Bekah's Heart, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Yes, Please!

One of the books I recently finished was Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. I think it might have been a better fit in a different season of life, but I still enjoyed her spunky spirit, honesty, and vulnerability that came across so well in the audio-book version I listened too.

While I finished the book a couple weeks ago, suddenly a passage of it came to mind last Saturday night.

I was texting a friend about other stuff and mentioned how tired I was. It had been a good day, but a long one and body and brain were maxed out. She offered to drive over and do a simple task for me.

I turned her down.

It felt ridiculous. It felt dumb to let her stop what she was doing to come do something so simple for me. I couldn’t shake the thoughts of “Seriously, Bekah, just get up and do this task that literally will take less than a minute.”

She wanted to help. She wanted to serve me. She wanted to love me in this tangible way, even if it seemed silly to me.

But I said no.

Long story short, she came over anyway. (Because when you have friends that are like family, that’s just what you do for each other.) While I had already done the task, she showed up “just to give me a hug”. She lingered. She sat with me and simply was the friend I needed that night… the friend I almost missed out on because of my own stubbornness.

As she left, suddenly a section from that book popped into my mind. I didn’t process it too deeply the first time I heard it, having been framed in the context of motherhood. After this experience with my friend I realized that while I’m not a mother, the general concept still applies, especially in this current season I find myself in:

“Find a tribe of people who are in a similar walk of life as you are. Once you find them, be honest about where you are and what you’re struggling with. Learn to ask for help, and when someone offers help, accept it! Accept any and all help you can get and consider it a gift from God! I cannot tell you how many women ask me how I “do it all,” and when I tell them that I’ve learned to ask for help, they look at me as if I’m an alien.

“Like, help with what?”

For example, when your mother-in-law says she’ll come for the afternoon and entertain the kids, say, “Yes, please.” If your husband offers to fold the laundry (even when you don’t think he’s good at folding towels), say, “Yes, please.” If your girlfriend says she wants to bring you dinner but you feel bad that you’re putting her out, say, “Yes, please.” Or if your elementary school offers afternoon classes that will occupy your rambunctious boys for an additional hour and a half, say, “Yes, please.”

What can give you more time, more space, more freedom to find your center? Whatever it is, say, “Yes, please” to that!” – Rachel Hollis – Girl, Wash Your Face

When talking about self care and boundaries, we often talk about how the hardest but best thing to say is “no”. “No” to extra commitments. “No” to social engagements that aren’t fun for you. “No” to tasks and to-do list items.

Perhaps another favorite phrase should actually be: “Yes, please.”

I am WAY better at receiving help (and sometimes even asking for it!) than I used to be. I learned even more after my surgery in May when I had to depend on those around me for everything. However, it’s still easy for pride to slip in from time to time and I push away help in the process.

Just because I’m technically capable of doing something doesn’t mean help isn’t valuable. I may not NEED it, but perhaps help is a gift my friends (and ultimately, my God) want to give. So, my prayer is to be come more of a “Yes, please” person.

If someone volunteers to do something for me at work, I pray I will simply say, “Yes, please”.

If a friend offers to plan the details of an outing I initiated, I’ll ignore the nagging voice that nags: “You should be responsible for following through on this” and simply smile and say “Yes, please.”

If a family member or mentor or friend offers to spend time to talk and encourage me on a good day or a hard day or just any random day, I hope I’ll quickly say, “Yes, please.”

I’ve always found joy when others let me serve them. It baffles me that I can’t seem to remember the reverse is also true: maybe others find joy in serving me.

So, if my best friend wants to come put my groceries away or do my dishes or just stop by to give me a hug at 8:30 on a Saturday night because she loves me and wants to serve me… I pray next time I won’t turn her down, but instead will unlock the door and text back: “Yes, please!”

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Other Books I’m Reading or Finished Recently:

Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Redefining Productivity

On Tuesday I got to have dinner with a dear friend. We always love any time we can get together; this time felt extra special as she prepares to move to another city soon. As we cooked together, ate our meal, and then grabbed some blankets and headed toward the living room, life poured out of both of us. We shared updates on what’s going on in our worlds but also processed some things out loud for the first time, discovering more about ourselves along the way.

As the evening came to a close we decided to spend some time in prayer with each other. One of the things this friend prayed for me has lingered with me since. She asked God to open my eyes to a new way of looking at productivity… that when He is calling me to do good work while at my job or home, I would be productive in that, but that sitting on the couch and doing nothing while my body heals might also feel like productivity. She prayed that when He calls me to the traditional concepts we think of with productivity that He would provide the energy, but then kept coming back to examples we would normally label “unproductive”.

