Last But Not Least

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It wasn’t an easy choice.

I remember being afraid mention it out loud. Did I really want what I was asking for? I wasn’t ignorant. I knew the cost, the sacrifices I would have to make. Yet, I began having dreams. A flame I thought was snuffed out long ago began to flicker in my heart. Excitement started to surface. However anxiety of the unknown would continually overpower any hope of lasting happiness.

What was this desire?

I wanted another baby.

I was embarrassed to admit that after 3 biological children, two step-daughters, one integrated daughter, and failed relationship attempts, I was contemplating having another baby. Not just mildly contemplating. My snoozing biological clock was ticking out strong desires to do so.

I can clearly remember conversations I had with God about this way before bringing it up with my husband. I gave God every reason, every excuse why this was simply a bad idea. How I wished I could just bury my fanciful side without killing apart of my person-hood! Never being one that’s afraid of telling me what I don’t want to hear, I heard God say, “Joy, you don’t have to do anything you do not want to.”

Like that really helped.

He’s God, for crying out loud. All I wanted was for Him to tell me what to do. He knows everything. Not to mention if anything went wrong I would have a scape goat, someone to blame my poor decision on.

The next thing I heard from God was, “Do you want to?” This only frustrated me more. Now I had to be deeply honest with myself. I had to admit to myself what was in my heart was good and not bad. It wasn’t unhealthy to want something so beautiful. God continued to expose the sand castles where my trust resided. He continued to reveal the truth. He showed me His thoughts, His plans, and His role in our relationship. Above all, He continued to emphasize this was my decision.

God refuted every sensible argument I could muster. How would we provide for everyone? It was God’s job to take care of me and my loved ones. What about all of my current responsibilities? How would I manage them while adding new ones? It is not my job to control my environment. What about my dreams? It is only my responsibility to live life to the fullest, giving it my all. Not mention, my dreams were His before He ever placed them in my heart. Finally I felt Him smile and say, “Seek ye first, and all these things will be added unto you.”

What did that mean??? To believe my wants and needs were going to be taken care of was hard for me. I felt it was irresponsible to place such trust in the unknown. I come from a hard working family, self-sufficient, who put a high value for earning everything you get out of life. Not to mention, this was contrary to what I learned in college. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you are to live in self-protection meeting your survivor instincts first, and up from there until you finally pursue spiritual enlightenment as self-fulfillment.

I left my conversations with God a little frustrated with the blank check He had given me. So, I decided to share my thoughts with my closest confidant, my best friend, the love of my life… My husband. Surely, he would set me straight with good ol’ fashioned logic. After all, he had a vasectomy from a previous marriage. We’d already come to terms with this, hadn’t we? I was delighted he was unable to have anymore kids when we first got married. I was extremely afraid of the idea of rearing them for a myriad of reasons, some of which included: I was a carrier of a malfunctioned gene and was already raising a severely handicap child. As I mentioned before, I had been in two major relationships, both of which failed dismally. This was hard on me as well as my kids. Pain avoidance became a central theme in my life. I also did not want any of our living children to feel or believe they were not enough, they were not loved fully, or that they would be replaced in any way.

So, I proceeded to present my longing with the full assurance he would bring me back to reality.

I should have known better going into the conversation. After all I married him because he was open to discussion and he wasn’t afraid of obstacles. And like Someone else I knew, he wasn’t afraid of telling me what I didn’t want to hear.

Contrary to my expectations, Matthew burst forth with elation at my aspirations. It saddened him deeply to not have any more children. He had a vasectomy to protect his ex-wife from a heart condition she would incur during pregnancy. He always regretted this decision, never quite feeling he was done having kids.

Still, I was conflicted. We had such a full house already. We were already referred to as the ‘Brady Bunch’. Yet I longed to have a child with the man of my dreams; one that was ours together, created out of our love for one another; one we would raise without having to share with anyone else.

So we finally decided go for it. Little did we know, this leap took us on a journey we very much did not anticipate.

