How’s Everyone Doing? No, Really.

This thing is really dragging on, isn’t it?

For many folks it’s the first time in their lives they’ve been forced to come face to face with the truth we really have little control over anything.

Some of us can’t leave our homes, most of us aren’t supposed to.

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Some long desperately to hold grandchildren but social distancing means only a long distance wave (if you’re lucky) or FaceTime on a screen. Some want to visit parents or grandparents in eldercare facilities but are forbidden lest the virus be ushered through closed doors and run rampant down the halls. No local gatherings. No play dates for kids. No school routine (who thought they’d miss nightly homework battles!). Work from home or no work at all.

Parents are suddenly with their children ALL DAY LONG. Some children are suddenly imprisoned 24/7 in unsafe homes-no escaping to school for a few hours respite.

And toilet paper. Lots and lots of toilet paper (for some, apparently) and none for others.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'If you need 144 rolls of toilet paper for a 14 day quarantine you probably should've been seeing a Doctor long before COVID-19'

The people who are supposed to have the latest, best information seem like either they aren’t getting it, reading it and digesting it or they really don’t know what they are doing.

Social media is allowing some front line workers like doctors, nurses and paramedics to publicize snapshots and give commentary on the inside of ambulances and hospitals and it’s truly frightening.

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And oh, by the way, if your person gets sick enough to be wheeled away from home and inside those big doors, you can’t follow. No matter how sick they are, you can’t sit by the bed and hold their hand.

Is it any wonder many of us are not only stir crazy but crazy sick with worry, fear and anxiety?

So, my friend, I want to know-really truly know-how are you doing?

How are you managing under the stress and strain of unwelcome change you can’t control?

What is helping you hold on?

What is making it harder?

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I know some who gather in this space are not praying people and that’s OK. I’d like to share a prayer anyway, if you’ll let me.

Because that’s how I hold on. ❤

PRAYER:

Father God,

This is such a fearful time.

Too many changes too fast and more coming every day. An invisible enemy is stalking those I love and there’s really not much I can do about it except to follow the best advice being tossed out by people who are supposed to know but who don’t really inspire a lot of confidence.

I’m afraid of what I know and afraid of what I don’t know.

I’m petrified someone in my intimate circle will fall ill and I won’t be able to be with them. My job may be in danger too and I might not make my bills. My kids are confused and I wonder how all these months of no school is going to play out next fall. The list could go on and on.

Help my heart hold onto hope. Help me find a bit of joy-the rose among the thorns-each day. Sandwiches on paper plates with the whole family. A breath of fresh spring air through open windows. A funny meme sent from a friend far away so we can share a laugh even if we can’t share a cup of coffee.

Let every sunrise remind my heart that the world is still turning and no night lasts forever.

Amen

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: The End From The Beginning

Some people insist on reading the end of a book first.

They want to know if the characters they may grow to love end up well and happy.

Me? I start at the front and work my way through letting things unfold as the author intended.

I will admit though there are times when I’d kinda sorta like to have a heads up in real life.

PSYCHIC ATTACKS in CONFUSING TIMES | Fortune teller, Statue ...

Of course there’s no crystal ball, lines in my palm or deck of cards (in spite of Madam What’s-Her-Name’s claim) that can see into the future.

But there is One who KNOWS every little thing the future holds and Who holds that future in His hands.

From the beginning I told you what would happen in the end. A long time ago I told you things that have not yet happened. When I plan something, it happens. I do the things I want to do.

Isaiah 46:10 ICB

When Dominic left us suddenly, unexpectedly and instantly in a motorcycle accident, it was a shocking surprise to our hearts. But as I wrote in the service program for his funeral, it was NO surprise to God.

I don’t believe for one minute that my loving Heavenly Father put His finger on my son and declared that night it was his “time” to die. I DO believe that my omniscient and omnipotent Lord, who is outside time and sees the end from the beginning, KNEW that Dominic would drive too fast, lose control and enter Heaven at 1:10 am on April 12, 2014.

