A Christmas Season Reminder

 

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Cinnamon tea in hand, with a warm cardigan on my back and Trading Christmas (the best Hallmark Christmas movie) playing on the screen, while I sit next to my window listening to the wind, and watching the snow storm outside. It’s currently -4C (39F for my lovely American readers) outside. It’s nice to be inside this morning and not outside in the cold.

The image of what I’m doing right now is relaxing, isn’t it? An hour ago, it wasn’t even close to relaxing. In the name of authenticity for the sake of this blog, here are the events of what happened.

I woke up with the intent to meet someone this morning. I get ready to leave, knowing there was a snowstorm (the things we do for dear friends, am I right?). I go outside, wait at my bus stop, and the bus never shows up. I walk to the Tim Hortons coffee shop right  beside it, I get a coffee, and I wait inside for the next bus. Never comes. I happen to put my hand in my pocket where my bus pass was, and I can’t find it. A little panicked, I quickly retrace my steps, realizing that it’s not in any of the places I went. Sulking on the way home, I contact my friend and tell them that I can’t meet them. I go home to drink my coffee, and it’s cold. What a perfect start to my day.

I read an old post that I made last year, and you can find it by clicking here. I was instantly reminded of how Christmas is so much more than snow and gifts. It’s so easy to get lost in the commercial aspect of the season. I’ve been so focused on whether or not I’ll be able to afford gifts for everyone that I’ve so quickly forgotten the actual reason Christmas is celebrated.

The reason is that sin came into the world at the moment Adam & Eve disobeyed God, separating the world from Him. The way God would bring His people back to Him would be through Jesus, who came into the world as a human baby, so small and weak and relatable. We too, were weak children. What better way to show us that He understands, than to come to earth as a child? Jesus’ purpose was to grow up and be blameless, and be sacrificed on the cross, thus breaking down the barrier that separated us & God, finally reconciling us together.

“Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” -Isaiah 1:18

Christmas is the beginning of the greatest story in history, and its something to always remind ourselves of. The commercialism of the Americanized Christmas holiday is meaningless compared to the hugeness of Christ’s coming. It’s a reminder of humility, thinking about how the King came down as a baby, instead of a huge parade. Incredible to think about, isn’t it? And it definitely slows down the chaotic mindset. My day just brightened up, thinking about this! I feel a lot better about my situation right now, and I’d like to encourage you to think of this as the month goes by, as well.

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Back From Excuses (An Update)

12:15pm.

I used to blog twice a week, with my thoughts ready to be shared with the world. I didn’t shy away from voicing my unpopular opinions and shining a light on my life & it’s ugly issues. Then I was lucky if I had a free day or two to quickly jot down some ideas and struggle to write a blog post. Now, I’m full time with little ideas, and a lazy attitude (I mean, after a long week, a free day is golden and the opportunity to do nothing that requires thought is extremely appealing).

Now, I miss it. My lack of ideas is no excuse, I miss it. I miss the connection and conversations made over my blog posts, and just the love of sharing my thoughts. I’m tired of making excuses for no blogging.

Here I am, cooking some pasta with broccoli and chicken, coffee about to be put on, with Shrek playing in the background (love the classics), and I’m writing this post. To ironically say that I’m tired of not writing anything anymore, and to reach out. For what? I’m gonna need some accountability.

I’ll be carrying my notebook with blog post ideas in it for as long as I remember to carry it with me. If any one of you sees that I haven’t updated in a week, let me know, and I’ll do everything I can to ensure that a new post goes out into the world.

I’m back (Or at least I’ll try to be)!!

A Weird Post About Creativity (Or The Lack Thereof)

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I went downtown with one of my best friends the other day, where we ate lunch, had coffee, went hiking, and ice cream. During our time in the city, we went to the bookstore as well. I bought a few books & I’m in the middle of reading, The Artisan Soul by Erwin Raphael McManus. It’s a brilliant read so far, and I recommend every one of you reading this post to get that book!

