Confessions of An Empty Heart

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Today I want you to meet my brave and beautiful friend Lelia Chealey  who shares her story of emptiness and how God redeemed  her brokenness.

Italicized sentences are from Chapter 3 of A Confident Heart

Until our hearts find complete security and significance in God’s unconditional love, we will constantly turn to other lovers and never be satisfied.

Although I stood before family and friends professing my love and faithfulness to my husband, three years later I found myself trying to fill my emptiness in the arms of another man.

When the closed door of a previous relationship opened I ran through it. On Wednesday I was serving on our church’s youth team and by Saturday I was in between the sheets of a bed in a cheap hotel. The result of my affair led to a pregnancy I knew was from the other man since my husband had undergone a vasectomy.

Driving out of an abortion clinic and heading home to my unsuspecting husband, I wondered how I’d gotten to this place. Here I was a Christian wife and mom who had compromised my beliefs in more ways than one. Looking to fill my void with anything but Jesus, I walked further and further away from the One I needed most.

By being honest about her life and the lies she believed, she could start turning toward the Truth. She could bring the thirst of her heart to Him. Only then would she find confidence in the power of His love and start living in the security of His promises.

I ended my affair soon after the reality of my abortion set in. It shook my Jesus-loving heart to the core. One morning, after everyone was out of the house, I turned on some worship music, got down on my knees and began to sob.  Raising my hands toward heaven, I told God, “If I lose everything – my marriage, my kids, my friends, my reputation, but I still have YOU, I’ll be okay.”

Admitting all the lies I had told and believed, I got gut-honest with God that day. And in that place of truth, I was set free and could then turn toward Jesus and away from my life of sin. Like Renee wrote, I could bring the thirst of my heart to Him. That’s what I did — I brought my parched soul to the only One capable of filling me and changing my mess of a life.

Three years later, I felt God leading me to tell my husband about my affair and abortion. We’d attended two marriage conferences during the in-between years and  I couldn’t keep my secret any longer. Deep pain was evident on his face and in his tears. My heart broke once again over my affair as I listened to my husband process my choices.

Still in shock, he told me that while I was having my affair he too had been involved in one.  I sat there stunned, silent and ticked off at God. How had He not prepared me for this moment of my husband’s truth? I felt instant emptiness, but this time I made the choice to bow my heart before Jesus and ask Him to help me.

Jesus came to give us more than salvation. He wants us to experience complete satisfaction in Him.

These words from chapter 3 resonate deeply with my soul. Although, I had attended Christian school from kindergarten though graduation in 1988; went to church on Sundays and returned on Wednesdays and knew countless Bible stories by heart, what I lacked was a relationship with my King.

Sitting there with my husband trying to process his unfaithfulness, God let me know He is the only One that could take my empty, broken heart and fill it with His unconditional love and confidence that I had sought in all the wrong places.

I love what Renee asked us this week, and how she encouraged us to write our own “when-then” statements:

So what do we do when our hearts start tossing and turning with emptiness and uncertainty? We need to stop and ask Jesus to help us see the worth we are placing in other things and the worth we are seeking in other people and shift our reliance to Him instead.

{Here are mine}

When I start to feel like my marriage is not giving me what I deserve then I will turn to God and ask Him to be my portion.

When I feel tempted to return to a life of emptiness and rely on my old patterns of comfort and fulfillment then I will praise God for what He has brought me from and remind myself that I am worthy of the sacrifice of the cross.

Lasting security comes when we bring the empty well of our hearts to Jesus and ask Him to fill and fulfill us with the security of His unfailing love.

It’s been ten years since the day of my and my husband’s confessions. Our marriage is far from perfect, but with God’s help we have walked through the process of forgiveness and restoration. My husband and I serve at a marriage conference every spring and God has used our mistakes to help other couples realize He is much bigger than any circumstance we face. He has also taken the shame and regret of my abortion and used it for His glory by calling me to be part of an abortion ministry, “Surrendering the Secret,” where I now serve as a leader.

I have no idea what your story it, but please believe this woman who almost lost everything for nothing. Jesus is worth seeking and giving Him a chance to fill up all the empty places of your life. If He can look at an unfaithful wife and compromising mom in Nebraska and see beauty instead of ugly then anyone is within reach of being embraced by His amazing grace.

