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Who is telling your story?

Photo by Shelby Miller on Unsplash

My therapist and I could not stop belly laughing as I lamented about how terrible I have been with making decisions. You definitely had to be there, but if you know me, then you know I can be a bit dramatic in my responses. It’s not that I’m incapable of making decisions, it’s more so that I was not always confident in the decisions I chose. Growing up I was often faced with backlash and threats regarding my decisions. As a result I would say ‘yes’ to things that I did not want or agree with just to keep the peace. I also had a strong sense of unhealthy obligation attached to the ‘yes’ which prevented me even more from saying what was really in my heart such as: 

“This hurts me.”

“I’m uncomfortable with what you’re asking of me.”

“You no longer have permission to talk to me like that.”

“Thanks for thinking of me but I am not interested.”

“No.”

“No!”

Things I should have said…

Living this way for years created a flourishing environment for anxiety, insecurity, depression and shame that stayed with me for many years. 

Over the last year and a half, I have been on an evolving journey. The more I gain understanding, the more the lesson opens up and graciously gives me something else to learn.  The lesson of this season is learning to give myself permission to say yes and stop denying what I really want.

I have been so insecure in my abilities and fearful of my dreams that I would start and then not finish or was afraid that my dreams weren’t big enough or visible enough. This led to me tying myself to the vision of others because of their excitement! 

Do you remember the first time you felt insecure? I can remember, fourteen year old me. Someone broke my trust and I was sexually abused. At the time the adults in my life lacked the wisdom and knowledge on how to support me. Their decisions regarding the abuse and what they said to me produced doubt in my core beliefs and left me feeling confused. As a form of protection I learned to stay quiet and agree. I hid in layers of clothes (and shame), did not allow myself to get too excited about opportunities and struggled to accept compliments. I wanted validation so badly that I said ‘yes’ more than saying no.

Tears are welling up as I write this except this time I am crying tears of joy, relief and gratitude. I am grateful for being on a journey of trial and error, learning how to say yes to what matters and becoming more aware of what I actually want. 

I am proud to say that I am confidently putting myself back into the narrative of my own life. 

I am making decisions based on what gets me excited and pulls at my heart!

I am finishing projects! 

I am being creative! 

I am outlining experiences that I want to have! 

I am resting! 

I am living! 

What is being produced now is a beautiful outpouring of joy, grace and gratitude that I hope to continuously share with you!  My Brave Sisters, extend grace where you need it. This journey is not an easy one, but as you actively take steps towards self awareness, you will clearly see the opportunities that have been reserved especially for you. They have not passed you by!

Candy

Let’s reflect: 

  • What limiting story are you telling yourself? 
  • What experience or person robbed you of your confidence? 
  • What do you really believe about yourself?  
  • Now think about the limiting story and replace the limitation with empowering words. For example: “I always make terrible decisions,” to “I confidently make good decisions that I am satisfied with.” 
  • What evidence supports your new narrative? 

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Brave Avenue Unscripted: The Intro

Welcome to Brave Avenue Unscripted! Two years ago, I felt the push to start a podcast as an extension to our blog so our audience could hear our conversations on life and what we experience on our brave journeys.  This episode is an intro into who we are, what is Brave Avenue and what it means to be brave? 

Highlights from this episode:

 “Not the absence of fear, but pushing beyond fear. 

 Little brave decisions – “Bravery is a bunch of small decisions you make every single day, not just the huge life-changing ones.”

-“Living in your comfort zone is not a safe place, it can actually work against you…it can keep you from growing… you’re not going to get far.”

“Bravery is the audacity to be unhindered by failures, and to walk with freedom, strength and hope in the face of things unknown.”

“Courage is the ability to do something that frightens someone.“

“Do it afraid.“

Reflection Questions: 

  1. What does it mean to be brave?
  2. The power of no: What do you need to be brave to say no to?
  3. What is your motivation for being brave?
  4. Values-based decisions: Thinking about the values-based decisions, what is the next brave decision you need to make?

