Wednesday, October 12, 2011

31 Days: Letting Go of Money




This is the thing that no one ever wants to talk about. Me included. The "M" word.

Over the past two years, our household income was reduced by about 70%. If you had told me that would happen three years ago, I wouldn't have believed you. I would never have imagined that we could survive it. I remember, years ago, checking the highest income bracket on a retail store survey and feeling like we had arrived. I didn't feel particularly smug or braggy about it and I would have never talked about it to anyone, but in that quiet moment, sitting alone, I felt like we had reached the edges of success.

And then I started to want more.

Because even when you reach that golden ideal in your mind, not much time passes before you remember that you live in America, and success in America is short-lived if it doesn't keep growing. The beast must be fed.

So what I know to be true is this: You might be a person who lives well under her means. You might be generous (at least compared to other people you know) with what you have. You might not buy designer jeans or roll around town in a Lincoln Navigator. But you still might have a secret love affair with your bank account balance. I know this, because I lived this.

I remember thinking that it would be perfect if we would keep making more and more money, because then we could give more of it away. Surely God could use some people like that! Why not us?

It sounds nice and all, but the root of it was that I just wanted more money (and duh, I would also give a little more of it away.) I wanted a reasonable justification for staying rich. I didn't want to suffer at all for charity. I didn't want to know what it felt like to sacrifice, though in my mind, I would be sacrificing. I would be sacrificing the things I would never have. Something like this, "I could be driving around in a brand new Toyota, but instead I'm still in my beat-up Ford Explorer. I could be wearing designer jeans, but instead I'm in Target jeans that smell funky when you buy them. See how I sacrifice for the poor?"

I killed two birds with one stone. I sacrificed nothing at all, but I still went to bed at night convinced that I had.

When we started to hear - really hear - that around 19,000 children die every day around the world from hunger or treatable illness, it became increasingly impossible to deny the fact that we were doing nothing to put a stop to it.

It's difficult to picture nineteen thousand of anything, but try. Right now. Fill your mind up with the faces of as many children as you can, and then quadruple that. Cram them in.

Poof! They're gone. Every. Single. Day.

Tonight they are alive. Tomorrow they will not be. Every day, every day, every day.

Right when our hearts started breaking I lost my job, then Cory lost his. In short order we had lost a good deal of our capacity to give.

So we sold our house.

What we did was not a noble thing. It wasn't extra-brave. It wasn't radical. It was our only option to execute the command of One who cares as much about that crusty-nosed three-year old in Somalia as he does about big, bad me.

So while some cheer me on and say that they admire what we are doing, I lie in bed at night in knots over what we are not doing. I plead for answers, for avenues.

In stripping us of some of our wealth, God exposed our greed. He slammed our priorities back into line, at least a little.

And still, we are some of the wealthiest people in the World. Here I sit, in my comfortable, spacious, safe home with uneaten food in the trash. It's hard to stomach that. It's hard to justify one more dumb sweater or an immersion blender. But not hard enough that I don't do it all the time.

I wonder, what would happen if I truly and completely believed that God isn't pleased with my excess? What if he's really just waiting for me to understand that it was never even mine to begin with? Does he get tired of me tossing it to the pigs? What will it take for him to really get my attention? What will I do when He does?

I've got no answer tonight.

But if you're feeling anything like I am, then maybe it's time to act.

If you are burdened for the women and children trapped by human trafficking, go here.

If you are burdened for children living in poverty around the world, go here.

If you are burdened for women trying to care for their families amid crippling poverty, go here.

Those are just a few options off the top of my head. There are countless more. Find what breaks your heart the most, and decide right now to step up. Let go of some of the money that wasn't even yours to begin with.


*For the rest of the Letting Go series, click here.

66 comments:

  1. You want me to be honest?.... That made for uncomfortable reading. That's the truth. Un-comf-ortable. That's why I'm gonna re-read it. And then re-read it more. Until it's more than uncomfortable. Until it changes me.
    Blessings, x

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  2. Very moving! Thank you for sharing.