I believe that while He could have miraculously saved my son, He chose not to and Dominic suffered the natural consequences of a series of physical and biological forces that operate without His supernatural intervention every single day in this world.

I am confident that God worked His purposes in and through Dominic all the days of his life and I am certain God has been and continues to work His purposes in me and through me even in child loss.

My heart is often disturbed and even frightened by what’s going on around me.

In these especially unsettled times, if I focus on what I don’t know, what I can’t predict and the limitations of the humans in charge, I will melt into despair.

So I remind myself that God’s purposes will stand. His rule and reign is sure. Nothing-NOTHING-can stand separate me from His love, His grace and His mercy.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews ...

Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 AMP

QUESTIONS:

  1. One of the oldest “proofs” non-believers like to toss at those who follow Jesus is this: If God is all-knowing AND all-powerful, then why do bad things still happen? How might you answer that question? Have you ever wrestled with it yourself? Here’s a link to my thoughts on the matter: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/06/10/did-god-take-my-child/
  2. While God may rarely give an individual foreknowledge, He gave Israel prophet after prophet to tell them what He was going to do. How often did they take His warnings to heart? How often do we?
  3. In the passage from Isaiah above, God declares His purposes and plans will stand. That comforts my heart and echoes Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Write down three other verses (using a concordance) that reinforce this biblical principle about the character and purposes of God. Make them personal-how do those verses confirm hope in your own heart?
  4. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” is a powerful concept! Unlike the times in which we live where human leaders say and do one thing one day and say and do another the next, we can rest firm and secure that what God has declared in Christ is absolutely, positively rock solid! “Every promise of God in Christ is ‘yes’ and ‘amen'”! (2 Corinthians 1:20). What promises of God in Christ bring you the most comfort? Write a list and post it where you can see it.
  5. If you have children or grandchildren at home, how might you help their hearts cling to the truth that no matter what, God is in control? How might your own confident, consistent love and support model our Heavenly Father’s unfailing love toward us?

PRAYER:

Lord,

These times are trying my soul. It feels like everything is out of control and there’s no sure way through this valley of confusion and potential disaster. Help my heart take hold of the truth that NONE of this is a surprise to You.

Your purpose will stand. Your plan will unfold. No one and nothing can prevent it.

Make Your Presence real to me today. Open my eyes to the ways You continue to prove Yourself faithful. Sing courage to my soul when I’m afraid. Remind me by Your Spirit of every promise.

Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the assurance that no matter what, my eternal security is assured.

Amen

Welcome To My World

Many of you are waking up each day and facing a world you don’t recognize.

I’ve been doing this for over half a decade.

Almost six years ago my family’s world was shaken in much the same way everyone’s world is being shaken today.

It was precisely as disruptive, unthinkable, even more tragic and there was not one thing we could do to change it except live through it.

Image may contain: outdoor, possible text that says '"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring Pellowe TALK'

I know thousands of bereaved parents and surviving siblings who have learned to live in the time they are given.

If you want to know how to face this crisis with courage, ask them. 

Fly The Plane

I was talking to my dad the other morning as I do every morning.

We catch one another up on personal news and then turn to the world at large.

After another day of dismal and disconcerting headlines I asked my retired fighter pilot/flight instructor/still flying/recently bereaved dad, “So, how are you REALLY doing?”

He replied, “I’m flying the plane.”

He told me the first rule of flying was: NO MATTER WHATnever, never, never stop flying the plane.

Papa’s been flying for over 50 years!

Even if the only thing you can do is fly it into a crash.

Focus on the essentials.

Don’t be distracted by incidentals.

Save all your energy for the things you CAN do something about and ignore the things you can’t control.

As he was talking I realized that somewhere in my 56 years he had taught me this lesson well although he’d never taught me to fly.

So that’s what we are doing.

It’s what we’re all doing.

