Trust and Trouble

As of today, March 27, Aaron has been home and not going to his day group for two weeks.

Two.  Weeks.

But who’s counting?!

What a strange world we are living in right now!  So many lives on hold.  So many lives lost.

How can we even make sense of all this?  We can’t, really.

But as believers, we can trust.  We can trust that somehow God is allowing this time on earth and that there is a reason far beyond our understanding.

I was enjoying a beautiful morning sky one day last week.  The puffy clouds were so pretty.

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I was going about my morning.  Soon I glanced outside again and noticed some thickening of the clouds.

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Darker clouds were moving in quickly.  What a change from just a short time earlier!

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I was surprised at how suddenly the sky changed.

The deep gray clouds soon choked out any sign of the blue sky behind them.

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A spring storm was certainly brewing!

When the storm clouds were starting to form, I snapped this picture.  Can you see what’s out there, in the clouds?

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A small rainbow!

A sign of God and of His promises to us!

It was timely that last week I was slowly reading and studying through Psalm 26.  In verse 15, David said:

“My eyes are continually before the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net.”

David was full of confidence in God and in God’s ability to take care of him, and to protect him.

Yet in the following verses, hear some of David’s comments:

           I am lonely and afflicted.

          The troubles of my heart are enlarged.

          Bring me out of my difficulties.

          Look on my affliction and my trouble.

         Look upon my enemies, for they are many and they hate me.

David went quickly from trust to trouble, as Dale Ralph Davis says.

“Sometimes in the middle of that nexus of trust and trouble, the trouble will intensify and multiply.  We don’t like to talk this way, at least not in church, but sometimes when we trust (v. 15) and pray (v. 16) things get much worse (v. 17).”   (In The Presence of My Enemies)

But why is that?  Is God being mean?

We know He’s not, if we truly KNOW Him!

God is working a great work, both in our world and in my own heart.  And sometimes His work and His ways are best taught…and best seen…in the most difficult of situations.

We see Him better then because we are forced to trust Him more.

When things are totally out of my hands, I realize that I must place them into His hands.

At the end of the day, God will still be in control.  His plan will still…and always…be behind every headline and every press conference.

Let’s remember that God is writing this story and has ordained these times.

We had best be sure that we know Him as our Savior, and then trust Him to take care of us in all these troubles.

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Waiting

Nearly every day of our lives we are involved in some sort of waiting, whether that wait is a mere pause or a prolonged period of expectation.

We have happy waiting:  for marriage…a baby…Christmas…a birthday.

We have annoying waiting:  for a red light…being put on hold…a construction zone…a crowded restaurant.

We have dreaded waiting:  for a job interview…for a doctor visit…for a test result…for a lay-off.

In our nation and in our world right now, we are waiting in a way that none of us could have anticipated even a month ago.  Will we get the virus?  Will we get laid off?  Will we have a shut-down of our state?

Will we have enough food…and toilet paper?!

Yesterday I realized another form of waiting happening in a group of people that I honestly had not thought about.

The grieving.  The ones who have lost loved ones to death and now must wait in most cases to properly grieve that loss.

I was scanning the obituaries in our newspaper.  Read some of the instructions that were printed concerning funerals or memorial services:

 

…at a date to be determined, once restrictions are lifted on gatherings in public.

…to be held at a later date when everyone is safe to attend the services.

…delayed due to the current virus pandemic.

Friends are welcome to stop by in groups of 10 or less.

Services pending.

In light of current gathering restrictions, a private memorial service will be held at a later date.

…service will be held at a later date due to current events.

 

Just today I heard that an old friend’s husband had died.  He was a decorated veteran.  Sadly, his funeral tomorrow will only be attended by family.  Friends who would want to visit the family must wait until our health crisis has passed.

Waiting to comfort.

Waiting to grieve in the way needed.

These very strange times are bringing new challenges to us every day, it seems.  There are so many ways that this Coronavirus pandemic is impacting us!  Ways that make us shake our heads and say, “Goodness, I never thought of that!”

