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Dear Friends,

During Thanksgiving month I’m sharing devotionals on the topic of Thankfulness from my book Devotions for Working Women. Enjoy!

Being Thankful Truly Honors God

Psalm 50:14, 23 (NLT)

“What I want instead is your true thanks to God; I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High.” “…But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.”

Psalm 51:17 (NLT)

The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.

The people of Israel used to give many offerings to God to obtain forgiveness for their sins. Many people turned this into a tradition with no true meaning or repentance from their hearts. God has not changed today. He has been and will always be, interested in one thing—our hearts. He just wants us to be thankful to Him for everything He has done for us, starting with salvation. What a gift! We must thank God daily and every moment for it. Giving thanks from the heart is what He’s after—a broken and repentant spirit willing to be changed, forgiven, and loved by God.

With today’s lifestyle we all try to do too much. Sometimes we commit ourselves to serve in work committees, kids’ activities, and even church activities—some out of guilt and sense of obligation. These activities may be good, but before we commit to anything new, we must make sure it will not take away time with the Lord. It is better to spend that time with Him than to be occupied with one more thing to do. We honor God by having a thankful heart and spending time with Him.

Dear Friends,

This month, I’ll be sharing with you devotionals on the topic of Thankfulness from my book  Devotions for Working Women. Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving the entire month. Enjoy!

Be Thankful for What God Has Done

Psalm 9:1 (NLT) I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.

God loves the heart of a thankful person. When we are thankful to Him for all the things He has done for us, He wants to bless us even more. When we are going through bad things or circumstances in our lives, we tend to forget all the blessings God has given us in the past. It is in those times we need to remember what God has done for us and truly thank Him for every gift and blessing He has given us.

When we bring these things to our remembrance, it helps us get through the current situation. Our faith also increases, and we are able to trust Him again through yet one more thing in our lives. Thanking God is vital to our success in every area of our lives.

At home, thank Him for your house, husband (if you are married), children (if you have any), your friends, and family. At work, thank Him for your job, your boss, your employees (if you are in management), your peers, and friends. Thank God for letting you be His child. Tell people of the marvelous things God has done for you.

Dear Friends,

This is the story of three Dominican Loan Officers who are not ordinary bankers. They are missionaries. Yes, they provide micro loans to their clients whom they call Associates. Yes, they even provide additional non-financial services such as women’s physical self-care education. And then, they give them eternal hope by sharing the Good News of the Gospel. They give them the hope that no matter how bad their situation here on earth is, their lives in heaven will be much better.

Let me introduce you to them:

Ana is a married woman with three children and sees her job as a calling to help the poor. She is the branch manager for Esperanza International’s central office in La Romana. Joevanny is a divorced young woman with no children who had a successful career with the lottery company but chose to leave all that behind to serve the poor. Yoseina is a single mom of a five-year-old boy who just joined the team several months ago because she also felt called to alleviate poverty. These three women have college degrees and could be working in other organizations making more money. But they all have one thing in common—they all felt the calling to work with the poor by providing micro loans and bringing the Gospel to all the people they serve. Micro loans are provided at an affordable interest rate. The Good News of the Gospel—Salvation—is free!

This is not my story. This is their story. God sends me to these places, so I can do my part which is to listen, observe, and learn so I can then share the stories with all of you. The purpose is to increase awareness about poverty, microfinance as a potential solution, and how the Gospel of Good News is the key ingredient we all need in this life to be delivered from spiritual poverty which is worse than physical poverty. I participated on an Insight Trip with HOPE International in the Dominican Republic with a group of nine other Americans from Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, and Minnesota.

Below is a short recount of what we did in this three-day experience:

Day 1

The bus picked us up at a small hotel in La Romana, a rural area east of the capital, Santo Domingo, that is well known for the sugar cane production and for the extensive tourism driven by the beautiful beaches and golf courses.

