Monthly Archives: March 2012

Adventure… Or Disaster?

My husband and I ate dinner last night at Ikea with my folks and my little sister, Janny. It turns out that Ikea, of all places, is Janny’s favorite place to eat dinner. She was in a relatively good mood last night, especially when she got to eat Ikea’s beloved chocolate cake for dessert. Janny will do anything to be able to eat chocolate cake, which is always a bonus for my mom (who will sometimes use that to leverage good behavior from her). It works most of the time, and last night was no exception. However, going places with Janny is always a risk. You never know when she might throw a tantrum over the smallest thing or say something inappropriate to someone. By inappropriate, I mean patting the belly of large woman in her 60’s, and asking “Baby?” Some might laugh at this assumption, but I assure you that this particular woman did not. She’s learned not to pat people’s bellies over the years, but other bad habits she’s picked up have just stuck. I’ve learned over the years that going places with Janny can sometimes be an adventure, other times a complete disaster.

Janny can never go anywhere without talking to at least five strangers, and last night was another example of that. As we were finishing up our meal, the two of us left the table to use the restroom. As we were returning, there was a woman walking with a significant limp in front of us. My mind started to move into gear as I realized that Janny would try to say something to the woman. I’ve learned from prior experiences that she always wants to talk to people who walked, looked or talked differently. I immediately tried to distract Janny and to walk the opposite direction as I knew she would make a bee-line for the woman. It turned out I was too slow. Janny raced off and when she reached her, she put her hand on the woman’s shoulder. “Help you?” She asked the woman. The woman stopped and looked at her. It was obvious the woman was having a little trouble with walking but she was there with her family and didn’t really need “help.” I butted in, as usual, to try to smooth the situation over. I never knew how people were going to react. Some people feel blessed by Janny’s attempts to “help” them, others feel insulted. “Come on, Janny, let’s go!” I said as I tugged on her arm, prying her away from the lady. By then, the woman seemed to have realized that this short, red headed girl who also walked with a slight limp was trying to “help her.” She told Janny, “Oh no, I’m fine sweetie. I just had back surgery.” I sighed a sigh of relief. We had made it without offending her. Janny wanted to say more but I quickly escorted her back to our table.

I began thinking about Janny’s perpetual need to talk to people who walk, talk, or look differently. I’ve always wondered if she knew that she was different than most people, and if she did, to what extent? She’s never really shown that she’s aware of her disabilities. She’s never complained about having to ride a special bus to her special school, or about the special shoes she wears which are different sizes. She doesn’t complain that my mom buys all her clothes for her or that she can’t do most of the things that other people can do. She’s never asked to drive the car or to cook dinner.

And yet, she immediately notices when another person is “different.” Not only does she notice, but there is a sense of belonging she displays with those who aren’t your average run-of-the-mill people. She always wants to give these people a hug or a pat on the shoulder. Or both. And it makes me think that she does understand that she is different from most people.

I don’t really know for sure. But the beauty is, whether she understands fully or not, she doesn’t seem to care a whole lot. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an expert at displaying her will, just as any young child is. There have been times when she’s thrown a fit because she wanted to be independent when cutting up her food or because my mom said she couldn’t have chocolate milk with dinner that night. But for the most part, she’s just Janny, a special girl who lives a unique and special life, and who wants desperately to talk with the woman in the wheelchair or with the man with the cast on his arm. And I love her for not ignoring these people, whether they need help or not. Sometimes it’s an adventure, and sometimes it’s a disaster.

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Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I love it when my husband shares his heart with me. He’s not an overly-communicative kind of guy, so when he shares his thoughts with me, I stop and listen. While I had been out watching “October Baby” yesterday, he came home from work and watched the episode we were required to watch for our adoption agency, “16 and Pregnant.” Now, I know I already blogged about this TV show (read about it here), as it had a profound impact on me. I’m not trying to be redundant here, but it turned out that my hubby was pretty affected by the show as well.

