Tag Archives: mental-health

The Site of Your Next Miracle

I’ve proved it. Your problem can be the site of your next miracle!

The last two mornings I’ve awakened flat and empty, with a dark, drab attitude. This morning it was 1:30, so it made sense–I was afraid I wouldn’t go back to sleep–with a full day ahead. But yesterday there was no reason for it.

I hate feeling like that! Often I wake up with praise music in my head, but if I don’t, negativity is soon there. I have chosen not to worry about it, but to get up and spend time with God. I’ve even decided to be like a child, “Can I stay up with you?” or even better, “Hey, can we stay up all night?” Why not get excited and be audacious? I’m writing Exodus now, and Moses was with God on the mountain top 40 days and nights twice, with no food or water, and probably no sleep! He didn’t need it. God’s presence is amazing and sustaining. Moses’ face was so bright when he came down they could barely look at him! I understand this is different, still…

This morning made two downers in a row.  After my positive choices, to wake up flat and empty carries guilt now. It isn’t “just the way I am” anymore, it feels like missing the mark–so I guess it’s more  like shame–not good enough. I used to come into God’s presence any old raggedy way, but now I want to come with rejoicing. But it wasn’t possible this morning. Or so it seemed.

So I sat in his lap and told Him I was sorry and to take over my mind. It was ok, I prayed for people, but still no rejoicing, pretty much flat still.

I turned to my devotional–this year My Utmost for His Highest. It was about sacrificing your right to yourself or to do it your way. Think Abraham–Thanks for the promise God, I’ll make it happen by having a baby with Hagar.

I can get so caught up in things not happening my way! Or not happening at all. (OR happening my way! A few days ago it was two bad spontaneous faux pas! It’s been a rough week.) It could be spiritual opposition because I’ve been writing about God’s law, and while I think it is awesome, amazing and positive, the rules and details can get challenging when you’re trying to write it as a story and I suppose the dark side saw their advantage therein.

Anyway, the miracle is I saw myself. That is still the biggest miracle of all–to see yourself as you really are. It’s usually very painful, but it’s good pain–healing. This time it wasn’t painful; it was relief–like Oh yeah, it must be me, because You are Joy. Why can’t I be continually joyful like You are? I choose Joy. I give up my right to feel bad. You allow things to be challenging in order to move me where You want me. You couldn’t lead Israel out of Egypt in peace because they didn’t want to leave and Moses wasn’t ready to lead Your way. Make me ready! Let me trust You and your leading!

And after that there was joy all day! A full day on only three hours of sleep!

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15 Ways to be Happy During Trying TImes

Exercise–get your blood moving.

Sunshine–changes your mood and elevates Vitamin D (especially important for depression) 15-20 minutes a day on large skin areas–arms, legs, back, or face (If you’re in cold country take a supplement).

Enjoy one thing–switch tracks, get out of the “aint it awful” groove.

Make good stick–Spend 10-30 seconds on something positive to anchor it in your brain.

Ask a question–Is what I think true? Really? Do I KNOW it? Or am I imagining or being a “mind-reader”?

Put bad in Perspective–in 5 years…in 10 yrs…will this matter?

Change your Thoughts–Your brain can only hold one thought at a time –let go of the negative and find a good one.

Take back your power–Choose –Change your attitude.

Smile–It changes your mood.

Breathe–7 seconds in, 7 seconds out–for 20 minutes. Doing this daily can change your life. It’s the #1 antidote for stress.

Plan time with a Friend/Make a friend.

Try something new–learning is positive and gives new perspective.

Get a Relationship with God–all you have to do is ask.

Spend time alone with God–meet Him in your living room, nature, Holy books.

Pray–talking to God always works if you are willing to learn to live in faith.

 

 

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People with Edges and Corners

I think this describes me. I grew up thinking self-protection was a good thing. It’s not. I know a lot of you reading this are surprised. Just like I was when I read it in Matthew. I was over 40–that’s a real late bloomer.

My husband and I were laying in bed the other morning, snuggled up after reading our two chapters. He said, “This is precious time.” And I agreed. “It takes off the rough edges and corners,” I said. He agreed. We are both those kind of people. Have both admitted that we deserve each other. We’ve been forced to look at ourselves and admit who we are.

