Peace Be With You, With Me—With Everybody! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Tuesday, May 8, 2018

I think this blog post is just what I need right now. Peace. God’s peace. Jesus giving me peace. I am so grateful that Jesus provides peace for us. Peace, wellness, wholeness, shalom. God be with you, with me, with everyone.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, May 7, 2014

pink roses

Peace Be With You, With Me—With Everybody!

Peace can be a transient thing. It’s difficult to come by for some people, and even more difficult to hold on to, for others. I know in my life, I have not always been peaceful. At peace. For years, I have (more often than not) been longing for peace, even actively searching for peace . . . and not finding it.

A number of years ago, when my two older girls were toddler and preschooler, their father and I were having a particularly difficult time with finances and with unemployment. It lasted for several years. We shopped at resale stores. We counted pennies. We went without a great number of things. We had a really tough time paying for necessary stuff like doctor bills and medication. (Remember when your toddler or preschooler would have the occasional ear infection, or strep throat?)

I am so grateful for family members! Loving, kind, giving family members gave us a hand. Helped us out. I don’t know how I would have made it through without our great families! But, wait! You say, that’s great for long time ago, but . . . what gives? Sure, what you’ve said so far is all very nice. All heartwarming and everything. But it was some years ago! What about today? How am I—how are we being kind today?

I’m so glad you asked! Some time has passed, and I have been actively searching for peace ever since. More often than not, for years. And years.

I believe I have some idea of peace in my life, right now. At bible study today, we were all talking about peace. God’s peace. How Jesus wished His disciples—His followers peace. What did that mean, anyway?

To greet someone with the word “Peace” was a common way of saying hello, in the first century. In Hebrew, the word is shalom. “Peace” didn’t mean just a cessation of violence . No, the connotation of the word shalom meant much, much more. By using this greeting, the risen Christ was wishing His followers not only peace and wellness, but also wholeness, in terms of the world being made peaceful.

As we talked about this rich, multi-layered concept of peace—of shalom, what a wonderful idea it is! How awesome, to have Jesus wishing this for the disciples. And even, wishing it for each of us, too! That was my act of service today, telling people about the peace of Christ. Truly, a wonderful discovery for each of us.

I don’t know about you, but I think Jesus can deliver. For me, and for you, too. I put my trust in the risen Christ. I know the risen Christ makes Himself available to me. On a daily basis, even. And how awesome is that?

@chaplaineliza

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(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a meditation journey through Eastertide and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!) (also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons   from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

A Diaper Pantry? What a Way to Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Saturday, March 28, 2015

This outreach is near and dear to my heart. Even though my youngest is now a senior in high school, I still feel strongly about these dear little ones. I also feel strongly about what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” These little ones and their loved ones are definitely part of “the least of these.”

A Year of Being Kind blog –Friday, March 28, 2014

diaper babies dancing 

A Diaper Pantry? What a Way to Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

We hear about people losing jobs, the loss of homes and apartments, lack of money for decent clothes, no shoes that fit properly, choice of utilities or necessary medications. Let’s look more closely at certain families at risk, with very little money. Like, for instance, parents with babies and toddlers. Sure, some of these people are trying very hard to make ends meet, scrimping and cutting corners everywhere they can. But ever think about where they find the extra money for a very real, daily necessity—diapers?

The congregation at First United Methodist Church in Evanston has a solution that will help in this difficult situation: a ministry called Bundled Blessings. This ministry provides diapers to people in need by giving collected diapers to partner agencies in the Evanston area. And in turn, these agencies distribute the donated diapers to those in great need.

This ministry is recent. It just started in September 2013, when it held its first diaper drive. They collected enough disposable diapers for 30 small children and brought the collected diapers to two agencies in October, just a few months ago. This spring, Bundled Blessings added a third partner agency. They plan to provide 50 diapers to several dozen babies and toddlers per month.

But, why diapers? What makes that need so urgent?

