Afraid to Ask: Learning to pray with gut-level honesty

prayer

The first time her hair fell out, I didn’t think anything of it. I knew baby hair loss was normal and I had experienced it with my first two children. Her hair eventually started growing back in. But when it all fell out a second time, my husband and I started to suspect there might be something more going on.

A few trips to the doctor and one biopsy later, the term “alopecia” would become part of our vocabulary. We were told our little girl’s immune system was attacking her  hair follicles causing her hair to fall out. Not only that, but she had a rare type that affected her whole body and gave her only a 10% chance of ever growing hair.

Immediately, concerns of having my little girl grow up bald began to emerge. Would she grow up feeling different? How would the kids at school react to her?  Would she resent having to live with a disorder? How would she feel when she saw her sisters fixing their hair and she didn’t have any hair to fix? 

When it comes to challenges in life, I tend to have a flight response. I want to run away. I don’t like to deal with issues. I much rather prefer to keep moving along pretending like everything’s okay, even when they’re not. So that’s what I did. Or, at least, that’s what I tried to do.

In the beginningI didn’t really know how to pray. The mix of shock that a disorder was now part of my child’s life kept me from finding the right words. Thankfully, we had dear friends and family who surrounded us in prayer. Their prayers carried me through those first few weeks of confusion.

I eventually arrived at a place where I believed I had peace with my daughter’s diagnosis. Then, one Sunday morning, I heard a sermon on prayer. I was reminded of the need for gut-level honesty when talking to God. What I didn’t realize, at the time, was that my prayer life lacked a certain level of honesty.

Some time later, I found myself at a conference. The speaker opened by talking about the power of fervent prayer. She addressed different areas of life and encouraged us to raise our hand if we needed prayer in that area. Then, she lead the audience in praying fervently over one another’s needs. When it came time to pray for health, I knew I was going to raise my hand on behalf of my baby girl. It was in that moment that God pierced my heart with this truth, …“You haven’t even asked me to heal her.”

These words cut right to my heart. He was right. I hadn’t asked Him. I had prayed that He would equip my daughter to carry this load. I had asked for His hand and protection on her life. I had asked for strength. But I had never once felt comfortable enough to ask Him to heal her.

That revelation was devestating to me because it made known the condition of our relationship. It revealed my fear to approach Him with such a big request. It exposed my mistrust in Him. It uncovered the insecurity of my self-worth.

I hadn’t asked because I was afraid of how He might or might not respond. I realized in that moment that I harbored doubt towards God. I claimed to trust Him, but our relationship was undermined by the lie that every once in awhile I still need to take care of myself. I still faultily believed that sometimes I just need to depend on myself to muster up enough strength to keep moving along acting like everything is okay. This lie kept me from, honestly, going to God with my fears.

That was the beginning of a deeper, more honest prayer relationship with my heavenly Father. I’m still near the beginning of this journey and I don’t know what lies ahead for my daughter, but I do know that I can trust God completely with her. I know that He loves and cares for her and that He is in control.

I know that I don’t need to be afraid to be honest with Him.

And I know that during the trials of life, God is still good.


We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

1 John 4:16


Reflection

What is the level of honesty in your conversations with God? Would you describe it as gut-level honesty?

What is going on in your life, right now, and how do you feel about it? Have you shared that with Him?

Have you gotten stuck in a prayer rut where you feel like you’re praying the same prayers over and over? Our prayers shouldn’t be characterized by rote memorization. Instead, slow down and sit in His presence. He cares about you and wants to hear from you. He doesn’t want your lip service. He wants your heart. He wants you to be honest with Him.


“You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”   

James 4: 2-3


 

Image credits: gfjministry.com

Resisting God’s Gifts

Like most toddlers, my 18-month-old loves exercising what little independence she has. Recently, she’s discovered that she can sneak in and help herself to some grapes when one of us unsuspectingly opens the refrigerator door. Unfortunately, what she doesn’t know is that the grapes she’s eating are dirty.