You need to know that God wants you. There is no sin too heavy to stay nailed to the beams of the cross. You are the reason He trekked His way to Calvary and you are worth every step He took!

***
Thank you Lelia, for the courage and risk it takes tell your story – so raw, so real yet so full of His redemption. I see and love Jesus in you!

Let’s Connect: Will you take a minute to thank Lelia, and let us both know what has risen to the surface of your heart as you read her story or  as you read Chapter 3 this week?  {REMEMBER: you are reading this via email, click here to visit my website and connect in community.}

Under this post, click  “share your thoughts”  and do just that. Also, feel free to share some answers to your end of chapter 3 questions. I treasure this space that connects our hearts! {Love you guys so much!}

 

{week 3 – Chapter 4} Hope

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“In the security of our relationship with Christ, God wants us to ask questions and look for answers that usher us into the depths of His redeeming love. He wants to give us the courage to live in the promise that He offers hope for our future despite the pain of our past.
from Chapter 4, A Confident Heart

___________________________

Our Word for the week: HOPE
(Download in a PDF or download in MSWord). Please print it and post it everywhere this week.

HIS Word for us this week:
“May the God of hope fill [me] with all joy and peace as [I] trust in him, so that [I] may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13, NIV

Our Assignment for Today: 

  • Read the prayer at the end of Chapter 4 to begin your day. Start or continue reading chapter 4.
    Remember, take your time and highlight or underline sentences that resonate in your heart.
  • Let’s commit to memorize this week’s verse together :)!

My friend Heather is a Word girl!! When she was in college she performed in over 14 plays and memorized hundreds of lines, so I’ve asked her to share some tips to help us hide God’s Word in our hearts this week. Here are a few she shared. I’ll post more each week.

Ideas for Memorizing Scripture

  • Write the scripture on several index cards or post-it notes and place them in areas where you will see them frequently throughout the day. Examples: on the bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, in the car, at work, etc…
  • Get a stack of index cards and on each one write one or two words from the verse, including the reference. Shuffle them up and see if you can put them in the correct order again. Save the cards and reuse common words found in other verses.
  • Send the verse to friends and family by typing, texting, or writing it out by hand. You can look at the verse, but do not copy and paste! Try writing it at least once a day.
  • Study with a friend, your spouse, or teach it to your kids! Quiz each other and keep each other on track. What a great way for families to spend time in the Word together!
  • Change the wall paper on your computer to an image that has your Bible verse.

Connecting in Community:

As we read chapter4 this week, let’s share our hearts below – answers to the questions, sentences we’re highlighting, thoughts we’re thinking, feelings and fears we’re experiencing. This can be a hard chapter for some because it addresses our past and our pain. Let’s pray for each other each day and commit to memorize this week’s verse together! If you are in, leave a comment by clicking on “share your thoughts” and tell us how you plan to memorize it. I’m writing it on a ceramic plate in my kitchen. I’ll be praying it for you every time I see it.

REMEMBER: If you are reading this via email, click here to return to my website to connect in community. That is the best part of an online study, so I hope to see you there!

{Chapter 4 Video} Courage to look back…Hope to move forward

Today I wanted to share my Chapter 4 video teaching message. In it, I share how God walked me through a process of looking back with courage – so I could move forward with hope. He helped me identify things I didn’t even know were affecting me and gently led my heart on a journey towards freedom.

Please click the arrow below to “hear” today’s message {If you’re reading this via email click here to return to my blog to watch the video}.

{Are you a note-taker? If so, I created “Video Message Notes” in a PDF format here or in a MSWord doc here, just for you. Even included key verses and blanks to fill in.} 🙂

Let’s Connect
Let’s talk about how God is speaking to your heart through chapter 4 and through today’s video message.  Click “share your thoughts” below this post. I’ll be here reading and praying over each of you and  your stories. {Also, I know the timelines I encourage you to create might sound overwhelming or scary, so I recorded another little video message to talk/walk you through that process that I’ll share this week too.

For More Daily Encouragement join my Confident Heart Facebook page.

