Calming the Storm – Part II: The Storm – Matthew 8:24

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 8:23-27

Before getting into Part II of the “Calming the Storm” series, I need to apologize – 1) for not posting this on the date that I said I would and 2) for putting things into the passage in Part I of the series.

As for the first apology, I’ve been so busy but that is no excuse. I said it’d be up by Sunday 7/8/18 and it wasn’t so I’m sorry. I will try to do better about getting these posts up when I said I would.

For the second apology, I want to take this time to talk about the value and danger of interpreting Scripture. In Part I (which you can read here), I tried to over-apply it to my life and your life. While the things that I said in the post were true, this is not a passage that we can just put our life circumstances into and use for our benefit. The particular message of this passage is more beautiful if we take it as it is and do not add more meaning to it. This is not a parable that Jesus is telling to crowds, this is real life. This story actually happened. There were actual boats with actual people and an actual storm. This is not a hyperbole that we can apply to our lives, this story ACTUALLY HAPPENED. I think when we try to add to Scripture we can start to have a “fairytale” mindset about what we’re reading but that is very misleading. We have to understand that many of the things we read about in the Bible (unless they are parables) are real-life stories.

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Let’s look at verse 24 of Matthew 8:

“And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.”

Now, for the questions that I am going to answer:

 

1) What is happening in this verse?

2) What does this verse mean to me?

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

1) What is happening in this verse?

This verse is pretty straightforward for the most part. In Part I, we looked at what was going on right before the disciples got onto the boat (Jesus told them about the importance of following Him), and now they are on the boat at sea in the middle of a big storm.

For context in verse 24, we have to consider who all is on this boat (there are multiple boats on this trek across the Sea of Galilee as told in the book of Mark 4:35-41, but we’ll just focus on the boat that Jesus is in). From looking at verse 23, we know that this boat has some of Jesus’ disciples in it. We know that many of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen by trade. This is significant because many of the men on this boat have probably had experience dealing with storms at sea. Why is this significant? Well, we’ll get into that in the next part of the series. But for now, we just need to know that there are men who used to work as fishermen on the boat with Jesus and that they have more than likely been through storms at sea before.

I also want to take a second to look at the word “swamped” in the middle of this verse. It says that the boat was being “swamped” by the waves. What does this mean? Is it just a simple rocking of the boat? No. This word “swamped” also translates to “covered” or “veiled”. The waves are crashing over the side of the boat and covering it with waves. These guys are not on a yacht or a cruise ship going across the ocean. They are in a little wooden boat trying to get across the Sea of Galilee. Let me just say that this is not the type of boat I want to be in when a big storm comes. Knowing that the waves were “swamping” the sides of the boat makes me scared for these men because there was not a lot of room to hide from the storm.

Now, this seems like a bad deal and all but check out what Jesus is doing. THIS GUY IS SLEEPING. We know that He just got finished preaching a possibly day-long message to a crowd of people and he is currently on His way across the sea to do the same thing. So, I understand that He is tired, but what in the world?! These waves are crashing over the sides of this small fishing boat and Jesus is ASLEEP in the middle of it.

2) What does this verse mean to me?

Since I kind of got onto myself for reading into the passage in part I, there is not a lot to say here. Yes, Jesus is with you always but that is not the point of this passage. Yes, Jesus can calm the storms in your life but that is not the point of this passage. Yes, there are going to be times when you feel like Jesus is “asleep” in your life but that is not the point of this passage.

For now, what this verse should mean to you is that Jesus and his disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a crazy-bad storm came up and Jesus was sleeping through it. That’s all for now. It would be dangerous for us to lose sight of the actual meaning of this passage by putting our own story in it and making it a story that it was never intended to be.

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

While it blows my mind that Jesus is asleep in the boat, one of the biggest things I have gathered from this is that Jesus feels so secure in the hands of God the Father that he can peacefully sleep, no matter what is going on around Him. And, though we’ll get into this later in the series, this proves to me that Jesus is not just a human. He is also a divine being who can literally sleep through anything.