I usually don’t rinse fruit until right before we eat it, so when she helps herself without permission she’s getting grimy grapes straight from the store. When I catch her in the act, I intervene, grab a handful of grapes, and rinse them off for her. But rather than accept the bowl of freshly rinsed grapes I offer her, she throws a fit, turns her back, and reaches in for another dirty grape. It’s really quite ridiculous. What I’ve come to realize, is that it’s not about the grapes at all. It’s about doing things her way, even if what I have to offer is better.

This scenario sounds oddly familiar…{and here I go putting my spiritual spin on things…}

We live in a world where we’re told to work hard and be independent. We’re made to feel that accepting something freely is free loading. We feel like in order to get something, we must earn it or, at the very least, return the favor. It feels awkward to simply receive. Think about it…when was the last time you received a favor or a gift without feeling the slightest twinge that you should do something in return.

But isn’t that exactly what God, often, calls us to do?

To receive His love.

To receive His grace.

To receive His forgiveness.

But our human nature fights this.

My walk with the Lord has been a journey of learning to surrender my life to Him, one area at a time. For years there was one area in particular that I struggled to let go of. I would go through the same agonizing process every few months for years. I’d “surrender” it to the Lord only to take it back and feel defeated all over again. When it finally became too heavy of a burden to carry anymore, God opened my eyes to how stubborn I was being. It was as if I was saying, “Okay, God, I trust you with everything else except this one thing. I’ll figure out how to deal with it myself.”

But God in His great mercy revealed to me that He was offering me healing, but that I was refusing to accept it. In His great love, all that He was asking of me was to simply receive it and trust Him. His path to healing was much different than what I expected, but His ways usually are.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” 

Isaiah 55:8

God knows the big picture of our lives, we don’t. His ways are good even though we may not understand them. His plans are to give us hope and a future. Never to harm us. (Jeremiah 29:11) We must trust Him at His Word and hold onto this truth.


 Pray & Reflect

 How difficult is it for you to freely receive a favor or gift? How does that translate into your acceptance of God’s work in your life?

Have you been resisting Him and trying to do things your own way? Confess anything that you are struggling to completely surrender to Him. He wants to restore you, but you must ask and be willing to trust and follow His ways.


 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

Ephesians 3:20

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He is at work within you. Preparing you for something far beyond what you can imagine. Accept what He is offering. It is good.


 

Image credit: flickr.com

 

Trust Me

When our daughter, Annabelle, was little, she and her daddy had a game they would play at bedtime. It went something like this. My husband would stand at the foot of the bed and turn out the lights. Then, in the dark, he would shout, “Jump! I’ll catch you!” Hesitating, Annabelle would always ask, “But what if you don’t catch me?” And her daddy would respond, “Trust me!” Then, with all her might, she’s run and jump off the end of the bed into his arms.

I love that memory because it shows how much trust Annabelle has in her daddy. It shows the innocence of a child’s heart. She trusts that he cares for her and will do anything to protect her. There is no reason for her not to believe that she is loved.

Somewhere along the  way into adulthood, many of us lose that willingness to trust. Trust can be tricky. Some of us have experienced the hurt of having our trust shattered. Unfortunately, the reality of our human condition causes us to falter. There are those moments when we and others show ourselves to be untrustworthy. Having people in our life whom we can trust is a blessing. Having a God we can trust is life-changing.

Life is messy. We get hurt. We judge and reject each other. Sadly, things like abuse and neglect exist; both physical and emotional. All these things cause scars. Our scars make it hard for us to trust. Our scars make it even harder for us to believe in the idea of a holy and perfect God; a God who loves us and cares for us; a God who is worthy of our trust.

I would venture to say that we all, eventually, come to a place where we realize the things of this world do not satisfy. We realize that things like money, status, stuff, etc. are not trustworthy. They give us a temporary fix only to let us down. Too often, they leave us lower than where we started. They offer us a false hope. When we decide we’re tired of being deceived by this world and we’re ready to accept Truth, where do we go?