After having saved up for vasectomy reversal, it took many months before I would become pregnant. Once we finally got pregnant, we had a total of three devastating miscarriages. I became hurt, discouraged, and frustrated. Here we thought we did not want anymore children and now we found ourselves fighting to conceive and carry to term. Heartbroken, I cried out to God. What was going on? I felt like the Lord communicated with me that we were up against a spiritual battle. One that did not value life. One that wanted to destroy life at it’s very core. The force we were up against was death. Whether it showed up in the form of infertility, abortion, or the mentality that children are in the way and a bother, it all stemmed from that same place.

Now, during this time, my sixteen year old daughter discovered she was pregnant. Though shame, guilt, and condemnation entered my mind for a brief moment, my internal being knew she was going to be a very good mother. After all, I did teach her well. I found my strength and hope in God once again. I encouraged her that she could face her fears, be great mom, and still remain true to her dreams.

Then a devastating blow almost ripped me apart. My third miscarriage wracked my body with immature labor pains. I had carried a blighted-ovum until the first day of my 12th week. I labored 1/2 the night only to deliver and empty amniotic sac. My body was in agonizing physical pain while my emotions were utterly numb. Yet I took comfort in the fact my daughter was still carrying my grandchild. It was not until we went to her OB appointment the next week that I discovered what she had been hiding from me. She had gotten an abortion the same day I suffered my miscarriage. We sat in our driveway having an intense three hour conversation. Despite our close relationship, we struggled to connect with each other during this time. I felt betrayed. I felt inadequate. I felt like a failure. I felt I had not passed on my values to one of the closest people to me. Meanwhile, she sat there feeling grief and remorse, all alone, misunderstood, and angry.

Matthew and myself were disheartened and even more confused. Should we  just chalk the whole thing up? Should we look into other options? Should we adopt? Should we try again? How should we best care for the children we already have? Besides our personal desires to have a child together, we were dealing with so many other life issues. This only made our choices that much harder.

Our character was tested. Our faith was tried. Our spirits had been crushed, but not broken. We found our strength, our hope, and our source through prayer. We found ourselves allowing the peace that passes understanding to be an anchor as our lives felt tossed on tumultuous waters. Through our trials we kept finding our peace, hope, and joy.

It was a relief when we discovered I had a problem with my thyroid and my progesterone. Finally, we knew what we could do to get pregnant and carry to term.

You can only imagine our delight after nine beautiful and long months, we were finally able to celebrate the entrance of our daughter Abigail into this world. A little after a year passed and we discussed whether or not to conceive again. Our other children were so far apart in age now Abigail would be raised as an “only child” in a few years. Again, we were faced with a tough, yet good decision to make. I had told Matthew it should be his choice as the choice had been previously taken from him in his previous relationship. After weeks of prayer and careful consideration of our lives in general, Matthew had come to the conclusion he wanted one final child.

We were intimate all of three times when another surprise happened. My daughter called and informed me she was once again pregnant. Freaking out, I put the stops to all intimacy protected or not. Though she was now nineteen, in a relationship, and had overcome a lot of trauma, she was going to need me.

Matthew was gracious, but did not understand my strong stand on the matter. As far as I was concerned, we were finished having kids. I was going to be a grandma. I was going to make sure this time I did not let anyone down. One week passed, then two. Though I was sad and felt a since of loss, I also felt a sense of duty to help my daughter.

Then my period became late. I tried to ignore it and regard it as stress. All the while I already knew the truth, but I convinced myself it was all in my head. I wasn’t pregnant. Grandmas don’t get pregnant. So, unlike my previous pregnancy tests I had always taken in front of Matthew, this one I bought at the store, took alone in a public restroom and planned on throwing it out with no-one the wiser.

The two blue lines showed up quickly. I was both excited and panicked. Instantly, I thought, “what is everyone going to think of me? How am I going to be able to handle all of this? Where are we going to get the extra finances to pay for the expenses?” My mind was swirling. I drove home in shock. When I pulled into the driveway my handsome husband was greeting me at the car door. I quietly slipped my fresh pregnancy test into Matthew’s hand and proceeded to the house.

