Archive for September, 2013

Last week was a very emotional and very hectic week. I had three 12 hour work days in a row, accompanied by all kinds of driving into and out of the city. It seems I didn’t take the time to rest or eat properly and it threw off my physical balance in many ways.

I was at a meeting in the middle of last week, where I learned that a long-time friend and mentor had been charged with abuse, some of which dated back to 25 years ago. He is one of the reasons I became a priest and was a gentle and wonderful mentor for me. At this meeting he was named and I heard that more charges are forthcoming as his case comes to trial at the end of next month. I was devastated, to say the least. The individual who was speaking about him made no attempt to hide their hatred and contempt of him. I tried to speak a few times and could not find the words…so I left the room and went for a bit of a walk, went to the bathroom and splashed some cold water on my face, to keep from crying.

When I returned to the room there was an uneasy silence, as though someone had told the person who was mouthing off that I am close to the person who has been charged. The silence was deafening as I resumed by place at the table and the meeting continued. When the meeting concluded I made my apologies and left without staying for lunch. I needed some time to clear my head.

On the way home I started thinking of all the time my friend and I have spent together. Of the hugs and long conversations over tea. Of the invitations to come and stay with him and his wife, after I had left the community. He is a new grandfather. He is a father. He is a husband. A brother. A friend. When he was first charged I was in shock. To hear of subsequent charges saddened me. And now to hear that there are more charges again from 15 years ago makes my heart ache.

The ache is not so much about his guilt. I don’t know if he is guilty. And now, with this information about to go public through the trial, his life will never be the same. I pray to God that there has been a huge misunderstanding and he is not guilty of that which he has been accused. But whatever the outcome, in the eyes of society his is forever tainted and will never be remembered for the good he did. The good may be prefaced and then the charges mentioned. If his is guilty it will be front-page news. And if he is found not guilty he will be lucky to have a footnote somewhere.

Hearing about all of this also stirred up memories of my own childhood abuse. A subject I have dealt with and continue to deal with in healthier and healing ways.

It has been one of those weeks when I have had very little time to be alone with God. To be alone with my thoughts. And it has hurt. I attended a workshop on Saturday as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada and the Residential School Survivors. One of the members present was a Residential School Survivor and she shared her story. In the middle of the workshop I had to step out to inter the ashes of a man I had not met, but had gleaned some information from two of his friends. It was difficult to connect with the family as there had been some estrangement.

So here was me, feeling inadequate to the task of journeying with this family, and seeing many in the large crowd hold each other close. There were tears and some laughter and the stories began to be shared around the grave. When I returned to the workshop, they were in the middle of lunch and I was seated and presented with a piping bowl of homemade soup. When the day finished I went to visit with a young friend who is very pregnant (three days overdue and counting) and she is longing for company.

She has decided to raise her baby alone, with the help of her 11-year-old son and her close friends. We chatted for a while about how she is feeling and suddenly I realise she is reaching out to me and saying what a comfort I must have been to the family. “Be gentle with yourself” she told me…something I have said to her.

And as I drove home after an extraordinarily long day, knowing that Sunday was going to be equally long, I asked myself what I done for myself, lately. The answer is not enough.

This week is also a heavy week, but I am carving out time to do things for me. I will walk in the morning with the dogs. I will go out and get my hair done tomorrow. I will do the visits I need to do. I will stop and smell the roses as I go about my day. I will stretch and breathe and bend and laugh and play.

I will make time to be alone in the silence with the Creator. And I will find some peace in the silence as I pray for my mentor; for my friend and her healthy delivery; for myself and for my family.

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I returned, last Friday, from three days away at our Annual Clergy Conference. It is held at a Monastery in Niagara Falls, with beautiful areas to walk and amazing things to see. The conference, this year, was formatted differently than in previous years – the focus was on Clergy Self-Care.

There were workshops on conflict resolution, healing & anointing, singing, preaching etc. The one I was drawn to was a three-part workshop on Renewing the Spirit. When it comes to making my day off a priority, I often slip and find myself scheduling things that don’t necessarily need to be scheduled, because…well, just because.

