Just imagine, someone notices that your enemy or adversary has been humbled, due to circumstances, and now comes to you in an attempt to be friendly. They come with comments or a conversation that they think you will be interested in, only to be rebuked by you, or ignored and sent away. It is clear that they were never friends with you prior to this.
This type of character in a person has no allegiance to anyone. It is narcissistic behavior, full of selfishness, self-seeking, always trying to have an ‘in’ with those who are either in the lime light for the moment, or those who are in a position they want for themselves, so they do things or say things to try to attach themselves to you. Let something happen, and see how fast they’ll turn their backs on you.
When troubles arise, these types are always looking to save their own skin by any means necessary.
Narcissists have inflated thoughts about themselves. They think highly of their skills and abilities. They are grand in their own minds. They are also preoccupied with themselves.
Narcissistic people seem to be void of true concern for others. All that matters is what's about them and what they want. They are hard pressed to be empathetic or sympathetic unless there is something in it for them, and their intentions still isn’t pure. They are users and can, if not careful, become abusers. They cannot be trusted. You’re just an end to a means for them.
We know that what lies just beneath the surface is a deeper need they're crying out for. They don’t know how to be a friend to anyone and they have many ‘Acquaintances’, but hardly any true friendships. No one can survive in a relationship with a narcissist unless you are their therapist.
Here’s the disclaimer, I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, I am from the school of ‘Hard Knocks’, and what I do know a lot about is dysfunctional behavior. Narcissism is a result of disfunction, as well as, in some cases, mental disturbance.
It never ends well for those who exhibit narcissistic behavior. They waste years and energy, never achieving what they so desperately need and want. I knew of a woman once who claimed to be a believer, yet she was a narcissist till the day she died. She was miserable and unhappy, always. Everything was everyone else's fault, not hers. She never took responsibility for her actions, neither would she apologize for the wrong she did. She was bitter and angry all of the time. She resented others. She was always tearing people down, and trying to influence them with her take on things. In the end, she suffered loneliness and pain. No one seem to go around her in her hour of need, even in her death. All you heard off of people's tongues were all the terrible things she said to them and how awful she was.
There was a young man in 2 Samuel chapter one. He is nameless, it just mentions that he was an Amalekite that came from King Saul's camp. Saul and his men lost the battle that day against the enemy and as we know, King Saul fell on his own sword, committing suicide, as oppose to being killed by his enemies. This young man evidently witnessed the end of Saul and took credit for having killed him. When David asked how things went in battle, he lied, thinking he had done David a favor, by saying he killed Saul. What he didn't know was that David respected King Saul, the Lord's anointed, regardless of the problems between them due to Saul's jealousy. David had the young man killed. This young man seem to fall into the category of a 'Narcissist'. This was a selfish act. He thought it would put him in a good light with David and what ever else he thought he might have gained.
It didn’t go well for this young man when he chose to take credit for something he didn’t do. That lie cost him his life. Little did he know that David was a man of integrity and not a vengeful man. Only a vengeful man would have taken sides with him. David had him executed! It is also interesting that a few days before this young man crossed David's path, David had just slaughtered the Amalekites.
Character is everything. Don’t lie to yourself thinking that it’s not! Never gravitate towards someone for selfish reasons! Don’t tell lies to get in with people, it just might cost you everything!
Philipians 2:3 "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."
2 Timothy 3:2 "Men shall be lovers of themselves..." (In the last days this will be prevalent like never before)
I can't stress enough, the importance of mentoring !
I was fortunate, and blessed to have gotten the opportunity to be mentored by those who were not only Christians, but obedient Christians! I learned a lot of spiritual lessons while getting much needed support along the way.
There were those who prided themselves on challenging me, not that I couldn't have used a challenge here and there, but that didn't draw me closer to God. It only turned me off. While others saw potential in me, and made it their business to do something about it in a tangible way. I'll never forget the sister who found out that I wrote poems, and she found a Christian magazine that had a poetry section and connected me with them. I wrote for their magazine for quite some time.
The Lord gave me some sisters who were willing to pay close attention to me. They contributed a lot to my development. There was a couple of sisters who kept me involved with them as they did arts and crafts for VBS and other personal projects. I was always interested in art as a child, and being able to learn and grow under them was a blessing.