It’s about creativity being in our souls since God is THE Creator & because we were made in His image, we are all called to create. The passage that has stuck out to me the most so far tells the story of the author’s dentist and his artistic expression through his profession. This guy plays music on the headset he gives you, and he has his patient put their hands in hot wax and speaks to them in a soothing voice. How this dentist cares so much for the one in the front of him. I read this and suddenly became so inspired to do everything with intention.

I then realized that as much as I’m overall pleased with my job, there is no personal expression, no room for creativity. Going outside the box would very likely get me fired. It hurt to realize that conformity in my workplace is why I’ve been feeling so uninspired artistically. It’s even harder to discover that my workplace has become a security blanket for me.

I want to be like that dentist, and have creativity pouring out from all areas. See, I want to express what the insides of me looks like, and leave some kind of legacy or contribution even. Don’t we all want to be a part of something?

My creativity means so much to me. I’m tired of environments make me afraid of failure. We need room to fail. It’s environments like that that increase my anxiety levels and cover up the creative process by repetitive procedure and systems.

You’ve seen videos and movies where the character is grey in a black and white world- uninspiring. I’m not sure why, but Groundhog Day comes to mind. Phil’s day becomes so repetitive, and I roll my eyes and cringe. “I don’t ever want to have a life like that”, my 9th grade self thinks in Ethics class. My life as a whole is not like that, but certain aspects are revealing themselves to me in this way- repetitive and meaningless, and I feel stuck in my tracks because I don’t know what to do about it.

I was made in the image of God- created to create lovely things nowhere near as lovely as creation itself. It’s discouraging to feel so uninspired, but somehow I will find something that allows freedom of artistic expression, and something I’ll feel so passionate about. In the meantime, I can still be intentional in my current area of expertise or mediocrity. I’ll find that inspiring environment one day, but it might take a while. That is a process that I’m sure I can be patient with.

To my fellow creatives, don’t be discouraged- we are made for this, and we can’t give up yet. We still have stories & light to share with everyone.

Coffee Chat: I Want To Be Close To God Again

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For those of us who have been saved from hell & God’s wrath by Jesus Christ, we have known what it was like to walk with Him, to be completely devoted. We would do anything for the Gospel, and we would defend our faith until we were blue in the face. We would leap at the chance to read our bibles. But then, the world comes in and it’s difficult to find that perfect balance. School, homework, jobs, the sleep schedule (if there was one) all become top priority. We forget to read our bible, we don’t make time to pray, and before we know it, we’re found wondering why God feels so distant from us. This is what we keep getting wrong, however: God has never left us- He promised us. We know Him to be faithful. Instead, it’s we who have distanced ourselves away from Him and therefore made our relationship with Him weak.

I have asked around what others do when they are in this position, and they trying to get back to Christ. Below is a consensus of all the ideas we gathered together.

Read the bible. This is the simplest task, yet it takes so much effort for us to do, and this shouldn’t be the case. The bible is where it says that we were once far from God & were brought back. Why wouldn’t we want to be reminded of this, especially if we feel far away? Personally, I always find myself reading Hosea, because it reminds me of how imperfect I am, and how perfect the love of the Lord is. I could feel like utter crap, but because God’s love is greater than anything, my soul can rest a bit better. There’s so much truth in the bible, and we deprive ourselves of knowing God each time we don’t make the effort to read it. Jesus took the cross upon Himself, the most brutal of deaths. I think we can make a tiny effort to read a passage. “All to Him I owe”, right?

Pray. I’ll admit, this is difficult for me. I know it’s hard for others as well. What I do when I can’t pray out loud, I write them down like letters or poems. We should all force ourselves to pray out loud though. A relationship works best when we are actually talking to the person- not just writing letters all the time. You want to SPEND TIME with the other person. Yes, it’s awkward, but it’s also very personal and real. There’s power in saying Jesus’ name audibly. It’s vulnerable and intimate. It makes me feel better knowing that God understands all that I’m trying to say, even when I can’t form it into words.

Genuinely worship. We can sing songs about Jesus all we want, but if we don’t take the lyrics and make them our prayers, it’s harder to be genuine. I remember what God has done for me in the past, and that allows me to worship Him wholly, because I’m reminded of His strength. It’s easier to focus on Him when I’m not thinking about myself (which is obvious, I’m sure, but I had to say it). Focusing on the words helps as well, because the lyrics serve as reminders.