We go to the One who is not of this world. We go to the One who is trustworthy. To the One who cares. To the One who created us. To the One who knows us and loves us. Our Heavenly Father.

Do you hear Him calling to you in the darkness, “Jump. I’ll catch you!”

Then, you have a choice to make. Will you trust Him and jump? Or will you trust fear and refuse to move?

When fear says, “What if He doesn’t catch me?”,…

Love says, “Trust me!”  

Trust that your Heavenly Father loves you and is working things together for your good…even when the darkness makes it hard to see.


I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:3

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Annabelle (age 2) with her Daddy


Could someone in your life be encouraged by this post? Please share.

I See You – An Ode to Motherhood



Valentine’s Day is almost here and moms everywhere are scurrying to help children put the finishing touches on their Valentine boxes. They’re making those last minute trips to the store for Valentine cards. They’re planning special ways to communicate their affections to the loved ones in their life.

Mama, it’s time to take a break. Grab your favorite beverage, whatever it may be. Rest your feet and steal a quiet moment for yourself. You, the one who is always giving until there’s nothing left to give. Take a moment to be still and receive.

Weary mother,

I SEE YOU

I see you waking in the middle of the night to calm your child

I see you tip toeing away to not wake the baby

I see you doing your best to comfort your sick child

I see you splashing cold water on your face to wake up

I see you sipping coffee in the dark to steal a quiet moment

I see you scrubbing dried food off the floor

I see you planning meals to make sure no one goes hungry

I see you with kids strapped on and buckled in gathering food for the family

I see you trying to maintain a conversation in your sleep-deprived, caffeine-fuelled state

I see you loading and unloading that stroller in the parking lot

I see you diverting your eyes in the store from the new and pretty things you can’t afford

I see you counting your cash and putting the things back that make you go just a little over

I see you exiting the restroom after you’ve wrangled  three kids for a potty break

I see you pay for the squished loaf of bread that your toddler sat on because you don’t have it in you to walk to the back of the store to grab a new one

I see you hoping your gray hairs aren’t too noticeable because you don’t have the time or money to change it

I see you sacrificing self-care for the care of others

I see you going without, so that the rest of the family can go with

I see you grasping for a shred of patience as you let your little one do it himself

I see you finally sitting down to eat after everyone else’s belly is full

I see you doing your best to let go

I see you engaging in the work of motherhood

I see you searching for a sense of significance in the diapers, dishes, and laundry…oooh, the laundry

I see you weary

I see you beautiful

I see you strong

I see you


 “You are the God who sees me,” for she said,

“I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Genesis 16:13

“She gets up while it is still dark;

she provides food for her family…

She sets about her work vigorously;

her arms are strong for her tasks.

…her lamp does not go out at night.”

Proverbs 31: 15, 17-18 


Image credit:

drkenmcgill.me (heart in hands)

eskipaper.com (flowers in hands)


If this could encourage a mama in your life, please share.

 

Where Were You, God? – A Reflection on God’s Tangible Love

I look back & reflect

on all I’ve lived,

experienced,

endured… quietly.

One question echoes…, “Where were you, God?

An answer unravels

My child…

I sent the angels who quietly guided your steps.

I was the gentleness in the mother who welcomed you.

I was the kindness in a friend who reached for you.

I was the goodness in a teacher who told you to never settle.

I was the faithfulness of a classmate who prayed for you…secretly.

I was the unseen that protected you from the harm that could’ve been.

I was the boldness in a fellow student who shared stories about me.

I was the intention of a teacher who pointed you to my purpose for your life.

I was the love in the words of a wife spoken about her marriage.

I was the warrior covering you in prayer that stressful year. 

I was the mentor helping bathe your mind in Truth that hard season.

I was the Light piercing through the darkness. 