But this is also the time for a certain waiting that will be the best waiting of all.

 

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”   (Psalm 27:14)

 

This waiting is not waiting for an event.  It’s not waiting for the next news report.  It’s not waiting for the next shoe to drop.

When we know the Lord and we walk with the Lord, then we learn to wait for the Lord.

We live in continued confidence, as my ESV note says.

All around us things may be crazy and uncertain and scary and disheartening.  God didn’t say He would make all our surroundings a bed of roses every day.

But He did say that in the midst of the crazy, we add waiting for Him to the top of our waiting list.

Wait for Him to speak to us.

Wait for Him to show His power.

Wait for Him to comfort us.

Wait for Him to meet our needs.

Live in the continued confidence brought on by the strength and courage He gives us, and by knowing that He loves us.

Live in the continued confidence of knowing WHO God is.

God isn’t surprised by any of this virus business.  I believe He’s taking away some things we’ve come to rely upon more than Him… giving this old world a chance to know Him before it’s too late.

Maybe God is waiting, too.

Waiting for each of us to stop and think about Him…talk to Him…accept the gift of His Son in our lives.

Let’s not waste this waiting time.

 

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Where Is He?

I pulled into our military post gas station years ago in Germany, got out of the car, and began the familiar routine of filling up with gas.  But suddenly, I don’t know from where, a fire started on the ground nearby.  All I could think about was my little Andrew in his car seat inside our car.  Thankfully, no gas had started coming out of my nozzle yet.  I quickly placed it back in its holder, jumped in the car, and high tailed it out of there as fast as I could!

Andrew knew that something had upset me.  His eyes were big as he asked me what was wrong.  I told him about the fire that I had seen and that I wanted us to be safe.  But most importantly, I told him, God was with us and had kept us safe.

I wanted to stress that fact to Andrew, so little and so curious about why I had been scared.  So, I repeated that truth several times to him on our short drive to our apartment.

“Andrew,” I said, “God was with us and He kept us safe.”

Finally, as I lifted him out of his car seat in our apartment parking lot and held his hand as we walked to our door, I said it once more.

“God was with us, Andrew, and He kept us safe.”

“Yeah,” Andrew agreed.  “But where was He?  I didn’t see Him!”

We smile at Andrew’s innocent question, but honestly, most of us have felt that way at times.

I just finished reading and studying through the book of John.  The end of the book is wrenching.  There was Jesus and His disciples, enjoying a quiet Passover meal one night.  And the next night, Jesus was dead.  The betrayal, the arrest, the farce of a trial, the brutal torture, and the horrible crucifixion.  It happened so quickly!  The disciples were unprepared for this turn…so lost…so scared…so alone.

How quickly their world had turned upside down!

“Now what?!” I’m sure they said to one another.  “What do we do now?  Are we next?”

Of course, we know the rest of the story.  Knowing the rest, though, sometimes makes me gloss over just how frightening and uncertain their futures must have been to them.

But then came Sunday!  There stood Jesus in their midst, very much alive and whole and healed!

And what did He say to them?

“Peace be with you.”

Peace.

The word means quietness…rest…and to be at one again.

Today, we may have the question that my little Andrew did.

“Where is God?  I don’t see Him!”

Sometimes we don’t see him as we look at this upside-down world.  Literally overnight, with news of a strange new virus, people were in a mass panic.  Store shelves emptied…major events canceled…jobs lost…quarantines.

SO much uncertainty!!

“Things are so strange,” everyone is saying.  “So weird and scary.”

Indeed, it is a strange and scary time.

But oh, what a time it is to trust our God, those of us who know Him!  What a time to see Him in His Word and in our hearts, speaking His words of peace and calmness!

The quietness and rest that God speaks of always brings me to my mother’s favorite verse:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10

To “be still” actually means to quit striving.

Quit pushing and pulling and struggling and hurrying and worrying and panicking!