Examine yourself and repent. People aren’t going to like this one. Most people do the “examine yourself” part and acknowledge the things that get in the way between them and God, but it’s rare to hear about the “repent” part. Probably because people don’t like feeling like they’ve done anything wrong, or admitting that it was their fault that they are distant from God. Pride is a terrible thing, and it hurts many relationships, all because someone didn’t want to admit when they were wrong. We know we’re in the wrong, so we should just examine ourselves and repent from the bottom of our hearts, especially if God means that much to us. It only makes sense.

Remember the promises of God. This goes hand in hand with reading the bible. It takes reading to know what God has promised. If you don’t know the promises of God, I suggest getting a notebook. Start reading in Genesis, and write the verses you find where God promises something. I’ve been doing this exact study then (of course) life got in the way, and I stopped. I should start that up again. It strengthens me a lot, and helps with anxiety quite a bit.

Begin seeking again. Start now. There’s nothing stopping us in this moment from reading our bible and digging into the word of God, from praying, from repenting, and starting over. To take up our cross and follow Jesus to our deaths. We are encouraged to start over fresh and brand new, walking hand in hand with Him again once more. And when we drift off again (always by accident), Jesus will be there to welcome us back to Him. Until then, let’s run back to Him until we are breathless and our feet bleed.

 

 

4 Things I’ve Learned About Leading Worship

Hello again, friends! I’m just gonna go ahead and address the elephant-in-the-room-that-might-not-be-an-elephant-to-you-but-it-is-to-me: I haven’t written a post in nearly 2 months. This is probably the longest hiatus I’ve taken so far while running this blog. It’s weird and upsetting for me! I’m hoping to make more posts (without long periods of time in between), but with my work schedule, we’ll see how that goes!

Excuses, excuses. Still, I want to write more and will therefore make it a point to do so!

I want to tell you 4 things that I have learned about leading worship:

  1. It isn’t about looking good onstage. If I’m ever worried about looking good for worship, I have to shut that thought out immediately otherwise I shouldn’t even be up there. The only reason the worship team is used  is to help lead the people into a personal time with God- to invite them to be open, vulnerable, and intimate with the most powerful One in existence. Putting the focus on ourselves would altogether defeat that purpose.
  2. I must always evaluate how I am doing spiritually. It’s hard to be energetic and invite people to join in the presence of God when I myself haven’t been spending any time in prayer or reading my bible. I can sense when I’m faking it. I don’t like being a hypocrite, so I do my best to make sure I’m able to help my team bring that energy on a Sunday morning by energizing myself with prayer & reading.
  3. I have to remember that even though I’m helping my team lead, I’m not actually the one leading the set. I have a good friend who I often lead worship with, and we’ve developed a good dynamic over the years- he does main vocals, I do back vocals. Sometimes I forget to just let him do his thing & allow myself adapt to his voice instead. For example: we’re doing a song that we’ve done so many times, and I come in a little too early or sing the wrong lyric. You can imagine that it would throw him off a little bit. It’s never a big deal because we can laugh at ourselves, but it’s still something that I am continuing to learn.
  4. I do this because I am a servant of God. I’m humble when I say that God has gifted me with my singing voice so I can sing to Him and enable others to come close to Him as well. If I don’t feel like worshiping one Sunday, I’m not being obedient. I’m called to worship always (and that doesn’t mean singing constantly!), because worship is a lifestyle and a decision to publicly declare God as King. It’s an honor to sing to God, and give Him praise. The more I lead worship, the more I realize this is such a heavy duty to carry out, but I do it joyfully.

I’m not entirely sure how many of my readers have led worship before, but if you have, please tell me what kinds of things you’ve learned while doing so!! Have a great week, my friends!

Life Has Been Exciting Again!!

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Since I last posted, I have gotten more productive, and I have been joyously progressing in my life! What have I been up to, you ask?