I can relate. When my husband and I had our second child, neither of us had a secure job—for several years. We had a difficult time finding money for the necessities—for many, many months. I can remember sometimes being really inventive. Like putting our daughter into the bathtub for an extended bath in the evening. That way, I could possibly save a disposable diaper that day, and only use six per day, instead of seven.

I can empathize with moms today who cut corners so closely. Their babies and toddlers wear diapers longer than usual. Parents and other caregivers sometimes scrub disposable diapers so they could even be used a second time. This sad circumstance means that so many little bottoms are more often exposed to possible irritation and diaper rash. In short, little bottoms are just plain uncomfortable!

Here in Illinois, the LINK card (formerly known as the Food Stamp program) cannot be used to buy disposable diapers. So, low-income parents and caregivers need to find another way to get this necessity. Bundled Blessings fills a much needed gap.

Thank God for this new ministry, helping these local partner agencies to make certain babies and toddlers have one of the necessities of life: diapers.

If anyone would like more information, check out First United Methodist’s website, http://www.faithatfirst.com and you can contact: bundledblessings@faithatfirst.com or bundledblessings@outlook.com .

@chaplaineliza

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(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Be Kind? Improvise! I Mean, Innovate! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Thursday, March 12, 2015

For years, I have led prayer, coordinated prayer, and taught prayer. In several churches, and a number of settings, classes, and groups. This post shows me, yet again, that it is all meaningful. Just coming alongside of a hurting person, letting them know that I am there, I care, and will remember them in prayer? Makes it all worthwhile.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, March 11, 2014

prayer stone and bible

Be Kind? Improvise! I Mean, Innovate!

I certainly have done quite a number of things in the past three decades. In the church, I mean. Anywhere from teaching Sunday school to driving the church bus. Leading junior church, or substituting as organist, to being a Stephen minister. Or sitting on the missionary committee, to serving as director of Vacation Bible School. And those are just a few of the positions or ministries I did before I started seminary. During and since graduation I moved into a whole different level of service.

God has gifted me with quite a number of gifts and graces. I certainly acknowledge that I have always enjoyed whatever I have done in the church. God has tapped me on the shoulder quite a number of times, too. I’ve risen to the occasion, pretty much wherever or whenever I am (or was) needed. I have come to think of myself as a jack-of-all-trades, since that is what I’ve been. A generalist, not a specialist. (Although I do have a couple of areas of specialty now, true enough. But this post isn’t about them. Maybe a later post will be.)

But let’s get to the point of this post. Enough with the background, you’re thinking.

I am a great partner in ministry! I’ve been doing service for a long enough time to realize that I work well in cooperation or in partnership with other people. Take the prayer ministry I am coordinating at the church where I’m a member. Sure, I coordinate the emails, and keep track of the prayer requests and praises. I readily admit that without the faithful praying people who receive the prayer emails and pray through them each week, the prayer ministry would fizzle and dry up.

I know that God is honored through the prayer ministry. I have also had people come up to me (out of the blue!) and bring me requests. Sometimes urgent requests, as well. I know I’ve mentioned them in at least one recent post, too. Of course my chaplain skills come to the fore, at a time like this. Also my Stephen training. And I can think of the material I studied in several seminary classes which is quite applicable, too.

Yes, it is a joy as well as a responsibility to need to step up to the plate, especially when I don’t even know it’s coming. When something sneaks up out of left field and hits a person, in other words. I am so glad I am there to help them get through the difficult time, or the surgery and rehab, or the expected-but-still-terribly-sad death, or whatever else might be some burden the other person is carrying. This evening, I had the privilege to pray for a frightened person after a confirmation of a disease from the doctor. This dear person is afraid and anxious. So, of course I will add this name to the prayer email!

Dear God, thank You for the grace and mercy with which You hear all of our earnest prayers. We especially pray for this dear one I just found out about tonight. Dear Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

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(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blue Christmas tree

In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—or, is it? Christmas can be difficult for many people, for many reasons. I did a good deal of planning today. Preparing the order of service for a very special, alternative Christmas service next Monday night.