I learned that Sabbath or “stop keeping” is not simply taking a day off. It’s also a way of mind. I don’t always manage a full day off, but I can find Sabbath in part of every day. Sabbathing is being mindful, of being present, of feeling relaxed and of enjoying that which is being done. It is about setting down or stepping away from things that are too difficult….not to ignore or avoid them, but to step away for a different perspective.

Last night I attended the first night of a course I’m taking on MBCT and it was not at all what I expected. I came away feeling positive, feeling like I was going in the right direction, and most surprisingly, like I was doing “it” right. That is new for me.

I learned about body-scanning and the importance of it. And I have made a commitment to spent 40 minutes every single day doing a body scan. There will be challenges to may try to prevent me, but I am determined to honour that time, and to honour myself.

I am learning that as I draw clear boundaries, say no, and stand up for myself, I have no guilt and very little push-back from those to whom I have said no. I have not had one comment that has made me feel bad about putting myself first. And the one person who reacted negatively has absolutely no boundaries and will always be the way she is.

So, I’m learning. I’m stretching. I’m growing. And all that is good.

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In my job I am occasionally called on to listen while someone is in crisis. My usual reflex action was to listen, make noises (such as “Mm-Hmm” or “Yes, yes” etc) and to be thinking of what I was going to reply as the person was speaking. It was not usually effective and more often than not, left me feeling more anxious than when I sat down with the person.

Since I’ve started studying Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, I very aware of how I sit, how I come across, ensuring I am approachable and non-threatening.

A lady in my congregation is struggling with depression. She’s got anxiety that overwhelms and almost cripples her. She’s honoured me with her trust, in sharing when she’s in a shaky place and she’ll ask if she can come and have a chat. I always readily agree.

Recently she went on a cruise with her husband. A first for both of them. She was terribly fearful of the cruise, but knew it was important to her husband so she felt she had to go. The therapist she was seeing blamed her depression on her son’s suicide four years ago, and said that until she sorted herself out with that she would continue to be depressed. This therapist was not a good fit for her, and thankfully, she recognised that in herself.

What I do is not therapy. I am not a therapist. I am a priest, a spiritual advisor, and occasionally a confidante.

When she comes to see me, we sit in my office and I ask her how her day is going. She talks, and I listen. I may nod my head, but I don’t make affirming noises as they irritate me (so I can only imagine how irritating they are to the hearer) but I make sure to keep my focus on the person, without staring.

Often there are pauses. Sometimes she takes my hand or I take hers. Often there are tears. And through it all God is there. On Sunday, this lovely lady told me she wanted to resign from one of her multiple ministries in the Church. I accepted her resignation with sadness, but thankfulness and understanding.

She wanted to talk about the guilt she felt for “abandoning me” to that ministry. I listened to what she was saying and affirmed her gifts. I did not say “don’t be silly” because she’s already dealing with guilt. She doesn’t need to feel silly as well. When I told her of the ministries I saw her undertaking and loving service she had given the Church for several decades she brightened.

Someone had seen her…really seen her. She was being celebrated and honoured. And it will continue to happen. She has promised to continue as a resource for Parish information to me. She has promised if she doesn’t like the way I take on the ministry that she will tell me. And I have promised that she will always have my complete and utter support.

Tonight I am sitting down with a new friend who has been battered through his young life, by the Church. I am the first person of faith that he has reached out to in decades and I am both anxious and honoured to be meeting with him tonight. I have no agenda other than to listen. I will not take notes. I will be wholly and mindfully present.

I suspect there may be some tears. And lots of laughter as we have similar senses of humour. And at the end, perhaps there will be prayer.

I know that I am not God. I would not want God’s job. I’m too judgmental to be God.

I know that I am not Christ. I would not want Christ’s job. I’m too selfish to be Christ.

All I can be is me. All I can do is listen. And if, in being who I am, and listening as I do, I can help someone feel a little less lost, and little more found; then I have succeeded.

And it will be a good day.

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I have been reading a book about Cognitive Based Mindfulness and I am relating to everything I have read so far. It teaches to focus on one thing at a time, one sensation at time, such as when eating.

This week has been a week where it’s been close to impossible to focus on one thing at a time. In fact, I spent several hours yesterday trying to transfer the Church website to another platform and nothing was working as it should I have been. I got frustrated and ended up leaving it be, knowing that it was not supposed to be a difficult as it turned out to be.

