The Invisible Prison #1 – Need for Approval

“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.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

One of my favorite past times is watching YouTube videos. Recently, I stumbled across a minister I had never heard of–Dharius Daniels, Senior Pastor of Change Church, Ewing Township, New Jersey. The title of his message on this particular video was titled, “The Invisible Prison”–immediately I was intrigued. Pastor Daniels defined an invisible prison as an “unidentified, unaddressed, invisible, emotional issue that you erroneously assume would be straightened out by your spirituality.” He went on to say that an invisible prison is difficult to identify because it has no visible bars. Although thousands of people are incarcerated in penal institutions for various crimes annually, I would venture to say more of us are confined to our own invisible prisons. So let’s name a few–low-self-esteem, insecurity, anger, jealousy, bitterness, control, anxiety, and a need for approval or acceptance. Each of these emotional issues can imprison us without we realizing it. We can go to church every Sunday, sing in the choir, usher, and serve on as many boards as we want; however, Pastor Daniels warns if we do not address the root of these emotional issues, we will continue going to church on Sunday for praise and worship and walk right back into our invisible prison cell when we leave the church building.

In an attempt to minister to the inner self, God has moved me to write a series of blog posts addressing invisible prisons. The first emotional issue I would like to address is the need for approval or acceptance. In an article titled, “What Drives Our Need for Approval?,” Lauren Suval states, “When we aren’t met with approval, we no longer feel safe and protected. When we meet ridicule or rejection, it can undermine our view of ourselves. If we internalize this kind of negative feedback, we can begin to doubt our personal worth. This threatens our sense of security and disrupts our inner harmony.” Because I believe social media has escalated this emotional issue, I decided to interview my 19 year-old son, Kevin, to get his perspective on the subject:

MOM: Kevin, have you experienced the need for approval?

KEVIN: Yes, in high school, I was struggling to fit in with crowds. At the time, I didn’t know who I was so I was trying to figure out what crowds to be in; oftentimes, steering  down wrong roads. I would get lost in the crowd, but wasn’t really working on myself. I wasn’t spending time with myself to figure out who I really was. In high school, I always needed to be around someone to make me feel good about myself or to be cool

MOM: What do you think caused your need for approval?

KEVIN: I began to feel that way after quitting football and after my weight gain.

MOM: What were the repercussions of your need for approval?

KEVIN: I started losing myself. Everything was negative–I was a negative person and did negative things. I didn’t take care of myself (i.e., weight gain); I was just lost. I was partying in crowds that I shouldn’t have been in.

MOM: How do you believe young people are seeking approval?

KEVIN: As a young person, we want to be popular and for everyone to talk about us.

MOM: How do you believe social media has played a part in the need for approval?

KEVIN: I feel social media is a battleground. You are competing to have more followers, competing to be seen, and competing to be cool. If you have a lot of followers, everyone knows you. Everyone looks at how many followers you have.

MOM: How did you overcome the need for approval?

KEVIN: The turning point in my life was when I was by myself and closed off from everything. I could talk to myself and God. Also, meeting new people bringing new positive energy in my life was a big part. As soon as I started finding myself with the positive energy, I started eating right, losing weight, and became a positive person.

MOM: Do you feel that a need for approval is an invisible prison? Do you know what I mean by invisible prison?

KEVIN: Yes, an invisible prison is when you are locked or incarcerated inside. I believe the need for approval is an invisible prison because people can act like someone they are not, but their inside is trapped.

MOM: Thank you, Kevin, for allowing me to interview you.

My son and I have had our challenges, but I am extremely proud of him for acknowledging his emotional issue. I am grateful for his insight, maturity, and his newfound sense of self. He has lost approximately 70 pounds and is coming into his own. There is nothing more rewarding than finding the YOU that God has destined you to be.

Just because I interviewed my teenager, does not mean adults do not suffer from this same emotional issue. If this issue goes unchecked, you can be a 75 year-old still seeking the approval and acceptance of others. In an article titled, “Ten Steps for Overcoming the Need for Approval,” Jo Tavengwa offers a few simple changes you can use to address this emotional issue:

  1. Acknowledge the fact that you are hunting for approval. Once you are aware you are seeking approval from others, you can begin to attack the issue within.
  2. Practice the art of speaking your mind. Stop saying what others want to hear. Hold on to your ideas, values, and beliefs–they define who you are. Speak your mind and let the chips fall where they may.
  3. Find your crowd. Seek people who accept you for who you are. Choose people who choose you; the ones who you can be your true self with.
  4. Do things for you. When you set yourself to new tasks, evaluate whether it is for your own self-growth.
  5. Take control. Trust your intuition, your gut instinct, and do what feels best for you. Take advice from others; however, you must always make the final decision in anything that concerns you.
  6. Meditate. Meditation will feed your soul. It will help you to relax your mind and reduce all the anxiety you feel you need from external validation.
  7. Allow yourself to grow. When you always have room for improvement, you are more likely to free yourself from needing approval. Challenge yourself everyday and accept failure and feedback as a platform for growth.
  8. Change your focus. One of the best ways to eliminate the need for approval is pursuing activities or tasks you are interested in, without asking others for their permission. Prioritize yourself and do things for you.
  9. Establish who you are. Have a clear definition of who you are. Know what you believe in, and understand your morals. Be confident with those ideals, and let them keep you grounded. Stand up for what you believe in, and do not let people sway you from what you believe in. If you stay headstrong, nobody will dare push you around.
  10. Be yourself. Stop worrying about what others think of you, and focus on yourself. It is often very difficult to accept all the little things that make you YOU. If you learn to love yourself fiercely, you will find that nobody will dare to love you halfheartedly. Let go of all the insecurities that are holding you back, and in turn, learn to love yourself for your flaws and your quirks.

If you have a need for approval, determine where this emotional issue took root so you can work toward being released from this invisible prison. By doing so, you can be on your way to being the best YOU you can be. As always, I would love to hear your comments on the subject and please share with a friend. Also, please check out Pastor Dharius Daniels on YouTube–he has an amazing ministry on change and transformation.

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“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV)

Recently, I was watching an episode of “Property Brothers” on HGTV which happens to be one of my favorite shows. It is amazing to see the twin brothers, Jonathan and Drew Scott, restore and transform older homes into someone’s dream home. As I was watching, I began contemplating on how we as individuals also need restoration (it might seem like a weird analogy, but that is how I think!). Often times, we continuously pour into others (i.e., providing emotional support, sound advice, financial support, etc.), while at the same time, there is no one to reciprocate which results in us becoming physically run-down, emotionally overwhelmed, and spiritually bankrupt.

For the past several months, I had been extremely busy at work, involved in church activities, moving, and getting my new home in order. To put it mildly, I was overwhelmed with a capital O. Have you ever had the feeling you did not have anything else to give? Well, that was me. I love to serve others and I am a giver of my time; however, I have learned a valuable lesson–to pull back and restore myself by practicing self-care.

In an article titled, “Self-Care: 12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself,” Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., provides the following strategies to implement self-care:

  1. Make sleep part of your routine. Sleep can have a huge effect on how you feel both emotionally and physically. Not getting enough can cause health issues.
  2. Take care of your gut. The types of foods you eat crucially impact the bacteria that live in your stomach resulting in negative or positive effects.
  3. Exercise daily. In addition to losing weight, exercise can boost your mood and reduce stress and anxiety.
  4. Eat right. Eating right can ward off weight gain or diseases and keep your mind working and alert.
  5. Say no to others; say yes to self-care. Once you learn to politely say no, you will begin to feel more empowered, and you will also have more time for self-care.
  6. Take a self-care trip. Getting away for a weekend every now and then can help you disconnect, relax, and be rejuvenated.
  7. Get outside. Spending time outside can help you reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and be more mindful.
  8. Let a pet help you. From giving unconditional love to providing companionship, pets can be beneficial for self-care.
  9. Get organized. Getting organized is often the first step to becoming a healthier you, because it allows you to figure out exactly what you need to do to take better care of yourself.
  10. Cook at home. At least once a week, consider making a healthy meal for yourself or your entire family.
  11. Read a book. Instead of scrolling your phone, read a book on self-care. It could improve your mood and also help you to stay more present and mindful.
  12. Schedule your self-care time and guard it with everything you have. It is extremely important to plan regular self-care time. Moments alone can help you to ponder the best way to move forward in your life and keep you grounded.

I would like to add one more strategy to Tchiki’s list:

Do not allow anyone to steal your peace. If someone displays negative energy, remove yourself from the situation. This includes your adult children, family, friends or whomever. In her book, “In Pursuit of Peace,” Joyce Meyer states, “One cannot enjoy life without first having peace. Without it, we live in turmoil–always worried, anxious, and upset about something.”

With being so busy, I had contemplated ending my blog, but every time the thought surfaced, a reader would leave a comment expressing how my blog continues to encourage them. I believe this was God’s way of letting me know quitting was not the solution. Please know, your comments minister to me just as my blog minsters to you. I appreciate your encouragement–it gives me the fortitude to continue doing what I believe God has called me to do.