In Part III – Fear vs. Faith, we’ll be taking a look at the disciples’ reaction to the storm and their reaction to Jesus being asleep. I hope you all have enjoyed reading through this study so far and, as always, if you have any questions for me, please ask them!

– Bet

Calming the Storm – Part I: Follow Him – Matthew 8:23

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 8:23-27

 

Throughout the course of the “Calming the Storm” series on the blog, I want to answer three questions for each part of the series:

1) What is happening in this verse?

2) What does this verse mean for me?

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

I also want to encourage you to ask me questions in the comments or just email them to me if there is something that you are confused by or if you just have a question about the passage as a whole. My goal in this study is to encourage a deeper understanding of God’s Word and a longing to know Him better so that we may fall more in love our Creator each day.

Now, let’s get started…

 

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Click here to visit Alison’s art page

1) What is happening in this verse?

Matthew 8:23 is a very simple sentence when you first read over it. It is pretty clear what is happening here: Jesus is leading His disciples onto a boat.

He had just finished preaching about parables and had healed quite a few people which resulted in a large following. As with most cases when Jesus started to inherit a large crowd, He wanted to leave, so they got into the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee.

But I want you to take a look at the previous two verses (21-22):

Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’”

This makes verse 23 that much more important:

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.

Jesus had just finished talking about the importance of following Him; how it should be the most important thing in our entire lives. We know this from other instances in Scripture (Matthew 4:19, Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23) but I wanted to point out the hidden message in this passage and how each part of this story can apply to our lives.

 

2) What does this verse mean for me?

The correct response to Jesus’ leading us is to follow Him. We may not know where we are going or the condition of the boat we may be getting into but the application for us from verse 23 is to have enough faith to follow Jesus onto the boat. We will see later in this passage that having faith to follow Him onto the boat is not going to be enough. But it is the initial step of faith that the disciples demonstrate in this verse that we must also display in our own lives.

This could look a lot different for each one of us. For me, having enough faith to step onto the boat could mean that I take a job as a volunteer middle school girls youth leader. I could have made up excuses for reasons that I couldn’t be their youth leader or I could have just flat-out said “no” but I decided to follow Jesus into the boat that He has led me on to. It took a lot of faith in who He is for me to be able to say “yes” to that position but I know that I have a great opportunity to pour into the lives of these middle school girls and that Jesus is with me always.

For other people, stepping into the boat may be moving away from home for the first time. Freshmen in college will be moving into their dorms in about a month from now and I know that it is scary to move away from home for the first time. But if you have prayed about your college decision and have found a ministry to get plugged into while you are away from home, you have displayed enough faith to follow Jesus onto the boat.

For many of us, the biggest step of faith we ever had to take was confessing Jesus as our Lord and Savior. It may not seem like it for all of us but stepping onto that boat was the hardest decision in our entire life. Some people had to give up hobbies and interests, some people had to give up friends, and some people even had to give up family members and careers as a result of following Jesus onto the boat. It took a lot of faith to give up those things and follow Him.

The biggest point of this verse as far as what it means for us is that Jesus is worth following. It is the most important decision we will ever make this side of heaven and it is indeed one that we will regret if we decide not to follow Him.

I also want to point out that we should never stop following Jesus. Following Him onto the boat is one thing, and it is indeed a great thing. But once we get to the other shore, we can’t just say, “Okay, I followed Him onto the boat once so I’m done following Him.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:24 to take up our cross DAILY and follow Him. It isn’t something we do once and then forget about. Following Jesus is like a job: if we don’t show up, we don’t get rewarded. We either have faith to follow Him onto the boat and recognize the importance of that, or we don’t. There is no in between.

 

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

Here is where I will park the “boat”, so to speak. This verse is very simple, as I said before, but there is SO MUCH to say about who Jesus is from these 11 words.