I had a horrendous night’s sleep last night. Could not get comfortable, was cold, my neck was sore, blah blah blah. I know I must have slept because I distinctly remember waking up several times. But it was far from restorative sleep. I sat down at my laptop, perched at the dining room table and began again, with a different platform than yesterday. MUCH easier.

I took a break to go into the City and run a couple of errands. Got back home and worked for a couple of hours, making excellent progress. Then I noticed that my jaw and face began to hurt. Yes, I was clenching my jaw. My head was starting to hurt…shoulders were up around my ears. Tension. But I was enjoying what I was doing…I had simply by focussing so much on what I was doing that I lost sight of everything else. Not mindful focus, hyper focus.

The dogs provided a much-needed break when they discovered a dead squirrel. Got them both checked over and they are fine. Squirrel is not rabid. And did I learn from the previous hours spent unmoving? Obviously not because I spent another two solid hours working.

Eventually I decided I needed to lie down, which I did, but again, could not get comfortable. I did focus on my breathing and did manage to get warm. So that was something. Made a simple, healthy supper and watched a movie with my daughter and after she went to bed I cleaned up the kitchen.

I decided to blog about today as a reminder to myself that it is imperative to take breaks, even when doing something enjoyable. I hope and pray that sleep will come tonight. I think some deep yoga stretches may be just what I need to loosen up and relax.

Tomorrow is a fresh, new day with little, if any, time planned on the computer. Tomorrow will be a day of celebration; celebrating our God, with our family. Celebrating a Sunday family supper for the first time in what feels like too long, and a night of board games. May even work in a family walk. Now that would be something to celebrate.

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Today is a difficult day. I remember where I was on the 11th of September 2001. I was working on the Switchboard of an Insurance Company when the calls simply stopped. I ran a test and then received a call that the “war room” was being opened and the large screens were tuned to CNN.

Today’s blog is not about the 12th anniversary of the 11th of September. It’s about choosing not to stay in the place of fear, of increasing anxiety to the point of terror internally and externally. The air is full of humidity and moisture. There is an aura of electricity in the air. I’m expecting there to be a thunderstorm today, which will hopefully clear the atmosphere.

Today’s blog is about the balance I strive to obtain every day. What to eat, how to move, when to eat, when to move. I read that fidgeters lose more weight because they are in motion. Perhaps so, but I prefer to be a calm than an anxious presence.

One of the things I have reflected to me, especially in times of crisis, is that I retain my composure and do not appear to get stressed or anxious. I am good at shielding my emotions when I’m particularly anxious, but it doesn’t mean I’m not feeling it. I have come to learn that when I see people falling apart around me, I need to stay as calm as possible because panicking isn’t going to solve anything. I deal with my emotional trauma afterwards…in a safe and private space.

I see people who rush from appointment to appointment and who always appear to be in a state of fluster. There are times when I feel like that, but I prefer to be composed and calm. I don’t like to be late, and I try not to dash around like a crazy person.

My workspace at the Church office is set up to be deliberately inefficient. I have to get up to walk to the filing cabinet so I stretch my legs. The printer is behind me, so I have to turn around to take something off of it. This makes me move.

Instead of referring to a file I have on my desk, I will go out and look at the bulletin boards to get information, so I stretch my legs and move my body.

But when I take my morning walk, I don’t gallop or run. I walk at a healthy pace, however my body sets that pace. My arms get a good workout, especially when I’m walking the dogs on my own. We walk about a block, and it takes us twenty minutes or so. Eventually we’ll likely walk a bit further, but for now, it’s enough.

The striving for balance is where I struggle most. Every day I begin with the desire for healthy food choices. Most nights I cave in for a craving of some description. Last night there was ice cream cake in the freezer. I had a slice. I didn’t need it, but I wanted it.

I could focus on the “bad” things I did yesterday, or I could focus on the “good” things I did. Twenty minutes of exercise, four litres of water, a healthy breakfast and dinner (didn’t have lunch), a relatively early bedtime. Focused on breathing. Did some stretching.