I got a job! I am now the new dishwasher at a restaurant in my town, and I love it. It’s definitely harder work than I anticipated, but it’s really good work & has been so great for both my physical and mental health. I can feel my muscles getting stronger, and I can feel the pride in knowing that I’m doing a job I know I can do. Thanks to the camps I’ve worked at, I have all the previous experience of doing dishes under my belt, and so far it’s paying off (Feels good to know that I’ll actually have some money in the bank & I’ll finally be able to save for useful things, as well as the occasional espresso in my daily coffee)! I’m confident in my ability to work with a focused brain, and I’m pleased to say that my bosses have taken notice quite a lot lately.

I adore my team. Everyone is so kind and full of drive, which helps a lot. And if any of us has trouble, we’re quick to offer help to one another. Not only am I the only girl out of everyone on the dishcrew (girl power lol), but I’m also the shortest. So when I can’t reach something off the top of the shelf, or if I can’t put something away, all I have to do is hand something to my super tall coworkers. The camaraderie is really admirable here. I look forward to see how God will use me in this place.

I’ve been writing a little less, but I carry my notebooks everywhere to ensure that creativity doesn’t escape my grasp when it comes into reach. I’ve been editing a lot of my previous work, which hopefully will be done soon, because I have some exciting projects to do with it! My newest notebook has been used to create new pieces with new topics and formats. I’m still on page one, but that’s alright. I feel like this new season in my life will be full of newness, and stretching in my mind. God is going to be growing me a lot in the next few months (for example, taking the recycling out sounds like a tiny task, but the bin is huge, the wheels are broken, and I am tiny).

I’ve also been reading a lot more, which has been so good. I missed reading so much. I wanted to make sure all my editing was completed before taking on another book (still not done editing though). Ezra and I have taken a trip to the bookstore where I bought 2 books, which are “I Wrote This For You” and “I Wrote This For You And Only You”, both by Iain S. Thomas. I think his work is really beautiful & inspiring, and it’s as if he’s heard every thought in my head.

I also need to get back into the swing of bible studying. I stopped in the middle of Numbers, and I think I should start a routine again. I find it hard to read my bible for pleasure- I read it more for knowledge and study. I just don’t know where to begin. The bible is overwhelming, but I’ve been feeling the urge to dive in once more. Maybe I should just do it.

there’s a shortness of breath / going forward in life / just go ahead / live / be free

-Robin Bailey-Leonard, ‘life in abandon’

I don’t know when I’ll get a planner to sort out blog posts again. I miss being disciplined with a schedule, but my work schedule is all warped right now. Until next time, my friends!

Your Ministry Is Necessary

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I was scrolling through Instagram a few days ago, and came across a post from Lysa TerKeurst, where she was talking about not knowing how people would be affected if she didn’t continue her ministry. It made me think. Here’s the question that she posed:

“What loss would people feel if your ministry no longer existed?”

I feel like so many of us question our ability to be used in the Church. Like we’re ill-equipped, or not qualified.  “Am I making a difference?”, “Am I helping?”, “Are people feeling loved and encouraged?” are all questions we have; we want to do good things for the kingdom of God.

All of us have different ministries that we’re a part of: preaching, serving, blogging, kids ministry, leading worship, organizing church events, even janitorial work. We’re all a part of the Church body, which can’t function at its best if someone doesn’t do their part, just like a physical body feels off if a body part is broken or hurt.

We all have significant part in the Church body, whether we see it or not.

Here’s an example: I enjoy blogging a lot, because it helps me share my thoughts & connect better with people. I can offer encouragement and love here. I didn’t see it as a ministry at first, maybe because I didn’t think it did too much for the kingdom of God. But as I went on to create a community of people who long for encouragement, love, support, and authentic reality, I realized that there are people who enjoy what I write. I can show Christ through this platform, and I think ministry can be in all forms, as long as Christ is shown to the people.

Another example: Every Sunday morning, I walk into church, and I see 3 or 4 people setting up food plates for after the service. Their behind-the-scenes work does not go unappreciated. Sometimes I see the janitor sweeping or mopping, so that the church looks its best. I love that. It’s humbling to realize that it’s not just the pastor that has a ministering job to do; so do we. And without our intentional efforts to do our part in the Church body, the body will weaken.

