Hey Stepmom, You Are Not Alone!

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We all need people. That need for fellowship with another has been placed there by the Creator since our beginning. For me, that has always been true. In fact, after my second divorce (yes you read that right), I remember praying in earnest and begging God to please take that desire away from me.

It wasn’t that I just wanted to be IN a relationship, I craved relationship. I felt so lonely. I wanted companionship and friendship, and to be able to connect and talk with others who understood. And satan was there to remind me constantly of how unworthy I was, of how I had failed miserably in not one but two marriages, and how I had dragged two children through the whole gauntlet of my messed up life. One day I confided in a church leader and he reminded me that “It’s not good for man to be alone.”  He told me to stop asking for something that God Himself had placed in my heart.

It helped me realize that it was okay for me to long for relationship and companionship but to seek only those that would bring me closer to Him, not farther away. And I have been blessed to have a husband who does just that. But I have continued to long for friendship and connection with other moms like me that are trying to navigate the difficulties of a blended family.

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The SOS retreat I attended was held at the beautiful Winshape Retreat center.

Recently, God gave me the opportunity to connect and begin lasting friendships with many wonderful ladies who all share a common bond. We are all stepmoms. I did so by attending a Sisterhood of Stepmoms weekend retreat. I honestly was worried at first that I would not find others who were in the same situation but I could not have been more wrong. There were moms of all situations such as blendermoms, childless stepmoms, stepmoms because they had married a widower, etc… We spent the weekend being ministered to, prayed over, and listening to messages of hope, encouragement and wisdom.

If loneliness and yearning for fellowship is something that you have struggled with or are currently struggling with, you are not alone! There is a sisterhood out there. Sisters that know what stepfamily daily life is like. Sisters who are riding the roller coaster of hills and valleys. Sisters who understand the sheer joy from a stepchild’s smile and the deep hurt of being unappreciated or misunderstood.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I encourage you to check out the links to the Sisterhood of Stepmoms and sign up for their upcoming SOS retreat this fall!

 

 

Hands Are For Holding

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Our hands are never empty if we are holding on to each other.

One year ago yesterday my son’s life changed after having decompression brain surgery for Chiari malformation. Well that is not exactly true. My life changed as well with so many blessings sprinkled with set backs and difficulties. One year ago hardly seems real. It feels like it really was just yesterday.

Just yesterday that I sat by his bed, holding his boyish hand in mine, while a heaviness of

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Holding my son’s hand after brain surgery a year ago.

worry and the faith that God the Father would take care of him wrestled for first place in my heart.  Thinking over how God had given me the honor of being his mom and the privilege of being there for so many moments in his life from the very first time he wrapped his tiny hand around my finger.

Then there really was yesterday. Yesterday I was actually sitting next to a hospital bed with the heaviness of worry once again wrestling with my faith. This time, it was my sweet dad. And I found myself holding his hand in mine thinking over how God blessed me with the privilege of being his daughter and how he has been there for me since

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Holding my dad’s yesterday before surgery.

the very first time I wrapped my tiny hand around his finger.

And it made me realize that in my family our hands are never empty because we hold onto each other. And in them I have learned how to encourage, support, and walk beside those that I love so much. Most importantly of all, I learned to place my whole life in the hand of the Lord Jesus.

It doesn’t matter what your family looks like or whether it’s considered normal, whether it’s blended or not, whether you have the word “step” in front of mom or not. What matters is holding onto each other. Making memories every chance you get and deciding that no matter what you’ll never let go.

Thank you daddy for teaching me how to hold on to the gift of family with one hand and our Heavenly Father with the other.

A Mom’s Prayer For The New Year

2 Kings 25:29-30

29 “So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, 30 and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, as long as he lived.”

Last year we celebrated the rolling in of a new year with our children. We laughed. We drank sparkling grape juice (both red and white). We did sparklers and fireworks in our back yard. And when midnight came, we knelt in our family room and prayed together. And God blessed us so much this past year. It was not without many difficult times. It was not without many happy overflowing moments either.new blog picOur celebration was much the same and completely different! It was just my husband and I together. We got delicious take out from Outback. Snuggled and watched a movie. Made a few fireworks of our own. But when midnight came, we knelt in our family room and prayed together. We prayed for each other. We prayed for our three wonderful children, calling each by name. And we prayed and claimed the verses that I shared, for God to give us just what we need each and every day. Simple. Powerful. Believing.

This is my prayer for you and me in this new year. May it be Simple. May it be Powerful. May it be filled with Believing. Believing that the Lord Jesus gives us just what we need for each new day!

 

 

Are You Having A Moment?

