First Year Lessons

I’ve recently taken a break from my writing to start getting more inspiration in the little things. I don’t know when I’ll be back to regularly writing. Later this summer probably. But for now, here is a reflection on our first year of marriage!

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One year. How have we already been married for one full year? Honestly, it’s really hard to process because we have experienced so much in this first year of marriage. So much love. Struggle & hardship. But also, so much life. We moved to a new city and this new city has given us so much. We finally got to live in an apartment, just the two of us, and not with roommates. We experienced our first holiday’s together and forming new traditions for this new family of just the two of us. There was a lot of laughing, but also quite a bit of crying (mostly by me.) We experienced the joys of finding new jobs and the struggles of losing a job. We’ve seen the worst of each other but also the very best. We’ve walked through some trenches already and I know there’s a lot more to come. But, I love being married. I would choose him again and again and again. He is my best friend—no one knows me like he does. He knows my heart better than anyone else—my fears, insecurities, worries, struggles, and my joys, passions, and dreams, and he loves me still. He fights for me, for us. He protects me, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He loves me, despite my flaws and failures, because I am definitely NOT a perfect wife. He is humble and teachable and full of grace and he has taught me how to be those things.

I am a better person because I married Blake. He helps me to be patient, more loving, more positive, and more spontaneous. He is the epitome of authenticity in a person and he makes me want to be more like Jesus every day. Marriage changes you, but in a good way, and it also challenges you. You are constantly learning.

Here are some lessons we’ve learned and continue to learn:

  1. We can’t just shove our feelings down.
  2. It is most important to be best friends.
  3.  We need to set boundaries for our phone usage.
  4.  We learned the importance of rest.
  5.  Blake is learning how to be a better leader, and I am learning how to be a better follower.
  6.  We learned that we have to be present and intentional.
  7. Fights, are inevitable so don’t run from them.
  8. Laughter really is the best medicine.
  9. Routine is okay, as long as it doesn’t become a set of rules.
  10. We cannot read each other’s minds, as much as we like to think we can.

1 year together, and every day I seem to love him more and more, and somehow I think we are only just scratching the surface of this love.

From hunting Pokémon to binge-watching 14 million shows, I cannot think of a better person to do this crazy thing with.We are so alike and so different, in all the right ways. He is the only person who wouldn’t make me feel weird for stuffing my face with 20 chicken nuggets and then five minutes later saying “I’m still hungry” just because I love chicken nuggets. He’s the only person that I can stay up laughing with for an hour when we’re supposed to be asleep because of the most off the wall joke. He’s the only one who accepts my serious obsession with babies, coffee, pretty journals, and Harry Potter with only the occasional eye-roll and he is the only one who actually really enjoys and most of the time, laughs, at my insane weirdness. He is the only person who I feel completely comfortable around, even when I’m on the verge of a panic attack, and he is the only one who has ever been able to pull me out of a panic attack just by wrapping his arms around me.

One year later, married life has settled into the daily routine of work and play, but I don’t take any of it for granted, or at least I try not to. Every now and then, in a moment of reflection, I’ll smile as I remind myself that this person I first met at 17 years old, who is so funny, generous, handsome and warm is now my husband.

See, I didn’t realize this a year ago, but there are a lot of promises that aren’t explicitly stated in marriage vows, that would sound incredibly mundane and probably quite alarming at a wedding so you have to dive in and learn them over time. “For better or worse” sounds wonderful of course, but vague; one year later, I understand that that means “I’ll bring you medicine and water when you’re sick and make sure you aren’t actually dying” and “I won’t act like a raging angry person when you, like a human being does, forget to do something,” and “We’re going to get through this rough patch and come out stronger”.

One year down and a lifetime to go. You are my favorite person in the history of people, and I truly can’t imagine a life without you by my side. Our love story is certainly not perfect, and it may not be as epic as the love stories in the movies, but it’s ours and I would never trade it for anything else. Wherever he is, that’s home. Since I ended my vows with a Ted Mosby quote one year ago, I figured it would be appropriate to end my one-year reflections with another quote.