We shouldn’t downplay our part in the body of Christ- we have purpose.

I feel like once we’re found by Jesus & our lives are 100% changed, the calling for our life is ministry; it becomes our reason for living- to spread the gospel and the love of Christ from whatever platform we have, and to introduce as many people as we can to Jesus. Even if we aren’t a pastor; we can have an office job and still live a life of ministry. In fact, if we’re saved and redeemed by Jesus & don’t feel the desire to  carry out the Great Commission in our lives, what are we even doing?

I felt the need to encourage you by saying that whatever your platform of ministry is, it’s so valid, and so necessary. The Church wouldn’t be able to function properly without you.

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Sunday Morning, One Voice

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Sunday morning, April 30th. Sunday mornings are always special, because that’s one of the main days in the week where my church family gets together & taste a little bit of what heaven is like as one body, in one accord. It’s one of the special days of the week where we expect that God is going to show up. Granted, God can meet us at any point of any day in the week, but with Sundays being the “normal” Sabbath day, we naturally expect God to show up. He always does.

Let me tell you about the experience we had yesterday morning.

We had an acoustic set of 4 people, with all of us on vocals, and 2 of us on guitar. We had practice beforehand, but that never compares to the real deal in the midst of the church body. We wanted to have periods of silence in our set so we could leave room for God to do his thing. We can’t rush worship, and I love that our team is grasping this more than ever. God is doing a work in our hearts & cultivating a desire for genuine worship.

We sang a song that we had never done before. We are all singing sweetly- every kind of harmony and melody escaping our lips. Lots of the time, I close my eyes in worship, and it’s immediately just God & I. But there are moments where I can for a second, notice the congregation, and I can see how in love with God they are. Just hearing everyone singing together once the music died down was gorgeous.

The whole morning, I was thinking about a decision that I was going to make. I knew I needed divine & heavenly courage to do it. I knew that if I prayed for the courage to do this task, I’d receive it, because everything we ask in Jesus’ name will be heard and granted.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” 

-Matthew 7:7

I was focused on that for most of the worship service. After a while, as I got deeper and deeper in the presence of Jesus, and I got a sense of tranquility. It was almost as if I was in the eye of the storm- it was the most peace I’ve ever felt (I say that a lot, only because every moment of peace in the presence of Jesus is awesome).

I feel like I write about my experiences in worship a lot, but these moments are too beautiful not to share. I can speak for everyone on my team when I say that God was present. How can we not keep that to ourselves? We’re so excited to see what He will do in our lives!

I’d encourage you to spend time in worship today. Pray. Even if you’re not used to it. Ask Jesus to reveal Himself, and He will. You’ll be so inspired!

I’ll leave you with this psalm that I read last night, and I LOVE: “Praise the Lord, all nations! Glorify him, all peoples! For his faithful love to us is great; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. Hallelujah! (Psalm 117)

 

 

 

The Evidence of Progress

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The last few weeks have been so crazy in my journey with Jesus! Here’s an awesome & eventful recap:

April 6th, I wrote my post, The Liberation, where I declared myself free from all anxiousness in Jesus’ name. April 8th, I went to see some friends & we ate dinner together, and watched movies like Ghostbusters (that theme song is my halloween go-to) & the Hillsong Movie. We had a time of worship that evening. That Sunday, the 9th, was when I helped our church’s worship team lead. It felt incredible!

I don’t doubt that God put these things in order leading up to this moment. If I hadn’t declared freedom over my life, and if we hadn’t watched the Hillsong Movie, I wouldn’t have been so inspired to worship Jesus like I did.

On the 10th, I’ve started a bible study where I am reading from Genesis to Revelation, and writing down the promises of God. This is helping me so much, and I don’t know why I put this off. On the 14th, it was Good Friday. I spent it reading the bible & listening to worship music. We had an amazing service that evening. The Holy Spirit was there, and there was a sense of joy rather than sorrow, which is so GOOD. We had an awesome time at McDonalds later! The 15th, spent reading & listening to music. The 16th, Easter Sunday, was overall joyful. My restored joy was basically symbolic of how I have risen from the grave with Jesus on that third day. Amazing, isn’t it?

