Heavenly Father,  I recall my dad talking to me one time about “investing” in his children. It hit me the wrong way when I first heard him use the term “investing” when speaking of my brothers and me. At the time, being a very young adult, that word seemed a little cold and calculating—probably because I had only heard it in reference to money. But I am beginning to understand my daddy’s investment…

                Yesterday was my last day of a 25-plus-year career I had spent investing in the lives of little people. I spent at least fifteen years loving, nurturing and teaching other people’s children through my in-home Child Care. Then I just chose to leave a job where I continued to love on countless precious little ones from 6 weeks old to six years old in a wonderful Child Care Center. That’s a lot of noses and bottoms which have been wiped, dirty bedding laundered, meals prepared and dishes washed , boo-boos treated, temper tantrums calmed, tears hugged away, silly songs sang, books read over and over, bubbles blown and popped, potty training with accidents and success, teaching to share and take turns, helping them learn to be caring and respectful, helping them realize responsibility, discoveries about butterflies, plants, dinosaurs, weather, firemen, building and art… (and their families loved and prayed for!)

                Most of those little people who run to hug me when I walk into the room will not remember me 5-10 years from now…but I know the other teachers and I have invested more than they will ever know into their lives. Then there are my own children, grandchildren and great grandchildren! For over 34 years, I had children underage at home. Now there are grandkids in and out of my care on a regular basis. Even when they are not in my presence, I am still investing love by praying for them daily. As my children and grandchildren have grown to be amazing big people, I am blown away that my little investments had even a tiny impact on who they are and who they influence! The more I invest (even in seemingly insignificant ways) the pay-off is occurring in eternal dividends I can’t even begin to count. Just a little peek makes me realize I am so richly blessed!

                Father, You invested in us first! You knew there wouldn’t always be immediate return for the precious investment of Your Son Jesus Christ. No one understood the price of Your loving investment poured out for us when it was occurring. We still cannot count the riches of how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection continues to grow, flourish and multiply in our lives and those we touch! Father, thank You so much for investing in us when we didn’t deserve it, understand it, or even acknowledge what You’ve done for us. Lord, help me be one that keeps passing Your great blessings along. The more we invest, the richer we discover we’ve become spiritually.

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“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”    John 3:16

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Corinthians 9:6

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:9-12

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, how am I investing the Love You have poured into me?

Heavenly Father, Stories are everywhere! I have to laugh thinking back to when I first began writing to be published. I was a little afraid to write my stories because once I wrote them, I thought I would run out of things to write about! That was probably about 25 years ago. I have discovered there are more stories than I can possibly write! And they are all Your stories, Lord! I love to see Your stories unfold. I am amazed at every turn of the page! Sure, there is conflict in life…but what kind of story would it be without something to overcome?!

My sweet daughter just sent me a whole group of old photos. Each and every on is filled with incredible stories written in the lives of every face I dearly love. Several friends of mine are grieving the loss of a loved one…but oh! What stories of their lives together- even if they seem to have been cut short. This is Black History month and I am inspired by all the stories of unknown heroes who impacted so many people with true stories of bravery, hardship and overcoming. I love the true adventures of everyday lives I read about in the Bible- the greatest collection of stories throughout history. I just got to hear the story of my dear friends who went to Costa Rica to serve Your people there.

My son’s former Highschool coach contacted me out of the blue to check on my son after 10 years. Something he read reminded him of his former football player. He wanted to see how he was doing. He was interested to see how his story was turning out. One of my younger Christian sisters is giving her testimony tonight. As we talked, we agreed there are so many testimonies of how personally involved You are in our lives. We each have an entire novel of short stories which testify of Your loving involvement in our lives.

The greatest story of all is the way You sent Your own Son Jesus to save us and give us the amazing gift of eternal life with You though we have sinned against You. It is the same incredible story yet it is written in each of our lives in such different ways. You are the Author of our story. You often have to wait until we relinquish the pen and quit trying to write our own story. Yours is so much better. Father, edit my life. Delete what needs to be cut out. Write Your story the way You want with Your pen dipped in the precious blood of Jesus. I can’t wait to see what’s next- in my story, in my children and grandchildren’s stories and in everyone around me.  It’s is truly Your Story. That’s why they call it HIS-story. It is the story that never ends!

