Battle of the Sexes…….

 

I asked Mom, not you!” she pouted.

Big brother slunk back into his seat. “But I was right, and Mom didn’t answer right away.”

But he was upset, and so was she. She felt imposed upon and he felt unheard and disrespected. Thus, one more picture of the battle between the sexes.

I could turn around and scold him for answering when she had directed her question toward me. I’d done that before. But, I figured out there was another way.

Why not ask my daughter to hear her brother out? It’s a good thing for girls to learn, early, not to shut a man down when he speaks.

My daughter didn’t know that her brother needed to be heard and feel valued. That he had in inborn desire to solve problems and feel wise. That when he offers his voice kindly, it speaks to his manhood when he’s heard.

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She had no idea, but it’s up to us mothers to teach our daughters what they don’t know. When we scold our son for withdrawing after not being heard, we are trying to fix their reaction while failing to see the trigger behind the reaction.

We can spend a life time scolding people, but we’ll gain less ground than when hear them out. 

When the daughter snaps at the son for answering, we should turn to her gently and remind her to hear people out, then request an additional answer from her mother. Perhaps she can apologize for snapping at her brother as well.

Mothers often look for ways to love on their sons, while missing many, many opportunites to show respect. But, many young males read love when they feel respect. It’s as vital as the air they breathe.

I want us moms not to parent in vain. Mothering is exhausting enough without having our best (and often niave) efforts unrewarded.

My youngest boy is great at problem solving. He has a detailed, nerdy brain, and I do not. Though he’s only eight years old, there are times when he fixes something for me. I use those times to thank him, tell him how great he is at fixing things,  how intelligent his brain is, and how he could probably be a doctor when he grows up.

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My little boy loves being hugged and loved on, but I can tell this speaks to an entirely different part of his brain.

This week I’ll be looking for opportunities to ask my oldest son for input. Perhaps he can research how to do something I need done, or help me choose a gift for a younger boy.

Daily, we can do things that last eternally. We just need to learn how.

And as for the daughter, she’s a whole other topic for discussion. But just briefly, she also needs to be heard. When she snaps at her brother for answering her question, she can be taught to hear him out, then request an additional answer from her mother. She could also ask her brother to wait to share his opinion until she’s received an answer from her mother.

Mothering is a constant dance between the masculine and feminine. But then, so is all of life. Welcome to the beauty!

Embracing Change……..

People asked me all the time, “Are you still writing?” and I looked at them with the answer, “Yes, but most of it’s tucked away because at least for now, it’s rather private.” 

Rather private” was the way I felt more and more. It was unusual for me to crave a small group of people on a Sunday morning over the usual large crowd, but some weeks found me in a small home church soaking up the solitude rather than my own church where I could worship extravagantly with a few hundred people.

I needed the quiet. My head knew it was okay, but my heart had a hard time catching up, because I knew I was called to something.

That call to something had led me to publish a few books and begin public speaking engagements. I thrived in it and my soul came alive because I was living out my calling. Then, a major crisis hit my life and I needed every moment to gather strength and wisdom just to get through.

That place was just as okay with God as the active places had been. Truth is, I was still active—but in other ways. Every day was spent earning money and taking care of my children. Days off were spent resting or rejuvenating.

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I learned to re-live what I had done for many years—be faithful in the moment, with no agenda other than loving God and others.

Because my children were home that day, I didn’t even go to our annual writer’s conference. Last year, I taught a workshop in it. This year, I resigned from the leadership team of it.

I had no extra energy to give, and they understood. But, was I okay with the quiet season?

I had always worked hard. Pushing myself was a life-style, a habit. I wanted to feel good about what the day accomplished. Then I had to learn to be okay in the stillness, because God was there, too, and He didn’t call me to make noise when He knew I needed the quiet.

Oh friends. We can gather satisfaction by living out our calling, but refuse to gain rest when God is calling us to stillness.

