He died…

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I suppose I am ready to write about this. My ex-spouse passed away in December of 2017. I remember the day so vividly.

It was December 14th and I was at school that evening. My phone rang (vibrated) and I saw his sister’s name come across the caller ID. It was extremely odd as I had not maintained a relationship with any of his 3 sisters after our divorce. They lived out of state and we were never very close, but we did have wonderful phone conversations and occasional visits throughout the years. I truly liked them and they liked me and felt I was good for their brother.

I stepped away and answered the call. After saying hello, I heard, “Hi Cathy, this is Sally (not her real name). I asked how she was doing and she replied, “Not too good. We found Bob (not his real name) dead this morning.” I could not believe what I was hearing. “Bob” had relocated from Michigan back to the south a few years after our divorce. He migrated to Michigan to work in the factory as a young man and retired during our marriage. I was glad he went back south because I knew he was not a well man and needed the care and support of his siblings, who were all now back in the south.

I expressed my utter shock and gave her my condolences. She proceeded to ask if I might be able to help locate his only son, who still resided in Michigan. I told her I would reach out to my daughters to see if they could help as they maintained a relationship with “Bob” after our divorce.

I got both my daughters on a 2-way call so that I could tell them at the same time. They were beyond shocked and so incredibly broken-hearted. They had come to love “Bob” as a father figure in their lives (in the absence of their own father’s presence in their lives). When “Bob” came into my life, he fully embraced responsibility for me and my two daughters. It was a turbulent and sometimes painful ride as he came onboard as Stepdad to his Stepdaughters, but he helped them get their first cars, assisted with college expenses, helped support and babysit our 1st grandchild so my daughter could finish her degree and he just truly embraced my girls as daughters. It did not matter to him what their biological father did, or didn’t do, he always pitched in when they had needs.

They were able to locate his son and put him in touch with his Dad’s family.

I walked back to class and sat down. I was quiet the rest of the evening. I always wondered how I would feel when “that day” came for him. I did not feel anything at all initially, I was numb. I wanted to feel, but I was numb.

When the numbness wore off a few days later, I was experiencing so many emotions at one time that I could not think straight. I had to remind myself that this was real. It really happened. He is gone. I thought about how he liked to cook and would cook my dinner every day. He would make us a pot of coffee on the weekend mornings and that would be our time to sit and talk. Then we’d head out for the day to grocery shop, ride out to a rural area for a drive, go to a movie, or whatever we felt like doing that day.

Then I would think about how he broke my heart so abruptly and callously. How his abandonment and rejection sent my mind into a very dark place, my self-esteem to the gutter, and my heart….I do not have the words to describe my heartbreak.

Proverbs 18:14 (CEB) – The human spirit sustains a sick person, but who can bear a broken spirit?

Would I go to his funeral? Should I go? Is it even appropriate? How will I respond when I see him in a casket? Will I be angry? Will I feel love? Will I lose my composure? Will it be weird around his family? Oh my Lord!!! I cannot process all these questions. That’s it! I am NOT going. It’s over.

…I went. To this day, I am not sure WHY I went, but I felt that I needed to go. Many say that I needed closure. I will agree with that.

What bothers me most is that although he is no longer in this realm of life, he is still in my head, heart and spirit. I suppose that will never change. I have had many conflicting emotional moments since December 2017. I have grieved for him, I have still felt anger towards him and I have rehearsed our marriage in my mind many times just to be SURE I did right by him. Although I know that I was a committed wife to him who loved and took care of him through many years of chronic & debilitating illnesses, I still have to reassure myself that I don’t need to ask for forgiveness for anything where he is concerned. I was so grateful that I told him that I forgive him not long after our divorce. It wasn’t just words, by God’s grace, I was TRULY able to forgive him, but there could be no reconciliation. He asked on several occasions, but the breech of trust was too deep. I would never trust him again.