People who grew up afraid to get close. Maybe not to the extent of Narcissists, but still afraid enough to duck into corners of hiding. Shame causes that. And it’s mostly tone of voice that causes shame. If you were parented with it, you know what I’m saying. It leaves the feeling that you didn’t do it right–can’t be good enough. (Now I turn inside out when I hear shame tones used on my grandchildren. I can hardly keep my mouth shut.)

Or we put edges in our conversation. Maybe because we weren’t encouraged to build others up, or feel safe enough to risk kindness. Edges tinged with sarcasm, jokes that are hurtful, a shaming tone of voice. It’s not that we mean to, it’s just natural to communicate that way. And our sense of humor was built around put downs. We can be very funny at each other’s expense. But lately we can receive the other’s confrontation and apologize. We’ve had a lot of unlearning to do. I think everybody does. Except maybe people who were always taught to be nice. That’s another issue if you were made to be nice and couldn’t be honest. We were skilled at keeping people at arms length.

Arms length doesn’t make for good relationships. Scared to get close. What are we afraid of? For me, it’s being made fun of. Ridicule will cork me. For him, it’s being left. That’s a common one. For you, it might be not good enough, that’s another common one.

Learning how to be people who can live in love is critical to liking your life.

It’s God’s way, and They worked it out so we can unlearn our programming and choose Their better way. I say They because I believe God is relational above everything. One being doesn’t make sense to me. One position filled by three, who learned to live in love and chose it as the basis of Their government, makes sense. Some of you are offended that I said They learned to live in love. One thing we do know about God is that before we knew evil, They did. So at some point They chose. Now we are learning to choose. It’s not easy. It’s painful to look at yourself and admit that you fail, or that your good intentions cause pain. But people get divorced because they don’t look at themselves. They are afraid to.

So it is very good news that we can choose and change. That admitting fault is not fatal, and failure is not final. Forgiveness is God’s state of being, and They give it to us for asking for other people. It isn’t natural to us but it is to Them and They love to share. Love will be the norm again. It will even be the only attitude we have. Our sorry state of being will be renovated. Thank God!

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We’re Losing Gentleness

I had an awful experience last week that has haunted me. I didn’t like my reaction or the policeman’s, and it has made me wonder about our society.

I went to the post office and decided to take the other way home which put me into a detour. I turned at the first place I could and saw a line of cars coming the other direction and so figured I was past the problem. Several cars followed me as well. It was a neighborhood street and when I reached the turn to the main street their were cones which I went around. (My first mistake.) A tall red-faced policeman standing across the main street I wanted to turn onto started bellowing at me angrily. “Turn around, that’s what the cones are for!”

I said,  “Calm down,” which he couldn’t hear, and then to him pointed and shouted, “I live right over there.”

He took a few steps toward me shouting, Turn around! Turn around right now! “You can’t go that way right now!”

We drivers, of course, didn’t know what had happened, and I thought cops must get so tired of people defying them and questioning them, I felt bad for my pushing. But I also just felt bad for his treatment and demeanor–his losing it, if you will. He was probably 6’4″, a big guy, 40ish, red-faced, angry and shouting.

We live near two schools and I began to wonder if there had been a mass shooting or something. There was nothing on the news when I got home. And an hour later there were three helicopters over our house. I knew it was something bad, and felt worse that I had gone around the traffic cones.

But I did have a thought that has come back again and again. It by no means justifies my behavior, but I have thought how much different the incident would have been if the cop had walked across the street and said to us,  “There’s been a bad accident and the street is closed.” It would have been better for him and for us. I remembered a policeman in North Carolina doing and saying something similar 13 years ago, and what a difference!

I wondered if California policemen  are just more stressed, or if the last 13 years have made all of them more reactive–maybe all of us?

I found out two days later that it was some kids walking home playing around, and one pushed the other into the street and the fourth-grader was hit by a car and died. It made me sick, last year my grandson was a fourth grader. I have prayed for his family ever since, and felt even worse about my part in my memory. I’ve thought no wonder the cop was unhinged and then also, I could have been less pushy and reactive as well.