This Christmas was filled with lots of moments for our blended family, wonderful boring moments and I couldn’t be happier with that. Yes you read that right. I did say boring and I did say happy. This Christmas was very mellow. We carried out our yearly traditions. Made memories and visited a few new places together to make new ones. We even managed to sneak in a “pajama day” at the request of my sweet stepson just a few days before Christmas. We celebrated with family and shared lots of laughter. The darkness, the worry cloud that sat on my shoulder last year was gone. So like I said, boring, and grateful for it.

Luke ChristmasLast year, as many know, just before Christmas, we learned that our youngest son was going to have brain surgery for Chiari Malformation at the first of the year. So the holidays were consumed with big moments, such as staying strong and not letting him see how utterly scared I was. Moments like hiding how worried I was that this might, just might, be our last Christmas with Luke. Lost in thought of how there is no cure and what if something goes wrong during the surgery and he isn’t the same. Moments while among all the holiday gift shopping, I was searching for pajamas to fit a ten year old that buttoned down the front. And when finally finding some complete with a star wars theme, a moment when I could barely see my way to the cashier for the tears as I imagined when he would have to wear them while having to deal with doctors, nurses, medications, pain, and anxiety.  However, in those moments surrounded by all three kids, wonderful family, our amazing church and supportive friends and community God chose last Christmas to be one of the best we have ever had!

And from last Christmas to this Christmas God has felt so close. His perfect peace was truly a key to surviving all the moments we faced. Life has been rapid, busy for me this year. Writing, homeschooling, volunteering and Bible study classes have consumed me. In fact I’ve realized that the only thing I haven’t done much of is take a moment for me. blog post 3

It got me to thinking how moms like me give so much to every one else. A few months ago I had the privilege of writing a book endorsement for a fellow “blendermom”, Kristie Carpenter, and it was published in her latest devotional book Blended Mom Moments.

It is filled with weekly scriptural devotions interspersed with stories and nuggets of wisdom. I am really looking forward to diving into this book and spending some time with God. He really wants to spend time with you, minister to you, shepherd you and speak to your heart. I’m reminded of the words of the song What Do I Know Of Holy, by Addison Road, “I tried to hear from Heaven but I talked the whole time…” Sometimes we just need to stop talking in order to hear God speak to us.

Psalm 46:10a, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

This new year I encourage you to stop. Put your feet up, savor a nice cup of coffee and have a moment. Have a moment of quiet, a moment of prayer, a moment of renewal. It will strengthen you during life’s big moments!

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

blog post 2*You can purchase a copy of “Blended Mom Moments” Signed Copy Here and Amazon here. I have also had the privilege of getting to know Tara Furman, founder of Knowing God Ministries. I purchased her “Intimacy with God” which truly changed my prayer time years ago. Click the link and go to resources to learn more.

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Why Purple Sometimes Makes Me Cry

My Son Chiari WarriorSeptember is Chiari Malformation awareness month. To be honest, I didn’t know there was such a month until my social media began to fill up with purple. So I began to look up quotes and things that I could post on my sites in order to bring awareness and as I was pondering this issue a flood of emotion began to squeeze my throat as I really reflected on just what Chiari has taught me.

Chiari Malformation is what my then ten year old son, Luke was diagnosed with just one year ago. Chiari turned our world upside down. Chiari was a game changer. Chiari taught me just how strong a mother I really am. Chiari taught me about the warrior heart my little boy has inside of him. Chiari has shown me just how much the Lord Jesus loves not only my son but how much He loves me.

The color purple typically stands for invisible illnesses and conditions that can be debilitating or even fatal with no cure. Invisible illness meaning a person painfully hears the words often uttered “he/she/you don’t look sick” or show outward signs of the battle raging inside their body.

Purple. Invisible illness. What no one sees.  Like when my son was diagnosed and suddenly reality got very real. Invisible illness. Purple. As my spirit began to fill with fear as I read all the possible neurological problems that can come with this monster. Night time was the worst for me. Purple. Invisible illness as in no one knowing how I would tuck Luke in, hug him tight and every time I turned out the light and walked out of his room I felt I was leaving a dark presence hovering over him named Chiari. Invisible illness and purple as in no one seeing from the time he was diagnosed until his surgery, night after night I would set my alarm every few hours to get up to check on him because Chiari can block the CSF flow and not send the signal to tell my sweet little boy to breath or not tell his heart to beat. Words can’t describe how my feet, so burdened with fear, would walk me up to his bed heart pounding for what I might find.

IMG_20150203_055813668But here is the twist…Luke, after the initial fearful reaction to learning of his diagnosis and impending brain surgery slept with a peace that I had never seen before. (You can read my post here: How to tell your son he’s going to have brain surgery without exploding into a million pieces.) 

