Restoration …Again

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.

All things break. And all things can be mended.

Not with time, as they say, but with intention.

So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.

The broken world waits in darkness for

the light that is you.”. L.R. Knost.

Earlier this spring, My husband and I were planned a trip to Minnesota, to visit our grown children who live there. Our daughter was graduating from grad school, and it was also Mothers’ Day weekend. It would be the first Mothers’ Day in several years that I had spent with both of our children, so of course, my excitement meter was high.

Prior to our road trip I took the car in to the dealership to have the oil changed, and I learned that the tires were bad and needed to be replaced. I cheated and replaced only the back two tires, intending to replace the other two at a later date. The tires on my car are “run flat” tires, meaning they are designed to not go flat even if you drive over a nail or puncture them. For this reason, my car doesn’t come with a spare tire. It is deemed unnecessary, because you are supposed to be able to safely get to a place where the tire can be replaced or repaired. I thought that cheating on the tires would be okay.

We packed up our car with our belongings and our dogs, and were set to have a fun road trip. We were having a lovely time until we drove over a large pothole in Illinois. The sidewall of our front tire blew out and the hole was catastrophic.

We pulled over beside a field of dirt in the middle of what felt like nowhere. We were stranded until roadside assistance could get to us, because, you know, we didn’t have a spare tire.

The next several hours were spent waiting for a tow truck to arrive. We stretched our legs occasionally by walking our two dogs along the dusty roadside. It was also less than three weeks after I had had full knee replacement surgery, and I was more than uncomfortable because of the waiting around, and inactivity in the car.

A moment of clarity came to me when I was stretching my legs. I was feeling very happy that our incident didn’t result in anything more catastrophic than a hole in our front tire. We were inconvenienced and would miss precious time with our kids, but I wasn’t feeling anxious or angry. I realized at that moment that there had been a change in me over the past several months. The anxiety I would normally have felt in a time like that was non-existent, and was replaced with silent prayers of thankfulness and a feeling of well-being.

It has been a year since I wrote my last post called ‘ Restoration ‘. That was the beginning of a slow process of change for me. What many call mindfulness and meditation, I will call prayer and worship. This, and a prescription from my doctor has helped keep my anxiety at bay.

It’s amazing to me that I am able to rationalize my experiences quite clearly. I spend less time getting caught up in what I refer to as the muddiness of my thoughts and emotions. I’m able to let things go without feeling as if I have to fix what I think is wrong around me. This, I realized when I used the restroom at work and saw that someone had hung the toilet paper in the “wrong ” direction. I was able to just use it without fixing the roll first! Progress is a beautiful thing, and the realization of it totally disarmed me.

I am thankful for the life I have. I am giving angst and turmoil less space in my head, and will embrace each day as it comes with thanksgiving and hope for the future.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”-Jeremiah 31:25

“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”-Psalm 147:3

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”- Philippians 4:6

Restoration

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You know my baby’s got the blues, and I don’t know what to do
I don’t know what to say, should I go away
And pray for her sorrow?

She sits there all alone, as silent as a stone,
And I don’t know how to help, should I keep it to myself
And wait for tomorrow?

And if I knew how to reach her where the waters run deep
I would give her the words that would help her to sleep.

At night she lays in bed with secrets in her head
With pain too deep for words, nothing can be heard
But the sound of her breathing.

Mercies and angels up above,
Heaven please help the one I love.
Guide the direction that she goes
Watch every step, each (?) stone
Please let her know she’s not alone
Give her the strength to trust in everything she knows

“Baby’s Got The Blues”~Larry Norman

I am lying on my bed, exhausted, unable to sleep. My mind is racing. I am replaying my day, over and over, and over again. Little, insignificant things that don’t matter in the light of day. Things that overwhelm me in the dark and make me wish I could have more than one do-over to make myself feel better, and appear smarter or younger to those around me. I wonder what is happening to me, and why I have allowed it to happen.

I am a strong woman, I tell myself, yet, somehow, I have fallen  into this horrible pit of despair, this black hole. I have lost my joy; I have lost my strength. What has happened to me? Again, I wonder.

Anxiety overwhelms me, and the cares of this world pile on top of me when I should be enjoying a restful slumber. I worry because I am not in control, and I am so very tired. Where is my joy, my content, and what happened to my peace? Where did they go? What is this dark place, this fog? What are these voices that laugh and sneer? I don’t like them.