Every few weeks, I hiked mountains in silence, pondering life. Friends joined me who were okay with my season, and often, people messaged to share their own stories with me. The calling I had always known I had, continued.

Was I as okay walking women through their tragedies from a place of tears as I was from a place of accomplishment? Truth is, people need love more than they need to see accomplishment—and they just may feel safer walking a valley with you than feeling pulled to a mountain top by you.

I’m here to embrace each of my seasons and I’m sharing them with you so courage rises in your heart to do the same. I look back on my short life and realize this one thing—all good things rise out of faithfulness in small, every day matters.

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My books came out of embracing the urge to write. I was a mother of four small children, had no office, and no private space. Just a laptop (from a yard sale) and a heart saying yes to Jesus Christ. Just a few hands picking up my phone to jot notes down quickly when I couldn’t write immediately and there were words tumbling around my brain as I did the mom life.

The inspiration hit because I said yes to Jesus and listened in when He spoke. There was nothing big about it. Just many small acts of faithfulness for many years, then a “yes” when God let me know I’d turn it into a book.  

There was no striving to get somewhere or do something or be someone. Just a lifestyle of loving God and doing what He created me to be good at.

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The new season is another one of saying yes to God. Yes, I’m still writing because that’s what writers do. No, it’s not as glamorous and there’s a whole lot of pain in a story like mine. 

But in this quiet season, there is still that deep knowing that I’m loved by God, and I’m one of His favorites—as are each one of you, because God can divide His love, yet give each one of us ALL HIS LOVE.

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                                          Seasons change, but His love never will.

Embrace the quiet or the accomplishment because none of it matters as long as you’re embraced by CHRIST. 

Minimize Stuff, Maximize Christ

I shoved two more bags of “stuff” into the car with great satisfaction. There’s nothing as good as clearing the house of excess.

Minimalism is on an all time high. You get the look—crisp white walls with minimal décor and a few succulents gracing a shelf or two. Very different than the oldies look of stuff, stuff, and more stuff.

Just recently I turned old brown paneling into a crisp white wall—well, actually, a painter did–a  super kind one who didn’t charge me a penny for his labor. I sold old furniture and purchased new décor. The results were remarkable.

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I love minimizing.

Having less is great until we carry that over into kingdom living. In God’s kingdom, there is lavish excess and he wants us to tap into it, daily. But, it’s so easy to be frugal with our dedication to God.

Loving Jesus means abundance and passion, excess comfort in all circumstances, and care for every detail of our lives. And such a good God deserves maximum focus.

Americans often give Jesus just enough attention to “get into heaven”. But loving Jesus isn’t about getting to a place; it’s about knowing a person.

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When all you want to do is get to heaven, you’ll treat Jesus Christ like one of those lovely succulents on the shelf of your home, there to grace your atmosphere with His presence and make your life beautiful. But you won’t breathe deeply of the very essence of Christ as you go about your day and your heart won’t really vibe with the good news of being born again.

Words like “born again” will sound like foreign language. Who says that, nowadays?

You’ll feel like Nicodemus when he asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time in his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4, ESV)

Or, you’ll feel like I did today as I sat a little wearily in a large crowd, but warmth and excitement overtook my heart as the pastor spoke about really knowing Jesus.

Knowing Jesus is different than knowing how to be good. I know what it’s like to be a good girl, but have no peace. That’s because Jesus isn’t interested in my goodness; He’s interested in me seeing that I need His redemption.

I remember the day I realized that no one can be good enough for God, and I had this vile sin nature within me that even my outwardly good life couldn’t answer for. I went to Jesus Christ for his free gift of mercy, and found that the best day of my life came at the end of my own resources. I found mercy only when I realized I desperately needed mercy. 

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But I didn’t stop trying to be good enough for God. I had always, always, always tried to gain the approval of people by being good. And, I figured God would kick me to hell if I wasn’t good all the time. My efforts exhausted my heart, and  still I had little peace.

