Why Bother With The Bible?

An interesting clip from a conversation with Phil Drysdale.

As a writer, it has been easy for me to transition to this idea of the Bible being a collection of writings that form a conversation. Hence, the subtitle of this blog of mine: participating in the conversation.

As they discuss in the clip, I used to definitely use the Bible as a ouija board, per se. I literally would open it randomly and point to a verse and consider how it applied to my situation and then proceed forward accordingly. I no longer do that. But I think it’s important to talk about since I think many can relate.

Other points I especially liked from the video include the concept of “wrestling with God” being associated with the name Israel. And also Jews opening the Bible to start conversations versus Christians opening the Bible to end conversations.

Already Included #64 – On Hold

By: Sarah Nyhan

Control issues gone awry. Sometimes you are a person who, justly or even not, feels the need to prove a point. Probably to others. Who maybe don’t care or more likely are also probably successfully maintaining much control by playing the game of refusing to acknowledge the point to you despite all evidence and all your attempts.

What we feed grows. What might have been only a part of your life can then morph into an identity as you hold onto this mission and probably put many other things in your life on hold while you wait. For their acknowledgement, their approval, their apology, etc.

And here is what I have learned after a few decades: you have to give yourself permission to know, to feel, to grieve, to live, and to move on.

They are comfortable enough; their comfort depends on you playing the part they probably set you up to play. As long as you and others participate in the dance with them, the likelihood of them feeling uncomfortable enough to reconsider their choices is, in my opinion, very low. Especially in this society, where we have a high enough level of social mobility to where they can easily find someone, even many, who will take your place.

It can feel very lonely on the path of pursuing better for yourself. It can feel hard to find hope. But there are others out there. We can take back true control when we start creating a life we want versus waiting for anyone to give it to us. Whether we deserved better or not. All we have is now. And all we can really hold onto is ourself. And we will be wherever we go. For better or worse.

I believe everything we encounter is working for our healing. It might not feel that way. We maybe want or expect a more sanitized healing experience. But the longer we go, the more it might take to get our attention also.

Yes, there were probably true times where we were victimized. But we can’t change anyone. They have to want to change. Even if we can force their actions, is that really ultimately satisfying if their hearts and minds are not for or with us?

How much more will you give them?

What do you really want? What life do you really want? And will you take a step right now in that direction?

Already Included #63 – What Is Love?

By: Sarah Nyhan

Do I love you? Is it really my place to tell you that I love you? Or would it be better if you told me that I loved you. In other words, only you can tell me if I love you?

That probably won’t hold a lot of water with many, but I think it holds enough. From experience, the people who told me they loved me have been the ones who hurt me the most.

So now I feel rather presumptuous saying “I love you” anymore. Most will probably say I’m reading too much into it. But now that I am learning what love really is, and maybe more what it isn’t, I don’t feel like  tossing that word around as flippantly as I used to – and I was reserved with it even before. But not reserved enough.

“Love”, as in “I love you”, is a verb. Actions. Not just a feeling inside you. I can have feelings of affection towards someone, but that doesn’t mean I love them. It took me a long time to learn that. To also learn that just because someone wanted me, that had very little correlation with whether they loved me. 

One time I was in a relationship with someone who speaks Spanish fluently. I remember asking the person how to say “I love you” in Spanish. They told me to say, “Te quiero”. Later on, much to my surprise, I found out that the literal translation of “te quiero” is “I want you”; whereas “te amo” literally means “I love you”.

In American English, “I want you” commonly has a different connotation compared to “I love you”. But I think most Americans probably mean “I want you” when they say “I love you”. And so now that phrase makes me feel uncomfortable since my thoughts on love have changed so much. When most people tell me they love me, now it feels like they are requesting something from me. I feel like their “I love you” is a gun holding me hostage a lot of the time. Like it’s a demand more than an assurance.

True love is a gift. A real gift. A free gift in all senses of the word. What do I give to others that is truly free of any expectations?

I heard someone say that you wouldn’t have to convince people to believe if they actually knew they were loved. I don’t think that is an intellectual knowing. I think there is a deeper, richer level of knowing that is beyond the reach of our intellect. Preverbal children know love on that level. It is very connected to feeling safe in another person’s heart. It’s where your mind isn’t confused. Where dissonance isn’t constantly following you around and popping out to steal every last moment you try so badly to enjoy.