I have joked that I am comfortable with the voices I hear in my head, but that is a lie.  I am not  comfortable at all. How was I so bold as to let them in? I am not that strong. I am weak. I know that now.

I cry out silently in the night, but there are no tears. I grasp for the precious words that were balm for my soul; my comfort and my strength. They gave me comfort and strength in days gone by, but they do not come to mind. What were those words, those verses? How could I have forgotten them? They were far more precious than I realized.  I panic.

“You have forgotten,” the voices taunt me. “You have let go. You were so self-assured and wise in your own eyes. You are lost now, they laugh.”

Yet, I have strength to whisper His name, and the voices flee.  They are gone, and the words, the balm to my soul, return. “Don’t be afraid. I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called you by your name. You’re mine . When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.”-Isaiah 43:1,2

The words keep coming, and I know the peace will return. Restoration is coming.

”Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”~Phil.4:6,7

”Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”~Neh. 8:10

Love and Grace, Joy and Laughter

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“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine .  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”-John 15:4

Love and Grace, Joy and Laughter.  These are simple words to bandy about during the Christmas season. We could all use a little more love and grace,  and joy and laughter.

My husband and I have had a lovely time during our Christmas vacation.  We have recharged our batteries, and I have used some of that time for some introspection.  I am not proud of where my thoughts  lead me sometimes.  I am far too independent for my own good. I profess to let God be in control of my life, yet I struggle with relinquishing control to Him at the same time.

When I read the Old Testament of the Bible, I shake my head. The lying and cheating and war and sex and dysfunction that went on is difficult to comprehend. It’s just as twisted as our society is today, I suppose.  Sometimes I catch myself wondering how I can relinquish control to a God who lets all that stuff happen. Other times I am reminded that God loves us. He gives us gifts to help each other, despite our pride and lying and cheating and dysfunction. In our modern world, when Christians are scoffed at for various reasons, I have hope that my faith in Him,  and in those He has placed in my life, is enough for each new day.

Often, I find  it is difficult for me to break through and keep up with my blogging and writing as often as I want to.  Writing is a charge, and a gift that I take seriously.  If I write something and put it out there, I want it to be worthy of my readers’ time.  I do not want to fill space on my blog just for the sake of posting something on a regular basis.  That being said, I wish I had the inspiration or the energy to write on a regular basis. Life gets in the way, and I do as well.

Sometimes I think very highly of myself and when I do, I find I will fail every time.  I think this happened to Peter when he stepped off a boat to walk on the water’s surface. Jesus called him by name and said, “Peter, come out of the boat and walk towards me.” Peter listened to this strange request and actually walked out of the boat and towards Jesus on top of the water. After a little while, he began to sink, so Jesus reached out, grabbed him by his hand and lifted him up; he kept him from sinking into the sea and drowning.  ( Matthew 14:22-23)

I have wondered why Peter began to sink before reaching Jesus.  I am not a Biblical theologian and I have not formally studied the Bible, but I think perhaps Peter was like, “WOW!  Look at ME! I am walking ON THE WATER! How cool is THAT? NO one has ever done this before…I am SO incredibly AWESOME!” At least, that’s how I would have felt, so this rendition works for me.

I think that, as soon as Peter thought he was doing this on his own, because he was so awesome, not because Jesus was giving him the ability to do it,  he began to sink. Of course Jesus reached out and saved the day, or at least, saved Peter from drowning.

This happens to me. Every. Day. I am just like Peter. (I think I am awesome, even though I am not, at least not always.) When I let myself get in the way, I am useless at what He asks me to do.  I am unable to use my words effectively, and I am unable to demonstrate kindness, or love, or grace, to anybody.

I had a situation at work that dragged on for months.  I started a new position at work, in another clinic within the same company. I love my job and was excited because my new job was only 4 minutes from home.  Who wouldn’t love that? My excruciating commute in Atlanta traffic was over.