The past two weeks have been amazing, I can’t even describe it. But Jesus has been so good to me in restoring my heart back to the way it used to be.

A few nights ago, my best friend & I were discussing the question, In a few sentences, how would you describe your born again experience?, and this is what we came up with:

“My born again experience has been something that, 6 years ago, I didn’t know how badly I needed. There’s been this hope that clings to the back of my mind. It reminds me of that dark place I was once in. That had I not discovered Jesus, I would either be stuck in this pit of despair for the rest of my life, or I wouldn’t be here. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the hope that I have, but those times pass. I have this desire to look at the world in a different light. I see people as special and lovely. My experience with Jesus has allowed me to see life much more brightly.” -Me

“Hmm, I never really thought of it.  I guess it’s a cop out to say that a lot of my walk of faith ends up in a worship song, but I do believe that God is my source. If I think back to before I was saved, well, I can’t imagine how I survived. I’m completely incapable of surviving without Him.” -Mick Germain

I have had the pleasure of seeing my friends grow in their faith, going through seasons, overcoming weights, and reclaiming their joy. It’s so beautiful to see, and sometimes I get overwhelmed by the progress I see, because it proves their loyalty & devotion to Jesus. And to be a witness of these things is lovely, wouldn’t you think?

(It’s time for me to stop typing and going on and on about my friends, or else I’ll start crying  & this post doesn’t make sense anymore bye)

 

The Liberation

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Last night, I couldn’t sleep very well, so I decided to pick up a journal I had recently bought (the obsession is real), and try to fill the first few pages. It was such a success! When I was done writing, it was nearly 1:30am. I had made a point to put worship music on, and that influenced my writing & reflection a lot. I haven’t journaled in a long time, so to get everything out on paper made me feel lighter!

Here’s a list of some songs that I had listened to:

  1.  Tremble by Mosaic MSC
  2. Nothing But The Blood by Citizens & Saints
  3. Seasons Change by United Pursuit ft. Michael Ketterer
  4. You Are Worthy by Will Reagan
  5. High Priest by Rivers & Robots
  6. Everything To You by Bethel
  7. The Real Thing by Michael Ketterer
  8. You Hear Me by Rivers and Robots
  9. 23 by Red Rocks Worship
  10. Yahweh by The Brilliance

“These last few days have been unnecessarily hard on my heart. There have been too many attacks on my mind, telling me that I’ll amount to nothing in this life, and that I’ll never get to where I need or want to be. A whole bunch of stuff that does not have a place in my head.

What I totally skipped over in my thinking, was how important it is to speak truths over my life when spiritual attacks like this happen. They can come at any moment, so I have to be on constant watch. It’s important, because it’s very hard to function when all that’s on my mind is how awful I am.

Earlier yesterday, I was reading my devotional & the final pages in my leadership course. They both talked a lot about how we should speak out against the spiritual attacks and remember that we have plenty of promises to lean on from God. It allows for us to become more effective leaders when we learn to do this.

Isn’t it more liberating to know you can take care of someone & their burdens now that you’re not worrying about yourself? Yes!

This takes a lot of discipline. How? Well, we have to be regularly in the Word, reading the promises that God has for us; If we aren’t reminding ourselves of these biblical truths, or seeking them out, how will we know what God thinks?

We also have to pray. A lot. This is something I’m still learning to discipline myself to do. I know my day is unfulfilled if I don’t talk to God during the day. I feel guilty being in bed & talking to Him for only 5 minutes, right before I drift to sleep. Prayer takes a lot of our burdens off of our shoulders, and replaces it with peace. So why do we deprive ourselves of this?

Despite having to relearn discipline in these areas, I’m learning a lot. Learning to go to God with troubles I have is good. It’s important. I’m so glad and thankful for His patience with me. And I’m learning to speak against the things that Satan has planted in my mind. It’s time to put on some gardening gloves and un-root some poisonous roots. The time is so overdue, and I refuse to let it take over my mind any longer.”