We met with Joevanny at Esperanza’s central office in La Romana and were off to our first visit in the middle of a huge sugar cane plantation that seemed to never end. It was like a maze that even had roads and a railroad to transport the sugar cane once it’s harvested. The harvest time is from November through June so there was not much activity during our visit in mid-October. The purpose of this visit was to observe and learn how Esperanza’s Loan Officers conduct their meetings with the Associates.

The Associates are organized in groups of up to five. The community meetings are comprised of at least three groups and are held either at one of the Associates’ homes or at a community building. They each bring their own chair to sit on. Each group receives a loan that is divided amongst the group members. Some Associates can eventually graduate to be on their own. The loan payoff ratio is 98% and most of the loan recipients are women which make about 85%. The loans are repaid weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly within 4-6 months. The average loan amount can be from $100 to $2000 based on the credit history of the Associate and business experience.

The Loan Officers conduct the meetings which are structured in five small segments that HOPE calls “The Five W’s.” They are:

Welcome: The Loan Officer welcomes everyone and takes attendance as they stroll in to the meeting. Several of them are usually late but Joevanny kept the meeting going and welcomed each person by name as they showed up.

Worship: They choose a song they all know and sing it. Most of the Associates in the sugar cane plantations are Haitian so some of them don’t speak Spanish which is a huge challenge for the Loan Officers. They sometimes ask one of the Associates who speaks Spanish to translate to Creole. But I have learned that God doesn’t mind in which language we worship Him and He delights when we sing praises to Him together. Our team joined in the song by clapping!

Word: The Loan Officer then shares a Scripture from the Bible and explains what it all means to the Associates. The Scripture for this day was Isaiah 41:10-11 (NLT) “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. See, all your angry enemies lie there, confused and ashamed. Anyone who opposes you will die.” One of my favorite things I learned from Joevanny that day is how she weaves in the Scriptures throughout her training. She kept reminding the Associates that God was WITH them every day and as they worked.

Work: During this section, they teach business principles such as honesty, trust, and work ethic. Joevanny taught on hygiene in the business—especially if they were selling food items. After the teaching, the Loan Officer collects the loan payments and savings from the Associates.

Wrap up: Once all payments have been received from all group members, the Loan Officer wraps up the meeting. At the end of the loan payment cycle, the Loan Officer negotiates with the groups the next group loan amounts.

The next stop was to visit one of the schools that is also a recipient of Esperanza’s loans (Colegio Evangélico Piedra del Angulo – Cornerstone Evangelical School). Esperanza lends to schools that are associated with a church and some that are on their own. In both cases, the loan is made in the name of the senior Pastor with the approval of the Board of Elders. The school uses the funds to make physical improvements, pay the teachers, expand to more grades, and expand the curriculum. With tuition income they repay the loans. At the schools, they preach the Word of God to all children and believe their job is to “sow the seed of the Word” in all of them even if they never see the fruit of their labor.

Day 2

We picked up Ana and Joseyna from the central office in La Romana and visited another sugar cane plantation. They call the communities “batey.” My heart sunk when I got off the bus because the poverty here was even more extreme than the first one. The communities we visited were Haitians. They represent most of the marginalized and underserved people who live in the Dominican Republic because they emigrate to harvest the sugar cane and don’t have any other sources of income. Esperanza is helping these families to have a second source of income—especially during the months of July through October in between harvest seasons.

We visited several small businesses. One was a “colmado” which is a mini grocery store, and another small business owner who makes sheets and bed spreads. After the visits, Joseyna led the meeting and shared with her group the same story that Joevanny shared during her meeting about a lady called Rosa who failed at starting her small business for lack of planning. The teaching today focused on planning for your business—everything from the amount of the loan needed, the supplies, keeping track of the earnings, to ensuring they had inventory enough to meet the needs of their customers.

