Journaling Your Way Through Caregiving, Part 2

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My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.  Psalm 45:1

As I began this series about journaling and caregiving, I shared how important writing my thoughts and feelings is for me.  In Part 1, I gave a variety of ways to journal.  Today, I want to share why journaling can be good for your well-being.

There are many benefits to journaling.  A journal does not argue with you nor talk back.  They allow you to vent, release bottled up feelings, relieve stress, and can clarify thoughts and ideas.  They give voice to things felt inside such as guilt, anger toward yourself, the care receiver, or even family members.  Journals can hold your frustration, heaviness, and can take some of power away from these feelings.  They allow you to rationalize some your required decisions, see both sides of them by writing down pros and cons.  In a journal, you can list or organize events of the care recipient whether physical, emotional, or mental, symptoms noticed and behavioral changes, doctor visits with the outcomes or listing the questions needed to be asked prior to the visit.  Notes can be made of other appointments, medications taken and any changes in medications, plus any noticeable changes of the care recipient when trying a new drug.  Records of eating habits and changes in habits can be duly noted.  Journals work for bills needing to be paid, or tasks that need doing, or just making a grocery list.  If you are a paid caregiver, keeping track of tasks you do, but family may be unaware of, may help with future pay increases.

Journals can be a place for both positive and negative issues, concerns, habits.  They can be a record of events, memories, appointments, changes.  They can handle questions you have for the family, for God, for yourself.  Thoughts can be finished in them, thoughts you began during a moment of quiet.  Journals give unconditional acceptance and they offer silence.  You may be able to gain a new perspective, restore a bit of sanity too.  Journals offer a balance to this life when things seem and are hard.  It is a place to find joy or gratitude in a moment.  Praying can be calming and can be a reminder as to how and when God answered those prayers.  Writing poetry can be a creative outlet that may be much needed.  Even writing down recipes can give the family something new to try around the table.

Studies have found that journaling reduces anxiety and stress by giving some relief, allowing the journalist ability to handle some of life’s stresses far better.  They have found that there are less doctor visits, improved lung and liver function, lowered blood pressure, even a relief of some symptoms of asthma and Rheumatoid arthritis.  It can even lessen depression, and placing one in a better mood.

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:51-52

Jesus spoke to the scribes who became His followers. The word scribe here refers to a clerk, public servant, secretary or recorder, possibly a teacher of the law.  As a scribe, and as we understand His word, the storehouse is filled with the treasures of this new creation that we continue to become, plus it can contain God’s truth, grace, salvation, and love.  We can draw from all as we write before our Creator!

If the mind of the care recipient still holds memories and they are able to communicate, let them write thoughts and feelings.  Journaling just might be good for them.  If they cannot write, but can tell you stories, you might be able to write their words as they tell you about their past.  If they ask over and over what day it is, you might have them journal every day the day of the week, the date, the weather, and even some of their feelings in a word or a few.  When they ask again what today is, draw them back to this journal.  Possibly with recall, they will be able to find this information on their own.  Using a journal to draw, scribble, or doodle can also be a way for them to release that creative spirit, even enjoy themselves for a few minutes (and give you a break as well).  I recently did a workshop on journaling and caregiving during National Caregivers’ Month.  We gave new, blank journals out to all there.  A caregiving wife gave her husband one of these journals and doodled some swirling lines on one page, then handed him a few crayons.  He completely lost himself in this activity.  As I wandered around the room after I finished talking, I saw that she had written on his completed page, “G… really enjoyed himself.”  She saw what this small activity had done for her husband and could possibly help her when she needed a few moments for herself or other duties.    

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”  Revelation 21:5

These are precise words to a prophet with a specific assignment, yet God can commission His children to write for His purposes.  God could have communicated with mankind in any way He pleased.  One way He chose is the written word.  Even if no one else ever sees the words you write, He may be using them for your edification, for your learning, to show You His love for you.  Do not shy away from using this tool.  Be open to His voice as He speaks to you through His Word and the words you place on the pages.

Father, as You walk with us through this journey of caregiving, show us why it is so important to express ourselves through the written word, through coloring or doodling.  I pray that we are able to place our lives in Your hands as You guide us to open floodgates or open pinholes of emotion, stress, duties, or familial relationships.  May our minds be set upon You as we lay the pen to the tablet.  Etch Your Words before us so that we stay close to You.  In the Name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.   

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I would like to share a few other resources with you.  Some may help with the journaling and others are may be a benefit in giving you islands of calm amidst chaos or stress:

Brackey, Jolene, Creating Moments of Joy for the Person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia: A Journal for Caregivers, Fourth Edition

Boss, Pauline, Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping With Stress and Grief

Carter, Rosalynn, Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers

Free, Betty, Quiet Moments for Caregivers – Devotional and Worship Ideas for Care Givers and Care Receivers

Out of print but available online through used bookstores; excellent devotional.

