Tag Archives: Faith

The Avenues of Faith

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brown wooden bridge near forest during golden hour

Photo by Georgiana Mirela on Pexels.com

(Note: I am not going to type up a bibliography for this post, though I have referenced many books and songs here. Just know that they are protected under copyright law by their creators and I have no rights to any of these resources. I am only suggesting them as a user/listener myself. If you have any questions about how you can use these resources, please contact the publisher, author, or artist!)

I’ve been getting kind of curious about how everyone else views their Faith and how they bring it into their lives in different ways. I know plenty of people who believe in some form of a God, though it might not be exactly through the same religion. Yet each of these people, regardless of their specific beliefs, come together to prove to me just how strong we all are as faithful people. My friends have numerous jobs in life from teaching to construction work and everything in between. They share their Faith through random acts of kindness, volunteer opportunities, working at their church, and praying for those in need. Some of them like to bake or sew, and they use these types of talents to bring things to the needy. 

I feel like we don’t just do these good deeds to help us feel closer to our God, but I also feel that we attend events and participate in groups to help bring us closer to those who share our same beliefs. So my question is, what makes you feel closer to your God? 

Here’s the top of my list:

  1. Attending Church
  2. Music
  3. Reading
  4. Sports

I haven’t listed these in any specific order, but there are some that I hold closer to my heart for personal reasons. I am also noticing as I view my list that some of these items have no direct connection to church or faith or God, so let me be a bit more specific.

Attending Church is the easiest topic to discuss (which is actually why it is listed first). It’s the one that everyone takes for granted and assumes to be the best way to connect to God. Yet I haven’t always found it as useful as it seems to be in my life now. My attendance has actually allowed me to see others worshiping in different ways. We have Liturgy days at work (Mass for Catholics) and I attend Sunday sermons at my own church (Lutheran). The differences are not as extreme as I used to think that they were. Luckily for me, I get to follow along pretty well with the Catholic Mass while also being able to learn about the differences between our faiths. This has also been a great opportunity for me to watch people younger than myself show their true devotion to God. I have never felt closer to Him than I do when I watch a room full of young kids singing and praying to God. If you’ve never experienced it, try going to a church near you that has a large following and an even larger youth group! I’ve also found that there is a difference for me when I attend Mass vs. when I attend Sunday service. At Mass, I often find myself praying for those around me, the stresses of the day, and being thankful for the amazing feeling that the people in the room have brought to me (whether they know it or not). On Sunday, I am drawn closer to my own personal life in a few ways. First, I am blessed to know that my family has been part of the Lutheran faith for many many years. I also recall the fact that my grandmother has always gone to services alone (or with her children) for over 80 years now. I too attend Sunday services alone most of the time. This allows me to realize not only how my grandmother was so strong in her faith, but reminds me how strong I am in my own. It also gives me the chance to connect even better with those who are around me. I now have a few people who come and sit with me each week at services. I’m unsure whether they feel alone or think I am, but I appreciate their kindness and am reminded that even the simplest acts are important in life. 

Through everything that has been going on in my personal life lately, I have also come to find that reading is a great way to seek answer in prayer and get some “advice” from the man upstairs. I recently reached out to my pastor to see what advice or readings he would suggest to me from the Bible, and instead he recommended this book! 
I have to be honest and say that I do not keep up with the daily readings, but it sits in my living room with some of my other resources just waiting to be picked up and read anytime I feel the need. So far, I’d highly recommend this one!

Strange as it may seem for a person in their late twenties, I have also resorted to using my Teen Study Bible often recently. Not only is this book special because it is the one I used when working towards becoming a member of the church through Confirmation, but it also has some really good resources. There is a section included that points you to the best scriptures when in times of need. Looking for some readings on love, hatred, death, etc? All you have to do is access the glossary and find these topics listed with page numbers and scripture suggestions! 

Finally, I have picked up a copy of Beside the Still Waters from a local Amish market. I was skeptical at first, but found that this daily devotional is pretty good as well. This one directs you to a select set of scriptures. Once you read them, the book has a short discussion on the things you have just read. While it takes a bit longer than God Calling, it is well worth the time!