The awesome part is that even as she prayed, God began redefining this word and concept for me. It struck me in that moment that the word “productive” has as its root the word “produce”. Even with this in mind, I might default to asking “Jesus what do you want me to do, or ‘produce’, in this day that can bring you glory?”

However, on that night, Jesus flipped the question. My prayer suddenly became, “Jesus what do You want to produce in me?”

Productivity isn’t bad, but I’m learning that God cares more about the fruit He’s producing in my life than the efforts of my labor. And our Master Gardner can bring fruit out of any situation. Perhaps productivity, in this season of rest and healing, looks less like getting things checked off the to-do list and more like producing peace in my heart. Maybe He’s less concerned about the fruit of my ministry and longs to produce more patience and dependence on Him.

A while back I shared a passage from Jeremiah as a defining scripture for this current season of life. As my friend prayed the other night it came suddenly to mind again:

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (emphasis added)

Trees don’t have to “work hard” to produce fruit. The fruit comes because that’s what they were created to do.

An apple tree doesn’t stress and toil over how to make the apples come. No, if it’s rooted in the soil, receiving the nutrients it needs, protected from elements or creatures that may try to ruin it, it just produces fruit. Related, an apple tree will never succeed at producing oranges; it’s just not designed for that.

Productivity does not come from the work I put in. Instead, it comes from where I’m rooted.

I know that my life as a human is not meant to be literally as passive as that of a tree. All the way back in Genesis, before sin entered the world, we were designed for work. However, I must keep in mind that whenever the work feels forced or pressured, it might not be the kind of productivity God desires. It won’t always be easy (and often it will be hard), but if it’s not coming from my identity in Christ and and purpose God has on my life, it’s likely that I’m trying to produce oranges as an apple tree. (And that just leaves everyone with unmet expectations and a bunch of wasted effort.)

Also, this verse doesn’t say that there won’t be things threatening that production. The heat and drought come. However, rooted near the river of living water, trusting, and letting my roots draw nourishment from this never-ending stream means that whether I’m “at the top of my game” or “laying on the couch” (as my friend prayed), production never stops. The fruit keeps coming because it was never up to me in the first place. Jesus said it this way:

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. … Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. … When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” John 15:1-9

Jesus, produce Your fruit deep in my soul. Keep me rooted near the river. Amen.

Bekah's Heart, Mental Health

What I’ve Noticed Recently About Mental Health

For as long as I can remember God has given me great compassion for those who deal with mental illness. These brave warriors get up every day and fight battles that those around them may know nothing about. I’ve always hated the stigma around mental illness for many reasons but most of all, because it is one of the biggest reasons precious people stay trapped, unhealthy, and hurting. Anytime I’ve tried to put into words my frustration with the shame our world puts on those battling depression, anxiety, and the like, I feel I come up short.

But here we are again. One more attempt. One more hope that maybe one more way of looking at it will make sense to potentially one more person. And it’s all inspired by a little pink pill.

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Yep, this little pill the size of a mini chocolate chip gave me some new perspective. Perhaps what I learned might be helpful for you as well.

Back in May I had half of my thyroid removed and while my left half is putting in some great work (Good job, Thyroid!), it can’t really keep up with producing the amount of thyroid hormones my body needs to function each day.

So, I now take a little pink pill each morning. The hope and prayer is that over time this little pink pill will now do something my body can’t.

What strikes me is that I haven’t had a single person tell me I shouldn’t take this pill. (Besides some crazy people on the internet who want to sell me their own version of something that they claim works better, but I’m not talking about them right now.)

I had a part of my body removed and taking this pill will do what my body can’t do for itself anymore. It’s pretty straight forward. It seems good and normal and right to just about everyone I’ve come across.

Yet, I look around at so many friends and families members who literally have some of the same exact symptoms and mental health struggles I do right now, but because the cause of their depression or anxiety or brain fog or fatigue is different, they’re treated completely different.

I’ve been dealing with this for almost 10 months now. In that time no one has told me I should “ just pray more” or “have more faith” when I’m so tired I can barely get out of bed. No one has told me to “snap out of it” or “pull myself together” on days when I’m depressed or struggling to form a coherent sentence or when I took time off work to heal from surgery. No one has told me the medicine I started taking last week is unnecessary and I should “just trust God to heal me.”

No one.

My friends whose hormones are out of wack, but for other reasons hear that kind of crap all. the. time.