“So what did you think?” I asked about the show as we worked on dinner together in the kitchen. He stopped what he was doing and looked at me. His expression became serious as he thought about it, almost pained. “You know,” he said, taking a deep breath, “I guess it really hit home that there are a lot of things we’re going to miss out on. We’re never going to go in for an ultrasound. We’re never going to be able to look at ultrasound pictures and guess who the baby looks more like. We’re never going to go through the birthing process… and I guess, well… I guess I’m just really sad about that.” He came over to me and gave me a tight hug as tears filled my eyes. I was finally hearing the words from him that I had inwardly thought so many times in the past months.

In that moment, something odd happened. I was tempted to apologize for who I was, for what was wrong with me, as I had done so in the past. But the Spirit caught me. A verse came to mind. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” In the past I had always thought of an unborn baby when reading that verse. Someone else’s baby. But what about my mom’s baby– me? I’m not sure why I never thought of it that way. But I knew the Lord would not have me apologize for His creation, and I also knew it was the last thing my husband was looking to hear.

“Are you okay?” My husband asked me. I dried off my tears as I nodded. I was okay, and it surprised me. Usually I was a mess by this point. Sad beyond sad. Instead of falling apart, we ate dinner together and enjoyed the evening.

A shift happened yesterday. It was a very minute one, but an important one nonetheless. It was the first time I didn’t begrudge the fact that I had endometriosis. The first time I hadn’t wished with all my heart that things were different, that something could have been done to stop the damage inside me. Today as I was reading my Bible, another verse spoke to me, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” I see this process already happening. He’s doing it. I may have wept over my husband’s freshly realized sorrows yesterday. But I’m drying off those tears and moving on.

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Tears of Sorrow, Tears of Joy

As a requirement for our adoption agency, I had to watch an episode of “16 and Pregnant,” a TV series about young pregnant mothers, most of whom choose to parent their child, however unprepared they may be at the time. However, the episode I watched was about a young couple who decided to give up their baby for adoption through the very same adoption agency that we are using.

I was amazed as I watched this couple choose (what seemed to me) the most difficult option of adopting out their baby, especially when their own parents were both against the decision. I watch the young mom take care of herself while pregnant, select adoptive parents, and go through the arduous process of labor and delivery, only to hold her baby girl for a few hours and hand her off to the adoptive parents. It was tragic and yet beautiful at the same time. I wept tears of sorrow for the birth mom (who was also weeping) and tears of joy for the adoptive mom. It was a strange feeling.

I’m glad they showed a follow up of the birth mom, now who wears a memory bracelet on her wrist (given to her by the adoptive mom, who also wears the same bracelet) as a reminder of her sweet little baby. I was glad to see that she was hopeful for her future; hopeful of having a family at a more stable time later on in life. For being so young, her selflessness and ability to put her baby before herself impressed me greatly.

I’m praying for the birth mom that chooses us, whoever she is, that she’ll have peace and rest knowing that we’ll be taking good care of the precious life growing inside her. And I’m praying the Lord will give her strength to make it through the process; praying that somehow she’ll weep not just tears of sorrow but also tears of joy. With our God, anything is possible.

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Infertility Issues… Resolved?

We had a lengthy orientation on the phone yesterday by one of Bethany’s social workers. She answered a lot of the questions we had and gave us valuable advice. One of her questions for me, however, was if I had resolved my “infertility issues.” I knew the question was coming because I had received an overview of the points she wanted to make prior to our conversation. I had been ruminating on the question for quite a while.

So, had I resolved my infertility issues?

Well, they seem a lot more resolved now than they did 6 months ago. But I can’t say with absolute certainty that the door’s been closed and locked shut. There is still this twinge I feel, this deep longing to deliver a baby of my own. To know exactly where it’s genetic make-up comes from. To not have to worry about whether my child will be confused as to who his or her birth mother really is and whether she loves them or not. Not that all adopted children go through this… but some do. And this is not to say that non-adopted kids don’t go through issues of their own. There are no guarantees in life (something I’ve learned more about recently).

I don’t know if this longing in my heart will ever go away. It’s been there for such a long time. Maybe the desire will be lessened when we adopt, or go away all together. But even greater still, I can’t deny that the Lord may do a beautiful work in our family when we bring home our adopted child. And I hope that one day I can close this door of infertility only to see that I’ve stepped through into something greater. May He work in unexpected ways.