We are taking care of the things we can and trying hard to not waste any energy on things we can’t. We’re checking on one another, encouraging one another, making sure each one is getting proper nutrition and rest and refusing to sweat the small stuff.

I can’t see my ICU nurse daughter because she’s possibly been exposed to the virus and I am immunosuppressed.

So I dug through my stash and sent her and the foster kids she helps her best friend parent a box brimming full of random craft supplies to stave off boredom.

It’s not much but it’s something I CAN do.

I’m walking every day and keeping my cardiovascular system as fit as possible.

I’m writing and posting on several public Facebook pages I maintain. One is dedicated to bereaved parents, another to general spiritual encouragement and a third to educational resources for parents who suddenly find themselves having to teach their children at home when they were used to sending them off to school.

I have cleaned out a few random corners that should have been cleaned months (let’s be honest-years!) ago. And I’m checking in on friends and neighbors.

My public health officer son is running crazy so I don’t bombard him with texts or messages but I try to shoot him at least one encouraging word every day. He calls when he can and just last evening treated us to a FaceTime session with our little Captain.

Seeking joy wherever we can find it is part of our daily routine. And nothing says “JOY!” like this happy smile.

My husband is working from home (THAT’S an adjustment for this women who loves her quiet time!) so I fixed him up a work station and make sure I don’t interrupt his conference call by hollering something from the kitchen (or vacuuming under his feet). He’s making some adjustments to my preference for light-hearted viewing in the evenings and saving his heavier, action-packed choices for after I go to bed.

Kind of a trial run for his retirement.

NOT my house, but yes, I’ve vacuumed around him more than once 🙂

The son that lives close by has become our errand runner and grocery store shopper.

He picks up what we need, being extra careful to clean his hands and clothes before bringing it into the house. He shopped for our elderly neighbor as well. He’s doing his part to maintain a buffer between those of us who may be more susceptible and the virus.

Flying the plane means we are keeping our wits about us, doing the important and necessary things.

But it also means we are finding moments to take a breath, enjoy a laugh, watch a sunset, go for a walk, listen to the birds sing, play with the dog or cats, share a funny meme, and eat meals together.

We can’t control the world but we can control our reaction to what it tosses our way.

We can’t guarantee our safety but we can choose to do things that enhance it.

Tomorrow the wings might fall off.

But today we are flying the plane.

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Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Sure And Fearless

I don’t know about you but “sure and fearless” doesn’t necessarily describe me these days.

I’m not sleeping particularly well.

I try to avoid all but the most needful news and instead fill my days with useful work and outdoor activity.

But I wouldn’t be honest if I said it was working.

In fact, the combination of time of year (I am rapidly approaching the sixth anniversary of Dominic’s death) and the utterly unbelievable changes in the world around us is more than working my nerves.

So I’m really, really depending on the truth I find in Scripture to counteract all the other messages I’m receiving from the media, from friends and from my own unhelpful thoughts.

That’s why I’m spending some quality time with the first three verses of Psalm 46.

God is our shelter and our strength.

    When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help.

So why run and hide?

No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails.

    When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless.

    When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.

Even in heavy winds and huge waves,

    or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless.

Psalm 46: 1-3 VOICE

The verses stand by themselves as a source of great encouragement, but I thought today I’d walk you through one way I appropriate the truth of God’s Word for my own heart.

I often copy out a verse and use a dictionary or thesaurus to expand key words so I get a richer understanding of their full meaning.

Sometimes I include parts of other verses or pertinent biblical concepts.

Doing that for Psalm 46: 1-3 looks like this:

VERSE 1: ” God is our shelter [sanctuary, refuge, safety, defense, hideaway] and our strength [courage, fortitude, stability, vitality, steadiness]. When troubles seem near, God is nearer [the Holy Spirit is our Paraclete or Advocate, Counselor; Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us] so why run and hide? [If God is for us, who could stand against us?]”

