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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A spiritual rant

Life was much simpler when I was a child.

I knew exactly what I wanted to be, who I wanted to be and I made sure that I was unashamed about telling people where I was going and what I was going to do. These days, I am less sure of myself. For most of the part, it is almost as if some alien has inhabited my body and is taking over parts of me that were important to me when I was growing up. Ironically, it is as if I am suffering some sort of identity crises. You would think that being in God would make that a rarity but I have found out that the more I know God, the less of myself I seem to know or even like.

Sometimes I comfort myself with the thought that it is the harsh glare of the word that is causing this. That in the bright light of God’s truth, who I truly am comes to bear and the truth of that is ugly in itself. Yes I am a sinner but I have accepted that my sins have been paid for by Christ Jesus and I am the righteousness of God in Christ. Yes, I am filled with the most obscene thoughts; the kind that would make people run in the opposite direction if they caught a glimpse of them, but I have accepted the truth that I am transformed in my mind with the reading and washing of the word. Yes, I have the most horrible of habits; a temper that used to make me think I was schizophrenic. But I have accepted that in Christ, the old me is gone and the new me is on display.

It seems that the fight of being a Christian is a never ending one. For nearly 3 years I have been filled with a restlessness so deep that falling into it seems like a death that I will not be resurrected from. I have been consumed by the feeling that I am not living up to my full potential and that I am not where I should be. While some form of discontentment might be considered godly, I am unsure that this sort is from God. It borders on torment and one thing I am sure about is that the Spirit of God given does not produced torment.

I remind myself constantly that I am a work in progress. I may not be where I want to be and that thought, terrifying for me as it is, is truth as much as I want to reject it. The greatest hindrance to being whom God has called us to be is ourselves. Sometimes we fight him because we have our own ideas of whom we should be and how we should get there. Maybe this is where I am? The fighting stage; I want to surrender but I am afraid that I will not like me when he is done. I already do not like me in so many regards since my intimate walk with him began.

There are many things I am yet to understand, things that I want to understand. I just want to know that I am walking the path chosen for me and not for someone else. I am consumed with the need to know that I am doing the right thing at this point in my life. This need for divine validation is not one that I am familiar with and I am at a loss. I have asked and prayed and all I get is a nudge to trust as far as my eyes can see. Maybe that is my problem. I want the whole blueprint laid out and broken down to me in my language. But when did God ever do that? His blueprints are always made known in the fullness of time. My greatest challenge at this point is to rest in him and just trust him as far as the light ahead of me shines.  God grant me grace…amen.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Letting the past go

The hardest thing for any person to do is to share a part of themselves that they have kept hidden away for a long time. There are skeletons that we keep in the closet because we are afraid of being judged, terrified of being demoted in their minds.

There are many Christians who live in the constant fear that their past wrongs will catch up with them, that they are not really forgiven for their past misdeeds. Our churches are filled with them; Christians trying to wipe out their past by filling their lives with religious activities. They talk right and act right but they tend to be the most bitter of persons. For people like this, the feeling that the world is moving around them while they are stuck in one place is one that they continually grapple with. To an outsider looking in on their lives, everything might look just peachy. Their lives always have something that can be tagged as successful. It might be the great work places they are employed in or that fantastic relationship that is the envy of their friends around them. It might even be something as superficial as the fact that they are physically appealing or have some gift that is highly coveted. But this group of people are the most unsatisfied. The constant feeling of failing at something dogs their footsteps at every turn. With each pinnacle of “success” comes a new wave of doubt and despair that they are not living at all.

These are the people who have been around church long enough to be changed, to have been changed, but who are the most unwilling to forgive wrongs. They take it to heart when things do not go their way and can be described as petty in their actions.

For many of them, it is not the absence of the desire to love and forgive and live, it is the absence of the life of God instead them. The bible describes them aptly In 2 Timothy 3:5 when it says that they are  holding to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]. (Amp)

When we bring the fruit of our efforts to God and try to wipe the slate of our past clean with them, we are merely stalling our spiritual growth. How many of us truly believe that our past is forgiven? That our sins are truly wiped away? How many of us are still living as though we are trying to make up for the things we did and are failing miserably at it?  How many of us pray and fast and tithe and give and literally tick of the list of self-prescribed steps towards being a super Christian but still feel like we are getting it wrong? How many of us leave the tangible presence of God, go back into o the world and fall flat down on our faces at the first blow thrown at us in spite of the fact that we should know better?