The Scriptures Joseyna shared were Colossians 3:23 (NLT) “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” and Luke 14:28-30 (NLT) “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’”

Day 3 – We reflected on the Insight Trip as a group and shared our experiences

After observing and listening to all the meetings, this is what I learned from the Loan Officers:

  • They always start the meetings with prayer to include God in everything they teach that day, give God thanks, and ask God for protection. They pray with and for the Associates.
  • They call the Associates by name.
  • They speak with authority yet treat the Associates with great level of respect.
  • They are serious about their business and collecting payments, yet they also take time to laugh and even joke with the Associates.
  • They teach them the Word of God along with business principles.
  • They include everyone in the conversations throughout the meetings.
  • They love on them—both with words as well as physical touch. They hug their Associates.
  • They keep the Associates accountable for their payment and savings goals.
  • They educate the Associates continually and exercise great level of patience as they don’t all get it right away.

The two biggest takeaways for me from this trip are:

  • Poverty is both physical and spiritual. Organizations like HOPE and Esperanza are bringing hope to these people with the dignity of providing work opportunities to become self-sustainable. And most importantly, these organizations bring the eternal hope by sowing the seed of the Word of God into these people’s hearts—the eternal work is what matters most!
  • The work that these Loan Officers do is beyond being a banker—it is the work of a missionary. This is their calling and they are pursuing it despite the circumstances they must perform their work in. They don’t mind the extreme heat and humidity, the smells and dirt in the sites they visit, and the danger they are exposed to when visiting these remote places.

There is so much more to share but I want to keep this story somewhat short, so you can read it all. The key question is: Will we ever eliminate or at least alleviate poverty? I don’t know. But I’m hopeful that even if this generation doesn’t get out of poverty completely because some of them are simply surviving –even with the micro loans and savings—at least their children have a better chance. It will take several generations to make a lasting impact but with perseverance it can work.

I will leave you with a couple of questions:

  • Are you willing to go and experience this trip for yourself? If yes, please contact Jenni Henderson (JHenderson@Hopeinternational.org) at HOPE International. She will be organizing other trips to Dominican Republic. I hope to participate again and bring a group of bankers!
  • If you don’t feel called to go, are you willing to send someone? If yes, I encourage you to support HOPE International so they can continue this labor of love. They work with 16 countries!

About HOPE International:

HOPE International is a nonprofit organization with the mission to empower individuals to provide for themselves, investing in the dreams of families in underserved communities through discipleship, biblically based training, a safe place to save, and loans. HOPE unites the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) to address both physical and spiritual brokenness and helps clients identify the skills God has given them to break the chains of poverty.

HOPE International either fully funds their micro financing programs in countries where there are no local organizations or partners with local organizations such as Esperanza International in Dominican Republic.

Special Thanks:

Thank you to the HOPE International staff who made this trip possible: Jenni Henderson, Regional Representative who invited me to go; Arden Moyer, HOPE Trips Advisor who coordinated all the communications; Gloria Stonge, Contributions who helped me keep track of my supporters; Jenna Pounds, In-Country Liaison for Dominican Republic who fed us and ensured we had an amazing experience. Lastly, a huge thank you to those of you who supported me on this trip.

These three Loan Officers made an impact in my life and I will never forget the sacrifice they make daily to help others in extreme need. They are making a difference in this world by bringing physical and eternal hope to those whose lives they touch.

These Loan Officers have the heart of a banker…yet they have the heart of a missionary.

Dear Friends,

This past month I’ve been reading the books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings. For the first time ever, I’ve taken the time to read them as a continuous story versus reading one verse here and there. As I read throughout the history of the Kings of Israel, there is a consistent thread which I believe is the main message to us today – If we worship, love, and follow God, we will be successful in everything we do! He will be WITH us all the way! The following Scriptures say it clearly and this message is repeated consistently throughout these two books.

1 Kings 2:1-4 (NLT) As the time of Kin David’s death approached, he gave this charge to his son Solomon: “I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man. Observe the requirements of the Lord your God and follow all his ways. Keep each of the laws, commands, regulations, and stipulations written in the law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go. If you do this, then the Lord will keep the promise he made to me: ‘If your descendants live as they should and follow me faithfully with all their heart and soul, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’

2 Kings 18:5-7 (NLT) Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was never another king like him in the land of Judah, either before or after his time. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the command the Lord had given to Moses. So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did.