Hughes, Holly J., Editor, Beyond Forgetting, Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer’s Disease  (http://www.beyondforgettingbook.com)

Levine, Carol, Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving  (anthology of short stories and poems about family caregivers written by renowned authors and many others)

Mace, Nancy L. and Peter V. Rabins, The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss, Fifth Edition (**I highly recommend this book for reference and important information.**)

Newmark, Amy and Angela Timashenka Geiger, Chicken Soup for the Soul-Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias, 101 Stories of Caregiving, Coping, and Compassion

Rosenberger, Peter, Hope for the Caregiver: Encouraging Words to Strengthen Your Spirit 

Sheehy, Gail, Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence

Two Years Ago

Dear Mama,

It has been two years on January 30th that you passed away and are with the LORD.  No matter how much I have moved along into tutoring three young children in reading and math, continue to blog, and have more time with my dear Kenneth, I STILL MISS YOU!  Can’t help it!

Mama @ Del Mar

You were a beautiful woman, inside and out.  You were fun and vivacious, smart and talented, headstrong and rather outspoken.  You lived close to me for the last fifteen years of your life.  You also lived with me in the late eighties when you came to Washington, D.C. while I was teaching first and kindergarten in the inner city.  You loved to come to school with me once a week and work with some of the children.  They called you Grandma and, of course, you thought that was the best.  The children looked forward to your regular visits.  And, of course, you loved D.C. for that was our last duty station before Daddy died.  You and Daddy were in that city when you found out that you were pregnant with me.  And you just loved the history and art that our nation’s capital offers.

 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”  Exodus 20:12

After being gone from this life for two years now, the tough times — when you were ill, or fell, needing surgery and hospitalization, or when the dementia rattled your mind so terribly — those all seem to be fading in my mind and in my heart.  I recall more of our sweet moments than I do those hard ones, although those do still surface.  Just not so often or so harshly.

Mama (yes, I called you Mom from my early teenage years until the last couple of years of your life when you became “Mama” to me; seems to be the name I call you most often now too)… your love for me, and for all of your family, feels like your heart is wrapped around mine now.  You said some sweet and loving things to me at the end of your life that I cherish.  I just wrote about journaling and caregiving for Soli Deo Gloria Connections.  It is often through those journals that the exact words you said to me are pulled out and into my heart.  I am grateful that I took the time to write, often sitting at the side of your bed as you slept.

Listen to your father who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.  Proverbs 23:22

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Oh, Mama, you loved your baseball and the Chicago Cubs where you were born and raised.  You even came to enjoy the small town games of our minor league team for it was baseball and that is what you loved.   Mama, you even got me to these games.  You loved having this daughter (who really was not a baseball fan) to join you at the games!  (Actually, you can see that I was, truly was, having a good time!)

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In your last years, you had lost a lot of that vim and vigor, yet your heart still loved.  You loved the staff where you lived.  You loved many of those around you.  Most of all, you loved your three girls and our husbands, and your grandson.  Oh, Mama, you would love Parker Lily, your great granddaughter.  She is a dear child.  She would love you too.  You would love Zephyr’s beautiful wife, Kiki.  She is a good mother, Zeph a good daddy.  Nancy loves Kiki so much and is so happy for Zeph.  Kiki and Zeph dress Parker Lily like you would have dressed her…cute, classy, and beautifully.  Oh, I am so sorry you never met Kiki nor Parker Lily.  But you knew about your dear great granddaughter.  With the blown-up photos on your wall, you would touch little infant Parker’s, talking to her, calling her by name.

You also came to know the LORD for which I am ever grateful.  Mama, you are with Him and loving Him in all His Holiness.  I praise Him.

Mama, I needed to talk to you today.  To write this letter to you.  It barely covers any of my memories, but the most important thing I want to say is that I LOVE YOU!!!!!!   So much.

Your ~ linda lou

Thank You, LORD, for giving me this mother.  You have blessed me beyond my comprehension for I was loved by both of my parents.  I have missed my father for 54 years now, but even after all those years, the missing never stops.  The love I still feel from him has not stopped either.  You have given me life and family.  You have blessed me with knowing that Mama is with You.  O LORD, thank You.  Thank You.  I am forever grateful for Your laborers who were ready and went into Your harvest.  May I continue to walk the path that You have made for me with remembrance of my parents, honoring them.  I pray in the Name of Jesus.  Amen.   

Journaling Your Way Through Caregiving, Part 1

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I have journaled since I was in high school.  It has been my way to express myself, to pray, to release emotions, and to create.

My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.  Psalm 45:1

As I praise the LORD, so too may my pen place the words or the drawings down in a creative way that glorifies God.  Not all journaling will be praises, but it can lead to time with Him and time in prayer for those we care for and about.  When we fill our hearts with praise, the power of that praise can come tumbling out on paper.