Just relax.  Just rest.  Just breathe deep and let God’s refreshing presence fill your soul and your mind.

And know…KNOW…that He is God.

God is in charge of viruses and shortages and disrupted lives and lost jobs and unexpected decisions.

God has a purpose.  He has a plan.  He is not surprised.

And if you don’t see Him, then just be still…be quiet…open your Bible…and let Him talk to you.

Then you talk to Him, too, and see what happens.

God wants to be your Savior.  He wants to be your Father.  He will meet your needs.

His peace be with you, dear ones, during this stressful time.  May we shine bright in this dark time.

And may each of us be able to say, “I DID see Him!!”

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Tired of This

Recently, Aaron had his Epilepsy doctor visit.  After his appointment we had to walk over to the building next door for Aaron to have some blood drawn.  His liver function needs to be checked routinely due to one of his newer seizure drugs.  Aaron wasn’t thrilled about that because he really wanted to hurry up at the doctor and then go to Pizza Hut like we had planned.  Eating lunch out, after all, is the real reason Aaron was with me that day.  At least that’s the real reason according to Aaron.  Going to the lab was just another annoying delay in reaching his true objective.  The Pizza Hut Buffet…oh, and Wal-Mart after that.  We mustn’t forget the all-important Wal-Mart visit!

The next morning found us going down to the air base for yet another lab visit for Aaron.  This time we were preparing for Aaron’s 2-year physical, so labs had to be done ahead of time for that.  No matter that we were getting some sleet and snow – we needed to get this done.  Aaron had resigned himself to no lunch out that day but instead I would take him to his day group on my way home.  However, our van engine light came on, so I had to go back over to our side of town…run to our shop to ask about the light…and by then, I just decided to keep Aaron at home.  Happy Aaron!  A tiny bit frustrated Mom.  And an even happier Aaron when he heard the words “Taco Bell” come out of my mouth.

On the following afternoon, the air base called to tell me that they had messed up on one of Aaron’s tests.  We would need to come back and have more blood drawn.  UGH!!!  Fasting blood work, which would mean getting there in the morning.  But the next morning I had to take Gary to his foot surgeon appointment.  Gary, who still wasn’t driving due to his surgery.

I’m just scratching the surface of my life right now.  And honestly, I’m not complaining.  I’m just reporting.  (Thank you, Alice Zwemke, for giving us that wonderful statement so many years ago!!).  😊

There we were on that cold Friday morning, back at the air base lab.  Aaron was dreary and slow, tired in several ways.  He pulled up his shirt sleeve without being told because he knows the routine so well, looked at his new watch perched halfway to his elbow the way he must always wear it, and slowly stretched as he waited for the tourniquet and needle.

 

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“I’m tired of this,” he muttered in his resigned monotone voice.

There went my heart.  I wanted to scoop him up in a motherly hug, but it wasn’t the time or place for that.  Besides, motherly hugs rarely have a time and place in Aaron’s autistic world.

But I had another reaction as well.  The depleted side of my spirit nearly kicked in.  My thought was this:

“YOU’RE tired??!  I’M the one who’s tired!!”

Yep.  Those truly are the words that swarmed around in my head.

Tiredness has been closely following on my heels lately.  Not just physical tiredness, although that is certainly present, but a soul weariness that has crept into my spirit.

All of us reach that point at some point.

“I’m so tired of ________.”

Then all of us can fill in that blank…or several blanks, right?

With Aaron, being his mother AND his caregiver, I am pulled this way and that.

Seizures.  Autism.  Medicines.  Side effects of medicines.  Weight loss.  Low sodium.  Needs to eat more.  Needs to drink less.  New medicines.  New side effects.  Blood work.  Behaviors.   Routines.  Disrupted routines.   Needing caregivers.

Sometimes I’m just so tied up in all of it.

And tied down to all of it.

Discouragement can sneak in unexpectedly.  A comment.  A picture.  A thought.  I can let it get to me in ways I know I shouldn’t.