Furthermore, when we are faithful to God, He will give us whatever we ask just as He did for Solomon:

I Kings 3:3-5 (NLT) Solomon loved the Lord and followed all the instructions of his father, David, except that Solomon, too, offered sacrifices and burned incense at the local altars… That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

We all know the story after this event. Solomon asked God for wisdom and God made him the wisest person on earth. When we put God first, at the top of everything else, and we love Him with all our hearts, soul, and mind, He will be WITH us throughout our lives. Will our lives be easier? Maybe not because we still live on earth where there is tribulation for sure. But we will have God to help us get through every situation in our lives. Anything else we put above God can become our god, so we must watch for that as He is a jealous God:

I Kings 8: 60-61 (NLT) “May people all over the earth know that the Lord is God and there is no other god. And may you, his people, always be faithful to the Lord our God. May you always obey his laws and commands, just as you are doing today.”

So today I want to encourage you to search your heart for anything that you may be putting above God. Ask Him to help you seek Him with all you’ve got, and He will be WITH you in your journey of life. You will be successful at everything you do!

Dear Friends,

July 1, 2018 marks my 30th wedding anniversary to my husband Tim Malzahn! And because we know being married for this long is an amazing blessing we decided to celebrate the entire year. We started by spending two weeks in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain. After 30 years you learn a lot, not only about the other person but also about yourself and about life in general. Therefore, I’m sharing with you 30 leadership concepts that I’ve learned through this journey called marriage. But whether you are married or not and whether you have children or not, these leadership concepts will help you succeed in the workplace.