Because for him what I saw as purple, invisible illness, a monster named Chiari; he saw God. God turned our world upside down. God was a game changer. God showed him just how strong a mother he has. God showed him the warrior heart he has inside of him. God has shown him just how much He loves him and how much He loves me and has done it all through Chiari.

Now the color purple has taken on a whole new meaning to me and yes it causes me to cry. Not because he has Chiari but because it reminds me of the warrior spirit of faith and the power of prayer that has grown from Chiari; grown in my family, in my son, in me. Purple reminds me of the absolute power, the incomprehensible grace and God’s perfect plan that although is not always understandable but will always make us all the better for it.

Psalm 138:3 and 138:8 “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.” “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”

blog chiariMy son Luke feels better than he has ever felt since his surgery. It breaks my heart how he must have suffered before being diagnosed, when we were told he was just dehydrated. Please help share and spread awareness about Arnold Chiari Malformation. Someone you may know and love could be suffering with this and not know. For more information on Chiari and how to help:

http://asap.org/index.php/disorders/chiari-malformation/

http://www.conquerchiari.org/index.html

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chiari/detail_chiari.htm

Disclaimer: These images and links are used for the sole purpose of awareness and information. I am not receiving any monetary gain.

What Are You Doing With Your Little?

Photo taken at Chatlos Memorial Chapel.

Photo taken at Chatlos Memorial Chapel.

We have all gone through seasons of change; seasons of fear; seasons of testing; seasons of forgiveness; seasons of miracles. My emotions have been all over the place since going through so much with my son as well as other things that have popped up in my life. I have had to take a step back from writing and other things, pray, and regroup. I have been feeling God pulling me to venture out of my comfort zone and serve Him in different ways than I have in the past, particularly speaking publicly about some amazing truths and scriptures He has revealed to me.

My husband and I heard Pastor Jimmy Evans speak a few months ago about obedience and serving God. He explained that we go through certain trials in our lives so God can see if He can trust us; to see if we are ready for bigger things. He explained it this way, “God will not give you more than you can rule over. God lets you make big mistakes in a little room before He opens the door to a bigger room.” I have always heard sermons and teachings on placing my trust in God but never really asked myself, “can God trust me?”

Matthew 25:21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “

Luke 16:10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.

So lately I have been asking myself what kind of a servant am I and how am I growing and learning to better be the woman He created me to be? God has given me a message but am I willing to take that step of faith to share it? After giving it some thought, I called my dad. He pastors a local church and talked with him about speaking on Sunday morning. He was reluctant to do that but offered me Wednesday night. It took me back at first. Thoughts like “Lord, you’ve given me an amazing message and I am bursting to share it! Why not let me share it to a larger audience like Sunday morning? Why not open that door?”

Then I remembered the sermon and the scriptures about God giving you rule over little before He allows you to rule over big. My heart was convicted. I called my dad back and told him how honored I would be to share and speak at the Wednesday night service. So tomorrow night, I am taking that step of faith into what may seem like to some as the little room. I am going to trust Him and if only one person shows up, I will pour out my heart to that one person in obedience to the Father. Praying with each small act of my obedience to go in the direction He is guiding my heart, he will open another door. The more I am faithful;  the more I lean into God, the more He will trust me and give me more opportunities to serve Him.

So my question is what are you doing with your little as you are waiting for your big?Blog little

An Open Letter To My 16 Year Old Daughter

DSC_2000My daughter is very active in youth leadership at our church. I am proud of her for serving and getting involved. I see her growing and cultivating her talent of compassion; learning to place others before herself. This past weekend, she attended a conference and the parents were asked to write a letter of encouragement or prayer to be given to them during one of their devotional sessions. She gave me permission to publish the letter I wrote to her in hopes that it will help others.

       To My Sweet Girl,

There is a poem in one of those books I love to read by Grace Livingston Hill that I want to share with you:

“Charge not yourself with the weight of a year, child of the Master, faithful and dear.

Choose not the cross for the coming week, for that is more than He bids you seek.

Bend not your arms for tomorrow’s load, just leave that to your gracious God.

Daily ONLY, He says to thee, ‘Take up thy cross and follow me’.”

It means to focus on serving Him today and no more. We all have our own cross to bear; have our own personal struggles. God gives you daily what you need. “Charge not yourself with the weight of a year” means don’t take on a year’s worth of burdens, don’t take on the hard times, the “what ifs” and the “what might happens” that are later on down the road. Live for Him for today. Live in this moment. Serve Him with all your heart today. Don’t pick up the cross of the coming months. Today is hard enough, so live and be just for today.