I was the Peace that overcame your anger.

I was the Healer who mended your broken heart.

My child,

I AM the Hope replacing your hopelessness.

I AM the Strength emerging from your suffering.

I AM the Joy breaking through your weariness.

“I AM WHO I AM”


“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.”

John 15:11-15 (MSG)


Image credit: wookmark.com (heart-shaped balloon), Wikimedia.org (heart-shaped pages)

 

 

 

 

Some People

Some people will never see the ocean, but they will know that it exists

Some people will never hold a million dollars, but they will strive for it

Some people will never set foot on Mount Everest, but they will believe that it stands

Yet, some people will never recognize God and they will assume He doesn’t exist

Some people…

“I tell you,” he replied, ” if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Luke 19:40


Image cred: wikimedia

Good & Order – Seeing Creation with Fresh Eyes

After 11 years, my Bible was looking pretty worn out. Random scribbles from children. Pages pulling away from the spine. A hodge podge of highlighting, underlining & notes. It was time for a new one.

I had heard of chronological bibles before and was curious. The idea of studying God’s word in chronological order intrigued my linear-thinking brain. I delight in structure and step-by-step processes.

My sweet hubby honored my request for a chronological bible for Christmas and it is without a doubt one of the nicest gifts I have ever received. I treasure time in God’s Word. This new version is helping me read scripture with fresh eyes.

Take for instance, the Creation story. If you’re familiar with this story, you may recall…

On the first day, God created light.

On the second day, He created sky.

On the third day, He created the seas, dry land, and vegetation.

On the fourth day, He created the sun, moon, and stars.

On the fifth day, He created the creatures of the sea and sky.

On the sixth day, He created the creatures of the land and mankind.

On the seventh day, he rested.

I’ve read this story a number of times. It’s easy to skim over it and think, “Yea, I know that story. It’s the creation story.” But what can easily be missed is what is beneath the surface — the evidence of God’s character.

From this story, we see that God is a God of order. He had a plan. A plan which He executed precisely. He didn’t haphazardly throw things together. He created in a linear, orderly fashion.

We see that God is a God of Light. He broke through the darkness. He created a greater light to govern the day and a lesser light to govern the night. With Him, there is no darkness.

We also see that God is good. At the end of each day, God saw that what He created was good. When He saw that something was not good, He changed it. After creating man, He saw that it was not good for man to be alone, so He created woman. He didn’t just say it was good. He said it was VERY good. {Sorry, just had to slip that in there, guys.}

From this story, we see that God sees the big picture. He is all-knowing and all-seeing. Someone with an earthly perspective might try to chalk up any one of these events to climate change or some other human explanation, but God knew what He was doing.

This story also reveals that God is caring. He created and blessed mankind. He gave us plants for food and authority over animals. He gave man and woman each other. He desires the good of mankind.

Because this story is so familiar to us, we risk letting its impact fade. We must seek to see His story with fresh eyes. Too many of us have fallen into the trap of believing that God is distant and disconnected from our lives. We need reminded that He is good and caring. Too many of us blame God for the darkness and chaos in the world. We need to remember that with God there is light and order. Darkness and chaos do not come from Him. Too many of us feel lost and wonder why it is that God has forgotten about us. We need reminded that God has a plan and He wants each of us to be a part of it.

If life feels chaotic,…

If parts of it are shrouded in darkness,…

If God feels distant,…

perhaps it’s time for you to join the story…His story.


 

Image credit: Bible Science Guy

Will you come?

“Where are all my people?”

There is room enough for a great multitude, yet only a few gather.

There is room enough for many to feast, yet only a few are seated.

“Where are all my people?”

 

The Lord is preparing a place for you.

Will you come?

You know the way.

It’s the narrow road.

 

In anger, you accuse Him.

In stubbornness, you ignore Him.

In complacency, you forget Him.

You choose the broad road.

 

There is a way that is right and good.

It brings life.