  1. Core values. To start on the right foot, marry someone with whom you share your core values. This one step will help you avoid many arguments throughout your marriage. I was blessed to have chosen the right man. In your working life, choose an employer that has the same core values as you. Otherwise, you will always feel like you don’t belong.
  2. Responsibility. You will never really be ready to have children, yet they are probably the biggest responsibility you’ll ever have. Therefore, allow them to come when God wills but still prepare as much as you can. Supervising employees is very similar to parenting. In the workplace, when you become a first-time supervisor, you will also feel inadequate, but you can prepare and develop those skills before you take on a leadership position in your company.
  3. Parenting. Children want the parents’ attention, want us to give them toys, and fight over our time. Doesn’t this sound like your employees at work? They all want your time, your attention, and the latest toys in the office! The answer? Mold your leadership style to each employee just as parents need to mold their parenting style for each child.
  4. Discipline. You and your spouse must agree when disciplining your children. Otherwise, there will be confusion and chaos. The same in the workplace, the leadership team must agree on accountabilities and clarifying roles throughout the organization to avoid confusion.
  5. Communication. Lack of communication is the root for most misunderstandings. You need to communicate with each other about every aspect of the marriage. In the workplace, you need to communicate with your peers, employees, and leaders to build and maintain successful relationships.
  6. Trust. Without trust there is no marriage. Spouses need to trust each other in every aspect of the relationship. In the workplace, without trust your organization will suffer at the least and will parish at the worst. Once trust is lost it is very difficult to recover from it.
  7. Finances. Ideally, finances should be shared in a marriage. Even when one person pays the bills or if only one person is the income earner, the other must always know the financial situation of the household. In the workplace, the top leadership needs to be aware of the financial situation of the organization and also communicate what is appropriate to the rest of the staff.
  8. Education. In addition to providing regular education for your children, you need to educate them on your core values and beliefs. In the workplace, leaders need to continually remind their team members of the company’s vision, mission, and core values too.
  9. Time with children. Spend time with your children one-on-one (from a young age) to build a personal relationship with each child. The same, if you manage a team of people, spend time with each employee to get to know them at the personal level and build the relationship.
  10. Time as a family. Spend time as a family and create positive and fun memories together. The same at work, spend time together as a team not only celebrating successes but just because you want to get know one another.
  11. Time with your spouse. Spend time with your spouse. During the long season of raising children is when the marriage suffers the most because there is simply not enough time for each other. Making the effort to spending time together will ensure you don’t grow apart. In the workplace, spend time with those you work closely with, so you stay on track.
  12. Health. Strive to stay healthy so you can enjoy a long marriage. We have no control as to when our time to depart this planet will be, but we can do our best to live a healthy life, so our spouse doesn’t become a widow or widower sooner than they have to. Staying healthy transfers to the workplace as well. Healthy employees are happy employees.
  13. Walk. Go on long walks with your spouse. Walking is the one exercise that we can do until our very last days. When you go on long walks it gives you an opportunity to share and connect while you exercise. In the workplace, you can establish wellness programs to encourage your employees to go on walks together.
  14. Compliments. Tell each other compliments and do it sincerely. Complimenting your spouse will build his/her self-esteem. The same way in the workplace. Saying a compliment to a coworker goes a long way.
  15. Words. Tell your spouse the three powerful words, “I Love You.” Don’t assume they know it. We all need to be reminded that we are loved. In the workplace, there are ways to demonstrate love and appreciation for your peers, leaders, and employees such as “I appreciate you.” Doing this small act builds loyalty and increases retention.
  16. Friendship. Have a strong foundation of friendship. We like to say we married “our best friend.” But through the years, we can forget that, and we need to keep it in front of us by doing activities we both enjoy. In my opinion, it is okay to form friendships in the workplace. Sometimes, those friendships can last a lifetime.
  17. Romance. Have lots of romance at home. When the romance is kept alive—even during the exhausting years of raising children, then neither spouse will have a need to look for romance elsewhere such as in the workplace. One romantic act, one gesture of love during the week may be what keeps your marriage alive.
  18. Meals. Eat meals together. It’s amazing what eating a meal with someone does to the relationship. It’s almost magical. During the meal is when so many topics are discussed and when you get to know the other person better. In the workplace, take time to go out for a meal or coffee with a peer and you will build stronger relationships.
  19. Write. Write little love notes to each other. When your loved one reads words of love you wrote for him or her, it will transform his or her heart. In the workplace, you can write “thank you” notes as a gesture of appreciation for each other. One or two minutes writing a note to an employee may make the difference between keeping or losing a talented employee.
  20. Pray. Pray for each other. Pray for your spouse daily and through the day and pray for God to protect your marriage. In the workplace, pray for your employees, for your leaders, and for your friends.
  21. Respect. Treat each other with respect. Respect, along with love and trust are pillars in a marriage. This applies the same in the workplace. Where relationships are built on mutual respect they flourish.
  22. Commitment. Commit to each other and to the marriage. Commitment is the fourth pillar that goes along with respect, trust, and love to hold a marriage together. The same way in the workplace, when there is commitment from the employer to the employees to provide a safe environment, the employees respond with their loyalty and commitment back.
  23. Patience. In a marriage we need to be patient with each other on a daily basis. Impatience turns into disagreements, arguments, and even fights and then frustration sets in. So many business deals are lost because someone became impatient and so many business relationships fall apart because of lack of patience.
  24. Belief. Believe in yourself and in each other. It takes courage to believe in yourself and it takes even more courage to believe in someone else. But not doing so can be the beginning of the end in your marriage. In a company, if the employer doesn’t believe in their employees the employees will never achieve their best and the company’s vision will never be fulfilled.
  25. Support. Support each other’s dreams. Do you know your spouse’s dreams? Take time to discover and share each other’s dreams and work together to accomplish at least some of them. This will not only rekindle your marriage but will keep it together. In the workplace, I encourage leaders to ask their employees to share their career dreams and aspirations. Provide them with a safe place to share their dreams and then help them get there.
  26. Attitude. Life happens to everyone—good things and bad things. Your attitude and how you react to each life event determines if you will overcome or not. In the workplace, often we have no control over the events that occur. Choose to have a positive attitude and you will enjoy your working life more.
  27. Fun. Have fun at home with your family—even on the busy days. Be creative on how you have fun while you take care of your family. In the workplace, attend the activities that are planned precisely for employees to have fun and enjoy each other away from the office.
  28. Celebrate. When you celebrate everything in your life—from the little accomplishments to the big milestones—you become a grateful person. At work, take time to celebrate overcoming challenges together as well as bringing in a big client. Everything adds up.
  29. Forgiveness. In a marriage, we need to forgive each other almost daily. There are always plenty of opportunities to hurt each other. In the workplace, there will be many opportunities for you to be hurt. Choose to forgive so you can move on. Forgive—even when the other person doesn’t ask for forgiveness or you think they don’t deserve it. Forgive others and you will feel free. Also, be humble and ask for forgiveness when you hurt others.
  30. Faith. And most of all… have faith in God. Don’t forget God loves you above all! He is a God of forgiveness, mercy, hope, and love. Love your family. Love your friends and everyone God has put in your path of life.