I am big on mentoring! Take what you have learned and pass it on to others. I am also like the Apostle Paul in this regard; I don't take prisoners. What I mean by this is that I don't waste time on individuals who only want to fool around or hang out for the sake of hanging out because they have nothing better else to do. You've got to be passionate about what you say you want to do. You have to possess enough maturity to follow through on what needs to be done, and be interested in being guided.
I am reminded in scripture of several mentors:
When you read the stories behind these names, you see how each person progressed spiritually. We also see the mistakes and challenges some had, but they learned to do better, by God's grace.
It's important to take others under your wing for the spiritual good. It provides a most important opportunity, for those who are younger, not only in age, but in the faith, for growth and learning, and fellowship. I don't know what I would have done without that type of one on one interaction.
Ask the Lord to give you someone to mentor. Ask Him to show you any persons that may be in need of all that He has given you. Just think about the challenges and trials you've experienced so far, and who could benefit from what you've learned.
Always remember this, all you have experienced in this life wasn't just for you, or only about you!!
Just think about it...the Lord Himself suffered many things while He walked this earth. The ultimate suffering he experienced was death!
There is no way to be a true follower of Christ and escape some type of affliction! Pain and suffering are part of the calling for Christians. "All who live godly will suffer persecution", the scripture tells us.
No one enjoys suffering on any level for any reason, but because Christ was hated and rejected, scorned and disowned, lied on, spit upon, targeted unjustly, and arrested, we too must expect the same.
Psalm 34:19 states, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all." There's one thing we can always respect God for and it is the fact that He never leaves us in the dark about what we can expect from following Him. So, the next time you find yourself in a trial, crisis, or affliction of any sort, ask yourself this question, "Why shouldn't I be suffering?"
We each have our particular crosses to bear! It may vary from person to person, but none the less, a challenge when it comes to enduring it. It isn't easy by far. It hurts, it can even seem scary. You feel as if you're all alone in your circumstances. What about when the affliction is suffering at the hands of family members, or even Christians? Yes, it is possible to be oppressed and targeted by those who call themselves believers! That is one of the worse types of suffering to experience. God allows specific things for you and I to go through. He doesn't cause it, He allows it. He knows what it will produce within us, for His honor, and glory, provided we endure.
Afflictions show up in the form of:
There's a list of things that can fall under each of those headings. They are all very difficult to endure.
God is always looking to assist us in growing spiritually. Unfortunately, as much as we enjoy happy times, and an undisturbed lifestyle, it doesn't develop Christ's character in us like afflictions do. That's just a fact! Trials and afflictions prepare us for greater things. It's in those times that we come to learn who God really is. We get a closer glimpse of Him, differently to the last time He tried us.
Afflictions prepare you and I for greater service within the body of Christ. We are now more valuable to God and to others. The Bible comes alive in a new way because now we have insight into how those verses really work. Some of our favorite scripture texts hold fresh meaning and we are connected to its interpretation in a real way.
I don't enjoy trials or afflictions, but when they come, I pray for strength to endure. That is key! The process of it all makes me draw very close to the Lord.
Following Jesus comes with a price tag! He has the power and will enable you to go through the storm and come out with a victorious testimony, so hang in there!!!
Rarely would we entertain the thought that some Christians have their own drug of choice. Often, we only relate that to the drug addict, the sex addict, and the alcoholic. As I mentioned in a previous post, the thing these individuals have in common is 'Pain'.
I have been in the Christian community for many years and I have seen much, but there is a malady that has picked up momentum and caused some destruction within the church.
I have learned that whatever we didn't receive from our parents growing up, can greatly impact our adult lives if we are not careful. Not everyone is aware of why they do what they do in the way that they do it. Not all recognize that they have been functioning dysfunctionally.
Someone asked me a question once and I answered with all honesty. They asked me if a family could still have dysfunction within with both parents in the home. I answered, yes, it is possible. Dysfunction doesn't mean only one parent at home. It speaks to the emotional and physical availability of that parent/s.
