Hope for Wholeness Conference, 2015

I just returned from an amazing Hope for Wholeness conference in the Asheville area of North Carolina.

The theme was Masterpiece in Process.

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I was very excited to reconnect with Bob Hamp, one of my unofficial mentors 🙂 Since it was in the elevator that we first met in 2011, he wanted to recreate the moment. That’s Meleah with the photo bomb.

Maggie, my daughter, spent most of the conference hanging off my back. Since you can only see the very tip of her head in the above picture, here she is, photo-bombing a shot with my friend and comedian, Christina Ringer.

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I can even play the guitar with Maggie hanging out back there!

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Conferences are my happy place, and this one was no exception. They also remind me that I have a blog 🙂 You can imagine that my life is busy as a mom of 3 and the director of a non-profit ministry. And you’d be right! But I miss writing and am hoping to check in with you more.

Perhaps I’ll even share the video of me rapping at the conference!

Freedom Friday: Jordan River Assignments

Guess who arrived October 8th?

Baby girl at 1 month old

Baby girl at 1 month old

She’s actually 7 weeks old. We’re doing great! She’s a healthy little girl who is most comfortable in her mommy’s arms, so blogging time is extremely limited!

That said, I wanted to share about a moment a couple of weekends ago. I went to speak and exhibit at the district Assemblies of God Women’s Retreat (yes, with a 5 week old – I should have my head examined). I was sharing something with a woman named Michelle at the booth next to me, something I noticed about the story of Joshua stepping into the Jordan River. This story has been such a central theme of recent years, I shared, that my daughter’s middle name is Jordan.

At that moment, a friend joined the conversation. She jokingly referred to my daughter as “Jordan River Simonds.” Michelle misheard my friend as saying, “Jordan River Assignments.” Wow, did that get my wheels turning!

Joshua’s Jordan River Assignment began with camping next to a flooded river for 3 days – a river he knew he needed to cross in order to reach the Promised Land. Many believe that Joshua 1:11 implies this was based on a directive from God. The 2nd part of his assignment was to have the priests step into that flooded river and trust that God would provide a way where there was no way.

While the actual assignment for the Israelites was to cross the Jordan, the heart behind the assignment was a command to trust God and to not be afraid. This is why God’s first directive to Joshua was to be strong and courageous (said here and here).

When facing the Jordan, the Israelites could have easily concluded, based on God’s history of parting bodies of water, “But doesn’t God want us to walk on dry land?”

They could have determined that the way God behaves = the way He behaved when He parted the Red Sea rather than determining to believe the truth about God: that in the midst of His call to be strong and courageous, He will carry us through whatever He calls us to.

We all have Jordan River Assignments – things that seem impossible for us. I wrote about this a few years ago. But God truly is able.

Sometimes God’s assignment for us is to let us camp on the riverbank at flood stage.

Perhaps you are camped on the riverbank of an assignment that seems impossible for you. You feel the spray of every obstacle as it splashes against your face.

God is calling you today to look beyond the overflowing river that is before you and to see the Promised Land. All that stands between you and the fullness of all God has for you is a few Jordan River Assignments.

Here I am again, at Ridgecrest

This is my 4th time at Ridgecrest Christian Conference Center.

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Exodus International rotated the location for its annual Freedom conferences. Every 3rd year, it was held on the east coast, here at Ridgecrest.

In 2005, I came here to attend my 2nd Exodus conference (my 1st was in California in 2004 – I attended alone). This was my first conference as a leader, as I had been the director of Alive in Christ almost a year at this point. Roy and several others from the ministry attended. Because Jerry Falwell spoke that year, there was tons of media attention, and I spoke on television for the 1st time about my same-sex attraction.

I don’t remember much about the interview, except they showed a close-up of my wedding ring, and I was wearing a purple shirt.

We returned in 2008, this time with a 11-month old Bear in tow (my older son’s nickname). I had the privilege of sharing my testimony from the main stage and teaching a workshop entitled “Learning to Walk in Freedom” (sound familiar?). I think I also participated in the forums on youth ministry.