Matthew looked down and instantaneously back up. “Is this ours?” he blurted out. A smile rushed over his face as he could not contain his happiness. He was not worried about all the concerns I was raising. He just enjoyed the fact he was going to be a father one more time. I however was not as eager to join the festivities. I did not know how to balance my feelings. Happy, overwhelmed, nervous, stressed, excited, and unsettled, I wanted to compartmentalize life. However, through this process, I have come to realize more than ever life can be hard. There’s no two ways about it. There are lots of pressures we humans experience. However, our character is shaped and formed by how we handle stressful situations. I no longer fear failure. I am now more concerned with failing to try. And though I remain imperphect, I do a heck of a lot of things right. My identity has become wrapped tightly up in what God thinks about me. I am also aware everything works itself out and often times we make life harder than it should be when we stress and worry.

With all that being said, it is with great JOY I announce the birth of our son, Matthew Isaac. His name means “God’s gift of laughter”. I am so glad God gave this young man to me. He is a promise I have carried in my heart for years. He also arrives as an uncle to my grandchild, Joshua James, who was born a week prior. For the first time in my life, I can say with full certainty, I have no unresolved desire to have any more of my own children.

I also know I will be the coolest Glam-ma on the planet.

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Afraid of the Dark!

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Blankets clinched tight around your face as if they are a cloche of protection. You can almost hear your heart beating within your chest… Bum, bum… ba,bum!!! Tired eyes now wide open. The noises of the day kept your mind busy. Now the quiet speaks so loud. Creaking of boards turn to monsters in the hall as our imagination plays on our greatest fears. The rustling of leaves outside our window become rabid packs of animals on the prowl. Dark shadows loom in corners like a creepy stalker waiting for us to defer our eyes.

From frightening images through the window to the unsettling feeling we get when we hang our feet over the bedside, we are afraid. Our minds create more drama than reality. Instead of taking our thoughts captive and telling ourselves what to think, we believe our gut instinct is telling us we are in danger. We do not realize we are the ones entertaining tormenting theories.

We have deduced that we are discerning truth. We act upon that core belief so we can feel safe. We try to protect ourselves and the ones we love from harm. Yet, we have come to anticipate horrific moments instead of considering the alternative… We are not in danger!

Irrational feelings of being vulnerable to pain causes us to meditate on negative thought processes. We have interpreted our surroundings to be perilous and predicted the outcome to be fetal. We fail to scrutinize what is spawning our understanding of the situation. Unfortunately we draw the wrong conclusions and we ourselves remain alone, in the dark.

As a child, I thought like a child. As an adult, I put childish things behind me. Most of us as children went through a time when we feared the boggy-man or the mysterious creature lurking behind the shower curtain. We may have even been comforted by someone we trusted; someone we knew would protect us. As we have grown our speculative nature hopefully matured.

Switching on the light in our brains is just as important if not more-so than switching on the light in a dark room. What we focus on we empower. If we dwell on fearful thoughts, we give way to torture of the mind, spirit, and soul. We become scared to agree or partner with faith as our worst dreads become our friends and enduring allies. Our self imposed paranoia causes us to take extreme precautions. We do not calculate risks verses benefit, we simply freeze in our tracks and become numb to respond with rational.

Seek the peace which passes understanding. Allow your body to relax. Draw from the still small voice that calms your spirit. Choose to believe in hope. Set your scattered, uneasy mind to good thoughts. Tell evil to go to hell and deal with bad things when that happen not during the never end “if” they are going to happen. Breathe deep and smell the fresh air. Close your eyes and trust everything is going to be alright.


Silencing the Voices

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Voices raced through my head as if I was standing in the middle of grand central station. Instantly I was agoraphobic, yet I was alone in my room. I snapped back to reality as the person on the other end of the phone line became the most important person in my world. I must become present and attentive, I thought to myself. My response, my reaction, my perspective will have lasting impacts on this person. I must quiet everyone else’s judgements, gossips, and condemning words.

Duct tape in the imagination can work wonders on the voices of friends, family, loved ones, and not so loved ones who are speaking in my mind. As the truth about the situation arose to the top of my thought processes I felt peace penetrate my soul. I swallowed my pride, my desire for idealism and perphectionsim. I did not panic. I knew everything was going to work out and people would have their opinions regardless of what was going on. If my life was on the tabloids, it would sell. Why? Because people eat up drama. And boy have I been through some dramatic moments.