Discouragement can roar in like a Kansas tornado.  A seizure.  A behavior.  A disappointment.

What I do at that point with my discouragement is key to my frame of mind from that point forward.

I can nurture a heavy spirit, or I can let the Holy Spirit do His sweet work in my heart.  I can’t change my situation, really, but I sure can work to change my attitude.

I do this through thinking more about my blessings than my burdens.  No matter what, I do have so many blessings and it does my tired heart good to think about those instead of wishing for what isn’t.

Another thing that helps me is to go to my Bible, especially the Psalms.  For instance, just read and hear the wonderful instruction and hope in these verses.

When I thought, “My foot slips,” Your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.             

(Psalm 94:18-19)

It’s not a shallow pep talk.  It’s listening to God Himself and trusting that He knows where I am and what I face…and He cares!

Then sometimes there are extra nuggets of love from Aaron himself – rare as nuggets of gold – that warm my soul and remind me of the value of this life that God has given me.

Not long ago, after some seizures and while we watched a show, Aaron looked over at me and surprisingly said:

“Mom, I’m glad you’re caring for me.”

He rubbed his hands together happily as he saw the smile on my face.

“I’m glad I’m caring for you, too, Aaron,” I replied.

And very, very glad that God is taking care of us both!

 

 

MERCY!! AARON!!

I’m a southern girl.  Well, from southern West Virginia – born and bred – so no matter what the Civil War folks say about my home state, I still consider myself to be from the south.

I guess that’s why sometimes I just want to look at Aaron when he’s being a particular form of disagreeable and just say, “MERCY!!  AARON!!”

And then tell him that he just needs to hush!!

When I talk to Andrea or Andrew on the phone, Aaron invariably barges in the room and wants to talk.  This happened on Saturday evening as Andrea and I were gabbing away.  I knew Aaron would persist until I caved, so I finally put the phone on speaker and off Aaron went.

He was particularly fixated on Luigi’s Mansion 3 – his newest Nintendo Switch game.  And he was even more fixated on going over Luigi and Gooigi.  I think I spelled that right.

He wanted Andrea to know who Gooigi is.  What Gooigi is made of.  What color Gooigi is.  What Gooigi looks like.  What Gooigi does.

Andrea, ever patient with her brother, commented on everything Aaron said.  She even asked questions…good questions…which fanned Aaron’s flames and off he blazed.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

It took me awhile to put out the flames.  I usually have to end the talking by telling Aaron to say goodbye, after he has pushed me away several times from taking back the phone.

Never once does he ask about Andrea or Kyle, or Darcy or Oakley or Aries or Siggy…all dogs, by the way.  😊

For some reason on Sunday evening, Aaron kept referring to that phone call.  He declared that I only wanted to talk to Andrea…that I never talk to him (REALLY??!!)…that I would hardly let him talk to her…and so forth and so on.

Everything is bad to Aaron when he gets like this, including the fact that I am a bad mom.  I eventually shut down when this happens, meaning that I do not fan the flames of Aaron’s anger by things I say.  Even my eyes – “Don’t squint your eyes, MOM!!”…or my voice inflections, can increase his anger.

Nothing that I say helps.  Nothing that Gary says helps.

Aaron’s lack of empathy and his inability to connect the dots like we do is a most frustrating part of his autism.

The next morning, weary and bothered, I thought of how my friend – a manager at Aaron’s day group – deals with these issues on the day after they occur.  Aaron often doesn’t want to go to Paradigm on that “next day” after he has blown it, but Barb always reminds him of an important truth.

“It’s a new day, Aaron,” she says.  “We just start all over and don’t let yesterday bother us.”

Thinking of that…of a new day…reminded me also of the wonderful promise in Lamentations 3:22-23:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

God’s love and mercy to me, no matter how much I sin, is new every morning.  And I know that I must also face every new morning with Aaron in the light of God’s loving-kindness to me.

If God is so loving and kind to me, how can I be any less to Aaron?