“Shouldn’t we hold out for the person who doesn’t just tolerate our little quirks but actually kinda likes them?” – Ted Mosby

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A Strange Journey-On Anxiety

Hey friends, I’m still here!

2017 has been a strange year so far.  On one hand, it’s been incredible to have new experiences in a new city, but I’ve also been intentionally battling and paying attention to my anxiety and mental health, which has made for some difficult days. This year, or at least since March I’ve resolved to take care of my mental and spiritual health, before anything else. I’ve been doing that, little by little, but I haven’t put my full focus on it. I slowed down a lot, became more intentional with my conversations, ‘tried’ to control how much I was on social media. I’m ready to take it on full-force though, I think. Self-care is so incredibly important, I know this, but it’s harder to actually put it into practice. Emotionally, I haven’t really been consistent, much like my writing on this very blog. I apologize for that, sincerely, but sometimes you just have to take a step back, even if it’s something that 99% of the time brings you joy and relief.

I have come to the realization that for many, many years, I have been running from my anxiety, hoping to get away, but never actually getting very far. So now, I have stopped running. I have turned to face this giant monster that has made a home in my head. Feet planted, I am going to war every day. Slowly, one step at a time towards it, and it is finally retreating instead of barreling towards me like it has for years. I’m sure it will always be in my field of vision, but now I am hopeful that one day, it won’t be close enough to wound me quite as much. Now that the monster is releasing some of its hold on my mind, I am starting to see just how resilient it’s been. My mind is capable and brilliant, and imaginative, and so many words that I never saw before because I was so susceptible to fear and anxious thoughts. It’s mystifying that I am finally using these words to describe my own brain when I spent so many years in school studying other brains. It’s so unfamiliar to have confidence in myself. These are words that other’s used to describe me, sure, but I could never form them in my own head. It’s quite a beautiful sentiment to finally see your potential after so many years of others seeing it in you.

It takes quite a toll on you both emotionally and physically, to re-wire your brain after so many years, which is ironic because I’m trying to heal my mind in the first place. But the saying goes “it gets worse before it gets better.” That’s basically been my life for the last few months, but there is light on the other side for the first time in a while. I read something a few days ago that really hit home. The author compared herself to an egg, fragile, seemingly intact and clean on the outside. Inside, however, was a different story. There was a mess inside that shell. You do everything possible to keep from breaking, because heaven forbid, you crack and someone actually gets a glimpse of that mess. That would be the end of the world inside your mind. My shell shattered a few months ago, and at first, I never thought I could put myself back together. But I have been, and while it’s not the perfect egg that it used to be (or seemed to be to everyone else), I think the visible cracks have made me stronger. Those cracks are the vulnerability of sharing about my mental health and not just holding it all inside.

If I’m being honest, I’ve questioned God more than once in the last few months. Not my faith in Him or His existence, but things like ‘Why would God make me with so many emotions and wild thoughts?’ ‘Why does He let my thoughts spin out of control?’ ‘What is the purpose for the anxiety that has had such a strong hold on me?’ Those kinds of questions. I think those kinds of questions are okay because I’ve been challenging myself instead of just staying stagnant. Personally, I think God likes questions like that. He’s been patient with me, slowly revealing His plan. Today, I read a quote that made it even more evident.

“What if what you are going through right now, is God creating in you a story, that someday someone else will desperately need to hear?”

One of the things I needed the most during the darkest times was to know that I wasn’t alone. That is why I tell my story and speak about my own battle; so that one day, if needed, someone else will know that they aren’t alone either; and so I will continue to press on and fight, knocking the ugly monster back one step at a time. If you are reading this, and are also battling a monster, please reach out to me. I’d love to have a conversation with you about it.

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Selah & Goals

So, it’s been a few weeks since I wrote a blog post and I was actually quite frustrated that I couldn’t find inspiration, but it ended up giving me a nice break or a “Selah” as the title of this post says. I’m super type-A and so when I first started writing again back in December, I told myself I would blog once a week, but sometimes we all need to pause and recollect our thoughts instead of charging forward.