Is it that we are losing respect and gentleness as a society? Instead of treating people as having value and taking time, we take offense  and react at anger at “my inconvenience” or “my authority questioned” and go off.

It seems the collective consciousness is more uptight–more ready to fight. More hurried, more worried. And Jesus did say, …”because iniquity will increase, the love of many will grow cold.” People are going to stop believing in good, stop believing in God because there is so much hurt and evil around them as God honors the choices of those who don’t want Him. To inactive believers, a loving God won’t make sense anymore.

Do you find yourself losing patience, losing gentleness? More stressed? Is God getting more real or less real in your life? He is gentleness personified, and since I didn’t grow up feeling much of it, that has been wonderful for me. Invite Him to show you His gentleness, and don’t let your love grow cold. Let it grow warm instead. Make the effort to make Him real in your life. He’s worth it.

 

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Trust is a Gift

Evelyn and I first met on a mission trip we were both on. We didn’t really get to know each other well, but I loved her openness, sweetness and authenticity. Especially after we were back. We would see each other at church on occasion and she was always so happy to see me and so sweet.

Then three years later her husband died of a heart attack while playing basketball, leaving her with  5 yr. old and 7 yr old boys. She was devastated. All of us were shocked, and grieved with her. We got better acquainted after that, sharing breakfast on my sun-drenched patio now and again after she had taken the boys to school. She liked talking to my husband who had lost his first wife through death. We became close but not super close–I was old enough to be her mom (who had also died when Evelyn was 18).

About three years ago she moved away, but we still saw her on occasion when she and the boys came back for the weekend.

Then last weekend my husband and I ended up going to her town to the VA hospital. I texted and asked if I could crash on her couch. She replied she had a bed for me, and came up and sat with me the last hour of Richard’s 7-hour surgery. She and her boys welcomed me into their home with open arms. She even gave me a key since they were going out of town the next day, saying she wanted me to be able to come and go. Her trust felt like a gift.

One night stretched into two and three, and since one of my issues has been being wanted, I started to get uncomfortable when I knew there would be a fourth. I always remember Ben Franklin’s pithy, “Fish and visitors stink in three days.” She assured me it was fine, and when I texted her from the hospital that I would either have to wash clothes or go home that afternoon, she said, “Of course! Don’t go home!”

Monday I ran into one of my former students who is now a nephrologist (kidney specialist) at the VA hospital. He was so surprised and came to visit my husband, telling him what a wonderful effect I’d had on his life.  What a sweet surprise!

Tuesday, when I was uncomfortable about staying so long,  Evelyn got a disturbing message.  I was so glad I could be there for her. We read it together and sat up talking until midnight. She was back to herself the next day determined not to let the slanderer rent space in her head that she paid for (my words, not hers). I was amazed at her resilience, and applauded it.

We were supposed to leave the next day but once again they decided to keep Richard because they couldn’t  find the infection. Thursday morning my husband called saying they were releasing him, and I told them all good by. The boys were disappointed that I couldn’t come to their concert that night, and asked if I’d stay until it was over. That morning his kidney function looked bad and they decided to keep him another night. Sigh~ but I got to go to the concert after all, and the boys were happy. At the concert I ran into a grade school friend I hadn’t seen in years and we set up a lunch date on our follow-up visit.

We finally did leave the next day. And the best part was Evelyn texting me,
“I’m going to miss you!”

What a blessing it is to be trusted! What a gift!

That was going to be the end until I realized that God also had trusted me with His gifts of people and friendships. Trust is a great gift.

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Feelings Follow Focus

 

I frequently tell you that you will get what you look for, that your focus will determine your mental health and mental state, and I experienced it again this week.

I got caught up in fear without even realizing. It started from a wonderful conversation with a friend that was mind-expanding and spiritually enlightening. I shared something I had been sensing God was asking me to do. I hadn’t shared it with anyone else because I was scared. Scared to actually say it, scared to make it real, scared I’d get some smallest signal that I was crazy to even think it–that it was beyond my ability.

(This sounds silly to me as I write it–what could be crazier than rewriting the Bible? And yet, those good natured comments like, “She’s rewriting the Bible because it wasn’t done right the first time.” I can take in stride with a smile. I know it sounds crazy. And I’m loving it.) But I’ve done enough to know that God is in it. The human support has been gratifying as well.