Back again in 2011, Bear was almost 4, and we now had JJ tagging along at 1 1/2. We stopped at my dad’s on the way. It was there I found out that apart from a miraculous touch from God’s own hand, my father would die from cancer.

I again had the opportunity to speak, telling the women this time about “Learning to Walk in Freedom.” It was an amazing conference. I felt as if Exodus had truly been refined by fire, and the gold was truly shining through (many others agreed).

In 2012, I flew out to Minnesota by myself, having been invited to participate in the conference on various ways. It was the best Exodus conference I had been a part of, even more so than 2011.

At the 2013 Exodus conference (which I did not attend), it was announced that Exodus would close.

Recently, Alive in Christ joined a new network, Hope for Wholeness. I spoke at their conference this past fall, and now here I am, at Ridgecrest once again, to speak and participate in the Hope Rising conference presented by Hope for Wholeness.

We arrived yesterday, a day early, because the drive was long, and I wanted to get everyone settled. I am 5 1/2 months pregnant, and didn’t want to be too tired for the events.

I’m used to arriving when the buzz of activity is already in full swing. I find myself here with mixed emotion.

So much history in these hills.

As I process all the emotions that are represented here at Ridgecrest, I choose to focus on the excitement I feel at what lies ahead. I’m thrilled with the connections I’ve made in the Hope for Wholeness network, and am humbled to be part of this new work.

God is still holy. His Word still reigns and is to be obeyed.

God is still loving and good and just and faithful.

God is still able.

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Monday Morning Meditation: What’s in a Name? Part 2

Friday, I shared the first half of my story. I’m sharing the second half as the Monday Morning Meditation.

I had just become a Christian. In one sense, I felt hope, but at the same time, the labels were still haunting me. Even though at the time I could not voice what was going on, I continued to spiral out of control with my eating and relationships. I was so desperate for love that I entered into a relationship with an 18 year old woman with a drug problem (I was 24 at the time). After 3 months, this woman (having been raised in a Christian home) said to me, “Listen – the Bible says you must either be hot or cold – one or the other, but not both. You can’t be a Christian and be gay.” And with that, she ended our relationship.

I threw up my arms saying, “Fine, God! I don’t want to live like this. Please take this away from me.” In many ways, He did. My attraction to women greatly lessened, but the circumstances of my life that led me in the direction of lesbianism had not changed. I felt unsure, but desperate for God.

I didn’t know that support groups existed when I was struggling. I opened up to my Christian friends about my struggle and asked for accountability. The labels were still haunting me. I found a Christian counselor who helped me to deal with my same-sex attraction, as well as my eating disorder, depression and self-injury. Romans 12:2 (NLT) says, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” The labels served as a constant reminder that I truly needed my entire thought life to be transformed. It wasn’t that I had moments of feeling worthless and unlovable; in the core of my being, I was sure it was true. My counselor helped me to recognize these faulty names I had allowed to attach to me and showed me how to make them line up with what God’s Word has to say about me (2 Corinthians 10:5).

My counselor also helped me to see that I had attached all sorts of labels and names to God, most of them not true or accurate: unreachable, unloving, distant, unconcerned with my life and struggles, nit-picky, only interested in my failures, punitive, impatient, and constantly angry.

So I wrestled with God. In all honesty, I suppose, it was more like I wrestled and He waited patiently for me to realize that He is who He says He is and He will do what He has said He will do. In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus gave the disciples a particularly difficult command. Rather than trusting Jesus, quite a few of the disciples decided to stop following Him. When Jesus asked the Twelve if they would leave too, Peter responded, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.” That’s how I felt. In the midst of all the questions and doubts, I already knew that I had tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good.

A few months after surrendering my sexuality to God, I met a man through the campus ministry we both attended. Roy & I continued to be friends for 5 months, at which time we began dating. It wasn’t always an easy relationship. The grip the names had on me was loosening – but it was very slow and painful.