I choose to be grateful for the good that “Bob” did as he helped me through some very difficult financial matters, stepped in to “be there” for my daughters, truly loved and cared for our grandchildren, gave to many in need and did his best to make me happy until he got “off course”.

If you are reading this blog and you have not yet come to a place of forgiveness for your ex-spouse, I pray that you will not delay. It is too important to “put off” until later and life is so uncertain; you may not get the chance later on. It is God’s requirement and to withhold it causes God to have to withhold HIS forgiveness towards you when you need it.

Matthew 6:14-15 (KJV) – For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

I still feel moments of grief. I probably always will. But I have learned not to dismiss it or file it away for later. I have to “flow” through it, as painful as that is. For me, that is the only way to get to the other side of it. I now grieve two events where “Bob” is concerned; the death of our marriage and his natural death. I give ALL praise to God, my Sustainer! I would have had a nervous break down by now if it had not been for the LORD who is on my side.

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Divorce does not end a marriage in totality. It ends the legal contract between husband and wife. I do not believe it is possible to end the soul ties that form when the two become one.

Genesis 2:24 (KJV) – Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

How do you “unbecome” ONE? Herein lies the tragedy of life after divorce and there is no court in the land that can undo spiritual ONENESS.

As I counsel others, I make sure to explain that divorce is not a “solution” to all problems. It may alleviate some problems; but believe me, it will bring with it, NEW problems of its own.

Scripture retrieved from biblegateway.com. Photo retrieved from Google Images.

Learning to be Single…

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(Image taken from Google Images)

One of the many challenges I faced was learning to be a single woman. The fact that I was middle-aged and had never lived alone did not help my adjustment to my “new” relationship status at all.

I had no idea how many “things” in my life would be impacted by my sudden singleness. I had to get used to no one being there every time I came home. I would return to an empty home that was completely silent. No one would be there to welcome me or ask how my day went. If I didn’t make it home, who would know immediately? There were days that I just needed a hug. Not possible. Prior to divorce, I was totally oblivious to the issues facing single adults.

I had to get used to cooking a meal for ME to enjoy. I would no longer get the joy of sharing meal times with my family. I had to learn to eat alone and appreciate the blessing of having food and the ability to prepare my own meals.

I had to learn to enjoy my own company. This took some time because my life always centered on my husband and children. I hadn’t really assessed what I like or enjoy. I realized my life was lost in the lives of others. Now, the “others” have moved on so I had to get a life and establish my own identity! Man…who needs this!!!

In order to discover what I enjoyed, I decided to be open to new experiences. You know, come out of my comfort zone. I found that I enjoyed movies (at home or at the theater), going to live plays/shows/musicals, taking vacations with my kids and grandkids, and sharing meals and conversation with friends.

It became VERY clear to me that I had to make sure that I planned a fun activity on my weekends. I weekends off and although it’s almost 7 years since my divorce, I still have to ensure that I do something that brings me joy every weekend. I have found that if I don’t have that connection with a friend or loved one and create opportunities to laugh; I will be extremely sad.

I feel that I have been very blessed in that I have not had significant battles with loneliness. I have had moments of loneliness, but, by God’s grace, they have not been many nor terribly excruciating. I MAKE A POINT to connect with people! There is no replacement for social connection. God designed us to need one another and to deny that need is to inflict harm to the soul and spirit.

Divorce forced me into self-exploration and I am grateful for that. I am not grateful for divorce because I hate it just like God does (Malachi 2:15-17). I am grateful that God took my tragedy and brought about something good! Because of this experience, I learned that I still harbored a love for learning that caused me to return to college at age 49. I learned that I could feel wholesome and complete with God alone. I learned that I could be happy with a good video and a bag of chips. I learned to take risks and grow as an individual.

I have learned oh so many lessons in the last 6 years and 10 months. But, there is one train of thought that truly liberated me from my self-pity and negative view of myself. It was the realization that – Divorce is what happened TO ME; it does not define WHO I AM. Learning to separate the EXPERIENCE from my evaluation of self opened up a whole new world to me. It changed my mind FOREVER.