But this is about speaking. Something I’ve always wanted to do. Something for years I’ve thought God was preparing me for, and yet when the idea first came, it overwhelmed me. Why? Because I had started seeing myself as a grasshopper, just like the Israelites spying out Canaan. (I’d had one bad experience that crippled me. Four great experiences, three good ones, and one bad one. Crazy.)

I moved ahead, preparing, and God’s enemies didn’t work through people; they worked through my mind–evidently playing on suggestions they had presented previously and I must have entertained without realizing the danger of them. I’m not even sure yet what they were, but suddenly I realized that I felt far away from God. My heart was hard and cold, and I felt alone.

It’s my habit to spend time with God in the morning, so I did, but it was like nobody was there but me. I hadn’t even realized that my fear and doubt had pushed Their love right out of me. Hadn’t even realized I was in fear and doubt! Talk about mindlessness!

Until I came and missed the connection. And then I said, “I need help! I don’t even know what is wrong!” Immediately, I heard in my head, “Do you love Me?” Then the tears came from deep inside, and in a flash of insight I knew what had happened. I had been looking at everything God hadn’t done, instead of all the things They had done. I was getting weary of other people’s struggles–my prayers not being answered. I’d forgotten gratitude.

The neat thing is that later that morning my youngest sister texted, “Did you need prayer this morning?” I responded “Yes!!!” and she replied, “Then ours were answered.” “For me?” I asked. “Yes” came the reply. I was so impressed. God cared enough to tell my sisters to pray for me! What a feeling of love accompanied that little message.

It’s really true, you will have or become what you focus on. I cannot over-emphasize the power and importance of focus and gratitude. Feelings follow focus. What you see is what you get. Be careful how you see. Choose your life through choosing your thought life.

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You See What You Look For

Wasn’t going to write this week. It was a hard week; mental health can be daunting at times. Frustrating at the least, when you try so hard and just can’t help someone. Prayers go unanswered, fear hangs on the edges, and you have to simply remind yourself that God doesn’t force anyone to trust. A huge loophole of answered prayer for others is personal choice. The wormhole! Old Wormwood gets his sticky fingers of fear around someone’s heart, and trusting God goes out the window–or such is my perspective.

But then I missed my sleep window tonight, so might as well process feelings with you all. It was a beautiful day to be outside. My husband and I had breakfast in our gazebo–love that. Encouraging messages came in. One from an old boyfriend on his birthday–that was nice. He lost his 23 yr-old daughter years ago. Can’t even imagine… Good to hear life is happy again.

A friend came over and we celebrated her belated birthday by making healthy ice-cream–nice too. (It was really good and we ate on the patio.) It was a good day filled with fun, beauty and love. I should be feeling content, and I am, just stayed up five minutes too long playing Words with Friends with my sister–five minutes is all it takes!

But the very best thing that happened in the many good things of today was hearing that my nephew is finding his way back to God! He’s been an atheist for years, so that was huge! But we’re pretty close and I know he’s honest-hearted, so I always figured he’d find his way back somehow. Fabulous news. So now I realize what a really good day this was! I’m glad I shared it with you. I always say everything is perspective, and it really is. You really do find what you look for. Sometimes it just takes a few minutes of reflection to see it. Thanks God.

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Awareness

Yesterday was beautiful. I woke up happy, and had energy and motivation. I thanked God and thought our new supplement is working. But somewhere mid-morning my husband and I disagreed amiably about something and it hit him in a vulnerable place. I didn’t even know it until hours later. I was so surprised that he would go to a dark place over it! I tried unsuccessfully to help, and I determined not to get pulled into it.

And I didn’t for most of the day. Then late afternoon I came in from outside and realized something in me had shifted from the positive. I hadn’t even realized it had happened! But I noticed I didn’t speak to him, and I heard thoughts I had allowed to come in, just little tiny negative things that I didn’t even recognize as negative. They seemed a normal part of my thought life–truths I live with. But without my awareness they had become a bridge to the low of negativity.