All in all, yesterday was a good day. Today is shaping up to be a good day, especially if we get that thunderstorm. This afternoon I am going to a green grocer who has wonderful fruit. I’ll pick up enough for a couple of days, maybe some fresh pressed fruit juice and plan a healthy dinner for tonight.

Perhaps tonight I’ll take another walk, especially if it’s raining. I need to sort through my clothing and re-examine my fall/winter wardrobe. That’s not nearly as posh as it sounds…most of my wardrobe works in all seasons.

Plans are in the works for a fall project. But more about that later. Right now I am going to reorganize the filing cabinet at the church. One my (seriously) most favourite things…making order from chaos.

I will not be turning on the radio today. I will recognise the 12th anniversary of 11th September in my own way. With prayer, silence and thought.

Balance. Methinks, that is the key.

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I am struggling with the balance of a new way of living; a new lifestyle, if you will. Since I have given up alcohol, I’ve been invited to a few parties, where the main objective is to drink. I’ve never been much of a social butterfly for events like that and I’m more anxious than usual now.

I have two such events that I’ve been invited to on Friday. And I don’t want to go. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like the people who are hosting and I think the reasons for the parties are good ones, but I don’t feel comfortable being in an environment where there will be both alcohol and food. I’m not ready; I’m not strong enough to be in those kinds of environments.

SO, I made a decision that this Friday night will be Family Fun Night. Not only do I get to spend quality time with my beloved and The Girl, I also have a perfectly legitimate excuse for not attending the parties. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Will I ever go to a boozy party again? Likely not, as a boozy party has never really been my idea of a good time. I will be happy to drop my beloved off at said soiree and pick him up afterwards, but I don’t think I’d be staying. It’s not my scene. And really, should I have to justify my choice? Should I have to explain why I’ve chosen a healthier lifestyle? Um, NO.

So what I think I need to learn is to say “no thank you” when invited to said events, and not feel I need to provide an explanation. I think that’s what we call boundaries. 🙂

Today is meant to be a ridiculously humid day. The house is quite cool just now so I think I’ll work from home for the morning and then venture out to get some errands done.

Yesterday was a full work day. So today may be a little lighter.

See? Balance!

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So, I’ve been mindful of what I’m eating, cooking at home as much as possible and shopping regularly to ensure I have the freshest ingredients possible. It also makes the trip much shorter and far less anxiety producing.

Yesterday was a strange day. I woke with a rotten headache, limped through two services and was going to clean up the kitchen, but decided instead to have a nap. It turned into a 2 1/2 hour nap and ended with my beloved asking me when the induction service was for a friend of ours. It was taking place in a community nearly an hour away, but was starting in less than half an hour. Well, crap.

I got up, had a shower, got dressed and we decided to take the dogs to the dog park. We walked around with them while we were there, getting some exercise and enjoying the beautiful Sunday afternoon weather. On the way home we noticed a new restaurant that has opened and decided we would splurge and try it.

Buffets, on the whole, scare me. I can’t control the caloric or fat content, I’m often not sure what it is that is being offered (even if there’s a sign) and I’m terrified of overeating. I try to eat until I am just satisfied, not full or especially not bursting. All that went to you-know-where last night.

The buffet price was extremely expensive. There were four steam tables with hot foot, one with salads and cold food, one with carvery food and one with desserts. I started with salad, and it was okay. Not as much selection for salad vegetables, but it was something. My beloved loaded his plate with meat.

I ate slowly, savouring each piece and rested between plates. The first plate of hot food was good. I took a little bit of a few things and decided which I really liked, which I thought was good, and which didn’t care for. Being raised as I was, I was taught never to waste food, to eat whatever was on my plate. But last night I did leave food on my plate; I felt guilty for it, but I did it.

I decided to be adventurous and try some new things that I hadn’t tried before. And most of them remained on my plate. I have decided that I much prefer to eat at home, as I know what it is I am eating and I have the added bonus of cooking the food and knowing how it’s prepared. *sigh*

By the time I finished eating I had a sharp pain in my left shoulder. I was having difficulty breathing and I wanted to go home. My beloved was not finished, as he was determined to get his money’s worth. The restaurant always makes money on me, even when I try to overeat, which I did last night. Not so much with my beloved. He loves his meat.