Remember, there is SO much more to you than what has happened TO YOU! I gave control of my life to God. I told Him that I realize that I truly suck at guiding my own life and I humbly and willfully submit to His leadership for the remainder of my days.

COMPLETE surrender to the Lord has brought about a re-birth I never thought imaginable!

Psalm 32:8 (AMP) –I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you [who are willing to learn] with My eye upon you. 

Scripture references retrieved from biblegateway.com

The root of bitterness…

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When we are blind-sided by the trials of life and get the “wind” knocked out of us, it is natural for us to be angry, resentful and wonder WHY did God allow “this” to happen to us. When we suffer because of the actions of another, it adds an additional layer of angst to our circumstance.

I have known many people that have experienced divorce. Some never recovered and it has been over 30 years. Some moved on, but did they really recover? Others, believed that the best way to get over a broken-heart is to find someone new. I have found that the human soul responds in various ways to emotional pain and devastation.

I am soon approaching 7 years since the break-up of my marriage. As I have entered the New Year, it has been a time of reflection and I recall my journey through bitterness.

My divorce left me extremely bitter. Who wants to start over at mid-life? My bitterness had to be processed and at times, God would “reign” me in because continual bitterness leads one to a very dark place in life where eventually, nothing will seem good any more. For this reason, I am ever grateful for my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He was, and is, my constant companion and His Holy Spirit reminded me that it was okay to be angry, but it was NOT okay to allow my anger to lead me into sin (sinful thoughts, words and actions).

 Ephesians 4:26 (KJV) – Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

I cannot tell you how many times I violated this commandment. In my weakness, I allowed my bitterness to lead me into sinful thoughts and words against my ex-spouse. Night after night, I nursed my anger and did not seek to resolve it before sun down.

I see the mercy of God. Although I was in violation of His command; He still loved, cared for and provided for my every need. I did not deserve His blessings, but He chose to bless me anyway. Sinful humanity continually stands in need of the mercy of Almighty God.

I cannot recall how long it took me to resolve my bitterness. I use the word “resolve” because it was up to me to do something about my condition. I had to work through my bitterness. Oh how I wished that I would just wake up one day and be whole again! Not so. My bitterness was used as an instrument in the hand of God to show me my own sinfulness, His mercy towards me, and my dependence upon Him to be free of it!

As I would sit and brood on the injustice done to me by my former spouse, God reminded me of Romans 3:23 (KJV) – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;. In other words, “Cathy, you have sinned against me also.” I could sense God saying to me, “What was MY reaction to your sin?” His reaction was to sacrifice His life to redeem me.

Romans 5:6-8 (KJV) – For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

I have often defined mercy as “God bestowing upon us blessings we do not deserve”. I had many bitter days. Yet, on each and every one of them, God preserved my life, provided for my needs, gave me the physical and mental strength to go to work each day and do my job despite my brokenness, and remained my constant companion. He would actually show me “signs” that He was present. For example, one day, I pulled into the church parking lot (a bit late!) and was prepared to drive all the way to the grassy portion of the back of the building to park my car. However, upon entering the lot, one of the brothers stopped me and greeted me. He said “Sister Cathy, I’ll park your car for you so you don’t have to walk all that way and I’ll bring your keys to you.” I was overwhelmed at this undeserved kindness extended to me. I knew God orchestrated this encounter to remind me that I was still “special” to Him. I needed that inspiration that day.

 Psalm 103:8 (KJV)The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

I realized that I could not rid myself of the bitterness that infiltrated my heart. I came to the point that I wanted to be free of it, but it seemed to be so deeply interwoven in the fabric of my being that I was a “slave” to it. The remedy? I continually placed myself in a position to interact with God. I maintained faithful attendance at church to hear Biblical sermons, I attended Bible Study on Wednesdays, I played radio broadcast teaching God’s Word, I listened to worship music that glorified God and I kept company with Christians who were surrendered to the Lord. One other thing, I removed television from my home for 1 year! I had to take RADICAL action to uproot this seed of satan that lodged itself in my heart. I IMMERSED my life in the Lord!