Image result for beside the still waters

Another way I have felt more connected to God is through my music. My favorite place to listen to music now is YouTube. Not even my Pandora stations cut it anymore. Why you may ask? Simply because I have found some amazing groups and songs on YouTube that do not circulate through my stations, try as I might. For your reference, I’ll give you a list of my top ten favorites, again in no particular order. 

And now for the final part of my list: sports. You may think I am crazy to say sports bring me closer to God, but I’m not talking about the NFL or NBA here. Actually, my church has their own softball team. We play other groups from churches around our county once a week over the summer months. While I started this adventure earlier this year simply because I missed playing softball so badly, I have come to realize that it means a lot more to me now than I thought it would. Through our games, I have become closer to others who share my beliefs. We have been able to connect more through these times than through church services, mostly because we are able to communicate with each other and work together as a team. I am forever grateful that this team was brought to my attention. While I am almost the youngest, and the only girl on the team, I am saddened to think that our season ends next week and I will have to wait until next summer to play with this team again! More importantly, I have found it significant that God has led me back to my favorite sport through my faith. 

So as I said when I first started this post, I’m just wondering: What brings you closer to your God? 

~B

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Back at it!

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It seems like every summer I come back to this, back to this webpage that very few pay attention to. Yet being able to write without my hand cramping quite so quickly is a good way for me to get some thoughts out and process the things in life that just seem to be a bit too overwhelming. During the school year, I normally resort to a good old paper journal, but that’s more due to time restraint and loving the feel of paper and pencil than anything else. 

Here I am again though, sitting at my kitchen table and thinking about so many things that I cannot keep my mind straight. So I come back here, to this blog that I started so many years ago. At the time I wasn’t sure what my intentions were or what the result would be. Surprising (or not…) this page has basically become a hodge podge of my life. I’m a teacher, I’m a christian, and I somehow have a lot to say. 

So I think I’d better start again… since last summer (or whenever my last post was), a lot has changed. I’m married now, to that man I’ve mentioned many times by the name ‘T’. We’ve got our own house and two precious pups (Jasper and Zoey). I’ve gone through a job change that almost resulted in a full-out career change. And more than anything, I’ve gone back to my roots. 

Starting in September or August of last year, I returned to the place where I originally did my student teaching. In case I never mentioned it before, it’s just a little Catholic school in the middle of a tiny town that very few people have ever heard of. The only reason I know of it is because we always go through it to get from one town to the next. In any case, this small school holds a huge place in my heart. It may not have changed much since 2013 when I last visited for a few months, but it seems to always be there when I need it. When I was offered a job there for the 2017-2018 school year, I had no idea that it was also a way of God telling me that I needed to get back to my religious beliefs and my kind and concerned self. Somehow I started to lose those things over the stress of a career that wasn’t super fulfilling and time restraints that it invoked in my life. 

Not only did this job change really start to point me in the right direction, but I also returned to my church practices. Let’s be honest, my church had a change in leadership a few years back and my attendance there quickly dwindled. I’m not a very good Christian by saying that, but there have always been preachers and pastors who really spoke to me… and unfortunately those who have talked either around me or straight over my head. As a young person in today’s society, it has always been hard for me to get my butt to church on a regular basis when the preacher doesn’t ever seem to reach me with their messages. This caused me to fall into old habits, and I had stopped going to church completely a few years back.

Luckily, I decided to get married and knew how important it was to my family (and more importantly, to myself) that I get married in a church. So I did a lot of work to seek out a pastor who would perform the services for us. Doing so changed my life, possibly forever. I was so fortunate to find a pastor who I was easily able to connect with and who genuinely cared about not just my religious self, but my husband’s not-so-religious ways. He was caring and kind and gave us so many assurances about how strong of a relationship we had.

I started attending his church for two reasons: it’s in the town where I now live with my husband, and I was curious to see the preaching style of the man who was going to marry us. I’m so fortunate that I did! For about the past year and a half or so, I have been attending church on a much more consistent basis. What really amazes me about this is not the fact that I have returned to church, but the fact that my faith has grown so much even having been away from a Sunday service for a year or two. Plus, the pastor I have been speaking of has an assistant pastor, and somehow they both speak to me! Some days I’d swear that the sermon is directed right at something going on in my life. Which has taught me that maybe it’s not the person delivering the message after all; maybe it truly is the message that needs to get to me when it is given. Like many people say, God will get you what you need when you need it. Clearly these two men have come into my life right when it’s necessary. 