I don’t know whether you might have heard of a “Blue Christmas” service. Perhaps by another name? The Longest Night service? A service held either on or close to the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. A service for people for whom Christmas is a difficult time.

The custom of holding Blue Christmas services has been growing over the past ten years. The name refers to the loneliness, sadness and grieving people sometimes experience during the holiday season. Many people consider the holidays to be such a “happy, joyous time.” However, holiday and family gatherings can be negative and difficult. This Blue Christmas service is a time and place where sad, grieving, lonely people can join together to share their emotions with people who feel the same way.

This will be a subdued Blue Christmas service, on Monday, Dec. 22 with quiet music, reflective readings, a brief time for silent contemplation, community candle-lighting, and a reflection from me (as one of the service leaders). My good friend Chaplain Sarah is going to co-lead this service with me. (Thank you so much, Sarah!)

I know very well that there have been years when I have dreaded the holidays. When this whole season of the year was just a time to be endured, a time to grieve, a time to hold on by my fingernails. Yes, I have anxious, fearful, recurring memories of those holiday seasons. (And, yes. There were more than one holiday season when I felt this way.)

So, I want to offer this Blue Christmas service as an opportunity for those among us who are having a difficult time. Or, who have recently been through something negative and traumatic. Or, who are especially feeling the loss of someone dear at this time of the year. This is a time and place—a space where people can gather together in a refuge from the festivities and “jollity” of the season. And, a place where such sad, anxious, negative, grieving feelings can be brought out into the open. God willing, validated, and expressed.

“The most wonderful time of the year?” For some people? No, not really. Sorry. Maybe next year.

(This Blue Christmas service will be held at St. Luke’s Christian Community Church on Monday, Dec. 22 at 7:00 pm. The church is located at 9233 Shermer in Morton Grove, Illinois, and is fully handicapped accessible. Just in case this information is helpful to anyone. God’s gentle blessings at this sometimes-difficult time of the year.)

@chaplaineliza

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Get Ready, Set—to Be of Service!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, December 10, 2014

winter road

Get Ready, Set—to Be of Service!

I’m getting ready. Yes, I am getting ready for a bunch of things in these next few days. Getting ready for the little Sunday school program at our church on Sunday, getting ready for the open house I’ll be hosting this weekend, getting ready for the upcoming Advent and Christmas Eve services. Even getting ready for my own, personal family Christmas celebration here at home. (Although, that is taking less of a priority right now.) Just several more in the list of things that need to be done, or checked off, or marked as completed. Little by little, I am accomplishing a good deal.

All this getting ready is exciting, enervating, and a little bit nerve-wracking. A lot of thinking work, and some writing and preparation, and some contacting people by telephone and email. Yes, it’s important. And to add to the mix, I am still the church pastor. I need to check on the shut-ins, and see how they are doing, just as I usually do. Yes, their families usually check on them during the holidays, too. But I would very much like to see whether I might be able to stop by each home, during Advent.

One service that is especially on my heart this time of year is the Blue Christmas service. What is a Blue Christmas service, you ask? I’m glad you asked!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—or, is it? Christmas can be difficult to many people, for many reasons. That’s why St. Luke’s Christian Community Church is offering a Blue Christmas service on Monday, Dec. 22—an alternative Christmas service for people for whom Christmas is a difficult time. Holiday and family gatherings can be negative and difficult. This Blue Christmas service is a time and place where sad, grieving, lonely people can join together to share their emotions with people who feel the same way.

I am just finalizing the features of this special service, and I would like to ask for prayer and good, positive thoughts to be sent to St. Luke’s Church, and to those leading the quiet, reflective Blue Christmas service that evening.

I hope, I pray that all of our services are welcoming to those who attend. God willing, may it be so!

