Hope and a Future {Coffee for Your Heart}

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Today Holley’s Coffee for Your Heart writing prompt was about encouragement that our hearts need to hear. It’s so sweet and so special to me that as I sat to write a post about hope for a future, Holley’s post was on the very same thing. With such special timing I can’t help but pause and savor the sweetness of the moments God reminds us we never walk alone.

Today I’m reminded that we must fight to keep our eyes before us, always waiting with a gracious hope that believes in the light even when it only flickers from a distance. Today I’m reminded that we must look to the horizon instead of the raging waters. There is a bright future beyond a gloomy place; there is a hope beyond this aching. It’s easy to believe that things will always be this way, but today is fresh and new and leading us to a place that once again blossoms. Today may look an awful lot like yesterday, but it’s brand new and even if it frightens us to the core, we can bravely look at the day unfolding and say with faith, This is the day that the Lord has made, and I believe He will fill it with the wonders of His love.
He draws near to us with tenderness and compassion, in the aching and in the unfolding. Though we may not see how, there is a future full of hope and full of love unfolding for us day by day. May we find the courage to believe this today and always.

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A Flurry of Natural Skincare and Cosmetics :)

I’m sneaking an extra post in this week! This lovely Saturday seems like a nice night to share a flurry of natural skincare and cosmetics. As someone with severe chemical sensitivities, I’ve spent much time in search of truly natural products to use. It was very challenging at first to find any products without harsh chemicals and dyes, but with much time (and a pinch of patience, too), I’ve come to find some truly wonderful brands. I’m so excited to share this post with you, and I hope it helps you in your search 🙂 All of these products are also cruelty free, which is of equal importance in my eyes! I hope you enjoy taking a peak around.

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100% Pure (Made in the USA). This little shop has been such a blessing in my journey. It’s my go-to place to shop! They carry just about every skincare and beauty product you can imagine, and all of their products are completely natural. They’re even dyed with fruit-pigments instead of synthetic dyes! I find them to be a wonderful, wonderful company and I cannot recommend them enough. My favorite facial-care products from them are the Carrot Scrub and the Brightening Night Balm. My favorite make-up items are their lip glazes, cream sticks, and tints (not to mention how cute the packaging is!), Black Tea Mascara, and their Healthy Flawless Skin Powder (which is so soft and light.)

EOS (Made in the USA) is a brand you’ve probably heard of, as they are becoming so popular! They are the creator of the smooth sphere. My favorites are the Blueberry Acai and the Summer Fruit flavors.

Honest Co. (Made in the USA) This is a lovely company founded by Jessica Alba, filled with wonderful natural products from cleaning supplies to personal care. Not only are the products fantastic, but the packaging is adorable! Staying with the theme of this post, my favorite skincare items are the Sweet Orange Vanilla Shampoo + Body Wash, the Sweet Orange Vanilla Conditioner, and the Face + Body Lotion.

Hurraw! Balm (Made in the USA) is my favorite brand for lip products, I must say! They have such wonderful lip balms that are fair trade, to boot! My favorites from them are the Mint, the Vata blend (an Ayurvedic blend for Vata doshas that smells like sweet almond and cardamom), and the Vanilla Bean flavors.

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Indie Lee (Made in the USA) is a truly inspiring woman who overcame a battle with a life-threatening brain tumor. When she learned that environmental toxins likely contributed to her condition, she set out to begin a line of natural products. Her company was one of the very first companies I found in my search, and I’m so glad I did. My favorite product from her was a very gentle bar soap that is currently discontinued, but my next favorite is her Brightening Cleanser that smells deliciously like fresh strawberries! (Her site also has very helpful resources for “Good Ingredients” and “Ingredients to Avoid“)

Kora Organics by Miranda Kerr (Made in Australia) is an incredible line of natural and organic skincare products. A bit on the pricy side, but there are a couple of products I find to be worth the splurge! My favorite products are the Cream Cleanser and the Exfoliating Cream.