That next morning was still a little rough on Aaron’s part.  And then when I picked him up in the afternoon, as I watched him approach the van, I saw him stop and turn, running back into the building.

He returned, holding a paper that blew in the wind as he ran toward me again, his face all smiles.

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“MOM!!” he said as he got in the van.  “I colored this for you!”

With great delight he handed me this picture:

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I was so touched.  So amazed.

Amazed that Aaron sat still long enough to color.

Touched that he wanted to mend our fences in such a sweet way.

And both amazed and touched that it was a cross he colored for me.

You see, it’s because of the cross that I can even begin to love Aaron as I should, especially when he is at times so unlovable.

It’s because Jesus died for me, and because He is my Savior, that I AM loved and that I CAN love.

And I love how the old King James Version says that verse I wrote earlier.  “It is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.”

I am not consumed by hatred and sin or God’s judgment, but only because of God’s love and mercy.

Love and mercies that are new every morning.

Like I said, how can I love Aaron any less when I am so loved by God?

One more thing.  The cross is also the reason that I can bear the sadness and fear of Aaron’s 3:00 a.m. seizure today, and another one later.  The reason I can see him sleeping again now and know he may likely seize again.

The reason I can bear up under the disappointment of our doctor day being canceled…because doctor day means, to Aaron, eating out day.  And he does LOVE eating out!  It’s always a fun and happy day, but not today.

Aaron goes through these disappointments and rough days often, which means I do as well.

But like the verses above said, great is God’s faithfulness.  He doesn’t leave me to handle it all alone.  He is right beside me, my best friend, with His mercies and love that give me His peace that passes understanding.

Speaking of understanding, I won’t even go into all the detail of having to wash Aaron’s favorite fuzzy blanket today because he spilled coffee on it…and how it’s the only blanket that he wants to use on his lap when he’s at his desk…or on the couch.

About trying other blankets.

Rejecting those blankets.

Checking his blanket in the wash.

Observing me putting it in the dryer.

Following me around the house because without a blanket he can’t sit or lay.

MERCY!!!   AARON!!!

Hanging Off – Or On?

Aaron has a way of repeating what we say but changing just one word or even just one letter, and so making us laugh or pause in thought.   He has a uniquely Aaron way of expressing himself.

That is, after all, the reason I started this blog and the reason I named it He Said What?!

For instance, yesterday we had some rough weather move through our neck of these Kansas woods.  Aaron was concerned, asking about the storms and wondering if he should turn off his computer.

I’ve often shown him the radar and pointed out some storms headed in our direction. I sometimes refer to them as a clump of storms coming our way.

So, as he followed me around the house and fretted over his computer being hit by lightning, he said, “Mom! Is that lump of storms going to hit us?!”

Two words, so similar, yet somehow the difference was enough to make me laugh.

Aaron has become a fan of the television show Chicago Fire.  In December the fall finale had the typical…and very unrealistic…cliffhanger.  Aaron has talked and talked and talked and talked about those canisters in that basement, surrounded by fire, and whether they would blow up or not!!!

I told him that this was a cliffhanger.  Aaron, who is very literal, saw no cliff in that fall finale.  He also saw no one hanging from a cliff in that basement.

I therefore…and not for the first time…explained that a cliffhanger is when the show’s producers leave you hanging on after the last show of the season in order to make you come back and watch the first show of the new season.

Hanging ON.

But here is Aaron’s take:

“MOM!!  I can’t wait till January 8th!!

Then he waits for me to ask why he can’t wait till January 8th.

“Because that’s when Chicago Fire comes back on!!”

Then he waits for me to show excitement.  I am a good actress.

“Remember how they left us hanging OFF??!!”

Then I laugh.  He thinks my laughter is an expression of my excitement over Chicago Fire resuming.

But my laughter is really about the way he changed my original phrase.

Are we hanging ON…or hanging OFF?

His change-up of that one little word has had me pondering over the past few days.

Hanging OFF a cliff is a scary situation, to put it mildly.

Hanging ON, to me, conveys hope.