I began to question why did I care what others think of me? Why did I care what they had to say or what their opinion was? I am walking in relationship with someone I care deeply about. Everyone else gets to choose their own path. They can deal with their own fears, insecurities, pains, and issues. Even if I heard their disapproving comments, I have control over myself alone. I chose to silence the voices in my head and the power I had previously given them in my life.

The only voices I give credence to are the ones who are willing to walk through life with me. They are people full of wisdom and experience. They know me. They know my heart. They will take the time to speak into my life in truth and love. Those people have the ability to make me feel vulnerable and safe at the same time, and their opinion is greatly valued.

By the time I had finished my phone conversation I had processed through a myriad of emotions. I felt and experienced raw emotions derived organically as I was receiving information. As I encountered each new wave of voices I silenced their voice with this truth: Though at times this is not an ideal life, it is a really good one.


Never Enough

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Never Enough!

    We lose heart before we start,
Listening to the voices in our heads.

Seeking approval from those we desire affection.
All in all we desire a deep connection.

It came from our parents, our, siblings, our friends,
It came from our culture, our race, the trends.

This feeling of inadequacy that doesn’t subside.
It causes us stress, grief, and pain inside.

We have become jealous like Cain with Able.
We chose not to believe the truth over a fable.

We compare ourselves to others only to discover our flaws.
We exaggerate our weaknesses, our value, and our cause.

We have adapted a victim mentality,
Clinching tighter to our pain.

If only our parents would have done this different,
and our teachers done that.
Our dreams would not have been crushed,
and our wallets would be fat.

Truth is… We agree with the lies we have been told;
Especially the ones we tell ourselves.

We put limits on what we view as risk.
We hesitate in fear and apprehension,
And, untrusting we recoil.

Night terrors haunt us like the unrest of weary soldiers.
Still, day after day we begrudgingly toil.

When success eventually comes on any level,
The unresolved what’s next is soon to follow.

When will our world cave in and all the naysayers win?
Such negative foreboding can prod the most optimistic people.

We affirm the discouraging words,
Giving ear to such negative things.
When we push past disappointment we struggle to hang on,
Praying our coping mechanisms will be faithful.

Our peace has been tested.
Our faith has been tried.

Our support systems stretched,
As they know us well and can judge just as harsh.

When we do walk in humility, confidence, & safety,
It feels like we have to fight to remain there.

To relinquish control and live in freedom appears irresponsible, reckless, and dangerous.
Instead of walking in faith and love,
We choose to entertain our fears and trust their ability to deliver.

Wholeness is hard,
Truth is more than perspective,
And the right thing comes from the heart,
Not because we are told we should.


What’s Love Got To Do With It?

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Protection

We don’t want a baby and we don’t want a disease.

We don’t want to give up our freedom and we don’t want an STD.

Lovers come and lovers go,

It’s all fun and games until somebody leaves.

It was good and provided such a high,

It validates our person and gives us release.

How could it be wrong when it felt so right?

Then why do we feel this alone, this empty inside?

A crowd of faces, a sea of people,

Hollow ships sail these waters.

With priceless cargo they shove over board,

Never reaching the destination for which it had endeavored.

Wounded souls,

Sails with damaged holes.

As pirates plunder the booty,

We unwittingly sell ourselves short.

We set our standard low,

Believing no one will pay the cost.

We do not wait for the highest bidder,

As we see what we have as inferior.

The greatest gift we could ever give,

We place such little worth.

Protection is more than a condom or birth control.

It is about putting value on what we have over doing what we are told.

There is no medication that can cure it’s symptoms,

for it is not a physical condition.

It is not about just preventing a life,

It is about mending the one that is already living.

It is more than sexuality,

It is a heart.

 


Dog Eat Dog

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Dog Eat Dog

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”—Malcolm S. Forbes.

Like most animals, a dog will attack another dog when it feels threatened. Out of fear, people turn on one another. They fight for position, power, and validation. They reason out their undignified actions and justify their shady behavior. Leaving behind collateral damage, many people will do whatever it takes to make it to the top of their field. However, there are people out there who do not just look out for themselves; people who desire to be good at something but are not willing to take advantage of others. It is in the heart of most people to act out of integrity. Maybe we should start asking ourselves how can we protect others and still achieve our goals?