I willingly took on the care of my mother with the help of facility staff and a Christian woman twice a week.  We cared for her for fifteen years.  I have two sisters, but they live thousands of miles away so their annual visits were really all I could count on from them.

As a caregiver, no matter what your individual circumstances may be, there will always be many things that cause you to need an outlet of some kind.  There usually are unrelenting demands, no time for yourself, stress, and frustration.  You may feel a physical toll on your body, loneliness, anxiety, even depression.  On top of these and other stresses, if there is a struggle with family members over the way you do things or have an accusation tossed out about you by an angry sibling or even by a dementia-riddled mind of the one you care for, you feel burdened and weary.  Feelings as a giver of care well up and can be a heavy weight upon you.

I found that journaling was a way for me to release some of these thoughts, stresses, and emotions, plus it gave me a way to organize tasks and to pray.  But you might ask, “How do I find time to journal with all I have to do?”  A few possibilities for a time out might be while the care receiver is napping and you have time to sit, or while waiting in the doctor’s office, or even starting your day 20 minutes earlier or staying up a few minutes longer.  Yes, there will be some days or weeks without time at all.  That’s okay.  I am not suggesting you begin journaling so that you will feel guilty when you cannot.  Just do the best you can!

I like to have a journal the size that I can carry with me so that I can journal when I have time, wherever I am.

There are many ways to journal.  The written word is the most common, done in any kind of notebook or journal-type book.  It can be a place to express emotions, pray, organize things to do, dates, or appointments.  You may want to write down various events that occur in the days of your care recipient, such as changes in behavior or habits, illnesses or hospitalization, etc.

A number of resources may be of help as you begin this part of your journey:

Budd, Luann, Journal Keeping: Writing for Spiritual Growth

DeSalvo, Louise, Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives

Goodwin, B. Lynn, You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers  (http://writeradvice.com/ywmtdw.html)

Karpinski, Marion, A Guided Journal for Caregivers – A Journey into Renewal and Well-Being

  • Pennebaker, James W., Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval

Using prompts can help you get started: “Sometimes I wonder…,” “If I let myself cry…,”  “I wonder what my mother would write about me.”  Here are a few resources where prompts may be found:

  • http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/Journaling-for-Caregivers-148782.htm
  • http://www.caregiving.com/articles/blogged/community-caregiving-journal/ (journal prompts)
  • Another way to journal is to draw or doodle, using a sketch book.  That may include expressing emotions whether wild or calm.  Sketching pictures or freeform doodling can help you describe what you are going through, name people to pray for, express feelings with colors, write Scripture using an art form.  I use colored pencils.  I find this method to be extremely soothing
  • (MacBeth, Sybil, Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God; http://prayingincolor.com)
  • A calendar with large areas at each date allows for writing short snippets to help with recalling an event or behavior, dietary changes, etc.  Cutting pictures or words from magazines, making a collage to express feelings or thoughts can be a creative way to journal.  Copy down a quote that means something special, adding your own notes.  Choose a song to reflect upon that brings your heart comfort and peace.  Or write a list of special memories.  The ways can be endless.

I like to have a journal a size that I can carry with me so that I can write when I have time, wherever I am.

If you want your words to remain completely private, I suggest writing or drawing.  Then, tear up or shred the paper.  Writing things down does help to vent and give expression to what you are feeling and going through.  Nobody needs to read it!

Father, You love us and care about us and the precious person you have placed in our care.  We pray for Your wisdom as we endeavor to do Your will and for Your ways to express that which is curled up inside of us, to draw, doodle, and color the creativity You have given us, to pray in Your Son’s Name, to place our lives in Your hands through ways written on a piece of paper.  Even, Father, when we make lists of things to do or groceries to buy, may we always be mindful of You.  Father, guide us and teach us as we lay the pen to the tablet.  Etch Your Words before us so that we stay close to You.  In the Name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

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See Part 2 of Journaling Your Way Through Caregiving

Empty, Purify, Fill Me, and Pour Me Out, LORD

As I seek Your face, Father, I want to be empty of me.  How can this happen, LORD?  Can I truly be empty?

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4:20-24

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

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I accepted Jesus Christ as my LORD and Savior, asking forgiveness for the sinful person I was.  The old Linda is gone and the new Linda lives.  I am empty, was emptied, yet need to empty again and again.  The sinful one keeps edging her way back in.  The love of Christ never leaves me though.  I am being emptied moment-to-moment.

In the emptiness, I need to be purified so that I may walk in purity through this world.  Only You, LORD, can purify me.

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD Malachi 3:3

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.  Hebrew 9:13-14

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.  2 Corinthians 7:1

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Father, as I am emptied and purified, I want to be filled with You, filled with Jesus, filled with Your Spirit, that I may walk in Your Light.