Josie Maran Cosmetics (Made in the USA) is a organic line of some considerably harsh-chemical-free products. Josie uses pure, Fair Trade Argan Oil as her signature ingredient, which is grown and harvested responsibly by co-ops of Moroccan women who earn a living wage. She also uses eco-friendly packaging. My favorite product from her is her Argan Matchmaker Serum Foundation. It works more like a tinted moisturizer than a foundation for me, but I like that! It’s very light, soft, and gleaming.

Pacifica Perfume (Made in the USA) This shop is the only place I’ve found that carries fragrances that don’t trouble me. They have some delightful, natural, delicious smelling products! My absolute favorite (and certainly my favorite smelling thing on all this whole list!) is their Hawaiian Ruby Guava body wash, body butter, and perfume.

Tate’s  (Made in the USA ) is another wonderful brand of natural products. My favorite is The Natural Miracle Conditioning Lip Balm.

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For inner beauty, these teas are lovely!

Tea Forte has a line of skincare teas called Skin Smart that are so pleasant. My favorite is the Cherry Marzipan.

The Republic of Tea also has a delicious herbal blend for skincare called Get Gorgeous.

I hope you find this list helpful! Feel welcome to share what your own favorite are! Are there any products missing on here that I should know about? Let me know!

Peace to you,

Rachel

P.S. Always remember to check for coupon codes! They make it all the sweeter 🙂

You’re Not Alone {Coffee For Your Heart}

Holley has the sweetest little link-up going on on her blog right now, it’s called Coffee For Your Heart. Every week, readers and bloggers and friends meet together sharing posts about a topic Holley picks to prompt us to write encouraging words to others. It’s magical to see people come together sharing encouragement, love, and kindness each week. This week, her Coffee For Your Heart topic is “You’re Not Alone”. It’s really a beautiful thing to talk about, something I don’t think we say so much as assume sometimes. “You’re not alone” can be one of those unspoken truths, whispered in the embrace of a loved one of the laughter of a friend or the smile of a family member. It’s even gently spoken in the wagging of a puppy’s tale. But it’s something we can forget to say to each other. This week I’m remembering just how far a thoughtful card, a call, and even an email from a loved one can go. There’s enough love in small gestures to brighten a gloomy day, to bring a smile to a face and to a heart, and to let someone know you’re along side them. It’s a gift to give and to receive such loving kindness. I think we’re made to share love, not just on special occasions but on Wednesdays, too. Holley asks us to write about what we need to hear when we feel alone. I think what we need to hear is sometimes unspoken. We need to hear laughter, a heaping mix of our own and a loved one’s. We need to hear songs that are brave enough to break the silence and sing about hope in the midst of pain. We need to hear the phone ring. We need to hear the doorbell ring. We need to hear the voices of loved ones. But there are words, too, and I think that they are this: We are more loved than we can understand by a God big and bold and beautiful enough to fill our every loneliness. He sees our emptiness and longs to flow through those places with eternal love. We are loved. We get stuck in moments and feel that they define us, that they tell us who we are and where we are going, but we are part of a bigger story. Hope is bigger than this moment. In time this aching will pass and when we look back we will remember the joy and love and friendship that traveled with us. It will shine brighter than the memories of pain. Gratitude will shape us. Redemption will win. We can rest knowing God holds not only our hearts, but our lives too. And while we are on this side of heaven, we are given a family. We are all in this human experience together. We’re here together on this roller-coaster ride of life. We all ache in the shadows of loneliness and we all beam with delight in the presence of love ones. We’re made to share life together. We’re not meant to strive for a life of independence; it hardens our hearts to our needs and the needs of those around us. We’re made to be sincere and tender and authentic, even to our neediness. We’re made to share. We’re made for the warmth of embraces and the jokes of friendship and the joy of companionship and the heart-healing grace of fellowship. We’re made to give and we’re made to receive. It’s okay to ask for help. Life isn’t something we’re meant to walk through alone. I pray that you won’t believe the lie that you should be tougher, that you should be able to experience life without aching in loneliness. Your tenderness and love are sweet treasures. They deserve to be met with love and light from God and others, and I pray that you will see that illuminating you each and every day. You’re not alone in this. There are people who feel the things you feel, they have empathy and compassion and tenderness for your wounds. Please don’t hide away in the shadows. There is sunshine for you, turn to its warmth.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;

