Let us begin

Lately, there are a number of songs that talk about going back in time to tell yourself what you know now. A chance to tell yourself to walk away from a toxic relationship or to take the job you turned down. While this perspective seems appealing, I am not sure I would take it if given the opportunity.

Yes, there are decisions I made in my past that I regret. People I hurt because of my selfishness or insecurity. I made some pretty foolish decisions when I was eighteen, some that continue to impact me thirty years later. It has become part of who I am and who I am not.

I know as a believer, that God has had a plan for my life since before I was born. I know there were times in my life that the very prayers of someone kept me from danger. I also know that there were times when I chose to do something that was not God-honoring, sometimes I chose to do that deliberately. While I cannot go back and fix it, I know that I can learn from it.

Psalm 18:30-32 says, As for God, his way is perfect; The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure (NIV).

Of the regrets that I can name, the ones that cause the most sadness to me are the ones I knew better than to do, but I did it anyway. In a way, I think that is the definition of regret, I knew better that to do it, but I did it anyway. My poor decisions, my failures, even the losses I experienced, were part of the path that led me to Christ.

When I came to see that all these choices I had made were never going to bring me the happiness, the contentment, the grace, mercy, or forgiveness I needed– that is when I cried out to God. And that is when He answered me. Not with fire, thunder, or lightning but with tenderness. With the very grace and love I needed.

Child, I have been waiting for you to call my name. I have wanted to pick you up, dust you off, mend your brokenness, and wipe your tears. But you never called out to me until now.

God is not a belligerent dictator, He is a gentleman. He will not come where He is not invited. But oh, Best Beloved, when God is invited into your life and heart. Wow. I learned that day, that He has the power to take my regrets and turn them into blessings. He did that day, He still does today.

Mother Teresa once said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin.” That was the lesson I learned from God the day He came into my life. I would not be able to go back and change the life I had lived before that day. I would not be able to tell the future, to know fully what would happen tomorrow. But while it was still called today, I could experience His grace. His mercy and learn the lesson that the past is in the past for a reason.

Now, the enemy is going to try and attack any way and any chance he can, to stop me from growing in Christ, to keep my story from being used to encourage others. It is what he does. He wants to bring up the regrets and the failures and tell me that I cannot possibly be used by God for God’s purposes and glory. But that is a lie.

God is in the business of taking people’s messes and turning them into messages. Scripture is full of story after story that show His redemptive power. Some of my favorite stories include the woman at the well in John 4 and the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Each time Jesus met the woman, their story was anything but a fairytale. But instead of taking them to task and in one case stoning her for her sins, Jesus turned the story on its head. He told the woman at the well that there was a way to get Living Water, to never thirst again. She had made a mess of thirsting for love from men who would never satisfy her thirst for eternal healing,

The woman in John 8 was seeking love in the wrong places and had made a complete mess of things. Jesus, who by all authority had the right to cast the first stone, as the only person there who was without sin, did nothing. He gave the woman another chance. A chance to change her mess into a message of grace. Of mercy and forgiveness.

Best Beloved, let us leave the past where it belongs- behind us. The future is somewhere on the horizon. Today is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:4).

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From nothing into something

I throw no stones here, this is my personal story.

I woke up around midnight to the song All of Me sung by Billie Holiday playing over and over again in my head. I got out of bed, took a long drink of water, trying to shake the song so I could go back to sleep.

Not a chance.

After a couple of minutes, I went to Scripture to see what might be triggering the song. I googled “all of me Scripture” and the first option that came was Psalm 139.

Oh. Okay, Lord, I thought.

I was conceived when out-of-wedlock pregnancies were a mark of poor morals and shameful behavior. My parents were young college students and very much in love. My mom became pregnant. The mentality at the time was, remove the scandal before it becomes a scandal. Which is what was attempted. However, for reasons only known to God, the abortion was unsuccessful.

When my mom learned she was still pregnant, she told my grandparents. Through a series of events it was agreed my mom would go forward with the pregnancy. My parents married and in a few months I was born.

As I read Psalm 139 tonight, I read it in the NIV, HCSB, KJV, and finally, The Message by Eugene Peterson.

“You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day,” ‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭139:15-16‬ MSG, bold mine).

My life, these past fifty years, have been full of moments where God has taken me from nothing to something. My very life, my salvation, my marriage. My growth as a believer, the move to Nebraska five years ago.

Each time there was a point where it seemed as though there was absolutely nothing. No hope, only sorrow and shame. No future, only a repeat of failure. No love, only loneliness.

But God is a Redeemer.

