Christmas in Athens!

Merry Christmas from Athens, friends! ❤

We arrived at our Airbnb at around 2:30am on Wednesday and the past few days have been a blur of jet lag, getting settled in and exploring the neighborhood. The place we’re staying is pretty cozy (read tiny) but it’s clean and the owner is really friendly so I’m happy.

I still can’t believe I’m spending Christmas and celebrating the new year in Greece this year! It’s only the second Christmas that I’ll be away from home so I’m feeling a little homesick, but I know that I’m where God has called me to be in this season, so thankfully, I have peace about it.

We’re starting our ministry in the refugee camps on the 28th. Until then, we’ve been doing some prayer walks and getting acquainted with the area.

I thought I’d post a few pics of the neighborhood so that you’ll have an idea of where we’re staying. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, friends!

Love you, all!

 

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Greek sweets for days.

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I love the colorful buildings.

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The square by our Airbnb.

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I ❤ Greece.

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Gyros are SO much better in Greece!

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Snowcapped mountains in the distance.

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Acropolis on the hill.

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Olives!

YWAM Adventures – Part 2

Hello incredible friends and faithful supporters!

I can hardly believe that the day has come for me to leave California and head to Europe for my DTS outreach!

After three months of training in LA, I’m boarding a plane this afternoon to Athens, Greece! We will be serving in various refugee camps for four weeks in Athens and then traveling to Paris for six weeks to work in the area of anti human trafficking.

I am not able to bring my phone or computer with me, so I will have very limited access to the internet over the next two and a half months.

Please keep me and the rest of the team in your prayers for unity, protection and boldness as we love and serve the vulnerable in Jesus’ Name.Thank you so much for your support, friends. It really means a lot to me.

Prayer Requests:

Team Unity:

This is so crucial to our trip being successful. Please pray that we would all get along well and be REAL and vulnerable with one another. Pray that we would create genuine intimacy and work well as a team, honoring each other and being kind and encouraging. We want to be marked by our love for one another and how we serve each other and those around us.

Protection/Safety:

Please pray that we would get there safely and have no travel issues or problems (including not losing our luggage, no flights being delayed etc.) Pray that none of us gets sick or injured while we are there. Often, when traveling to another country, we can get sick because we’re not used to the bacteria there etc. Please pray that we don’t have any stomach issues or any other health concerns that would bring us down and get in the way of our work.

Our Ministry:

Please pray that we would be servant hearted and that we would have good attitudes, even when we are not feeling the greatest. Pray that God would bless our ministry and that many people would come to know of His Great Love for them through the love they see from us. May we reflect Christ in all we say and do! 🙂

Personal Growth:

Please pray that we would all allow God to work in our hearts and minds while on this trip. Pray that we would all grow in our character, in our compassion and in the way we view ourselves and others. Pray that by the end of the 10 weeks, we are not the same people that we were in the beginning, that we would be even better at loving, forgiving, serving and sharing God’s Hope.

I’ve included a few photos below as well as a song that  has spoken to my heart while I’ve been in LA. I pray that God will always be the King of my heart, my anchor, my motivation, my peace and my sustenance.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 6:1-3

Love you, friends! ❤

 

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My tiny sleeping bag!

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Christmas Party!

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View of downtown LA from City Hall.

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Palm Trees 🙂

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My outreach team! ❤

 

No Filter

What do the photos of a magnificent sunset, a perfectly plated piece of cake and your friend’s adorable new puppy have in common? They’ve all been considerably edited before gracing the internet with their artistry. A bit more contrast here, a little less saturation there, and voila! Your picture was just transformed from bland to brilliant in ten seconds flat. In fact, altering photos prior to posting them online is such a common practice that it has become significant to note when no enhancements have been made, hence the popular hashtag, #nofilter.

But what’s at the core of this obsession with picture perfection? Could it represent something deeper than the desire to wow your friends with your phenomenal photography skills? In my experience, the answer is yes. Sadly, it would seem that altering photos and altering ourselves are merely two sides of the same image-obsessed coin.

Have you ever met somebody who regularly changes their personality depending on who they are with? Perhaps he or she acts shy and reserved with one group of people, but suddenly becomes wild and reckless when hanging out with a different crowd. If I’m being honest, that somebody used to be me. There was a time when I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that I felt the need to continually change my personality in order to gain the attention and approval of others. Much like the motivation for editing my facebook photos, I would alter my personality in a desperate attempt to impress those around me.