~Isaiah 40:11

 

{If you are feeling alone and in need of support, InCourage Community Groups are hosting two online community groups for chronic illness, HOPE for Chronic Illness and Living With Chronic Illness. Take a peak! You never know what gift may come out of a special group. If you’d like to read Holley’s You’re Not Alone post, you can by clicking here.}

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When You Feel You’ve Exhausted The Search of a Cure

Have you ever been graced with a sweet moment of companionship within a Bible story? A moment where the story relates to you so deeply you feel as if God was speaking to you through it? It’s such a lovely kind of moment. A sense of awe wraps your heart as your souls relaxes into the peace of His presence. A few weeks ago, I had one of those moments. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell the tale, but Mark shares a few special details that melted my heart. Let me share:

A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition. (Mark 5:25-29)

As the story continues, Jesus turns around in the crowd in search of the woman. When they meet, he tells her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

Do you ever feel like this woman? Going from doctor to doctor, trying medicine after medicine and remedy after remedy, trying diets and herbs and supplements, traveling to specialists, having lists of tests, but never finding a cure? I find this story deeply encouraging for a few reasons and I hope you will, too. This woman is certainly an inspirational testament of faith, as she has suffered for many years yet still kept hopeful and faithful, even among disappointments. But another beautiful thing is that God’s love is so transforming that it doesn’t matter how complicated or hopeless our diseases seem this side of heaven, He can cure each of them instantly. He didn’t give this woman a form to fill out about her symptoms and ask her about her diagnosis. He sure didn’t need to do that! She believed, He loved, and healing came at once. It certainly doesn’t mean we should stop trying our treatments, because surely He can use those for His good, too! But it does mean that even if we try and try and nothing seems to help, it’s never hopeless, for He will come again and all pain and sorrow will fall away. So we take our supplements and try our treatments and see our doctors and trust that healing can come in any way, but we know that even if it takes longer than we expected, we’re drawing nearer and nearer each and every day.

When You Need A Little Courage to Share Your Struggles

I hope this week you are touched by the freedom of being honest about your struggles,

And feel the value in sharing your heart and all its beauty, vulnerability, and authenticity.

I hope your openness is met with genuine comfort, support, and acceptance from those dearest to you,

And you are offered listening ears and open arms and that your heart is greeted with the soft but powerful whisper,

“Your story is significant.”

I hope that whisper casts a ripple effect that reaches each part of your being, refreshing it with the truth of your worth.

I hope you feel no shame in your pain,

But feel the triumph of grace overwhelm even the shadowiest valleys of your soul.

For you may walk through the valley with no fear of danger, for He is with you.

I hope you find relief from the burden you’re carrying, and feel how honesty alleviates suffering.

Sometimes all it takes is a listening ear.

I pray we find the courage to be open, and the grace to meet others with the same compassion we wish for in return.

“For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.” ~Isaiah 49:13

When You Feel Lonely

As September unfolds and brings a new season, and the chill of Autumn begins to touch our towns,

I hope you find yourself warmed by the sweet embrace of loving company.

And if your days feel cold with loneliness and isolation, I pray that you will nestle into hope.

I hope you find a moment of courage to lift your eyes and your heart just a little higher, in order that you may see the loving heart of our Lord, outstretched for you.

I hope you’re reminded that our lonely times aren’t really barren, empty, untouched times but pruned ones.