@chaplaineliza

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Helping? Being There for My Friend!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, October 26, 2014

Centering-Prayer-hands holding candle

Helping? Being There for My Friend!

I have a friend who lives in a neighboring state. We recently had dinner when she was in Chicago for some business. We have gotten in the habit of having lively conversations over social media. It is so enjoyable! And I hope it’s mutually beneficial, as well.

My friend told me recently about a long, difficult day she had at work. On top of that, the situation at her home was not particularly peaceful. After the stressful day at work, of course she was anxious and frustrated. (I’ve been there, too—I know!) She gave me a play-by-play on her irritating home situation. And I commiserated. Good grief! I know how families can be sometimes.

I had a sudden thought. I asked my friend whether she wanted me to give her a brief meditation. (Great for relaxation and stress relief!) She said, “Sure!” Accordingly, I started.

Sit in a comfortable, straight-backed chair. Like a kitchen or dining room chair. (Not a stuffed armchair—too soft and squishy.) Both feet flat on the floor, and comfortably underneath you. Take three deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Place your hands comfortably on your lap–fold them or let them just rest there. Lift your shoulders up to your ears, hold them there–1-2-3-4—and relax. Turn your head slowly from side to side. Again. Lift your shoulders again. Hold–1-2-3-4—and relax. Again, three deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. Now you’re ready to come to God with a one-word or phrase prayer. Help. Thanks. Wow. I’m tired. I love you. Even, frustrated, or angry! Whatever you’ve got, that’s okay. However you feel, God knows about it. And God has dealt with lots worse! God and you together can do wonderful things.

Remember, this is supposed to be a short relaxation/prayer time! Only five minutes (*grin*). Now you’ve expressed feelings or prayer to God, let your arms fall to the sides. Wiggle them gently. Do gentle shoulder circles, forward and back. Now one last time, lift your shoulders—1-2-3-4—and drop. Three more deep breaths, in, out. In. Out. In. Out. Your breath should be more relaxed. Your blood pressure should be lower. Now you can re-engage with the family or with your co-workers, and be in a better place. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. In every way.

Afterwards, I asked her whether this meditation helped her to relax and get a better frame of reference. Her answer: Yes! “Physically, it helped me calm down and slow down. The rest of it helped me center my thoughts, and give my anxiety to God. God is much better at dealing with it than I am.”

And tears are okay, too. God has given us emotions on purpose. We are supposed to show the full range of emotions. A reminder–if you and I stuffed our emotions and feelings–stuffed crying and anger and frustration–the hidden, subterranean emotions could get really twisted and ugly.

Thanks, God! Thanks for my chaplainship training, and thanks especially for my friend.

@chaplaineliza

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Being Kind? Long Distance.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, October 13, 2014

LOVE never fails 1 Cor 13

Being Kind? Long Distance.

A dear, lovely older friend of mine let me know something serious and significant several days ago. She told several others of her acquaintance, too.

It happened quite suddenly. A close family member entered hospice. This is overwhelmingly a matter of great concern, I know. But with my friend, even more so. She told me, because she is flying overseas. Or rather, she flew overseas yesterday to be with many in her extended family at this terribly sad time. And especially with this dear one, in hospice.

She told me, because she asked me for prayer. “Of course!” I said. She knows that there is nothing—medically—that can be done, other than comfort measures. But I certainly will lift her and her whole family in prayer. I have, already, and I will continue to do so.

From time to time, there is very little that can be done for patients. Medically speaking. This can be when the doctors and other medical staff start talking about hospice. I know, because I’ve sat with patients right after they have been told it is recommended that they enter hospice. Or, I’ve been called to a room when a family member has been told that there is nothing else that can be done, medically. If they did not want to see me, I did my best to understand. If the or the patient acted out, or showed some big display of strong emotion, again—I did my best to understand. And, I tried to walk or sit with them for a little while, and to be a quiet, calming, less-anxious presence.