Scriptures: 

Psalm 27:14 Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you

Additional Resources:

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Trusting the Rhythms that Lead us Forward

Photo Credit: Thanks you Markus Spiske 

Ding! My phone goes off. “No more working, I need an update!” A good friend of mine replied to my post stating that I’m no longer working full-time. Earlier this year, I transitioned out of the job I’ve held for the last five years. I’ve had dreams of having more time to spend with my family and growing our business but it seemed the time was never quite right to take the next step. Little did I know that a prolonged sickness while pregnant, would make the perfect exit plan. I spent the remainder of my pregnancy resting as much as I could, managing the sickness and preparing for what I thought life would look like after I delivered. It was nothing that I had imagined and I felt completely blindsided by all the emotions surrounding my new rhythm.

“Do you have any projects you’re working on?” I asked.

She replied, “It’s the first time in my life that I haven’t had an event or some thing that I’ve been working on and it’s kind a hard and difficult to let go of because that was a huge piece of my life before having kids.…” I felt that.

I did not realize how hard it would be to let go of my old season. Part of the struggle with my transition was that so much seemed out of my control. There was a level of security and confidence in having a paycheck every month and not having that felt almost traumatic. When people asked what I was doing after baby, I could barely put the words together to describe what life would be like. When I said I was going to potentially stay at home with my kids I received great praise but my heart was broken. Why? I love my kids dearly but I was grieving what I let go and did not realize that who I thought I was, was actually tied to the work I did. Without the title, without the responsibilities, who was I to others? Most importantly who was I to me?

For about a week, I allowed myself to grieve and then got to the important work of seeking God. It was only after I let go that I began to see the gifts that were already present in my life.

This is the first time in my life where I actually feel more rested and unrushed…. I think I’m getting to a place where I actually have peace and the confidence to trust God like never before in this season.

Experts who believe in sustainable practices of living say that slow movement is about being aware of and connecting to the natural rhythms and cycles of life. Your best outcomes derive from working with the rhythms and cycles instead of against them or unaware of them.

What rhythms are showing up in your life right now? Are you working against them or with them?

Over the last 6 months our world has been forced to slow down and whether we like it or not, we have some decisions to make. The rhythms of change are constant so you have to think about how you will respond and what it means for your life right now?

My new rhythm allows me to rest, be more present with my children, heal physically and emotionally, identify what I want, build a business, spend date nights with my Husband, laugh more, spend time with my friends, connect with my Mama friends and their littles, and create a more simpler, organized home. All things I attempted to make time for previously.

” I  just knew after delivering my son things would start to turn around again, but it wasn’t that simple. I also felt purposeless or pointless. I confided in Wes and my therapist and they both agreed that I needed to reshape my perspective and pay attention to what is happening right now. I had to grieve what I lost or gave up so that I could really see the beauty in this season… I have also used the tool of daily prayer, journaling. Its like I’m daily submitting to His plan and walking with childlike faith as He guides me to my next brave step, but also holding my hand in the wait to get to the next step…”

After much reflection, I can confidently say that this is the life what I want: slow and steady, joy filled and Holy Spirit led. With the way God created you and I, I’m sure life will speed up again but in the meantime I’m thankful we can enjoy these new rhythms.

Candy

Tips to help you move forward in your new rhythm:

  • Allow yourself to grieve what you are letting go. If you already let it go, did you move on immediately? If so, I encourage you to take a moment to express gratitude for your previous rhythm and recognize it’s impact on your life.
  • Adjust your goals to the season of life that you’re in.
  • Do not compare your rhythm to someone else’s. You have no idea the work that goes on behind the scenes for them to have what you see.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Pay attention to your capacity so you know when it’s time to speed up, slow down or pause.

Redefining Abundance

This morning I’m up early reminiscing on the summer of covid19. Most of us can agree that 2020 was both unexpected and very hard in different ways. I am still feeling the heaviness from the events in the last two weeks. The uncertain conditions pushed me closer to God and my family and with all our free time, we were intentional to seek out better ways to “cope” and be intentional about our wellness. A major boost for us was being in the garden.