I was excited to meet my new coworkers, and for the most part, most of them were wonderful. Strangely enough, however, a couple of people were a little disenchanted with me and with the fact that I had been transferred over to their clinic. They had some incorrect pre-conceived notions about me, and  did not welcome me with open arms. I didn’t understand why, and tried to correct the situation, but however I tried, I could not make things right. My work environment felt hostile, and  of course, I started to feel rather ugly myself. I could not summon up any good or warm feelings towards these other staff members.  I prayed for the ability to forgive these people, and still, I could not. Again, I confronted them and explained how I felt. I thought for certain that this would rectify things.  I learned that their preconceived ideas were due to lies that were told by other individuals, but still, they refused to show me any grace.  I was at my wits’ end, and couldn’t stop ruminating about this situation.  It was causing me a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Finally, one day , after many days of praying for change, I had an epiphany.  These people had not apologized or asked for my forgiveness, so why was I so intent on doling out forgiveness?  I realized that I was only required to love these people, not forgive them, at least in this situation.  Yet, how could I feel any warmth towards these individuals, let alone LOVE, after I felt I had been wronged?

However, I felt a wonderful freedom when I let things go and stopped looking for an apology.  I concentrated on getting myself in order, in doing my job well, and treating those around me fairly. I spent some time nurturing my relationship with the One who calls me to be me. Going forward, I hoped my situation would improve and it has.  For that I am grateful. Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus replied, “Love God with all your heart and soul, and then love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:34-40)

To  me, this was my miracle of the Christmas Season, this act of Blessed Release. I released something that I could never control, and it was replaced with Love and Grace. A special Love and Grace that I am incapable of conjuring up on my own. A Love and Grace towards others that can nurture Joy and Laughter in its wake.

”But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show us that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”-2 Corinthians 4:7

Feeling Worn

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One day last week, I came home from work, exhausted, as so many of us do. I could not muster up energy to do anything other than be a slouch on my couch.  I settled in to read, and all four of my fur-babies tucked in around me.  It was a wonderful comfort to cuddle with them. It reminded me of another comfort that I had experienced in the past, on a similar day when I felt worn and overwhelmed.

It was one of those days; we’ve all had them: I was dragging my old bones around, and I didn’t have a lot of enthusiasm for much of anything. If you were to speak to my husband earlier that morning, he may have told you I was a little bit grumpy. I was tired and feeling blue. Finally, well after lunch time, I decided some exercise was called for; to blast the cobwebs out of my brain. I donned my running gear, plugged in my headphones , and turned my music up. I love iTunes radio…my favorite station is Tenth Avenue North…but that morning , I think I could have used something a little more cheery than the first song that came on. Some of you may be familiar with the lyrics from the song “Worn”. If not, I have taken the liberty of writing a couple of verses out for you:

“I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes”

Fortunately for me, a much spunkier tune came on afterwards, and I was able to finish my run in fine form, but this other song has continued to be on my mind and on my heart.  So often when we feel too tired to go on, it is good to know God is always faithful to carry us, and mend our brokenness.

For some reason, God, in His Infinite Wisdom, has decided He would rather work through our prayers, when we have a need, rather than fixing things without them.  I don’t understand this rationale; perhaps because by nature, I like control. However, I have realized that this is just the way it is, and prayer is a powerful tool.

When I find my own prayers are not enough, I know  there are caring people around me who will pray for me when I have a need, and will listen when I just need to talk. This is important because it is too difficult to carry burdens alone. We are not designed to do that; we are designed to thrive in relationships with each other, and with our Father. Together, our relationship with each other, and our relationship with our Father can heal what is broken and worn inside each of us. 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” —John 14:27

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33

Enter Into Joy

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“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says, “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough. You drink, but you never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.  This is what the Lord Almighty says, “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but it turns out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin while each of you is busy with his own house.” ~Haggai 1:5-9

I read the above passage this morning, as I was drinking my  coffee.  I wish I could say this is a daily ritual of mine, reading Scripture while drinking coffee, alone and quiet in my kitchen.  It used to be, but somehow Life has become very busy, and my morning visit with my Father has often been left by the wayside.

This passage was a part of the message that the prophet Haggai had for God’s people in Jerusalem. God had rescued them from exile in Babylon and brought them home.  Eventually, as time went on, the Jewish people let themselves forget what God had done, and that He was their reason for living. They became apathetic and confused. The prophet Haggai was sent to remind them that they needed to re-examine their priorities.

I can relate to what happened to the Israelites in this period of history. My “busyness” and my attention to only myself, has led to the apathy I feel. It pains me to say this out loud, but it is the truth. I feel as if God’s house around me is in ruins. In my last post,  I wrote about the vulnerability I felt regarding worship  with my church community.  It has been three months, and I have to admit, I have not been to services.  I know that lack of support in my life contributes to the sense of hopelessness that threatens to overwhelm sometimes.  I am not taking care of “God’s house” in my life, and it is reflecting on me in other ways.  I am being robbed of my Joy. This is leading to other unwelcome feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness , and quite frankly,  I have had enough. This morning’s time reading my Bible helped me realize that I have not been myself, and now I know why. Forgiveness and change are mine for the asking, and I can go forward, unafraid.