Here is a truth that I faced recently and I pray that we all face in order for us to understand who we are. Many of us are involved in make overs that leave God out of the picture. We are so ashamed of who we were that we try to rewrite who we are into a more acceptable skin. But the truth is that each time we look into the mirror, we barely recognize the person we see.

When we deny who we were, we deny God’s gift of salvation. We deny God’s desire to love us whole. You see, God loves ALL of you. The miracle of his salvation lies in his ability to transform us from who we were to who we are truly meant to be in him.

God cannot transform you if you do not see the need to be transformed. Until you see the need for God, you will continue to work in your “self” and it will be a fruitless walk down the road. Transformation is one of the key features of Christianity that distinguishes it from other religions. I tend not to agree with people who say that your past has no place in your future. While I understand the context, I sincerely wish that more preachers would stress the fact that while your past does not determine your future, it does provide God with the much needed raw material he uses to make masterpieces out of us. That is if you let him and simply embrace his desire to love and use ALL of you and not just the parts that you might deem worthy. Selah.

John 8: 36- So if the Son makes you free, then you are unquestionably free.

Picture source: truthforlife.org

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Breaking down safe walls

The New Year came with a keen knowing on my inside that we are in the final lap of the earthly race and as it is with a physical race, the unexpected can happen at any time. The good news is that as believers, we already know what to expect and are meant to prepare for it. One of the things I am certain we can expect in this season is a more vociferous attack of the enemy against the church.

In one of those rare moments when the world around me is silent and my mind is tuned to things of the Spirit, an analogy that was startlingly apt dropped in my mind. Now for you to understand what I am going to describe next, you might need to go looking for the television anime series titled, “Attack on Titan”. The series is a cleverly written manga production that has spurned a commercial line up of a movie and a series of comics and light books.

Attack on Titan tells of a tale of giant humanoids who invade earth and for reasons unknown to its inhabitants, delight in eating human beings. To protect themselves, the humans build three sturdy walls over 80 meters high and for the next hundred years focus all their energies on living inside the wall. In the course of time, the memory of the outside world becomes a distant ding and they all settle down to a monotonous existence. Interesting, there are few who question the wisdom of living within the walls as they grow up. One of them, the main character, Eren, constantly talks about life outside the walls and is viscerally upset at the thought that people are contented with living and dying within the walls.

One of the most astounding parts of the series for me is the team put in place to ensure the safety of the citizens. The team is meant to have been undergoing training drills in the event that the titans do breach the walls. These drills have been ongoing for 100 years with generations of men living and dying without actually getting to execute their military prowess. The years that pass make the tale of the titans appear as a myth and things such as the training drills are done with as much heart as a robot learning to love. When the titans do attack eventually, the military is so unprepared it is ridiculous. An entire village is literally trampled underfoot and the streets flow with blood.

Now, like I often say, blood and gore is not my typical scene. In fact, most of the time, I shut my eyes in horror each time a titan tore the head off someone or tossed a limb away. It was that horrific. But, in thinking about it I realized that those people could very well be our modern day church.

We more than anyone else, know that there is an enemy lurking outside the walls of the church that seeks to take us apart limb by limb. An enemy that will stop at nothing to make sure that we fall down and stay down. Yet what do we do?

We get comfortable within the walls of religious activity and religious language and hope that if we are quiet enough and busy enough, the enemy will forget that we exist. We forget that the four walls of the church are meant to mark out training ground where we hone our skills for defeating the enemy and instead make the entire training process look like some routine that needs to be done for the sake of appearances. We attend weekly and Sunday services so that we are religiously correct, we underline passages from scripture in church in our bibles or notepads to show that we are following the teaching from the pulpit, and yet hardly read the word when we are alone. We give to have our names registered and we are members of several groups so that we are not tagged bench warmers.