Then, Jesus showed me who he was. A beautiful, wonderful Savior who was more like a Father. An intimate Friend who was closer than a brother. A Lover who would love me unconditionally. Someone Who was always present, always available. Someone who wouldn’t rebuke me or point out my flaws unless it was met with equal mercy and forgiveness.

I fell in love with THAT PERSON, and there was nothing minimal about it.

I began to pray that God would maximize my love toward Him and all those He loves.

I want to be His hands, His feet, His heart in a world of brokenness and pain (of which I know much). 

I learned to have fun and live fully. I learned to laugh even when I was crying—because the joy of the Lord was my strength, and He gave me richly all things to enjoy. I learned that the key to living a sanctified life was being deeply in love with a sanctified Savior. 

You can’t be connect to Someone without becoming like that Someone.

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This is why, when others talk of church buildings, religion, and denominations, my mind draws a blank and my heart doesn’t resonate. Religion is nothing to me, but Jesus is everything. And sometimes, like He did, I find more love and grace with non-religious people than I do with those who line the pews of a stained glass church.

When they tell me, “I don’t know if I’m a Christian, but I do believe in God”, my heart (and sometimes my mouth) says, “Please make sure you know the person of Jesus Christ.” 

We can be minimalists with every THING, but not with every ONE. Jesus Christ is more than a sweet idea gracing our lives and making sure we get to a certain place; He’s a Person who wants to fill our lives and gift us with supernatural GRACE.

Gateway to Forgiveness…….

I still have that Edward Jones coffee cup in my house, that masculine looking one they gave me after catching those tears during lunch hour.

What does forgiveness look like?” I asked the pastor and his wife. “Because right now, I don’t even know.”

I wanted to forgive. But I also needed to process, and sometimes the process of processing is long, hard, and ugly.

In times of crisis, one may go from grief, to anger, to despair, and all the way back to grief again. It doesn’t help when well-meaning people tell you to “let go and move on” and that you’ll have a better life in a short while.

You didn’t want another life; you wanted God to fix the one you already had, but instead it all fell to flames and the devastation was so great that you didn’t know how to breathe,walk, or move. 

To the soul in crisis, grieving often feels okay, but difficult. It’s the anger part we don’t know what to do with. At least for people like me who were conditioned to believe that anger is sin, and avoided it at all costs.

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For crying out loud, I’d repent in tears if I let the slightest bit of edge creep into my voice when I spoke to my children on a bad day. I hated tension of any sort and wanted everything gentle, kind, and peaceful. But when my life went up in smoke with all kinds of ugly, I knew it was unrealistic to feel “gentle” and “peaceful” about what went down.

I began a quest to be real with my feelings, real with God, and real with humanity.

I realized that Jesus tipped money tables over in righteous anger when the Jews brought their marketing into His temple.

I also realized God sent His Son to die for every sin on the planet. Not only that, one doesn’t need to work hard to receive forgiveness like this. It’s a gift, one none of us deserve, yet all get to receive.

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Daily, I’m struck with the mercy of God and I’ve spent a life-time focusing on mercy. It appeals to my make-up and the way I want to live. But I’ve seen that one can only truly release and forgive if one grasps the fact that God is also a God of justice.

When I see that God holds justice in his hand and invites me to release all wrong to His control, I can truly forgive and release.

My God never said there was no vengeance; He said “vengeance is mine.” When I see that God holds both justice and mercy in a balance that I can’t even describe, I am able release the offender as well as the offense to a God who sees all and knows all.

God won’t just swoop down and force someone to change but get this, ladies who need intervention—He sees it all and knows exactly what to do when you don’t.

This sounds trite and we all think, “Of course He does, but that changes nothing for me right now.”

Broken soul, will you remember this with me: Your God knows when to render justice and when to give mercy.  He’ll give you wisdom when to speak up and when to be silent. Sometimes His justice speaks out strongly; other times His mercy waits quietly. He will show you what to do when you wait on Him. 

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I cannot, hard as I may try, change my circumstance. But seeing God changes everything, and I invite every broken soul to join me on this journey to healing where I’m finding life in hidden places and springs in driest desserts.