Thank God I recognized the energy shift, and chose to go back to the positive. I spoke to him and discovered he was caught in darkness, so I unhooked. I didn’t blame myself, or worry, but recognized that he had been assaulted by one of our enemies, and I couldn’t get drawn in. The next day my group would be praying for a special healing for someone and I couldn’t risk going dark myself. So I prayed for him and let it go.

Thank God for His perspective, and the ability to see the difference. “My feet had almost slipped…” said David. I had almost gotten taken out by that short slippery slope into the pit of negativity. But we can choose. Sometimes we may have to choose again and again to stop the cascade of hormones that negative thoughts start. But if you catch them early one choice will turn you around again.

The next day I had to choose and choose again because the person we were praying for couldn’t make it. I had been praying she wouldn’t sabotage it, but an electrical pole fell across the road and closed it. Since she lives out of town she had to take a route that was over an hour longer, and missed the meeting. (She took pictures so we would believe her!)

I was fine in the meeting, but afterwards was so disappointed and deflated that it took me 30 minutes to get to choosing. And then between my husband who was still “out there” and that disappointment I struggled to get back to a positive peace.

I’m there again, thank God. But it really is true that choice is the most powerful thing in the universe–even more powerful than God. Think about it, He is respectful, leaving us free to choose.

Many times I’ve told Him, “I think You gave us too much freedom.” He just smiles that understanding smile. Our choice accesses His power, but he won’t violate our freedom.

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Experiencing Beauty

I truly enjoy beauty, but experiencing it is different. The last three weeks have been a roller coaster of good and bad, but mostly good. And one experience was pure beauty. The night before last I spent at the beach–our church is having its annual camp out, and as head elder I didn’t feel I could skip the elders’ retreat at the beginning, and I didn’t want to.

My husband says he’s over camping, so I was going alone. I was excited, actually, about doing something like that by myself. It’s only 45 minutes away, I was going to sleep in the back of our forerunner, and it’s our hot time of year, so I didn’t think it would be too cold. (We have frozen camping at the beach or in the mountains.) I don’t sleep well camping, but it was only for one night…

My time with the elders was wonderful, and I was tired, and very hopeful about a good sleep. The night was warm and beautiful. So warm I had to crack the back window, but didn’t want it down because of mosquitoes. (There were a few–nothing like Minnesota.) And before long I fell asleep.

But two hours later I woke up, the half inch of foam and the zero bag underneath me weren’t quite enough for comfort. So I got the sheep-skins out of the two front seats and positioned them under the sleeping bag I was on top of. Ah-h, that was nice. It still wasn’t cold. So I laid there talking and listening to God. Very aware of His presence.

I’ve been writing Genesis 34 for my new series, and it’s so difficult. I’ve never even liked to read it, let alone expand it. So I got my phone and read a few more versions of it, sensitive to every little nuance, every tiny detail to get the “back story” as my friend calls it.

After a couple of hours, I still wasn’t back to sleep, and it was clear I was going to have to get up and walk across the campground to the bathroom. I got my shoes on and opened the car door to a lovely surprise, it was warm out there too, and a symphony of sound greeted me. The night throbbed with it. Frogs and crickets had a rhythm going with the waves crashing behind it for percussion. It was so loud I could feel it, and the leaves of all the giant sycamores were lit up by the full moon.

That three minute walk was amazing. Beautiful beyond description, and gratifying because I felt absolutely no fear. I am not generally fearful anymore, but it has taken years for me to be comfortable outside at night, after being “attacked” walking home alone one night when I was 12. This was glorious! The temperature, the sounds, the freedom, the beauty–I could have walked all night–except I was tired.

Then when I got back in the truck, I had to open the back window enough so I could hear it all! I couldn’t get enough. And God’s presence felt even stronger and sweeter. It was another two hours before I fell asleep, not wanting the magical night with Him to end.

And in another two hours I woke up and went and walked on the beach with two friends. The sun was just coming up–beautiful–as we walked and talked to God.

Three hours later I was out there again alone. I was leaving, but was pulled out again to the beach and it was all a new beauty. I sat on a rock watching my pastor and his two kids body surf and play in the water–delightful. How blessed they are to have a dad like that, I thought. One who truly knows God and values true priorities.