When we first became friends, I was drawn to his strong faith, his free spirit and love for life. I can see that my lack of physical attraction to men in general was due in part to my fear of men and the lies my mother had instilled in me. As I learned more about Roy, as I grew to trust him, and as I recognized that he wouldn’t hurt me, my natural physical attraction was allowed to surface without fear.

Roy & I have been married for 9.5 years and have two beautiful sons. Marriage is not a cure for homosexuality, or even a guarantee of happiness, but simply another part of God’s healing process in my life. I thank God that I came to a point where in my heart of hearts, I felt I had no choice but to embrace Christ and all that He required of me. But what I got in return for my obedience and hard work is an amazing godly man who loves me, unconditionally, like no woman ever did.

I also have allowed God to give me new names. Rather than feeling unlovable at my core, I know that my Father calls me beloved, cherished, in fact – His favorite. Rather than being ashamed of who I am and who I was, God calls me precious, beautiful, redeemed – He has born my shame. He calls me worth knowing, worth loving and worth creating. I am mighty in Him, delightful, created in my Father’s image and strong when I am weak. And in those moments when I feel abandoned, I remember there is nowhere I can go to flee from God’s presence, and when I feel rejected, I know I will never have to feel the rejection that my Savior felt as He hung from that cross. And my mother was right: I have been rescued from hell – not only eternally, but today, God has given me abundant life and a true freedom I never thought possible.

Isaiah 62 says “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. Nations will see your vindication, all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah,your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.”

What names have you allowed to speak death to you? Do you feel stuck & helpless today as you try shed false labels?

If you are feeling hopeless, I just want to again point you to Romans 8:24 and this time, include verse 25: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Today, I choose to embrace my new names, letting go of the labels I wore for so many years. They no longer fit, as God is making me a new creation. I choose to trust God in the process; He has yet to let me down.

Freedom Friday: What’s in a Name? Part 1

A Christian speaker recently reminded me that words are a container for power. The book of Proverbs says “reckless words pierce like a sword”, “the words of the wicked lie in wait for blood”, and “when words are many, sin is not absent”. In the Bible, words & names are very important. Throughout my life, I allowed people and circumstances to label me, name me, and define who I am.

I was born prematurely in May of 1975. I was given a 50% chance of survival and rode in an ambulance to a hospital 50 miles away since the hospital where I was born did not have premie facilities. I was born without a name. My parents didn’t know if I would be male or female, and certainly weren’t expecting my arrival almost 2 months early. I spent the next two months, isolated in an incubator. During those years, premature babies were not touched or held. I was so sick that they ran out of places to stick needles, and had to have my head shaved for more needle ports. The names I picked up were: abandoned, rejected, unloved, shameful, worthy of pain – as good as dead.

Mohawk Baby Brenna

My mother is an alcoholic and when she drank, she would recount those days, saying‚ “You were bought from hell.” What she was trying to express to me was the trauma of my birth and the extreme circumstances I was rescued out of. What I heard, from my already broken filter, was: inconvenient, bothersome, a burden.

As a child, I even remember being hyper-focused on the lyrics to the songs my parents listened to. I’d zero in on themes of abandonment, and I carried those feelings of fear and shame into adulthood. I heard: be on your guard, you will be rejected and alone.

During my youth, my family attended liberal churches, serving on various committees and singing in choirs. I always believed in God, but it had little effect on my daily life. My mother continued to drink, ranting at me about the evils of men, what a bad child I was, and continually favoring my sister. What I heard: I was not worth protecting, the castaway, again a burden.

I began experimenting sexually with girls at a young age. This continued until, as a high school freshman, I found myself in a physical relationship with my best friend. I also developed an eating disorder and a struggle with self-injury. About a week into my high school relationship, I secretly looked up “homosexuality” in a health book. The book said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black and white. I am a homosexual.” I already felt: unlovable, out of control, too much and now a dyke.