In life, when I am hanging off a cliff of fear or dread or disappointment…or any number of other scenarios…I must remind myself to hang ON.

I hang ON to God and to the hope that He gives me.

How often our life with Aaron changes!  We can so quickly go from enjoying life:

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To the suddenness of seizures:

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The above picture was right after Aaron’s third seizure on Christmas Eve, just as we were getting ready to play Christmas Bingo as we Skyped with Kyle and Andrea from Houston.

It’s a stretch for Aaron to want to play games.  My first heart reaction was to wonder why.  Why must he have a seizure when he was actually willing to sit with us and play a game?

Sometimes his seizures keep him from participating in something that he really wanted to do.  That makes me sad for him.  Disappointed.

He did arouse enough to play Bingo, but I played his card because he was uncoordinated and shaky…and grouchy, which is typical when he plays Bingo.

Every day…every situation…can be a cliffhanger with Aaron.  Will we have seizures to manage?  Behaviors to handle?

I do feel like I’m sometimes hanging off a cliff, holding on for dear life, afraid of what’s next and afraid of falling…of failing.

But then I must remind myself that I’m not alone.  I know and trust God.

And I hold ON to Him.

I don’t understand everything.

I don’t even like everything.

But I love God, and I know He loves me.

So whatever cliff it is, I do know that I’m not just hanging off.

I reach up and I hang ON to God.

He lifts me up and He rescues me…not from the situation, necessarily…but from the danger of despair and hopelessness that can so easily overwhelm me.

After all, look at what God says about Himself in Psalm 91:15:

 

“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

 I will be with him in trouble;

 I will rescue him and honor him.”

 

May I remember, every day and in every cliffhanger, that I don’t need to just hang off.

I can hang ON…to the God Who rescues me.

 

 

Changes Ahead

If you know me, and especially if you are a Facebook friend of mine, then you know that I love sky pictures.  I have taken hundreds of sky pictures from our upstairs bedroom windows that face the western sky.

Sunsets:

 

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Storms moving in:

 

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Sunrise reflections:

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Even a Great Horned Owl that used to perch on the top of our big pine tree (sorry for the fuzzy picture):

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The view changes depending on so many factors.  Weather, the time of year, the time of day, trees that have been cut down due to disease, and so much more.

On a recent morning, as I finished my quiet time, I looked out the window and was drawn to the pretty sky outside.  But as I prepared to snap some shots of the sky, my eyes also saw this.

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Can you see it?  Where we once had a farmer’s field across the road from us, we now have a future housing development being built.

Civilization is encroaching upon us.  Some call it progress, but we are not exactly happy with how the building of 300 homes will change not only our view, but our traffic and so many other things as well.

But do you know what won’t change?  The sky itself won’t change.

I can still relish our beautiful sky, no matter what’s happening on the ground below.

Change is a fact of life.  Some changes are exciting and wonderful, while others are sad and fearful.

What’s looming in your view today?  Are changes possibly coming in your life that leave you unsettled and scared?

Our focus in those times is vital to our peace.  I can choose to be filled with apprehension or to be filled with peace.

Just like I can choose to look at the houses being built, or I can choose to gaze at the sky above…so I can choose to center my attention on my problems ahead or to center my thoughts on God above.

I control my eyes…my thoughts…my focus.

Psalm 123 states this fact perfectly.

 

To You I lift up my eyes,

O You who are enthroned in the heavens! 

Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,

 As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

So our eyes look to the Lord our God,

Until He shall be gracious to us.

 

God is sovereign over our circumstances.

God is also sufficient for us, whatever is our present or our future.

One more thing.  The word “gracious” carries the meaning of someone stooping down in kindness to an inferior.

Just like God stoops down in His mercy to me, time after time, to hold my hand and show me His kindness, so He will do over and over as I walk this path of life.

This is my prayer for myself, to keep my eyes on God and not on what is around me or ahead of me.

I control my eyes.

I am so thankful that it is God Who controls my life.

 

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