Trust issues

Fresh back from vacation and down with the flu for the past three days. All kinds of thoughts running through my head: what it was like walking the streets of Havana, plans for the near future, a member of our church in a hospital bed in Guatemala City, should I take Virogrip or Fluibron?

But above all of the them, the one thought that I can’t seem to run from is: ‘Trust issues, yes I have them’.

In church on Sunday, our pastor asked the question: ‘Do you have someone at Lifenet with whom you can be totally open and honest about your life’? Technically my answer is yes, because my husband goes to that church as well; but outside of him, my answer is no.

So even though I haven’t wanted to, the flu has given me quite a bit of time to face the issue, and to be honest, I haven’t gotten very far.

My story is probably very similar to yours: we trusted and we were betrayed. That is life. It happens. It’s actually the norm, I believe. In my case there was a divorce, a legal matter; people chose sides. Some I thought would always have my back, didn’t. I worried about the confidences I had shared with them, the things they knew about me that I’d prefer be kept between us. How safe was my life’s story with them? Had I chosen correctly? Wisely?

I learned that the closeness you share with someone during one phase of your life may not survive change or tragedy. Relationships need to be dynamic in nature for them to be able to go with the flow of life, and sometimes people just can’t be dynamic like that.

Christianity is big on having an ‘accountability partner’, someone with whom you can walk through years of your life, who will help you to walk the straight and narrow through the use of tough love. That person says the things you need them to say even though you don’t want to hear it; but accountability only works if you can be honest about what is truly going on in your life.

That concept has always baffled me. How do you find someone whom you can trust so implicitly as to be consistently open and honest with about your life, your thoughts, your struggles, especially in this tiny country we live in? So, I did the next best thing: I kept my circle small. I spoke freely with a few chosen ones believing my stories and I were safe there. I didn’t need an accountability partner because I had them.

But then divorce with all its swirling, strong, tentacles tore a swath through my small circle so devastating that I had to take my honesty and tuck it away in a place where I, with this newly acquired knowledge that not all relationships will survive, thought it was safe. I look at people now, and like the baby bird in ‘Are You My Mother’ by P.D. Eastman, I wonder, ‘Am I safe with you? Can you handle my honesty?’

Recently, during an intense conversation, a woman asked me how I was able to learn to trust my husband after what had happened in my first marriage. The answer was easy: he had proven himself to me, through some serious thick and some very dubious thin, my husband has been dynamic with me. He’s moved with the flow of my life’s changes, and he’s never been unreliable.

As I pray for restoration of some former relationships I wonder how I am supposed to be, to act. How am I to embrace, forgive? I think of the prodigal son returning home with that practiced speech and repentant heart, and that father who was waiting for him so longingly. Can I be like that father?

I picture my back, exposed in the battles of the past few years, and remember how I waited expectantly for those I loved and trusted to stand with me. As in an outer body experience I watch it replay in my mind like a movie. I see the arrows as they hurtled toward my back, and I want to run in and warn myself that I’m unprotected and vulnerable there, but then I see others I didn’t expect step in to help shield me, and fight off the incoming arrows. And I know that I never stood alone.

Still it’s so hard to trust. I want to live in freedom, but how can I trust again? How can you trust again?

I know it’s possible; so, after all this thinking and making sure I understand the reality of what it is I’m dealing with here, I come to the foot of the cross. and I pray. I mean really, what else can I do? I can’t force myself to trust. This work has to be supernatural. It’s got to be God intervening. I would hate to miss out on a few trustworthy souls just because others have proven themselves to be the opposite.

How do I handle those who have been unworthy of my trust? How do I know who I can trust? How do I start trusting people again?

Like I said, I haven’t gotten very far. I have no answers but I am searching for them. When I find them, I’ll be sure to share what I’ve learned with you.

©Debbie Mendoza, August 2017. Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope. For speaking engagements: (011) 501-610-4375

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The Hano Effect

Some people just don’t get it; they are dumbfounded by the process when performers like Shaneeka who can rock the house, and Gareth who can dance and sing, are actually in a competition with Hano Lin.