VERSE 2: No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails [what time I am afraid, I will trust in You]. When the earth spins out of control [the world is surely out of control right now!], we [those who trust in the LORD] are sure [confident, certain, convinced, free from doubt] and fearless [bold, confident, courageous, daring, assured, dauntless, lionhearted, indomitable].

When mountains crumble [when the very thing we believe will never be shaken IS shaken] and the waters run wild [when there’s no safe haven from a flood of circumstances], we [those who trust in the LORD] are sure [confident, certain, convinced, free from doubt] and fearless [bold, confident, courageous, daring, assured, dauntless, lionhearted, indomitable].”

VERSE 3: “Even in heavy winds and huge waves [even when the the storm is raging so violently there seems no possible way to survive it], we [those who trust in the LORD] are sure [resting absolutely in the certainty that God is who He says He is] and fearless [boldly and confidently waiting for the promised Presence of God in the midst of our storm].”

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Rewriting it once again and personalizing it for myself looks like this:

God is my sanctuary and safe place and my courage. No matter what kind of trouble is lurking at my door, He’s already here, right beside me, ready to help. Why would I run away or try to hide when my Protector is unbeatable?

I refuse to worry. The world is definitely a strange and very fearful place right now but because I belong to Jesus I am confident and courageous. Even though all the things I depend on in the natural world are proving undependable, because I trust in the Lord, I am bold and dauntless.

The current economic, social, and political storm is the biggest I’ve ever seen-bigger than I could have ever imagined. Its destructive power is far-reaching and will leave debris in its wake for years.

But I will rest confidently in my Savior and will wait courageously for His promises to be fulfilled.

~Melanie’s paraphrase

Then I turn it into a prayer:

Father God,

Help me always to remember that You are my sanctuary and hiding place. You are as near as my breath, as steady as my heartbeat. No one and nothing sneaks up on You.

Whisper courage to my soul. Lord, sweep worry out of my mind. Even when every single thing I thought I could depend on proves undependable, teach me to rest securely in Your love, Your promises and Your sovereignty.

Redirect my gaze so that instead of looking at all that’s going wrong, my eyes focus on Your face.

Make my heart steadfast. Overwhelm me with Your mercy, grace and faithful love.

Amen

QUESTIONS:

  • This is MY way of making Scripture personal. Do you have a way to make it personal for you? Can you take these three verses and do just that?
  • Have you ever looked up a word you thought you knew the meaning of only to find out you had misunderstood or not fully comprehended it precisely? I have! How can using a dictionary or thesaurus open up or expand the meaning of words? How can that help you understand what verses say?
  • Illustrating verses is another way many people appropriate Truth for themselves. How could you put the meat of these verses into a sketch?
  • One of the reasons I love journaling is because when I look back, I have a written record of God’s very specific faithfulness to me. Have you journaled before? If so, look back and note God’s faithfulness. Write a personal psalm of thanksgiving in response.
  • Do you feel the earth shaking right now? What is your greatest fear as a result? How do these verses encourage your heart?

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: “Fear Not!”-An Invitation Not An Admonition

It’s a commonly repeated untruth that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible.

But there ARE a lot of them.

While many folks like to interpret these commands as admonitions to the trembling hearts standing, kneeling or falling on their face before the Angel of the Lord or begging to be delivered from a perilous situation, I think they are an invitation.

Image result for i will never leave you or forsake you

I think they are an invitation to walk into the perfect peace promised by the King of Peace.

They are an invitation to rest in His Presence.

They are an invitation to admit my weakness and appropriate His strength.

I love the book of Psalms because in many ways it feels like the most accessible and “human” book of the Bible.

David and others poured out their hearts to God-no filter, no mask, no pretense-the good, the bad, the ugly, the hopeful, the desperate. So while we could explore many other “fear not” verses, I will start here.

“I will bless the Eternal, whose wise teaching orchestrates my days
    and centers my mind at night.
He is ever present with me;
    at all times He goes before me.
I will not live in fear or abandon my calling
    because He stands at my right hand.

