Thursday, October 27, 2016

Don't Pursue What Vexes You

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us..."
Hebrews 12:1
(KJV)

Minimalism is not just about letting go of excess personal belongings.
It isn't just about downsizing and decluttering and organizing what we decide to keep.
It isn't just about clearing our schedules of unwanted and unnecessary obligations
for the sake of spending more quality time with the ones we love and who mean the most to us.
All of these factors are important, and they all play a huge role in living a minimal, peaceful life.

But, living simple involves something more, and this additional factor is a bit more complicated than the others since it has to do with people, relationships, and situations.
This vital part of living minimal is often overlooked,
and, when left unaddressed, holds the potential to cancel out every other peaceful element simple living brings into our lives.

The older I get, the more I come to realize that life is short and fast-moving.
It isn't just material possessions that make the journey weighted and hard to navigate.
The people we surround ourselves with and the circumstances and situations we allow to fill up our personal space can be equally as detrimental to us and to our living the abundant life Jesus wants us to live.

They may be even more detrimental than all of the other distractions and hindrances combined.
They are definitely more complex and problematic to sort through and fine-tune.
Because people are involved, and people have feelings.
All of us know how it feels to be wounded, rejected, cast aside, and shrugged off,
and none of us ever want to inflict that kind of hurt upon someone else.

So, it is a lot more tricky to address and simplify these types of issues than it is to sort through a drawer of kitchen utensils, sift through a box of old clothes, or even try to come to those hard decisions about what sentimental stuff we can bear to part with and what we will continue to hold on to and keep.

When something is continually draining our spirit,
when it is making us physically ill,
when it demands more and more of us and is impossible to please, no matter how hard we try,
it is time to stop and assess where we are.
Obviously, something is totally out of balance and needs to be addressed.
When a situation involves such vexation of spirit,
it is a clear sign that we have somehow veered from the path God wants us to pursue.

Vex means...
To irritate, annoy, provoke, torment, trouble, distress, plague, worry, disturb, stir up,
toss about, and afflict with physical pain.

Jesus came to give us life, and to give it more abundantly.
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
John 10:10

Nothing about being vexed 24/7, with no reprieve, is life-giving.
It is deadening...to the spirit and to the physical body.

Health issues are great gauges of measurement and one of the clearest indications of what is going on inside of us.
A vexed spirit absolutely leads to and will demonstrate itself through poor physical health.

Just as ingested toxins poison our body,
the opening of ourselves to toxic people, relationships, and situations
absolutely poisons our spirit, our emotional health, and yes, will also, inevitably and eventually leak, spill over, and infect the state of our physical well-being.

Let's first talk about people who vex us.

There are people in all of our lives whose very presence is a discouragement.
You know the type.
Every time you visit, talk on the phone, or receive input from their direction, 
you leave the encounter disheartened and vexed in spirit.
Regardless how hard you try to change the mood and atmosphere,
they consistently bring it back around to a gloomy and pessimistic tenor,
dragging you and your spirits along.
You receive no edification or spiritual benefit from the relationship.
They are looking for a savior, and they are looking to and depending upon you to fill that position.
For too long, you have tried to comply, only to find that no matter what you do for this person, 
it is not, nor will it ever be enough.
Because none of us are capable of being another person's savior.
Only One Person has the ability to do that,
and He suffered and died to become what none of us could provide.
So, to adapt the martyr mindset and continue to perpetuate toxic relationships, just because we pity another person is a total waste and drain of our time and energy.
It only enables and prolongs their dependent, helpless, self-pitying mindset and behavior,
and it ends up continuing to vex our spirit, steal our peace, deplete our wellness, and rob us of the abundant life Jesus sacrificed Himself for us to be able to live.

So, what to do?  
How do you "shed" and minimize a toxic relationship?
Especially, when the relationship is with a family member or someone with whom you
cannot completely avoid having contact?

As I mentioned above, there are feelings involved, and, as a follower of Jesus,
we must be careful.
There is such a fine line between relentlessly showing His Divine love,
and trying to fill His shoes. 

Here are a few points I have learned am learning along the way.