I wish every child had that. Not a perfect dad, but a real one. And I wish for all of you an experience of Beauty.

 

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No Wonder

So last week I was suspecting that there was a lie under my fear of not being heard. (Yes, I was a middle child! One of two in the middle of six.)

I didn’t have to look very hard. I knew I had an issue with ridicule. I had felt stupid, “dumb” because my older brother used to laugh at me and tease me, but I didn’t realize that part of it came from having permissive parents. My mother didn’t want to parent the way she was parented. And my Dad’s parents were very permissive to him. He was the proverbial favorite; it was his template. Insecurity ran in our veins. Good old family system’s stuff.

What God showed me was that I felt “not good enough” my whole life, because of my brother’s teasing, my parents not countering it, and not saying “no” enough to me. I’m told the other kids got “no” more, but I would talk them out of it. Just as my daughter did with me! Mom said I was like an only child, and she didn’t know anything about family systems. Yet that profile fits me best.

What I remember is that I had to get someone to listen and agree. My life and happiness depended on it. My mom almost never agreed (I thought) and that was probably good. Dad would always say yes, or “Go ask your mother.”

I always thought I became disillusioned with life at 12, but this trip through, it looked more like 8 or 9. That’s when I began praying for wisdom. I didn’t want to make the mistakes everyone else made, and I was very impressed with the story of King Solomon. It’s also when I was baptized.

I went to a large parochial elementary school and in the fifth grade a new girl came. She had social skills down pat in a healthy, un-self-conscious way, and I had none. Everyone loved her, especially the boys, and so did I. We were friends, but she was always my rival. Though she probably wasn’t conscious of it. She was just her.

I always competed with her. There were a few brainiacs in our class, and I didn’t even try to keep up with them, but her– yes. I made good grades, thought I was smart, but was terrified that everyone would find out I wasn’t.

In high-school we took an I.Q. test and I was deflated. I was smack in the center of average. Thank God, she got exactly the same score! I remember her saying, “Oh, Arla, let’s not tell anyone what we got,” and I readily agreed. I consoled myself that it was because I was a slow reader.

We went to the same college, and I got so conditioned, that if she was going out for something, I wouldn’t even try, because I knew she would win. I loved her, and yet held her at arms length, and was sad she was closer to other friends. I was terrified of closeness, more terrified of commitment.

I didn’t marry until 28, and then someone who had been married before, and when he had an affair two years later, and we divorced five after that, I knew I was not a good-enough wife. I was also a mother by then, and knew I wasn’t a good enough mother either. I was terrified of being a mom too.

I went back to graduate school because I had always wanted to be a therapist, and I needed to… I know that because God opened the way. That was good for me. I got better grades there than in college. But one test came back with -13 on it, and I thought I was going to die, until I discovered it was the highest grade in the class.

I got married again to a widower, and that confirmed that I wasn’t a good enough wife or mother. (The first 10 years we lived with a holy ghost, (no caps.– and not literally– his sainted late wife). Plus before we got married I’d already failed with his son (he felt abandoned by me when R and I broke up for a month–most likely unresolved grief), and later with his daughter who was three when her adoptive mother died.

Ten years later my husband had a stroke that saved our marriage, and that same year I learned that God loves to heal our lies–false beliefs that seem true to us.

When mom died four years ago yesterday, I faced the belief that I wasn’t a good enough daughter. So I’ve had many healings on not being good enough. But today I discovered that underneath all that not-good-enough was a whole cluster of beliefs around, “What if they find out how dumb I am! How stupid I am! How much I don’t know!”

The fear of being discovered! That is the basis for shame!

No wonder! That explains a lot: why I felt like a child in an adult body for two decades of adult life. Why I made the choices I did. Why I still keep coming up with new not-good-enough endings. Why I am in awe and yet fear of very bright, accomplished people. Why I sabotage my success.

Brene Brown has researched shame and says it completely unravels self-worth. It makes us want to hide. And is the essence of “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not ready…”

No wonder hurtful words can take me out. They aren’t as powerful as they used to be, though. I’ve been practicing taking in God’s love–making it real. It’s amazing, and real. Sitting with Him, you can actually feel the unconditional regard. I recommend it. It’s very healing.

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