2 Kings 25:30 (ESV) “and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, as long as he lived.” See, you are a child of the King. But, you are so much like me, beautiful girl, that you tend to either focus on looking back at the mistakes you’ve made in the past or the mistakes or bad things that may come in the future.

So that’s why I am telling you this with all the love I have in my heart:  Let go of the past and do not try and take up your cross (your burdens) of tomorrow. Just live, love, serve, and embrace right now, today.

                                                                                                I love you beyond words,

                                                                                                                Mom

Have You Ever Asked Yourself, Why Pray?

IMG_20150202_174620018The last few weeks have felt like an emotional month for me. Luke had his decompression surgery Monday, Feb 2. Leading up to that date, I had spread the word all over social media for anyone and everyone to pray for him. I received messages and comments from Chicago all the way to New Zealand; so many, even many I have never met, said they had heard what we were going through and were praying. What an immeasurable comfort to my soul to know that hundreds were going to God the Father on behalf of my son and our family.

Luke’s surgery was February 2. As I helped him slip into the hospital gown in the pre-op room, surrounded by the sterile antiseptic smell of the hospital, the moment I had dreaded for weeks weighed down my movements. The moment that played in my head over and over again in a tortuous spiral. It was the moment when they would come and wheel my little boy away and I would have to say goodbye, let go and place him into the hands of the medical team.

I often asked myself what would I say? How do you express in words a love so utterly and achingly deep that words cannot begin to touch? What if something happens and he doesn’t come back my sweet little Luke? The Luke that can do amazing impersonations of characters on TV and in movies and send us all into peals of laughter. The Luke that builds and creates with Legos for hours and comes out with a Lego restaurant complete with grill area and bun warmer. The Luke that writes in his devotional journal about his understanding of the Savior and this deep love for God that is very rare for a ten year old. The Luke that prayed for all the ones that have been praying for him saying that he knew they too have struggles. He asked God to bless and encourage them just as they were blessing and encouraging him through prayer.IMG_20150202_143756345(1)

That dreaded moment came. I looked down into his round blueberry eyes, and unsuccessfully choking back tears, I kissed his soft cheek and told him how very proud I was of him for being so brave and that I loved him so very much and with a wet smile I told him I would be right here when he got back. I will not lie. It was really hard for me to watch them wheel him around the corner and out of sight. But in that dreaded moment, I felt God nudge my heart and remind me that He promised Luke would never be alone. My spirit felt so much comfort in being reminded that my wonderful Lord goes with my children where I cannot.  Deuteronomy 3:16 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Luke walking the PICU on the morning after surgery.

Luke walking the PICU on the morning after surgery.

Luke went through surgery with no complications. He had some pain but his recovery is nothing short of phenomenal. He was walking the next morning up and down the PICU with his physical therapist. His PICU nurse said she had never seen a child do so well and recover so quickly. They moved him into a regular room after therapy that day. And the next day, just 2 days after brain surgery, the neurosurgeon released him to go home.

So now my thoughts turn to prayer. Actually, my thoughts go to all the numerous prayers that were prayed over my son and my family. I am finding it hard to put into words the emotions that bubble up in my heart when I think about it all. I know that there has been so many times when I felt that no matter what I prayed, that my words were not heard and that they went no farther than the ceiling.

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Luke visited the play room at the children’s hospital just one night after decompression brain surgery.

I don’t have all the answers of why. Why do these things happen? Why pray? All I can say is God used it all. All the prayers touched me and encouraged me that people do care. All the prayers touched Luke because it showed him he really does matter. And seeing Luke recover so quickly and miraculously touched all those that prayed that God really really does hear and answers in a way that no one can say it was done by human strength, but to show His glory, His strength. And so I will continue to pray. Even when I am not “feeling” it. Even when the words don’t seem right. Even when God’s answer is different than my wants. Thank you so much Father God that it is truly not my will but Thy will.

How Do You Tell Your Son He’s Going to Have Brain Surgery Without Exploding Into a Million Pieces?

Luke meeting his baby cousin last year.

Luke meeting his baby cousin last year.

The house is quiet, really quiet. Every one is sleeping in on this rainy Saturday morning….everyone except me. I don’t feel like I’ve really slept since October. Since my son, Luke (I affectionately call him buddy) was diagnosed with chiari malformation. Words like “incurable”, “brain surgery”, and “severe pain” seem to be bouncing around as soon as my head hits the pillow, along with slight shock and disbelief. Wow! How did we get here?