1.  Pray....for yourself first.
That God will give needed discernment to distinguish between what He is requiring and what are merely feelings of guilt.
Plead for His wisdom in knowing how to handle such a delicate situation in the exact way Jesus would.
Pray that you will fully and unconditionally forgive all wrongdoing.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
James 1:5
2.  Pray....for the person(s) involved.
Love them from the heart.
Every time you feel the urge to hold something against them, sincerely pray and ask God to bless them richly and abundantly.
Pray that they will feel and experience and see His love demonstrated to them in meaningful ways...
that they will come to know HIM as their personal Savior, as the Friend they most desperately need, 
that they will allow Him in and permit Him to fill the void they have been looking to you to fill.
"But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you."
Luke 6:27,28
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. 
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
James 5:16
Zachary and I read of Hudson Taylor together in his literature class.
One of my favorite quotes of his that I took away from our reading about him is this...
"Learn to move man, through God, by prayer alone."
Wouldn't you love to see a genuine turnaround in the person who is vexing you so much?
Nothing is too hard for God.
Pray on, my friend.

3.  Pull back gently.
Stop listening to gossip and negativity.
It will only bring you down.
"But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness."
2 Timothy 2:16
Stop enabling dependent behavior.
I know it hurts...because you love the one(s) involved.
Pulling away equals tough love.
This is for your own sanity.
You will never be able to "fix" another person.
Take baby steps.
Even though you still have to interact, very often in some situations, 
and even though you will face backlash, start saying "no".
Refuse to travel on proposed guilt trips.
"Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men."
I Corinthians 7:23

4.  Be loving, but firm.
Hold your ground.
You will cry in private.
You will feel sympathy.
This is going to hurt.
The bigger your heart, the greater your capacity for compassion.
Don't allow feelings of pity to override your better judgment.
Remind yourself that continuing this path of martyrdom is ruining your life,
and you only get one to live, and that one moves along way too fast.
As you continue to refuse to succumb to the bondage and impossible demands,
you will grow stronger in your resolve, and the enabled one will realize that they are going to have to look to another source.
You are doing no favors, to yourself, or to anyone else, by absorbing toxins.
"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."
3 John 1:2

5.  Release the person(s) involved to God.
He is the only true Savior.
He loves them more than you do.
He is perfectly capable of taking care of them.
They will have to make the choice as to whether or not to receive His help,
but their decision is not your responsibility.
He doesn't expect you to sacrifice yourself upon the altar of anyone else's self-pity,
no matter how much you love them.
Admit that He is God, and you are not.
"Be still, and know that I am God..."
Psalm 46:10

6  Don't be drawn back in.
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1
Within a toxic relationship lies a vacuum.
Avoid situations that will pull you back to where you used to be.
Be kind, and use grace, but remain firm.
If the person is someone you have to be around often,
it will take more stamina and determination, but you can do this through Christ Who strengthens you.
You must...for your own well-being.
You can love...and continue to pray...from a safe distance.

So now, we've talked about people who vex us.

What about situations that continually cause our spirits to feel plagued and tormented?
What if it is a job?
Or, even more difficult, a ministry?

Situations is such a broad subject, it would be impossible to explore every possible scenario,
but leaving it open-ended allows us all to apply generic suggestions to our own personal circumstances.

You know what you are facing.
So does the dear Lord.
The thing to remember is this...
sometimes God has to allow a situation to reach a certain height of misery before we realize a change needs to take place.
Sometimes, we can feel so stuck, we hopelessly assume that it is our never-ending lot in life,
and we may as well learn to accept and deal with it.

Oh, dear friends!
I have been there...more than once.
I will never forget, when faced with such despair in one particularly vexing situation,
how the dear, still, small voice of God, unexpectedly spoke to me, literally stopping me in my tracks.

"Child, I will not require this of you much longer" is what He said.

I stopped walking, lifted my head Heavenward, and replied,
"Really, Lord?"

I honestly could not believe there was any hope.
My family and I were convinced that there was no chance of life ever being any different.

God had bigger...and oh, so much better plans for us.
We still can't believe the magnitude of the miracle He performed in order to set us free.

If you are in a situation that unceasingly vexes your spirit,
causes you to lose sleep at night, 
makes you dread getting out of bed in the morning to face a new day,
and fills your heart with anxiety and fear,
I hope you will consider the possibility that God may be trying to arrest your attention.
He may be trying to tell you to stop pursuing what is vexing you.
He may have something, oh, so much better in store for you and your future.
He is always a Gentleman, and He will never force us against our will.
He also loves us too much to fail to provide warning signs when we are headed in the wrong direction.

Even in the lines of ministry, we can veer so far off-track.
In our eagerness to please God and work for Him, we can become so misguided.
Sometimes, we can fall into positions, simply by default...
merely because there is a need, and we are the only nearby, available person to fill it.
Other times, we get ahead of God by refusing to wait upon Him and His perfect timing, 
and, in the process, we place ourselves in positions that are far outside our God-given gifts.
This results in undue strain, with us being torn apart, and in our eagerness to run ahead of God, 
we rob the rightful candidate of the opportunity of being able to fulfill God's perfect will for their life.