Being narcissistic by nature, we are typically self-serving. “What do I get out of this?” “What personal gain or benefit is there for me?” In the midst of pursuing life, liberty, and happiness  we must come face to face with worth and value. This includes our societal view, personal view, and world view. Insecurities stem from poor self image. It is not modesty or humility. This actually comes from negative self perception. First we must come to a healthy understanding of, “I am important.” Second, we must deal with the value of life in general and understand that “Other people are important.”  The conflict arises when we don’t know how to serve the needs of others while also attending to our own.

It becomes essential for us to push past the uncomfortably that comes from communicating about what is going on inside of us.
We do not have the right to blame others for our choices. Even in the face of peer pressure, ultimately we are responsible for our actions. Owning our decisions also allows for us to have grace to make mistakes. Doing this while living with other impephect people can be trying at times. It can be a lot of work, however, the benefits for everyone is tremendous.

Having children I see first hand the effects of egocentric behavior:

“Me first.”

“No me!”

“Hey, what about me?!?”

“Me, me, me!!!”

As our children grow, my husband and I are consciously teaching them how to take personal responsibility for their choices, including their actions. We are guiding them to operate in self-control. We teach them to tell themselves what to do and not try to control other people. We are instilling values for freedom and individuality. We are purposefully cultivating the celebration of each other. We want them to appreciate being in relationship with powerful people while also recognizing they are a powerful person themselves. The “I am better than you” mentality, or the “You are better than me,” has got to go. We use the phrase, “I am amazing just the way I am,” and “My best is good enough.” We want them to know that while we as people can always hone our craft and develop as people we can also be okay with where we are in process.

My husband and myself intentionally highlight the harms of comparing ourselves to others. We seek to remove jealousy between our children and others by focusing on gratefulness, building self-confidence, and a nurturing a personal  relationship with God rather than a religion full of rules. Our hope is that as our kids grow and mature they will get their identity from Him and not from what they believe others think about them.

As adults we need courage and wisdom to engage in “Brave Communication”. We need to risk rejection and let others know what is going on in our hearts as well as in our heads. We’ve got to get real. The security of being known takes vulnerability. It takes honesty; beginning with ourselves. It takes work. It can be hard, time consuming, and exhausting, yet, it is tremendously rewarding. What we fail to recognize is it takes just as much energy to bury our feelings as it does to deal with them.

In the midst of this we need to be careful not to tell others about them. This is called judgement. We assume we know the why’s and the motives of others, so we shove our judgements down their throat. We use deductive reasoning, we read body language, we listen to both verbal cues, and watch for non-verbal communications. All in all, we take the information we have gathered and observed, and after we process it we arrogantly think we know the heart and mind of someone else. We usually do not ask clarifying questions because they are awkward and uncomfortable. Instead we project on them our perspective, paradigm, and personal filters.

Growing in identity is the most important thing we can do as people. When we spend time with God we learn about His nature and character. We have nothing to prove to anyone. We don’t have to listen to introspective criticisms. We can ask Him what He thinks about us. Then we can either continue to believe a lie about ourselves as in the movie Freedom Writers, or we can change patterns, gain confidence, and prosper in life. Others may try to drag you back down like crabs in a barrel because it exposed the deep insecurities in their own hearts. Despite this we can learn to celebrate the success of others with sincere joy and also position ourselves to achieve our greatest potential.

Hopefully, as we grow in the knowledge of who we are, we will create a safe place for others to do the same. May we inspire people to be confident without becoming prideful. May we learn to be more assertive as that is where we have the most to gain. We do not have to become aggressive and run rough shod over others. We do not need to be passive and sacrifice our hearts or play martyrs either. Most certainly, we must be very conscious of becoming passive aggressive. We can’t pretend everything is okay when it isn’t: “I have no needs, no wants, and no dreams and only others are important”. Then we talk behind each others backs. We make sarcastic, cutting comments, and we undermine the core of relationships in general.

We get so concerned we will be taken advantage of. We do not wait until something occurs to a deal with a situation. We sabotage our success before we begin.  We are so afraid we will not get recognition that we draw negative attention to ourselves. We are so worried we will not get what we think we deserve that we rob ourselves from receiving honor when it is due. We get so wrapped up in others mishandling the relationship we don’t actually put forth the effort to have one.