Are the judges looking for stage performance and props, or are they looking for singing ability?

Those who don’t want to get it find it maddening that some contestants are given advice on how to be better singers, while Hano is praised for his props and stage presence. Finally, weeks into the competition he gets the ‘breathing’ advice from the judges, just like everyone else has gotten before him.

Are the judges seeing and hearing the same things we are?

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It’s clear to me that the judges want to look for talent, but they can’t ignore Hano’s light-hearted comic relief. Everything in Belize has been so serious for so long, that Hano has been able to tap into something long missing in our country: comedy.

The generations before this had Beverly Smith and Seferino; there’s been a major gap since then, filled by Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, and others like them.

In Belize we love it when people exceed the racial barriers life lays out, and jump out of the boxes we have designed for each ethnic group. We do. The Asian community has fallen into a few stringent boxes, and deep down we wonder and believe that there has to be more than what meets the eye, and what they’ve allowed us to see.

Very few of us get to intermarry and/or intermingle with them. Hano is breaking down all the barriers, and destroying the boxes, and we love him for it!

So we might not understand the Hano effect singing-wise, but what we are witnessing as KTV the Remix plays out this season, (I believe), is one of the things that makes Belize such a beautiful place: our acceptance of culture, no matter how different.

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Having been up close and personal with beauty pageants, I learned a long time ago that winning does not only depend on what a contestant brings to the competition; it’s also about what the others who have their eyes on the prize are bringing in that same year. Someone might logically be the most likely to win, but they may choose to compete in a year when the one person who can beat them is also competing.

I have long been a fan of both Shaneeka’s and Gareth’s talents, but I’m now wondering if they picked the wrong year to compete in this particular competition. They didn’t know when they signed up that ethnic barriers were about to be torn down, and that Belize would be getting the comic relief we all so badly need.

I do understand the frustration people feel when they think KTV The Remix is a singing competition; but watching the effect Hano has on people all over the country makes me think that we are watching something way more than a karaoke competition. We are watching a people lap up comedic relief because they have needed it. We see ‘one of our own’ take the stage every week and have no idea how he is going to surprise us, and entertain us. We are expectant for what will come out of his mouth because he makes us laugh; and we have badly needed to laugh.

So yes, it might have started out as a singing competition, but the ‘Hano effect’ has hit KTV The Remix in an unexpected way, just as it has hit the country. We don’t know what to do with it, except to enjoy it. Some people want to marry Hano, others want to go to his house for a party on Saturday night. Some think the show isn’t worth watching after he has performed, and countless others want to have their picture taken with him.

A few loyalists want him out of the competition so that their favorite can have an easier win, but the Hano effect cannot be ignored, and has forced some to step up their game in hopes of winning.

It’s beautiful to watch this acceptance happening, and to hear our collective laughter as Hano performs. I’m proud to witness the coming together to stand with him, ignoring those who want us to ignore the effect in favor of the singing. Hano makes us see our similarities more than our differences.

©Debbie Mendoza, July 2017. Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope. For speaking engagements: (011) 501-610-4375

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Strong and courageous

I publicly admit that I did not, on my own, have the strength and the courage to do what I needed to do. I had to have help, and God gave it to me in a way I could not have expected.

I chose to accept the help, strength, and courage, that came from a source outside of me.

I chose to reject the advice of giving myself time in between relationships, as good as that advice is.

Sometimes your strength comes from within you; at other times it comes from others believing in you.

A friend told me when I was about to undergo major surgery in 2011: ‘Be strong and courageous’, (found many times in the book of Joshua). I held onto those words when I felt like I was going to die in the hours before the operation and in the days after. I knew my physical strength would come back to me. I told myself I was strong and courageous. My strength came from within me, and with it, I overcame extreme emotional and physical challenges.

Years later I quickly remarried after getting divorced. I have questioned myself often (because I am unwaveringly analytical), ‘Did I do the right thing?’ I always come back to the same answer. Yes!