His Story throughout the Bible is full of this truth. He redeemed Adam and Eve after they sinned. He redeemed Abraham and Sarah after their disobedience with Hagar. God redeemed Israel from their stubbornness throughout the Exodus.

God offers all of us redemption through Christ’s death and resurrection, even to this very moment.

He took nothing and made me into something. Something special, something wonderful, something good. Something- someone who has had all of herself redeemed. Restored. Renewed. All by the very grace and power of Christ.

When my folks became believers in the 1970’s, they listened to the Gaithers, the contemporary Christian music of the period. Gloria Gaither and her husband, Bill, wrote songs for children to learn about God’s love and plan as well.

This is the chorus to You’re Something Special:

That’s why He made you special
You’re the only one of your kind
God gave me a body and a bright healthy mind
He has a special purpose that He wants you to find
So He made me something special
I’m the only one of my kind

***from the Gaithers’ album, I am a Promise (1979)***

Best Beloved, I have no idea what your personal story may be. I do know, you are here. You do have a purpose. You are precious, and prized, and valued, and loved, and the world would not be the same without you in it.

You are special.

I pray you will know the love He has for you, receive it and be redeemed by it.

Blessings,

oxoxox

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Brass and percussion

I am a bit of a romantic when it comes to the 1940’s. I know there were many who were still living frugally due to the Great Depression and then World War II. Yet, there is a sense of digging in, a sense of making do or doing without, that appeals to me.

I have been listening to Big Band music lately; classic songs from Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, and the Andrews Sisters. I love the rhythm, the lyrics are fun, and it often pulls me out of any negative mood I may be in that day. Big Band music is the perfect soundtrack.

Our walk is much the same with Christ. While it may be full of struggles and loss, His Holy Spirit brings with it a deep joy and celebration. This life is not the only thing we have, it’s not the only thing we will receive.

Even as the Israelites circled Jericho, the most fortified place in the Promised Land, they knew there was more to come. The Commander of the LORD’s Army had told them so (Joshua 5:13-6:7). The trumpets played, the men marched in obedience, and on the seventh day, the walls came down, through God’s great power. He changed everything.

While I am sure it was obedience and not the trumpets that made the difference at Jericho or on the battlefields in Europe during World War II; I know the music encouraged the people who heard it.

One of the fun songs from the 1940’s is Ac-Cen-Tu-Ate the Positive sung by Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters. It is a bit of our family’s theme song, focusing on the good, not the negative. As believers we can focus on the things that are wrong, the losses, the lack of justice. Or we can focus on the calling we have received from God. The calling to share the Gospel, to share the joy, the celebration that this world is not our home, we are just passing through.

Let our lives be the brass and percussion, playing the music of God, and singing as the walls fall down.

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Clouds

A favorite benefit of country life is an uninhibited sky. Our house faces east/west and every single day it would seem the sky is trying to out-do yesterday’s performance. I have been taking sunrise/sunset pictures since the first day we had our house. I have noticed that as the seasons change, the color palette changes as well. Spring and summer are colorful, but it seems fall has the sharpest colors and strongest palette of all four seasons.

No matter the season, the sky is the most bold when there are clouds reflecting the sunshine. On mornings the sky is clear, the sky is still colored, but not with the depth and variety one can see on other days.

The sky seems to know what we tend to forget; the sun is best reflected when storms have come through.

Throughout time, battles and struggles, losses and wins, have given way to celebration in God’s goodness. Joshua and the battle of Jericho, Gideon and his 300 men, David and Goliath. Paul and Silas in jail- singing glory to God.

Personally, the battle against anxiety and depression for my husband and me. We have been to the abyss, sometimes hanging onto the roots on the edge of the cliff. After years of individualized counseling, some medication, and an untold number of prayers, we can stand on this side and sing God’s praises. We are healing, we are healthier than ever before. We have recognized where to draw our boundaries and are holding to them to maintain our wellbeing.

Scripture tells us we will experience trouble (John 14) and that Jesus is with us through that trouble, even when it seems like He is not. We cannot go through life without various difficulties, but we can go through life with Christ. We have the opportunity to reflect the glory of God in the aftermath of the storms we experience.

I pray we will embrace the storms, as a time to see the power of God coming through it all. Reflecting His love for us, being still in the midst of it and knowing He controls it all.

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised (Psalm 113:3 NIV 1984).

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Alice and me

I have a confession to make, I am no longer the size I was in high school. I know it seems shocking, but I am never going to be that size again. For my birthday I was given a bit of money with strict instructions to spend it on myself. No buying groceries, no paying bills with it. I was to buy something for myself that would last (like books) per the instructions.