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  3. I find it interesting that people always say "money is the root of all evil" but it's not. The Bible says "the Love OF money is the root of all evil".
    it's hard to start really being honest with oneself isn't it. Paul writes, maybe in Corinthians, "you compare yourselves with yourselves and that is not wise". It's a very subtle deceit: well, I give more than that person or I don't waste my money on that.... so what?! other people are not our standard. Jesus is. And, what He calls me to, or shows me how to do something could be different than what He calls another to. What's that old hymn "trust and obey, there is no other way".

    Thank you for sharing so personally. It is not falling on deaf ears.

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  4. Powerful post. The problem is knowing where to help. So many of the advertised organizations are a scam. I volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center and donate money when I can. At least I know it's going to a good cause. It's amazing how little some of these girls have.
    Ann

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  5. Heartline Ministries! Yay! Do you read the Livesay's blog? They are amazing. If you do not, you must. They are working in PAP with Heartline. http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/

    My brother and sister in law and their three kids just left for Mexico to work in an orphanage because they went on a missions trip and were haunted by the children. They are amazing as well.

    You have made a difference already. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. What I love about you:

    Your brutal honesty.

    I meant to say that to you the other day. We both realized we were reading somewhat similar books, but different.

    I recall thinking "God, thank you. It's so nice to have met someone who reads similar things, is bothered by them and wants to do something."

    You are the ONLY person I know who reads what I have and continue to do. It makes ME uncomfortable as well. I think I mentioned that when I read "Half the Sky" I had to put it down and I cried for a good hour.

    Then I wanted to share it with my girlfriends.

    I did.

    And they didn't really want to hear about it.

    So I shared it with my hubby.

    Thank GOD for him as he's such a good, kind egg.

    I saw myself at various points in my life in EVERYTHING you wrote above.

    I've had money, I've had no money...I've shopped only at the Dollar Store and Aldi. I've yearned for "expensive and softer" toilet paper. I've given up things to make sure I can be charitable. I've been selfish. I've sucked.

    I do think that with each year I get a little bit better though and a little bit closer to what I'm supposed to be like or be doing.

    You're inspirational and excellent.

    Even if you don't want to hear it!

    Another great place to go...if you think it's ridiculous and disgusting that a woman's life should be ruined for simply giving birth in a poor country without proper care:

    http://www.fistulafoundation.org/


    xoxxoooxxo~

    TT

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  7. To ANN:

    You can go to Charity Navigator online (they evaluate charities) and see where and how various charities monies are spent!!

    http://www.charitynavigator.org/

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  8. Oh, this was a wonderful post, thank you so much! I struggle tremendously with guilt over how abundantly wealthy we as a culture are and my family specifically and how little we give in comparison to the endless gifts of grace and love we are given by way of possessions or relationships. I heard a Pastor say once, 'where your treasure is, your heart is' or something very close to that. I need to remember that daily. Thank you again for this great reminder!
    2 Corinthians 9:7
    [So let] each one [give] as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

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  9. power-full.

    un-comforting.

    thank you.

    kathy

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  10. This was the reminder I needed today. Thanks for your honesty - I often find myself in the same situation. Greedy (even though I don't have much to begin with) & consumed with finding "success" (even in "His name").

    Your faithfulness, honesty & humility will be rewarded....in ways you can never imagine.

    Lots of love...Danya
    www.PinkPeonyStyle.com

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  11. YEeeeeehAW!!

    That was a punch in the face. And I liked it. The first rule of Fight Club is...wait..no, but seriously. You killed it. You actually wrote things I have said to myself. And the Target Pants sacrifice was WAY too close to home. Yowzer.
    You know what? You preach freedom.

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  12. i'm sitting here at work...late as usual, baby asleep on the floor next to my desk. praying. paying a cup of bills with a 1/4 cup of M, business bills, doctor bills, bills, praying if we just had more we could help more. more than we already do.

    and then i read this..........................

    i love Christ in Y

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  13. My husband has lost A significant amount of his income. His job (he's had for over 15 years) is in jeopardy. We literally can't meet our bills. I have never worked before. We are in debt. I just finished reading "Radical." Coincidence, I think not.

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  14. computer got ahead of me ~ i love Christ in YOU!