This truth about myself has caused me to stop wondering: as strong as I may appear to be, as purposeful as I am about being emotionally healthy, the relationship I had with my ex-husband was one area of my life in which I didn’t know how to summon strength and courage. I needed the particular wisdom, experience, helping hand, and push, that Jesse had to offer me; and he needed mine for different areas of his life. 

Were it not for my husband I could not have done the healing work I have allowed within myself. If I had chosen a life without him I would still be settling for significantly less than I should in many areas of my life. I would not have had the strength nor the courage to stay away from the kind of sadness I had grown used to. I would not have been able to set up boundaries, nor give myself the freedom to define myself for myself, instead of for everyone else.

Conventional wisdom says ‘take time in between relationships’, especially in cases like mine, after a marriage of nearly a quarter century. I agree with that,  and so I questioned if I should have taken that time because I know it is such good advice; but I also knew when Jesse proposed and I said yes, that he was exactly who I wanted.

So when people judge, condemn, and/or put me aside because of this unconventional decision I made, I can now easily tell myself, ‘They just don’t get it.’ Now I understand how Jesus was able to say, ‘Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.’ Lord knows that if I were in their shoes, I would have probably rejected me as well.

But I’m not in their shoes; I’m in mine. I’m very familiar with my shoes, where they’ve been, and where they’ve taken me.

I know my journey and what my heart has been through. I know the heartache, misgivings, and the self esteem issues that plagued me; and after unrelenting self-analysis, I have no doubt that my strength, courage, the ability to stand my ground, and to fight when I needed to in the last few years, were birthed in me because my husband who was first my friend, believed in me.

This is my story that came about through much prayer, as readers of my book Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce will have already heard about. I didn’t up and decide one day that this man would be the man to help me gain strength and courage. I believe this was a God-ordained and directed process. I defied convention and expectations because of the conviction of that belief. It became clear to me very early in the journey that I had to make a choice for myself with this man, or wind up in a worse place than I could imagine, (Seven spirits -Matt 12:43-45).

Your story and mine are different. The take-away I want to give you from what happened to me is that sometimes our strength and courage come from God-provided, unconventional, outside sources.

You may be refusing to accept the help you’re being offered because it isn’t being presented in a package that you would have picked for yourself. Get prayerful. Ask for your spiritual eyes and ears to be opened, and then start to live expecting God to answer your prayer in this regard.

Before God first tells Joshua (1:6) to be strong and courageous, He tells him, “I will never leave you or forsake you.’ That is solid truth right there. God is the One who provides your strength and your courage, and He can package that however He chooses to.

To be strong and courageous means to stand on the strength you already have, and to accept the help you need, especially when it comes from a God-ordained source outside of yourself.

Sometimes your strength comes from within you; at other times it comes from others believing in you. You are strongest when those two come together. 

 

©Debbie Mendoza, July 2017. Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope. For speaking engagements: (011) 501-610-4375

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Rest (Part 2)

Do you hate to rest? I’m not talking about a good night’s sleep; we all love that. I’m talking about dropping everything and doing nothing for a while.

For many years I’d go months without taking a break; then I’d get a week or two off from my life and I would wonder why God had allowed the rest. Was something big coming my way? In hindsight I know that it was because I wouldn’t take the break unless it was handed to me. Even God rested after six days. He wants us to rest regularly, not once every few months.

I struggled when I had to learn that lesson. I believed that rest is for the lazy. Keep going! Keep doing! Keep your hands and mind busy! Rest once in awhile was something I could look forward to; regular rest was not.

There are many verses in the Bible concerning rest, and the Sabbath is a big deal because one of the purposes it accomplishes is that we get refreshed as we rest. For years I did honor the Sabbath, but although my body rested, my mind didn’t, couldn’t. I was so accustomed to being an enabler, and taking care of everyone else, that even when my body was still, my mind and heart still raced; my emotions were always near the edge, threatening to bubble over. Many of us don’t know how to rest; and in fact, may still struggle with it.