So by the time we finished up, paid the bill and headed home I was feeling quite rotten. I went outside for fresh air with the dogs and made my beloved promise that we would go for a walk with the dogs this morning. We did. And I feel better for doing so. But now I’m anxious about what to eat today.

Dinner is planned, and I’m glad about that. I have not had breakfast, but I will have lunch. I’m going to do some baking this afternoon in between appointments, so we have some treats. I’m thinking apple and cheddar muffins and some mixed berry muffins. Which means another trip to the grocery store. And, today, that will be okay.

So, a sincere lesson learned. No more buffets for me. Can’t do it. Don’t want to do it. For the next while, no more eating out. Cooking at home, as clean as possible and from scratch where possible is what I need to do.

Going to continue with multiple litres of water a day, increasing vitamin D and Omega-3. Limiting caffeine, eating balanced meals as much as possible, and hopefully will be able to stop obsessing.

Am excited about the commitment I’ve made to be healthier. And I’m especially pleased that my beloved has signed on as well. I’m also enjoying how my clothes are fitting, especially my clergy shirts.

Slowly, and surely, I’ll reach my optimum health. It will be more than numbers on a scale, or numbers on a chart. It will be about my feeling good; both inside and out. I’ve a long way to go, but I’m moving in the right direction. Thanks be to God.

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The past few days have been a struggle for me, with respect to food. I am having conversations with The Narrator again when I’m making food choices, especially in restaurants. For example, my Mam weighs 114 lbs. I weigh more than twice that. She orders french fries, I order salad. She doesn’t finish her plate, but encourages me to do so. And so I do.

The Narrator chimes in like this “Hey, look at those fries. They look fresh-cut. Remember the smell of blanching fresh-cut fries…just have a couple. It won’t do you any harm.” So I have a couple. “Don’t those taste awesome? C’mon, eat them all.” And before I know it, the plate is empty. Then it starts, “you stupid, fat, pig. No willpower at all, do you? How do you expect to lose weight when you shove stuff in your mouth without even thinking about it? What kind of loser are you? How do you expect anyone to listen to what you have to say, when you can’t even control yourself? Just stop eating.”

Then I spend the next couple of hours feeling badly about myself. I’m afraid to go to the grocery store. I’m afraid to go into any store because I fear I’ll make a bad choice. So I don’t eat. And then I get scared that I won’t eat again. Craziness! Oh, and I did just take my meds for the day.

Yesterday I woke after a fairly rotten night’s sleep and took my Mam out for breakfast. My Mam LOVES to eat out. I fear eating out. More often than not I make healthier choices, but some days my balance is off and I fall off the wagon. We went out for breakfast, which is a veritable minefield at the best of times. My brother joined us for breakfast. I ordered eggs, over-easy, fresh tomatoes instead of home fries, and rye toast. I finished it. It was three eggs. But I did make healthier choices.

I had a peanut butter and dark chocolate protein bar with a bottle of water for lunch. The rest area was crammed full of people and I didn’t want to stand in line, so I grabbed something moderately healthy and kept driving. For dinner last night I had nothing. I did drink four litres of water from when I got home to when I went to bed. I need to go grocery shopping. I have a list. I have my market bucket. I just need the resolve to go.

I have an appointment in the village at 2:00. I think I may go after that. The store should be quieter then.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about genetically modified foods and realise, with great horror, that we cannot get nutrients we need from the food we eat. It would take 12 cups of broccoli to give us the same vitamins that one cup would have given us 50 years ago. The reason why so many of us have medical issues is related to malnutrition. Unbelievable.

I’m doing some reading on the need for vitamin and mineral supplements for the chronic conditions from which I suffer. It may all be b.s. but I’m willing to try almost anything if it will improve my quality of life.

So, today is a day of getting things finished. I look forward to seeing a neatly made bed in my bedroom and in the spare bedroom, with a set of bedding neatly folded and put away. It may be a small thing, but it is a ray of sunshine in an otherwise challenging time.

Restoring order from chaos. Something from which I take great satisfaction.

I wonder if it is coincidence that this year we are doing a four-week series on Creation? Hmmm, coincidence with God? I think not.