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  15. p. to the s. I would give you another quote but I'm saving it for myself...oh what the heck:
    "I was in the central highlands of Vietnam when someone remarked about how the Christians suffer there. One Vietnamese Christian remarked, "Suffering is not the worst thing that can happen to us. Disobedience to God is the worst thing."
    Tom White, Director of Voice for the Martyrs.

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  16. thank you for putting my thoughts in writing. so glad someone else thinks like me.

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  17. You have me thinking hard. I don't even have the right words.

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  18. Dearest Farmgirl/Rental girl, I have no words to type, but wanted you to know I was here tonight, and feel blessed that I can call you, friend.
    ~G~xo

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  19. I'm speechless.....

    Thank you friend. Your words could not have come at a better time. My husband is without work again, and we have no idea what we will be doing to pay the bills, but we believe that we were far too focused on the dollar amount at the end of the paycheck. We are on our knees, praying faithfully, ceaselessly. God will work miracles, they happen all the time.

    Much love my friend.

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  20. Shannan, I am sitting here among my excess, on one of our three household computers deciding what needs to go and what action I can take right now. Not when I have a little more money or time or ....whatever. Thank you. THANK YOU. Patty

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  21. I'm speachless also...we get so caught up in our own happenings, we forget that even though we think we've got it bad, there are people who have it much worse than we do. Honesty is hard sometimes. But sometimes that's what we need.
    Thank you for sharing...for a good number of reasons.

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  22. i could have written a post like this. it would NOT have been as good, so better you than me. i'm married to a pastor so there is always people with more (especially my friends) all around me. it can eat me alive if i let it. and i do let it, it is a shame. but it's so true... even if we seem average here we are so wealthy compared to so many. we deserve no goodness, no provision. but God! grants it to us. and we need to extend this grace to others.

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  23. the american dream....
    the excess......
    the three computers....
    the custom kitchens that we swoon over....
    our retirement accounts...
    college funds for the kids....

    it's all ridiculous.

    GOD, BREAK OUR HEARTS FOR WHAT BREAKS YOURS.

    how many nights can I say to you that I needed what you had to say in this post?

    but, I did. I needed these words of truth as a harsh reminder of the reality of what's going on all around me....

    Jesus, break in me what isn't of you!

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  24. All I can say is Lord please forgive me! I've been on countless mission trips and think we give alot on a monthly basis but...compared to "who"...to the One Who gave it ALL? Just this month I was instructed by the Lord to hand all of our finances to my husband...can't get my mind off of the money...not that I feel like I'm in love with it but I never feel that we handle what's left appropriately and then I'm always wondering how/why God continues to take care of us each month...but by the grace of God. Praying for wise decisions. Thank you for this post...I think I need to read it again and really let it sink in.

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  25. I love how real you are. Tonight my heart is breaking because we saw a dream die. We are dealing with it in different ways but the truth remains... we aren't here for ourselves. It seems God is pointing us down a path we are loathe to take, but if it's His will... we'll go. And we are so blessed. It feels almost shameful to complain when so many have nothing. I know this in my heart... I still struggle when I don't see where He wants us. Anyway. Good reminders. Need to soak it all in.
    Much love your way.
    Sash

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  26. I want to cry and have a pit in my stomach after reading this. It's like you know the thoughts running through my mind. I don't think I can say anything else tonight except thanks for sharing this.

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  27. There you go gettin' all up in my stuff.

    I love you for it. Thank you.

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  28. i really wish i could go hit 'unbuy' on all the homeschool stuff i just bought. if my kids read this post it would have done much more teaching than the books will...can i share this?

    p.s. have you heard of Bob Gass ministries? he runs an orphanage in romania, powerful stuff.

    http://www.bobgass.com/missions-orphanages.php

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  29. p.s. are you changing your name to flower patch rental girl? or flower patch ghetto girl? has a ring to it i'd say:)

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  30. Don't even want to go there. Ugh. [I mean this in the best way possible.]

    I have been burdened this week about my life and what am I REALLY doing. No....what am I REALLY doing to make a difference.

    We live such comfy lives here it's overwhelming, at times.