Recently, faced with direction-decisions and situations, I thought it was time to once again fast and pray so as to discern God’s guidance in our lives. Instead, the Lord’s voice was very clear to me, ‘It’s time you rest.’ Of course when we don’t know how to rest, the command to rest is not what we want to hear. Fasting and praying is active, and we feel that we are joining God in doing something to achieve the end we’re hoping for; resting is the opposite; it means putting everything down and away, and doing nothing. The Lord assures us that we will hear Him clearly as we rest. Remember Elijah on the mountain?

This season of rest has been work for me, but I’m getting better at it. I put away the thoughts of fasting and praying. I imagined what vacation mode does to the mind and emotions, and tried to apply that even though my life continued as normal: work, cooking, household chores, church, relationships, etc. I’ve even taken a break from writing. I imagine myself as being on vacation from worry, stress, anxiety, and have tried to live as if I really do believe that God’s got this, and by ‘this’, I mean, His plans for our future.

Every morning I tell myself, ‘Today is a rest day. Do what you have to do, get that to-do list knocked off, but make sure that above all, you rest.’ My reward comes as my head clears. It seems to have the same effect on the body and mind as when you’re fasting: things aren’t as congested, and there is a mental and emotional clarity that wasn’t there before. You see the things you need to correct in your life, the paths you need to make straight. You get marching orders with specific confirmation. Your spiritual eyes and ears are open and receptive, and your spirit gets poured into in ways you would have once brushed off as silly or foolish.

There are seasons for everything under the sun; those include a time to fast and pray, and a time to rest. Maybe resting takes more faith because when you rest, the work is all God’s. Rest may feel selfish, because it means putting your need before others; but, rest is necessary.

If you think He is calling you into that time when you are to rest even though life continues as normal, be obedient: take the rest, listen for His voice, watch for His guidance. A time may come in the future when you will look back on this rest period and know that it played a powerful role in the life-changing decisions you made.

He knows what He is doing. Take the rest He offers.

For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (Is 30:15).

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31 NLT).

‘Be still and know that I am God. (Ps 46:10).

 

©Debbie Mendoza, July 2017. Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope. For speaking engagements: (011) 501-610-4375

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One of those women who…

On the day you become ‘one of those women who..’ nothing seems out of the ordinary, except maybe for a feeling in your gut that something isn’t quite right. But even that might not be there. You go to work, or stay at home; go to church, or on a day trip. You do what you have come to know as your normal. There is nothing about your day that warns you that this is the last time you will ever feel this kind of normal ever again.

How can such a drastic change come without warning? Without the notification that says, ‘Get ready! Your life is about to change!’? How is it that we can be doing the most normal things to us just prior to the moment when we are brutally moved from one subset of women to another?

I’ve been thinking about this recently as I’ve watched a few people’s lives change in an instant. Their experiences have taken me back to the moments that changed my life in an instant: that moment that happens and no matter how much you wish it, you can’t ever go back to how you were, who you were, ever again. It is a dividing line, marking you as ‘one of those women who…’

In my case the first one was that I lost a son. So much of my life looked normal on the outside after that day, but I was forever changed. Even now, twenty five years later, when so many other good things and quite a handful of bad things have happened to me, that day stands out for me because it marked the day I became a real human being. The intensity of the pain of the loss handed me my humanity in the form of empty arms. I am very sure that I am who I am today because I became one of those women who knows what it’s like to lose a son.

Whatever the case may be, all of a sudden, either because of someone else’s actions and choices, or just because that’s the way life is, you are jolted from your normal into that horrible place of ‘a new normal’, where the pain is insane, and makes you feel like you could quite possibly go crazy. I look at women who are walking that through right now and my heart breaks for them. I want to tell them, ‘You will be alright. You will make it.’, and for some women I know that’s true, but for some it isn’t. I have seen a few women lose their battle with this transition. It isn’t pretty.

I want to tell them that the God they serve knew this would happen to them long before they gave Him their allegiance and chose to follow Him. When things were great between them and when they weren’t so good, He knew this was coming on their path. He tried to prepare them in different ways, and now here it is; a new journey has begun.