Here’s the reality: Anyone dealing with a mental health challenge IS battling a PHYSICAL illness. While I understand the concept of the category of mental illnesses, I think even that label sometimes reinforces the false concept that “it’s all in our heads” when we struggle with these things. Yes, these problems impact the way we think and the way our brains work which is why that title fits. (It also makes it that much HARDER than other physical illnesses to navigate.)

When our bodies and minds battle with these illnesses it is most often because something is physically off in our bodies. It can come from trauma, a problem with the neurotransmitters in our brains, or even genetics. Another key contributing factor: an imbalance of hormones… the very thing I’m dealing with right now.

It frustrates me that simply because the cause of MY hormones being off is as obvious as the 2 inch scar on my neck, I get offered grace and understanding that so many in this world never receive.

As I’ve battled days of fatigue and brain fog and depression waiting for my thyroid replacement medicine to kick in, the people around me encourage me and support me and help me do tangible things I didn’t feel capable of doing. Yes, they’ve prayed with me, encouraged me in my faith, and asked God again and again for healing on my behalf. They also told me to take a nap or go home early from work.

When I had my surgery, people showed up at my door for weeks with homemade meals and drove me to appointments and sent me cards and gifts and ice cream.

Even before that, when I walked through months of trying to figure out what was actually wrong with my body and what doctors could maybe do to fix it, friends and family texted me and listened to me and asked about how doctor visits went.

So if you don’t know how to help friends battling things like anxiety or depression or bipolar disorder … maybe just start there:

Send the text. Make the meal. Mail the card.
Drive them to the doctor.
Sit with them in their tears.
Go on a walk with them.
Ask them how a therapy appointment went.
Laugh with them.

Buy them ice cream!!!

Yes, mental illness is harder to explain than a broken arm or even a thyroid removal. You may not “get it” and it might make you a bit uncomfortable.

But it’s not that complicated: Just show up, people!

Your friends need your love not judgment.

Oh! And if (whether temporarily or for the rest of their lives) they need a little pink or white or blue or some other color pill to help them feel like a normal functioning human being, by all means stop shaming them for it. Maybe throw them a party instead and celebrate that there might just possibly be a way out of their fog.

66 in 52 Challenge, Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Poured Out – A Reflection on Mark

As I get back into normal routines this fall that were obliterated during the summer, blogging is one thing I hope I can create space for in my schedule. As I sat down to “get back in it” I found myself skimming through various drafts of blog posts that never made it to the ‘publish’ stage. Some were so incomplete I couldn’t even figure out where I was trying to go, but one really struck me. It caught my attention because the lessons I was wrestling with years ago when the draft was created, are things I find myself continuing to wrestle with now. It also talked about a scripture in Mark which we’re studying this week for the 66 in 52 Challenge.

For the sake of keeping the flow of the words, I left the timing in the rest of the piece as it was originally, so just know that “this morning” or “last week” actually refers to some time in my life a few years ago, but I pray the lessons remain relevant for us now.


Do you ever have those days or seasons when God is clearly trying to tell you something?  For example, a few weeks ago John chapter 17 was the topic of conversation or study in 5 completely different settings over the course of only 6 days.  I think God was trying to tell me something.

More recently the lessons came in Isaiah 58.  Specifically verse 10 popped up in two places one morning before 6:30 a.m.  I think God wanted to set the tone for the day.   Here’s the passage:

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free,  and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.

Pour yourself out.

Other versions translate it as “spend yourself”, “extend your soul”, “give yourself to”.  No matter how you look at it, the message is clear: there is sacrifice and there is a stretching involved.

Something I’ve struggled with for a really long time is the balance between giving sacrificially of myself to serve others and caring for myself.  We all know (whether we act like it or not) that self-care is important, but it can also feel very selfish.  Satan gets us all kinds of confused when we start to figure out how to make a decision in this area.  If we feel the pull towards “spending ourselves” on behalf of someone in response to God’s call, he works hard to tell us that we deserve a break… that we need to think about ourselves more.  And in moments when self-care is exactly what we need to better be equipped to “extend our souls” when the necessary times come, he makes us believe we’re worthless and dumb for not being a “good Christian” who would help anyone.

While this is something I think I will likely continue to wrestle with the rest of my life, a little hint of clarity came through a session at the conference I was at last week.  To summarize, the presenter talked about both selfishness and selflessness.  When those are the only options, it seems the only “good” option to choose is selflessness; who wants to be know as being selfish?!?  However, she presented another option: self-interest.  Here are some of the ways she described these options:

  • Selfishness denies others.  Selflessness denies self.  Self-interest looks at myself in relationship to others.
  • Selflessness and selfishness both creates victims (like what I was explaining above in the temptations of Satan).  However, self-interest takes into consideration both myself and others and builds leaders.
  • Selfishness leaves no room for you. Selflessness leaves no room for me. Self-interest looks at we.