Hebrews 4:12 (CEB)because God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions.

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My friend, I do not know where you are in your divorce journey. But, if you have not taken the time to address any root of bitterness that my be “lurking” about, please do so. Be honest with yourself and God and if you are struggling to resolve your bitterness, God understands exactly where you are but it is not His plan that you remain there. He wants to deliver and heal you and advance you from bitter to BETTER! If you need His help, you need but simply ask:

Psalm 61:2 (KJV) – From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Until next time, God bless and keep you in His care.

All scripture references taken from biblegateway.com. Images taken from Google Images.

 

New Beginning…

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As I approached the 3 yr. mark of the ending of my marriage; I began to ponder the question, “What do YOU want to do with your life?” I was free to make whatever choices I wanted and for the first time, in a place in my life where I only had to consider myself in my decision-making. I must admit, it felt strange to be so liberated. But, it also felt good at the same time. The thought of going to college, AGAIN, came back to me. I had tried so many times in the past and never followed through or was inconsistent for one reason or another. Yet, that aspiration never left me. I always wanted a college degree. At the time, I was a month away from my 49th birthday and absolutely terrified at the thought of returning to school. So many negatives began to sweep through my mind – What if I start and stop again? What if I don’t do well? What if the roads are bad in the winter? On and on I went with excuse after excuse! But, after talking to my daughters about my lifelong dream and receiving their support and encouragement…I made up my mind that I was going to DO IT! I made the call, went for orientation and enrolled in Spring Arbor University’s Adult Professional Studies Program to pursue an Associates of Science in Business (ASB) degree. I knew this was the right choice and perfect fit for me as it was a private Christian college, small class sizes, meetings one night a week, and the professors were Business professionals themselves and many of them earned their degrees at mid-life and personally understood the challenges of adult non-traditional students like myself. I felt right at home! Often, I was the oldest person in the class, but I saw that as a plus because I brought to the class experience and knowledge gained from 32 years in the work force. I was able to contribute in meaningful ways.

I LOVED learning, always have, and I approached my studies with a commitment and dedication that wasn’t there before. What was different? I was older, “seasoned” and at a different place in life, able to focus earnestly on my studies, learned the value of education through my years in the work force and I needed to feel a sense of accomplishment as a person. Best of all, between work, school, homework, ministry and time with family; I had a very full life! No time for focusing “backwards”…my future was before me. I was, and still am, an excellent student. I completed the 2-year program with all A’s and (1) B! However, I chose not to receive the Associate’s degree, but to continue on to a Bachelor’s programs in Social Work (BSW). I am currently a Junior in my BSW program with a GPA of 3.8.

At age 52, I now have a life plan of completing college and changing my career to a Human Services position after retiring from the University of Michigan. I am praying for God to direct me to the proper internship (required in my Senior year) that will lead to an employment opportunity that allows me to utilize my 23 years of Christian ministry experience and Social Work degree to help people with natural and spiritual needs.

It is never too late to do what you’ve always wanted to do with your life. I met with a colleague, who is also a Therapist, and shared with her that I WISHED I had gone to college as a young person, but for some reason I just didn’t want to. She said “You weren’t READY then and wouldn’t have had the level of success you are experiencing now.” She was right, I wasn’t ready, although everyone around me wanted me to be. Funny how the journey of life prepares us to become the person God created us to be! That is what I feel has happened in my life. The worst thing I had ever experienced was not wasted, but God found a way to make it useful to not only position me to fulfill my dream, but HIS purpose for my life…ministering to the needs of the “least of those” in our world.

Romans 8:28 (AMP) – ” And we know that GOD CAUSES all things to work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called for His plan and purpose. (biblegateway.com)

Divorce – hmmm…it can be a bitter ending of your life or a NEW BEGINNING! What’s your pleasure?