I also want to tell them that the road before them is long and difficult but do they want to hear that? For me, one woman who had been through what I was about to embark on whispered in my ears that the day would come when my boy wasn’t going to be the first thing I thought about on waking up. At the time it almost sounded like blasphemy, but it gave me a ray of hope to hold onto, and I never let go of that hope. The day did come and I didn’t notice it right away, but when I did, the feeling was bittersweet.

As I write this I’m afraid to sound like I am offering mere platitudes to women who are hanging on for dear life right now. Maybe these truths come too soon for them to grasp, or maybe in the depths of the darkness they now live in, these words might come as comfort. Yes, the road ahead is long and sometimes ugly, but God knew it was coming and He will walk you through it. This process will carve you into a different person, but it doesn’t have to kill you or make you crazy. He knew it was coming even as you lived in what used to be your normal; and He will be there with you every single step of the way.

Rest

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31 NLT).

You have earned this rest. Your hands have been at the wheel for too long. You have been in survivor mode going back so far that you can’t remember where it started. Your mind has forgotten how to do anything other than conjure up battle strategies. Your heart has been wrapped up in protective gear to keep it from being hit by stray, and intended, arrows. You are more tired than you know.

You’ve been hurt too many times to count; but every time you got back up again and fixed your armor. You’ve allowed the battles to help you grow, to teach you patience, to trust Me more. You’ve gone deeper and higher with Me because the only other choice was anger and bitterness.

You are a lover, not a fighter; or that’s what you’ve thought about yourself. Yet, battle after battle you’ve refused to back down. Instead you’ve gotten stronger, and you’ve tried your best to teach others how to war successfully. You are both a lover and a fighter!

Even though you are still standing, you need to realize that you’ve been taking a pounding. The arrows that bounced off of your shield didn’t produce the desired results, but they did indeed land with blunt force, and they caused you trauma. The times the ground caved in under your feet didn’t leave you lacking a solid foundation, but they repeatedly left you shaken to the core. The desertions by those who chose to not fight with you didn’t leave you alone and defenseless, but they threatened your belief in humanity and its institutions.

You’ve taken a licking, and have done more than just kept on ticking. You’ve fought for your life; and instead of just surviving, you’ve thrived. You’ve allowed Me to walk you through the valley of the shadow of death, to lift up your head, to rejoice over you with singing. You have earned rest.

But you can only think of survival mode. You’ve been there for so long that you can’t hear the quiet around you now. You’ve talked about laying down the paranoia when the time is right, and replacing it with discernment. That time is now.

You have waited on Me and I’m about to renew your strength. You will mount up on wings as eagles do. You will run without growing weary. You will walk without fainting. But first, you will rest.

Elijah, (1 Kings 19), expected to hear Me in the thunder and the wind because his adrenaline was flowing. He had to slow the pumping of the blood in his ears and in his head, and quiet his heart, so that He could hear Me clearly. And so must you. I’m giving you rest that will lead to restoration. This is My work, not yours. Shake off the survival mode. Step out into the aftermath of My victory in your life. You are welcome in this place.

Bask in the rest I’m about to give you. Even I rested, you know! It is my gift to you. When you start to think that you have to put your hands to doing something or else you’ll go crazy, remember how you’d advise someone else in your shoes. You’d say, ‘Get some rest. You deserve it. You need it.’ Take your own words to heart.

How many years have you been going at it? Three? Ten? Fourteen? Twenty? Do you think you’re superhuman? Are you ready now to close the book on all those years? To move on from survival mode? To be fully healed? The time is coming for you to make the transition, and rest is a big part of that. Take it. I give it to you. Don’t despise this gift of mine. Enjoy it. Be grateful for it. You are so loved. Allow Me to love on you by giving you rest. 

For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (Is 30:15).

You, My dear child, are not immune from needing rest. Take it, and listen out for Me. You’re not in adrenaline-pumping survival mode anymore. Let the quiet settle around you. Do normal, ordinary things, and enjoy them. As you obey Me in this I will speak so clearly to You that there’s no way you’ll miss it.