Our only hope is God, of course. But not like before. Not working so hard to love. Not reading the Bible, or praying, or otherwise doing more.

No, I find the only way love organically flows out of me for and to others is when my heart has been refreshed by Spirit. And through others when it is genuine. 

I can’t give away what I don’t have. Speaks to a lot.

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Already Included #62 – Meaning

By: Sarah Nyhan

“Do not be dismayed.” Over and over in the Bible. Do not be dismayed.

One dictionary defines dismay as the loss of courage due to fear.

What are the stories that we tell ourselves? The more I think about it, we basically have a 100% chance of being wrong about how we see the future turning out. I guess 50% chance at the most. Maybe. But when I really flesh it all out, it is really ridiculous to think we understand anything that is going on. Much less think we are ever able to accurately depict the future. And that is what storytelling is: being a fortune-teller, a psychic. It’s crazy. Absolutely crazy.

Yet we live our lives in story. We build our identity within a story. A story that we’ve told ourselves. Or someone else’s story that we’ve adopted as our own. We build, or try to build little kingdoms on top of these stories, out of these stories, in these stories. We go to war and kill people for our stories.

It’s so crazy the more I think about it.

I am a product of two humans deciding to have intercourse one day. That involved a bunch of cells racing towards each other and at least two sticking together. Then those cells multiply and grow. Then somehow a soul or a spirit gets attached to all that?! Who can even really scientifically explain even what a soul or spirit is and where it comes from?

Nevertheless, then I’m born a helpless child who is at the mercy of so many other humans for a great majority of years. I’ve been told a lot of stories during that time. I’ve been pressured to pick a story and stick with it. Even for survival. And yet, I know nothing. I only know what I have been taught or experienced. And I haven’t had very much time to figure out what is true and false about all that. Speaking of time, it flies by. And I’m asked to make so many decisions without really knowing for myself what is best. I manage as well as I can within the stories I have, but for the most part it’s a falling forward.

And then people ask you what your plans are for the future. As if simply planning will ensure specific outcomes. 2020 was a slap in the face in that regard. 2020 was a slap in the face, a wake-up call, in the stories of most, I imagine. Like going to the ocean and seeing how small you are. How powerless in the face of… everything.

And yet we judge each other. We say, “I figured out a story that seems to be going better than yours.” For now. Until the cancer. Until the accident. Until the… etc. Etc. Etc.

I admit I initially get overwhelmed. About 20 million times a day. And then the absurdity of demanding control and certainty just knocks the rug out from under me. And I fall. I let go. There is nothing else left to do but enjoy the flight.

My word pictures lack the punch I feel and desire. But I try. Like in everything else. Imperfectly.

This is mystery.

Where am I? I am in You, Jesus. Not because I know how or why. But because You said so. And You know the real story. I’m just a kid. But I am Your kid. With all my stories; probably mostly incomplete or incorrect. And yet here I stand before another day. In the lens of Your economy (and what a terrible way to put that), things could go my way just as much as they could not go my way today. I will do my best to fumble through but really my only hope is You. Please help me see things as they really are. Please help me see through Your heart versus all my fears. Even the ones people shame me into not professing. You know, God. You know me. Better than I know myself. If You said that You work all things for good, please help me see that story. Please restore our hope. And joy. I believe You already are. I want to feel it. More and even more.

I only have this instant. The stories I tell myself about the future are just my imagination. They are not real.

Maybe the only thing I need to ask myself is, “Am I alone in all this? Do I really think my Creator spun me out into this world and abandoned me to myself and the mercy of others?” Too many things have happened during my time for me to be able to answer “no”. I hope the same for you.

If it isn’t the end yet then there is still more to the story. And I want to stick around to find out. To fully experience this crazy ride we call life. I believe we all are eternally safe in our Creator, our Abba’s heart. So I want everything there is for me to have here. So I practice choosing to let go of the stories I tell myself and the meaning I give anything. And in doing so I practice choosing not to be dismayed.

Everything could change in an instant. What if tomorrow holds that moment? What if even today?

What if I included Trinity and Their Love into all my equations? With God, anything and everything really is possible. I want to dream bigger.