If there is a single parent household that is missing the loving presence of a mother or father, that speaks to dysfunction within that family unit. There will be consequences felt by all due to the absence and lack of involvement of that parent. When there are both parents within the family, yet, one parent or both parents are unconcerned, lacking emotional support and love, that is a dysfunctional household. It simply means that that family and its offspring won't be able to flourish and grow as they aught. There is a disconnect that will impact the lives of the female children and the males under its roof.
I had a friend (RIP) who was divorced, but she was the best mom a child could have asked for. She sacrificed everything for her children. She gave and gave. She bent over backwards and then some, yet, her children struggled emotionally and psychologically. It didn't matter how good a parent she was. They are still reeling to this day, due to the physical and emotional absence of their father. A good mother cannot be a father!
Children not only need the presence of two parents, they need parents who love them and who are emotionally invested in them. This helps to ward off dysfunction.
So where am I going with all of this? We all need to be affirmed. We all need to be acknowledge for our very existence. Family dysfunction robs children of this. When they are affirmed, they receive the emotional support and encouragement they need to make it in this life. "The lack of one, or both parent',s affirmation leaves some children to be emotionally crippled" (a quote I read, unknown author). This is so very true!
Children grow into adults who are either well adjusted or not. Dysfunctional children struggle with self esteem, insecurities, and a lack of confidence. They suffer from a lack of intimacy! Many of these individuals grow up to become valuable members in society, but there is always a cloud that hangs over them. When they don't get their way, or life isn't nice to them, you see the dysfunction rise to the surface. They always seem to be proving who they are and what they can bring to the table. Some are controlling and abusive, while others are manipulative.
This leads to my opening statement about Christians and their drug of choice. Not all of us have worked out our issues with God. Some are trying desperately hard to find love and acceptance through various ministry areas. It is the thought that being gifted or talented will bring the much needed attention and affirmation they need. This is a sad mistake. Although they may get to run that ministry area, it can never substitute for what they are lacking emotionally.
The church has frequently been a place where people can hide out. We dress up, present the picture we want others to see, and we show our talent. When the crowd grows thin and the lights dim, we are left without our self worth. We revert right back into who we really are. For some, the drug of choice is being in the lime light, heading up ministries, and participating in anything that puts us in the forefront of the people. They are in great need of intimacy.
The cure for all maladies, emotional and otherwise is an intimate relationship with God. You can be in a church all your life and never come into who God is and who you were to be in relation to Him. You can read your bible and pray often, yet be disconnected spiritually. It is possible. An intimate relationship with God requires your heart to be exposed with everything in it at all times. No secrets, no lies, no justifications, or hiding from God, is what is needed to find peace, contentment, and fulfillment. Many believers are living in unrest because they fail to be honest and upfront with God about their lives or the pain they're in. This results in hidden lifestyles, among other things. Some may justify things by the mere fact that they are a Christian, taking that blanket and tossing it over their heads, thinking this makes everything alright, but it doesn't.
Satisfaction, gratification, and joy comes when we are living in our truth as it is open before God. We can now experience His peace, His healing, and His power. Without that, we're just an opening act that never gains its audience. People eventually see what is there to see. We are all transparent to some degree. It doesn't take long for people to see what your problem is. They end up walking away chalking you up to be just another attention seeker. They tolerate your presence and talk about you behind your back.
We have a duty to pray for those who are suffering from such addictions. Don't feed their drive for affirmation in unhealthy ways. Don't be intimidated by them either, just be an example before them. Leave God to handle them. If they are truly saved, they will have to come full circle sooner or later. If you are in a friendship with someone who struggles with this, love them enough to approach them about it.
A lack of affirmation is crippling! The beauty about God is that once you connect with Him, you can have as much intimacy as you need. You will walk away satisfied and gratified. There will be less and less 0f a need for the attention of others or the praises of men!
God's approval is the only thing that matters!
In Genesis chapter 42, we read the moving account of Joseph coming in contact with his brethren after many years. What a story! There are many lessons to be learned here.
Joseph saw his brethren, Joseph knew his brethren, and Joseph remembered the dream he dreamt concerning them. This is profound.