I’ll never forget that lunch hour in the office of Edward Jones where my friend handles finances with such expertise. I’ll never forget how she and her husband caught my tears over cups of mid-day coffee.

Because sometimes all we need to know is that we don’t have to know when to feel what, because God knows exactly what to do all the time.”

Let it go, and learn to live fully in the very moment you breathe. 

 

Peers, Praise, and People Pleasing…….

We’ve all heard it, “But Mom, every one else has them.”

How do you explain to your child that you really don’t care if everyone else gets the most expensive brand of clothing, and you won’t be buying those for her?

Public school can be cruel for girls wanting and needing affirmation. Not all of them can have perfect blonde hair, be a cheerleader, and wear Victoria’s Secret. And how to explain to my daughters that it’s perfectly okay, and they should reach out to lonely people on the fringes more than prance the halls with the hottest girls.

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As a thirty nine year old mother, I’ve been around the block a few times and I flat out don’t care about that shallow stuff. Sure, I love looking nice and having friends—but I don’t need name brand clothing and the most popular people to want to hang out with me.

The snap chats with shallow selfies weary me but they can grab our teen aged daughters with power that astonishes me. I’m not sure how under heaven vanity and shallow talk makes its rounds through thousands of followers, but it does, and can eat up hours of time.

Give me an authentic, real person any day. He or she can be eighty years old or ten years old, it doesn’t matter. Just let me see the real deal.

Perhaps that’s why I love tractors, barns, and mountains. Dirt and hay are the real deal. But, I also love Ulta, Bare Minerals, and LemonGrass Spa. Life can be a combination, like today when I ran around painting bathroom counter tops and smudged up walls before showering and having Starbucks with my sister.

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It’s not that we have to choose one type of person over the other; its that we get to choose all people in the name of love and humility.

It shouldn’t matter whether a person is popular or not, outwardly beautiful or not, what he or she does for work, or how many friends they have. Because get this—none of that matters to Jesus and He absolutely loves every single person on the planet long before they made any cultural advances or work status.

My sister who travels the world working in refugee camps, rescuing trafficked women, writing, and speaking is weary of the status platform people place her on. I see her face as she tells me of the friend who says, “I’m behind you now, and I won’t catch up.”

But what is there for her friend to “catch up” on? Absolutely nothing!

Jesus doesn’t operate with that mentality. He cares about whether or not we love Him.

You can’t catch up on how much you love Jesus because I don’t think that’s even a thing. Nothing else matters to God and it shouldn’t matter to you either. Because if you really love Jesus, you will put him first, obey him, surrender to him, trust him. He will cover you before and behind, lead you to all things good, and surround you with peace and purpose.

What more could a human want?

Get this, girls—we don’t need to be popular as much as we need to be prayerful.

We don’t need affirmation as much as we need to affirm our identity in Christ.

We don’t need human followers as much as we need to follow an eternal God.

It’s not fair to put anyone on a pedastool,” my sister says quietly. “It alienates people from each other.”

I nod my head. She’s right. It’s unfair to others, to ourselves, and it robs Jesus of his rightful place. Wasn’t it Him who said, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44, ESV)

Settle your heart, teen-aged girl who is tempted to lower her standard of worth to a pair of jeans or even worse, a pair of underwear. If others judge you for having or not having the best name brand piece, you may as well move on to deeper, more fulfilling friendships. Jesus wants your praise to come from Him, and he cares a whole lot more about whether or not you reach out to those he loves than whether or not you’re approved by a shallow group of girls who prance the halls together “looking great” in a certain peer group. 

And us adult ladies, let’s settle our hearts and quit putting so much stock in people. You’ll be disappointed and perhaps your faith will be shattered if the ones you praise, fall. No one is God and even the best of humans can fall.

Jesus cares more about whether or not they get back up again.

He cares about who they are focused on, what is most important to them.