It can be difficult enough if loved ones are close by. Family and other loved ones, coming to the hospital, care center, or home can be, indeed, difficult. But just imagine if you were half a continent away from your loved one in hospice. Or, what is even worse, half a world away? This is the case with my dear friend. This is why I said “Of course!” when I was asked to pray. And—this is why I am providing the kind service for this dear loved one in hospice. Long distance.

Let’s pray. Dear Lord, gracious God, I pray for my dear, sweet friend. Help her to be a blessing for her family. Assist her with caring for her very ill family member. Come along side. Act as a holy Comforter to the whole extended family. Calm anxious, worried hearts. Provide times of awareness and friendship for all who wait, including this beloved one in hospice. In Your mercy, dear Lord, we pray.

@chaplaineliza

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Of Service to Seniors—at Two Retirement Homes!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, August 27, 2014

BK be kind be kind be kind

Of Service to Seniors—at Two Retirement Homes!

Ever help out seniors? Ever be of service? This afternoon, I had the opportunity to do just that. At two retirement centers, not just one!

The first retirement home was a regularly scheduled visit. Yes, I preached again at this particular home. This retirement center was where I had some of the formative experiences of my budding ministerial identity. I not only preached and led the midweek service, but I also took several of the residents to and from the chapel. Someone joked that I not only had to preach, but I also had to transport people. I did him one better, and said I needed to go to the highways and byways and gather up a congregation.

I do enjoy working with older people. As I mentioned at least once before in this space, i was told by one of the administrative staff at one of this center’s other locations that I ought to have “Good with seniors” tattooed on my forehead. I must admit, this kind, loving behavior is one of my strong suits.

But, wait! There’s more! I sat at the table in the chaplain’s office after the service, after all the residents had gone back to their home floors Sure enough, I found my calendar/notebook, and made several calls to relatives of my parishioners. The most touching part about these telephone calls is that when I asked whether I might be able to visit this parishioner, one of the adult children of this senior assured me that the senior would be so happy if I were to visit. And this second visit was one that was on the spur of the moment.

I did need to drive a bit, in order to get to the second senior retirement home. And when I signed in, asking who I was there to see? Wow! I felt I was really of service, at both of these homes for seniors.

I wonder. God, I wonder whether I would have any visitors, if I were in a similar position? It is difficult for me to tell. I have visited at a senior residence where I’ve overheard the staff talking about one or two residents: “ . . . and imagine! Never to have anyone stop by?” (much clucking of tongues, shaking of heads) Yes, I do wonder whether anyone might come and visit me in the future senior residence, if I should live so long. The staff can tell, and they keep track. They remember.

God, I know You remember, too. Each and every one, regardless of whether anyone comes to visit them. Thanks.

@chaplaineliza

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Serving with Heart—at Heartland Health Outreach (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, April 18, 2014

BK one kind word

Serving with Heart—at Heartland Health Outreach (Feature Friday!)

Helping the homeless—going out on the streets. That’s what Heartland Alliance does in Chicago. Heartland mixes service to the poorest of the poor, the homeless among us, with connection and caring.

This agency tries to bring a human rights component to their work with those in poverty. Heartland has a several-pronged approach to their efforts among the homeless, and offers people the opportunity to improve their lives and conditions, and to break the painful cycle of poverty. The volunteers and workers at Heartland try to offer housing, healthcare, jobs and justice to the homeless and down-and-out people.

I’d like to focus on one particular work of the Heartland Alliance: the Health Outreach. I talked today with Rachel, a registered nurse who went out with the groups quite a number of times. Her task was to reach out to the homeless in Chicago, several years ago. She had one major hurdle already taken care of She was not hesitant to go out on the streets. As she said, “I’m not afraid. Cautious, yes. Afraid, no.”

Heartland Alliance believes that health care is a human right. That is why the Health Outreach tries so diligently to reach out to the homeless, recent and illegal immigrants, refugees, people with mental issues, and issues with substance use.