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{Chapter 4} Running With Courage – Chasing God’s Plans

Today I want you to meet my sweet, funny, amazing friend, Rachel Wojnarowski. Her story is one of God’s redeeming grace and the choice she’s made to chase after His plans and hold onto His hope — with all that she has in her.

I grew up in a wonderful Christian home with fabulous Christian parents.  We were faithful to church and I graduated from Christian school.  I went on to Christian college and completed the circle by teaching in a Christian school.  My future husband was a “preacher boy” and when we married, the plan was that he would take a youth pastor position wherever God led.  Only after we married, he had serious doubts about his calling and stopped attending church all together.

After two years of marriage, a precious daughter was born to us via emergency c-section.  She experienced oxygen deprivation and required resuscitation, but she lived.   Three years after Taylor’s birth, I discovered that her father had been having an affair essentially four of the five years we were married. In spite of that great protective environment I’d always known, and being faithful to God’s house, sin had erupted my “perfect” life and my marriage to this man didn’t withstand. Bad choices were made by both parties and we divorced.

In spite of all the pain and loss of the “perfect” life, God brought a solid Christian man into my life and He has given us a wonderful story of grace and redemption.  But in the midst of Matt and I falling in love, my dearest mom fell severely ill, diagnosed with a rare type of anemia.  Two months later the diagnosis was changed to leukemia and she lived just six short months after that.  Mom was the strongest, most faithful Christian I’ve ever personally known; she was my best friend.

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During my divorce and my mom’s death, the discovery process for Taylor’s developmental delays became more intense.  Doctors often blamed the delays on her lack of oxygen at birth.  But in my heart, I knew there was more to her issues.  Nine months after my mom’s death, the diagnosis for Taylor came through: MPSIIIB, a rare, genetic metabolic disorder which causes gradual neurological degeneration.  The average life span is 10-15 years and there is no cure, or even a treatment.

Upon receiving Taylor’s diagnosis, my walk with the Lord became intense.  I did just what Renee talked about this week in chapter four.   I asked all the why’s and the how’s.   I wanted God to spill out His plan for my life in one day.

But through His Word, God has taught me that faith is not only a one-time decision; it’s an everyday decision.

Trusting His plan for your everyday life is equally as important as trusting Him for your eternal life.

While God has richly blessed Matt and me with a beautiful family and more blessings than we can count, Taylor’s disease has not changed.  Every day is by faith, that God would have His will for her life and ours.

Each day we claim His promises and make the choice to run towards His plan.

Rachel, your story has changed me.  Your journey of choosing hope through your past and into the present brought tears to my eyes. I’m inspired by your faith and your surrendered life.  To be broken daily, like bread, held up (like loaves and fishes) as an offering of God’s of love and mercy. You my friend are beautiful – inside and out.

Connecting in Community: I’ve been reading your comments and praying for each of you by name. And I’m working on a way for us to connect next week via conference call – Lord willing!! I’m hoping it will be a way I can share my thoughts and answer questions you all are sharing and asking about here. For today, I’d love to know….

What is God speaking to your heart through Rachel’s story? Also, is there anything from the questions He’s given us for the end of Chapter 4 you’d want to share? Let’s connect here and talk about it. {If you are reading this via email, click here to return to my blog to share your heart.}

 

{Chapter 5} Living in the Light

Fearful. Betrayed. Abandoned. Unloved. Unworthy. Unwanted.

These are a few words that defined Donna and cast shadows over her. Here’s Donna’s story…

***

Fearful. Betrayed. Abandoned. Unloved. Unworthy. Unwanted.

These were shadows from a past that would haunt me for years. A past that would hold me hostage and keep me from fully living in the light of God’s love. 

Fearful as I watched a hot plate of spaghetti thrown across the kitchen.  Fearful as I watched furniture crash against  walls. Fearful as my dad fell to the ground a few feet from my mom after he’d swung at her and lost his balance.

Betrayed after my intoxicated father sat me on the back of a horse without a saddle or reins to hold, and then swiped the horse’s rear end. Betrayed as he laughed with his friends while I went sailing through the air and landed on a barb wired fence.