We live in a way that makes us die, separated from the true essence of the life that the blood of Jesus purchased for us. Meanwhile, the enemy is outside the walls of the church, wreaking havoc, looking for weak spots in the walls so that he can come stampeding and when he does, we sit down in the midst of the desolation asking God, “why”? “Why me Lord? We forget that God did not call us to stay in the walls of the church in the first place, that his first call to us as believers is to go and make disciples in his name. We forget that though we might forget that we have an enemy, he has not forgotten us, and that his very breath is a promise to see us suffer.
Just like the series, the knowledge of the enemy and active preparation for his invasion will help us stand in the trying times that will come. Paul speaking about the Devil boldly states, “We are not unaware of Satan’s schemes”.

It’s time we stopped hiding behind the walls of religion and come out into the dark. For light to have any impact, darkness must be present. We have not been called to be safe, we have been called to save. 

11/01/2016

*Picture source: www.blog.ourcrowd.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why I forgive

A lot of us are hypocrites. We don’t say what we really mean and we hardly mean what we say. It would be unfair to heap the blame on ourselves and forget the fact that most of us were brought up in houses where silence was the name of the game. Where the family name and honor was protected above integrity and honesty. Where pain wasn't discussed and fears were treated like bouts of cowardice. Where we saw our parents laugh with visitors and spit at their retreating backs. No…it would be unfair to blame ourselves for our inability to tell the truth to others and to ourselves. But it would be stupid to blame everything on our upbringing too. Whether we came from that kind of background or not, the fact remains that our choices are ours alone and ultimately, we decide if we will carry on the tradition of hypocrisy or not. I've never been one to hide my feelings even though for a long time I was nearly beaten into doing just that. At eight I was a feisty little child with my own mind. At eight I told my father he was a devil for beating up my mother. At nine I told him he was the wrong man for her. At ten I told him he didn't deserve to be a father to the wonderful children he had. Was I right? No….far from it. In my ignorance, I spoke up and in my innocence I expected change when I did. The change didn’t come for a long time, at least not for the situation I spoke vehemently against but It came for me…I changed. I realized that speaking the truth wasn’t the same thing as condemning a person or a situation. The truth sets you free.
It convicts you. It doesn't make you feel like the weight of the world just landed without courtesy on your shoulders nor does it make you feel like you will never get things right. I don’t know how I made my father feel with my outspoken condemnation of his actions but I know that I never want to have my own child tell me what I told him…and so I forgive. I forgive because when I hold on to the resentment and anger, I find myself repeating the same things he did. I forgive because it is his image I hold in my mind when I want to make decisions about trust or love…I remember him and I pull back and a part of me dies each time this happens. I forgive because it makes me a hypocrite to expect God to forgive my every sin when I have not forgiven my own father or myself for my mistakes. Let me share how I was released from the bondage of not forgiving. For a couple of years I had been a Christian and I was doing fine until I realized that every time someone tried to talk to me about my father, I literally bristled. I would feel the hair on my neck stand up and my chest tighten; and then I would be unable to breathe. I would become agitated. People around me had learned to back off from what they knew was a no go area and that was fine by me. But as time went on, the Holy Spirit kept convicting me of the need to forgive my father; at a point, I wanted to but I didn't know how to do it so the circle continued until one night when I had a conversation with my soul mate. He had been trying for years to break through the walls that came up every time my father was mentioned and he always went bouncing back. Out of frustration on this night, he became angry. ‘You let your father control you’, he said. ‘You’re a different person when your father is mentioned because you refuse to forgive him.’ And I snapped. I switched off the phone on him and cried my eyes out because I knew it was true. My father was moving on with his life but I was stuck in one place, holding on to what I thought to be the reasons why I couldn't get on with my own life. I blamed him for some things. Then blamed him some more for everything. I cried out to God to set me free from this weight of unforgiveness I had been carrying around when a scripture I had known almost all my life was revealed to me in that moment. ‘At the mention of the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under earth and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. (Philippians 2:10 & 11) It was the word mentioned that jumped out at me. ‘At the mention of my name’, Jesus whispered to me; ‘Not the mention of your father’s name’….MY NAME! And it became clear to me. Everything in my life had been bowing to the mention of my father’s name, my father’s memory, my father’s actions… I had made my father lord over my life and not Jesus and in doing so my entire experiences were tied to him. I had made my father god over my life without even knowing it. This is what unforgiveness does to you. It bounds you with a thick rope, roots you in the place of that bad experience that caused you to take offence and lets you relive it over and over again. You are like a CD, skipping over and over again at 3.99 seconds exactly with no one to turn you off. Unforgiveness makes a prisoner out of you and not the person you take offence with. There are many of you who are broken records because you have refused to forgive that one person or the other for what you thought was the unforgiveable offence. If God could forgive you of all the offences you committed against him, why don’t you forgive? Trust me, it’s not for the other person’s sake, it’s for yours You are hypocrite if you don’t forgive and that is a fact. So I forgive, because, God forgave me first and because Jesus is my Lord…no one else deserves that position so don’t make the mistake of giving the power for your life to the wrong person. Give it to God by forgiving. (photos courtsey www.lacedwithgrace.com & www.sethsoasis.wordpress.com)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dear God