Just hearing Rachel talk about her work with Heartland Health Outreach was moving and heart-rending. She came into regular contact with “Stanley.” (not his real name) Stanley was an older man, very intelligent and literate, but insistent about remaining homeless. (Common newspaper reading for Stanley were the New York Times and the Guardian.) However, Stanley’s self-care was much less than adequate.

Rachel and the other workers at the Health Outreach finally convinced Stanley to come to one of their clinics where they were able to clean him up. They cut his straggly beard and matted hair, washed him thoroughly, and—especially—got him to take off his boots. (The boots had been on his feet for approximately one year. Imagine what the state of his feet were, inside. Rachel told me, in graphic detail, what was under the clothing and inside the boots.)

She talked about a shy, disturbed woman, “Anna.” (not her real name) Anna had serious issues with trust and control. The workers finally gained her trust enough to get a little of her background, her story. Horrific details came out. People from the Health Outreach were able to get Anna to go to a hospital emergency room and let them know about some of the physical things that had been happening.

So sad, yet longing to be back, Rachel told me of the toll her work took on her, personally. She would be intensely moved, and need to think about the people she met, for some time afterwards. Unwind after the difficult times of work. Or I should say, ministry. Rachel is a woman of faith. Even though the Heartland Alliance is a secular organization, many people who work or volunteer there are also people of faith. They actively work for the betterment of treatment for the homeless. For those who do not have enough. For those who need health or dental care.

What did Jesus tell His disciples to do, on that Maundy Thursday evening?   “I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” Just so, Heartland Alliance and Heartland Health Outreach are following in Jesus’ footsteps. May we do the same, and intentionally pray and seek out opportunities of service.

@chaplaineliza

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Listen Up! Being Helpful

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, April 9, 2014

BK one kind word

Listen Up! Being Helpful

Talk about a busy day! Running here, running there. I keep It’s a good thing I cancelled my appointment for a haircut this afternoon, because I am dog-tired. Packing things up at home. Running to work. Several meetings. Doing a couple of errands. Whew! At the end of the day, my feet hurt—and I wear sensible shoes.

But I honestly tried to be helpful and kind. I listened to several people today. I hope they felt my encouragement. I truly tried to show my support. One particular instance was where I needed to respond, too. I hope and pray that I communicated faithfully. As well as listen faithfully, too.

Sometimes it is helpful to just listen. But listen with intentionality. Actively listen, as I’ve been trained to do. I remember the first instance I had formal classes in this. It was in Stephen training, where I learned how to serve as a Stephen Minister. I very much enjoyed this service as a compassionate friend in Christ. I offered a listening ear to hear of someone’s spiritual, emotional and—sometimes—very real physical pain and suffering. Stephen training was excellent. My leaders and teachers communicated effectively, too. And, I felt truly supported and lifted up as I went through a difficult time in my own life, right in the middle of training. (Perhaps that was why God had me in that place at that time. Remind me to ask God about that when I see God, by and by.)

Listening is important for some people, too. I’m thinking especially of those individuals who are sometimes passed over. Ignored. Even criticized or snubbed. I try to listen to just about everyone. I really do. But God knows that I am busy from time to time. I recognize when I need to gently cut someone off. Of course, that was a bit easier when I served as a chaplain in the hospital. When the pager went off, people would well understand that I needed to go, and right away, too!

But, still. I try not to overlook people. I suspect that’s because I have felt overlooked, snubbed and ignored sometimes. Thank God that I can make time to be fully present with and for people. I can even go out of my way to show individuals that I truly care and am interested in them and their activities, their concerns, and especially their feelings.

God, thanks for always taking the time to listen to me, too. You’re never in a hurry, or stressed, or upset. You always concern Yourself with me. With my activities, and especially my feelings. Thanks for lowering my anxiety and distress, God, as well as being right by my side in the good times. You are awesome.

@chaplaineliza

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