She explained that the word self-interest comes from the Latin words “inter” and “esse” which means “to be among”.  Basically self-interest could also be communicated as “self-among-others”.

Even Jesus wasn’t 100% selfless, at least not in our limited definition. Rather, He had a very clear purpose and self-interest.  There were times when people wanted Him to stick around and teach more or heal more or do more for them.  In our limited view, a “selfless” person would have given in and done what they wanted.  But He saw the bigger picture; He saw the other people that needed to hear of His love. He saw even at times His own need to get away and be alone with His Father.

This concept of self-interest doesn’t solve all my struggles with trying to balance “pouring myself out” (Isaiah 58) with “come away and rest” (Mark 6), but it comes a little closer.  I don’t deny self or others, but rather process each situation with God looking at the fact that I am constantly among others. God created me, and everyone, with the desire and need to be in relationship.  We need each other!  God also has a clear vision on our lives and as we seek to live our lives neither entirely focused on self nor on others, that path becomes a bit more clear.

One last story that seems to tie this all together. In Mark’s version of the feeding of the 5,000 we see some important context we don’t necessarily get in the other tellings. John the Baptist (Jesus’ relative) had just died. Jesus and the disciples were so overworked they hadn’t even had time to eat. He was leading them to what He thought was a secluded place so they could rest a while. They all knew some time away was needed, yet, when they arrived, a mass of people had ran ahead to meet them there. Tired, hungry, and grieving, this would have been the perfect space where we’d expect anyone to be a little more “selfish” and pull away. However, Mark describes Jesus’ counterintuitive response:

“Jesus saw the huge crowd as He stepped from the boat, and He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34).

He responded with compassion.

As the story continues the disciples tell Jesus the people are hungry and they end up feeding 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. While it doesn’t tell us for sure, when it says “they all ate as much as they wanted”, my guess is that the disciples and Jesus were included in the “all”. Sometimes God works this way too… He feeds us or gives us rest right in the middle of our being poured out. The disciples are so busy they don’t even have time to eat, and right in the middle of their work God feeds them. What a clear picture of  this concept of self-interest… “self among others”.

Also, just to note, after all of that was over, Jesus did sneak away and went up into the hills by himself to pray. We need both times but there might not always be a clear rule to follow when deciding which which. May we never stop wrestling, never stop being poured out, never stop drawing near and letting God speak into our lives! He’ll lead the way!

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Bekah's Heart

Exhausted Yet Pursuing…

It’s no secret that my summer schedule was a little crazy. (I mentioned a few of the big things in a post last week so we won’t belabor it.) As I “re-entered” to “real life” the last couple weeks (and keep moving into the start of a new ministry year), a phrase from a Bible verse in the book of Judges came to mind:

“… exhausted yet pursuing…” (Judges 8:4)

That’s how this whole summer has been… one thing after another and longing for rest while knowing God was calling me to press on. This phrase comes in a situation where Gideon is leading an army into battle after battle. One fascinating fact I learned is that in Judges 7:9 God tells them to go down into the enemy camp because he “HAS GIVEN” them the victory. It’s past tense. Victory was secure. YET, they still had to go down to fight… to live that reality and destiny. How easy it would have been for them to get discouraged in their exhaustion and give up. Instead, they pressed on to see the victory.

It reminds me a little of the book of Esther as well. At one point God, through her relative, calls Esther to make a bold move that would either end with her death OR with the rescue of the entire Jewish race at the time. When she hesitated at first, her relative basically said that God would rescue them with or without her, but perhaps God had uniquely positioned her to get to join in on His work. She could be part of something great, or not… either way God would save His people.

The same is true for me. God will do what God will do whether I choose to join in or not. But for some things, He WANTS to use me. He’s made some specific things clear over the past few weeks that were unique opportunities that I knew were chances specific for me to join in. There were other things I realized were things I didn’t need to take on or keep doing because they WEREN’T my things to do. Sure, I could do them and God could use me, but He also could and wanted to use others too. My job was to invite them in. Either way, He has the victory.

So whatever battles you’re facing right now. Whether it’s battles of busy schedules, health challenges, broken relationships, financial hardships, or something else, know this: God already has victory in those areas… so “go down” and fight. Yes, you’re probably exhausted… keep pursuing… keep pressing in… keep resting in the promise of victory until it becomes reality. Just like God sustained Gideon and his army, just like He sustained me through the insanest of summers, He will sustain you.