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The Cursed Prenatal Vitamins

Sometimes I compare being infertile with having a traumatic memory. I find I’m mostly unaffected by this memory, but occasionally I’m plagued by these painful emotions that seem to come to the surface at the most inopportune times. It’s usually unexpected, as I’ve gotten pretty good at working through the things that usually trigger sadness, such as pregnancy announcements or baby showers. For a few years, however, I frequently struggled with something so small that I didn’t even realize the impact it was having on me. My painful emotion trigger happened to come in the form of something so seemingly benign– it came in the form of the prenatal vitamin.

I know it sounds silly. I would go to the store and buy prenatal vitamins. I remember buying my first bottle right before I got married, just “in case the birth control pills didn’t work out” (I’m laughing as I write this now). I thought I had good reason for doing this, as I knew of the elevated iron, calcium and folic acid levels necessary to stave off life-long disabilities in newly forming babies. I took my prenatal vitamin every night. A few months went by, and I finished off my first bottle. I bought another. Each night when I poured the vitamin out of the bottle and into my hand, I would have the same thought, “Gee, I wish this would come in handy some day.” It was a daily reminder that I wasn’t pregnant.

I stopped taking the prenatal vitamins one day. At the time I hadn’t really put two and two together; all I knew was that it had to stop. I was tired of looking at the bottle whenever I opened our medicine cabinet in the bathroom, but at least I didn’t have to take one. A few months later as I sat in a hospital gown on my ob/gyn’s exam room, my doctor asked me in a routine sort-of-way “So, are you taking prenatal vitamins?” At the risk of appearing semi-depressed, I started to cry. I shook my head in response to her question. “It’s just a constant reminder to me that I’m not pregnant” I told her, tears flowing down my cheeks. “Emily,” my doctor said as she handed me the tissue box, just take the vitamins.” She was understanding yet matter of fact. “I know, I know. I really should take them…” I said. But I didn’t. It was just too hard at the time.

That doctor’s appointment was over a year ago. I’ve had two surgeries since then, and we’re currently in the process of adopting a baby. The other day as we were shopping at Costco, I walked by their large supply of prenatal vitamins on the shelf and it suddenly occurred to me that it didn’t really bother me anymore. Sometimes it’s amazing to look back on your life and think of the hurdles you weren’t so sure if you could get over at the time– only to find that you made it over! It’s like realizing that the Lord has healed a piece of your heart that you didn’t know was fixable. Sometimes it’s slow, drawn out process. This time, the wound healed and the bandage fell off months before I realized it. My traumatic memory trigger had been jammed shut through the Lord’s healing, and I wasn’t even aware of it. And now I just take regular old “Women’s Vitamins.” They happen to be high in calcium and even include folic acid. And I can take them without being reminded of the fact that I may never have children. It’s a win-win.

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You Just Never Know What’s Around the Next Corner — (Part Two)

(If you haven’t read part One and would like to do so, just click here.)

Part Two 

I recovered nicely from my surgery. It was actually a very social time, as my mom, sisters, and friends came over to help take care of me or just hang out while my husband was at work. Another wonderful aspect following my surgery was the fact that the pain (other than from the incision) was completely gone. I knew that I’d once again be able to go running and participate in other activities because I was no longer worried that the endometriomas may burst. I was excited to be pain-free again.

Five months later, with no positive pregnancy tests to show for it, I ended up going on a mission trip to Uganda with my church. Being a nurse, I was the “medical” person on the team who administered basic medical care to hundreds of school kids and many of their family members. Many people on our team jumped in there to help me out, whether they had experience or not. It was an exhausting but wonderful time.

