Dear Friend: Today You Took a Big Step

Dear Friend: Today You Took a Big Step

Dear Friend,

Today you took a big step. An extremely brave step.  You told me you were pregnant.  It was so obvious that you wanted to hide it and didn’t want to hide it all at the same time.  You so desperately wanted everything to be ok.

The truth is this is amazing news!  I’m so happy for you.  You have been given this gift of life.  Something you can cherish, literally, for the rest of your life.  Someone to love, to hold, to raise, and guide.  You are now raising the next little saint for Christ. What an honor!  Do not forsake the importance of the task God has placed in front of you. 

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Dear Friend: A Letter About Infertility

Dear Friend: A Letter About Infertility

Dear Friend, 

Today, I told you I was expecting our second baby knowing that it would cause a storm of emotions inside of you. I didn’t know how to tell you, and honestly, I was afraid. I didn’t want to cause you any pain, yet I knew that there was no way around it. 

The moment I found out I was expecting, I immediately thought of you. 

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Top 4 Lessons in 4 Years of Marriage

Top 4 Lessons in 4 Years of Marriage

Let me start this out by saying I am no expert in marriage. Trust me. 4 years does not make anyone an expert. But you don't have to be married 20+ years to have learned a few lessons here and there. Truth be told, you should be learning something new every day!

As David and I celebrated 4 years of marriage (and by celebrated, I mean really we are unpacking our household goods), I wanted to share the top 4 lessons I learned in the last 4 years. 

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Be the Kind of Woman who Wants to see Other Women Flourish

Be the Kind of Woman who Wants to see Other Women Flourish

Regardless of your beliefs on a woman’s role in society, I urge you to take a second and consider my words. Instead of judging your sister for her perceived effect on the feminist cause, can you instead focus on uplifting her and encouraging her to follow God’s prompting for her life?  

All too often, we allow the fear of being judged to remove what it means to be the woman we were created to be. Girly-girl or tomboy, baker or grill master, whatever the preference, it's a personal choice that should not be influenced by the society around us. Don’t let fear or culture steal that choice from you.

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Why I Embrace Femininity and Will Raise My Daughter(s) to do the Same

Why I Embrace Femininity and Will Raise My Daughter(s) to do the Same

See, it wasn’t until I was in my late teens to mid 20’s that I embraced femininity, before then, I fought it like the plague; as if being a woman was a bad thing!

I hated the idea that men and women were different. I wanted to believe that we were the same and could do the same things and I wanted to prove it.

This showed in the activities I was interested in as a pre-teen/teen. I would avoid any activity that related to “50’s housewife” life, such as cleaning, baking or helping my mom in the kitchen.  If the boys didn’t have to do it, then I shouldn’t have to either—this was my main argument.

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Why We Should All Embrace Femininity

Why We Should All Embrace Femininity

Not too long ago I saw something in a woman’s Facebook group that really disturbed me. To set the stage--a professional woman in a leadership position was asking advice on things she could do to show her office she appreciated them. She then proceeded to say she was hesitant to make and bring in home-baked goods for fear of setting women back 50 years…

When I read that statement, I struggled to comprehend what she meant. Did she really think that bringing in chocolate chip cookies would degrade her authority in a professional atmosphere?


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When Words Hurt

When Words Hurt

You were so deeply hurt you feel like throwing up. Your stomach churns those words, those feelings into a clump of pain stuck in your throat.

You seldom know what to do with that pain. You try to pray; You try to imagine the hurt Jesus carried to the cross; You try to put things in perspective by imagining how often and deeply you hurt God. But in reality you’ve been known to rip your shirts and scream into pillows.

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A Letter to my Daughter on her Second Birthday: Embrace the Bossy

A Letter to my Daughter on her Second Birthday: Embrace the Bossy

Natalie Aurora,

This past week you moved on up to the toddler room at your new CDC. As your father and I went to pick you up, we spoke to your caregiver to see how the day went. Quickly, the caregiver you had spent 8 hours with noted your bossiness and stubbornness.