If you find yourself in the wrong place or on the wrong path, 
may I encourage you?
All is not lost.
It could be that you were never meant to walk this way or end up where you are,
or it is possible that you were absolutely in the center of God's will up to this point,
and the misery you may be feeling is being caused by the fact that it is now time for a change.
Even when our well-meaning good intentions, do land us outside of God's "Plan A" for our lives, 
again, all is not lost. 
He allows all things (even the bad) to work together for our good.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28

The truth of the matter is, He has taken every, single event in our lives so far to refine us...
to mold and shape us into the people we are today.
And if God reveals that we are headed in the wrong direction, what a comfort it is to know that He allows U-turns.
We can make necessary adjustments and turn around from where we are right now.
He has promised to show us the way, if we ask.

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
Proverbs 3:5,6

"And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."
Isaiah 42:16

"They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn."
Jeremiah 31:9

Thank you ever so much for reading,
for your precious comments,
and for every time you have encouraged me on this journey.

May He bless each one of you dear readers in a special way.
May you always know His will,
remain free to follow Him wholeheartedly,
and trust Him in all things.

43 comments:

  1. Thank you Cheryl, you have no idea how much I needed to read this.

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    1. Dear Elizabeth! I am so thankful to hear this, and trust God to bless you in your situation. Sending you much love and many hugs!

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  2. Cheryl, this is a really great post! Thank you so much for taking on this difficult subject. I really appreciated your thoughts. I can think of at least one person who I need to send a copy of this, and there are plenty of good points to remember myself!

    One thought regarding dealing with toxic people is that we are often depriving ourselves of fellowship with someone else when we are allowing ourselves to be in bondage to a relationship like this. My husband and I had a situation where we were involved in a friendship with another family who were well-meaning, but unbeknownst to us, they were "hogging" our attention and keeping us from forming other beneficial friendships in the fellowship of the saints. When they moved on and we began to make all these new friendships we realized we'd been in a bad situation. Though we make some effort to maintain that friendship for Christ's sake, we pulled back a lot and would not allow that to go on again if in company with those folks. It is hard, but it absolutely has to be done. It was not only better for us, I hope it has been better for all the other friends we've cultivated since then as well! When we allow ourselves to be "hogged" by someone in some way like that, we are not serving them appropriately, we are putting ourselves in a bad situation, and we are depriving others who may also benefit from our fellowship.

    Thanks again! Keep looking unto Jesus (Heb. 12).

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    1. Thank you, dear, sweet friend. I SO appreciate your kind words and am so grateful that you shared your heart and experiences with us here. Your visits are cherished blessings to me. God bless you abundantly, in return!

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  3. Another thought - Here's a great verse, and it is one of my dad's favorites:
    Ecclesiastes 4:6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

    :-)

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    1. Wow, that one really goes along with the burden of this post! Thank you ever so much for sharing...it added SO much!

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  4. Good and thought-provoking post. Thanks Cheryl.

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    1. Thank you, sweet friend, for stopping and commenting. Your words are so appreciated! God bless you!

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  5. I can feel the emotion in your heart as you write this post, and I know how you have labored and prayed over these words, and I feel they come straight from the very heart of the Lord. Thank you for the advice you shared about the difficult relationships that can so easily steal our joy, if we are not careful. Indeed, as you shared... praying for them, truly praying for them, and asking the Lord to bless them, and forgiving them too... has been the thing that has helped me through the years in those kinds of situations. You have shared deeply in this post, not a frivolous one to read once and be done, but one that you can come back to, as time and life dictate, to find hope for the moments of despair. I appreciate you dear Cheryl, and the depth of wisdom, and love that you write with always bless me. Many hugs and love to you today!

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    1. Thank you so very much, dear friend...I so appreciate your understanding, support, encouragement, friendship, and prayers. You are a continual blessing in my life. Sending you big hugs and much love!

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  6. Cheryl, I'm so appreciative of the wonderful words of wisdom you have shared. Navigating relationships can be tricky thing. There are times I find myself struggling with finding the balance of doing what is required vs those guilty feelings of "should be" doing.

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    1. Thank you, dear Wanda, for your understanding heart and words. I know the struggle you speak of so well...I suppose we all face this. So thankful for your encouragement and sweet friendship! God bless you abundantly!

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  7. This post is so, so true. People can physically harm you, without ever touching you. However, sometimes you can't get away. Or shouldn't. But have to. And it's really, really hard. All we can do is pray, like you said. Because if someone doesn't want to accept the Lord or change their ways, etc., all you can do is finally step aside. It does hurt. But there is always hope.