One evening, after a long day of working in the make-shift clinic (i.e. a school office) there in Uganda, I was talking with another guy on our team who told me that he had met a Ugandan Christian man with the gift of healing. I had never met anyone with that gift before, but I did not believe it to be impossible. “Please,” I told my teammate, take me to him!” I longed desperately to be healed, and I figured it couldn’t hurt. This man, who’s name was David, happened to be nearby, and he and my teammate anointed my head with oil and prayed over me. And for the first time in my life, I was prophesied over when David said, “You will be healed, and you will conceive this year.” I gasped in amazement when his words sunk in. Had I been in America, I would have been skeptical about a prophecy like that. But this was Africa. I had gotten used to seeing the Lord work in different ways there, and I wasn’t about to discount David’s prophecy. I went back to my quarters where we were staying and journaled my experience, praying that night that God truly would heal me.

Fast forward 2 months. Still having been hopeful that God would allow me to conceive, I started to doubt the chances of that happening when my chronic pelvic pain returned. My hope turned to despair and worry as I wondered if I would need to have another surgery. “Two surgeries in one year?” I lamented to my husband. Thankful for the logical man I married, he encouraged me to schedule another appointment and “get the facts” before delving into despair. Oh, yes, that’s probably a better plan! Time for another ultrasound and trip to my ob/gyn’s office. This time, there was a 6cm endometrioma on my right ovary and a 2cm one on my left (I was getting good at identifying them on the ultrasound monitor by this time). Also, as it turned out, my left fallopian tube was blocked and it was strongly recommended that it be removed. A month later, I had laparoscopic surgery and the cysts (along with my fallopian tube) were removed. My diagnosis from “probable” endometriosis got bumped up several notches to the top of the list: Severe Endometriosis.

Take Two. Ready for surgery (again).

Given the diagnosis, we had a few options in front of us on the table. We could do nothing and I could keep having surgeries every 6-9 months. That didn’t sound like too much fun to me. Another option was to try IVF (in vitro fertilization). Lastly, I could go on birth control for a really, really long time (like until I either hit menopause or had a hysterectomy) and we could adopt. At first my husband and I went for the IVF option. But the more I researched it, the more I realized that even with IVF, my chances of getting pregnant were still pretty low. And because IVF’s so expensive, we would then have to wait even longer to adopt if it didn’t work. So after much prayer and discussion, (oh, and did I mention after many tears on my part?) we decided to adopt.

Well, we certainly didn’t pick the fastest route to having children, that’s for sure. Adoption takes a long time! We are hoping and praying to adopt a baby domestically at this point. Five years ago I never would have guessed that my husband and I would be in the adoption process right now. No one in either of our families is adopted (because they keep having a lot of kids!). But I know and look forward to this: The Lord has a massive blessing in it for us, and He will be glorified through it. What I also know is that His mercies are new every morning. They might not be what we expected, but if you look around enough you’ll find them. Yesterday may have been bleak, it may have hurt bone-deep. But you just never know what’s around the corner. His blessings may hit us square in the face.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his step.” Prov. 16:9 ESV

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A Bump in the Road

What unexpected moments adoption brings. A sudden fork in the road. A complete lack of understanding of where the Lord is leading you. As a wise friend put it last night, “Adoption is like a pregnancy…a really long pregnancy.” I laughed and nodded my head in agreement. We’re just at the beginning; we’ve moved past the elation of deciding to adopt and now we’re starting to experience the literal morning sickness as we descend into a web of confusion. I pray it’s just a temporary confusion.

Confused or not, I cling to the hope that this whole adoption process will work out. Just as a newly pregnant mother does, I think of the little baby we may adopt that is possibly already growing in another woman’s womb. I pray fervently over that baby, and over the mother too. The very thought of it spurs me on to the next step.

Although everything we had hoped for lies uncertain at this time, I pray the Lord will give me peace and patience until we figure it out.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21 ESV 

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The Large Wooden Bat

Memories.

Good or bad, they have the ability to influence your direction in life, your personality, and your character. Memories can be delightful, warm and tender. Or they can be hurtful, embarrassing, or any other variety of emotions on the list.

One of my childhood memories is shameful to recall. It’s a memory I think about often, as it involves a person I love very much. Given her disability, she does not remember the incident at all. But I remember it clearly.

There are a few people on this planet who touch my heart deep down. One of those people is my little sister, Janny. She was born with a chromosomal disorder, trisomy 14. Her doctors didn’t know what cognitive or developmental delays she might have growing up, because trimsomy 14 was relatively unheard of at the time of her birth. And so my parents started out on an adventure of raising a little red-headed infant who appeared to be full of personality, but was very slow to nurse, crawl, speak, and eventually walk.