Do you know what I love about God? It's this very point that He (God) makes in this chapter. People may try to stop and block your progress, hinder you, for whatever reasons, bad mouth you, commit evil acts against you, and get others to join in, but they will never be able to stop the blessings God has placed upon your life!!! What God has for you, is for you! Your only task is to be spiritually in the right condition, which is staying in tune with God, while remaining obedient to Him. The way may not be easy, but as long as you make yourself listen to God, and do things His way you will come out on top!
The very thing that Joseph's brethren thought they would stop him from doing or becoming, was the very thing he accomplished in the end! How powerful is that? Individuals may try to keep you out of ministry, or try to block you from serving God in your local church, or even speak evil of you, but the reason they are even doing what they're doing is because they ultimately want to stop what God wants to accomplish through you. Unfortunately, they have partnered with satan. Oftentimes, you may feel as if their tactics are working simply because their actions against you seemed to prevent you from being a part of certain things, or knock you out of the running for opportunities. NOT SO! God has chosen to use their evil to bring about your success and elevation! This is what I love about God!
When negative things are happing to us, we rightfully so, chalk it up to a personal attack. True, it is, however, God is the only one in authority when it comes to your life and my life. If He doesn't prevent something from happening, you better believe that it is divinely approved by God for your good and my good. This isn't an easy pill to swallow.
We know all of what Joseph endured and experienced. Things went from bad to worse. Some of the stuff he went through was horrific and heart breaking. You would even be moved to think that this poor young man's reputation would be ruined by the lie of Potiphar's wife. No rape, or attempted rape charge stuck, and his incarceration neither. His brothers started the ball rolling in the direction it went and all the evil that befell Joseph worked out for his good!!
Joseph's brethren could have never seen what was coming. They put him into that pit and they went on their merry way, happy and glad to get rid of their brother. Out of sight, out of mind, so they thought! So who gets the last laugh here???
God turns the tables on them. They must face the very one they rejected and hated, again! Joseph remembered the dream and he knew that eventually, things would come full circle for them all. He may not of understood the dream when he first dreamt it, but later on, after he saw the elevation and exaltation of God in his life, he knew he'd see them again.
Oh the pain that came flooding back, the tears, and the hurt, can now be finally dealt with. Joseph can now respond to the evil done against him. He does so in a Godly manner with the authority he had as governor. No revenge took up residence in Joseph's heart, just pure honesty and truth.
If you continue to read over the next chapter to the end of Genesis, you see how the story ends in victory! What a blessed and wonderful end.
I don't know what you're going through, right here, right now. I don't know what the journey has been for you, but I know this, that what God has done for Joseph, He will do for you! God is faithful! God is fair! God is the restorer of things that we have been robbed of. He says in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Trust God for your circumstances. He gives the ability to endure and tolerate the difficulty. Stay in close fellowship with Him and tell Him all about it. Constantly talk out your struggles, issues and pain with Him. Keep the doors of communication open between you and God, then sit back and watch what He will do for you!!!
Everywhere I turned, I see a world filled with pain! The saddest thing about it? No one wants to take responsibility for their contribution to it. Despite this fact, people need to break free. Don't let your pain maker keep you locked up!
I have mentioned in previous blogs that most of what people are reeling in pain from is closely associated with their childhood experiences. I'd like to call that 'The Invisible Guest' that resides in the deep recesses of our hearts.
The Bible clearly explains that each of us were born and shaped in sin. That means that we have a sinful nature within us that loves to sin. Psalm 51:5 says, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity. In sin my mother conceived me."
The sin Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden plunged every human being into sin. It was their sin and rebellion against God that sealed the fate of everyone born after them. That is the very reason crimes are committed, and why people are reeling from all sorts of pain and depression!
We live in a world that is shaped and molded by sin. Evil acts, violence and abuse, and a host of other ills has caused men and women, for the most part, to perpetuate its sickness. Perhaps you became a victim.
It takes a lot of effort to deal with one's pain. It is so much easier to numb the pain with strong libations, denial, drugs, sex, and anything that feels good in the moment, but nothing takes away the pain.
Peeling back the layers of hurt and pain, and whatever caused it, is a task you can't do alone. It's a process. It's ongoing, but it is well worth the work. Take it from me, I've been on this journey for quite some time.