The summer after my high school graduation, I was asked if I was interested in going to church with someone I met in a coffee shop. The church was quick to tell me that homosexuality was a sin that would condemn me to hell. Every night I would cry myself to sleep, praying, “God, change me! Why did you make me gay if that means I have to go to hell? Is it true that You want me to be forever separated from You?” The church I was attending did not share the hope for change that the gospel offers to those struggling with same-sex attraction. Their stance was change first: then God will accept you. In my mind, I had asked God to change me, and He hadn’t. And so I embraced my lesbian identity, all the while the labels were being reinforced: rejected, abandoned, unheard, miniscule, unlovable – even by God.

After three and a half years together, my first girlfriend and I broke up. I then met an older married woman, dropped out of college and moved across the country to live with her and her husband. She and I had a mock wedding ceremony and from then on, she introduced me as her “wife.” I lived with this couple for close to two and a half years. During this time, I was repeatedly taken advantage of by a man in my life. The names kept coming: worthless, voiceless, ashamed, only good for one thing – sex.

My “wife” and I eventually decided it would best for me to continue my schooling, so I moved to Boston to attend a prestigious music school, the same school from which my “wife” had graduated. Though I was in an environment where my sexuality was affirmed, I was far from happy. My relationship with my “wife” continued to crumble until it ended 10 months after I moved. My eating disorder spiraled out of control. I was afraid & alone.

Christians seemed to pop into my life to share with and pray for me. They never took it upon themselves to point out my sinfulness or say that I should not be a lesbian. They just pointed me to Jesus. Like everyone else, I was a sinner in need of Jesus in my life. My sexual choices were only one of many indications of this need.

Things continued to worsen. I knew that I needed help with my eating disorder, or I was going to die, but I felt I had tried everything and nothing worked. A friend in recovery suggested I try to pray. I thought, “That’s the one thing I haven’t tried!”―so I started praying.

Around this time, a friend gave me a music CD by a passionate Christian artist. One night while listening, the words of a song gripped my heart. I felt all alone, and my heart was so hard. The voice sang of a friend who was always there, with every tear cried, a friend who would give everything for him. That friend was Jesus – the son of God, who died on the cross to take away my sin, my pain, the false labels and to declare my worth. In the midst of that song, I cried out to God saying, “I want what he has!” God, in His great mercy, met me on that day in January of 1999. I felt: hopeful.

But the names did not disappear. I felt doomed to carry the labels forever. I knew logically that Jesus called me by name for a reason: freedom. At that time, I chose to hold on to hope that He had more for me.

I know many will likely connect deeply with my testimony. Your own names & labels may have been flashing through your mind. I hope you return Monday to read the second part of my testimony and experience, as I did, the truth of Romans 8:24 says, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what He already has?”

Exodus Conference Follow-up: Various Articles I Mentioned


I mentioned several articles in the contexts of my various speaking engagements at the Exodus conference. It’s fairly obvious the topic of some 🙂

These are all found on Boundless dot Org.

Out of Lesbianism

Disordered Eating

Confessions of a Cutter

Life. Support.
Creating a sufficient support system

Shedding Weight
Working on my thought life

I’ll be posting my What’s in a name? testimony in the next few days.

Exodus Conference Follow-up: Download My Songs

Throughout the next week or so, I’ll be posting some new material and reposting some old material here that is relevant to the various things I discussed at the Exodus Freedom conference.

I stopped emphasizing the fact that I am a singer/songwriter on this blog a while ago, and I’m not positive why. Maybe I was concerned about the quality of the recordings I have, or I let my critics get to me (who at one point called my music “crappy”). I also thought I’d just wait to start sharing my music when I had more professional mp3’s.

Numerous people came up to me at the conference to confirm that my songs could be found somewhere on-line. One woman emphatically said, “I need to have your songs……in my car!!!”

Well, thanks for the encouragement, folks 🙂 I’ve decided to stop caring that the recording quality may not be great and simply allow God to use my songs however He sees fit.