And so, to tie all this change together in my life, I originally thought that this was all just a path to God, to my beliefs, to the person who I used to be and have always wanted to be. I have been so ecstatic and happy about all of these changes. I love being able to be myself and do the things in life that I have not stopped doing during my absence from this blog. Yet I have also been reminded that at the end of a long day, I can sit down in my house with my family and realize that I am doing my best to be a good person, that I am being led in some fashion through my Faith, and that I am able to learn more than simply what a college course can teach me. I learn every day from these kind and caring people who have openly joined me in belief of God. And while I’m no zealot or anything extreme, I feel like I have become a better person by focusing more on the good that I am supposed to accomplish in life, the good that I can hopefully teach to my students, and the happiness that you can very easily impart on any person at any given time. Yet as this summer rolls by, I’m starting to see that this new focus is not even half of the reason that I’ve been led back to God in such a fast and strong way. I think more it’s that God knows I’m going to need my Faith and my belief in him very soon, and possibly more than I ever have before.

But more on that later… 

~B

Struggling Today

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Yep, that’s right. I’m having a rough day. I mean, everything is working out okay, but I am struggling to understand why some people step into leadership positions (for jobs or otherwise) when they have no intention of being kind, considerate, or helpful to others around them. The biggest thing I have ever learned from teaching is that the job is NEVER about me. I have to force myself to look out for my needs, my health, and my happiness. Luckily, I like the job, but unless I focus on doing things for myself, they don’t get done. Other people have equally (or more so) selfless jobs, but not everyone treats those jobs the way that they should.

Why am I struggling with this in particular? Because at the same time that I land a job in a religion-based private school, I am also having to switch churches. Don’t get me wrong, my faith is not changing or being swayed by anything going on, but I have never been so ashamed to be in a church before in my life. Moreover, the person who is supposed to be giving me religious guidance is doing nothing really but to make me wish people weren’t so gossipy and selfish.

As I sit here writing, I’m trying not to sound selfish (or feel selfish for that matter) about the decision I have made. I’m trying to remember how much it means to my grandmother for me to attend church with her (though she’s never said so out loud). I’m trying to remember how important family is to me and how I feel so amazing knowing that I am sitting in the same pews that my ancestors have sat in for over 80 years now. And yet I cannot bring myself to go back.

So this week, I’m determined to go to the same church that our wedding officiate will be attending. In fact, he’s the senior pastor there and is more than understanding of circumstances that change your life in ways you never see coming. He, thankfully, has recognized that I am trying to lead a faithful life and to be a more regular attendant at church. And more than anything, he believes in me and would sit down with me any day at any time to give me advice or help through any situation.

I haven’t had a super great pastor or reverend to look up to in a long time, and I’m not excited about switching churches (again), but I feel like this is a change my life needs right now. I just pray it turns out well and that I can find myself with less anxiety about simply attending my church on Sundays. Here’s to hoping!

Stations of the Cross and Update to my Faith

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I learned something new at work the other week. And, honestly, I quite like it. For those of you who are not Catholic, just try to follow along.

Each Friday, the kids travel to the church to participate in what they call Stations. It is actually the practice known in Catholicism as “Stations of the Cross.” Not being a Catholic myself, I did not understand that first day what stations were or why they were important. After my second day of participating (today), I have realized that this is a pretty unique process that truly means a lot.

Basically, there are 14 stations, or images, depicting the last few days of Jesus’ life and his resurrection. The priest, along with three students holding the cross and candles, walk around the church and stand under 14 different “stations”. These are statues on the wall that depict Jesus being nailed to the cross, Jesus carrying the cross, Simon helping Jesus, etc.

Along with this practice, there is a book. Each student has a copy of the book. As the priest names the station, the students kneel. They then say a short response, followed by a reading of the situation Jesus was in at that station. The priest follows with a prayer, followed by a congregational prayer. Then, a three-line hymn is sung while the processional moves on to the next station.