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    1. Yes, it surely is very hard...tough love is not easy to bestow...it just goes against everything in us, but God has grace. So thankful for you and your sweet support, Ang. God bless you for stopping by...I appreciate it so much!

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  8. You've really given me something to think about with this one Cheryl dear.

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    1. Thank you ever so much for your friendship, support, and encouragement, dear friend! God bless you!

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  9. This is brilliant. Just brilliant. What more can I say?

    Thank you for taking the time to write this post which, to be honest, requires a wider audience. One hesitates copying it and sending it on in case it infringes your Copyrights.

    Well done. God bless.

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    1. Victor, Your kind words, input, and support just mean the world to me, my friend. Thank you ever so much, and may God richly blessing you!

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    2. I forgot to tell you, you are more than welcome to share! Please share away! And, may God direct it to whomever He sees needs it most. :) I consider this a great compliment and thank you so very much!

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  10. Hi Cheryl! Like Victor, I really loved this post. Of course, I have been 'vexed' by people and situations, and hung in there just a little too long. It really does become soul-sapping, and makes what I give very sour indeed.
    I like the point about not being sucked back in. That happens a lot, doesn't it? I'll think,
    'maybe this time will be different.' But of course, it never is.
    Wonderful.
    Ceil

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    1. How true, my friend. Thank you for your visit and for sharing your heart. I am praying for you and trusting God to see you through everything you are now facing.

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  11. I would not call myself a minimalist but I do not like clutter in my house or in my mind. I am struggle when there are too many things to deal with at once. I want my eyes to lite on one beautiful object or person. It has helped me reduce much of what has no meaning to me from living overseas. It's the first thing we missionaries notice when coming back to the states, clutter, everywhere, abundance of stuff, too many choices. It all clutters up the mind. Grocery shopping was so easy in Papua New Guinea, few choices. My prayer is that I am not a person who vexes others. Great post.

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    1. Thank you, dear Betty. I so appreciate your visits! I imagine your perspective is greatly changed after living overseas, then coming home to so much excess and clutter here. You are so right....there are way too many choices, and yes, indeed, it definitely clutters up the mind. May God bless you, dear friend. :)

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  12. Cheryl, you're so right. These are delicate situations. One of our former pastor's used to say, for believers life is full of decisions that are not between good and bad, but good and better. We can't do everything. As a pastor's wife, I get invited to lots events involving people I don't know well. I try not to compromise my family priorities for those things. And I try not to feel guilty for not attending every church event or being involved in every outreach. Relationships with people are definitely the trickiest. Sometimes I try to make better choices about where and when I meet with some people. It's often better to go where they are, so I can choose to visit for a short period of time and then leave. The most important thing, as you pointed out, is to pray for God's wisdom in everything. Thanks for sharing this. Blessings!

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    1. I have never heard it put that way, but I like the way your pastor worded that. It sounds like you have a very good handle on how to manage your time and prioritize what God most wants you do to. I prefer visiting others on "foreign" turf, too, so as not to have personal space invaded past what God wants it to be. Thank you for your perspective and kind words. Your are a blessing to us all!

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  13. Cheryl, your words couldn't be more timely, and they deeply touched my heart. You know about some of my vexing situations of late, and I know that you understand the many feelings that accompany such things. Most of all, you understand how strongly the enemy comes up against us. Your words are so encouraging, and blessed me greatly. The verses you shared at the end of your post - well, Proverbs 3:5-6 are my life verses, and I have clung to them lately like a life preserver. And I cited many verses from Jeremiah 31 in my post from this morning. So, it was kinda special to read them here today.

    Vexing situations and people are hard to let go of, but it is what God calls us to do. For in the end, it all belongs to Him to use as He sees fit in His ultimate purpose of sanctifying us. No, I don't believe He asks us to deny our feelings, but encourages us to bring them to our great High Priest, who takes them from our heavy-laden arms.

    Thank you for this.

    GOD BLESS.

    (P.S. I sent you an email yesterday, to catch you up on my life lately! No hurries on responding, just wanted to let you know).

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    1. Dear friend! I was able to go on and get your email, and I had to email you back from another one, due to our computer issues. I do hope you got it, and I want to write more to you as soon as I have time. I am SO sorry to know you are going through so much...oh, I wish I could just give you a big hug! You are so precious to me, and I am surely praying for you. Sending you much love from across the miles!

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  14. a difficult and delicate subject - well done!