That said, I will give a disclaimer. I gave a concert in May of 2001. Someone put a minidisc recorder in the front row of the sanctuary and recorded it (remember those things?). I made a CD out of that. That whole CD is available for free download here. Simply right-click on the individual files to download. You can also download the CD art at the above link if you want to burn yourself a CD and be all old skool 🙂

I shared several of my songs in the context of my testimony in one of my Exodus Freedom conference workshops. Here they are. These will all play streaming. If you want to download the first three, go here, find the song, and right-click to download.

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(downloadable here)

You can also purchase my testimony through CA Tapes. The mp3 is $5 & the CD is $7. The quality of the songs came through pretty well.

You can also download other random songs here, including

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, the sweet baby we lost through miscarriage.

I will close with the words of thanks to God that I used on the CD:

“[Thanks to] Jesus, for keeping me alive when all I wanted to do was die. Let me never forget what You’ve done for me.”

To Him be the glory forever and ever, Amen.

Monday Morning Meditation: Our Heart’s Unplowed Ground

I have just returned from the Exodus Freedom conference and am a bit overwhelmed by all the work I neglected while there! I also missed my family like crazy and need to spend quality time with them.

So I’m going to leave you with a brief word.

This Scripture was on my heart for much of the week. I’ll let it speak for itself.

“I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
for now is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come
and shower righteousness upon you.’”
Hosea 10:12 (NLT)

“Hard ground” is also translated “fallow ground” or “unplowed ground.”

I left asking myself, Do I have unplowed ground in my heart, ground that is keeping me from fully seeking the Lord?

Breaking up this hard ground allows God to come. It invites Him to shower righteousness upon us, that we may harvest a crop of His love.

I want to have a soft heart that is completely receptive to all God has for me, and all He desires me to do.

Ask the Lord today if you have unplowed ground in your heart.

Feelings: Dictator or Indicator?

I mentioned this article at my workshop yesterday here at the Exodus conference. Posting it for you all to consider. First published in early 2010.

Feelings: Dictator or Indicator?

It had been a challenging morning. With a 2 ½ year old & an under 6 month old, I was still adjusting to life with 2 kids. I was feeling frustrating, overwhelmed & impatient. And it wasn’t even 9 AM yet!

I generally would have just gone & hid when feeling this way, , but in a moment of uncharacteristic wisdom, I stopped, bowed my head, and prayed, “God, just help me. Help me to be patient today, to be more like You.” And God answered.

God reminded me that in such moments I have a choice. I have a choice in how I respond to my feelings. I can allow them to be a dictator or an indicator. I can choose to allow my feelings to dictate the truth of my reality (if a situation feels hopeless, then things are hopeless because that’s how I feel) OR I can allow them to indicate some truth about my reality (if I’m feeling overwhelmed & without hope, my feelings indicate something, for instance that I’m likely disconnected and needing a break).

Jesus was in touch with his emotions. He wept with Mary & Martha as they mourned for their brother Lazarus. He rejoiced with the disciples as He watched them learn and grow. He became irate when He saw God’s temple being misused. And compassion welled up in His heart as He looked out at the crowds He was teaching, as they looked “harassed and helpless” (Matthew 9:6).

Since we are created in the image of God, we also are created to be emotional. Emotions are generally a very good thing. We get scared when we encounter danger. The adrenaline starts pumping, and it helps us to act quickly. We hang around people who are fun because they bring us joy and make us smile. We responded to God’s tugging on our hearts not simply because the Gospel made sense, but because His kindness led us to repentance (Romans 2:4). God commanded us to love Him with our hearts. He also asked us to rejoice with those rejoicing, and mourn with those in mourning.

For a long time in my life, how I felt about myself dictated my feelings of worth. If I felt good about myself, then I was happy. If I said something stupid, then I would dwell on it for hours, even days, and call myself an idiot over and over. I also allowed how I felt to dictate who God is. If I felt that God loved me, then He loved me. If I felt rejected, then He must have rejected me. If I felt ashamed, then God must be ashamed of me. If I was in a sticky situation and I felt as if God weren’t helping me in the way I wanted Him to, then He obviously felt I wasn’t worth wasting His time on. In other words, I allowed my feelings to be dictators, rather than indicators.