This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy,
    and my body is at rest.
    Who could want for more? ” ~ Psalm 16:7-9 VOICE

The Psalmist says a lot in these three verses:

  • he relies on the truth found in God’s Word to guide his days and focus his thoughts at night
  • he trusts that God is with him always
  • he knows God will fight for him
  • therefore he can rest secure
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When I spend time in Scripture, saturating my heart and mind with God’s Word, I have truth readily available to combat the lies of the enemy.

Satan wants me to worry and fret, to doubt my Father’s goodness and faithful love and to shake my confidence that God is for me.

The more I sit with Jesus, the more I listen to HIM and learn His voice, the less power the enemy of my soul has over me.

Another favorite :

Image result for psalm 27:1

I am hardly fearless.

In fact, I struggled with fear of the dark until I was nearly 40 years old. I only overcame that fear when necessity forced me to face it and I walked out trembling reciting every verse I could remember about not being afraid.

This was one of them.

I face different fears now.

When the one thing you think won’t happen DOES happen, the thought it might happen AGAIN is never far from your mind.

So all this virus talk is working on that fear. People I love might get sick. People I love might die. I know exactly the wreckage death leaves behind and I don’t want to live through that again.

But I might have to so I’m clinging to the truth David sang hundreds of years ago:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1 KJV
  • the Lord is my light-He illuminates my path and my heart
  • the Lord is my salvation-He alone can save me (in this life or in eternity through Christ)
  • the Lord is the strength of my life-He made me, He keeps me and I am His
  • with the Creator of the universe caring for me, what can anyone or any force do to me without His consent?
  • I have nothing to fear

When I accept my Father’s invitation to crawl up into His lap, rest in His arms and rely on His strength, I am fearless.

But like a child I often run away just when I most need His comfort.

I love this translation of Psalm 94:19 because it reflects my temptation to bring my anxiety, sorrow and fears to God but then to take them back:

After the multitude of my sorrows in mine heart; thy comforts made glad my soul. (And after a multitude of sorrows gathered together in my heart; once again thy comfort gladdened my soul.)

Psalm 94:19 WYC

God knows I am made of dust. God knows my heart is prone to fear and worry. God knows my feelings often drive reason right out of my head.

He’s not surprised by my trembling knees and weak hands.

He doesn’t turn away because I am afraid.

“Thy comforts made glad my soul”-God will comfort me in my distress. He will wait for me to turn to Him and will wait for me to turn to Him again when I turn away. “[O]nce again thy comfort gladdened my soul.”

He never tires of holding out His arms to me.

He says, “Fear not, little one.”

I see you.

I love you.

Come here and let me comfort you.

QUESTIONS:

  • Use an online or print concordance to find at least 3 other Psalms that speak about God’s desire to comfort us when we are afraid. Copy out one of them and put it where it will encourage your heart.
  • What frightens you most today? How can these verses help your heart hand that fear over to your Father?
  • Do you consider yourself a fearful person? Why or why not?
  • Have you conquered any fears? If so, think about who or what gave you the courage to do it. Can you weave your previous experience into your current situation?
  • List at least three times you have been afraid of something that MIGHT have happened but DIDN’T happen. Did your fear contribute in any way to the outcome?
  • How can thinking about “Do Not Fear” as an invitation instead of an admonition strengthen your faith?

PRAYER:

Father God, When I look around at how impossibly different the world is today from only a few weeks ago my knees buckle and my heart trembles. I know I’ve never really been in control but at least there was the illusion of control.

I am afraid.

Thank You that I am not defenseless in the battle against fear and worry. When anxiety rises up within me let Your truth be my sword and shield.

Help me run to You. Help me climb into Your lap and rest in Your Presence. Deafen my ears to the lies being whispered and even shouted that threaten to undo me.

Speak courage to my heart and sing comfort over my soul.