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“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”  John 21:25

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endure such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Hebrews 12:2-3

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Prayer Prompt-

Heavenly Father, write Your story in my life…


Heavenly Father, yesterday I happened to hear of more unrelated deaths than usual on one day—my daughter-in-law’s stepdad, my sister-in-law’s stepdad, and four children and their aunt who were killed in an apartment fire near my church. My stepdaughter was involved with the children’s lives. Although it is such a deep sorrow to hear of deaths and the effect that loss has on those dear loved ones left behind, I can’t help but think of the ones who passed through death into immeasurable joy and peace as they are in Your very presence. It is amazing how one day, one moment of passing can be viewed in such conflicting ways.

Father, I have personally been on the “left behind” side of death too many times to count. And due to the grief ministry You have led me to, I have seen the deep wounds of the broken-hearted up close and personal (even when I haven’t always known the ones who passed from this life). From our side, there is often deep wailing (whether heard or unheard) that comes deep from within the very soul. There is a panicked lost feeling-wondering how we can possibly go on living without our loved one. You already know our deepest pain. I believe that’s why Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus—not for Lazarus, His dear friend who had been dead for three days. Jesus knew Lazarus would be brought back to life. He wept for those dear ones grieving in such deep pain who were “left behind.”  Lord, You know us better than anyone else possibly could. You know all that goes on in our inner most soul.

Lord, You may have conflicted feelings when death comes. Death was not Your plan. Yet You see it on the other side. Your beloved child is coming HOME to You forever to be free, healed, glorified, and more alive than ever before. I don’t know how You can do it; but I am absolutely positive that You are with those who are left behind in their deep grief that can barely be expressed…and at the same time, You are welcoming Your dear ones into Your very presence where they will live in joy with You forever and ever.  There will be no more suffering, tears, darkness, evil… There has to be a huge celebration!

Father, I have seen You do it so many times before. I pray that You let those “left behind” know that their loved one is enjoying their new life with You; that You will never leave them as they come to terms with living out the remainder of their life here without their loved one; that You prepare them for their eternal life with You; that You look forward to the time You will welcome them Home into Your presence…and that You understand their tears but You know the joy that is coming up ahead. Help those “left behind” to find all they need in You—the very One who created us to live forever with You- beginning now through Jesus Christ!

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“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  Psalm 116:15

“When the perishable has been clothed in imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (I hear my friends who are left behind, saying that the sting is on this side.)

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making all things new!’” Revelation 21:3-5

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, comfort those “left behind” with the true promise of eternal life with You … ef


Heavenly Father,      Surrender may seem like an action of defeat to the world, but I am learning that it can be the very moment of victory! Most of the time, defeat is pictured as someone who is beat down and helpless in battle and there is no way out so they must raise a little white flag in hopes that the enemy will be merciful. I am trying to surrender before I get so beat down and hopeless—trying to fight battles on my own that You never designed me for. I have definitely lost those battles I tried to take on with my own strength.

                Many times, I have found myself down in the trenches with attacks drilling me from every direction. There was no way out until I held up my little white flag and surrendered –not to the enemy—but to You, my Savior. It is so freeing to discover the peace and joy that comes from not trying to handle things my own way but by surrendering to You. You are always ready to lift me up and renew me. You always have a plan that far exceeds my own silly little schemes. I have always been awed by how You turn the battle completely around when I surrender to You, Lord.

                It’s funny how many times I have sung one of my favorite songs, “I Surrender All.” I really mean it when I say it. I believe I am surrendering it all to You. My hands are raised as I lift it all up to You. The burden becomes light as I trust You to take whatever it is and have Your own way. What joy there is in knowing who my King is, and the power He holds over anything I can possibly face. Yet, over and over I find myself surrendering a new area in my life (or even at times the same area again and again.) At different times, I have surrendered my dear family members and friends one at a time to You, my health, someone else’s health, finances, work, pride, writing, earthly stability, my future, hurts, mistakes, misunderstandings…The list goes on and on.