The truth is, however, no one except God has the power to make us feel accepted, valued or loved. He is the One who created us in His image with a specific purpose for our lives.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Of course, self-acceptance is a continual process and it can be challenging at first to change your way of thinking. But, believe me when I tell you that it is so worth the effort. The first step in this journey to healing is recognizing the lies that are holding you captive. For me, it was believing that I was worthless, unlovable and not good enough. Thankfully, the more time I spent in God’s Word, the more deeply I began to understand that these negative thought patterns were lies from the enemy, meant to keep me in bondage and prevent me from understanding my true identity in Christ.

The next time you are tempted to believe the lies that bring destruction, make a conscious choice to renounce the enemy’s accusations and turn to God instead. Ask Him to reveal His truth about your identity, purpose and value. We will only be able to combat the deception of the enemy once we know who we are and to whom we belong.

We must claim our identity as children of God, reject the lies that we have believed and instead embrace who God created us to be. What does the Word of God tell us about our identity in Christ?

“I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me.” Romans 8:37

“I am submitted to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus.” James 4:7

“I show forth the praises of God Who has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

If we believe God is who He says He is, then by extension we can believe that we are who He says we are. Uniquely crafted, creatively gifted and purposefully made. What a glorious day it will be when we are able to fully accept ourselves for who God created us to be and embrace our uniqueness and individuality. #nopretense. #noshame. #nofilter.

YWAM Adventures – Part 1

Hello family, friends and supporters!

Greetings from sunny Los Angeles 🙂 I can hardly believe that I’ve already been here for eight weeks! This update is going up later than I intended (and is longer than I intended!) but I hope that it’s informative and encouraging nonetheless.

The past two months have been a riveting whirlwind of learning, laughing, praying, processing, growing, grieving, wrestling and reflecting. I’m honored and excited to share with you the amazing things that God is doing and the epic adventure that He has brought me on through YWAM LA.

In this first update, I’ll be focusing on four main areas:

1. What life is like here in the Justice DTS program.
2. What God has been teaching me each week.
3. The local and international outreaches that I’m part of.
4. Some prayer requests going forward.

1. Life in LA:

The past eight weeks have been simultaneously exciting, challenging, frustrating, fun, inspiring, demanding and uplifting! As you can imagine it’s been fairly exhausting but also incredibly rewarding.

Here is a typical day at YWAM LA:

7am – Breakfast
7:45-8am – Morning Meeting
8-8:30am – Quiet Time
8:30 – 9:30 – Varied Activities (Monday – Base Worship, Tuesday – School Worship, Wednesday – Small Group, Thursday – Base Intercession, Friday – Processing Time)
9:30 – 10am – Base Tea Time (fellowship)
10 – 12:30pm – Lecture (A different topic and guest speaker each week)
12:30pm – Lunch
1:30 – 5:30pm – Free time/Possible Duties
5:30pm – Dinner
6pm – Dinner Clean Up (only on Wednesdays and Thursdays)
7pm – Varied Meetings (Monday – Family Night, Tuesday – Justice Workshop, Wednesday – Outreach Preparation, Thursday – Community Night once a month, Friday – Free)

We have free time on the weekends. Some Saturdays we have a school field trip. We are able to go to a variety of churches in the neighborhood on Sundays.

Fun facts:

  • We live on a beautiful compound with 16 trailers, various common areas, a grassy field, a cafeteria, a prayer chapel, a coffee shop and multiple classrooms.
  • My program consists of 19 students (17 girls and 2 guys!) as well as six leaders.
  • I live in a trailer with 16 other girls divided into six rooms with bunk beds (we share two toilets and four showers!)
  • There are two others schools that are on the base with us; altogether, there are about 130 people living on the base. Although our schools are separate, we eat all meals and participate in several weekly functions together.

Highlights:

  • I’ve been able to explore a bit on the weekends and I’ve gone to Sequoia National Park, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Northern California.
  • I had the honor of taking part in the A21 Walk for Freedom in Hollywood where hundreds of abolitionists came together to march the streets raising awareness for victims of human trafficking.
  • Our entire base went on a nine hour road trip to Chico, CA for one week for a conference. The air was crisp and fresh and the mountains were beautiful!
  • I ate at In-N-Out for the first time ever after hearing about how awesome it was for years! It was delicious and I love the special sauce 🙂

2. What God is teaching me:

I am so privileged to be able to have this opportunity to focus solely on my relationship with God during this program, free from the distractions of everyday life. I am learning many truths about who God is and who He says I am. God has been revealing to me the many lies that I have believed throughout my life and He is showing me His Truths to replace those falsehoods.