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I have a confession to make…I don’t juggle. I used to be able to juggle two tennis balls if I concentrated really hard. But I don’t think I can do that anymore.

The new school year is upon us and the juggling game continues. My Mam has been visiting for the past week and while I enjoy having her here, she doesn’t seem to have the ability to spend more than an hour alone. It’s a litany of aches and pains, constantly checking her arms and legs, “does this look different to you?” and on and on.

My “job” is a vocation, which means on call 24/7, 365. I have to fit in other parts of my life around my job. It should be the other way around, but it’s not. Most of the time I handle all that stuff pretty well, but lately, it seems like it’s been more work and harder than it needs to be.

For example. My daughter by marriage and I had a conversation before the start of school about what she wanted for breakfasts and lunches. She’s a fussy eater and it takes some cajoling to get her to try new things. So we have a list of foods that she will eat for breakfast and/or lunch. She makes her own lunches and I usually take care of breakfast. The first day of school she left her lunch bag at school. So we had to scramble to find another one when she overslept this morning. By the time I got her lunch packed and her out the door she made it with only a couple of minutes to spare before the school bus came.

Then there was laundry. I wanted to do my laundry, and there was my husband’s work laundry in the dryer. He’s great at starting things, but seldom finishes them. I could leave it for him to finish, but I don’t because I need to get my laundry, or bedding for the house, or towels, etc., done. So I finish his before I start mine.

Then there’s my Mam who wants to go visit her friend. I told her I had to go to the office first and would take her afterwards. She gave me an hour at the office then she walked over to see when we were going to see her friend, and should we go out for breakfast first. So I stopped what I was doing and we went out for breakfast.

So now I’m hours behind in my housework, hours behind in my office work and not enough time to prepare for a meeting tonight because I still have to get dinner ready. Where’s the rest of my family? Husband is at work, daughter is doing homework and mother is sleeping.

So, I will go to a meeting tonight only partially prepared and it will bug me far more than it does anyone else. But that’s how I roll. I like things to be finished. I like things to be prepared and ready.

Juggling? I don’t think so.

BUT tomorrow is another day. I am hoping that the kitchen will be cleaned up while I am at the meeting. I am hoping I can come in from the meeting, have a long soak in a hot bath and then go to bed.

The reality may be very different. But there is always hope. I live in a little place called Hope. I like it there and they know me.

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I am not a huge fan of retaliation. In fact, most often, it has been my experience that when one retaliates from a hurtful situation, it usually escalates. However, in this case, I believe retaliation is necessary.

Yesterday, after a particularly uplifting Church Service, I was standing in the Gathering Space chatting with one of my parishioners when another approached and asked if he could “have a word” with me. We moved to a quieter part of the Gathering Space and he said “Is it true?” I asked what he was talking about. He said “I’ve been deluged with emails that you’ve joined a gay choir. Is this true?”

My knee-jerk reaction was to get up in his face and teach him a thing or two. I did not do that. I guess that means my meds are working. 🙂 Instead, what I said was “Who has been causing this deluge?” He did not reply. I told him that it is no secret that I belong to a CHURCH CHOIR in the City that happens to have some gay members. Why is this a problem? He quickly backpedalled and said “You know I love you and it’s fine with me, but – ” “But what?” I asked, somewhat angrily. I did not give him a chance to reply. I reminded him that I have always been affirming of everyone.

I have invited the congregation to join the same choir I am in, and have invited them to come and hear the choir perform. I have never hidden that I am an ally. I told him that the Wardens are fully aware that I am a proud member of PFLAG, then I had to explain what PFLAG is.

Eventually, this parishioner said he thought I should be aware of “what people are saying”. I replied that I would prefer to know who these people are and that I would appreciate it if he would either forward me the emails OR respond to the people who were sending them, that they should speak to me directly.

Personally, I can’t stand he said/she said conversations. It is the same as leaving an unsigned note on my desk. I won’t respond to the criticism or the suggestion. I was furious after our conversation and I came home to calm down, to pray and reflect on it. And in the process of this, I decided to change the Church sign.

I usually change it every week or two and decided to change it yesterday. Every sign has contained the word “love” since the end of May. The sign now says “We do not need to think alike to love alike”.

Take THAT haters.
Here endeth the lesson.

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