Our culture is so opposed to God’s values that we really can’t focus on both. How can you truly love the poor while trying to measure up with the latest expensive item eyed by others who wish to “fit in”? 

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In the same way you can’t place your trust in people and in God. A person may fall but God will always stand. 

Let your child say, “But mom, every one else has them!” and simply remind her that value doesn’t come from a brand of clothing. Then show her true value by writing that check to your friends in Uganda while you purchase less expensive clothing for her.

Jesus always loves people. And the only thing He wants is for people to love Him back by loving others. Bless others more than impress others! 

“Be Yourself”……or Not??

I walked into the room, lamely late for my best friend’s party, and gave her a massive hug. She wasn’t offended because she’s the most gracious person in the world, and I soon breathed easier and joined the laughter.

I had planned on spending the afternoon walking the beach, shopping for her gifts, and arriving well loaded as all good friends do. But when another friend invited me up to the mountain ridges, I went.

There’s almost nothing a mountain won’t fix. Majesty and beauty, strength and wonder all in one. Exercise and a heaving of those muscles while the heart bursts over snow capped ridges and summer flowers.

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So, I went at a risk of time, paused to snap photos, and listened to my friend say, “You do you!” when I created sudden pauses in the hike because I just had to get that next photo.

Only healthy people will tell you to be yourself when it’s unhandy for themselves.

But later in the night, with the party dwindling and dishes washed, three of us girls sat at the table while heart sharing began to spill forth.

I don’t know why I can’t love myself,” she said. “Why are some things such a big deal?”

Her mom and I listened quietly before I spoke. “I don’t think we’re supposed to love everything about ourselves,” I said gently. “Some things God wants us to change, to work on, to dislike because we’re not doing what we should to be healthy.”

This feminine gospel that tells us to “Be You” at every turn can actually cause a lot of damage. A woman can spend the rest of her life telling herself that she’s beautiful and loved just the way she is, and that would be true. God does love us just the way we are.

But He also loves us too much to let us stay the way we are.

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Some things we’re supposed to dislike so greatly that we change how we are and how we live. For crying out loud sisters, none of us are so wonderful that every aspect of us is awesome. Why waste any more breath trying to prove to our brains what we already know isn’t true, when we are assured by Jesus Himself that the truth sets us free? This includes the truth of all things on all accounts. 

It’s just that we need wisdom on what to change and what to accept.

Right now, my muscles are sagging a little,” I told her. “I’m not going to the gym because I’m working almost every day and it takes all my energy. I can spend the rest of my years telling myself to love myself just the way I am, but my muscles will still sag and I won’t like it.”

But is that okay? Yes and yes!

What about the dark circles under my eyes? I can try to assure myself that looks don’t matter and those are fine—but I will forever hate them, and perhaps God wants to show me ways to de-stress even though I’m in a very stressful circumstance right now.

There’s a lot on my plate and I tend to run like a hamster on a wheel until I nearly drop over. Those dark circles could be a sign that Jesus wants to lead me to a place of rest and greater peace even in the midst of chaos.

I can run with grace or I can scurry with tension. Therefore, looking at myself in the mirror and vainly trying to shove the “truth” that “I’m ok just the way I am” could actually deprive me, keep me, hinder me from becoming who God wants me to be.

God loves me just the way I am, but He also loves me too much to let me stay the way I am. Perhaps some of the things I don’t like about myself are things God is using to show me He has a better way for me to live.

Let’s look at another example. (This one’s vulnerable, sisters.) I have never needed a size D bra, and have always moaned about the fact that someone could land an airplane on my chest and be just fine.

Does God love me just the way I am? A million times, yes!! Do I need to run off for a seven thousand dollar boob job? A million times, no!!

The thing is, girls, what does Jesus want to change and what does He want us to be at peace with?

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One of my friends is targeting her weight. She doesn’t like the added pounds and is making changes to her diet to shed them. She knows she could spend the rest of her life telling herself she’s loved just the way she is, and that would be true—but, she also knows that Jesus wants her healthy, and if a lack of wise choices is causing her body to wear down, He loves her so much that He leads her to better things.