This past week, I finally felt like I could breathe again. I now know the solution was not to end my blog–it was to restore myself and practice self-care. How many times have individual’s aborted their calling because they did not take the time to restore their mind, body, and soul?

On Sunday, after church, I went to my Zumba class, cooked dinner, and spent the remainder of the day watching Hallmark movies. I did not engage my brain in anything mentally exhausting–I actually took the time to be with me. We can all be in the business of restoration just like the Property Brothers; however, we should be restoring our temples which houses our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Let’s all practice self-care to avoid being run-down–let this be a season of peace and restoration.

Please watch the following message from my friend, Pamela Losada, a Health and Emotional Wellness Coach:

As always, I look forward to reading your comments, and please share with a friend.



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A New Season

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to gain and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and time to to sew; a time to keep silence, and time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

(Fagus sylvatica)

After ending my two-month writing hiatus, I began contemplating and meditating on what topic to share with you. The word, “seasons” repeatedly came to mind. As I have entered into a new season of my life, I thought this topic was most appropriate. Just as nature’s seasons will change, so will the seasons of our lives. As Ecclesiastes states above, to everything there is a season–a time for every purpose.

Life is consistent rhythmical ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, as well as sunshine and rain. Some life events are unavoidable and yet others are self-imposed by a string of bad choices–I have experienced both. I have withstood many seasons during my lifetime. There have been seasons of insecurity; there have been seasons of pride and accomplishment; there have been seasons of rejection and alienation; there have been seasons of great joy as in the birth of my children; there have been seasons of happiness as on my wedding day and yet, there were seasons of heartbreak as when I became a divorcee; there have been seasons of grief and heartache, and there have been seasons of peace and joy, just to name a few.

Last summer, my girlfriend and I took a trip to the beach. One morning while sitting on the beach enjoying the peace and serenity of the ocean, I prayed and asked God how I should move forward with my life. My youngest son had recently graduated from high school and I knew I was entering a different phase of my life. A couple of days after returning home from my trip, I clearly heard a voice telling me to sell my house. I know you might think I am crazy, but I knew it was God ordering my steps. I told God that I needed confirmation that this was what I was hearing and He confirmed it several times. I had raised my son’s in this home–my youngest son was two years old when we moved there. There were many birthday parties, Christmas parties, girlfriend gatherings, graduation parties, coaching sessions and happy times. There were unhappy times as well–it was where my marriage ended and it was where my mom took her last breath. Deep down in my spirit, I knew it was time for me to close that chapter of my life and begin a new one; therefore, I did exactly what that small voice told me to do. I sold my home of 16 years carrying all of the wonderful and not so wonderful memories with me. Sometimes, you have to let go of the old in order to move toward the purpose or assignment God has destined for you. I thank God for this new season–a new address, a new phone number, and a new beginning!

If you are experiencing sickness, grief, disappointment,  heartache, heartbreak, or whatever you are facing, know that it is only for a season and there is a new beginning right around the corner. “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalms 30:5). Be encouraged!

As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and please share with a friend.


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New Things

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Isaiah 42:9

I am definitely a creature of habit. As a result, I have committed to trying new things. I love visiting new restaurants, but the problem is, almost mechanically, I will order the same entree’ each and every time. Why do I order the same meal every time? It is safe and I like safe–I know I won’t be wasting my money or be disappointed. I came to the realization that it may be economically sound; however, it is boring and mundane. Although it may be a challenge, I am committed to experiencing something new on the menu.

Despite my mundane food choices, I have welcomed some new experiences. Because I am accustomed to patronizing the same grocery store (I know the exact aisle that contains the item I need), I decided to visit a couple of new ones in my neighborhood; I joined a new gym and exercise class called Pound–a cardio exercise session using Ripstix; and a few months ago, a friend and I took salsa lessons which I thoroughly enjoyed. These activities may not be mind-blowing, but they are unusual to my normal routine.

In her book, “Year of Yes,” Shonda Rhimes tells of a conversation she is having with her sister, Delores, while preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. Shonda is the creator, head writer, and executive producer of such television shows as Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. In her book, Shonda is telling Delores about some of the amazing opportunities she has been afforded. Delores, in turn, asks Shonda why hasn’t she taken advantage of the invites (to events, parties, talk shows, etc.) and added, “You never say yes to anything.” Shonda admitted the words were harsh, but true. Her excuses were that she was busy with two jobs, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal (at that time), and she was a single mother with three children. This was the beginning of her making a conscious decision to say “yes” to everything for one year resulting in the writing of her book. During that year, Shonda interviewed with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday and spoke on TED Talks where she talked about saying “yes” to the things she feared.