Self-Talk…

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Photo by Binti Malu on Pexels.com

(It is my intent to publish weekly. However, there may be times where that is not possible. Thank you for reading my Blog and I hope it is encouraging to you).

The thing about divorce is that you feel like an “outsider”. It seems everyone is married and it seems everyone else is doing just fine in their relationship.

I remember noticing that I was developing Social anxiety. I did not want to walk in a crowded room because I felt like EVERYONE would look at me and identify me as a “Divorcee”. I felt like a Red bulls eye was on every piece of clothing I owned that said “DIVORCED”! In my own mind, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was allowing the experience of divorce to become my identity and this was happening via my own negative self-talk.

It took a while for me to learn to separate my experience from my identity. Divorce is what happened TO me, it does not define me as a person. So there is so much more to me! I think it is critical that persons experiencing divorce realize that it was an EXPERIENCE and it is NOT the sum total of who you are.

I had to do a lot of positive self-talk to remind myself of WHO I really was because negative thoughts flooded my mind continually. I had to counter them with the TRUTH of God’s Word and believe me, it was a mental war each day! I had to examine the content of my heart because that is what determines how I truly see myself.

Proverbs 23:7(a) – “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:…” (KJV) 

I had to remember that God (Hebrew name – Yahweh) saved my soul as an individual and I was His child. I was His child long before I was a wife and my marital status has absolutely NOTHING to do with my salvation. I had to be reminded that God loved me with an everlasting love because He chose to do so even before I made a decision about accepting Him as my Savior.

Romans 5:8 – “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

My thoughts had to be re-directed to what gave me TRUE VALUE. I had it wrong. I evaluated my worth by my relationships with others, so if the relationship failed, I felt worthless. It is amazing to me as I look back to see how I completely minimized THE most important relationship of my life (with Jesus Christ), which had not changed at all.

God had to teach me WHY I was valuable to Him. Married or divorced, I was committed to serving Him by serving people with the gifts He has given me to counsel, teach, preach, administrate, mentor, and write. I am a compassionate, caring individual who is capable of empathizing with the pain of others and offering comfort and support. I am generous and welcoming and believe in treating all human beings with respect. I am committed to learning how to “die to self”, as Jesus requires of His true disciples, and place the ministry of the Kingdom of God above all else. This is not a PRIDE session, this me saying OUTLOUD who Cathy really is and embracing all that God has created me to be!

Here is my question to you – When is the last time you told yourself who you TRULY are? Or, have you taken the time to figure it out? Take the time. You will discover hidden treasure. When you find what is good, embrace it, say it OUTLOUD. It is okay to affirm yourself and recognize the beautiful gifts God has given you to pour into the world.

 

Loneliness and Serving Others

 

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As mentioned in an earlier post, for the first time in my life, I was living alone. I was not accustomed to silence in my home. I always had my kids, grands, or a blaring TV from my ex-husband when I came home from work. Silence was only something I could hope for. But now, I had more silence than I could bear. I did a LOT of talking to God!

When I first moved into my apartment, I did not have extra money for the luxury of cable television or the internet. I remember going a full year without either. I would go to the local library to use the computers and I could borrow DVD’s for free with my library card. That was my entertainment. I have loved God’s Word since I was a teenager, I never get tired of it so I studied my Bible, listened to worship music on CD, listened to Bible teachings on my phone…I was just “hungry” for more of God!

I still had some incredibly lonely days. It seems that Sundays were the most difficult for me. They were difficult because we always had family dinner on Sundays with the kids. My Ex-husband was a very good cook and liked to cook so we ate good and enjoyed the family on Sundays. Of course I could visit my parents after church, and most of the time I did. But, there were times that I literally would feel panic sweep over me as the weekend approached. What am I going to do? Who will I spend time with? What if everyone has plans already? My daughters were young women, moms, and had their own families and I never wanted to be a burden to them. They deserved to have their time with their own family and friends. Although, they were more than happy to have me around and include me in things. I appreciated that. They let the grands come and stay the night occasionally and my heart would flood with JOY!