Another friend talks about her smaller-than-wished-for chest. “I’d never spend thousands of dollars on a boob job,” she declares. “If some guy doesn’t like it someday, I’ll tell him to take it up with God because He’s the one who made me that way.”

I smiled. “That makes sense in every way,” I told her.

Accepting our physic is vastly different than destroying our physic, sisters. God may have given me a smaller chest but he didn’t give me an entire box of ice cream to stuff myself with at midnight while I balloon to 300 pounds.

Embrace true conviction; discard insecurity. Our minds are a battle ground and we get to choose which side we give energy to.

God doesn’t target anything for us without extending an invitation to us. Letting us “be us” isn’t the most loving thing for our Creator to do when we are harming ourselves. Therefore, this near-gospel of “Be Yourself” has a side effect that can be dangerous and full of bondage.

Our Creator God has good things in store for us. Loving Him is the key; not loving ourselves. Loving Him will cause us to be at peace with ourselves while simultaneously changing ourselves. It’s not one or the other—it’s both!

Our greatest healing comes not from embracing our lack, but from embracing God’s fullness to replace the lack. We won’t find the fullness if we coddle ourselves in the lack.

For the love of our Creator, for the love of our families, and even for the love of ourselves, I’m urging us twenty-first century women to take a second and broader look at what “loving ourselves” really is!

Reality Versus Illusion

As I was driving along, staring at the mountains, I pondered this lovely daughter of mine in the passenger seat.

She hadn’t wanted to go to counseling, but I knew she needed to go. My brain was so full trying to figure out finances and kids, plus deal with my own pain, that I almost did the easy thing to let her avoid this, hiding her struggles in silent brooding.

It was easy to get sidetracked and start living and breathing as if the natural life was all that existed. Survival mode can do that to a soul. Eat what goes down, read what pops on a screen, and work the motions of life while struggling to inhale the air necessary to survive.

I glanced over at the truck next to me, then looked up at the mountains ahead as I wondered why it’s so easy to get swallowed up by the world. The reality is we are spiritual people in a human body but tend to live as though we are humans with splashes of spiritual experiences.

Our spirits live forever, momentarily in a human body that will soon fade away, and, in fact, get older each day as our minds often struggle to embrace the inevitable fading.

Sisters, we won’t be here forever. Forgetting God while remembering the universe and its inhabitants is the greatest illusion we could encounter. Yet, we are so human that we want what we can see, feel, taste, and touch only with our mortal eyes.

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Our mortal eyes were created by an Immortal, All-Seeing Eye which looks over the face of the whole earth to see whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

In the God realm, our empty, survival-mode lives are meant to be filled. But it takes faith. Real faith, which is described as the “evidence of things not seen.”

Get that—there is evidence, but it is unseen. There is life which is not understood by mere human experience. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

There is life beyond this life, and we forget God when we allow ourselves to be swallowed up with circumstances.

When we live as though people can ruin us, we forget that there’s a God greater than people–and He’s always victorious. His word is final and it is always good toward us.

Evil will not triumph over good. The very same God who will judge all evil in the end also has the final say for our souls right now. In his light, pain must be healed, broken must be made whole, and our souls must find peace. He can do nothing other than GOOD!

Right now, no matter what, we can live in a better reality when our souls are connected to the Ultimate Reality–Jesus Christ.

Toss aside the illusion that people, places, and things have the final say over our lives. Live in truth, and we will be free. A created being always finds its greatest meaning in its Creator!

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My daughter fell asleep on the way to her counseling appointment. She didn’t want to go, but she left that room worlds better than when she had entered. We didn’t talk about it as she wanted her privacy, but we bought donuts and realized again that there are better things for us to live for, focus on, and give our lives to.

Sisters, He is a healing God, your Savior, alive and well, never dead, and never silent. He, more than your circumstance, is your Reality!