“So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”~Matthew 6:31-34

This is work; it is not easy. It can even be frightening. “Entering into the joy of the Lord” (Matthew 25:23), and rejoicing in His forgiveness, is a choice; a decision.

My son made the teapot in the picture on this page above,  and the angel is a friend’s gift to me. She told me it was called “The Angel of Hope.” She had her reasons for choosing this particular gift for me, and I remember our friendship fondly whenever I look at it. My angel and my precious teapot take up valuable real estate on my kitchen counter. In my turmoil and angst this morning, as I looked at these lovely gifts,  I was reminded of the love I have for my family and friends, and of the love they have for me. God wants us to take joy in Him, and in the community around us. This is how He whispers Hope and Joy into our souls.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength”~Nehemiah 8:10

Leap of Faith

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 “You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all–irrespective of how we got here–in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day–a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”~Ephesians 2:19-22; The Message

My husband and I have been on a much anticipated vacation this past week, and in many ways, it has exceeded expectations. We took a road trip from our home in Georgia, to Minnesota to visit our children, and then to Canada to visit friends and family. We then drove around Lake Superior, to Chicago, and then back down to our newly beloved South.  It was a lot of driving, and I know some people shudder at that prospect, but we love it. It’s a great way to view the countryside and for me, I love it because I have my husband’s undivided attention for hours. No phone or computer to distract us, at least not really. We have a lovely relationship, we are very comfortable with each other. A trip like this gives us time to explore the country and its beauty, and we have ample opportunity to talk, or just enjoy each other’s company.

The photo depicted above is a snapshot of my husband’s feet, taken in Chicago during our vacation.   He was standing on the glass floor of the The Sky Deck of the Willis Tower, 412 meters above street level. He loves that kind of stuff.  He is fascinated by the engineering and technology required to build such a structure, and of course the view is breathtaking.  I am also fascinated by all of that, but it was a little harder for me to just step out onto the glass floor of the deck, as I am afraid of heights.  It is difficult for me to  trust that if I step out onto that glass floor,  it will not  shatter and I will not plummet all the way down to Franklin Street in downtown Chicago.  I mean, I did step out onto the glass floor and with my husband’s protective arm around me, I felt safe enough to pose for a picture.  I realize of course, that he wasn’t really protecting me from anything, because it was an extremely safe situation.  I wasn’t in harm’s way really, but having his arm around me helped, and I felt good that I had taken the plunge. We now have this cool memory of something we did together.

This week I also had time to think, and I found myself wondering about relationships, specifically those I’ve had with people in the various churches we’ve attended over the years. Taking that proverbial plunge onto The Sky Deck, made me think of other circumstances in life where it has taken some encouraging for me to take the plunge and join in on the life God is whispering to me about. I’ve written in my previous posts about our move, and starting a new chapter in our lives here in Georgia.  I’ve also eluded to some discontent and discomfort in finding a church community.

It’s inevitable that at this age, I would have come across a negative experience or two regarding the church, and because of that , I find I am more protective and guarded about showing any vulnerability, especially to those in a church community. I realize that this is a very sad statement, but true none the less.  I imagine I am not alone in feeling this way;  I have experienced feelings of judgement and self-righteousness from others that I would not wish on anyone else. However, feelings such as these are inevitable when we develop relationships with others, because we are all flawed and our stuff and emotional baggage gets in the way. It has become increasingly difficult for me to try to enter into new relationships every time I’ve moved on to a different community.  It is easy to believe, instead, that new relationships are unnecessary, and it’s nicer to stay at home, sleep in, or walk the dogs, rather than worshiping with others on Sundays.

My daughter once said she misses the feeling of community in church. She has not attended church for several years, for reasons of her own, but she shared this tidbit with me once when we were talking, and I agreed with her. Also, when my husband was discussing church attendance with our son last weekend, he (our son) mentioned that he wants to find a church that he can attend regularly, but he is shy to take the first step and just go. It is a difficult thing. I understand exactly how my kids feel. Sometimes  I feel as if I am standing on the edge of a precipice looking out, and I feel paralyzed, not able to move off the edge. Just like I did on the edge of the glass floor of The Sky Deck in the Willis Tower. I don’t like that feeling, and I don’t like the fact that I’ve become such an emotional mess, that attending church can be so traumatic for me.