It sounds really boring, pretty long, and not very important if you don’t know the details. But what has been the biggest impact to me about this practice is the prayers that the students and congregation recite. At points they thank Jesus for dying for their sins. At other times, they are praying that they will never take for granted their ability to go outside on a sunny day when Jesus couldn’t even leave the cross. For each station, there is a prayer that the students hope will help them to lead better, purer lives. But these prayers are simple and truly connect to the children’s actual lives. I too find myself wishing for many of these prayers to be heard in regards to my own life.

Anyway, as I continue to work in the Catholic schools and attend church each Sunday in my own Lutheran church, I find that God is an important part of my life. I have found myself praying during my days at the public schools, and hoping that even my future plans will all work out okay. My faith truly is strengthening as it did a few years ago when I first started this blog. I hope it continues to do so.

In the meantime, if you are interested in more details about Stations of the Cross, try this website: http://www.catholic.org/prayers/station.php

~B

Perfect Snow Days

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I know already that today will probably be the last snow day that I have this winter, so I’m trying to soak it up and enjoy it. So far I have successfully finished some school work, had some fun with a friend, watched three movies, taken a nap, eaten a decent lunch, and had an overall great day.

At one point my friend and I had sat down and gone through a list of questions to help people get to know each other better. Some of the questions were silly. Others didn’t even make any sense because it was ten am and they were asking things like “what is the best thing that happened to you today.” Needless to say the best I could come up with is that I got to sleep in.

Now, as I sit on the couch watching Mystic River with some people I care about, I feel nervous about nothing in particular. Maybe that Mom won’t come home and ask fifty questions, maybe that my friend isn’t feeling as uncomfortable as I feel like he is, or maybe that I have nothing to worry about but am just tired or stressed for some reason.

Regardless, I am finding myself relying heavily on my faith right now as I try to remain calm and sort out my tangled web of thoughts so that I can successfully settle myself enough to be able to enjoy the rest of my evening.

It’s funny; though many people disagree with my beliefs because I an either too religious or not religious enough, when I sit down and think about it, I think most people would understand my faiths if they just asked me to explain it.

Faith to me is this… believing in some thing, some person beyond myself who can control more than I can. It might seem silly to believe in something I cannot see, hear, feel, etc. but it doesn’t make any sense that someway, somehow, I can feel like crap one minute and feel better the next. There are moments when anxiety and nerves can get so huge and encompassing that it’s impossible to focus on anything else. And when that same large effect continues for any length of extended time, there just seems to be no hope that it will ever go away. So I have to have faith. Because if I’ve already given up on myself then who else is going to believe in me but some higher power?

Along similar lines, if I don’t have someone who believes in me in heaven or some other unseen place, then How can I ever expect to make a difference in this world. Most times I know I am smart and caring, but sometimes I have very little self-confidence and even less belief that I do things because I care about others rather than because I am selfish.

I might write again later but for now I just need to ask this: How can anyone know what is right or wrong for another person unless they are psychic? I’m ridiculously scared of hurting other people, particularly with my words and actions. So how do I know which things are okay to say and do if I don’t have my own psychic powers? I guess I’ll just have to pray about it and hope that somehow I get an answer before I hurt someone else in my life.

The Most Important Lesson is Always the Last

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Robin Williams

I’m sure that people around the world have heard the news by now. Yesterday, this lovely man passed away. This post will be about him, but even if you did not appreciate his acting talents and comic relief, please continue to read. 


 

I’ve never really been the kind of person to have favorite actors, singers, bands, celebrities, and idols. I find it silly that these people who are doing jobs just like us are “prized” and treasured more than anyone else in the world. It seems to me that each one of us has a unique talent, and just because I am not creative and silly enough to be a comedian or actor, doesn’t mean that there’s nothing special about me. Until today, if you had asked me who my favorite actor was, I might reply any number of ways: Nicholas Cage, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ralph Waite to name a few. But recently, things have changed…

It’s sad that I realize this change today of all days. Why not yesterday or a year ago, I wonder. But the main point is that I have realized that my favorite actor is Robin Williams. And, unlike the ways that most people choose their favorites and their idols, I would reply with this name for reasons other than his acting career. Sure, without even realizing it, I grew up with Robin’s talent: from Genie in Aladdin, to acting in Flubber, Robin Williams was one of my most watched actors. Even in recent years, I have enjoyed his comedy abilities in movies like RV. The thing is, while this man had a big career, he had an even bigger heart and more brilliant mind. 