My Husband planted aromatic herbs–chamomile, basil, dill, parsley, thyme. Vegetables–eggplant, celery, artichokes, red potatoes, butter lettuce, brocollini, two different kinds of kale, green onion, and green beans. The star of the garden was our peach tree! It was abundantly full this year and we (along with the squirrels) loved it.

Being in the garden together was beautiful and invigorating! I loved seeing our children call out each plant by name and learn how to harvest what was grown.

Our three year old Justus, learned the term grounding and joyfully exclaimed to his Dad how he was “grounding” as he pushed his bare feet into the tilled soil. Our newest baby, Zion, slept peacefully shaded in his new bassinet and Nyomi found ALL the worms. 

It was a picture of ABUNDANCE.

Every time my hands reached down to pull up weeds, I noticed how easy it was to loosen them from the soil. I immediately was encouraged as I looked at how the ground was no longer hard, rocky dirt but softer, full of worms, fertile–the perfect environment for abundance. 

If you have a garden then you fully understand the difference between dirt and soil . Dirt is dead soil. You cannot place a seed into dirt and expect major growth.  Dirt is void of the vital nutrients that plants need to grow and therefore cannot effectively hold the seed to produce plants. Thankfully, with time, intention, a bit of pressure and patience, dirt has the opportunity to be revitalized and become soil–fertile ground to produce abundantly. 

What do you expect to produce in this season?  

Are your words and actions creating an environment for abundance or lack?

My therapist told me in a recent session that I need to redefine what abundance is to me so I can create and live in my own happiness. Abundance is different to each person which is part of the wonder.

My abundance looks like spending time with my family, learning together, growing food to share. It is pursuing peace in my heart, it is sitting on the porch taking in time with my Heavenly Father or a sun nap. It is rest, slowing down, being present. It is investing into the lives of Black girls, it is empowering Women. It is working through my past to fully enjoy my present. It is good talks with friends, and seeing the look on my children’s faces as they have aha moments!

If I am doing any of those things I am intentionally living a life of abundance and when I am abundant, I can give generously. 

Do the work:

Today I encourage you to take the time to define what abundance means for you.

What does it look like, how does it show up in your life? If you’re having a hard time answering this question, take the time to evaluate your life. What brings you peace, joy, puts a big smile on your face?

What do you hope to give out of your abundance?

Keeping the Faith after Divorce

Quarantine Diary featuring Nikita Davis

 

My life has been full of failed relationships in regards to men since childhood. Therefore, from the beginning I had a very skewed perspective on what a healthy female to male relationship should look like. The “best” relationship I ever had was a 5 year relationship with a married man. When we met I didn’t know that he was married and actually didn’t find out until about 7 months later and by then I was very pregnant and very in love.  We stayed together until he was murdered in 2011. I will never forget the feeling I felt when I knew it was all over.

His Wife’s forgiveness and kindness towards me was pivotal in me being able to move forward. I ended up joining a church and built a strong relationship with God.

God really helped me to understand that I was worth more than what I had been settling for.

At this point in my relationship with God, I decided to be celibate. During those 7 years I learned a lot about myself and who I truly was outside of relationships. I found out that I was really a nerd-kind of –and that I enjoyed the outdoors which was a far stretch from the times past of selling drugs, partying, drinking & smoking and moving from one relationship to the next.

In October 2018, I met my soon to be ex husband. On our first date I told him my testimony in great detail. I also told him what I would and would not settle for and at the top of that list was cheating. From my previous experience, I don’t believe that cheating is a mistake. I think cheating takes a lot of effort and it takes a lot of thought and the time that you put into cheating could be put into either fixing or bettering your existing relationship It could also be put into ending the relationship and moving on. Either way I made it clear that I would not settle for this. Ever.

He proposed Aug 2019 and we got married Nov 18, 2019 in a small ceremony with plans to have a bigger ceremony on July 26, 2020. After we married we moved in together and blended our families. Almost immediately, it became evident that I had been deceived. He was a completely different person. He was not nice. He would go out of his way to try and say things to hurt my feelings and he avoided spending time with me at all costs. It was unhealthy and went against how I saw myself.