You will always have to examine what you believe if you are to keep on believing what you believe. This is one truth that I have come to realize and the realization of this truth has only made me more careful about what I choose to believe.
I want to share something personal with you today.
On the 7th of August, I wrote a letter to God.
I was depressed, lonely and disappointed with the way things were turning out in my life and talking to a fellow Christian at that point didn't work the wonders I was expecting. I could almost predict word for word what would be said and if I could do that what was the use of talking in the first place?
Praying wasn't helping much either; it seemed that God had taken a holiday and had his ear muffs on and a 'do not disturb’ sign on the portal that opened this world to his presence. So it was just me, myself, I and a bunch of gleeful demons having a field day in my mind.
My dear God letter was brutal but at the time I was writing it, I didn't think so.
I was reading it again today and I'm amazed at how far I have grown and how God has kept me in spite of my ignorance. I just wanted to share this with you and let you know that even though you might feel like I felt sometimes, giving up on God isn't an option...like someone said, your worst day in Christ is better than your best day without him...





Dear God…
I feel as though you have let me down in such a huge way that I can never come back to you again. It took me a while to trust you and even a longer time to believe that you weren’t trying to fuck me up.
I did all the things they said you wanted me to do. I didn’t sleep around for cash or for fun either; I told married men that they were walking sacred monuments and told them to go home and love their wives instead of bugging me; I went home after work and spent my time reading the bible or some other book that I felt would help me be a better Christian. I was bluntly honest to the men who came around, that I had a serious relationship and didn’t want to mess that up; I went to church on Wednesdays and on Sundays and even sang in the choir in spite of the fact that I was terrified of crowds.
I wrote down eight fifteen on the work register instead of eight when I came late because I thought honesty extended to the little things as well as the big things; I gave my tithes and offerings even when I knew I wouldn’t have much to live on by the time I took them out of my salary.
Yet in doing all these things, this year, I have felt so alone…like what I am doing is a waste of time, like no matter what I do I will never make it. I feel as though I am destined to go to hell; as though no matter how hard I try to walk the straight and narrow, I, like Judas Iscariot am destined to be the daughter of perdition so that some prophecy can come to pass in someone else’s life.
Why do you throw wrenches in the otherwise smooth progression of my life? It’s almost as though you derive some sick pleasure watching me suffer and watching my expectations die and brutal death. You say your plans for me are good but didn’t you also say your thoughts are above mine? Didn’t you say that you don’t think the way I do? So “good” for you can be really “bad” for me and that isn’t fair because I didn’t ask to be born did I? I didn’t ask you to put me on this godforsaken planet and put me through the bullshit I seem to be going through.
I’m beginning to think after Christ you took a break or made another earth somewhere else…a more perfect earth and left us here to rot!
Why do I feel like I have to yell for you to hear me? Like I have to draw blood before you come down and save me? There is a tornado of darkness raging in me and it is growing stronger no matter how hard I try to snuff it out with your word. Are you real? Do you exist?
I’m trying my best here…how about a little help God? Some indication that I’m not serving something that may have died a long time ago?
I’m not a good Christian so I’m going to stop trying to be one. I won’t go out with the married men or sleep around either….I won’t stop my tithes and offerings because I know it helps the church…I won’t cheat or lie on the office register either…But I’ll go clubbing and dance my worries away. I’ll kiss the next man I really like and not worry about hurting you because you don’t seem to think twice about giving me what will cause me so much pain. I’ll hang out with the guys after work and live a little. I’ll do what I want to do without waiting for you because if you really don’t exist then I would have wasted my entire life.
I won’t be so hard on the men who come around anymore because somehow, I don’t think love graces the top of your list of attributes needed for a good marriage.
I’ll dance to usher and Ciara and all the hip pop songs I used to love dancing to before I met you and had to stop…since I met you God, I don’t know if I have died or I have lived, but I don’t want to go on feeling that way so I’ve decided to live my own way and if you think I’m worth showing up for, I’ll be waiting…I hope you think I’m worth it though, because I really don’t want to do all these things. Please show up if you’re real God…Please…
Sincerely
Your single Christian daughter….