                Here I am again today, surrendering to You and trusting Your infinite love for me and others. Let Your will be done.

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“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.”  Psalm 69:1

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, what do I need to surrender to You today?

 Heavenly Father,    I’ve survived a lot of storms in my life, most not related to weather. I see so many who I love and care about going through their own storms of different kinds right now. I cannot take their storm away, but I can urge them to take shelter. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been thinking and writing about tornado shelters lately since my son and his friends are kicking off a new type tornado shelter on a national television show this weekend. Maybe it’s because Spring weather and tornado season are approaching. But this morning, my thoughts were on where we go for shelter during the small and major storms of life.

               Seasoned Oklahomans know to keep alert during weather which can produce possible devastating tornados. They can do nothing to prevent those furious winds from coming but they know to take shelter when it happens. This life will definitely have its share of storms. The majority of Oklahomans have ridden out some major weather in some sort of “safe room” while the winds, lightening, hail rage all around. We all know that some shelters are safer than others.

               My shelter has been tested. Each time I have gone through a storm, I have run to Your strong tower, Lord! I don’t have to worry about driving to it, that it may already be filled, that I will be caught out in the open…Wherever I am , whatever is going on, whatever the attack is, no matter how powerful and overwhelming the storm is, I have found refuge, peace and strength. When I feel the most vulnerable, in the greatest danger, too weak to handle what I see…I can immediately find shelter in You, Lord. There have been many times I tried to ride out the storm on my own, and I was overwhelmed by its power and strength. But as soon as I call out to You and begin praising You in the storm, the storm either becomes quiet or I find the sweetest peace with You in the midst of the raging storm.

               The way to shelter with You is to call out the name of Jesus, realize Your sin against Him, Your need to be saved, and believe that Jesus is the door to everlasting shelter with You, Lord. As I begin to sing praises to You for being the Most High, for being stronger than whatever life blows my way, for trusting You will cause goodness out of the devastating blows- I know I am standing safely with You in the calm of the eye of the storm. Let the winds blow. Let the lightening crash and the hail come—for I am with You and all is well. How I want everyone to find this same shelter! I cannot drag them; they each must turn to You themselves.

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“Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me/ My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught…I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”  Psalm 55:1,2,8

“For You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to take dwell in Your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.”  Psalm 61:3-4

“One day Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.’ So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, He fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in grave danger. The disciples went and woke Him saying, ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown!’ He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’ He asked His disciples.”  Luke 8:22-25

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, are You my shelter? Do I trust You in the storm?

Heavenly Father,

We made a surprisingly close connection with a very interesting older man from church. We just knew Ken two short years, but he became like family. He was known by another name at church, the “Cookie Man.” That’s because he almost always brought some of his famous homemade cookies to share with everyone. He even had a label for his delicious cookies: “Sarasota Ken’s best soft ginger cookies in the world.” I believe they were. Even during the times he was without a job, he still somehow brought cookies to share. I think any profit from the few he sold went to bake more to share! I will miss those cookies—even more, I will miss his big smile!

We know he has brothers, sisters, sons and grandsons he dearly loves, because he told treasured stories of them all. We have only got to meet one son—the one who stepped way out of his comfort zone to care for his dad as long as he possibly could. Even in the last few weeks, when he was in a facility on hospice care, you could always see Mark’s mark that showed he had been there to care for his dad (clean clothes, his favorite Steelers shirts, TV turned to his favorite football game, OU Blanket, notes to the staff, drinks…) The father and son might have butted heads in their time, but there was overwhelming evidence of true love there. I’m praying for Mark as he feels the loss of his dad’s presence and the loss of taking care of him.  I pray for the rest of Ken’s dear family who I may never meet before heaven. It’s amazing how Jesus bonds us all in Your family, Father.