As news spread of Robin’s death, people continued to talk about him on social networking sites that I frequent. In the past twenty four hours, I’ve read a list of all of his acting performances, the awards that he has won, and read quite a few of his most famous and touching quotes. 

So what makes me wish that Robin were still with us today? Besides the fact that he was too young to die, I find it important to note that he had the right outlook on life. The advice that Williams spent his life instilling in young children and adults alike is reason enough to love him for the man that he was. Even better, he knew how to make every person smile in some way. 

I never even met this man, but I have to say that he has one of the biggest hearts that I have ever heard of. I suddenly feel the need to print a picture of him and hang it at my desk at work- not to be creepy, but for inspiration. If ever there was a person who I would like to learn something from, it would be Williams. 

And as the title of this post states, the most important lesson to be learned is always the last. While speculation has arisen about the cause of death in this incident, it seems that Robin committed suicide. This, unfortunately, is not a new subject to us, especially when it comes to the death of celebrities. But the thing is, even though Robin may have been depressed and may have had problems, he spoke out about things that could make a difference in a person’s life. He taught us how to care, laugh, take joy in life, and enjoy the company of others. At the end of the day, maybe the most important lesson that he ever taught us was this:

It is never too early to let people know what is going on inside of your head.

Maybe a higher power was working in this man’s life to take him away from us all so early; maybe there is a bigger plan for his numerous talents than any of us on Earth may realize. But regardless, it is never too early to talk. Whether Robin Williams did or did not have depression problems, whether he did or did not commit suicide, he has given us all the opportunity to sit back and think about our lives and the lives of others. Suicide and depression are real issues in a majority of people’s lives today. Even if Robin’s problems were unnoticed and unspoken in regards to his friends and loved ones, he has given us this opportunity to learn more about each other. If any of us are suffering from mental illness or are feeling alone in our lives, we need to realize that now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to stop being ashamed and afraid of the truth, now is the time to believe in ourselves and put the smiles back on our faces that Robin was able to instill in us all these years. 

I pray that we all learn something from this death. And while I hate to make a big deal out of a person’s passing, I am truly feeling for his family, friends, coworkers, and the world right now. Many other actors and celebrities have died before Williams- unfortunately many will also follow. I’m sorry that I haven’t taken the time to inspect their accomplishments like I am now doing for him. However, I too have learned that people are more than meets the eye and something can be learned from everyone on this planet. 

If you are still reading this, please take the time to pray for this horrible loss. Please also take the time to rethink the experiences that you have had recently. Be sure that no one you know is suffering from anxiety or depression right now. If they are, reach out to them in whatever way you possibly can. And if you are one of the people who fall into this category, seek help on your own, for you never know if it will come to you before it’s too late. 

In closing, I would like to say that God has gained another beautiful angel, and that Genie now is, truly, free. 

For more about Robin Williams’s life, simply search his name on Google and begin to read articles- they are abundant and ever-varying. To get you started, I will share my favorite post on Robin so far. 

Also, if you or anyone you know suffer from anxiety or depression, please contact Common Ground’s Suicide Prevention/Help Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

To all of you, God Bless. 

Sunday: The Sermon of Trust

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Sunday Sermon

I am very much enjoying my day today. Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday, so we are spending time as a family today. (Unfortunately if your birthday is on a weekday, you basically don’t act like it exists that day because everyone works at odd hours throughout the day. Literally, at least one of us is out of the house from about 5am to 10pm.) This  means that I cannot wait until tonight— cake!!! A shout out to my mom anyway, even though I haven’t told anyone in my family that I have this blog. Like I said, I need a space all to myself where I can throw thoughts and not have any effects come from it. Not that my family would be judgmental, but I’m just not taking any chance that a thought pops out of my head and isn’t something they would want to know. But I digress…