Amen

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Shape Worry Into Prayer

I am not a worrier by nature.

I tend to look at a problem and immediately marshal available resources to find a solution.

But sometimes, there is really. truly not one single thing I CAN do and it’s then I fall prey to those niggling “what if” thoughts.

You know the ones.

The kind of things that keep you from drifting off to sleep at night or visit you in your dreams when you do. The unbidden and unwelcome scenarios that flash across your mind when the phone rings too early in the morning. The spiraling downward plunge of your heart when headlines scream disaster and it seems to be coming closer and closer to your own home and your own family.

Paul tells the Philippians to shape those worries into prayers:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Philippians 4:6-7 MSG (paraphrase, not translation)

I think I was in my mid-thirties, knee deep in raising and educating my children and experiencing some health problems when I realized that worry is really all about trust.

Do I trust God or not?

Is He the loving, perfect, faithful Father the Bible tells me He is or not? Will He bring me through (either physically safe and whole or onto Heaven) or not? Is there a single thing on this earth (disaster, disease, schemes of men or even the devil) that can separate me from His love or not?

I DO believe God is a loving, perfect and faithful Father.

I DO believe He holds me in the palm of His hand.

I’ve had many, many times when I needed to remind my heart that was really what I believed. I’ve had to drag out those promises, write them down, post them on my fridge and bathroom mirror and ignore all the ways the world and my own mind drove me to worry.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, it almost destroyed my trust in God.

Not my faith that He IS or that He is in control, but rather that what He allows is so absolutely awful.

I had to start over and learn again to shape my worry into whispered prayers.

Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 PHILLIPS (translation)

There is no magic to lift the weight of worry from my shoulders. I must choose, as an act of will to take whatever is pressing down on my heart, making me anxious, speaking lies to my soul and give them to God.

When I do that, He is faithful to set a guard over my heart and mind.

Jesus invites me to pour out my worries at His feet. He begs me to lay down the burden I am unable and unfit to carry and let Him bear it.

He promises to replace my questions and fears with His Presence and His peace.

Schools closing, businesses closing, the world practically shutting down all while a virus makes its way across the globe and may already be at your door is enough to make any heart fret.

For many, it may be the very first time they feel as if there’s truly nothing to DO to protect themselves and the ones they love. And that is its own kind of panic.

Even here, even now Jesus is waiting for you to wrap those worries in prayer. A whispered prayer will do.

He hears.

He cares.

He will overwhelm your anxious heart with His peace if you let Him.

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

Julian of Norwich

I do not expect that I will necessarily be safe from this disaster but I know I will be kept safe in His love.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you worry? Do you think it helps in any way? Why or why not?
  • It’s been said that we can’t help the thoughts that fly around our head but we can decide which ones get to make a nest. Do you agree?
  • Write down three things you worry about. Use a concordance to find a verse or two that speaks directly to the things on your list. Copy them out and hang them up where you can see and be reminded of God’s faithfulness when you are tempted to doubt it.
  • What does it mean to YOU that the “peace of God…will guard your heart and mind”?
  • Read the quote by Julian of Norwich. Is it comforting? Why or why not?
  • So often we want God to make us comfortable and safe. From your own knowledge of Scripture, do you find that to be the norm for His people?
  • How can you turn your worries into whispered prayers?

PRAYER:

Lord,

These are trying times.

So, so many things to fear and so, so many things out of control. The very people I could normally depend on to guide the way or save the day are just as impotent as I am to fight this battle.

It seems the whole world is hiding away and hoping against hope it won’t get as bad as some predict.

But I am not without hope.

I have a Great and Good God who welcomes my petitions. I have a Mighty and Merciful Savior who loves me and wants to bear my worry burden.

Help me shape those worries into prayers. Help me hand off the things I can’t control to the One who can. Help me rest secure in the promise that nothing -No. Thing.-can separate me from Your love.

Let this be my watchword: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in You.” ~Psalm 56:3

Amen