Lord, it seems my cheering section in heaven is growing as more friends and family have a glorious get together in Your very presence. I know I will join them any time between now and if I reach 115 years old. Once Ken feasts on Your glory and all the wonders he sees, I have no doubt that he will enjoy the feast at Your table because that thin man sure did love to eat! We will miss sharing meals (and his  ginger cookies) with Ken…until we meet again, dear friend! I know he is enjoying the full glory of You, our Heavenly Father, and You have another one of Your loved ones home with You!

*****

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  Psalm 116:15

 

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:54-57

 

 “…for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.  Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”      2 Corinthians 5:7-9

*****

 

Prayer Prompt-

Father, am I living prepared to die?

Heavenly Father,

I’ve seen the look of both trust and non-trust as an early educator—in parents and in children. Trust is critical. Parents drop off their precious babies in the morning. Since I cover a lot of different classes, I am in a lot of situations where the parents and the kids don’t know me the first time we meet. They have no idea whether they can trust me—other than I have been hired as a trained professional at this particular center. They are not just dropping off their laundry, they are leaving their most treasured vulnerable loved one in my care. Even when they attempt to conceal it, they are looking me over trying to decide if I will cherish and care for their babies even half as good as they do. They clutch their babies tightly even while trying to convince their kids they will be fine. The babies are also looking me over. They are usually a better judge of character than adults who have heard too many bad reports. Little children know when they are loved and enjoyed. They can see love in the eyes and in the heart!

Father, the more I read and hear Your word, the more I realize how important trusting You is. You have beautiful plans to bless us, if only we will look into Your heart and see how good and holy and loving You really are! There is no one more trustworthy. You love us so much more than we can ever imagine or describe. It can be delightful discovering more of who You are every single day of our earthly lives and beyond. Yet far too often, we clutch hearts with fear. We hold on to our circumstances and the people we love. We are not sure we can really trust You.

Lord God Almighty! Do we think we can do better than You? Are we trusting in our weak human understanding more than Your divine knowledge that created us and everything around? Do we truly believe we can care better for our loved ones than You can? Do we tend to trust only in what our mere eyes can see instead of You—who knows all there is from the beginning to the end? Father, help me look into Your heart at all times and trust who You are. You loved us so much that You sent Your Son Jesus to die once and for all for our sins, and rise in victory so we can live for all eternity. All we have to do is trust You! (Even if it seems like a tiny trust at first.) I suppose we will be forever growing in our love and trust of You the more we get to know You—and place our treasures, sins, concerns, fears, situations, dreams and loved ones in Your hands!

 

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“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved, As the scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts  in him will never be put to shame.’”  Romans 10:9-11

 

Jesus said in John 14:1: “do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.”

 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

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Prayer Prompt-

Lord, who do I turst…

Glorious Father,

Anything that is living is always changing. It never stands still. A favorite saying in Oklahoma is “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes. It will change!” That’s not only true for the weather, but for life itself. We are always going through different seasons in our lives. Whatever we have gone through in our past has already happened. We may not be able to change that, but when You are made the very center of our lives, You take all the good, the bad and the ugly and turn it into something glorious as we hold it before You. All praise and glory to You, Father! The hurts, pains, disappointments, mistakes, sins, abuse, darkness do not have to hold us captive all our lives. Through Jesus Christ, we are made free and You carry us from glory to glory into the next season of our lives! Thank You that my life did not stand still in darkness!!

Whatever I am facing right now will not stay this way. Whether it feels like a blessing or an overwhelming trial. Each moment is to be savored for it will never be exactly like this again. Babies grow up. (Sleep will come again). The “terrible twos” do not determine that child’s future personality. You can carry on deep conversations with teenagers one moment and be stabbed in the heart by their words the next. Your parents can be strong and invincible one moment, and frail and vulnerable the next. No one but You, Lord, knows when our last earthly breath will be, so help me to enjoy this particular moment which will never happen again. It is precious (even when it happens to be painful) for You are making something beautiful through every single moment we live with You.