Do you live a very routine, mundane life? You get up, get dressed, go to work, come home, have dinner, attend to the needs of your spouse and/or children, and go to bed only to start the routine all over again the next day. How about trying something new and different? In an article in the Huffington Post titled, “A Look at the Incredible Benefits of Trying New Things,” Larry Alton, CEO of Alton Enterprises, provides the following benefits:

  1. Overcome fear. Fear is the one thing that keeps us from trying new things. We’re afraid of the investment, consequences, and worst-case scenarios. What if I don’t like it?
  2. Get to know yourself better. We think we know ourselves, then we try new things and realize we have unique likes and dislikes that were previously unknown.
  3. Stimulate creativity. When you try new things, you put your brain into unique situations that force it to really think. This stimulates creativity, which eventually rubs off in other areas of your life.
  4. Make you more marketable. Your desire to try new things should be centered on you and your life goals. A commitment to forging new life experiences makes you more marketable to the world.

Alton offers five things to try this summer:

  1. Learn a new sport. Maybe it’s time to learn a new sport and physically challenge yourself in ways that you haven’t before.
  2. Travel solo. Solo travel is highly beneficial. It teaches you independence, allows you to set the itinerary, and provides life lessons on how to handle different situations.
  3. Go speed dating.  You’ll experience a whirlwind of emotions and may learn something about yourself along the way.
  4. Cook for a week. Try cooking every single meal you eat for an entire week. From this experience, you will learn new skills and will come to appreciate the patience and rewards that come with cooking.
  5. Start a side hustle. Try starting a new side hustle this summer. Turn your skill into a business. Your business acumen will increase and you will have fun being innovative at the same time.

As I agree with numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5, number 3 will take some convincing. If I ever experience speed dating, I will definitely include the experience in my blog! I challenge you to make this your “Year of Yes” and do something you have never done before, whether it will be visiting a new store, restaurant, exercise class or whatever it is–just try something new. You do not have to do anything death defying such as bungee jumping or parasailing–new things can be something simple.

I hope this blog has ministered to you as it has simultaneously ministered to me. I will challenge myself to release my boring, routine habits and say “yes” to new things and experience many of the opportunities life has to offer. How about you?

As always, I would love to hear your comments and please share with a friend.

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Failure is a Teacher

“When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return?” Jeremiah 8:4 (NIV)

Happy New Year! It is a new year and I am excited about the many new opportunities and experiences this year will bring. I have set several goals to accomplish this year and the first one is to obtain my securities license. I shared with you in my last blog that I was one point shy of passing the exam. I believe we learn from our failures. Failure is not a life sentence–it is an experience where we may have fallen a little short. In actuality, we do not know how many exams our doctors, nurses, attorneys, professors, or bankers failed before they became successful. Nor, do we know how many obstacles a married couple of  30 years had to go through before it became a happy successful partnership. Society tends to share successes, but tends to avoid sharing the difficulties and failures. I truly believe what God has for you–it is for you. If you did not pass the exam, receive the home loan, get the new position, or the relationship did not work out, it was not for you at this appointed time. In due season, it will come to fruition if you persevere. Romans 8:28 (NKJV) states, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God; to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Over the holiday, my niece and I traveled out of town. In between our girly chatter, we listened to Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming,” on Audible. In the book, Michelle describes how she fastidiously studied and prepared for her bar exam. Several weeks after taking the exam, Michelle called home to ask her father to check the mail to see if her exam results from the Illinois State Bar Association had arrived–they had. She asked her father to open the envelope and read her the results. Her father informed her that she had failed. Michelle was crushed because she had never failed a test in her life. I have to admit, I felt much better about my failure after hearing of Michelle’s shortcoming. Just think, if Michelle Obama had given up after failing the bar on her first attempt, the trajectory of her life would have been drastically altered. She would not have been strategically placed at Sidley Austin Law Firm where she met Barack Obama who became our 44th President of the United States; in turn, we would not have experienced her as our First Lady.

What if Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney, Michael Jordan, or Steve Jobs decided to quit after their failures. All of their contributions to this world would have been nonexistent. In an article titled, “15 Highly Successful People Who Failed On Their Way to Success,” Sebastian Kipman shares what may have been considered their epic failures.