I hope you’re reminded that there is a coming Love more abundant than any we can imagine,

A Home where He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

If we can lift our eyes and our hearts a little higher than our hurts, even for just a moment, and look into the face of our Savior, we can trust He will comfort us with His mercy and teach us of His harvest.

Our gracious Savior is with us, Our God who places the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6).

I pray you will let Him draw near and whisper healing truth into your aching heart.

There’s so much joy ahead, friends. There’s so much joy around.

I hope this Fall season leaves you with little reminders of how all seasons will be redeemed;

I hope you let your worries fall away like the leaves of the trees.

You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. ~John 16:20-22

When You Feel Like You Can’t Make A Decision

When you feel overwhelmed by simple decisions,

When you can’t make up your mind on even the tiniest of troubles,

When the clock ticks and the minutes pass and you’re still no closer to a decision,

May you feel His gentle peace calm your soul.

May you understand your body’s message that it is exhausted and in pain with so little energy to spare for mental activity like decisions.

May you know there isn’t a harsh consequence to that.

May you take a step back and give yourself a calm space to recollect your thoughts.

Make you take time to breathe deeply to nourish your body with fresh air and sweet grace.

May you take time to rest to recuperate.

May you take the pressure off.

May you feel no shame in asking for help.

If the tears well in your eyes, let them roll down your cheeks.

It’s okay to release.

Just know that there is hope to light the darkness, there is peace to calm the raging fear, and their is grace to redeem each moment.

Rest well, sweet friend.

Week 4: It’s Okay to Rest; It’s Okay to Need Care

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7

In her book, “You’re Already Amazing”, Holley Gerth dedicates a chapter to why it’s okay for us to care for ourselves. She gives us permission to release the lie that “it’s selfish to care for ourselves” and instead, guides us to the truth that we need to care for ourselves so that we have the inner resources to care for those around us. She gives us the imagery of an “emotional bank account” and talks about how it’s so important to balance our deposits and withdrawals. I find her simple explanation so refreshing. It clicks in the way that lights up the eyes and an understanding “ohhhh!” escapes the lips (or, the more comical light-bulb flicking on above the head). When I took time to reflect on this, I noticed just how out of sync my “balance” was, and I fear that you may find the same. It is so easy to overextend our energy balance when each movement costs us valuable energy, but in a way, it is such a powerful little reminder about prioritizing, simplifying, and accepting the here and now so we can return to a state of balance.

I believe, with such joy, that spending time with Christ with an open heart and surrendered spirit leads to us finding true balance. He’s the God of radiant redemption. It’s time to let Him gently take off our masks that say, “I’m fine” and “I should be able to do more”, to let Him lovingly draw near to us and intimately look into the face of His child. Let Him see your authentic soul, He longs to. He knows you need care, and He isn’t disappointed. There is no shame in Christ. No guilt, no earning, no striving, and no condemnation. Especially not for the weak, for it’s the weak He came to rescue (Mark 2:17). We believe many lies that steal our rest and joy, and I believe this deeply saddens our Lord. Our all-loving Jesus knows just how to cleanse us from these lies. He knows how to help us see that it’s not selfish to rest (Matthew 11:28). He knows we don’t need to “do more” because He has already accomplished the true victory (Romans 5:6). He knows how to help us stop striving to please others so vigorously that it leaves us empty (Galatians 1:10-11), and He knows how to fill us up again (John 16:26). He knows how to remove our doubts, insecurities, and anxieties and replace them with peace (John 14:27). And the most beautiful thing He knows how to do is simply to care for you (Luke 12:6-7). I pray that you will let speak truth into your life and spread peace throughout your soul.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)