Most of my life I was criticized by others for not being thin enough, quiet enough, submissive enough. I didn’t fit the boxes others felt I should. I spent decades trying to fit into who they thought I was supposed to be. Living that way made me feel like a constant failure. I spent so much time trying to be the size, shape, and character they wanted, I lost me.

In my late 40s I finally saw the woman I was and the woman I wanted to become. Through the shedding of those false layers, I found me. I no longer tried to fit into the “too small” jeans and shirts. The shoes that were the wrong style and type for my life.

I am 50 years old. I am not in shape like an athlete. I don’t wear fashionable clothes. I don’t wear high heels. My natural hair color is changing. I have wrinkles. I am forgetful sometimes. I cannot do all the things I did just five years ago.

 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, (Colossians 3:12 ESV).

Who I am not, is not as important as who I am. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, sister, friend, cousin. A hobby farmer, a writer, a believer, a dreamer, a crafter. I have wisdom, understanding, a willingness to let go of what will not matter in the future. I know that a few dear friends matter so much more than multiple followers. I know there is more joy in the gentle sunrise than in a “perfect” family picture for the Christmas card.

I do not drink the “kool-aid” that commercials tell me I should. While Alice drank and ate her way into different sizes based on where she was in Lewis Carroll’s story, Alice in Wonderland, I am saying, No thank you.

Now I am embracing who God has grown me to become. I see this birthday as an adventure year for me. I am stronger, healthier, wiser, more relaxed, imperfect and being perfected, all at the same time because of His grace.

I may be on an adventure, just like Alice once was, but my adventure is one mapped out for just Jesus and me. His path, my life, the way it was meant to be.

Stay tuned for updates on where He takes me and what I learn. I promise to send a postcard…

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Coaches

I love to watch sports movies, especially the underdog story. Two of my favorites are Necessary Roughness (1991) and Facing the Giants (2006). In each movie the team needs direction and wisdom to succeed. Their coach is the one who will help them see their potential and gifts and teach them how to use them fully.

Growing up in a house where your dad is a coach, means you learn first hand that your teammates are important to your growth, that it isn’t about you, and that the victory or loss is always better when you’re surrounded by the people who are as driven as you.

My sons ran cross country during junior high and high school. My heart still swells at the memories of cheering them on from the sidelines. While I know they looked for me and were encouraged by me, it was the words from their coach that made all the difference.

Scrolling through my Instagram feed today, I read posts from Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, and Christine Caine. Each woman speaking about their lives, sharing their experiences, and their love for Christ.

I was struck by how their words bolstered my spirit. God gifted each of them with different abilities and a particular ministry, but if you were to read their feeds, often you will see they are cheering each other on as well. It blessed my heart to witness this kind of love, so I decided to send a bit of encouragement back to Christine Caine.

Best Beloved, who are your coaches? Who are you coaching? Are you sitting in the bleachers and just watching or are you pacing the sidelines, hollering out reminders about the course that lies ahead? We need coaches, Dear Ones, we need them desperately. Send a letter, a text, call, visit, or PM someone who needs to know that they are not running the course alone.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne,” (Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭HCSB, bold mine).

It’s time to lace up, put our foot in the block, and when the gun fires, start running. Let’s encourage those we run with and remember why we are here.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2 Timothy‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭HCSB‬‬).

#laceup

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Your own…

I had an anxiety attack at church this Sunday. I feel foolish, even stupid, and super embarrassed. A wonderful friend and mentor asked the simple question, How are you doing? She knows my birthday is in the next few weeks and wanted to know how things were going as we prepare for company.

I started to tell her about the condition of things- stuff that doesn’t normally bother me. It was the domino that knocked me down, soon I found myself feeling “snappy” at a couple of other friends. I texted my husband and asked for his “buzzer bands.” Shortly after I put them on, I felt myself calming down. He learned about the TouchPoint bands from his counselor and they have made a huge difference for us.

It has been almost six months since I had an anxiety attack. I thought once I left the previous environment that triggered them daily, I would be all better, as I used to tell my boys. That’s the thing about anxiety, it works in stealth mode, all while setting up trap doors and other innocent looking situations that will send you reeling.

My hubby has also faced some emotional traps recently. Situations that previously would require serious intervention and keeping him under watch. Gratefully, he passed the test without fraying his mental health. I was so proud, am so proud, of him. Our marriage has been strengthened by supporting family and friends, our faith, counseling and medication as needed.