I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.  Psalm 81:10

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  John 14:16-17

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Yes, Your Holy Spirit dwells in me, Father.  I am so very thankful and love You with all of my heart.  Thank You for bringing me into Your family, for accepting me as I am, and molding me on Your potter’s wheel.  I am a vessel of Your making.

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?  Romans 9:21

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.  2 Timothy 2:21

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Pour me out, O LORD, into this world that I would do what You have called me to do and be the woman that You have made me to be.  Use me, LORD, as You will.  May I be empty for Your use, LORD.  Teach me Thy ways, my Father.  In the Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.  Titus 2:11-15

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  Romans 7:25

Father, You made me and desire to use me.  I pray that You empty me of me, and that I am willing to be emptied.  I pray that You purify me so that I may walk in the cleanliness of Your Holiness.  I pray that You fill me with all that is You.  And then, Father, pour me out into this world in the ways that You have appointed for me, for my life.  In Jesus’ beautiful Name, Amen.

In His Strength, Not Mine

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I have not made New Year’s resolutions in many-a-year, but when I saw this little poster on Pinterest, each “to-do” is what my heart’s desire is for each day, each moment.  I do the best I can.  If my walk is close to my LORD, as I strongly desire, I am able only in His Strength, not mine.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 
Matthew 19:26

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Abba Father, You bless me with every heartbeat, every breath.  May my dependence upon You be full.  I want to live each moment in reliance upon You for all I am and all I do.  I pray I know that every gift I receive is from You.  In every encounter, I want the kindness of Jesus to pour through me, out into the heart of the one I am with at that moment.  I want to give You my need to control.  I pray that I would listen to my heart…not only for the beats, but words and emotions that are coming through this lifeline for they will be from You, my Father.  You are my Lifeline for You have filled my veins with the red blood that keeps this body alive, and The Blood of Jesus that has saved me.  I pray that each day will be productive for Your Kingdom.  I ask for Your peace upon me as I do whatever You call me to do.  The very breath I inhale and exhale continuously is from You, so I want to breathe You all my days.  In Your Son’s Holy Name, I pray.  Amen.

Are Your Records Found in the Genealogies?

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The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, 
though they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, and the sons of Nekoda, 652.  Also, of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, and the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name).  These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and 
so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 
Ezra 2:59-62

I have spent hours researching my family’s genealogy as a hobby.  I was able to find some lines that extended generation upon generation, yet I have some lines that only go back five or six generations.  And then there are two important lines on one side of my family that only go back to my great grandparents and then the lines are dead ends wherever I have looked.

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I felt sad that I could not find more without actually going to Italy to scour through church and government records.

In Ezra 2, we see lists of names where no record of the family heritage could be found.  These were excluded from the priesthood for the time being.

Those people in my family history with no record are excluded from my history record.  They are gone from this earthly life.  I can not bring them back nor make any memories with these people that I would call family.  But these people on Ezra’s lists were there, in person, and could not be accounted for in the records.  Their priestly roots were unknown and there they stood.  I can only imagine that their arms would be open wide, voices calling to God, “But I am here and You know me.  I want to be Your priest.  Help!”  Maybe…   By not being able to find the roots of those who grew into living beings leaves one at a dead end, helpless.

No matter what my personal family tree looks like, how many generations are lost to “no records,” I am here and know of my godly family tree.  I am alive and know that I am so blessed to be connected through the beauty of knowing that I am rooted in God.  He is the Father and I am a part of His Tree.

He created me.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them. 

Psalm 139:16


He is my Father.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door

and pray to your Father who is in secret. 

And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

Matthew 6:6


I am His child. 

Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In Him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed His offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, 

we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone,

an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 

Acts 17:27b-29


I am not lost nor orphaned. 

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,

but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 

Romans 8:14-15


I know His Son as my Savior and LORD.  He is the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.

For to us a child is born,

to us a Son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and His name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

Isaiah 9:6


I am rooted in Love and know to Whom I belong. 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God,

and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 

1 John 4:7


I am His.

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION,

A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION,

so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him

who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

for you once were NOT A PEOPLE,

but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD;

you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY,

but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

1 Peter 2:9-10

Father, I thank You for adopting me into Your family.  Through Your Son, Christ Jesus, I have come to be His sister because I believe.  I believe that He is the One Who died for me upon the Cross.  I believe that Jesus is the One and Only Savior and LORD.  I believe that Your Word is the Truth.  I believe.  I am one who is written in Your Book of Life and on Your family tree.  I do not have to feel afraid or alone for I am grafted into the tree and live because Your sent Your Son for me, the sinner.  Thank You, Father.  Thank You.  In the beautiful Name of Your Son, I pray.  Amen. 


I am…

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