Abandoned and unwanted when my dad filed divorce papers and when I discovered he failed to even get my name and birthday correct on them.  Abandoned each time my dad refused to pay child support. Unwanted as years went by without visits, phone calls, hugs, birthday gifts.

Unloved and unworthy when my dad broke promise after promise… to visit, to call, to show up for my high school graduation, to pay for college.

Fearful, betrayed, abandoned, unloved, unworthy, and unwanted. Words and emotions that I let define me and cast shadows over me … until July 2011.

Through several of my Pastor’s sermons and through a friend’s father passing away, I sensed God asking: “How would you feel and what would you do if your Dad were to die this very day?”

I had no answer.  I didn’t even know or really even think I liked my dad, much less loved him.  Fifteen years had gone by since I’d seen him.

Around that same time, God challenged me with two words: ACCEPT and CHOICE

I had a choice and I made it. Following God’s nudging, on July 1, 2011 I went to see my father and accepted him for who he is.

In doing so, for the first time ever, I was able to ACCEPT my past. God made it perfectly clear to me that I could not change my dad nor my past. My only job was to pray for my Dad. I cannot tell you the burden that lifted from my entire being on July 1st.

God took my acceptance one step further. He told me I had a CHOICE!

A choice to believe that He is who He says He is.  A choice to believe His promises; a choice to believe I was worth dying for; a choice to be filled with His joy; a choice to let Him be my Father, my Abba Daddy; a choice to live with a confident heart.

And it’s up to me to make those choices 24/7. Not just on Sunday. Not just at 9am when my day starts – but constantly make those choices.  So I get up every morning and choose to believe that God is a Promise Keeper. I make the choice – to believe He loves me like no other can nor will,  to pray for my Dad, to let go of the anger. I choose to live in the Light of Jesus so I can have a the freedom and security of a confident heart.

There are days, even minutes, that I don’t make the right choices. But the good thing is as I get better and better at making those choices my rebound time gets shorter and shorter. I get quicker at turning back to the Light.

I’m praying for you today – that together we can turn towards and live in the Light of God’s love. That He’ll give us courage to make the choices He’s asking us to make and accept what He’s calling us to accept so that we can keep turning and growing.

Lord, thank You for Your promises. I thank You that You have called me out of the darkness and into Your light. Thank You for transforming my heart into a heart like Yours. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Donna, sweet friend, thank you for boldly believing Jesus and walking in obedient trust of His calling on your life. Your story and  your faith challenge and encourage me to listen for His voice and do the hard thing of believing Him when my feelings are demanding their way. I”m so grateful for the Light and the way you walk in Him!


Connecting in Community:
What is God speaking to your heart as you read Donna’s story ? Or is there something in chapter 5 that resonated with a change, a choice or a place of acceptance God’s inviting you to? Let’s share here and/or some of the answers to our end of chapter questions this week. Whatever is on your heart. 

{If you’re reading this via email click here to share, enter and connect.}

 

 

(Chapter 6) Don’t Throw Away Your Confidence

Our word for Chapter 6 is HIS
Download and print a PDF file or in a MSWord file. Post it everywhere so you can remember YOU ARE a HIS – He has redeemed you and called you by name. You belong to HIM!

God’s promise for this week:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1b (NAS)

Do you ever feel inadequate and insecure? We have an enemy who is good at getting us to believe we’re not good enough and don’t have what it takes to be used by God. But we don’t have to let him trash us the way he does! Today we’ve got another IMPORTANT video message you don’t want to miss! It is one of my favorites!!

{Download “Video Message Notes” in a PDF or in MSWord just for you. }

{Download “Don’t Throw Away Your Confidence” printable.}

 

Today’s Assignments: Print and post your Chapter 6 word and verse. Pray our Chapter 6 prayer and start {or continue} reading chapter 6.

“Share Your Thoughts” about Chapter 6 and today’s video below.

Mark your calendar for next Tuesday night at 8pm EST!
I’m offering a FREE Confident Heart Conference Call!  And after the call, I’ll be hosting a Facebook Party at 9pm EST! That way we can chat about the call, have a Q&A, connect with each other and win fun prizes!