On that note, I’ve decided I really want to embrace this summer. I want to thrive. I want to chill out and slow down. I want to grow an intentional life despite the mess that surrounds me on a daily basis. I’ve decided I don’t have to have it all together to live purposefully. That’s why I’m going to start writing out monthly goals!

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May Goals:

  1. Think before I speak: This is a BIG one for me. I have two tendencies with the voice. Sometimes to fill the silence and space and get rid of awkwardness, I just start rambling and I’m not intentional about what I’m saying. Other times, I get snappy and rude, most often with Blake, and I cut people off with what I want to say instead of listening to the other person and then responding intentionally. I want to try and work on both of these things!
  2. Eat more fruit: Okay, so admittedly I really really love junk food. My absolute favorite are Oreos and I swear I can eat a whole pack of them in one sitting, if I’m not careful. I actually really love fruit, so I’m hoping I can actually stick to this one! Bring on all of the watermelon, bananas, and strawberries!
  3. Eat out at one new restaurant: Charleston is pretty much the food capital of the world, or at least to me, and there are a million and one restaurants we want try that we haven’t gotten around to yet! I think this month will be The Burger Company ( over 20 different types of burgers- YES PLEASE!)
  4. Read my bible app or do a devotion before getting onto social media/ no scrolling through Facebook in bed: Both of these are terrible habits that I need to kick. Literally, the first thing I do in the morning is get on Facebook which doesn’t always start the day off on the best note, and then even after I say I’m going to bed, I scroll for another 25 minutes, which probably messes up my sleep. I need to stop! Besides, I really want to start my morning off with Jesus, instead of being judgmental like Facebook tends to make people.
  5. Social Media Fast for one week: This is bouncing off the last goal. I’ve never done a fast from social media before, so this will be very interesting.
  6. Finish Grace, Not Perfection: I’ve been “trying” to finish this book for 3 months…maybe this is what I’ll do when I do my social media fast!
  7. Beginner’s Yoga: I don’t have money for a gym membership at the moment, but there’s plenty of youtube videos that I’m sure will help me learn the beginner’s poses! On top of that, I really want to start working out at least 2-3 times a week.

Alright, so there we go. 7 goals for this month, and now it’s actually time to start them instead of just  brainstorming. While, it might be halfway through the year already, “better late than never”.  Intentional is one of my words for the year, and I haven’t been doing a very good job at it. So, I hope that setting goals like this will help me to simplify and focus on what really matters. I’m probably going to mess up, but this is not about being perfect, it’s about the progress, and the little by little steps. I don’t want my goal-setting, or my life for that matter to be pressure filled. I want to cultivate good goals that stem from what God has given me. As Lara Casey says “It’s time to cultivate what matters.

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The Beginning of a Transformation

Picture walking in a beautiful scenic area down a dirt path. Green grass and blue skies for as far as you can see. Fields of wildflowers. Then suddenly, a storm rushes in and you have nowhere to go for shelter. The storm passes and the scenery is beautiful again, but you realize it’s harder to walk now. You look down and realize that the dirt path has turned to mud, almost like a tar, and while it’s still beautiful around you, you can’t move and it feels like that mud has turned into quicksand, and you feel yourself sinking. That’s my anxiety. It comes quickly and the event that sparked it may be gone just as fast, but the repercussions linger for much, much longer. I am far better than I was my senior year of high school when I was contemplating suicide, but my recovery path has not been as straight as I’ve made it seem. There have been twists, turns, hills, and valleys, and the whole time my anxiety has had a lingering hold on me.

Can I tell you a secret? I lied. I’ve been lying.

See, the last few months I haven’t been in my best mental state as far as my anxiety. Even though I’ve been telling everyone I was fine, I’ve been far from it. I thought I was fine because that’s what I kept telling myself too. Last week, all the feelings I had been shoving down for so many months finally came to the surface and boiled over in a pretty big explosion/panic attack. It was scary, but that’s for another post. But, that boiling over started the transformation that I think God has been wanting to do in my life for years. I’ve just been too scared to let Him. I’ve been too scared to let Him rescue me because my anxiety has been all I’ve known for so long.