 

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Already Included #61 – Plain as Day

By: Sarah Nyhan

I took a friend for a drive downtown a few days ago. It was nighttime but I knew where we were and where we were going. In contrast, my friend hadn’t been downtown in awhile. She was looking for a specific building and couldn’t find it.

After our excursion, I researched the building she was looking for. Turns out we had even been parked directly in front of it for several minutes as we waited for the traffic light to turn in our favor. During that time she had even commented on the business that was now located in the building she was looking for. But she didn’t recognize the building in the dark.

It felt like a good analogy for what I would have previously called evangelism. In that, we can lead someone right up to the truth, we can get truth right in their face, and they can have the best of intentions. But if they are in darkness, then they won’t be able to see what they think they are looking for.

See, my friend was looking for the building based on what it used to look like in the past versus what it actually looks like now. Just like how people seeking truth want to fit God back into the boxes they think religion limits Him to. Versus God as Trinity actually is even now.

My friend probably would have seen the building she was looking for if we had been driving during the day versus at night. In the same way, I am becoming more and more convinced that people will not see the truth about God and themselves unless Son/Light comes to clear out their darkness.

Maybe Jesus reaches out to them through our words, but I am less and less convinced that is the optimal method of revelation. I really don’t know anymore.

I’m frankly tired of being disappointed. Of sending out the invitations, setting the table, and wanting so badly to celebrate and then none of my loved ones showing up. None of my loved ones as excited. But Jesus told a parable saying the same thing. I’m not smart enough to know everything He meant then, but He reminds me now to leave the wheat and tares separation business to Him. To keep watering. To keep loving.

But not like before. Not with conversion in mind necessarily. He could use rocks and donkeys to speak; He doesn’t need me like that. The goal is less about conversion and more about healing.

Maybe that’s why He lets us wrestle with imperfect translations, denominations, and theology. Because this Jesus is personal. All about relationship. The one. You. Me. Each of us.

Versus any institution. I’m reminded that He rebuked Peter when Peter wanted to setup a structure and go to war in the physical.

This isn’t about winning. This is about healing. I can’t lead with my mind; Jesus beckons my heart. And my strength isn’t needed; this will only be done through Spirit.

Lord help us. Lord help me. My impatience. My disappointment. Even my bitterness. You always had us. We were always safe in Your love. We are kids who always need our Abba. I am Your child and I need You to be my Abba. Please help me see. Please help my unbelief. Thank You for helping me see. Thank You for helping me believe. I ask for You to restore our hope and joy. We want our loved ones to celebrate with us.

 

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Already Included #60 – Bad People

By Sarah Nyhan

Maybe it’s not right theology that changes people as much as right love. Maybe we make it too complicated. Maybe we overthink things. Maybe the reason Jesus lets us fumble around in our denominations is party because that isn’t the main point. That perfect knowledge is not an end unto itself. That perfect knowledge is maybe only really as useful if it contributes to more perfect love. And as such, maybe for the more intellectual among us, the undoing of “knowledge” would maybe be more helpful than gorging ourselves on even more information.

Am I too heavenly minded to be any earthly good?

There is an avoidance of vulnerability when I live in my mind. Safely tucked away in the sanitized security of control and certainty. Very much alone. Nobody measures up. Nobody challenges me. As I hold people hostage to my expectations.

And then something outside of yourself wrecks your little castle. It’s on fire. Maybe you lose everything. And you feel very ashamed. Now you need others. And where are they? You have run them all off.

But what about what they did to me? True. But maybe there is something between the do-all and the do-nothing? Maybe there is a middle ground. Maybe the only person I have control over is myself. Maybe good people, people that love us, fumble up and mess things up and hurt us sometimes.

Maybe we hurt people also. Maybe we mess up. Maybe most others don’t know what we’re going through. Maybe we can give them the same grace that we need. I’m not saying excuse actions. I’m talking about how all of us need healing.

I think when you have lived in a paradigm that dismissed you as a person and your feelings for so long then once you wake up everything is sensitive and everything hurts. It’s like the brightest light was turned on and pierced the deepest wounds in your mind and heart. Maybe even in your spirit. Like you lived your whole life in the sewers of the slums and then one day were taken to the richest King’s castle and you look at yourself and your life and suddenly all this filth and poverty you previously settled for just overwhelms you. You suddenly see all the scars, all the dirt. And now that you are able you just want to scrub and scrub until you are clean. You want to stay far away from all that previous pain.