The truth remains—only one true God.

In humbleness, you accept Him.

 

At the end, what will you hear?

“Well done” or

“I never knew you”

You choose.

 

 

“Enter through the narrow gate.

For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction

and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,

and only a few find it.”

Matthew 7:13-14


Image credit:

Inside the Vatican – narrow gate

 

 

 

 

Good and Gritty

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Trials–Nobody likes them.

Yet, God says,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4

As humans, we have an innate desire to be mature and complete. This desire manifests itself early in childhood when the growing toddler stumbles to take his first step and later when the maturing teenager begins to learn how to balance all the responsibilities of young adulthood. We, as humans, are constantly growing and changing.

Or, are we?

Why have some of us decided that the evolving process of growing and changing has ended for us?

Living things grow and change.

If we are not growing and changing, what does that say about us?

What does God’s word say about us if we are not engaging in the maturation process? It says that we are incomplete and lacking. We are like the runner who feels accomplished enough by the miles behind him that he slows down, steps out of his lane and kicks back in his recliner. Meanwhile, the race continues.

How do we allow ourselves to arrive at a place where we think we’re “good”? Where we communicate to God that His work in us is done?

Each transition we make in life as a result of the growing process requires some form of being stretched beyond our current level of comfort. It may be mildly unpleasant or it may be excruciatingly painful.

Are you there right now? Are you in that place that is so uncomfortable or painful that you just want to scream or curl up in a ball?

Change can be hard. The unknown can be scary. The unanswered can be devastating. But what does God’s Word tell us?

“Consider it pure joy…”

How can that be, especially, when joy seems like nothing more than a faint and distant memory?

It can be when we embrace the limitations of our human perspective. We must enter the place where we humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are not God. This is where we have to let go and let God be God.

While our human-ness fixates on the incessant irritation of the grit, God’s divine authority positions Him to see the beautiful pearl that He is forming in us.

Don’t by-pass the maturation process. Submit to it. Then, one day you will stand and look back at the path you’ve taken, complete and lacking nothing.


Could someone in your life be encouraged by this post? If so, please share.

Everyday Choices

Sadness crept in and weighed heavy on my heart while I listened to my friend’s story. A couple left their 3-month-old baby in the care of a friend so they could go out to dinner. While they were out, they got a phone call from the sitter who said she had dropped the baby. The parents rushed to the hospital where they were met by a doctor who informed them that their baby had suffered a severe skull fracture big enough it should’ve killed him. The doctor made it clear that a fracture so severe could not have been caused by a drop.

My mind swirled with unanswered questions. “What would cause a person to react so severely?”…”How could someone harm an innocent baby?”…

My friend’s next words sunk deep within me…,

Every day we make a choice not to lose it.”

These words give gravity to the choices we face everyday. Choices that are so common and frequent that we don’t even realize we make them. If we’re honest, some of us might realize that we’ve unintentionally relinquished our power to choose how we respond to life. In our powerlessness, we have become subject to subconscious emotional reactions or, even worse, slaves to emotional numbness.

Every day we make choices.

Choices…

to ignore or to listen,

to dismiss or to engage,

to criticize or to affirm,

to manipulate or to respect,

to hurt or to heal,

to hoard or to give,

to complain or to thank,

to fear or to trust,

to harm or to protect.

Everyday our choices have the potential to significantly impact the lives of those around us. Our choices either show God’s love or they don’t.

It’s our responsibility to stop thoughtlessly reacting and, instead, start intentionally choosing to pursue love, joy, peace, forgiveness, and grace. We must take back the power to choose. We must choose a new way.


“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'”

Isaiah 30:21


Reflect on this…

None of us gets it right all the time. Only one man did – Jesus. But what do the majority of your words and actions towards others reflect? Worry? Bitterness? Pride? God’s Love?

Is there a particular situation or person in your life where you struggle to reflect God’s love? Ask God to help you see the person through His eyes. Ask Him to help you love the person the way that He loves the person. Before every encounter pray to be a reflection of His love.


