop that bubble. She felt it her duty to inform me of her observation that I had my hands full, with a little side-eye and passive-aggressive condescension for good measure. “Hands full, heart full!” I replied back to her with a smile, to which she awkwardly had no response and huffed away.

I laughed to myself, because from the way I was sitting in the booth she couldn’t have even possibly been able to tell that I was pregnant and we were expecting another babe soon. If she knew that, she might have choked on her cheeseburger.

The thing is, my hands are full. Really full. I often feel ill-equipped for the life God has given me. I’m tired. We spend a lot of time at home, because taking lots of littles anywhere is a huge feat in and of itself. And that can start to feel pretty lonely. Add the doubt and worry and fear that sneak into this mama’s heart, and I’m under no illusion that I don’t have my hands full. God has given me precious gifts and I’m just praying I raise and love them well.

Our life is so full, are hearts are so full, and I am so grateful.

What I want you to know is that I’m tired, but I’m happy. These sweet little ones fill us with joy that goes beyond what I could ever deserve. They are truly gifts of grace.

I am so grateful that God saw our open hearts and blessed us through adoption and birth. I am humbled to play a role in these little ones’ lives. Nothing is more refining than parenthood, and I’m floored that my life looks the way it does.

The next time you see a mom of young kids, encourage her. Tell her she’s doing a good job — I don’t know any mother who doesn’t want to hear that. Offer to carry her baby or wrangle her toddler. And if you can’t think of anything nice to say…don’t say anything at all.

And moms in the thick of it — I see you. I see you struggling with the escaping toddler and the baby in the car seat. I see you because I am you, and I want you to know that God has equipped us for such a time as this. We come to it in different ways, and it looks different for all of us, but I do know that mothering is a gift and a sacrifice. I know that so often you feel alone, but I want you to know that you’re not. And I want you to take all the quips and side comments with a grain of salt, and remember that God has called you to this one precious life, and now is the time for living.

Empty hands can come later.

Graphic via Studio Calico

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a dress for date night (and a $75 giveaway!)

PinkBlush Maternity cute maternity clothes, maternity clothing, cute maternity dress, maternity boutique, maternity clothes, maternity dresses, trendy maternity clothes, pinkblush maternity, pinkblush maternity on Many Sparrows Blog

This little babe I’m cookin’ hit 31 weeks, and I’ll be honest: I’m feeling it. I’m to the point in pregnancy where most items in my wardrobe don’t feel quite right and changing from sweatpants to leggings feels like a victory.

With three kids and another on the way, Jonny and I usually collapse on the couch once the kids go to sleep. Evenings consist of PJs and Netflix, and date nights seem like a thing of the past. It’s tough to find the energy at the end of the day to go out together. It’s cold and wintery and it’s always a challenge to find the right babysitter.

But date nights are worth fighting for, even when you’re in your third trimester and you feel anything but beautiful. I’m so grateful for a husband who kisses me on the head and tells me he loves me when I’m eating ice cream straight from the carton, but I also yearn for that time away — just us.

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We’ve been planning a Valentine’s day dinner out for the past month — and I was super excited about it — until I remembered I have this ever-growing bump that adds another roadblock to the date night challenge. Why is it so tough to find non-matronly maternity clothes?

Thankfully, I stumbled upon PinkBlush Maternity, a cute (and affordable) online maternity boutique. I had a hard time narrowing down my favorites because there was so many cute pieces to choose from. I settled on a few, and then asked Jonny what his favorite was for our Valentine’s day date night. We settled on this darling black chiffon bell-sleeve maternity dress from PinkBlush Maternity.

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I love that I found a maternity dress that is super comfortable while still being stylish.

I paired it with a thrifted necklace and some Noonday Collection earrings, and some patent heels I’ve had in my closet for around five years. It’s amazing what a LBD can do to lift your spirits when you’ve been living in lounge pants watching your belly expand!

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Date nights are worth fighting for, and while real love goes way beyond a dinner out, sometimes we need a little nudge to feel beautiful and keep that spark alive, so I’m teaming with PinkBlush and PinkBlush Maternity to offer a $75 giftcard giveaway to their online boutique. There are so many stylish options for date night, and since they’re affordable, I’m sure you’ll be able to get more than one favorite item with the giftcard!

To enter, visit my Instagram. For Many Sparrows readers, you get more entries below, too! (PinkBlush has super cute non-maternity clothes, so even if you aren’t expecting, you’ll want to enter!)
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a Rafflecopter giveaway
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the dangerous definition of love

Flowers What is Love What does God say Love is? Valentine's Day 2016 Many Sparrows Blog guest post

Everyone wants to be loved. And most people want to love others in return. But do we truly know what love is?

