My Reflections

2021: Be the Fulcrum


As we usher in 2021, may we remember what truly matters.

So many are looking for 2021 to help us heal from what’s happened in 2020. Deaths of loved ones. Isolation. Lockdowns. Normal education having so many shifts. Fears in various forms. Faith and hope shaken up. Places shut down. Shortages and hoarding. Events cancelled. Places of worship shutting doors for weeks and months on end. Political unrest in ways never seen before. Racism and prejudices becoming harder to ignore. Loss of jobs, food, homes, relationships, and the list goes on and on.

I get it. I have faced a lot of that myself, as I’m sure you have, too.

There’s not a single human who can rescue us. God does all He can for us, yet we humans don’t make it easy. We never have.

We want life to get back to normal, while much of what was normal needed changing. Normal doesn’t exist.

We want masks gone. Not seeing full faces is not in our nature.

We want to hug and touch others. Humans crave connections.

We want to be there for our loved ones in the hospital or in adult care facilities. Going through hard times alone is not what we were meant to endure.

We want to gather with others for weddings, births, funerals and celebrations. Life milestones are important.

We want some sense of predictability we can rely on, after all of this. Yet, when was life ever predictable?

2021 will not erase the past and it will not entirely fix the world. However, each of us can do our parts and be the change this nation and world needs, be truly selfless and the best versions of who we each are meant to be in the time we have on this planet.

The best way to make 2021 a better year, involves all of us. May we do all we can to water those seeds.

We can each make the differences that are needed, making life easier for all. Each of us have purpose and it is those purposes within us that are parts of so many solutions. There is much to be changed, no doubt.

However, if we truly consider our fellow humans and other living creatures that inhabit the land, sea and skies, as well as the planet itself and our Creator, life in 2021 can be the turning point that can finally get us all on the right path.

By truly choosing to see others as humans who have their own burdens, we can have more compassion.

By truly listening to understand, rather than to have our say, we can have more empathy.

By giving of the resources we have to those in need, we can heal.

By trusting those who have proven themselves worthy and by giving the benefit of the doubt to others till shown otherwise, we can have more respect for others.

By seeking truth and not just trying to confirm our own conceptions, we can have better discernment.

By doing all we can, by valuing the lives of other, we can have more unity.

We are always a part of the equation. Each of us have more power to do good than most of us believe. Step out in 2021 and let’s do this, together!

While we head into 2021 in a matter of hours, reflect on what you have learned during this past year. Reflect on the good moments, because they also happened even if some were different than prior years, and learn from the bad ones.

While no year can fix so much, we can shift the trajectory too many of us have been on and begin moving into brighter days, weeks, months and years. We can leave a better legacy for those who come after us, rather than leaving behind more heartache.

May we all see the pandemic end or at least lessen to a huge degree soon.

Are you ready to be the fulcrum? Come join me and so many others. A shift is about to happen and we have plenty of room on the ride.

May we give, love, laugh, and enjoy one another more than ever before.

Let’s make 2021 the year we all begin to heal and help others to heal, because we seek to make our lives and those all around us the best examples of ourselves that we all need. When we are each on the other side of Heaven, may we truly do so knowing that we were “good and faithful servants” to all.

As we look in the mirror, may we each remember that today is a good day to have a good day, for us and for others. https://nikkibanas.com/

Healing comes in many ways. Seek and you shall find.

MY BLOG POSTS, My Reflections

WE ARE WALKING MIRACLES


After reading today’s blog post, know that miracles happen for a reason. Each one of us matter. May miracles awaken you to see how you’re supposed to change this world for the better.

During these pandemic times, it is easy to focus on all of the negative aspects of life. However, with Thanksgiving less than a week away, it’s normally a time when we stop and think of what and who we are thankful for, in our lives. Now, more than ever, this is needed on a more regular basis.

I’d like to tell you some parts of my story. While many believe in certain miracles, there are those who don’t believe a miracle can happen in their own lives. For that matter, there are those that try to explain miracles away.

However, I am a walking miracle.

At the age of 12, I began having severe allergies and asthma out of the blue, it seemed. It all began as I was walking home from school with a friend of mine. Towards the start, my breathing became labored and only got worse as we walked the mile to my home. By the time we arrived, she had been holding me up to help me continue on and I collapsed into the entrance and onto the floor, as my mom opened the door. Within a short time, I was in my doctor’s office getting injections immediately, as they treated me and having confirmed what was happening.