Week Two: Your Pain is Significant

As we wake in the morning, open our eyes to the sunshine peaking through the cracks of the blinds, and are embraced by a fresh new day, it doesn’t take long for pain to slip in. You may awaken beaming with hope and feel your soul dancing with joy, but somehow, pain still creeps into the shadows. There are so very many ways it can. Maybe it’s aches all over your body, crashing as strongly today as they did the day before. Or maybe it’s the tender wounds that a broken relationship inflicted on your heart. Perhaps it’s the loneliness in the midst of a loss you haven’t been able to fill. If none of these things, perhaps what you feel is the exhaustion of being downtrodden by emotions that you’ve battled day in and day out–feeling oppressed by their weight and conquered by their power. No matter what you feel or how deeply it’s affected your heart, these pains are so very real, and they matter. These pains may have stolen your gaze and slipped lies into your heart. They may have taken the serenity of the morning and twisted it into the sorrow of mourning. There is such a vast sea of sorrow, and yet, every drop of it matters.

These words may look like a small statement to offer such a big wound; somewhat like a band-aid offered to a life-threatening wound. But please don’t let the simplicity of this statement fool you; these words have a great power to them. Neatly packed within that statement are two beautiful, strong, soothing, and inspiring truths. Will you take a closer look with me as we unpack them, one by one?

The first garment of truth is comforting and cozy and just what it sounds like: your pain is noticed; your pain matters. You may have grown used to your pain. You may have accepted it as a companion, even though you’ve longed to be freed from it. But there is still hope, and there is still peace, and there is still freedom for each and every one of your wounds. Your pain matters. If you’ve felt it for an hour or you’ve felt it for many years, it’s still a terrible pain that you do not have to simply adjust to and overlook. It matters. You don’t have to hide it or push through it. You can show your heart, your wounds, your tears, and your desire for restoration. You do not have to be ashamed; not ashamed in front of God or in front of me, because we both understand what pain feels like.

In Psalm 56, as David cries out to God, he shares a verse that roots the truth that our pain is significant. He says:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

God pays special attention to us. He sees your tears, your sorrows, your pain, your worries, your doubts, and all those broken pieces you’re trying to put back together. He doesn’t simply see them, but comes along side you and offers His comfort, understanding, and redemption. This means that He knows not only the wounds, but how to heal them, and how to protect you from worsening them. As we open our precious Bibles, we are introduced to a God who was involved with and empathetic toward His children in every pain and sorrow. He’s a rescuer and a comforter. Please allow Him to come along side you, to cleanse your wounds and tenderly wipe the tears away from your eyes. Allow Him to tell you that He has a plan and a purpose for you, and you don’t have to hopelessly endure pain. He is with you. Allow Him to talk to you about your pain and to bring you His rest. He longs to be near you and share this burden with you. He doesn’t want you to try to bear this on your own; He longs to be your faithful companion.

The second garment of truth is bold and graceful and has deep meaning. This truth is that your pain has purpose. Pain itself is a terrible, awful, and entirely dreadful thing, but we learn a great deal from it. It isn’t the pain itself that is so significant as what it teaches us and how we let it form us. It’s not the fact that we need pain, but that we need the lessons that pain sobers us to. Pain reveals a divine hope that is independent of earthly comfort. When we let go of earthly safety nets, here are a few of the lessons and virtues we learn and grow in: gratitude, mercy, empathy, true friendship and companionship, patience, endurance, healing, hope, redemption, compassion, appreciation, depth, deliverance, purpose, joy, faith.

If you’re stuck in the midst of sorrow, wondering how pain and heartache can shape your heart and soul into something more beautiful than it was before this grief every touched you, let me remind you of how sweet little snowflakes are formed. As the rain falls down from the sky–that gloomy, formless rain slipping from grey clouds–the bitter air touches it. The bitterness stills each and every motion of that falling drop of water. The drop stretches and falls and the bitterness freezes its every motion into a masterpiece. And that’s certainly what a snowflake is, a piece of irreplaceable art that is tiny in size yet immense in God’s craftsmanship. And these lovely snowflakes are never the same, but always unique. The form, the artistry, the beauty, and the unique design of every little snowflake is a direct result of the bitterness it came through to fall upon your shoulder, stick to your coat, and bring a smile to your face.