We could apply these truths to many areas of our lives. I know as a young person, I was rather taken aback by the feelings I was having toward a close female friend. I remember reading about homosexuality in a health & sex book I found, trying to make sense of what I was experiencing. In the book, it said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, and especially if you acted on them, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black & white. I must be a homosexual.” This book reinforced the lie that my feelings dictated my reality.

Since becoming a Christian 11 years ago, I’ve slowly been realizing the place emotions are meant to take in my life. God’s recent reminder that feelings can be indicators or dictators is evidence that I’m still working this truth out. The struggle manifests itself in different ways these days. I know that God is present and working in my life, and that it would go against His character to not be faithful & good & trustworthy. Most of all, I know my worth was defined once & for all by the fact that God created me and that Jesus died on the cross for me. Yet at times, I still struggle with feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I’m the mother of two small children who also directs a ministry – of course I’m going to feel overwhelmed at times. But I have a choice about where I allow my thoughts to go with that feeling. If I allow feeling overwhelmed to dictate my reality, then I start feeling like the worst mother in the world, that I’m in over my head, wishing I could jump back in bed and hide for the rest of the day. If I instead choose to allow my feelings to be indicators, I might instead realize that I haven’t had a break for a while, the kids are stir crazy, and maybe I’d set us all up for success if we went to the playground for a while. Then I’d plan ahead for the evening and decide I’ll go out for a child-less cup of tea after my husband gets home.

Jesus clearly expressed His emotions, but He also kept those emotions in the proper place. Imagine the emotions He was feeling as He poured out His heart to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now imagine if Jesus had allowed His feelings in the Garden to be dictators, if He prayed, “God, this is too much for me! This is completely overwhelming. There’s no way I can go through with this, God, so you’re going to have to find someone else!” Where would that have left us? Instead, His final prayer was, “Not my will, but Yours.” He chose not to allow His feelings and fears to be dictators, but instead poured them out before His Father and trusted Him with the result.

As Jesus modeled for us in the Garden of Gethsemane, just because we experience intense feelings doesn’t mean that we’re meant to be driven by them or to live according to them alone. We’ll be given an opportunity to experience this choice every day, as we’re faced with life and the inevitable challenges it brings. In those moments, we can allow our feelings to dictate the mood of our day and the direction that mood will take us, or we can view our feelings of indicators, submitting them to God and allowing Him to direct our day. We always have a choice in how we respond.

Freedom Friday: Brenna Kate Simonds at Exodus Freedom Conference, on Minnesota Public Radio

I’m at the Exodus Freedom Conference. The theme this year is “Made for More.” As I write this, we’re not even 24 hours in, and I’m already amazed at all God is doing.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Laura Yuen for Minnesota Public Radio.

The interview aired this morning. You can listen to it here, or read the text of the article, which is almost a word-for-word transcript of the story.

I am asked frequently about repression. It seems to be a favorite question for those trying to understand why someone who experiences same-sex attraction would make a daily choice not to act on those feelings.

I think Ethan Martin explained it so succinctly in his Wednesday night testimony (not an exact quote): “Jesus gave up His sexuality for me. He could have been married by age 33, but instead He was dying on a cross.”

This is a theme that has continued to come up at the conference, though I gave my interview prior to the conference start. Sacrifice. Pursuing Jesus above all else. Surrender. Laying down everything for Jesus.

Too often, we focus on what we have to give up and sacrifice to follow Jesus. What about all that we gain?

When I am asked about repression, I try to turn the question around. Jesus gave up everything for me. God spared no expense to restore relationship with me. The things I want to hold on to pale in comparison to what Jesus did and accomplished while hanging from that cross.

It is a privilege to follow Jesus. An absolute honor. Rather than focus on the things I may have had to release to Jesus in order to follow Him, I choose to focus on all the things I’ve gained. Unconditional love, real peace, pure joy, abundant life, and true freedom.

Last week, I mentioned this Freedom Friday would be about owning your choices. I am postponing the writing of that until next week. Thanks for understanding!