He is teaching me a lot about forgiveness, repentance, grace and healing. He is teaching me to depend on Him for my worth and value. I’m not going to lie, it has been an uncomfortable and sometimes painful process but He is gentle and compassionate. He only opens old wounds so that they can be properly cleaned with His Healing balm. I know that I am being renewed and restored; it is so worth the discomfort.

Each week a new speaker comes to teach us about a different topic meant to help us grow in our walk with Christ. I couldn’t even begin to explain all I’ve learned in this ‘brief’ update, but I will share a few concepts that God has been teaching me each week.

Week 1: Servanthood
God challenged me that there is no such thing as secular and sacred when it comes to service; it’s all holy because it’s for the Lord. Sometimes, I am more drawn to ‘serving’ when it’s exciting or ‘important’; when it’s something that will get me noticed and affirmed by others. I had to check my heart: Would I be as satisfied with serving if I were asked to paint houses or mow lawns instead of help orphans or minister to prostituted women?

Week 2: Character and Nature of God
In order to have a thriving relationship with God, it’s important for me to understand who God is (His Nature) and how He reveals Himself to us (His Character). I am able to learn about God through His Word; the more time I spend getting to know Him, the more I understand who He is and who He created me to be.

Week 3: Hearing God’s Voice
God wants to speak to me and He speaks in a wide variety of ways (dreams, His Word, music, intellect, prophecy, nature, signs and wonders, an audible voice etc.) God wants to speak to me for more than just guidance, He wants to be involved in all the small things in my life. When I learn to recognize His voice, I will be able to discern His voice from that of the enemy and that of the world.

Week 4: Healing
God taught me about the importance of forgiveness and repentance in my healing journey. I learned that the forgiveness process is like a large ice berg slowly being chipped away. It is often a long process but each time I forgive in obedience to God, a portion of the iceberg is broken off until I am no longer enslaved to the pain of my wounds which often manifests itself in anger and bitterness.

Week 5: God’s Heart for Justice
God chooses to use us to fight against injustice on this earth. I can’t just point out what is wrong with the world, I need to pray for change and be willing to be the answer to my own prayers! I bring God Glory by upholding His justice on earth; He will use both my availability and my ability.

Week 6: The Father Heart of God
I learned that many of us subconsciously view God based on the relationship we had/have with our earthly fathers. This is damaging for our spiritual walk because even the most loving, sacrificial and compassionate fathers are imperfect. God is teaching me to understand that although humans will inevitably disappoint me in some way, He never will. He is Good and He is for me. His unconditional love is my strength.

This song is a beautiful representation of God’s incomparable love for His children.

Week 7: Ministering in Refugee Camps
This was the week that we were in Chico with 400 other YWAMers for the Presence Gathering and the Go Conference. We learned valuable insight about cultural sensitivity and sharing God’s love in tangible ways with those who are hurting and destitute, specifically the displaced.

Week 8: Identity
I learned that my identity is directly linked to intimacy with God. The more I connect with Him through prayer and reading His Word, the deeper I will understand my identity (accepted, loved, valued, created for a purpose.) When I am living a life of intimacy with God, I will naturally reflect Him to others through the fruit of the spirit that will be evident in my life. I am not created to work FOR acceptance, I am created to work FROM acceptance.

3. Outreach:

a.) Local Outreach

Over the past eight weeks, our Justice School has been participating in a weekly local outreach with the NGO, Justice 180. This ministry is committed to sharing Christ’s Hope and Love with women in the RDL (Red Light Districts) of LA. Each week, a team of us goes out to the RDL on Friday night between 3am – 6am to hand out care packages and pray for the women we meet. The rest of us stay back in the Prayer Chapel to intercede for the team that is ministering on the streets.

Wether I am staying back to pray or heading out into the night, it is always a powerful experience. Many times during prayer, we have received a word of knowledge from God, such as a name or a hair color, and later that night encountered a woman with that name or hair color on the street. God is awesome and He cares so deeply for the vulnerable.

When we go out, we give the women small care packages and ask them if they need prayer for anything. Most of the time, the women are very happy to see us and grateful for the gifts. Each gift bag, along with several personal care items, contains a card with a handwritten note of love and encouragement. There is also a contact number on the back of the card that they can call if they ever need help.