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    1. Thank you ever so much, dear Sue! Your presence here is always such a blessing! May the dear Lord bless you abundantly in return!

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  15. Cheryl, thank you for addressing this topic. Toxic relationships have always been hard for me. I like your teaching points and the encouragement in the Scriptures that follow. I grew up with distortions when it comes to relationships so teachings like this remind me of truth and freedom I now have as a believer. Warm hugs to you, my sister and friend. You're the best.

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    1. Oh, dear friend! They are so hard for me, too. You are so right that we have truth and freedom as believers, and God doesn't require certain things of us that people require. It is hard to keep in mind that it is Him and Him only that we are supposed to be endeavoring to please. Thank you for your sweet presence here and in my life. Sending you much love and many hugs back!!

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  16. I hear your heart, and understand how trying it is when the person is a family member. This is a delicate subject, but you have handled it well, Once you have made your peace in your heart, I like what you said not to be drawn back in. Let it go. Be courteous when you must be with those who vex you, and understand that Jesus was mistreated, and probably was not vexed. Another thing to realize is that our old man is dead - and a dead person cannot get their feelings hurt, or vexed. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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    1. It is very delicate, you are so right. I love the thoughts you share with us, dear friend, and so appreciate your visits here. Sending you much love across the miles!

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  17. Cheryl, thanks for linking up on Mondays @ Soul Survival!

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    1. Thank you, dear Donna, for providing the link-up to us...I so appreciate the platform to share what God places upon our hearts!

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  18. Number 3 really spoke to me. I go to ladies morning teas occasionally (Christian ladies) and there is sometimes negative talk about other Christians there. It's happened almost every time I go and I made the decision to not go anymore as I feel the Lord is saying not to be around this sort of thing, but .... it's hard to say no and then seem the one who is anti-social and not desiring fellowship with your Sisters. It's hard when you are labeled an isolationist because you don't want to socialise but I know God is saying "don't go".

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    1. Oh, my! I can only imagine how much this must vex you. It hurts the most when it is inflicted by other "Christians", because we just don't expect it from that direction. Those wounds can go the deepest. Bless your heart, you are surely in a predicament, but I have found that it is better to obey God than man. Regardless how much they do not understand or label us, the only way we will have true peace is to follow God's direction. It is a shame that we would have to even make these kinds of decisions, but such is life, and I just trust Jesus to lead and guide you and give you the courage to do what He is asking you to do. I am praying for you, my friend. Thank you so much for your visit and for sharing your heart! I do hope you will come back often!

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  19. Dear Cheryl, I read this post hanging on every word. The Lord has blessed you with so much Wisdom, Wisdom born out of life experiences that you are so graciously sharing with your readers - truly showing how the Lord redeems EVERYTHING. For your good and our edification.

    There are so many snippets of this blog post I could comment about. It was so rich with much to reflect on.

    I found great encouragement from the quote you shared by Hudson Taylor, "Learn to move man, through God, by prayer alone." I love it!!

    Cheryl, the Lord just blesses me over and over again when I visit your sweet, humble blog. Oh what a light you are for the Kingdom of God.

    Thank you dear friend.

    Sending love and gratitude.

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    1. Dear Karen! Your precious visits are so uplifting and edifying to me, and I can't thank you enough for your kind words. It is so hard to go through these things, but you are so right, God can surely put those lessons to use in ways that will bless and help others. Oh, I love that quote, also! I will never forget that. I have adapted it as my own, and I am so thankful you will do the same. I just love and appreciate you and your dear support so much, and I trust Jesus to bless you in a big way, sweet friend!

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  20. Thank you for taking the time to seek His wisdom and then share in this detailed and helpful post. I had a friendship end badly when someone who needed the Saviour just got me in an endless cycle of those gloomy, gossipy conversations where I could offer no solutions acceptable to her. Although it is sad she no longer wishes to speak to me I feel at peace that she remains in God's hands and He is the One who has the power to overcome all the negativity she clings to.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Allison. I am SO sorry to hear of the ending of your friendship, but it surely sounds like God was in the separation. I am so thankful for the peace you have found in Him, and I hope she will one day find peace, too. I so appreciate your visit and encouragement. God bless you!

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  21. Yes! Over the last few years I've been doing something similar. It's why I went off Facebook - there was too much that raised my hackles and kept me from focusing me on my little family. I'm pinning this! Love it!

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    1. Oh, my, I surely know what you mean! We choose to not be on facebook, too...for so many reasons like the ones you are describing. Thank you ever so much for pinning and for visiting...I hope you will come back soon and often! So thankful to meet you!

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