And maybe that time is needed. To heal, to recover our strength, to clear and rebuild our minds.

But to what end? To then forever sit in judgement on all who are behind? I think I am learning that is not at all Jesus’ heart. I think He proved it as He associated with all the broken during His time on earth. Not to judge them. Not to push them away. Not to sanitize Himself from their mess. No. He was all about healing.

Maybe there will be an expansion of our hearts. Maybe that’s the only way out of this. To see ourselves altogether as one. Maybe your healing is also my healing. Maybe I am only as whole as your brokenness?

The phrase that keeps haunting me is “forgiveness leads to repentance”. Not the other way around.

Before I used to do things with an agenda. I called it love, but I don’t think it was true love. It may have been sometimes “nice” or “friendly” at the most. But love is a whole other ballgame. Love is not safe. Love is not sanitized. Love doesn’t have a formula. Love doesn’t work when we keep score.

But the good news is that love is bigger than our failures. And love is always available for us to choose. Love heals. Love restores. Love is an irresistible force. Love gets in even as they fight or rage against it.

I’m obviously not the expert here. But I know Who is. And Holy Spirit’s wrath for our total healing will never waver.

Maybe my hell is driving me towards my redemption. Maybe I’ve been fighting the very things that will be my salvation. And not only mine, but the salvation of all those that I have driven off along the way.

Lord help us, we need a Savior. Who came to earth as a baby. Not a soldier.

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Already Included #59 – No Condemnation

By Sarah Nyhan

What an adventure. Trinity never ceases to amaze me.

I pictured Peter tonight. It sounds to me like he left his day job to follow Jesus. Jesus who looked like a human man, but Peter undeniably saw something different about this man. Peter probably heard all the gossip, all the naysayers, all the arguments against Jesus. And he tried his best. He dove in head first. He knew there was something Divine about this Jesus. Who leaves their day job to follow someone around without a plan? Surely Peter experienced God.

But then they are sitting in the garden and here is his Hero giving Himself over to the bad guys. To all the people who were fighting against them. Jesus just gives Himself up. I imagine Peter must have been so confused.

Here he left his job, defended Jesus to probably so many, maybe even his loved ones doubted his decision to join this rough group of followers without a plan. Just going here and there without any concrete outcome.

I mean these people come from and are surrounded by and were born into a very concrete religious community. Their entire society revolved around this monumental structure of a religion. Every facet of their lives were defined by the religion.

And Peter has the audacity to break away from the system. Peter has the audacity to throw away everything he’s ever known. Peter has the audacity to stand up to the pillars in his society.

And then his Jesus, this man he was so sure about, just gives Himself over and seems to throw in the towel.

I imagine Peter watching from a distance thinking, “Any time now my Jesus is going to throw these dogs off His back and show them who is boss. Show them who the real God is.” But then he watches them beat Jesus mercilessly.

Maybe as they place the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, Peter says, “Surely my Jesus will save Himself now. He saved everyone else.”

Maybe even when they placed the cross on Jesus’ back.

Maybe even when they stabbed the nails into Jesus’ body on the cross. Maybe even then Peter still held to His Jesus saving the day.

But then the cry. Then the water from Jesus’ body as the spear was thrust inside.

I imagine the sick feeling in Peter’s stomach as the people took Jesus’ body down from the cross. Maybe the doubts screamed so loudly inside of him. Maybe all the memories of the gossip and the naysayers and the religious arguments came flooding back to him. Maybe the most insidious of all flooded his mind: logic.

Maybe the other followers stood looking at Peter for an explanation. Maybe he had to go home to his family who were already past their last bit of patience with him. And then this.

The darkness of the night settled in. The stone was rolled over the tomb. And Peter’s Jesus looked very much like a human man who was dead. And Peter may have thought he looked to many like a fool following a crazy man.

But the miracles? But all the experiences with Jesus? Peter had been so sure. But now his Jesus lay very much dead. And with Him all that Peter had invested. Everything. His entire life. His reputation. His friendships. He had been so sure. Why did Jesus let him down and leave him? Alone.