The first thing that I want to point out about Jesus in this verse is that He gets into the boat with the disciples. Now, this may be a very minor point if we didn’t know one other thing about Jesus. But in Matthew 14:22-34, we know that He possessed the ability to walk on water. Could he have walked on the water beside the boat in this passage in Matthew 8 too? I believe He could have if He had wanted to. But He opted to get into the boat with the disciples. Why?

I think it is no simpler than the fact that He knew the limitations of the disciples and that they were tired from walking around with Him all day. He met them where they were at and stooped down to their level. He knew that they didn’t have the ability to walk on the water like He did so He led them onto the boat. Now, Do I believe that Jesus could have helped them out onto the water as He did with Peter in Matthew 14:22-34? Absolutely. But we have to remember that the disciples had just started following Jesus only a few chapters earlier and maybe didn’t have that much faith in Him yet. Heck, they barely had enough faith to get into the boat with Him. I’m sure they would have thought He was crazy and dipped out if He had told them to walk on the water with Him.

I think that this story really demonstrates Jesus’ ability to relate to us as humans. I know that I often think of Jesus as much higher than us, reaching down to pull us up when we don’t have enough faith but that is not always the case. We need to understand that Jesus constantly reaches out to help us where we are. He relates to us so impeccably that He was able to take our place on the cross and bear God’s wrath for us. He does not reach down to help us, He reaches out to save us. He is standing in front of us, leading us onto the boat knowing that He is all we need to get through whatever comes next.

Like I said at the beginning of the post, please do not hesitate to ask me a question via comment or email. I will be glad to answer any question that comes my way!

I hope y’all enjoyed reading this first of four “main point” posts from the “Calming the Storm” series. I really enjoy writing about the Bible and showing people more of who Jesus is. If there is a topic that you would like for me to write about, let me know! I have ideas for upcoming series’ but I want to know what you guys want me to write about. Let me know in the comments!

Peace and Blessings,

Bet

Matthew 8:23-27 Introduction: Calming the Storm

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Check out this painting and others like it here

Whew, the last few months have been busy for me and my family. If you have been praying for us after the loss of my Papa, please know that we are so grateful for the prayers and the support that we have received! I know we still have a long time before things feel normal again but having such a large support system behind us, lifting us up in prayer and sending flowers and food, makes it slightly bearable. Papa was a very loved man and he will be dearly missed.

However, during this time of suffering and loss in my family, the Lord has been so good to me. In a time that I thought would be so hard for me to hold on to my faith and I would let my stress get the best of me, God has held me closer to Himself than I could’ve ever gotten on my own. Papa’s passing has allowed a greater opportunity for my family to talk about what we believe. About death, about God, about suffering, about medical advancements. We have suffered a great loss but we have also been provided with a wonderful presence of peace that only comes from the Prince of Peace.

DEDICATION:

I can remember during one of my years in school having to write a one-page essay that I did not want to write. I came home from school that day and walked next door to my grandparents’ house and was telling Papa how much I hate writing. I went on and on about how “dumb” it is to write about things that no one cares about because it just takes up everyone’s time. Papa just sat there and listened like he always did. Then he said, “You’re going to write this paper. But when you finish, I want to be the first to read it.” So I went home to start writing. I don’t remember what it was about or how old I was at the time, I just remember getting finished, taking it to Papa, and him saying, “Wow, you can really write! Keep writing so that you will be able to tell your story and point people to greater things.” At the time, I thought he was just being nice and giving me grandfatherly wisdom. But after hearing that, I began to enjoy writing. I began to see what Papa was saying about telling my story and pointing people to great things.

This is why I want to dedicate this study to my Papa Ernie: the man who stirred up a passion for writing in my heart. He wanted me to use writing to paint the bigger picture for people. The bigger picture of life, the bigger picture of my story, the bigger picture of the world, the bigger picture of the Gospel. I hope to one day become the writer he always knew I could be.