You are the only One who holds the future. I might as well not dread it, for what I fear may never even happen…and if it does happen, You will be at work in that particular moment as well. You love me with Your perfect love and I can completely trust You for this particular moment and for all eternity! Life circumstances, the people in my life, my health, my plans, my dreams—are all always changing. But all is well because, You, my Loving Lord, never change! You are God and I bow before You in ever-growing love and adoration!

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“I the Lord do not change.”    Malachi 3:6

 

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.”     James 1:17

 

“And He (Jesus) said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”  Matthew 18:3-4

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, do I trust You through all changes?….

Dear friends,

“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the whole Bible is packed full of meaning for those who are grieving. It comes in the middle of a story of Jesus’ good friends who happened to be siblings, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Jesus came to the sisters when their brother died. He “wept” at the sight of His beloved friend Mary weeping. Weeping is not the same as a tear rolling down the cheek. Those who grieve usually know what weeping means. It comes deep from within. It is full body, mind and spirit crying out in anguish. Jesus didn’t weep for Lazarus because He knew Lazarus was going to be brought back to life. The Son of God wept for the broken human heart He felt in Mary’s weeping. He cried along with her.

Sometimes believers think it’s not ok to grieve if we truly believe in eternal life through Jesus Christ. Jesus knew all about eternal life and He wept. Martha believed in a resurrection-to-come for her brother yet she still grieved. That’s when Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Yet Jesus still wept. Even now, our Savior sits on the throne and intercedes for us. I often wonder if He cries with us when we grieve. Even though He knows our loved ones have left this world, He cries for those left behind. He sees and knows the pain that no one else could fully understand. He knows. He weeps with us.

We weep and grieve for our loss- not for our loved one’s gain. Jesus’ weeping does not last forever, for our Lord knows the true joy to come. He sees what we cannot see- our loved ones life with Him, our own coming resurrection, the joyful reunion with our loved ones with NO MORE goodbyes, and most of all our complete joy as we come home to Him. Dear friends, your weeping will not last forever (although many believe it will at the time). Go ahead and weep, but not as one without hope. Jesus weeps with you right now, knowing that the day will come when there will be no more tears or death.

Love and prayers.

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet  and said, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” He asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.”  John 11:32-35

Heavenly Father,

My yard is full of stories. The Live Oak tree in my back yard was a dinky six-foot tall tree with two small trunks about 1 ½ inches in diameter twenty years ago when half of a massive elm tree fell on top of it during a major storm. It was bent clear to the ground under the weight of half of a full grown tree. I thought for certain it was gone. It even had a big crack in the base of the trunk. When my husband cut the weight off of it, that small tree sprung back upright straight as an arrow pointing to the sky. I watched it over time, thinking the damage probably destroyed the main part of the trunk, but it continued to grow stronger than ever. Today, it shades our whole patio we built below it. We enjoy its shade as we sip coffee, read, and entertain family and friends under it.

A few days ago, my husband cut down a big branch of another tree I asked him to remove. (He likes his chainsaw!) A twelve-foot branch fell, standing up on its end right on top of a beautiful tender Hosta Lily. That same Hosta froze all the way to the ground in a late freeze earlier this spring. Even under all the harsh conditions, it is coming out lovelier than ever. Every single plant has a story. Not only is my small yard full of broken stories that are flourishing with life…but the whole world is!

Lord, I see people all around who are either broken, going through a storm, or under tremendous pressure. Some of the brokenness is a result of personal choices; other times it is simply part of this life. It might seem like the end of the world to them, but I know You are at work. You are allowing their circumstances to cause them to grow stronger, to develop deeper compassion, to help their trust in You to flourish though they cannot see the outcome, to bring about eternal life through Jesus Christ under what appears to be death…Whether it is in my life, my family members’ lives, those I love and those I barely know, I trust You are bringing new life out of the brokenness. May we all stand up with our scars of brokenness, offering our own personal story of brokenness to flourishing with the glory of Jesus’ eternal life growing in us.

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“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all…” Psalm 34:18-19

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me surrender to You my brokenness of_________