Within a year of that same time, I also received confirmation that I had scoliosis. After finding a specialist, I was able to see that my spine was a perfect backwards S, which now made all of my back pains make sense. The pain was often horrendous and limited certain movements, as well.

When life is out of our control, there is One who is far greater than us.

Having severe allergies and asthma limited me from being around certain animals and various types of environments. I couldn’t exercise very much, as it too would exacerbate the asthma. I had to avoid any part of stores with strong smells, especially the lower levels of department stores with all the perfume and cologne scents. Being even on the farther side of those floors would trigger my lungs to spasm or get worse. From middle school through adulthood, I had specialists for my back, as well as for the allergies and asthma.

Over time, I just learned to adjust and tolerate the back pains, no matter how bad they got. As for the asthma, I hated how often it debilitated me from doing ordinary things and struggling to breathe through what felt like an airway the size of maybe a coffee stirrer straw.

Then, the miracles.

In 2000, I was at church. The pastor was up front praying and so were all of us. Eyes were closed and many of us were standing. I was in my pew, next to my husband. Suddenly, I hear God clearly say to me, “I know you’re in pain, and I know you have had others pray for you, but have you ever asked me to heal you?” Incredulously, I realized I never had asked him for this, though I had believed in the power of prayer since my earliest of years.

So I prayed. Then, the miracle happened, as I heard clicking sounds within me as my spine realigned and felt my body jolt with the transition. With everyone’s eyes closed in prayer, no one appeared to have noticed, but I began praising God as tears came down my face.

I had my husband, other family members and close friends touch my spine once the church service was over so they could realize this great miracle. There was no doubt that God had done what I explained to them. Glory, Hallelujah!

As for the allergies and asthma, they continued. I had gotten used to seeing a specialist regularly and all I had to use to manage. I have always loved singing and while I managed being on worship teams at various churches in my life, it never occurred to me how much of a miracle my strong singing capabilities were, with the asthma as severe as it was.

I always chalked that up to various exercises I started and continued doing on a regular basis to maintain as much breathing capacity as possible every day, and most especially so I can continue singing. Little did I know what a great miracle it was to sing as bad as the asthma was.

Over time, I had accepted the fact, based on what specialists had told me that I would like not be able to have a child without dying in the process and most definitely without alert them should a pregnancy ever happen in my future. There had been so many complications within my body, from everything that there was little chance of me surviving something like that.

Through the years, I had even had several times when I nearly died. The worst occurred while I was at work. A situation occurred that caused the asthma to go into overdrive. Paramedics came, and I knew it was the worse situation I had yet to experience, since there were so many of them and so much they were doing to me.

One of those paramedics was the father of two of my former students who after my recovery, came to visit me, because something had been gnawing at him since that day. How was I still alive? I looked at him and asked, “What do you mean?”

That’s when I learned that with everything that was hooked up and connected to me, I should have died either at my place of work, on the way or surely by the time I got to the hospital. Every indicator showed that I had zero percent oxygen in my system and my body was shutting down.

Yet, I remained conscious, even making the get me paper and pen to communicate with them, so my things could be gotten for me and whoever ended up teaching my students would know what to do. He said that’s why we all seemed so incredulous that day, as well as quite scared.

All, I can say is that God performed another miracle that day. Little did I know there was a greater one to come years later.

On April 7, 2013 God healed me completely of my major allergies and fully healed me from asthma. By that point in my life, I was on several medications for the allergies, plus several inhalers for the asthma, along with an epipen. These went with me everywhere I went. I always needed people to know where these things were, in case of emergencies, because emergencies happened often enough to warrant it.

So on that day in 2013, God chose to do another miracle. From that day onward, I have only needed an over the counter help for minor allergies. All other allergies were gone and never returned. The asthma was a complete thing of the past.

No more specialists. No more multiple medications, inhalers, injections, nor any need for the epipen. In fact, I was given an opportunity once to get an x-ray of my back, to see what it looked like years after my spine realigned. To see my spine fully straight wasn’t necessary for me, but it was wonderful to see. The only signs of it was a minuscule curve at the base and the fact that though my growth plates had already closed when the scoliosis had been confirmed, the miracle also gave me more height.

God wants the best for us, even when we don’t.

Since those miraculous moment, I have been able to be more active. I can be around animals, grass being mowed near me without having to isolate myself, walking in any place I choose, being near trees of all types. I’ve had so many opportunities open up for me, with the results of those miracles.