THE STUDY:

I often lose sight of the fact that our God is a miracle-working God. I can easily think of Him as a King or higher power who receives glory and praise but I don’t really understand why He deserves them. Then I am reminded of stories like Matthew 8:23-27 and think, “Oh…that’s why.” He is Creator and Controller of the universe. Every human’s breath, every bird’s chirp, every dog’s bark is under His control. He makes the sun rise and set, He makes the wind blow, He puts the stars in the sky, and He makes trees and flowers grow.

God doesn’t just want a relationship with me because He knows what’s best for me. God wants a relationship with me because He IS what’s best for me. Any storm in my life, He alone can settle. If I have faith enough to submit the storms in my life to Him, He tells them, “Peace, be still!”

As I have studied this passage, I have learned a lot about the character of Jesus, the character of the disciples, and the character of nature. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it with y’all and decided that just doing one blog post would be WAY too long so I have split the study up over 4 main points. Each point will get its own week on the blog and you can see a schedule below. I’m so excited to get started on this and I hope you are too!

SCHEDULE:

June 30 – Follow Him (Main Point #1)

July 9 – The Storm (Main Point #2)

July 16 – Fear vs. Faith (Main Point #3)

July 23 – Creator and Ruler (Main Point #4)

July 30 – Closing Remarks (pretty self-explanatory)

The Weight of Singleness

Hello. My name is Bethany… I am 25 years old… and, yes, I’m still single. I have never even been on a date. Many times, I question what is wrong with me. Is it my personality or my attitude? Is it my face or my hair? Is it my weight or the way I dress? Is it my obsession with football or my incredibly inappropriate sense of humor? Many people would say that it’s none of these things and, most of the time, I’d have to agree with them. There are still some days though that I feel broken, I feel worthless, I feel helpless, I feel lonely, I feel unwanted, unneeded, and unloved.

It hasn’t been until recently that my singleness has weighed so heavily on me but in the past three years, I have wrestled with the Lord over my never-changing relationship status. I’ve prayed and cried myself to sleep for fifty-leven days, umpteen hours (catch the Usher reference?). I have read article upon article and book upon book about how to be content in my singleness. I have had many conversations with godly women about being single and how to be patient with the Lord. Sometimes these things work and sometimes I’m left even more confused than I was going into it. But I recently came to the realization that there is no person on this earth that can give me the perfect answer to my frustrations. The only One who can help me in my sorrow is the Lord.

He is the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. He knows the number of hairs on my head, the amount of money in my bank account, and my GPA. He knows the exact time and place that I will meet my future husband, where we will have our wedding, and how many children we will have. I do not need to provoke the Lord to act. He will act in His perfect timing. I need to trust Him in every season of my life. I need to understand that He knows what is best for me. While I can only see the moment I’m in, He sees my whole life. Though I try to wrestle this weight of singleness off of me, He is the only One who can make this burden light for me.

Singleness does not equal brokenness.

Singleness does not equal worthlessness.

Singleness does not equal loneliness.

Singleness does not equal punishment.

Singleness does not equal pain.

Singleness does not equal an inability to be loved.

Singleness does not mean that the Lord is holding out on you. It does not mean that you’ve done something wrong and does not mean that you aren’t doing the right things either. Singleness does not make you less important than being in a relationship does. Most importantly, singleness does not make you less qualified for salvation and sanctification than being in a relationship does. My identity is not found in my singleness. My identity is found in my Savior.

I find encouragement in passages like Hosea 2:19-20 which says: “I will take you to be My wife forever, I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness, and you will know Yahweh.” These verses can seem kind of odd to some people, but as a believer, this is my hope. I need to be in love with Jesus first and foremost. He has forgiven me like no one else ever will. He has saved me from sin and death like no other man can. He has redeemed me and made me righteous and that is something I can never repay. Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn, authors of Every Young Woman’s Battle, put it this way:

“If you have asked Jesus to live inside your heart, He wants to live there permanently, not just rent a room there during seasons that you don’t have a boyfriend. Don’t force God to take a backseat to anyone. Keep guys in their rightful place in your heart, and make sure you keep Jesus as your first love. Of course, God wants you to love other people, but not more than you love Him.”