Today, my friend Katherine Henson is here sharing a guest post about love. Below, she so eloquently delves into the deep divide between God’s love and culture’s misshapen version of it. I’ve been married for 7.5 years, and her words were convicting to me. Katherine shares a bit of her love story, and then digs into scripture to discover how the creator of all things defines love. Believe me — this post will be healing for your heart.

Every where you turn, culture is giving you a “10 Ways to Know You’re in Love,” “The True Meaning of Love,” “Is He Really the One,” “Your Perfect Match Based on Your Zodiac Sign,” “How to Have a Love Like the Movies,” and so on. This culture has folded the corners, ironed out the wrinkles, and placed love in a tiny box with a red bow to hand out. Everyone an expert, and not single one afraid to tell you why you are not.

At some point, we all become victim to this “love-in-a-box” dilemma. We buy in, just hoping that forever is real and we won’t be alone in it.

I cannot think of a better way to depict cultural love than to look at my history of “love.” I can assure you that most of my high school and college years – okay, all of them – where a result of these ideals. There have been few who have come and stayed, let alone come and showed me I was worth a love without requirements. I jumped from relationship to relationship searching for something that might fill this every-growing void of worthlessness and need to be seen.

All I knew was that in order to receive you must give, give, give, and give. So I gave, gave, gave, and gave. Whatever they wanted. Then I waited. I am sure you can assume that the waiting was never satisfied. Not because I did not receive in return, but because what I received was not the answer or the essence of what I truly deserved and longed for.

It looked like this:

By now, she has trained herself to hold back, the good and the bad; little momentous, secretly sweet moments accompanied with forceful shadows. She knew not to disturb, after all, no one wanted to see the dirty and how dare she throw fireworks up in the air for her own good day.

At least, that is what she had come to know as truth. She had come to believe that in order for love to exist, life must fit within a perfect level of functional, folded precisely in her tiny box of a soul. Careful not to get too close to one extreme or the other, wading across the line, just hoping not to lose balance.

It took me until I was nearly twenty-three to understand that love was not about picking and choosing what to hand to someone else out of fear for what they might reject.

Now let me try God-defined love:

Love does not come from outward adornment, such as what we can give of ourselves to another. Rather, it should be that of inner-self. The mingling of a thousand heart strings with another.

God-defined love does not require one to deny reality of who they are – good or bad. There is no need to pretend to be anyone here, because this love says “I see you, and I love you” or “I am flawed, too.” Raw, unprotected, no gimmicks. No matter where we have come from, this love surrounds us with a sincerity of calm and force that reverberates through every bone in our body.

Here is the difference.

A cultural love is dependent upon a feeling rather than a commitment. A feeling that is, most often, fleeting or dependent upon what we may or may not receive. A Biblical love is a feeling, yes, but more so a commitment based on a personal choice.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Matthew 12:28-31

A cultural love depends on the other person, whether they are lovable or worthy of our love. Or, looking back on my ideal of love, what they can give us that benefits us. A Biblical love is again a choice; we can love the unlovely, the downcast, the simple, the faulty, the quiet. There is no greater example than that of Christ. Christ died for us while we were still enemies of God. He knew what was on the table, He knew the state of humanity, and He loved us anyway. He chose us when no one else would. He chose us when we had nothing to give, but a life full of sin and depravity.

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10

No record of who gave what, who did what, or who was right and wrong. This love is less about self and more about communion with another, a forever clean slate. It is about meeting the needs of another before asking for ours to be met.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5

Many times, the world’s idea of love is to love those who can further your career or those from whom you can get something that you need; this is not a Godly love. Biblical love is not limited to only the beautiful people, or the rich, or the successful. A love without regulations or limits. A mingling of grace and force reverberating through our veins.

Look at the lengths God went to to show His love to us. A love without limits to the extent that He gave His Only Son to show us such a limitless love.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17

Maybe at times the cultural love we see every day is more appealing, perhaps more rewarding in the moment, but there is no love in this world that could match the love that God has shown to us. That is the same love we are called to. Selfless, self-giving, built on a foundation beyond our own selves.

Our culture today has constructed an idea of love that is moving further and further away from true love that is found only in God. Trying to build a false reality of intimacy and truth. When it comes to love, humanity’s version is but a pale shadow compared to the truth of God’s love.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Follow Katherine on Instagram and be sure to check out more of her writing here.

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