Bekah's Heart

Defragmenting My Soul

A week or so ago I posted on social media about how I felt like God was “defragmenting my soul” like someone might defragmenting a computer harddrive.

Caveat: I’m depending on my memory from a middle school science project to explain what defragmenting is so hopefully I’m somewhere close to making this understandable:

Defragmenting is a process of cleaning up the space used on a harddrive, getting everything back in the best place. For example if you save 10 things on your computer think of them as going one after another in a row. If you then delete the second, fifth, and ninth things, there is space now available, but it’s all spread out. When you go to save “file 11” it will start saving in second spot but may end up spilling over into the empty space from what was originally file five.

As we save, delete, add, and change files and programs over time, a computer starts to slow down. It takes longer to figure out where all the pieces of a file are in order to bring them up on the screen. Defragmenting pulls all the empty space to the end and puts pieces and parts back all together in sequence. (If you need a visual there’s a simple but great one here.)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that fragmentation really does happen in our souls and I felt it this summer. While there was often time (space) for the things that needed to happen, I was taking on and ending things at such a rate that my whole life just felt like like little pieces all over the place. Part of it was my work schedule: when one trip was over, Vacation Bible school started a day later. Six days after that I led a group of 19 on a trip to another country only to come back and help two high schoolers run a dance camp. All the little spaces in between were being used up to write grant proposals, prepare for the next adventure, spend time with family or friends, and occasionally get some sleep. Life was good. But life was fragmented.

Two Saturdays ago I didn’t have to be at work until later in the day and a slow-start morning began the process of pulling all the pieces together. I didn’t set an alarm and let my body wake up when it was rested. I spent some time in God’s Word while enjoying a warm chai latte on a cool morning. I had breakfast with a friend and then we walked around the neighborhood we were in, enjoying a waterfall, a farmer’s market, bright colored flowers and more. Leaving there, I joined another friend for a walk near her house. As I debriefed life with these beautiful friends and paid attention to the things right around me things started to come back into place. I returned library books and did a little laundry… more things back in order.

Over the course of the last week the defragmenting process continued. A day “off-the-grid” hiking and trying to camp (we got flooded out) gave my mind the mental space it needed to be renewed. Spending time with little kids restored some joy in my soul. An extra day off work brought at least a little balance to the last few weeks of overworking. Finding routines in the office and at home, cleaning, and doing laundry continued the defrag process.

There are times when God calls us to depend on His strength and do more than we think is possible. This summer was one of those times for me. Other times He calls us to stop, rest, and be renewed. He draws us close and defrags our soul.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG Paraphrase)

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Bekah's Heart, Devotional

CONSTRUCTION ZONE!!!

So there’s a common joke around here about how Buffalo only has two seasons: Winter … and Construction.

It feels especially true this year. Everywhere I turn another road is closed, a bridge is being worked on, or it goes down to one lane. It’s constantly changing in some spots and in others it’s just constantly closed. A few weeks ago my mom was visiting and we were trying to go to the library and to fill the car with gas. The two locations are each less than a mile from my house and yet it took us over an hour to run those two errands because of so many road closures.

You know those signs that say the road is closed except for local traffic? I have to drive past at least one every day just to get home. I’m the “local traffic” living inside the construction zone.

Lately, that feels true on more than one level.

As I stumbled upon even another road closure the other day I found myself pondering this even more. It’s not just life right now that feels like a construction zone… it’s some what of a constant state we’re in our whole lives.

Just because the potholes are fixed and the streets get repaved today doesn’t keep new cracks from popping up when a new winter of freezing, thawing, salt, and plowing comes through. Next summer the orange cones will be up again. Just because we find healing or restoration in our lives today doesn’t mean hard things won’t come and break us open again.

Another interesting thing is that the streets around my house were actually in pretty good shape. No, it wasn’t the roads that have caused me to live in a construction zone for over a month already. Rather, the giant sewer system that was underneath the road was in major need of repair. In order to fix it they had to tear up the entire main intersection closest to my house (and will eventually work their way down the road) in order to get at the issue underneath.

This too mimics life. Sometimes life actually is pretty good on the surface. However, I’ve found lately in my own life, that when I’m in a healthy and good place, God knows I’m able to let Him do the good hard work of digging up some of the things underneath that could use another layer of healing. It feels so wrong to dig up a perfectly good road/life when it seems it’s all going fine, but He knows that dealing with the problems underneath will actually make for a smoother ride.

What type of construction zone are you in right now? Where is God building, filling in holes, repaving, or perhaps tearing things up in your life? Where could you use some repair work?

As you ponder that, ponder this promise too: One day the construction will finally all be over, but God won’t stop until it’s time!

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6)