Janny was born three years after me. As we grew older, and she began to go to a special school for children with disabilities, a new sense of responsibility for her protection grew in me. It was obvious that she was vulnerable, and I didn’t like that. Occasionally I found other school kids making fun of her, and although she didn’t understand what they were saying, she understood their intent. I became good at making sure they didn’t bother her again. After school and on weekends, we would play together. She was little and loved it when I would swing her around or rest her on my feet as if she were an airplane. She wasn’t like my other sisters and I, but she was special and I loved her.

Dad and Janny, about a year before this memory.

Which is why I feel compelled to write about this shameful memory of mine. I was 9. It was my first season of Bobbysox softball. My dad had bought me this huge wooden bat that was 35 inches long. (I think they still have it.) It was almost as tall as me, but it was the only bat we had. One day I was working on my batting in the front yard. I loved sports at the time, and was very motivated to be a better softball player. I had a big, hard softball in one hand and the giant bat in the other. I was standing in the driveway, facing the yard parallel to my parent’s house. Janny and my dad were both outside, working in the garage. I looked around and noticed that they weren’t too close to where I was batting. I threw the ball in the air and swung. Missed. The ball fell to the ground. I picked the ball up. This time I threw the ball higher and watched as the ball came closer to me. I clutched the base of the bat tightly with both hands and prepared for a grand slam. I swung with all my might in order to give that heavy wooden bat some velocity, but I didn’t hit the ball. Instead, I hit something else. I turned sharply as I heard a loud shriek and a desperate cry. Behind me, Janny was doubled over, wailing while holding her face. In horror I gasped as I realized the damage I had caused her. Dad came rushing over and saw the huge bat-shaped mark on her cheekbone. “Mary!” My dad yelled urgently toward the house where my mother was. She appeared at the door and came running outside when she saw Janny. And before I knew it, they had put my sobbing sister in their Oldsmobile station wagon and rushed off for the emergency room.

As what I had done to my poor sister sunk in, it shames me to say that I was only thinking of my punishment. Sure, it had been an accident, but I should have been more careful in choosing my place to practice batting. I recalled my mother’s words to me earlier that day, “Emily, be careful where you practice your batting!” It overwhelmed me to think that I, Janny’s older sister, had probably managed to fracture her cheekbone. Nothing like this had ever happened in our family. I couldn’t even begin to think about what the consequences might be. I went into my room and started sobbing, not for my sister, but for my sorry old self. A little later my older sister came in the room and, true to her firstborn tendencies, reprimanded me for feeling sorry for myself. She was right, but I wasn’t listening. I was too busy feeling sorry for myself.

Hours later mom and dad arrived back home from the emergency room with Janny. She was feeling better. She still had a huge mark on her face. Mom and dad said that her cheekbone was, indeed broken. But she didn’t need any bandages on her face or splinting to keep her jaw immobilized. As I recall, mom and dad gave her some mild pain relievers for a week or two and all was well.

What’s odd is that to this day, I don’t remember if mom and dad ever punished me for fracturing my sister’s cheekbone. They might have. But it obviously didn’t stick in my brain very long. What did stick out was the fact that when I should have been protecting my sister; when I should have been only thinking about her safety and health, I was instead thinking about me.

Which is why I believe that memories, whether good or bad, often serve a purpose. Without this memory I wouldn’t be so careful about protecting my little sister today. And so as ashamed as I am to recall it, this memory has served a good purpose in my life after all.

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You Just Never Know What’s Around the Next Corner — (Part One)

I’ve wanted to write about my infertility experience for a long time.

I’m not completely sure why– after all, it’s fairly personal and somewhat of a painful experience to convey. But then again, all my friends are having babies right now, and in the midst of that there’s this healing salve that covers my wounded heart when another shares of her infertility experiences with me. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, in whatever trial I’m in. And so I want to share with my past and present with you, that you may know you are not certainly not alone, and that God’s mercies are new every morning, whether you can have children or not.