The thing is , I have found a wonderful, closely knit group of people in a small church close to our home. The pastor is wonderful and has gone out of his way to communicate with my husband, and with me, to let us know that someone cares about us. God is using him to draw us near to Him; I know that. When I have attended services over the past few weeks, I  have sensed love and a genuine warmth radiating from the people in the congregation, yet I have left immediately after the service is over, unable to stay and make myself converse with those around me. I have left in tears, not understanding what is going on with me.

This week, while we were on vacation, I found myself missing church. To top that off, we received another warm text from our pastor, wishing us a good holiday, and a brief outline of what he was teaching about while we were away.  He was initiating a conversation about “church” and all that it entails, as outlined in Ephesians 2:19-22.

Friends, community and relationships. I understand now. The pull of God whispers while I am hiding from church, and finally, I am going to listen. I know it’s time for me to step off the precipice, and let His arms comfort me while I enjoy the view.

 

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“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom..”~Psalms 46:1 The Message

Waiting

image“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart”`Ps.27:14

 

I love this photo that I snapped of our trusty lab, Musta, staring out the window, waiting for her daily walk.  She looks like she thinks she’s never going to get one.  It was a rainy day, and the weather was horrible, so instead of taking her first thing in the morning the way she had been accustomed to, I chose to wait out the rain instead.  It was better for her, and for me, and, it was better for our little dog, Oliver who is terrified of the rain. Musta didn’t understand why she had to wait for her walk that day, but in my head I had a perfectly good reason, and the reason was best for all involved.

Sometimes I realize I am just like my puppy Musta, towards my Father God.

How many times in life have I found myself impatiently waiting for something, and wondering when the big thing would happen? I’ve been praying and praying and praying, and it seems as if nothing is happening and my prayers are falling on God’s deaf ears, and I hear nothing in response. Nothing.  Not even a hopeful maybe. Several weeks, even years can go by, and after the prayer is answered, I realize how silly I am; and if I hadn’t waited so long, the prayer could not have been answered so perfectly. I would have had to settle for something much less perfect for me, something that in hindsight, I would have been much less satisfied with.

This past fall, I couldn’t understand why it was taking  so long to get my license to practice my profession in the State of Georgia.  I had filled out the appropriate paperwork, and instead of the three or four weeks I thought it would take, the process dragged out to more than three months.  I was beyond frustrated. I felt very inadequate, and I was taking it all very personally. However, almost as soon as the State of Georgia granted me my license, I found a job that was beyond my expectations, and was more wonderful than I could imagine. Oh the joy, (the joy!) when that prayer was answered! My coworkers are awesome, and my job challenges me in new ways every day. I am excited to go to work and I don’t have to drag my feet when I get out of bed every morning. It is a blessing  I would have missed out on if I hadn’t had to wait until this particular job was available to me.

There is a story in the book of Daniel, where Daniel has a vision regarding his prayer life. (Chapter 10, verse1-13, ) He had fasted and prayed for 3 weeks and heard nothing, and then finally an angel broke through and let him know that his prayer had been heard “as soon as he set his mind to gain understanding , and to humble himself before God.” Daniel had to wait three weeks to realize his prayer had been answered, because  the angel had to fight powers in the unseen world in order to get to Daniel and help him.

I have been thinking a lot about waiting lately; it is so easy to tell others to trust God and to wait for the right thing to come along…in actual fact, I know waiting is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It is a lesson that I have to relearn daily, even though I live with the blessings of answered prayer in my life daily. Now, my life is not nearly as complicated as Daniel’s. I am not being thrown into prison, into a fiery furnace, or a lion’s den because of my faith in God.  My life is not as complicated, to say the least. However, I am trying to navigate this difficult modern world that we all live in, and to do that, I have discovered that my only real defense is to pray continually , and this old story from the book of Daniel helps me. I believe God hears my prayers, even when I don’t see the evidence of that right away. As I write this, I am waiting for another prayer to be answered. I wonder how long it will take, and how many tears I will shed as I kneel and speak to my Lord about this one? I know He hears me. He might answer other prayers in the meantime, before He answers. I trust that He knows best. I think that is why this photo of my puppy whining in the window touches me. She is waiting, and so am I…

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”~Isaiah 41:13

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”~1 Peter 5:7