Serving the vision of others can keep us in a place of humility. We do not all have to be missionaries to take care of one other. We just need to make people matter. We can do this by putting our money where our mouth is, our time where our social injustice passion is, or by tending to the needs and desires of another. Learning how to put people first, not exploit others for personal gain, and not live in a constant state of self-protection, takes self-respect. As a defense mechanism people hoard money, food, or random items. This is a sign of a wrong core belief. It is caused from a root of an unsafe psychological perspective. To counter this behavior in our children, we have adopted the philosophy of giving out of who we are. We choose to be generous no matter what. It does not come out of overflow and it is especially not used to manipulate.

What do you really want and what are you willing to do to get it? Blending dreams with vision is vital. Wisdom, rational, and faith are required to see the magnificent become reality. Being intentional about the direction you are headed in life and enjoying the journey in the meantime will make your traveling much more pleasant. It will also keep you focused, allow for you to navigate the turbulent waters of life, and get calibrated if you veer off course.

Don’t get me wrong. I want it all. The thing is, what I am willing to sacrifice to get it? Unlike Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization which is self seeking, self-serving, and self-focused, this way of life seeks first what is right, what is true, and the betterment of mankind. This is when we will truly get what is ours, others get theirs and more. Wholeness will manifest as you are satisfied mind, body, and soul. Being a leader is about serving not demanding. As in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” your wants will be met in the most unexpected way, because who you are will not go unnoticed.

We have the ability as humans to change our patterns of behavior. We have the ability to change how we have gone about things in the past and we have the ability to make different choices from now on. We can go from dog eat dog, to becoming companions who know how to live with strong and powerful beings.

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Expecting… The Unexpected!

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Expecting… The Unexpected!

Ever plan for something you wanted so badly? Did you ever do everything that could have been done and fight with all of your might? Have you ever seen a dream so real you just knew with all your soul it would become reality? Have you ever been crushed, disappointed beyond belief?

To hope in the face of despair, to pursue against the odds, to believe beyond doubt…. is it stupid to wish for the impossible? Or is it rational to be apprehensive to ask for our heart’s desires out of fear they won’t be answered the way we want?

It can be discouraging when what you seek always seems to be just beyond your reach. Such a helpless feeling when you are not in control of your own destiny. Even though many others have experienced similar pain it can still be such a lonely feeling. Yet you press in, you dig deep, you suppress those nagging feelings of frustration.

What happens when you have put your heart and soul into something but reality tells you it is not going to happen? Everything seems to turn against you. Even time itself ceases to be a friend. At what point do you finally put to rest the very thing that motivates you to live? How do you bury what you been imagining, and simply “move on”?

When it feels like you’ve died, at the point you finally let go, that moment is often the very moment your seed is finally planted, finally able to bloom. All this time you thought you had been carrying rotten fruit: dreams that seemed to be shriveling, decaying, and growing mold like a disease. Come to find out, like fruit decomposing into the soil, it is not what is seen that matters.  Rather it is the potential, the hope, the life it carries inside that matters. It is this self-contained life that gives this seemingly small, yet deeply meaningful, pregnant aspiration the potential to become great.

It can be difficult when others so easily acquire what you have been longing for. The thing that seems to come by accident to some, and even unwanted by others, is the very thing you yearn to possess. In those moments, not becoming angry or embittered, and remaining faithful and vigilant to your own dreams may be the hardest thing you ever do. However, this will cause your roots to grow deep. And relative to your surroundings, though you may not flower often, your blossom will be rare and magnificent.

Very few appreciate what they have. Even fewer express true gratitude for what comes naturally. It is those whom have known the strain of struggle, the ecstasy of endurance, and the payoff of perseverance who truly value the prize. For it is the joy set before us that makes this life worth the darkness we go through to get there.

There are those of us who choose to never give up on our dreams. Though we choose to lay down our right to toil in vain, we trust that God keeps His promises. We seek peace during the process even when understanding evades us.  There are those of us who believe that the power of love is stronger than the power of hate. There are also those of us that live in the joyful expectation of good no matter if we get what we expected or we are happily surprised by the unexpected.


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