Part One

Thinking back, I never thought I wouldn’t be able to have children. My mom and sister never had any problems getting pregnant. If anything, my family joked about being “Fertile Myrtles” (sorry if your name happens to be “Myrtle”). It just never crossed my mind. No, what I wondered about was, “Would the Lord bring me a godly spouse to marry? I thought about that much more often. I always assumed that, should I marry, I’d have no problem getting pregnant.

You just never know what’s around the next corner.

Boy, was I wrong. The Lord brought me a wonderful, godly spouse. But that expectation of being able to get pregnant cast a gloomy cloud over my head when it didn’t happen. And subsequently, there were times when I thought about my future and it seemed very bleak. I trusted the Lord for my future, but there were days I held that trust out to Him with shaky hands and teary eyes. The deeply woven desire for children and the seemingly impossible ability to have them clouded my vision and my ability to see the blessings God had put right in front of me.

In 2010 I was diagnosed with ‘probable’ endometriosis. Endometriosis can be predicted, but it can’t be diagnosed with certainty unless surgery is done (this is because it can’t be seen in exams or by ultrasounds or other imaging devices). My ob/gyn said to me, “Well, do you want to have surgery? If you do, just let me know.” At the time, I was having painful periods but surgery seemed kind of drastic… a little too severe of a treatment plan for my “probable” diagnosis. I opted not to have surgery. After all, what if I went through the surgery, only to have them say, “Sorry, you didn’t have endometriosis, but now you have a huge incision that’s gonna really hurt for a while.” I didn’t want to go through that without more evidence that I actually had endometriosis. So my ob/gyn then said that the best plan was to try to get pregnant, because pregnancy hormones essentially shut down the endometriosis for a while and allows your body to heal from all the damage it causes.

Sounded like a good plan, right? And try to get pregnant we did. It seemed a little premature for us, after all, my husband was still finishing grad school and I was working nights as a nurse. Meanwhile, the pain grew worse. I started having pain all the time, and could find little relief from it. After living on ibuprofen for several weeks, my husband strongly encouraged me to see my ob/gyn again (we had moved, so now I would be seeing a new doctor). I complied with my husband’s wishes and went in for a visit. Again, I heard the same news from my new doctor…I probably had endometriosis and to let her know if I wanted surgery. But then she did an exam and I nearly jumped off the table from sharp, stabbing pain. She ordered an ultrasound, and low and behold they found a 10cm endometrioma (a tumor) on one of my ovaries. They couldn’t even find my other ovary because the tumor was pushing it out of view on the ultrasound monitor. My doctor couldn’t be certain if it was cancer or not (it wasn’t), so I got in for surgery the next week. She ended up removing a 4cm endometrioma from my right ovary and the 10cm endometrioma from my left ovary. In the recovery room, even though I was exhausted and delirious from the anesthesia, I do remember one thing very clearly. My doctor came up to my bedside and told me that she had removed the tumors, saved my ovaries, cleaned out most of the endometriosis, and that she thought that I had a really good chance of getting pregnant. In my delirium, I rejoiced and thanked God! I stayed overnight at the hospital and went home the next day. I was very sore from my large incision in my lower abdomen, but the hope of getting pregnant thrilled me! The surgery was worth it if it increased my chances of conceiving. And my hopes of getting pregnant grew tenfold.

Hubby and I a few hours after my surgery. As you can see, I'm clutching the PCA (patient-controlled-analgesic) button for dear life.

(Part Two coming soon)

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Eyes Glazed Over

We got a call from the adoption agency today.

You know the feeling when you are completely inundated with information and are given about a bazillion things for you to do (did I mention ASAP)? Yeah, that’s me right now. My eyes are glazed over and no one’s really home upstairs. The farther we get into this process, the greater I am understanding that pursuing adoption is not for the faint of heart. It’s a huge commitment, both time-wise and financially. And we’re not even parents yet.

We are in the baby steps of the adoption process. After today’s phone call, apparently, it’s time to start making some toddler leaps! Overwhelmed at the moment, but I’m asking the Lord to help us get through it, one baby step at at time.

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20 ESV

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