The silence the next morning must have been unbearable. The deafening roar of a million questions. Of all his doubts coming true: “What if I was wrong? I probably took it too far like they told me. I probably should have just watched from the sidelines. Now look at me. I have nothing. How can I ever recover from this? And more – my heart. How will my heart and mind ever recover from this? Who on earth will have me now?!”

The looks in the street. Maybe haughty. Maybe filled with disgust.

Maybe it felt like a giant kick to the gut back to square one. Starting all over again except this time even farther down. “Look at me. I’m not a young man. I should have known better. Maybe I just saw what I wanted to see. Maybe I made it all up. Maybe I should have listened to them and just settled down and into place.”

Where was his Jesus to protect him now from all the people with power? Where was his Jesus to provide for him?

Where did you go, Jesus?! Why did you let them do what they did? How will anyone believe in You now?

Peter didn’t know his Father. We don’t know our Father.

No condemnation. But maybe you can relate. I can relate.

No sin was committed. This has happened so that people may believe. And be free.

Trinity has the last Word! Not death. Not “logic”. Not earthly powers. Not even our doubts and especially our failures.

The grave could not hold Him!! All was not in vain! For Peter or for us.

But I imagine those three days of silence must have felt like the end of almost everything. And maybe it was the end of one of the most important things: all of Peter’s well-meaning strength. All of our well-meaning strength.

I want to believe enough, but I can’t. I want to trust enough, but I can’t. Even the strength of our faith is not needed.

I cried out in anger and frustration, “God, if You are really God then….” God showed up. God saw me. God heard me. Alive for another day. Not just in body. But I mean really alive. Another monument. Another deposit into my trust account.

I cannot manipulate God with my belief. It is not needed. Again, the Father’s heart, Trinity’s heart. Or otherwise it will never work out. If anything is dependent on me.

“Peter, lead my sheep.”

“But I failed You, Lord.”

“I never needed your strength, Peter. Go tell them how much I loved and love you. Even when you thought you had failed and screwed everything up. Tell them how much I love them. Tell them that their strength is not needed.”

Help us see, Father. Help us hear. Thank You that You already and always are!

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Already Included #58 – First Frogs

By Sarah Nyhan

I was thirteen years young when I started high school. My best friend had an older boyfriend. She told me to go talk to his friend. I walked over to this older guy that I had never seen before. He told me, “You’re going to break up with your boyfriend and I’m going to be your boyfriend now.” And I didn’t fight back. I hate that.

I hate that I was taught to value myself so little. Now looking back, I blame a whole community completely soaked and saturated in separation mythology. If you’re told your whole life that your Creator is angry with you, that you are nothing, that you deserve nothing good, etc etc etc then it’s no surprise that you’ll settle for the first frog that comes along asking for a kiss. Or the first church that will have you. Or the first job that will have you. Etc, etc, etc.

It makes me sick now. Sick with anger. Sick with grief. To think about how much we are lied to and how we pass that mess along to each other. Crabs in the bucket. Dare someone to break out and the whole lot will come trying to pull them back down. Because don’t you dare challenge this sickness and sadness they’ve married themselves to. Don’t you dare challenge anyone’s fears.

What if I’m wrong? What if Trinity really isn’t concerned about my feelings? What if Trinity leaves me hanging? Leaves me making big dreams and big talk? I’d rather try and fail then rot away with regrets. I didn’t fight this long or this hard just to settle out of fear. No sir, no ma’am.

What on earth are we fighting for anyway? Why are we even doing all this studying and seeking? At the top of my list: real life and real love. A real God.

There is a song by Clint Black entitled, “Love She Can’t Live Without” that pretty much sums up my thinking. The chorus has the lyrics: “She can live with what goes with leaving, she knows it’s the only way, though it kills her to give up believin’, she can’t live with herself if she stays, she could settle for what she’d be feeling, if she gave in and worked this one out, she doesn’t want the kind of love she can live with, she wants the kind of love she can’t live without.”