These gift bags are simply a physical manifestation of something much more significant that is happening on the streets of LA. Our prayer is that these women would be deeply encouraged because we genuinely care about them despite the fact that they can offer us nothing in return. Unlike their daily experience with pimps and clients, our love isn’t manipulative or abusive; it is offered freely with no strings attached. This is the Love of the Father. It pursues them week after week, month after month. I feel so honored that God chose me to share His Restorative Love with those whom society has rejected.

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Care Packages for Justice 180

b.) International Outreach

Our Justice DTS was split into two teams for the international outreach portion of our program. I will be traveling from December 19th – February 25th with a team of nine others to Athens, Greece and later, Montpellier, France. The rest of our school will be going to Thailand and the Philippines.

I am very excited about the opportunity to work in the refugee camps in Athens and care for those who are displaced and poverty stricken. God instructs us to care not only for the widow and the orphan but for the foreigner also. After one month in Greece, our team will head to the south of France to partake in anti trafficking work in the city of Montpellier.

I am very excited about this portion of our DTS because we will have the opportunity to practically apply many of the lessons and truths learned in the first half of the program. I am so thankful for the chance to not just ‘talk the talk’ but to also ‘walk the walk’ – to tangibly love and serve the vulnerable and the oppressed.

c.) Finances 

Thank you SO much to those of you who have generously and sacrificially donated to my outreach. The total cost of my mission trip to Greece and France is $4000 USD. I am still over $1000 away from my goal. If you have not already, I would be honored if you would prayerfully consider partnering with me in this ministry work financially. Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated and make a significant difference. Moreover, I am sincerely grateful for all of you who have been praying for me. As my previous pastor says, ‘Your prayer support is my life support.’ I truly appreciate each one of you!

4. Prayer Requests:

a.) Team Unity – For our outreach to be effective, it is imperative that we function well as a team. The Bible says that we will be known as God’s disciples by our love for one another. Please pray that we would get along well, be inclusive and accepting of one another and have patience and grace for each other. Pray that we would resolve conflict in a healthy, loving way and that we would honor God by how we treat each other.

b.) Safety and Protection – Please pray that God would protect our team against any injury, accidents or illness. There have been some tensions in the refugee camps recently. Please pray that there would be no violence or uprisings while we are there and that we would bring God’s Peace with us wherever we go.

c.) Servanthood – We want to be a team that’s known for its love, compassion and servanthood in Greece and France. Please pray that we would not seek to be served, but instead, that we would look for opportunities to serve others in love and humility. Please pray that we would maintain positive attitudes, even when things don’t go according to plan, and that we would give God the Glory for everything He accomplishes in and through us.

And that’s my first update letter! Thank you for reading this far 🙂 I appreciate and value each and every one of you. I am so grateful that you have come on this beautiful adventure with me and I praise God for you!

With love,

Tasha ❤

Love in the Midst of Apathy

While I was watching the movie Interstellar, one quote really struck me.

“We can care deeply, selflessly about those we know, but that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight.”

How heartbreakingly true this is. I used to think that the opposite of love was hatred, but in recent years I came to learn that in reality, the opposite of love is apathy.

When we turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering of others. When we refuse to help somebody in need because it would inconvenience us. When we cling tightly to our resources instead of using them to improve the lives of those less fortunate. I’ve been guilty of all of these things throughout my life. This is apathy.

I pray that God would continue to break my heart for the vulnerable and the exploited. I pray that He would open my eyes to the suffering of those beyond my normal line of sight. I pray that He would give me the courage to obey His command to love others for His Glory.

Deeply. Selflessly. Sacrificially.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35


My Journey to End Human Trafficking

Dear friend,

Please allow me to share a part of my journey with you so that you’ll have a better understanding of where I’m coming from and where I’m headed.

When I moved to Korea in July 2011, I had a very limited understanding of the depth and breadth of human trafficking. Over the next five years, through a series of profoundly impactful mission trips, outreaches to Red Light Districts, documentaries, conferences and conversations, God would open my eyes and break my heart for the vulnerable, the oppressed and the exploited, specifically those trapped in the nightmare of sexual slavery.

I learned that there are between 20 000 000 and 30 000 000 slaves in our world today (55% of whom are female and 26% of whom are children). I learned that each year, over $32 billion is generated by human trafficking. I learned that after drug dealing, it is the second largest criminal industry in the world. I learned that, contrary to popular belief, human trafficking occurs in every country worldwide. I learned that we have the responsibility of using the freedom we have been blessed with to take action on behalf of those whose freedom has been stolen from them.

As my understanding of this horrific international epidemic grew, I became filled with compassion and conviction. Compassion for the plight of the enslaved and conviction that as a Christian, I am called to love and serve “the least of these” as Jesus instructed. It is this compassion and conviction that has inspired me to pursue further training in the field of Anti Human-Trafficking.