I’ll post details about the conference call Tuesday on my blog next Monday.
And, be sure to “LIKE” my Confident Heart Facebook page to be part of the FB party!

In Honor of You {& the Difference You Make}

The doorbell rang soon after I got home from dropping off a thank you note at my neighbor house. Surprised to see Janet standing on my front porch, I listened as she held up an envelope and explained: “Renee, this is the most amazing thank you note I have ever read; you have a writing gift and you need to use it.”

I was puzzled. It was only a thank you note after all. 

Yet Janet’s words of affirmation stayed with me all afternoon. Her confidence made me wonder if God might  use my words to touch the lives of others.

Prayers for direction had filled pages of my journal that month as I struggled to figure out what I was good at.

A few weeks later I attended a women’s dinner series at my church. Taking notes on a napkin, I thought about how nice it would be for the message series to be captured in a booklet so we could remember and apply the lessons in our everyday lives. Then I got the craziest idea: maybe I could write a study guide to give to other women who want to go deeper, too.

Quickly, doubt filtered my idea through reality: Who am I to think I could write something women would want to read?

Unable to get the thought out of my head over the next few days, I finally told Janet. Much to my shock she loved the idea. And she claimed the women’s ministry team had been praying for months about a gift to give the women after the dinners and that this was an answer to their prayers.

A few weeks later, they asked me to write a study guide. I nearly suffocated under the weight of insecurity, but Janet kept encouraging me, praying for me and telling me she believed in me.

With her prayers and prodding I wrote it, and over a thousand copies were given away. Then I wrote another the next year, and then another.

As I think about the impact of Janet’s words on my life and ministry sixteen years ago, I’m reminded of Elizabeth and her words to Mary when she arrived to tell her cousin she was pregnant with God’s child. “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her! Luke 1:45

What a difference it must have made for Mary to have Elizabeth believe in the promise God proclaimed over her. Today as I think about a thank you note that started the legacy of my writing ministry years ago, I’m so grateful I get to encourage YOU because Janet believed in and encouraged me. 

***

Here I sit, sixteen years later, sharing this online study living in a promise I pray almost every day. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within me.” Eph 3:20

This month, I want to honor the difference you make in my life and in each other’s lives through something we’re doing at Proverbs 31 Ministries to recognize and honor women like you and Janet through Legacy Cards we’re sending to those who have touched lives and impacted legacies:

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I’m getting one for Janet and my mom {for Mother’s Day}, and a few others who have impacted my life and my legacy.

And today I bought one in HONOR of YOU my amazing online study friends!!

Each time you leave a comment and share your heart, your prayers, your journey with me and with each other — God uses it to spur me on and to encourage one another in so many ways. Whether it’s a few sentences or a few paragraphs, when I read how Jesus is loving on you, how you’re loving on each other or how He’s speaking to you through His words or something I wrote in my book or my blog, it’s a huge deposit of encouragement!! So thank YOU for sharing that part of yourself with me and with us! You impact my legacy sweet friends, and I am so very grateful!

For more details about our Legacy cards click here.

{Chapter 7} You are…More Than a Conqueror

Join me Tuesday night April 30th at 8pm {EST} for a
FREE Confident Heart CONFERENCE CALL!

After the call, I’ll be hosting a Facebook Party at 9pm EST!

We’ll chat about the call, chapter 6 & 7, do some Q&A, connect with each other
and there will be drawing for fun prizes!

Sign up for the Facebook Party here.

Conference Call details will be posted on my blog tomorrow afternoon!


Our word for the week
CONQUEROR

Be sure to print it and post it everywhere. You can download in a PDF or in MSWord.

God’s WORD for US this week:
“No, in all these things you are more than [a] conqueror through Him who loved you.” Romans 8:37

This week, in chapter 7, we’re going to identify and learn how to defeat our second most common doubt… “I’m such a failure.” It’s the wicked step-sister of “I’m not good enough.”

My prayer, hope and deepest desire is make sure failure no longer gets the final say in your life, JESUS does! Because YOU ARE are more than a conqueror through HIM (Jesus) who loves us, you can learn to  fail forward and grow from your mistakes and full blown sins. That is how you become a women with a God-fident heart.