The first thing that a person has to do to begin the healing process is to admit that they have a problem, and that they are in pain, secondly, they must ask God for His help. Watching T.V. segments of self help shows in the media won't bring you full circle with what's troubling you. While I will admit that some of the hosts give valuable advice, and they do shine the light on the problem at hand, however, for the most part, they are giving people suggestions and advice based on worldly wisdom.
I subscribe to the wisdom of God. Only He can bring you into complete healing! Only He can restore the years the locusts has eaten. His healing balm can fill every dark place in your heart and soul. What the talk shows can't do for you is to give you the 'Power' to make the necessary changes in your life. Power for change comes from God!
It is clear that we humans do not possess the divine ability to turn our lives around. We can't heal our own hearts, we can't get to the depths of the problem without God's enabling grace to enter into the corridors where the deep pain is. God's grace is what I call His divine ability to tolerate and bear the hard stuff while trying to evict the demons of the past. God's grace helps us to cry our way through all the muck and mire as we come face to face with the core of the problem. God also gives His strength to hang in there as He helps us to break free from the stronghold of pain.
There is not one person on the face of this earth that has not been hurt or harmed in some way, but some of us have been deeply wounded. Wounds are God's specialty. He's the expert at binding up wounds. I can testify to this personally.
Life is all about choices and the choice is yours as to whether or not you are ready for God to 'FIX YOUR LIFE'! Don't look to anyone else to do it for you. Trust God! He knows, He sees, and He most definitely cares!
While the world continues to be filled with pain, you can break free of yours!
"CASTING ALL YOUR PROBLEMS ON HIM, FOR HE CARES FOR YOU."
1 Peter 5:7
2 Chronicles 15 Maachah, The Mother of King Asa
The king’s allegiance to God, made him go against His own mother. Usually, a leader's family gets a pass because of his position.
In the local church, the leader’s family or renown families, tend to get a pass because of their position. Things are tolerated from a leader’s family, where as others are spoken against for doing the same thing.
Reformation must begin at home. Asa honors, and respects his mother; he loves her well, but he loves God better.
Asa could have condemned his mother to death for what she did and be in the right. The law Moses’ left was that idolatry was punishable by death should any be caught.
Asa only removed his mother as queen, and destroyed the idols, and place where she had them resurrected. No more is mentioned about his mother after this incident.
How humiliating this was for Maachah to no longer have the respect and authority as queen in Judah. How humbling was this for her. Perhaps she still remained in Asa’s kingdom, but not seen publicly as once before. This removal of her also spoke volumes to the people. She was not to have any influence in the kingdom or with the people. This served as an example before the others of how serious a matter this was.
Some leaders fail in this regard, when it comes to their own families. What example is there before the congregation if everyone sees and knows the bad behavior within the leader’s family, that is allowed to go on? Respect is lost for that leader. It is unspoken, and whispered about the place. While he may look the other way, people see and speak against him. They smile in his face, yet whisper behind his back. How sad….
When a local church sees that the leader doesn't tolerate bad behavior in his own family, they too will get the message and follow suit. But when they see hypocrisy, they won't take his ministry to heart.
In the case of King Asa, and the queen mother Maachah, the objective was that God was to be honored and obeyed!
Perhaps there is much weakness and failure within our local churches because of failure in this area. It is important for all to understand that the entire local body of believers are impacted greatly by the few who have chosen to be carnal and disobedient.
We need more leaders who aren't afraid to hold to God's standards!
"Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good."
When we see the word 'Isolation', we may see it as a negative. Thoughts of loneliness, separation, and rejection come to mind. Those are some of the possible affects of being isolated, but not the whole truth.
There is a positive side to being isolated. It's all in how you choose to look at it. There is so much that you can accomplish in being alone, but you have to be focused and disciplined enough to set goals and see them through.
Some individuals can't stand being alone. The minute there's any free time or down time, they have to connect with someone. In order to benefit from being isolated socially, you have to accept being by yourself for a certain period of time.
I have learned, experientially, that anything, anyone, or any situation that was not built into my life, was designed that way for a purpose. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I am reaping all of the rewards and benefits of isolation, by choice.
The world is filled with capable, talented, and gifted people, however, not everyone has put the time and energy into developing themselves. In order to develop yourself, you will have to spend lots of time away from everybody else. Focusing on a particular interest will require a certain amount of 'Isolation'.