From September 24th 2016 to March 5th 2017 I will be participating in a Justice DTS (Discipleship Training School) with YWAM (Youth With a Mission.) This six month program is designed to equip people with the education and opportunities necessary to take a long term stand against human trafficking locally and globally.

The program consists of a three month lecture phase in Los Angeles, followed by a three month international cross-cultural outreach phase. Though the exact location of the outreach has not yet been announced, we do know that we will be working with various ministries on the front lines of the war against human trafficking in the areas of prevention, intervention, restoration and reintegration.

Your prayer support would be deeply valued and appreciated. Here are my top three prayer requests:

1. Protection: Partnering with Anti Human-Trafficking ministries around the world can be dangerous work. Ultimately, we are standing in opposition to the powerful forces that profit from this exploitation and brutality. Please pray for protection for the team physically, emotionally and spiritually.

2. Finances: The total cost of the six month program including all flights, travel insurance, tuition and food/lodging is $10,000 CDN. I will be using my savings to cover some of these costs. However, since I am still paying off student loans, any fundraising that I am able to do to offset the cost of this program will be a huge blessing for me financially.

3. Obedience: My primary goal is to bring God Glory by sharing His Love with the vulnerable and His Hope with the oppressed. Please pray that my heart would be softened to clearly hear God’s voice and to boldly obey His leading during and after the program.

Thank you so much for your support. Your kindness will have far reaching effects. If you feel led to partner with me by contributing to this work financially, you can do so by following this link. Many blessings!

Your partner in the Gospel,Natasha Spiers

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

Inner Selfie

Have you ever taken a selfie? If you answered no, you’re either a. lying b. living under a rock or c. a very rare breed, indeed.

You can’t be on the internet for three minutes without being bombarded with glamorous pictures of friends and strangers alike, begging for your attention, appreciation and approval in the form of a like or a double tap. It’s no surprise that ‘selfie’ won the award for the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2013. We are a generation that is obsessed with ourselves.

For guys and girls alike, the pressure to appear attractive, cool and desirable comes at us from every angle, every day. We’re expected to look like we have it all together and force a smile for the camera, regardless of what turmoil we may be facing internally. We are taught that as long as our photos are glossy and bright, it doesn’t matter what our hearts look like. But what price are we willing to pay for the perfect shot?

I admit that I have fallen prey to the never-ending pursuit of achieving the world’s definition of beauty. One day, as I was doing my makeup, I had a revelation. I was trying to get my lip gloss just right when God spoke to me.

“Being pretty isn’t enough. It’s time for you to put more focus on being pretty on the inside”

Ouch. As always, God was right on point. How long had I spent looking in the mirror? How much time do I spend on becoming more attractive in the areas that really matter? What would I see if I could take a selfie of my heart?

We’ve all encountered people who are absolutely gorgeous… until they open their mouths. It’s easy to recognize internal ugliness. Anger. Jealousy. Unforgiveness. Complaining. Bad-mouthing. Gossiping. Crude jokes. Negative remarks.

The Bible is clear about what real beauty looks like.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” – 1 Peter 3:3-4

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Is God instructing us not to put any effort into our physical appearance? No. He is declaring that the kind of beauty that truly matters lies in our character. The world puts so much focus on outward appearance that far too often, the inside is left to shrivel up and rot away. We start to believe that our appearance is what determines our value and worth. But God warns us about this very thing in the Bible:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of… all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27

“Your beauty should come from within you; the beauty… that will never be destroyed and is very precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4

So, how do we obey God in this area? How do we put pretty into practice?

Responding with grace and forgiveness to those who hurt us.
Being friendly to the person sitting alone.
Not always trying to be right in a conversation.
Not talking behind somebody’s back.
Going out of your way to help others in need.

True beauty is reflecting the love of Christ in everything we think, say and do. It is Humility. Compassion. Gentleness. Patience. Grace. Generosity. Sacrifice. And above all else: Love. Loving the Lord with our whole heart and loving others in His Name.

What a testimony our lives will be when we can take a long look at our selfie, smile with confidence and say, “I am proud of who I see.”

Abba Father, please help us to become men and women of true beauty, beauty that radiates from a heart that seeks Your Face above all else. Help us not to become slaves to the world’s ideals of beauty but transform us from the inside out until we embody the fruit of Your Spirit and our lives become a reflection of Your Love. Thank You for never giving up on us. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.