Hubby and I have been our own worst enemies in the past, which led to us being enemies of each other instead of helpers for one another. Mental health is one of the things I never thought I would have to face. I mean, who cares, I am fine. I can do anything I set my mind to do. I often feel that I have to always be producing successes and marking things off my to-do list. I never knew how harmful this behavior could be, until I found myself on the verge of screaming tears. My successes were becoming failures at a rapid rate.

As I age, my hubby has been reminding me that I can put off until tomorrow what I cannot do today. What a contrary way to see life.

Again and again, I am grateful for the husband God prepared for me. Hubby Dearest is very good at helping me slow down and not cram 14 hours of tasks into a 6-8 hour window. One would think I could recognize that on my own. But, with severe anxiety and an engrained producer mentality, it is hard to see anything but the To-Do list waiting for another check mark to show I completed the task.

Best Beloved, are you able to recognize when it is time to walk away from the list of things you want to do? Are you able to accept that God is not looking at you for the things you do each day? Our worth is not based on what we do, but on what He has already done.

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him, who called us by His own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3 HCSB).

WE DO NOT HAVE TO TRY TO DO IT ON OUR OWN.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Amen indeed.

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All sorts of things

Mornings come earlier than I’d like some days. While my alarm is set at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, I still think it is too early, especially on Monday and Thursday. You know what I am talking about Monday because it starts the week before recovering from the weekend’s activities. Thursday because we’ve almost made it to the weekend.

Hubby and I are in the midst of the last push for the house before the birthday party he planned for me. We’ve been fighting the trim work in the kitchen, trying to get the paint to adhere to the wood. Something that was applied to the wood in 1910, during the original construction, has caused issues with the paint we are trying to apply today. Lots of aggravation, a few choice words, and multiple attempts to get the right materials have been filling the days.

We’ve been able to attach a small wood stove in the kitchen to the original stove pipe placement. It does a great job of heating the kitchen, which is often the coldest room in the house during winter, as well as our bedroom. When the addition was added in the 1920’s, which includes our bedroom and my sewing room, the only heat source was the radiator system. Now that the radiators/boiler are no longer attached, our room can get very chilly.

So many things we’ve accomplished and experienced as our house has evolved over the past four years. From removing trash, discarded clothing, furnishings, and appliances, to sleeping in various rooms as the restoration has continued.

I am proud of the work dear hubby and I have done in our house. The effort we’ve put into it has not been a sprint, it’s been a bit more than a marathon even. I often think of this house and wonder at the ways God has moved in the middle of it all. Our marriage has been in the middle of it, some growth, some struggles, a lot of learning.

Our process keeps me leaning into God. This house has become such a symbol of my faith walk. Who I was, who I am, who I am becoming. I am no longer lost, falling apart, unloved, and messy. I am loved, I am restored, I am becoming whole.

I want to have my whole house perfect before my birthday. I want to be perfect. It’s just not going to happen. My house will be finished, but I also know that it will have tweaks along the way. That’s the way God is working within me. While I am already perfected through Christ’s death and resurrection, God is also perfecting me every day.

From Beth Moore’s book, Audacious

Dear Ones, I wish I could say the right things, listen and respect the decisions of others, and always be obedient. I aim for those things, but I also know (hard lessons learned) that I am not going to be able to mark these things off my list. It will always be a daily journey toward being more Christ-like than I was yesterday.

My prayer is that you will grow more like Christ, too.

Blessings,

oxoxox

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On chicken salad, senior pictures, and baseball

I am the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side. My grandmother was forty-five years old when I was born. One of my uncles was twelve years old when I was born. He was so excited when he answered the phone and heard I was born, he actually dropped the phone and jumped up and down.

As time went on, more grandchildren were born; in total four granddaughters and three grandsons. We are spread across the United States, coast to coast, each of us full of tales about this grandmother we share. Being the oldest, I have many memories of her as a younger woman. She treated me as another child, instead of a granddaughter, which was both good and bad. I would often visit her when I was in college since she lived a few minutes away from campus.

One of the meals we shared was her chicken salad; a chicken breast, celery stalk or two, salt and pepper, mixed together with some mayonnaise. Super simple, yet in a way a special meal. I have many memories, including rolling out sugar cookies at her counter, as I grew up.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how much I had learned by her side. Bargain hunting, how to judge if the deal was really a deal, the way a lady should sit, walk in heels, and how to throw a wicked baseball. She was the go-to mom in the neighborhood when the kids got a ball lodged in the crook of a tree. She could knock it out every time.

After she passed, my mother shared Gram’s senior photograph with me. I had always believed my features were from my paternal grandmother. After all, I had inherited her hair color, height, and physique. When I put my senior picture next to Gram’s, I was amazed .