I’ve written posts about it before, but I’m a recovering perfectionist (meaning I’m really trying my hardest to let grace do its thing). I’m extremely hard on myself and sometimes when Satan is really doing a number on me, I think it’s okay to hate myself.  Sometimes, I think I deserve the thoughts that come into my head. It’s been really difficult to give myself grace in those moments, but I am trying. I am trying to change my thought processes so that I know that it’s okay to mess up, and it’s okay to not be perfect. I think God has been telling me for a long time to surrender and let Him fight. But uhh, control freak #1 right here and that is the hardest thing to do for someone like me. It’s like this monster has the tightest grip in the world and I’m fighting and struggling, but making no progress. I’m exhausted from the battle. But, the battle has already been won. Even when I feel like I’m drowning I’m beginning to realize that truth, and I am starting to recognize that even when I am at my worst, the enemy is not going to win. All the while God has been standing there next to me saying “let me fight for you. let me pry it off. be still and trust”, but I’m scared of the unknown. I’m scared of not being in control. But that is where God is calling me. He is calling me to trust Him in the rescue, even if I don’t know what it will take for me to get there. I don’t have to be afraid of the journey, I just need to be present in it. Still.  Patient. After all, “perfect love cast’s out all fear” (1 John 4:18).

I’ve struggled recently with thinking that my anxiety would always be a part of me and therefore, I couldn’t really use it as a testimony. People want to hear about being completely healed of something right? They don’t want to hear that you’re still struggling with something. There wasn’t going to be good that came from it; it would just simply be. I didn’t have faith that God could use this to help others.  But I’m finally starting to believe that I will make a difference. My story can speak to others. My pain will be used for good.

A week and a half ago, I had a panic attack. I felt like I was spiraling again. Today though, through God’s grace, I have peace. Satan is trying and I think he is angry and so he is putting anxious thoughts in my head still, but now they aren’t spiraling out of control. God is constantly intervening on my behalf and continually giving me peace day in and day out. I pray that this peace won’t ever go away. I pray that this really is the beginning of my freedom story that I have run from for so many years.

So, “Hey, I’m Bethany Whitaker and I am no longer letting anxiety be my identity. I will not be anxiety girl. I will be God’s girl because I am the treasured beloved of my Abba Father. I am loved. I am worth it. Satan is not going to win. I don’t have to be perfect because my perfect Jesus died for me.”

Today, I am thanking Jesus for allowing me to share my story with so many people and especially for those who like me, may be battling anxiety. For the person who thinks they can’t make it through the day because you feel like you’re drowning,  I pray that you can realize that you are so much more than the lies that anxiety is twisting in your head.  I pray that you cry out to Jesus and that you will have peace and strength that only He can provide and I also pray that if you need it, you will have the courage to ask for help. You matter. You are worth it. You are loved. 

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Holy Week & Jesus’ Death

I’ve been celebrating Easter for 22 years of my life. However, until a few years ago I didn’t spend much of that celebration actually celebrating what it was all about. It was more about easter baskets, candy, and egg hunts than Jesus. Even for the last few years, I don’t think it truly hit me how deeply profound Holy Week is. This year is different though; it feels vastly unlike my prior years.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been doing a Lenten study by myself instead of with a church, or if it’s just because I’ve matured to the point where I want to truly acknowledge this time, but whatever it is, I’m embracing it fully.

I’ve been inwardly reflecting on my personal relationship with Jesus, and it’s a time like this that makes me realize just how hypocritical I can be as a Christian. I’d like to sit here behind this keyboard and say that if I was alive when Jesus walked the earth that I wouldn’t deny Him as Peter did three times, or that I wouldn’t be one of the many followers who just day’s before His trial were bowing to the ground and saying “Hosanna in the highest” and then just a few days later were shouting “Crucify Him”. But the truth is: That would’ve been me, because even today, my human flesh is weak and fickle. We have all betrayed Him, ignored Him, and ultimately, we have all led Him to the cross. I fail Him daily, but He still loves me. 

This is the first Passover week that I am truly mourning and that I am ashamed. This is the first Passover week that I truly recognize that I did not, I do not, deserve for Jesus to die on Friday. Despite my unfaithfulness, I am in the very midst of my Jesus, my merciful Saviour, saving me. He did it then and “It was finished”, and He does it today, and tomorrow, every second of every day.