I hope you enjoyed reading this short series on the 30 leadership concepts I’ve learned during the 30 years of my marriage journey. I hope God will give me the blessing to enjoy another 30 or 40 years of marriage. No marriage is perfect nor easy but with God’s help and mutual cooperation, we can make it. I will never stop writing so I stay tuned for when I share what I learned in the next decades to come…

I recently spoke at an event where I shared about my life story and why I wrote the book The Fire Within – Connect Your Gifts with Your Calling. As I shared about all the major life events that I have either survived or gone through, I emphasized the theme in my story—thankfulness. When you live through natural disasters such as an earthquake and a hurricane, you realize how vulnerable you are as a human against the forces of nature. Then when you live through a civil war, a disaster caused by evil intentioned humans, you also realize how vulnerable you are as a country and that you can lose it all—your home, your job, your life as you knew it, including your country, up to losing your own life.

Every time I lived through another major event I developed a deeper attitude of gratitude. I was thankful to simply come out alive. I became aware of how easily I could lose a loved one. Therefore, continuing to have them in my life gave me an immense sense of gratitude toward God. All the material possessions that my parents had worked hard for and lost after the revolution were gone but were replaceable. After living in my aunt’s garage for two months as refugees in Dominican Republic I walk around my house and thank God that I have a beautiful house and a home. Now I am thankful for every single material thing I possess and live with the awareness that I can lose it all. Every thing and every person in my life is a blessing from God and I’m thankful for it.

But despite the fact that we can lose our material possessions any time, there are other things that God gives to each of us that no one can take away—our gifts and talents. There are many gifts that God gives His people listed below:

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)

He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.

Romans 12:4-8 (NLT)

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.

God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift of showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

I wrote The Fire Within – Connect Your Gifts with Your Calling to help you discover your own gifts and connect them with your unique purpose, your calling in life.

I will leave you with some questions to ponder on:

  1. How do you demonstrate your thankfulness for everything you have in your life—including your gifts and talents?
  2. Do you know what your gifts and talents are? I challenge you to discover your gifts.
  3. How are you using your gifts to help others the way God intended?

Dear Friends,

On my birthday, I want to thank you all for your friendship, love, and support through the years. You are each a God’s gift to me today and every day. I thank God for the gift of friendship. I don’t take any of you for granted.

Thank you for all the best wishes, virtual balloons, cakes, and hugs that come from very long distances from friends in various countries and States in the US. I appreciate each gift and message.

I know some people don’t like celebrating birthdays because it’s a sign that we’re one year older. But I love to celebrate birthdays because I celebrate life. I celebrate the amazing opportunity that God gave me to live another year, to help others, and to do work for the Kingdom.

I love you all and thank you again for making my birthday a special day!