There’s another song by Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa. The chorus has the lyrics, “Is the only reason you’re holding me tonight is that we’re scared to be lonely?” In my experience, that is hell. Trying to fit yourself into someone else’s life, someone else’s world. Just to be accepted. Just to belong. The new toy for whoever. For the lover, the “friend”, the employer, the religious community. As long as you play the part then they’ll keep you around. Swimming in shallow waters.

I want more. I want real connection. I want real life. Real love. I want a real God. I want a Creator of this magnificent universe that cares about me. That didn’t spin me out on my own. I want the love story Trinity writes for me. I want all the life Trinity wants me to explore in this human experience.

We were Created just to tread water? I can’t buy that. It’d be easier if I could. But I feel like I’m completely cheating myself when I try. Totally letting myself down.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a beauty in simplicity. There is rest in God. I’m not talking about ambition for the sake of. I’m talking about not betraying my heart. I’m talking about being authentic. Being honest with each other. Valuing ourselves and each other.

One thing I did right in my life. There was a male and his family. After many decades, even recently, he told me I hurt him by not marrying him. Years and years go by. What you were so sure of gets less clear. You wonder if maybe you ask for too much. But I know I would have been miserable as his wife. No matter how much I love him. We just operate out of completely different values. It would have been oil and water. The lies creep up all around saying I should have just been happy someone wanted me around. But that’s not the point. I at least loved him and myself not to ruin our friendship. Not to force something out of fear. And that’s a love I hope he’ll understand someday. A love I wish a lot of people understood.

Maybe love made that decision easier. I loved him more than I love myself. However, these past few years have been an intensive course in learning to say no. Learning to walk away. Learning to fight back. And unfortunately learning to stand alone. Learning to trust myself. Learning to honor myself. Learning to value myself. Because Jesus didn’t come to die for nothing. Trinity didn’t Create this amazing planet for nothing. For trash. No way. That’s not my God. That’s not my Jesus.

I want this inheritance of fear to stop here. With me. With us. Not because of our strengths. But because we are safe in Trinity’s heart. Jesus proved it. I need God to help us see, help us hear. Help us be free!

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Already Included #57 – Fine Right Now

By Sarah Nyhan

I feel like I followed Holy Spirit out into a desert over a recent period. I feel like I am in that in-between hold-your-breath place where I can see Pharaoh coming at me on one side and a big sea on the other.

Trying to stay focused on the work I want to do. Slowly detaching from making those desires any part of an equation to attempt to manipulate God. Slowly resting as a child of Creator God. Loved. Living loved. Slowly not needing to know. Slowly embracing mystery. Slowly laying all my burdens down. Being a kid again. Doing my best while not relying on my part. Slowly. Decades of old habits die hard.

The sweetest times, that I admit I still resist, are when I run to Trinity with my raw honesty. With my questions. With all the messy emotions. The ones that aren’t pretty enough for public consumption. The thoughts I’m pressured to sweep under the table so as to make others comfortable.

Not my Jesus. He welcomes all of me. He can handle more than I could ever throw His way. He encourages my questions. He doesn’t push me away when I come with anger, tears, and fears.

Instead, I feel calm compassion. I feel that Mother gathering me in. I feel peace quiet my soul. I feel an invitation to let go of all I insist on carrying or holding onto.

Not a lot of talking. Not a lot to lean on for the future except reminders of Trinity’s love proven over and over again. And usually the question, “But you’re fine right now?” Followed up with the reminder that it feels like 99% of the time I’m upset over concerns about the future. About the story I have told myself about how things are going to play out. About things that aren’t even happening right now.

I am so accustomed to leaving God out of the equation. As if we are just an afterthought.

Slowly I am coming around. Trust slowly building on trust. Those monuments are helpful. Telling ourselves the true stories about how God has showed up and showed off in our lives before.

It’s one thing to have something good happen. It’s another thing when I remember how God protected me even in my failures. Funny how some of the most benign moments turn out to be lessons in that respect. I was thinking this week about how I left my laundry in the laundromat one day for several hours and nobody took it. I was thinking about another time when I left my money for doing laundry in the laundromat and nobody took it. I came back some time later and it was left untouched. Maybe little things to some, but they were big for me.

Over and over I don’t get answers so much about the future. I just mainly get reminded about where I knew God was real in the past. This is that adventurous life I prayed for. To be led where my trust is without borders. God alone.

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