Loneliness is an emotion that weighs “heavy” on you. When you do not have a special “someone” to love and share intimately with, there is this “hole” on the inside. I spent 22 years in marriage (between both marriages), so I really had no idea how to live successfully as a single. I was a “fish out of water” and I would use social media as a means of “community” and “connection”. It helped but I knew it would not sustain me very long. I am a relational person who thrives on connections with people. I had to figure this out. I had to create a new life for myself so I asked God to show me how.

Psalm 32:8 (TLB) – I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.

One day while at the library, I decided to read the postings on the community bulletin board. I saw something that caught my attention – HOSPICE VOLUNTEER! I decided to give them a call. I went in to investigate the opportunities they had available and towards the end of the conversation; I mentioned that I was a licensed minister. The coordinator was thrilled to hear that! They only had one Chaplain serving a large region of patients and she asked if I would be interested in meeting her. I said “Of course! I’d love to!” Well, I ended up with an apprenticeship and she was soon confident that I was skilled and prepared to see my own patients. I became a volunteer Hospice Chaplain.

If you are hurting, broken, in despair and feeling hopeless; Can I suggest that you find a way to serve others? There is something about heartfelt service to those in need that revitalizes the human soul. I now had something to look forward to that was meaningful to me and to my patients and their families. Sometimes, I just listened as the families shared emotions, sometimes I offered words of comfort, sometimes I prayed with them or for their loved ones, and sometimes I said nothing…just a gentle touch on the hand was sufficient.

Luke 6:36 (KJV) – Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful

Yes, I was reeling from divorce; but their pain put mine in proper perspective. My family was well and healthy, I wasn’t watching my loved ones deteriorate before my eyes, my parents could recognize me when I walked in the room, and I wasn’t having to make end of life decisions for the people I love most in this world.

God used this opportunity to bring healing to my life by re-directing my focus.

Don’t just sit there and sulk over what is gone. Create new opportunities for yourself and get out there and be PRODUCTIVE! LIVE! Divorce only ends your life with your permission.

Jehovah-Jireh…my Provider

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One of the most impactful hits after divorce is the loss of financial resources. After 9 years of marriage, I was accustomed to living life at a certain income level. After divorce, that all changed. I now only had my income and of course, I had my share of the marital debt.

I was in despair and initially had trouble making ends meet. I did not see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone to help, but God intervened. One of my dearest and closest friends, who walked with me through this entire ordeal, told me one night on the phone, “I’m going to help you Cathy.” She did just that. She sent checks to me on a regular basis and she NEVER missed, not even once.

God reminded me that He promised to be my husband. (Isaiah 54:5). One of the roles of a husband is to be a provider. He provided from a resource that was a total surprise to me.

What did I learn from that? I learned that sometimes, we are so worried and afraid because we cannot see HOW a situation is going to work out. But, if we belong to Almighty God (Yahweh), He will provide for all of our needs just as He promised. Philippians 4:19:

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

I would get many unexpected financial gifts in the mail. One Sunday, I went to church and my Pastor gave me an envelope. He said “This is not from me, but the person wants to remain anonymous.” It was a crisp $100 bill.

One evening, I was at home on the couch and there was a knock at my apartment door. When I opened the door, there was a vase of beautiful Red Roses sitting in front of my door! There was no card and I saw no one. I never found out where they came from.

A few times, I received the gift of a weekend get-a-way to Chicago from a dear cousin. She not only paid for my trip, but she took me on a shopping spree once I got there.

Isaiah 54:5 – “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

God is not bound by ANYTHING. He can move on the heart of anyone at any time and command them to bless you. Do not make the mistake of “limiting” Him by a lack of FAITH.

Everything belongs to Him so He is not short of resources to meet your need.

Psalm 24:1 – “The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”

(Scripture references retrieved from biblegateway.com, KJV)