  • Winfrey was fired from her first TV job as an anchor in Baltimore. During a Harvard commencement speech in 2013, Winfrey quoted, “There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”
  • Disney’s former newspaper editor told him he lacked imagination  and had no good ideas. Disney quoted, “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because, I’ve never had any fear in my whole life even when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid.”
  • Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Jordan’s famous quote stated, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”
  • Before founding Apple with Steve Wozniak, Jobs was a college dropout; was a fired tech executive, and an unsuccessful businessman. Jobs quoted, “Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”

An article written by the Power of Positivity provides “10 Things to Learn from Failure:”

  1. Failure builds character. Failure teaches us more about ourselves and builds character better than success ever could.
  2. Failure creates opportunity. How many times have you failed at something only to discover another opportunity? Maybe it was a failed relationship that lead you to someone great. Maybe it was a job that didn’t suit you and led you to a better one.
  3. Failure is a great teacher. Failure has a way of showing what your strengths and weaknesses are while motivating you to correct them, in any area of your life–academics, play, relationships, etc.; often the driving force behind success.
  4. Failure instills courage. Most people are scared of failure–failure requires courage. Whether the failure experiences was anticipated or not, you’ll need to toughen up a bit to get through it.
  5. Failure teaches perseverance. When experiencing failure, its very easy to give up. It takes guts and determination to keep driving forward.
  6. Failure spawns creativity. Nothings spurs creativity like failure. Artists and creators know that if something doesn’t work out, they must tap into their vast reservoir of creative talent to create something truly unique.
  7. Failure requires motivation. The most successful people are simply the ones who didn’t give up. Finding the motivation to believe in yourself and press on is vital.
  8. Failure is acceptable. In the midst of failure, it is never a good feeling. Failure is acceptable–lack of effort is not.
  9. Failure encourages exploration. As Steve Jobs demonstrated, failure causes you to explore other avenues. When one things doesn’t work out, seek another.
  10. Failure teaches and strengthens resilience. Through the discomfort and uncertainty of failure, one will be better able to take on any of life’s challenges as they come.

During last year, something may not have gone as planned. In 2019, I come to tell you–get up, dust yourself off, and get back on that horse and try again. I have failed at relationships, exams, didn’t get the position at work, and at times failed as a parent; however, I will never stop trying. Abraham Lincoln once stated, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” So, let’s try, try, and try again. This is your year–let’s do great things!

As always, I would love to hear your comments and please share with a friend.


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The Waiting Room

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NKJV

If you have lived in this world long enough, I am sure you have waited for something a time or two, such as a deferred dream of owning your own business or home, writing a book, obtaining a degree or license, or even starting your own blog. These periods of delay are known as waiting rooms. Do you become frustrated because of the delay or do you become more determined to endure through the process? In his book, Know Your Why: Finding and Fulfilling Your Calling in Life, Ken Costa stated, “I have noticed over the years that people fail not because of a lack of dreams but because of a lack of determination. It can be difficult to endure the tediousness of the waiting room, and those who lack the determination to see it through often walk out in frustration.”

Costa reminds us of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, where Dr. King spoke of his dream of racial justice in the United States and worldwide. Dr. King was determined to see his dream fulfilled; however, there had to be numerous times in his life when he felt like he was stuck in the waiting room. Dr. King knew he had a calling from God, and he refused to let that dream die–even when it seemed impossible.

Being transparent, I want to share with you what sparked this blog post. I believe my calling is to offer financial assistance/advice to those in need. So in order to show myself approved, I had been copiously studying for my Securities Industries Essentials Exam (SIE) exam–one of the exams needed to obtain my securities license. I had been on lock down for days studying my little heart out. On the morning of the exam, I was very confident that I would pass. To make a long story short–after taking the exam, I was one point shy of passing the exam. Did you hear me??? ONE POINT!!! For anyone who knows me, I am an over achiever and failing is not in my vocabulary. Needless to say, my ego was severely bruised. However, I have to tell you when I finally got over myself, God gave me the topic for this blog post. He reminded me that my life is not my own–my calling is to use my experiences to help others. For now, I am in the waiting room until my dream comes to fruition. “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11 NKJV)

I look forward to retaking the exam and I am confident that I will pass on the next go around. Just to think–if I had passed, I would not be writing this blog post nor being a source of encouragement for my readers. I am very grateful for supportive friends who served as my source of encouragement and talked me off of the ledge (as one of my friends so vividly stated).

Are your dreams and pursuits in limbo? Trust me–anything worth having will not come easy. As 2018 comes to a close and we begin a new year, I encourage you to stay steadfast and determined in whatever your endeavor may be–stick to whatever you believe God is calling you to do. Remember, it is the waiting room where He is preparing us. “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 NKJV)

Wishing you a warm and safe snowy Sunday. Also, since this will be my last blog for the year, I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! As always, I would love to hear your comments and please share with a friend.

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