I have started to enjoy my singleness more and more as I think about the things the Lord has done for me. I have also been able to do a lot more for His Kingdom than I would be able to do if I had a husband and a family. There are some things that have helped me become more patient and content in my singleness and have helped me learn a lot about the things that I need to change in myself before I am able to effectively be in a relationship.

Here are the things that have helped me find my identity in the Lord rather than in my singleness and I hope they can help you too:

  1. Stop using “I want” statements when you pray. I started writing down my prayers and I realized how much I say the phrase “I want” while praying. “I want a relationship… I want to pass this test… I want my team to win…” But I soon found out that using “I want” statements is not what prayer should be about. Prayer is about being in awe of who the Lord is and surrendering everything to Him. If we pray out of reverence, we will be more pleased with our prayer. It turns our hearts toward the Lord and allows us to want what He wants for us. Though our wants may change, the Lord stays the same.
  2. See your singleness as an opportunity rather than a punishment. When I started to see my singleness as an opportunity rather than as a punishment, I felt freed from a lie that held me down for so long. I am able to work with a youth group, take more trips, and spend more time with my family. I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of the things that I have done if I had been in a relationship.
  3. Fast from things that make you wish you were in a relationship. For me, this usually means fasting from social media and certain types of entertainment. The way that I fast from these things has changed over the past few months. The most effective way for me to fast from social media is to pick one or two days per week to completely avoid the social media apps on my phone. I have them all in a folder on the last page of my home screen. I can usually fast from music and movies by only allowing myself to listen to Christian music and watch family movies/TV shows. Just like a normal fast, fasting from social media and entertainment can be very helpful. It forces you to spend more time with the people around you and it forces you to ultimately spend more time with the Lord. Find out what triggers you to want a relationship and take a break from that thing. Fasting from social media and secular entertainment has provided me with seasons of growth and maturity.
  4. Read a book (or 6). I haven’t always enjoyed reading but lately, I have read quite a few books that have really challenged me in the way I think about my singleness:
    • Every Young Woman’s Battle – Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn (this is the book I referenced earlier in the article)
    • Passion and Purity – Elisabeth Elliot
    • Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? – Carolyn McCulley
    • Embracing the Love of God – James Bryan Smith
    • Biblical Femininity – Chrystie Cole
    • Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
  5. The most helpful thing that I have done as a single woman and one of the most important things that I will ever do as a believer is memorizing Scripture. And I mean memorizing a lot of Scripture. I am able to recite whole passages to myself in difficult situations. I can easily have a conversation with someone about the Lord without having to pull out my Bible. I’ve been able to cross reference verses in my head when I’m listening to a sermon. Memorizing passages of Scripture has become one of the most under-rated tools in churches today and it has become one of my favorite things to do during my quiet time.

If you’re like me and you are constantly trying to fight to remain content in your singleness, remember that Jesus is near. When you’re fed up with the world questioning why you’re still single, remember that Jesus is right there with you. You only need to have faith that He will give you the patience and peace you need to get through this season of singleness in a way that will glorify and honor Him.

Grace and Peace,

Bethany

Influence on Young People

Let me preface this with a little back story: Recently, I’ve been writing songs. Songs about love, songs about hate, songs about friends, songs about guys, slow songs, fast songs, right in the middle songs, every kind of song imaginable. I don’t really know why I’ve started writing songs (but I must say that they are some of the greatest songs that the world may never know).