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When Bitterness Takes Root

When Bitterness Takes Root

My heart has become an entangled mess; fiercely fighting the reality that I’ve become bitter. The bitterness is controlling of my logic, my feelings. Who I want to be, how I want to love, my words, my reactions are not what I want them to be. If I were to take my heart out of my body; maybe I wouldn’t even recognize it?

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5 Must Read Tips for When you Feel Unsupported by your Husband

5 Must Read Tips for When you Feel Unsupported by your Husband

In my imagination, I had envisioned a full-on cheerleading squad from everyone that I cared about. A squad to pour into me, words of affirmation, as I wrote to my heart's content, but where is the challenge in that?

“Sometimes you must HURT in order to KNOW, FALL in order to GROW, LOSE in order to GAIN, because life's greatest lessons are learned through PAIN.” - Alicia Taylor

When fantasy met reality, I learned that God was calling me to be obedient regardless of any external factor.

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4 Tips For When You Don't Feel Like Loving Your Spouse

4 Tips For When You Don't Feel Like Loving Your Spouse

Of all the attributes of love, this is by far one of the hardest ones for me.

“... [love] keeps no record of wrongs”

All too often I want to respond in an argument with a list of all the wrongdoings imposed on me, but truth of the matter is, we shouldn’t.

In the heat of the moment, when all you want to do is focus on the past and that record of hurts, pause and rise above those feelings.

Love is a choice you can make despite those feelings because our ultimate Lover, our Father God, loves all of us with all of our sin smeared all over the place. We can love because He first loved us.

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In Sickness and In Health: Self-worth in Marriage

I am Not Defined By My Weight - Part VI Marriage

This piece is Part 6 of a 9 Part Series called I Am Not Defined By My Weight, inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face". 

Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have, and as I previously mentioned, mine was not the best. It was my mentality regarding weight that influenced my self-worth. I did not love who I was, and because I did not love myself, I could not accept my husbands love either (not in a real sense anyway). My negative self-worth created challenges in the beginning of my relationship and eventually reared it's ugly head after I had my daughter.

In the Beginning

My weight-loss journey started during my college years when I was required to lose weight to join/serve in the Air Force. When most people were gaining their freshman 15, I was losing it, plus more! I had about 25 – 30 lbs to lose to wear the uniform and it took me about a year to lose it.

Unfortunately, losing the weight did not solve the more significant issue at hand—emotional eating and food addiction. I rode the weight-loss train all throughout college, through my first duty assignment, up to current day (1.5 years postpartum).

In the beginning, I would do almost anything to lose the weight.

Severely restrict calories…

Sweat it out in the sauna for hours on end…

Spend hours on cardio machines…

I'd even binge and purge every once in a while...

The sauna and elliptical were not long-term solutions to my weight loss, and so, I would quickly gain back any weight I lost.

All it took was a stressful event, heartbreak, or a random craving that would send me over the edge into a binge fest of all foods unhealthy.

When He Becomes Your Motivation

When my husband and I first started dating, I finally found the motivation to lose the weight and keep it off (or at least I tried). My boyfriend was 30 lbs lighter than I was and I hated it!  I started learning about clean eating, strength training, and how moderation was vital to keeping my weight in check. A year and a half into our relationship, we got engaged.

This put a deadline for when I needed to reach that magical weight.

I signed up for a myfitnesspal account and started tracking my weight and calories. For the next 14 months, my weight would decline with a few small increases here and there.

Then, on February 21, 2015, 12 days before our wedding, I weighed in at my lowest ever—168 lbs. I was only slightly heavier than my future hubby and figured it was adequate enough for us have a “happily-ever-after" kind of marriage.

During this time period, I believed his love for me was conditional. I thought the key to a happy (and sexy) marriage was to be similar in weight.

Then, six months into our marriage, I went through a really rough season at work. I was thrust into a toxic work environment in which I had very little time to take care of myself.

I started eating my emotions and gained 15 lbs in 3 months, damaging all progress I had made.

I felt unworthy of my husband's love and ashamed of my body.

How could I ever be intimate with him when I despised every single part of me?

Soon after, the Air Force gave my husband and me orders that would send us overseas to live as husband and wife, for the first time ever.