“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Hearts


 

Image credit: playbuzz.com

 

Come To Me

Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…”

We all go somewhere when we feel weary…when the burdens of life get heavy.

Where do you go?  to the TV…to bed…to a drink…to the fridge…to the office…

So many things beckon our attention and give us the illusion of offering rest.

Binging on TV for hours numbs our brain and temporarily distracts us from the mundaneness of life.  Crawling in bed and hiding under the covers gives us the illusion of hiding from stress. Getting lost in a drink deceives us into thinking that our troubles are melting away. Stuffing our face when we’re not hungry deludes us into feeling comforted. Distracting ourselves with work fools us into falsely escaping from our responsibilities.

But, Jesus says “Come to me all who are weary and burdened…”

So, why don’t more of us go to Him, when we’re weary?

Is it possible that if we go to Him, first, we might not seek second-rate comforts?

Sometimes, at the end of the day after the kids have gone to bed, I’ll reach for my Bible and journal before reaching for the remote. {I don’t do this all the time. I mean I am human.} But after I do, certain things of this world suddenly become less appealing.

Something happens to us when in our weariness we, first, seek Jesus. Our minds get renewed. Our hearts get purified. Our spirit gets strengthened.

Never have I finished a TV binge session and thought, “Wow, I feel so renewed.” I usually feel just as tired and bored as I did before I started.

Nothing else can offer true rest. They only offer a temporary distraction from our weariness.

But Jesus,…He promises rest for your soul (Matthew 11: 29).

Soul-level rest, not just physical rest. Rest that has the power to quench dry bones, revive shriveled hearts, and lift heavy spirits.

Jesus says, “…learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart”

He wants to teach us.

Are we ready to learn?


 

Reflect

Where do you tend to go for rest? Do you long to experience a soul-level kind of rest? Spend some time with Jesus. This may mean pouring your heart out to Him or this may mean sitting in silence while you listen. This may mean meditating on scripture or it may mean journaling your thoughts as you reflect on a verse. It doesn’t have to look a certain way.

Ask Him to help you be intentional about going to Him, first, when you are feeling weary and burdened?


 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

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Image credit: gracekleinconstruction.com

Make Me

Whenever I read Psalm 23, I get hung up on one particular verse.

If you’re not familiar with this passage, it begins like this…

1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

3 he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake…

{I encourage you to pick up a bible and read the rest of the passage.}

It’s verse 2 that I get hung up on…, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

“He makes me…” Never mind what comes after that. It’s those first few words that get me.

HE. MAKES. ME.

My first reaction is to revert back to my rebellious adolescence and shout, “YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!”

I’m an adult in my mid-30’s, yet my initial gut reaction is still to resist and retaliate…, “You can’t make me…”

But isn’t that exactly why He MUST make us. Because without His authority, we might never stop. We’ll keep going and doing and striving and climbing…. We’ll stay busy and distracted until our heads spin out of control or until we can’t feel anything anymore. Until, finally, we crash and burn.

In His authority, there is love and protection. In making us lie down, His desire is to save us from the crash and burn. His love wants to shield us from the busyness and distraction that threatens to destroy our hearts and our relationships.

He wants to make us lie down IN GREEN PASTURES

Soft, green grass

A stream gently flowing nearby

The sun shining on our face

Lying under a clear blue sky

Perfect. Peace. Rest.

 Let Him lead you.

Let Him restore you.

Let Him make you…lie down.

green pasture


Reflect

In your life, are you experiencing this kind of rest that comes from the Father? If not, why not?

If your heart longs to experience this kind of rest, spend some silent time with God. Tell Him just how weary or lost you feel. Then, listen and allow Him to “whisper” to your heart.

Is there a certain area of your life that feels out of control? Surrender it to Him. Ask Him to show you how to accept and experience His guidance in this area of your life.


 

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