June 6th, 2020 while I was supposed to be away with my bridesmaids I found out that he had cheated on me.  In that moment, I had a decision to make. On June 10, 2020 I filed for divorce and I refused to look back. One month before my big wedding I pulled the plug because I know for a fact that I deserve better.

Today, I am well and I think that surprises people. I kept the matters of our marriage very private therefore no one knew that I had basically been crying the entire 7 months that I was married to him. His attempts to break me didn’t work, they only made walking away that much easier. I put everything I had into my marriage until it was over. Several people have told me to keep the faith and not give up on love because there is someone out there who will love me the way I deserve to be loved. Even after all of this I believe that whole heartedly! The air he slowly took from me is now mine again and I am breathing-DEEP!!

Bio:

My name is Nikita Jenell Davis. I am 34 years old. I have an 18 year old daughter and an 11 year old son. I work full time for the Omaha Public Power District. I run a small business named Whip’d By Kita that specializes in all natural hair/skin care products. I am also a loctician.

LFB: Nikita J Davis
FB: Business Whipd By Kita
IG: Whip_bykita

Growing Through It

Quarantine Diary featuring Maritza Mateo Asboe

I’ve been growing through this COVID times instead of just going through it. I say that because I’ve had some time to read more personal growth on leadership, marriage and parenting when I have some me time. I originally had the opportunity to stay home with my kids and do things from home but what changed is that we can’t go out and do our adventures like we normally do. Since things are all closed. The Black Lives Matter movement has for sure changed my heart and mind, I’ve been more aware of what’s really going on in our world. 

This season has changed the way I parent just a bit, I’ve been enjoying my kids even more, since things are all closed. I have been practicing patience, grace and teaching moments with my kids. I have explained to my older child that there’s a virus and people are getting sick so we need to be careful and stay home, be praying for our world. I’ve been helping my older son to cope and or thrive  with this season by talking to him and expressing to him that we are here for him. He can freely talk to us also by going outside our backyard, reading books and utilizing technology to FaceTime family so that he can see them and know they are doing okay. 

What has surprised me about how I’m handling this is that I am at peace and know things will be okay.

One of the reasons is my faith and the wisdom I’ve implemented prior to the pandemic.

I think as people we can lean into the current challenges in life with effectiveness and enthusiasm by being there for each other in many ways. By praying, giving, being an example in our community, speaking up for others, taking leadership roles in our families first and then community. Knowing that you are not alone in this time! Change will happen and good will win. Everyday choose to have joy and be glad in it no matter what’s going on. And making others aware of what others are going through and not being blind to it. Be the change you want to see. 

Bio:

Maritza is a proud Wife and Mommy of two boys, Micah and Augustine. In 2016 she launched Itza & Eta, a childrens clothing line that offers the softest handmade clothing for your little ones. Every purchase made they give back locally. Follow her on Instagram: itza_and_etaand Facebook: Martiza Mateo Asboe

 

Finding Light in the Darkness

Quarantine Diary featuring Brandee Alexander

 

At one point you considered yourself as someone who was broken.  What hard truths did you need to sit with during that season? 

Well 2019 was one for the books wasn’t it? I definitely placed the “broken” label on myself towards the latter part of 2019. There were some relationships that ended during that season and I can tell you I was totally unprepared for what God was about to do in my life. I blamed myself a lot and was forced to look inward with a magnifying glass and pick apart pieces of me that I thought were no good.

A few Hard Truths that I had to face:

  • Brandee is NOT perfect, and that is absolutely OK,
  • Brandee likes things Burger King style, I want to have it my way a lot of the time, all the time honestly and that’s selfish.
  • Brandee doesn’t love herself. This one was hard, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, or be somebody that is easy for others to accept, when in reality I was not designed to be accepted by everyone and that’s ok.
  • God still loves me even when the key players you think you need walk away or hurt you. This was a hard truth for me because I didn’t want certain people to walk away from me. I didn’t think God loved me anymore, people were walking out of my life. I thought there MUST be something wrong with me, and God must have left with them.