It’s so hard to comprehend a love so great and to know that my Jesus humbled Himself so much that in Max Lucado’s words “He went from commanding angels to laying in a dirty manger, from holding the stars to holding messy and sinful people, and from holding the universe to taking the nail of a soldier.” That love in incomprehensible for my human mind.

Friday, Jesus dies. Then, three day’s later He will rise and there will be hope. But first, we need to recognize the Friday, the death. We need to mourn. Today, that is what I am doing. I am mourning my unfaithfulness and my hypocritical spirit while standing in reverent adoration of the One who loves me so deeply, that despite that unfaithfulness, suffered, forgave, and died on a cross.  Today, and for the rest of my life, I am sitting at the foot of the cross, even while others are boasting, wondering how I am saved at all.

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Well Loved Bible + A Messy Heart

Can I be super vulnerable for a minute? Sometimes, when I’m around people who have been Christians their whole lives I feel very inferior. Even though I know that’s a lie, I get so wrapped up in the fact that I don’t have as many years under my belt in studying the Bible. I grew up going to church, but reading the bible was something we really only did on Sunday, and even then I was never super interested. Reading the bible was so tedious and boring, or at least that’s what I thought at first.

I don’t remember the exact moment that I began to crave digging into the Bible, but I do know it was sometime in college when I began to experience terrible anxiety. Honestly, I began reading to fulfill my “duty” as a Christian, but then I began to realize that whenever I read, I was overcome with a sense of peace. My anxiety would disappear and I would find myself not ever wanting to close the cover. Then, I started taking notes in journals while I did a Bible study or listened to a sermon. For the first time in my life, I was on fire!

Then, I bought my first journaling Bible, and my whole world was transformed! (In a good way) See, when I kept journals of my notes, it was great, but I never went back to look at my notes. I lost my journals all the time! ( I lose everything…) But, being able to write all my notes in one place just made me want to dig in that much more! I formed my own color-coding system and it helped me stay focused because I get ridiculously distracted whenever I’m doing anything. Anybody else in the same boat?

Unfortunately, I got super wrapped up at first in wanting my Bible to look pretty and perfect. You know, Type A personality. It took me a little while to realize that it doesn’t matter how messy you make your Bible because that messiness is you as an imperfect person, laying your heart out for your Savior which is what it’s supposed to be about anyway.

These days, I don’t really care about how “pretty” it looks. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing all the colors, but my Bible also has ripped tabs, fraying pages on the edges, and lots of scribbles instead of thoughtfully planned out calligraphy. You wanna know something? That’s okay. That messy and falling apart Bible has gotten me through some really rough moments. Every time I open that Bible, I hear the sweet whispers of Abba saying “Are you ready? I’ve got something sweet for you to hear and read today.” The sweetest of whispers. It’s these whispers that calm my anxiety ridden mind and overwhelming need for perfection.

I’ve chosen to explore the fact that my Bible is not supposed to look like anyone else’s, because it is the reflection of my heart for Jesus, and our journeys are not all the same. It’s about the process, not the perfection, or the pretty colors. Having a colorful and well-loved Bible is great, but if you are just investing the time to make it look pretty, and not focusing on transforming yourself, and digging deeper in your faith, then you’ve only been doing the surface-level things!

While sometimes I do still have those thoughts of inferiority, I know that those thoughts are from the Devil and I’ve decided I’m not going to answer those thoughts. I won’t even entertain them because it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been a Christian. God loves me just the same. To Him, I am capable, intelligent, and loved. I can rest knowing that the only thing that matters is that I’m digging deep into my relationship with Him.

Have you found yourself comparing your faith to those around you? Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s no need! Your faith and relationship with Jesus are yours alone, and only you know how to live it out. After all, a living faith > a perfect faith.

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Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Anybody else remember happily running around a playground in elementary school while loudly repeating this phrase? I do too. We were carefree. We spent our days chasing each other around the playground and pretending we had our own secret clubs.