I’m waiting for you in this place of rest.

 

©Debbie Mendoza, June 2017. Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope. For speaking engagements: (011) 501-610-4375

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Living in a state of loss

There is something about losing a child that stays with you. I have been working through this loss for twenty-five years, and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am healed completely from it. Still, it is the one pain that never goes away. It doesn’t control me anymore, but it doesn’t leave either.

There is something about losing a child that is severely humbling because it makes you recognize your humanness. You realize that you couldn’t keep this terrible thing from happening to you. Your need for the presence of others in your life is multiplied. This is an experience you cannot walk through alone.

But you can’t lean totally on others, either. It is a balance only you can figure out. You have to walk through the pain, the questions, the anger. You have to go through the nights when you can’t sleep, where you wander aimlessly through the possibilities of what you could have done differently. The crippling pain that feels like it won’t leave your heart and your stomach is yours to deal with.

This is an area, for me, where the verses, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God, (2 Cor 1:3-4), are the most real. I can give advice from all my other life experiences, but in this area, all I can do is give of the comfort I have received myself. There is nothing I can say or offer, apart from praying for comfort for the parent, and for their peace and the ability to sleep, because I know the road ahead of them is so rough and so long.

Part of that comfort is the knowledge that God the Father lost His own son to death.  He knows what the pain of losing a child feels like, and it is vital for us to talk to Him through this process. Speak to Him of your anger, your pain, your inability to cope. Speak to Him about all of it. Receive His comfort because that is what will help you get through the years ahead. I wasn’t a Christian at the time I lost my son, but I talked to God through the process. I leaned on Him heavily.

After a child’s death you still have to move on in life as if it didn’t happen. You have to decide how to get through Christmases, birthdays, outings, anniversaries, and something as simple as table settings. Then you have to grow to accommodate not having that person there. You don’t know if you should tell people or not that you’re missing a child here. If you do, they’ll pity you and the mood will change; if you don’t, you’re alone in your misery.

Losing a child, no matter their age, places you in the subset of those living in a state of loss. You may learn to cope with it eventually, and hopefully even live full and happy lives, but you will never forget that child. You will never forget what that loss feels like. And it can take the tiniest thing to tap into that place; because as healed as you might be, that loss will always remain one of the realest things about you.

If I speak or write about my son now it is only in passing. I don’t dwell on losing him, and sometimes I go days without thinking about him; but watching another mother go through what I went through always breaks my heart. Their hurt and their tears are my hurt and my tears. It is a familiarity and recognition that is extremely painful.

Yes, losing a child makes us live in a state of loss, and no, we won’t know this side of heaven why it had to happen. It’s one of those things that makes no sense to us, in the category of , ‘How does God justify the presence of mosquitos in His creation? Or, the appendix in the body?’ I gave up a long time ago trying to answer the ‘why’ did my son have to die; instead I chose to live as full a life as I could, even though my loss felt so great.

My ramblings on this matter may seem empty and meaningless for the parent who has only just entered this state, but I say these words anyway because I know firsthand how powerful and encouraging words of comfort can be. It was within week one of me living here, that a long time resident whispered in my ear: One day you will realize that your boy wasn’t the first thought in your mind when you woke up. He might be the second thought, but he wasn’t the first; and that will bring you hope. Look forward for that day. The possibility that those words could be true became my lifeline.

Even though the pain may never fully leave you, there will come a day when it will no longer control you. Let the knowledge that that day is coming be a source of hope for you. Until then, do everything you have to do to survive in this land. Lean on others. Cry. Be honest with what you’re feeling. Pray. Find the balance between what others can do for you, and what you have to do for yourself.

And above all, cling to the God of comfort, even if you’re angry at Him or hate Him for allowing this to happen to you. If you can walk through this and claim your healing, you can become a source of comfort to the others, (and there will be others!) who will join you in this land. They dont know it yet, but they are depending on you.

 

©Debbie Mendoza, June 2017. Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope. For speaking engagements: (011) 501-610-4375

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