These parts of my life are just part of what I have personally experienced in my life, and I thank Almighty God, my Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for every bit of what I know are miracles.

You may be thinking that I must have been granted miracles in my life, because of who I am. Trust me when I say that’s not the case. God performs miracles, because of who He is.

God loves and wants us to know Him, no matter who we are. While He performs miracle each day, many don’t notice them for what they are, some try to explain them away, but if you really think about the details of what occurred, there’s only one answer: a miracle.

Check out the YouVersion Bible app or open your Bible if you have one, and see all of the miracles God has already done. Those people lived. Even those who don’t claim Jesus for who He is, once recorded much of the miraculous events that occurred.

If you are reading this, you too are a “living, breathing, walking miracle,” as written and sung by singer Matthew West in the video below. Listen to what happened to this young boy and others, and listen to the truth of this song. What have you got to lose?

Isn’t it time to start dwelling on the good in our lives? With God, there is hope. True hope. There is good in the world.

Still feeling skeptical? Please take a listen to Colton Dixon’s song “Miracles” which also came out this year. I don’t believe in coincidences. But, I do believe in miracles. In this song, you’ll hear from a believer, who also finds himself in awe every time God does miracles.

I would love to hear about your miracles. It’s great to read about those done for others. This Thanksgiving season and as we continue living through these times, know that you are here for a reason. You are here with purpose. A good purpose.

If you ever want to know more about this God of miracles, I would love to tell you more. He loves you no matter who you are, what you’ve done or what you think of yourself. He doesn’t want to change your world upside down. He simply wants to show you how much more there is for you. Trust me when I say that there is far more to my story, and I know without a doubt that He lives, that He is real and that He is trustworthy.

While there is much in life we cannot control. He can.

My Reflections

BE THE CHANGE: Matthew 10:25-37, Mark 12: 30-31, John 3:16


Not to Act is to Act

Almost from the start of mankind, the existence of  evil and suffering have been a part of the human experience. While the faces and the circumstances may change, evil and suffering still persist. Watch the news and there is plenty of evidence of the horrific acts that have been happening in the Ukraine, the beheadings of Christians in Iraq or the fighting and killings in Israel, to name a few.

While these are indeed horrible, there are other acts of evil, of injustice, happening daily in our own country and world-wide. Sex trafficking is one issue many would rather ignore. According to F.R.E.E. International:

1)     There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in history, including the trans Atlantic slave trade

2)     Commercial Sex Trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world

3)     Trafficking occurs both internationally and domestically within the United States

4)     It is estimated that anywhere between 100,000-300,000 children are exploited for commercial sex every year in the United States

5)     The average age a person enters into prostitution in the United States is between 12 and 14 years old(SOURCE: http://freeinternational.org/the-issue)

There’s also the issue of the abuse and neglect of children by the hand of those who are supposed to love and care for them. According to Royal Family Kids, which serves abused and neglected foster children across the globe, “Annually, 3.6 million cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment are reported in America,” and “One of these victims dies every six hours due to that abuse” (http://royalfamilykids.org/about/our-history). Those are just the facts on the reported cases.

Actor, comedian and humanitarian Robin William’s suicide was another stark reminder that the hurting are among us. Many people put on a good face and say that everything is fine, when their lives are far from it. There are people going through domestic violence. There are people contemplating taking their lives, feeling there is no other way. There are people who wake up every morning wondering why they exist, because they feel worthless. There are those suffering from mental illness. Need I go on?

Unfortunately, we often ignore the obvious signs of the pain in others and the injustices that exist, because it makes us feel uncomfortable or we don’t realize that we can do something to help. What’s even sadder, is we don’t often even notice the pain and injustices around us, because people have learned to hide so much of it, recognizing that most people will sit by and do nothing.

Christians have been taught to serve, to love our neighbors, to get involved when we see someone in need.  Many who haven’t read Matthew 10:25-37, have heard of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  In a nutshell, those who should have helped a stranger who had been victimized walked by him and did nothing, while the most unlikely person stopped to not only help him, but to get personally involved.

Jesus Christ died for all. As John 3:16 tells us, ““For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  Notice that Christ died for ALL people.  He has and always will love ALL people, and yet, we don’t often do the same.

Love requires action.  Love goes beyond feeling.  Love sometimes involves us to get uncomfortable. Why?  Because it is not about us. It is about others, loving them, protecting them, serving them.