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  31. I love to read your posts. You are a talented writer and I can feel how you are feeling when you are writing the words. Life throws us crazy curve balls and, ultimately, we know He is in control. Through all the good times and the bad, He will guide us through.

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  32. The best, most honest and necessary thing I have read in a long time. Thank you.

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  33. And here is confirmation of something that has been on my mind and heart lately. Thank you.

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  34. Thanks for your honesty...something we all need to hear...

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  35. Oh my. This was a kick in the teeth. Seriously, you have given much to mull over this morning. You are brave. Thank you. You are like the Mother Teresa of blogland.

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  36. Thanks Shannon. Well said and well lived. It is so challenging to my heart.

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  37. Wow. That kinda hurt. What a powerful and brave post. One I KNOW I needed to read and honestly, will re-read countless times.

    Bless you for opening our eyes (and wallets).

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  38. My husband and I have always lived below our means. We took modest but fun vacations with our family. I'm so glad we did. Seeing other places is an education too. We've always been, I feel/hope generous with charity. Really do you ever feel you can do enough when the needs are overwhelming? To be honest we have a LOT of poverty and lost souls right in our area so I focus now in our area. The Cleveland, Ohio area. I've always made a point though to keep saving for emergencies for our children if they should have a time of need. I'm so glad we did. We are now able to jump in and help in this time of economic troubles. I'm so glad we didn't go in for the large cars, fancy mcmansion, expensive clothes or cruises in the Spring and over the top trips in the summer. You never know what's around the corner in your own family. It can be lack of money or lack of health that comes out of the blue. We can't change the world but we can make a difference in a life.
    You have a good heart.
    Kathy

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  39. You put what has been niggling away in the most innermost centre of my mind out there in words. Thank you. I don't spend in excess, I don't particularly yearn for more,but I am aware that I have so much compared to so many others. I know I don't do enough. There is very little sacrifice in my comfortable life. How do we deal with living in a land where there is so much? You are right about the reminder that the money and stuff are not ours. I guess that is the best way to think about it. We are responisble for how we spend it, but it is not ours and that is how we should base every monetary decision. That and with prayer. Something I think I need to do more of. Thanks again for such a thought provoking post.

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  40. Sometimes I read your blog and wish you were my neighbor, who randomly drops in to give wise words and encouragement!

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  41. How did I not know you were doing a 31 days series? Why did Matt Lauer not announce this on the Today Show? Where have I been? Oh, I have got some serious catching up to do!!!

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  42. Any tips you have on growing up, and graciously, would be so appreciated!

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  43. You know what punched me right in the nose when I read this post? The mention of "one more dumb sweater" and "immersion blender." It was like Mike Tyson had jumped through the screen: that is what I do time and time again. I buy dumb things I *think* I need because the 15 other ones I already own are shoved into a corner, long forgotten. I use every excuse to justify my excess, and I give nothing of my wealth but expect everything in return. Greed is a funny thing, you know. Thank you for the reminder.

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  44. I have thought thus very thing but never could find the words to sum it all up. You did just that!! God will provide everything we need. Give to him and he will provide you with what you need:) Blessings to you today!

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  45. How timely--my bible study for this week is focusing on "Giving from the Heart", something God's been making me squirm in my seat over.

    Thank for sharing so honestly and challenging so many of us.

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  46. your words again grab me gut deep. thank you.

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  47. Thanks for slamming me one right in the noggin! I know we are not rich by any means, hardly middle class ourselves, but there are people so much worse than us. Thanks.

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  48. Your raw honesty and humble admittance of your own selfishness has this amazing power of inspiring change in others. You aren't saying *do this*...you're simply saying *we did this, because...of our own sin*.

    I am really challenged by this. In the past few days I've felt as though I'd sell everything for God. Everything. But, I'm not sure if I would. I've also lived comfortably and haven't sacrificed for others. Though my groom isn't on the same page as me and feels comfort in our own hard work...I pray He breaks us for His glory, together.

    I so much appreciate your real-ness.

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  49. Such a good reminder that we must do more. We lost that same amount of income - thanks Enron - about 10 years ago. We are at a different stage of life than you but it still hurts. But we are still blessed and need to help others. Thanks for a well written post.
    I think instead of writing a book you should write editorials for newspapers......Big Time ones.