How did brokenness reveal itself in your life and how did it affect your identity?

Brokenness revealed itself in suicidal thoughts/ideations, shame, and condemnation. I wasn’t working, and honestly nothing was happening for me. Everyday I sat around crying endlessly, there was a point in this journey where I contemplated ending my life. I hid myself, I was ashamed, when I did try to go out and see familiar faces I felt as though people were asking me how I was doing out of pity. It was at this point where I realized I cared way too much what people thought of me and not enough of what God thought.

I let relationships with people define who I was too much and when those ties were severed I was forced to learn more about who I am. More importantly WHOSE I am.

What surprised you and/or other people the most about how you handled yourself during a season of difficulty and uncertainty?

So I get to talk about how God blew my mind!! What surprised others watching me was how quiet I became during my season of struggle and humbling. What surprised me was how swiftly God answered my prayers. I asked God to relocate me from my prison which was unfortunately my favorite place to be, home.

He did that and so much more. I went from not having a job, to being offered multiple positions to choose from and selecting the BEST option for me. The company moved me to my new state, and all my needs were met. They even called me on my BIRTHDAY to offer me the job of my dreams! I was done for; I did the ugly cry that no one should ever see.

God also surprised me by sending women who needed to heal so I started a private women’s healing group. My inbox was flooded with women who had experienced some of the same things I had and just never talked about it. It’s important for us as women to connect with one another especially with our seasoned women to gain that wisdom. I’m forever grateful for these women and their honesty.

How do you define “glow up” and what steps can we take to get there?

During this season when I finally decided to stop the tears, wash this face (thanks Rachel Hollis), and take charge of my life I was told that I had this glow. Women are often told we’re glowing when we are pregnant or in love. I seldom remember hearing it after going through a storm but God is good!! The storm inspired me to coin the phrase “Let Glow and Let God” which came from Daniel 12:3 MSG

“Men and Women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever.”

Glow up can be defined as living wisely through the storms of life, shining brilliantly like the night sky and becoming a beacon of light on the journey to healing.

Simple Steps you can take to get your Glow On:

  • Be Ok with NOT being ok
  • Be Honest with yourself
  • Be mindful of what you feed your spirit
  • Feel It by being a STAR (Stop/Smile, Take a deep breath And Relax)

Please take note to how I didn’t define these simple steps. Why?  Because this is your unique journey and only YOU can define your glow.

God Bless and Remember to Let Glow and Let God!

BIO:

Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska Brandee Leigh Alexander has a passion for helping women see themselves as whole, fearfully and wonderfully made, and of course glowing. Brandee is currently an Associate Executive Director for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City and hopes to one day open up a YMCA as the Executive Director. Brandee has a private healing group for women on Facebook and is currently in the process of finishing her first book to continue encouraging women all over the world to embrace their glow!

Instagram: mzzbrandee06

Facebook: Brandee Leigh Alexander

Twitter: mzzbrandee

Prioritizing Wellness

Honestly, I’ve had highs and lows like everyone else. But I believe there was one difference. My heart won’t allow me to give in to the negativity around me. I had to get in touch with myself and dig deep to find the strength to continue to motivate, inspire, and grow all while keeping a balance. I had to balance being my son’s teacher, working from home, continuing to develop my business, and training for boxing, all while in school. I had to be creative, patient, and find new ways to maintain my everyday life.

I have learned that maintaining physical health and nutrition strengthens the immune system. Mental health is very important to take care of as we know many  illnesses stem from stress and anxiety.  I try to balance my life by making sure I add to my Mind, Body, and Soul daily. I work out, eat healthy by incorporating vegetables and fruit as often as I can in my meals, and pray or complete a bible study. It has become my lifestyle.

Here are some tips to support your Mind, Body, and Soul.

Mind – Try meditation/yoga. I recommend this yoga playlist by BIPOC [ Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color]. Also, many mental health professionals are still operating via web calls.

Body– Please try to exercise. It can be a walk, jogging, or running. We have a few nice trails around Omaha where you can go biking. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Try a few workout sessions.