In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus reminds us, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” To love God is to love people. To love people is to act. 

As my pastor, Dr. Ryan Darrow shared on a Sunday morning, “The Samaritan could have made many excuses to not help, like the others. What area is God asking you to get involved in another’s life? It doesn’t always mean getting involved with an organization, but the person who we see every day.”

We so often feel more comfortable conforming to what others do, even when we know we have the means to help, which doesn’t always mean money. We can help with our skills, talents, knowledge, time, whatever we have and are.  What is right is still what is right. Our lives are meant to make a difference in the lives of others. We are called to fight for justice with whatever we have within us and whatever we have to give.

The Lord calls us to be involved in a practical way. As Pastor Darrow reminded us, “Our neighbors, [at home, school, work] are often metaphorically lying in a ditch hurting. What can you do? What is God calling you to do?”

We are His hands and feet. There are people dying on the inside. You are not where you are without a purpose, a purpose to change the world.

We are called to advocate on behalf of others. They are counting on us. We all know that change is needed. Be the change.

Want to talk with me more about how you can be the change?  Let’s join our efforts. Are you already being the change?  I’d love to hear about what you’re doing.  Let’s inspire one another to do what we were called to do.  May Jefferson Bethke’s latest video inspire you that darkness is losing.

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My Reflections

THE BONDS THAT DON’T BREAK: Romans 8:31-39


My Daughter's Mother's Day Gift to Me
Mother & Daughter Forever: My daughter’s Mother’s Day gift to me

I can think of very few bonds that are as strong as that between a child and her parents.  There is very little I wouldn’t do for my daughter, whether getting matching mother/daughter tattoos as we did this Mother’s Day, as her gift to me this year, or unhesitatingly dying for her, which I would do in a heartbeat.

While those may be two extremes situations, one thing I know, without question.  My love for her is boundless.  We are connected forever.

Even stronger than the bonds that tie my beautiful daughter to me, are the bonds that don’t break between our Heavenly Father and His children.  He is very much connected to us.

I know that not all of you may have experienced this sort of parental love, this sort of connection, this sort of bond. However, I know as clearly as I know how I feel about my daughter that my God loves His children without any hesitation, without any wavering, no matter who we are or what we do.

As Romans 8:31-39 reminds us, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I don’t know about you, but I take comfort knowing that absolutely nothing separates us from our Heavenly Father’s love.  That’s a true bond, one that cannot be broken.  God will eternally love us, ALWAYS!

Do you feel like you’re not good enough for God?  Do you feel like you have messed up so much that God would never consider loving you?  Do you think that God might care about others, but there’s nothing to love about you?

Those are common thoughts or feelings, but God isn’t like that. Just as a loving parent would never dream of turning her back on her child, there is nothing we can do to make God love us or to make Him not love us.  He just loves us, because He is love and He knows no other way to feel towards His creation, His children.

As 1 John 4:7-12 reminds us, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

One thing I want my daughter to always know, no matter what happens, is that my love for her will never waver.  It only strengthens with time.  Nothing can ever happen that would break the bond between us, because I wouldn’t let it happen.  I could never let that happen.

God speaks that over us, as well.  How, you may ask?  The Bible is a love letter to us, from start to finish.  It tells us, over and over again how much He loves us.  How desperately He wants to stay connected to us.

Having a hard time believing it?  I would love to chat with you.  Feel free to send me a message.

Want to rediscover that bond with Him? He has been by your side all along.  Just talk with Him.  You’ll quickly discover that the bond still remains.

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My Reflections

THE POWER OF YOUR LIFE: Psalm 139


appreciation

I have taught for 17 years of my life, and I absolutely adore what I do for a living. While I very much enjoy the subject that I teach, I enjoy my students even more. They always brighten my day, remind me of how important it is to serve others and to use our gifts, and they teach me so much more than I ever imagined I would learn, before I embarked on this journey, called teaching.

Over the last two weeks, or so, God has been so kind in showing me some of the impact I have made on my students.  Some showed me their appreciation through gifts, like the one in the picture, given to me during Teacher Appreciation Week. However, this week, four of my classes got to write letters of appreciation to any staff member in the school. While organizing those letters to distribute to my co-workers, I was overwhelmed to discover that a quarter of them were addressed to me.

Very humbling, to say the least!

In one student’s letter, I learned of the impact I had unknowingly had on her, during a very trying time in her life.  Another letter shared a variety of personal traumas she has endured for two years, and she credited me to causing her to finally overcome these traumas. Each letter was such a gift, as these precious teens shared pieces of their hearts with me.