While there are over forty years between the two pictures, there is more resemblance than I expected. Family tends to bring with it many things that cannot be chosen, genetics being one of them. I am grateful to have features of both of my grandmothers, what I also have are some of their mannerisms and personalities.

All of these parts of them are part of me.

As a believer, I wonder if someone who met me would think that I had features and mannerisms that reflect Christ. Do I show kindness to others, do I have patience with those who need it? Am I as forgiving of others, as He is forgiving of me?

Best Beloved, what characteristics have been passed down to you? Which characteristics of Christ do you long to have developed in your life? My prayer is for more love, less judgment, more grace, less pride. I pray the same for you.

Blessings,

xoxoxo

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A tricycle, harmonica, and paper ears

My mother would often read to me from her favorite books, The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner and Bezzus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary. I read them dozens of times as a child and then again when I had my children. As a little girl, I understood the frustration Bezzus felt toward her little sister, Ramona. I was the older sister with a rambunctious younger brother who could not seem to follow the simplest rules – like staying out of my room.

Now, as I prepare to have another birthday, I find myself relating to Ramona more and more. She may not have followed all the rules, but she did follow the ones that mattered. Love family, do not give in and conform, be confident in your abilities, and know that mercy and grace are the best parts to give and receive.

My favorite images of Ramona are of her riding her tricycle in the house, playing her harmonica, and wearing her bunny ears from preschool. She might be seen by some as defiant, in some ways, I believe she was determined to experience life in a way that might actually challenge others to look at life differently too.

One of my favorite parts of Bezzus and Ramona is when Ramona gets into the apple bin and promptly eats one bite out of every single apple. When her exasperated mother asks her why, she responds, “Because the first bite is the best bite.” As if it should be obvious to everyone else.

While I am too big to ride around on a tricycle, I do own a harmonica and I have owned a set of bunny ears -also from my preschool days. Maybe it’s time for me to stop conforming a bit more and begin confirming who I am. Whose I am, and why I am here.

I am a child of God, loved, redeemed, restored, and precious in His sight. I am not here to become part of the world, but to conform instead to the image of Christ and bring glory to Him through my obedience to Him. I am to seek God and join Him where He is working. This is who I am. This is Whose I am. This is why I am here.

Best Beloved – I don’t know where you are today, who you may most relate to in your season. I do pray you will know and receive the love God has for you. Seek Him always. You will never be disappointed.

Blessings,

xoxox

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rose hips

One of my favorite parts of living in the country is foraging. Sunday afternoon I took a basket and some scissors and went for a stroll along the road. The weather was chilly, with a strong wind that made the cornstalks whisper and rustle in the fields. I knew the wild roses that grew along the roadside had rose hips ready to be collected and I was looking forward to filling my basket.

Instead of quickly filling it, I found just a few, not even enough to cover the bottom of the basket. I continued down to the intersection of our road and decided to turn west. I mentally identified the plants as I walked, but found only a rose hip or two to add to the basket. Turning around, I debated going home. Maybe the birds and mice had already eaten many of them.

My feet went across the intersection and continued east. I hadn’t planned to go further on, I was resigned to having a nice walk instead of gathering rose hips. I glanced to the right and found a few in the tall grass. As I looked further ahead I saw more and more, hundreds in all.

I had almost given up the very thing I intended to find.

After picking nearly a quart of the berries, I slowly turned and headed home. I was so proud of the bounty I carried with me and looked forward to rose hip tea during the winter.

My lack of faith to find what I was seeking nearly brought me home empty handed, instead of with my arms full. How often have I missed out on blessings and lessons from God because I didn’t want to keep going forward? Or change course all together?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise (Psalm 111:10 NIV).

So many of the most amazing blessings have come when I quit trying to make my own path. I never intended to go to New Mexico and work for the summer, but thankfully my cousin invited me to come with her and my life was forever changed. I never intended to get married after my fiancé called off the wedding. Here I am now, married for 22 years to my best friend. I never thought I would live anywhere else but Illinois. Here I am living in Nebraska, in a rambling, beautiful home surrounded by farm land as far as the eye can see.

Each decision that was made only came after fighting God. I want to follow Him and I don’t want to give up control. Someone has to give. It must be me. God’s plan and purposes are always better than mine.

Where are you wandering today, Best Beloved? Are you trying to make your own path? Are you trying to model yours after someone else ? Put down the map, the machete you’ve been using to cut the path clear, and look up. God is standing right there, waiting for you to see where He is leading you. For you to go after Him, not your own desires.

The blessings and wisdom, the direction and peace you are seeking may just be around the corner.

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