Soul – Journaling can be a great outlet for your feelings and negative energy. Just grab any notebook and start writing. You can find journal prompts online for free. Or start by drawing, listen to some music. Just express what your soul is feeling. For those who are religious, try praying. I like to use the bible app, it is free and has study plans for you.

If you take the time to treat your body well, you like me, will be surprised by your strength.


Bio:

My name is Brittany Parker and I am originally from Omaha, NE. I worked in corporate for years until I moved to nonprofit to help people attain self-sufficiency. I’m a proud mom of my son. Originally, I turned to boxing as an outlet and now I am an Elite Boxer ranked #2 on Team USA. I am a five-times National Champ. In winter 2019, I competed in the Olympic Trials and placed 2nd. In February 2020 I founded my company Brittany’s Balance to give Black women a wellness program designed for them. I found balance in my life with wellness and I want to ensure everyone, especially Black women, can find that balance too.

Personal IG: @briparkerboxing

Business IG: @bribalance

Business fb: https://www.facebook.com/bribalance

Brave Avenue: Dare to be Yourself

 

Dare means “to have the courage to do something, or defy or challenge someone to do something.”

“Being ourselves is being who God created us to be.”

Why do we wait to say yes to things we long to do?

 

“We show others the parts of ourselves that we think will be accepted and hide the parts we fear will be rejected.”

What parts of yourself are you hiding? How would you live differently if you were not afraid of rejection?

What are your favorite parts of your true, or authentic, self?

When others cannot accept our true selves, it reveals their own insecurities. 

Can you identify a time when you felt like a part of who you are was rejected or not valued by others? How did you respond?

How have you limited yourself because you felt like you are “too much” or “not enough”?

Share about a time you did not embrace your true self and it did not go over well. 

Share about a time you did embrace your true self and something wonderful or unexpected happened. 

 

What steps will you take to get to know your true self more?

  • Identify someone in your life who knows and accepts your true self. Ask them for accountability as you explore your identify. 
  • Ask a family member, friend or partner what they value most about you. 
  • Take a personality, strengths, character or spiritual gifts assessment. 
  • Journal your favorite qualities about your true self. 
  • Process past hurt or rejection to find greater freedom to be your true self. (See Resources – Fresh Start)

 

How can you encourage someone in your life to be their true self? 

 

Ephesians 2:10 – How has God created you uniquely? How has God equipped you uniquely? What has God called you to do?

 

Resources:

 

 

 

 

Brave Avenue: Bravely Content

 

Episode 6: Bravely Content 

What does content mean to you?  

  • Contentment vs. complaint 
  • “The art of contentment” 

What feelings does the word evoke?

 

Do you identify with any of these perspectives?

  • Being satisfied, not lacking regardless of circumstances 
  • Always looking to next step, always a slight discontent 

 

We can be…

  • Rooted in the present.  
  • Grateful for the present.  

 

Radical acceptance of current moment empowers and is a catalyst for changes we desire. 

Discontent with our present circumstances is opportunity lost. 

In what areas of life can you identify discontent?

Do you abide by what you believe about contentment?

Discontent chokes out joy. 

Not settling, but trusting God’s truth about our lives. 

 

Romans 7:14-25 Paul describes a tug-of-war: what I want to do I don’t do and what I don’t want to do, I do. 

 

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; You fill me with joy In Your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

 

2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

(“Content” is same word as used in “My grace is sufficient…”)

 

Philippians 4:11-13 “I know what it means to lack and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance… the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty… I have learned to be satisfied in any circumstance.”

 

Deuteronomy 31:6  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 

Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

 

Joshua 21:45 “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

 

What truths are you speaking over your life?

  • My joy is found in God’s presence. 
  • God’s grace is sufficient. 
  • Christ’s power is shown in my weakness.
  • I am content in every circumstance. 
  • My abundance is in Christ. 
  • I am never alone. 
  • God will never leave or forsake me. 
  • God provides for all my needs. 
  • I will not worry. 
  • ‭‭God keeps His promises to me. 

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