Anyway, my little sister Railey has been asking me to show her different songs that I’ve written. I didn’t want to at first because I was kind of reserved about them but I obliged to show her if she did me a favor (running out of toilet paper while you’re sitting on the toilet is no fun, but that’s what little siblings are for). After showing her a few of the songs that I had been working on, she mocked me and questioned their quality and that was the end, or so I thought…

I walked into our room later that night and on our desk was a piece of paper with a few lines of what looked like a song written on it with the heading “My Only”. I looked at Railey and said “Did you write this?!” She looked at me and then down at the paper and her eyes doubled in size. She looked back at me and shrugged her shoulders. I asked her again if she had written this song and she said yeah. So naturally, I took the paper, ran to my mother so we could both read it. We admired Railey’s creativity and laughed at how much she wanted to be like me. Then it hit me: she wants to impress me by doing what I’m doing.

If I started taking piano lessons, she would want to start taking piano lessons too. If I wanted to move to Maine, she would want to move to Maine too. If I started a business, she would want to be a part of it or start her own business. If I tell people about the Gospel, she wants to do that too.

I had forgotten how important my life was not only to the Lord but also to the people around me, especially Railey. I didn’t realize that she wanted so much to see me do well and see me succeed because in seeing me succeed, she believes that she can succeed. And not only Railey but so many other younger kids look up to me. So many that it’s overwhelming. There’s no telling how many people from the next generation I can have a direct impact on.

I think that a lot of us lose sight of this often and are selfish most of the time. We want what’s best for us but we don’t consider how our decisions can shape the decisions of a younger person. We are what we teach, meaning that the things that we do and the ways that we act teach for themselves. We don’t necessarily have to give a lecture on what we believe is right and what we believe is wrong, we simply express our feelings about those things by the way that we talk and behave. We teach respect by the way we treat other people. We teach modesty by the way we clothe ourselves. We teach obedience by doing what we are told to do. We teach the importance of health by the way we treat our own bodies.

In reality, we can teach the things that we want to see changed in the younger generation by the way that WE ACT, not by getting mad at them for being “too lazy”, “too inappropriate”, or “too immature”. We can work hard, we can be appropriate, and we can be the mature ones who show younger people how they should act. And, no, not every single person younger than you is going to start listening to you and acting like you but we all have a following of at least one person. If Railey was the only person in the world that looked up to me and wanted to be like me, that’s enough for me to want to act right and be mature and respectful and modest. But I know that I can impact almost an entire community of young people from the central Georgia area.

The Bible says, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Imagine if all of the believers in the world started doing EVERYTHING to the glory of God. What if the kids that look up to those people then start to see the glory of God and do everything for His glory? How long would it take for everyone in the world to glorify God with everything that they do?

When I think about the Gospel on a grand scale, I get super excited about the opportunities I have but then I get super mad because I know that I can’t tell every single person on the planet that Jesus is Lord and that they must call on His name and be saved. But if every believer starts discipling young believers who start discipling even younger believers, we can grow this band of brothers and sisters and spread the Gospel faster than a wildfire.

So look at your life. Think about the people you have an impact on. And live for the glory of God so that they too will want to live for the glory of God.

Peace and blessings,

Bethany

Just the Beginning

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a table just pondering my life and thought about how different everybody was. How I’m different from everyone around me and how each one of those people are different from one another. I thought about how the different issues and situations I’ve been in can be used to speak into the lives of other people.

In this blog, I aim to show people the ups and downs of being a Christian in today’s world. Most importantly, I want them to know that the Christian life wasn’t meant to be easy but it is worth fighting for. Paul says it best in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Though we will endure hardship as followers of Christ, we can’t compare the suffering that we go through today with the unveiled glory of God that we will experience in heaven. Therefore, I want to encourage those who are struggling and lacking trust in the Lord and hope that my writings will help them realize that the Lord is faithful. “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1).

Throughout my writings, I will unpack passages of Scripture (some short, some long); I will elaborate on different situations in my life; and I will just give updates on where the Lord has me in life and how I am dealing with these seasons (a lot of change has been happening). This is simply an introduction to the blog as a whole because I wanted you all to know what you’d be getting into if you decide to follow me on my journey.

 

Stay tuned!