In today’s video teaching, I want to empower and equip you to stop letting doubt and discouragement beat you up and start letting God words build you up instead!


{Download FREE  “AM/FM Thoughts Printable here}

{Download “Video Message Notes” in MSWord or in a PDF.}

Today’s Assignments: Print and post our Chapter 7 word and verse. Pray our Chapter 7  prayer and start {or continue} reading chapter 7.

Let’s Connect: Click “share your thoughts” below and  let’s talk about what God speaking is to your heart today through the video and/or chapter 7? What are one or two things you’ll take away today? 

 

 

 

Facebook Party & Other Plans for Tonight!

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Here is an UPDATE on my plans tonight:

Facebook Party 

When: I’m hosting a Facebook Party TONIGHT at 9pm EST on my Confident Heart Facebook page.

What: I’ll be doing a little Q&A, we’ll get to chat with each other and there will be door prizes! It’s going to be fun, fun, fun!! BUT I don’t want to do all the talking. I want this to be a time you connect with each other too – so talk and answer with me!!

RSVP: You can sign up for the Facebook Party here.

How: Hop over to my Facebook Party Event Page  at 9pm Eastern Standard Time and join in on the fun. I’ll post questions or answers to your questions and we’ll all figure out how it works as we go.

Doorprizes: When I am going to giveaway a door prize, I will list that first before I ask the question where you need to answer to be entered to win.

Party Hostesses: I have asked our online study blog-post guests – Melanie, Rachel, Donna and Lelia – to join us so you also get to talk with them and they will be answering questions, too.

Confident Heart Conference Call

My mom always told me I overestimate what I can do. And I definitely have bitten off more than I can chew this week. I don’t know what I was thinking when I planned a conference call and a Facebook party on the same night. Well I do, I wanted to do both. BUT I am still working on my new Confident Heart devotional book, and I need to get that done before the party. 🙂

So, I’ll be hosting our conference call next Thursday, May 9th at 9pm EST instead. This will give us all more time to plan. Mark your calendar. More details to come!

 

Facebook Party Door Prize Winners

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What an amazingly great time I had with all of you who could be part of my first every Facebook Party! There were almost 700 there and it was so much fun to get to know you and see you all talking and really connecting with each other too. I loved answering your questions which were so varied and also reading your answers to mine. I’ll definitely be hosting another party soon! Here are the door prize winners:

Question: What is your name and where you are from?

Winner: Julie Todd Braga from Madera, CA. Hello everyone!

Door Prize:  My women’s conference messages “Letting God Fill the Empty Places” and “Rest Assured” on CD.

 

Question: What is your “go to” Bible verse to help you feel confident and secure?

Winner: Dodie Canova – Isaiah 41:10, Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Door Prize: Chocolate bar &  Starbucks gift card

 

Question: What are some questions you’d like for me to answer? They can be about my book, my family, my ministry, my favorite pajamas, etc. 🙂
Winner: Jolene Gerlach What are some of your favorite things to do to unwind?
Door Prize: Lifeway.com $10 Gift Card

 

Question: How familiar are you with Proverbs 31 Ministries ? If you know about us, how did you first hear about us? {radio, devotions, event, friend, Facebook, other?}

Winner: Brandi Rainwater – devotions

Door Prize: Chocolate bar &  a copy of my book, A Confident Heart.

 

Question: Is there someone in your life that could benefit from gaining lasting confidence in the security of God’s promises?

Winner: Katina Johnson – Yes…a few of my closest friends and my 15 year old daughter before she NEEDS a book like this!

Door Prize: Lifeway.com $10 gift card

 

Question:  Have you read my book? If so, where did you purchase your copy and what chapter did you like most?

Winner: Miranda Johnson – No. I don’t have it.

Door Prize: A copy of my book, A Confident Heart.

 

If you are one of our winners, please email aconfidentheart@gmail.com and include your email, your full name and mailing address. Thanks for joining the party! It was so much fun!! If you couldn’t make it, I hope you will be able to next time!

Be sure to LIKE my Confident Heart Facebook page and sign up for email updates in the top of my sidebar here on my blog so you are sure to be notified ahead of time for the next one!