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The valley of unanswered prayers

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on my blog and in that long while I’ve made several discoveries and learned things that are constantly stretching me beyond my limit.
One thing I’m finding out is that getting to know God is hardly a task for the lily livered person. If you have been so knocked down by life and you feel running into the snug arms of God will put an end to all your troubles, you’re dead wrong and right at the same time too!
Yes, God will shield you from the storms that sent you running to him and after you have drawn strength and wisdom from him, he will send you back out into it to still it, simply because he knows you can do it.
That‘s another thing I’m learning about God, he’s multi faceted, in ways that I can’t even begin to imagine. There are so many sides and mysteries to him that each day is a foray into depths of discoveries that can turn the way you think around in an instant.
Right now, I’m learning that God isn’t always quick to jump when I snap my finger which is what most believers tend to do when they find themselves in hot water.
When I got born again at first, answers to my prayers seemed to be miraculously delivered to my door step at almost DHL speed. It was fun in those days praying for five or ten minutes and then seeing the answer almost immediately. It made me confident in praying and built my confidence in God which I what I think he wanted to do in me by the way.
Eventually however, the more I grew in my walk with God, the more I had to wait for certain answers. While some still came almost instantly, most of the answers I craved for seemed to have developed a cold and were keeping away with frustrating precision and a blatant disregard for my time.
I’m at that point where almost all my prayers now seem to go unheeded.
The first time I didn’t get answers to my prayers, the first thought that came to my mind was ‘what sin had I committed now?
It’s kind of an automatic response I carried around with me from my worldly days. I had a guilt complex then and blamed myself for nearly everything that went wrong in my life and the lives of people I was close to. Now I know better.
While sin does keep us from getting our prayers answered, it isn’t the only hindrance. Besides, as a growing Christian, I have learned to make repentance as constant a habit as breathing. The blood of Jesus is there for a reason and that is to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and make sure that our link to God is stronger than ever.
These days, making sure that I have genuinely repented of all my sins gives me confidence to stand before God in faith for that prayer whose answer seems to be a long time coming.
Another reason why our prayers can go unanswered is our attitude. Praying for a new job when we come in for work at ten in the morning isn’t exactly going to make God wheel in a new one that fast. Sometimes, there are certain negative things we learn about ourselves in the place of unanswered prayer that with careful self examination under the light of God’s word and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can turn to strengths.
As a budding Christian, I used to throw tantrums when I didn’t get my prayers answered. I would deliberately turn my back on God and go watch some movie I knew he didn’t approve of or keep malice with him (imagine that!). I’m sure God is constantly amused by my little dramatic flairs of pouting when I put them up, but did that get me the answers? You can bet it didn’t!