There are people who enjoy pity parties because they are experiencing isolation. Whether it's family related, or socially related, they become depressed and sad. They spend a lot of time feeling as if they are missing out on what they deem as crucial. This can be a sign of not knowing what one's purpose aught to be. They may need to set realistic goals for their life.
While no man is an island or should behave like one, a certain level of isolation is good. Embrace it! Set goals and get moving with what is well within your reach. For some, it may be for spiritual growth and development, for another, it could simply be honing in on a craft or skill, while for others, they're interested in reaching higher heights with things that they are already doing. Whatever it is, isolation is necessary.
Accomplished musicians, artists, etc... know what it means to isolate oneself. Just look at the fruit they've produced. We all pay our bucks to see them or to enjoy what they've accomplished!
Make isolation work for you! If you are use to being with people most of the time, pull back, isolate a little, and focus on reaching a goal.
Remember this! All of the people we celebrate on this earth for their great accomplishments didn't get there by being the life of the party, taking every invite they got, texting 24/7, being social media junkies, or were afraid to be alone. They isolated themselves enough to succeed at what they wanted to be or do!
"The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good."
He sees everything and everyone…this is my confidence….the things or people or situations that disturb me, He sees. Nothing escapes Him. Sometimes the tendency is to feel as if you have no defense because you are the only one present when whatever was done or said, just you and the person satan used against you.
The Lord may allow evil or evil acts to be executed against you, but it doesn’t mean that He wasn’t aware of it, He allowed it for His own purposes.
Satan can only go but so far with us, as God allows, just like he did with Job. All for spiritual reasons.
God put's us in the position to be tempted, tested and tried by satan on a number of occasions. You may be tempted to fight back and defend yourself, but God planned it for your good, satan planned it to take you down.
There’s a bunch of stuff that God does not allow. You and I will never know the list of what those things are. We only know what has been allowed to happen to us, and it tells me that those things were seen by God and allowed by God, be it injustices, and unfair acts of all kinds, again, for spiritual purposes.
We can trust that He knows what is best for His own. It may not feel good, it’s uncomfortable and hard at times, but whatever He allows is for our spiritual benefit.
God is Omniscient, and Omnipresent...All knowing and ever present! Who better to trust our lives to? Not one person on this planet can claim to have that ability!
The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.
Slow and steady wins the race! Consistency over time yields progress thereby helping you to reach your goal.
Anytime we try to achieve something quickly without thorough learning and hard work, we miss the value and work ethic that is required, and we’ll be hard pressed to reach success with what we’re doing.
Diligence means time, effort, consistency, hard work, patience, persistence, and first and foremost, passion which gives the motivation for what you’re trying to do.
When a person has passion, they have the drive that's needed to accomplish something. Without passion, you’ll aim at nothing.
Passion can’t be taught, it is caught. You must catch the passion. Anything you’re passionate about requires diligence, effort, consistency, hard work, patience, persistence, and motivation.
Talking about your passion is not enough. Telling others about it, is not enough. What have you done to execute what you’re passionate about? What are you doing right now with that passion that includes:
Some people complain that no one is interested in helping them do what they want to do, using that as an excuse for having nothing to show for what they ‘say’ they are passionate about.
I have found that help will always ‘Find’ the persons who are already helping themselves. We live in an information driven society that makes it easier to find the resources to venture out on our own with certain things. There’s enough stimulating info out there to help anyone get started with what they want to do.
I’m generally more apt to help those who have already done a certain amount of work on their own. This shows me that they have followed their passion to some point, and now they are ready for the next step which is further help and instruction from someone more experienced in the same area of passion.
It is important that we put our money where our mouth is. Invest in yourself first, before you look for others to invest in you! Investing in yourself might include the following:
Investing in oneself means that you are willing to do whatever is necessary to feed the passion and help it to materialize.
Be patient enough to put in the time, along with the effort that is needed to learn your craft well. Once that is done, help will ‘Find’ you, provided you need additional assistance.
Remember, the mindset of the diligent operates this way.
As a writer, I enjoy giving you the honest side of truth! As an artist, I create what doesn't exist. Each day I look for new and creative ways to use every ability God has so graciously given me.