I keep thinking back to the day when we learned Luke was going to have brain surgery….I got the call while Luke and I were riding home from another appointment. I remember we were singing and laughing when the neurosurgeon’s office called and told me that his test showed a significant flow reduction and we needed to come in and get him scheduled for decompression surgery.
My mind began to reel. My breath caught in my throat. I guess the shock of it all kept me from bursting into tears. I robotically went through the motions of scheduling the appointment but my knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel so tightly. I turned to my handsome little man next to me. How do you tell your child that they need brain surgery without exploding into a million pieces? I sent a prayer for words of wisdom and began to calmly explain to him what was happening.

“Luke, do you remember how we have prayed and prayed that the surgeon would have God’s wisdom in knowing what is best for you? Well, God has answered our prayers Buddy.” He looked at me briefly as I saw understanding creep into his blue eyes. “He thinks I need surgery, right?” “Yes buddy.” He immediately burst into tears as that understanding was replaced by fear. “Luke, it’s ok to be scared and worried and cry. You might see mommy cry too, but we are also going to thank God for answering our prayers. It may not be the answer we want but I know He is going to take care of you and guide that surgeon’s hand. We are going to get you through it one step at a time and then we are going to praise and thank God and give Him the glory for answering our prayers and being with you through it all.” He slowly nodded as I watched him brush the back of his hand over his eyes trying to fight back the fear and the tears.

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When we got home, instead of turning on the TV, he ran straight for his room. Trailing behind him, I walked in to see him drop to his knees by his bed, clasping his hands in prayer crying. He was saying something over and over but I couldn’t understand so I went closer and sat next to him. “Thank you. Thank you.” He was whispering between gasps and tears. He then reached around to the back of his head with his small hands and began to pray and beg God to give him strength to make it through. It was one of the most precious and heartbreaking moments I have ever known. I let the tears fall quietly down my face as I prayed beside him and let him pour out his heart to his Heavenly Father. Oh!! The strength and faith in that little boy was astounding! I briefly thought of the verse in Matthew 18:4, “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I gently pulled him up and into my arms. Drawing all my strength I said, “Luke, like I said before it’s ok to be scared and cry, but let’s wait until it’s time. You are not having surgery today or next week. We are going to enjoy the holidays and spending time together with family and we are going to pray until then. He has been with us so far and He will continue with us every step of the way. Let’s worry when the time comes.”

Well that time is now fast approaching and in a week my little guy will be going in for surgery. I am having a hard time with it. As a Christian mother I know that God is honestly truly with us. I have never felt His presence more than I have since all of this started; felt a peace in my spirit that I can’t explain. (Philippians 4:7 “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”)

But as Luke’s mommy, I am heartsick and terrified. My worries and fear seem to sit on my shoulder and threaten to drown me. I honestly do not know what I would do if I didn’t have the Lord giving me strength. My emotions are all over the place. And my sweet little Luke;  I can’t hug him enough. I can’t kiss his head enough. I can’t thank God enough for giving me the unspeakable honor of being that little guy’s mom. Of having the honor of comforting him, holding him and guiding him through this life.

There is that peace again, stirring up in soul, creeping up into my spirit and touching every corner of my heart. I will allow God to continue to guide me because He is allowing me to guide Luke. And I whisper just like he did between gasps and tears, “Thank you! Thank you!”

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When You are So Overwhelmed, There are No Words

rock blog photo 2I haven’t posted in a while. My emotions have been so overwhelming that I literally have had no words to describe them. Which I’m pretty sure is bad for a writer. Words, for me, have always been an emotional outlet; expressing and processing my feelings; a way to scream while remaining silent. Lately I’ve been drowning in fear, worry, shock, determination, and focus with no way to get an extra breath except…….One.

Romans 8:26 “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (NLT)

It is so much comfort to me that as a child of God, I don’t have to find the words. I don’t have to articulate the storm inside my heart, the raging in my mind. My Heavenly Father knows.

He is my comforter. 2 Corinthians 1:3 “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.”

He is my strength and my help. Psalms 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”

He is my hope. Psalms 71:5 “O Lord, you alone are my hope. I’ve trusted you, O LORD, from childhood.”

He is my rock. 1 Samuel 2:2 “No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”

My previous post was about my son. The tests results have come in and we met with the neurosurgeon last week and my little guy will be having decompression brain surgery at the end of January for his chiari malformation. As I have said before, I am so grateful that this has been found while he is young and has not had to suffer, but I have also, as a mom grieved for my son. My heart has ached for what he is facing. I have cried out of fear of the horrible spiral of “what ifs” that could happen.

I don’t want him to go through this. I am scared about so many things but it has been during this time that I have felt God’s closeness more than ever before; His presence touching every aspect of our life; our Comforter, our Strength, our Help, our Hope, our Rock.

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