So after several failed pouting sessions, I realized I can’t get God to jump the way some parents jump when their kids start sulking or throwing tantrums. God isn’t some insecure parent who needs to buy my love or affection with sweet treats or that new toy he can’t afford. God, I’ve discovered, cares more about my character than my comfort. The ultimate goal of his relationship with us is to make us more and more like him; godly, holy, loving, compassionate, forgiving….
God isn’t impressed when I stamp my foot in the ground and huff and puff. In fact, in those moments I can almost hear him say, ‘when you’re done fooling around, you know where I’ll be.’
Inevitably I always have to come back and apologize, then take his hand to continue the journey on the straight and narrow.
Getting answers to our prayers is all good but what good does it do when it doesn’t change who we are?
What good is that answered prayer when it doesn’t give God the glory?
What good are the answered prayers when it can’t make people around you know God as their father too?
I think Christians have gotten o the point where they see God as a gambling machine: you put in quarter and if you play real hard, you may hit a jackpot.
There are no chances with God only plans and the bible says that his plans and his purpose are forever.
Right now, I’m working for a company that hasn’t paid salaries for quite a while, but God has been faithful. I haven’t starved to death and I still manage to look pretty good!
I’m praying for a new job for over a year and I’m backing it with some action.
The rent on my home is way overdue and the agent has given me a deadline that I can’t physically meet but I’ve been trusting God and I’m still trusting him to take care of it.
I’d like to quit my job and I’ve been praying they I’ll get paid outstanding salaries so I can get by while I throw myself into the grind.
I want to get married to the man of my dreams but my father won’t have any of it so I’ve been praying about that for some time as well.
I’ve got a table filled with petitions and prayers and no answer so far has made it back to me.
I’m sharing this with you all because I’ve observed that the times are really trying now especially for most believers. This is a period of refining and separation; holding on to God’s word even when it looks like it’s not worth a lick of salt is what will help you sail through to the other side.
The word of God says that we are garrisoned by God’s power through our faith in him (1st Peter 1:5)
Without our faith in God we have nothing, absolutely nothing. We can trust in man for a while but I’m sure we all have bitter recounts of how our faith in the arm of flesh has let us down when we need it the most. No matter how hard it may seem to trust God right now because of what you’re going through, you have to understand that he is the only way.
As you walk through this dark trying time, get through it by asking God what he wants you to learn while you wait for his plan to come to the light.
Personally I know that this string of unanswered prayers is God’s way of teaching me patience while he works things out according to his will and for his glory. I am sure that I will receive amazing answers when they finally come and you will be the first I share it with. You can rest assured as the Holy Spirit is assuring me, that all things work together for good unto those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When life happens first

Has it ever occurred to you that you let life happen before you let God happen? I woke up one morning with that realization nagging at the back of mind and I suddenly discovered the reason why I had been going through a seemingly boomerang Christian walk for some time. There were highs and lows that I thought I should have gone beyond.

I still felt like a child learning how to walk and it was beyond frustrating because I knew I should have been running by now, my feet pounding through the hallways and hands raised in childish delight. But that wasn’t the case; I found myself flat down on my face too many times to count and at a point I threw up my hands and said to myself ‘well maybe I’m not cut out to be a Christian!
It didn’t help that some of my close friends seemed to have no problems with their walk with God. They seemed to be having a ball. There I was, immersed in fears and doubts and worries…there I was, wondering if God heard me when I prayed…there I was wondering if I was one of the chosen ones…there I was…letting life happen to me first…

The Christian that lets life happen first is the one who wakes up in the morning and jumps to his feet without as much as a ‘’good morning’’ directed in God’s way. The Christian who lets life happen first is the one who is more concerned about getting to work on time then he is about asking God to direct the course of his day.

The Christian who lets life happen first is the one who remembers to pray only when problems are staring him in the face and all the educational knowledge and technical know-how he has doesn’t seem to cut it. The Christian who lets life happen first is the one who barely has the time to study the word and who has to dust off a fine film of dust from his bible every Sunday.

Sounds familiar? That’s probably because I just described you and me! I became a Christian and still did things the way I used to and expected awesome results! Who was it that said when you do the same things over and over again and expect a different result, that’s insanity? I forget, but the point is the moment you become a Christian, things don’t automatically line up!

Problems don’t instantly faint and die because your spirit man just got renewed! No way! You have a whole lifestyle of self centeredness to deal with and only getting into the word of God can help you overcome that.

That’s why Paul was quick to say ‘be not conformed to the image of the world but be transformed through the renewal of your mind’ (Romans 12:2)
With God, the game is different and so are the rules. As a growing Christian, God should happen first in your life and in order for that to happen; you have to pay attention to the word of God and prayer.

If you don’t have a buildup of God’s word in you, when trials and other problems come (and trust me, they will!) you won’t be able to handle it one bit. You will be pulled under as easily as a child who doesn’t know how to swim. But when the word is strong in you, you can withstand the tides of life that roar at you. Stay blessed!