So take heart, and be courageous, because God even redeems the rain. And as the sweet, beautiful snow reflects the sunlight, so His love shines upon us.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)

Week One: You Are Not Alone in Your Illness

I was so touched by the opportunity to connect with some of you through my post, 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded. Your kind words and inspirational stories were so moving. Since there was such a meaningful response, I decided to dig deeper into that post and share more with you. For the next few weeks, let’s take another look at why these truths are so significant. Please join me as we discuss one truth each week for the next few weeks! I look forward to sharing this journey with you 🙂

~Week One: You Are Not Alone in Your Illness~

John 16 that has been one of the most comforting Bible chapters for me in my pain. During this chapter, Jesus has been ministering to His disciples about the coming terror of His crucifixion, and preparing them for the overwhelming sorrow they will experience. But in the midst of that, He is promising them His authority to overcome even this horrific death, and reassuring them of the unshakable joy that will thrill their hearts when He returns for them. As I read His words, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I feel hope ignite in my heart and peace soothe my soul. Though I’ve never seen His gentle face, I can vividly imagine the expressions upon it as He spoke. Empathy, hope, loyalty, humility, victory. After sharing His heart with them, offering them His peace, He says,

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)

These words have touched and resonated with my aching heart, and I imagine that they must with yours, too. Although we feel truth in this statement for a different reason, many of our hearts can still feel the sting of the pain. You have scattered, each one going your own way, leaving me alone. We have experienced heart-wrenching times of feeling abandoned during our illnesses. But it is not this part of the statement that is so bold, so powerful, so timelessly true as what Jesus says next.

But I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

I truly believe this is one of the greatest truths we can delight our hearts with. I believe this is one of the most powerful truths we can accept in our trials of illness. Let our hearts reflect and hold tightly to this truth. For we are designed to share relationships with other humans, but we are sustained by a relationship with God. Although fellowship delights us and thrills our soul, it is but a taste of what unity with Christ is.

So what does it mean that God is with you in your struggles?

It means that He understands the agony of the pain you are enduring, because He felt these very things.

It means that He hears the cries of your heart as you suffer and is there to soothe you with His peace.

It means He understands the warfare your body is immersed in and has designed a rescue plan for you.

It means that He came before you to conquer death before it could ever touch your precious existence.

It means He has counted each tear that has flowed from your beautiful eyes, and that He knows the day that He will wipe them away and bring you to His eternal sanctuary where there will be no more pain or sorrow or tears.

It means He holds the seeds of faith you have planted in Him and will blossom them into blessings more beautiful than an endless field of fresh flowers.

The sustaining truth of “God with us” is a firm promise that God is able to fill our hearts, minds, bodies and souls with a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). To feel the spirit of His joy dwelling in your heart, despite any circumstance, must be one of the most magical and refreshing feeling known to a believer’s heart. It is positively divine! It’s so awe-striking to be lifted from gloom and sorrow into the shining hope Christ illuminates into our souls.

There are moments when we cannot see or feel or even imagine hope, but it is still alive and active and ready to lift us out of these lonely places. God is ready to wrap you up in His loving kindness. Community exists, companionship exists, family exists, and there is hope for all of these even in the most grueling of illnesses. I cannot word it any more lovely than Jamie Tworkowski has in his vision statement for the movement To Write Love On Her Arms, so I will gratefully share his words with you:

We live in a difficult world, a broken world. We believe everyone can relate to pain, all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments. You need to know you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck.

We all wake to the human condition. We wake to mystery and beauty, but also to tragedy and loss. Millions of people live with problems of pain. Millions of homes are filled with questions—moments, and seasons, and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay. We know pain is very real. It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real and help is real.

You need to know rescue is possible, freedom is possible, God is still in the business of redemption. We’re seeing it happen.

I pray that these words will encourage your heart and sit well with your soul. May you always remember that hope and love are your faithful companions, and you are not alone.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)