I remember the moment I realized that the quote we had said so many times wasn’t true, and that words really do hurt. I was in 5th grade, and I was the “teacher’s pet”. But, I didn’t actually realize that I was the teacher’s pet. We were all sitting in this circle and then out of the blue this girl started yelling that I was a goody-two-shoes, and that nobody liked teacher’s pets. She said I didn’t have any friends. Everyone in the class started laughing, and I started crying. Which, inevitably, made the teasing even worse. I ended up having to leave the classroom because I was crying so much. I was so confused and hurt. That was the day I realized how deep words really go, and it wasn’t the end either. The truth is, sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will always hurt you. 

I survived middle school without too much trauma, other than the occasional comment about still being a goody-two-shoes. I didn’t care about being called that anymore though. The real pain, however, started when someone who was close to me and who I was supposed to be able to trust, began to emotionally abuse me. I don’t even think they realized what they were doing, but I did, and the scars from it are something I still carry to this day. I was told I needed to start wearing makeup, that I shouldn’t wear something because it made me look fat, etc. I had been pretty confident about myself until these things started being said. My self esteem began to shatter, one word at a time. I began to develop anxiety and was constantly over-thinking about what people thought about me. I translated my anxiety into achievement and perfectionism. If I did everything right, and had every hair in place, the words would have to stop.

But they didn’t; if anything it got worse as I entered high school. I’ve come to realize I’m a ‘word’s of affirmation’ girl and anytime somebody would say something negative about me, my insecurities would grow. I began to seek affirmation through boys.They would tell me I was beautiful and I felt like I was okay even though I really wasn’t. I wanted to be loved so badly, I didn’t even realize it wasn’t love. I was called every name you can think of, and I hit rock bottom my senior year. I wanted to die. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to.  I didn’t have an identity anymore. I was at war every single day with my mind and my body, trying to rid myself of all of the words that had been spoken to me.

When I got to college and began to study psychology and child advocacy, I realized why the words had been so painful. Statistics shows that emotional abuse is much more damaging and long lasting than the affects of of any other types of abuse! 

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Words are powerful. They can destroy someone, but they can also create something beautiful. I remember when I started reading the bible and going to church more consistently in the spring of my senior year of high school. I remember the beautiful, healing words that I read that felt like they were directly aimed at me and my situation from my Abba Father.

Mark 5:34 “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Song of Solomon 4:7” For you are altogether beautiful, my love, there is no flaw in you.”

These words began to speak life to me and it was as if God was saying “Bethany, you are not a failure. You are valuable. You are loved beyond measure. Do not let words from people who know absolutely nothing about you define you. You are strong. You are brave. And above all, if you were not here, it would not be the same and you would be so missed.”

The roots of unforgiveness and resentment were so planted in my head. I actually hated the people that had hurt me. The family and the strangers. The pretty girls I compared myself to, and the boys who had said they loved me. I was so consumed with insecurity and resentment from the past that I was completely missing out on the life right in front of me. In fact, the darkness surrounding me was so strong that it seemed as if I would never find the light again. Never feel confident again.

But, there was one who was stronger, and He never stopped watching over me through it all. Jesus promised me a new life through following Him. As I did, He saved me by His love, comforted me by His grace and freed me by His truth. God set me free, and while there are still days where my anxiety is hard and my insecurities overflow, I make the choice to allow my Abba to break the chains.

He wants to do the same for you. You can be found if only you let Him. It doesn’t matter who you are, what has been done to you, or what you have done. He finds you, even at the dark bottom of the pit. He sees you in the middle of a crowded room feeling alone. He sees you when you are harming yourself, because you want to feel something, anything. He sees you mentally picking apart every flaw on your body, standing in front of a mirror. In your deepest pain, He sees you, and He can heal you. 

You must allow Jesus to speak His truth though. It was only when God found me and spoke over me that I realized that Jesus was what I had been searching for all of those years. He gave me healing, and allowed me to forgive those that had wronged me. He carefully mended my scars with love. No longer am I bitter about what has been done to me, because I have a strong defender who fights my battles for me, who has placed a wall of fire around me, and who continually pours out His love, grace, and protection, and He will for you too. 

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