Today’s post is going to be a sermon of sorts, but it’s not really going to teach anything per say. I am mostly going to talk about my Faith from my perspective. Each week I will do a similar post (unless I’ve got nothing good to say at the time), and you will get to know more about my beliefs, my struggles, and my successes. I did find this really interesting quote page out of my mom’s prayer book this morning. I forget what the book is actually called, but it has a scripture/interpretation for each day of the year. There’s something different to think about for every day. I thought that would be a good place to start searching for the topic of my first Sunday post.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with today’s page. It had no significant meaning to me at this point in my life. But I decided to continue to flip through the book to look for something more pertinent to my life. And this is what I found:

Trust me, and don’t be afraid. I want you to view trials as exercises designed to develop your trust-muscles. You live in the midst of fierce spiritual battles, and fear is one of Satan’s favorite weapons. When you start to feel afraid, affirm your trust in Me. Speak out loud, if circumstances permit. Resist the devil in My Name, and he will slink away from you. Refresh yourself in My holy Presence. Speak or sing praises to Me, and My Face will shine radiantly upon you.

Remember that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Me. You have been judged not guilty for all eternity. Trust Me, and don’t be afraid; for I am your Strength, Song, and Salvation.

So I admit it, I have major trust issues. I’m sure a lot of people do. But today I had a conversation with my boyfriend that really made it clear to me just how much my issues can affect my life. God says trust him and don’t be afraid, so I am going to try. I mean, I try already, but I’m just no good at it. I haven’t had a good base of trust with anyone but my parents and my sister for too many years to count. I guess when someone messes up your childhood, those thoughts and feelings are more likely to stick with you through adulthood.

Here I sit now, scared to trust anyone whom I haven’t known for my entire life. Even some of the people in that category are not to be trusted. Questions fly through my head when I think about this fact. Like, what is my future going to look like if I cannot accept anyone else into my life? How can I be such a loving person if I cannot trust others? What kind of relationship can my boyfriend and I really have without me giving my full trust, my full heart to him? We love each other, but sometimes I wonder if that love is enough to overcome the difficulties that I place in our way…

I feel as though the situation will never change. I’ve been like this for so many years that I’m not sure I really remember a time where I was guarded with my trust. I know there was a time when I would love anyone and anything, but I fear that time has passed too long ago for me to recall.

The scriptures from Isaiah and Romans that have been combined into the passage I quoted above must be trying to tell me something, but I’m desperately scrambling to figure out what they mean. Trust in God, I get that. He won’t hurt me, condemn me, or hold my sins against me. But I go back to the problem of trust. How can I even trust God if I cannot trust anyone or anything else either? Most days I don’t even trust myself. The passage has some really good points, especially that the devil (and evil in general) often prey on fear. That is one of the beliefs I have that I am pretty firm in. The “weaker” you are, the more bullies are attracted to you. Unfortunately, there isn’t much difference between a bully and the devil.

I know I’m not weak enough to be deterred in that way, but I’m somewhere in limbo. I’m not on the devil’s side for sure, but I am feeling unsuccessful at being a child of God. He wants to test us, He wants to make us better people. That’s why we go through all of the hardships that we go through (at least in my opinion). But the trials have tested my “trust-muscles” more than I think they can handle. People always say that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, but I can’t get my mind wrapped around that either. At least not in this instance. If my trust was only to be tested, not broken, then why does it seem so broken now?

I guess I am just going to have to try to trust God and see what happens. Luckily, after the discussion that I had with my boyfriend, he is still very willing to stand by my side and love me for whatever I can be and however much I can give him. I feel like it’s not exactly fair to ask him to stick around, but if he wants to stay, I will not push him away. Call me selfish or whatever you want to, but I love him too much to think that any of this can improve without his help.

I want to be one of those Christians who gives everything up to God. I’ve heard them preach, pray, and talk of their experiences on numerous occasions and I wish that I could be as good as they are. I love God, I love being able to go to Church, I love the fact that I have Faith. None of those things will make my life perfect, and I don’t expect them too. I just wish that I would turn to God when things got tough, and even when they aren’t so tough. I wish I had Faith as strong as all those others. I don’t look for miracles, I don’t ask for things that I want (and sometimes not even those I need), but I wish that I could better understand my Faith. Maybe just maybe, I could also find my trust again.

For those of you who have any advice, have gone through similar feelings, or just want to show some support, I truly appreciate it! Leave comments below so I know I’m not alone! Thanks so much (in advance).