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  50. Shannan, I was out of town for a few days and playing catch-up. I so admire you for this letting go series and thank you for all that it helps me to learn about me. I had to let go of a lot MANY years ago when I got divorced. I popped over to twitter today to see you. Did I know you were a Hoosier girl? I grew up in New Castle and now live in Bloomington. xo, Cheryl

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  51. i wish you were a fly on the wall in my living room last night. ok…maybe just you, not as a fly. but the conversation might have gone differently. i digress. there is a shifting. the wheels are in motion. i can hear the gears of the roller coaster cranking as we move up the hill. oh man.

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  52. That was beautifully brave and transparent -- and exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for allowing God to use you to help many of us (as evidenced by the comments before me) to get realigned to Him. Some of your reasons are why my husband left his good job, and we escaped California for Southern Indiana.
    Bless you, Shannan.
    -Ann

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  53. Ouch.I'm sharing posts with my husband and kids too. Between yours and Heather's (Sit a Spell) posts you are sparking serious conversations. Thanks.

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  54. So I started reading and thought, "how nice that Shannan is going to help get these other people to really understand how we should be living out our relationships with Christ in relation to our money"

    then I kept reading and thought uh-oh that sounds like me, but I never knew that was me. I always felt so comfy b/c of just how much I give and just how much I feel the pinch, but here's the thing, this pinch is only a pinch b/c of what I'm comparing my standard to, it's not really a pinch at all. Driving used cars and not having an iphone do not mean that I should view myself as not having room to grow in my walk with God in regard to giving.

    thank you, I'm sure that was hard to write.

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  55. Wow. That's it. Wow. Thank you.

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  56. you did beautiful job with this, I feel a combination of shame and resolve for change. you have the gift of insight on what weighs on the heart of so many.
    blessings,

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  57. Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts. Money is never easy to talk about, but God is greater than it all yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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  58. My husband and I have started conversations about this and it has felt really lonely.

    Then I read your posts. And I'm aware of my sin and my justifications and I am oh so encouraged.

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  59. Ummm...immersion blender...it's on my Christmas list...on Pinterest. How dumb is that? Thanks for getting us all thinking and kicked in the right direction. You are brave.

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  60. After what we've been through we are so hesitant to give for fear of it being mis-used. It often is...how do we find the person or people to really, really take the money and do what God wants done with it.

    For me, it's the human trafficking. That's my hot button...that's the one I'd like to soap box on... I'm going to check out your link and prayerfully ask God to show me the avenues to give into where our money will HELP the people who need it, not help line the pockets of Americans who, like the rest of us, live in excess...

    This was so powerful for me today, Shannan. I am a worrier about money. I fear losing it...even after all we've cut back and I see His hand of provision...the fear still creeps in. Good words, friend.

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  61. I've been reading Bad Girls of the Bible and just finished the chapter on Lot's wife... she paused, she looked back, at her "stuff" and she became a "pillar of salt".

    Jesus reminds in in Luke what happened in Sodom - how we must trust and not look back so that in the next coming. I've been thinking this week about how my personal struggles like your's are mini opportunities for me to practice not looking back - training for the ultimate move forward.

    Peace to you and your family. Full steam ahead.

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  62. can you move all the way over here? or maybe we can come there?

    i know these tugs. i don't know how to reconcile them. how to put them in a pretty box. how to make everything coexist in a peaceful way.

    but i can't. even after i've given more than i ever thought i could. i can still surrender more.

    thankful for your vulnerability, friend.

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  63. fantastic post, miss shannan.
    thanks for peeling off the comfortable for us and making us think... um, feel...
    xo

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  64. I love that you are so real. So many are not and we find ourselves comparing to them. In reality there are so many like us. Hearts that are disconteted. But why, we are here for the Lords work not our own. So Thank you for your honesty and reality and Love for the Lord.

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  65. "Poof! They're gone. Every. Single. Day."

    Wow.

    "I sacrificed nothing at all, but I still went to bed at night convinced that I had."

    Guilty.

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