I know that none of this is because of me, but because of Christ within me.  I sat in marvel, over the working of the Holy Spirit, with tears in my eyes, as I read one letter after another.

Psalm 139:1-18 says, Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LordYou go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence. If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”

Do you know what I see when I read that? God truly cares about us, has always cared about us, and doesn’t leave us. He sees us, even before anyone else ever did. That’s huge!  That’s amazing!

Honestly, I think that’s a big part of why “what” we do with our lives is so powerful. People want to know that they matter, no matter how old they are. They want, and more importantly need, to be seen, heard, understood.

As I read each of those precious letters, from my students, that’s what I heard speaking to me, over and over again.  You saw me.  You cared.  You went out of your way to go beyond teaching me the subject, and taught me about life.  You believed in me.

All I want to say in return to all of them is this. . .Oh, honey, I don’t just see you, hear you, care about you, and believe in you. God does! If I hadn’t realized that as a child, I wouldn’t be fulfilling my purpose, as I am right now.  Touching you all with His love. You are so very precious to me, because you’re precious to Him.

I encourage you, no matter where God places you, to be His hands and feet to those around you.  It may be an encounter with a person that lasts for just a brief moment, or you may spend years with these individuals.  But, live your life with impactful purpose.

We matter. Others matter, and they matter, because we matter to our Creator.

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My Reflections

MORE THAN JUST A GAME: Part 4 – Proverbs 4


Details matter.  Something else that I’ve learned, as I’ve worked on improving my game, is that details are extremely important in the game of golf. Wrong foot positioning, incorrect movements of the head, wrong analysis of angles, even if slightly off, will affect the entire trajectory of the ball and ultimately, your game.

We often go through life, oblivious to many of the details around us.  People can walk in and out of our day, without us even noticing. The emotions played out on their faces, evidence of who they are and what they’re going through, ignored.  The beauty of nature, art, and so many other things are too often replaced by our electronic devices and a myriad of other distractions.

The impact we are truly meant to have on one another, even if it’s only a small impact, may never happen.  Those seemingly small details can and do change the trajectory of a person’s day, and at times, a person’s life.  We often underestimate the influence our actions have on others, let alone ourselves.

That is a huge mistake, because it is no longer some game of golf.  When we ignore details in our everyday lives, the impact is one that ripples to those we may never meet.  Golf is fun, but life is important.  Don’t let it pass you by.

“Don’t look back at tomorrow and say you could have done more.” – a fire chief on “Chicago Fire”

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My Reflections

REMEMBER TO LEARN . . . DON’T REMEMBER TO DWELL – Isaiah 43:18-19, Philippians 4:8, Psalm 30:11, Philippians 4:13


 
If it is one thing we all have in common is that we are all vulnerable to pain. Some experience it more than others. Some experience it earlier than others. But we all know what it is like to hurt. As followers of Christ, if we allow Him to, He can use our past pains in marvelous ways, for His glory.
 
As a female, I know that it is very easy to dwell.  To dwell on our day, to dwell on our future, to dwell on our past. . .especially to dwell on our past! That is not always a bad thing, but too often, when we think about our past hurts, we stay in that place for too long. That’s when it can get dangerous.
 
The Bible tells us, in Isaiah 43:18 & 19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
 
When we think on past pain and ask God to heal us, that is beneficial. When we think on our past pain and ask God to show us how He can use it for His glory, that is called healing. When we think on the past pain and get stuck in a bad place mentally, and our emotions and thoughts can’t seem to move away from those moments in time, that is not where God wants us to be.
 
You see? While it is easy to dwell, when we do that, we begin believing we are living in defeat. We begin to feel like we haven’t moved forward, when we have already taken steps in that direction. There’s a reason why we’re reminded in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
 
When we think in those terms, then we begin asking God to turn our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11). We begin to praise Him for how far He’s taken us, since those moments, how much we’ve healed, as we’ve shared and given those pains and hurts to Him. We begin to realize that the truth is that God is doing a new thing in us, as we live for Him.  He’s doing things with us, that in those painful moments of our lives, we never thought possible!
 
Will there ever be a day when we stop getting hurt?  Not on this side of Heaven, but one thing is certain. With Christ, you can have the strength you need, to fully move forward  (Philippians 4:13). So, remember to learn from the past. Don’t remember to dwell.

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