2014 to 2015 - Engagement Period(general weight-loss trend); mid 2015 - Beginning of 2016 - Tough season at work resulting in massive weight-gain; 2016 - 2017 - Pregnancy; 2017 - 2018 - Postpartum Period.

2014 to 2015 - Engagement Period(general weight-loss trend); mid 2015 - Beginning of 2016 - Tough season at work resulting in massive weight-gain; 2016 - 2017 - Pregnancy; 2017 - 2018 - Postpartum Period.

Finally Together as Husband and Wife

Up until this point, we hadn’t lived together, so I “controlled” what food was kept in my house, and what I eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was a whole new ball game to take into consideration another person's food preferences when it came to preparing meals.

My husband loves carbs, processed foods, and sugar-laden breakfast items. I, also, enjoy all those things but have no form of self-control to keep myself from eating everything in sight.

In the first few years of our relationship, he didn't understand the addictive feeling I had when I would see a dozen donuts sitting on the counter, or a bag of Salt and Vinegar chips in the cupboard. It was easy for him to have a portion and put the rest away for later, whereas I could not stop eating once I started.

If we had donuts left in the house, all I could think about were those donuts. It was an obsession. As if those were the last donuts on the planet and I needed to have them right then and there. If there was an open bag of Salt and Vinegar chips, you can bet I would demolish them in one sitting.

So when we started living together, deciding what foods to keep in the house was a huge challenge.

Marriage is not a dictatorship. I did not have full authority to decide what foods we kept in the house and neither did my husband.

Should I stop buying the unhealthy foods and make my husband suffer? Or do I suck it up and force myself to have self-control?

I didn’t think it’s was fair to make him suffer because I couldn’t control myself, but it also wasn’t fair for him to keep my kryptonite around and force me to lean on my own strength.

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Finding Balance

Initially, I catered to his needs and forced myself to develop self-control, and that FAILED miserably.

You guys, at certain points, I started sneaking food while he wasn’t around because I didn’t want him to judge me. In reality, I was projecting my emotions onto him.

Did he want me to binge on all those bad foods—no! But he didn’t love me any less if I did.

I was the only one judging myself, but instead of admitting that, I convinced myself that he was the one I should be hiding from.

I started having breakdowns of feeling like such a failure. I would focus on the fact that I neededto lose 50+ lbs and the gravity of that number just wore me down.

I felt like I was drowning.

I started to believe I would never lose the weight.

I would never be smaller than my husband.

I would never be happy, and if I was never happy, couldmy marriage succeed?

My poor husband was dealing with a woman with polarized self-esteem (aka E^3). One minute, I was motivated to lose the weight and would make progress, and then the next minute, I would slip up and suddenly start sabotaging everything I had achieved.

And he couldn’t say a thing. If he opened his mouth, I would take it as a personal attack.

I wouldn’t let him be my cheerleader, because every time he tried to encourage me, all I could hear was the enemy telling me my husband did not think I was beautiful.

The enemy was out to get our marriage.

He wanted me to believe that our marriage was dependent on the number on the scale, and if that number were too high, my husband would leave me.

Love is Patient

My husband was/is exceptionally patient with me. He has seen me at my heaviest and at my lightest. He has learned how to bring me back to earth when I find myself in the pits of no hope. He has had to be open and honest about how my actions/self-worth affect our marriage and has had to deal with the unfortunate consequences of telling me the truth.

Truth hurts.

He has reminded me time and time again, that his love is not conditional. He loves me regardless of the number on the scale. He has also reminded me that he wants a healthy wife, a wife who, God-willing, is able to live a long and happy life.

 
We do not hate our bodies for what they are; we hate them for what they are not. We hate them for not being godlike. We hate them for being imperfect. We hate them for being limited. And like the man and woman in the garden, instead of rejecting the pride that tells us we could be like God, we reject our bodies that tell us we cannot. 
— Anderson, Hannah. Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul (p. 88). Moody Publishers. 

Every day has been a struggle to learn how to love myself.  Every day has been a reminder that I cannot do this alone. I am reminded that in my weakness I am strong and God uses these opportunities to mold me into the woman He wants me to become.

I have learned that my husband is not my savior, God is, and the only way I can ever hope to achieve a happy and healthy life/marriage is to lean on the one who created it.

 
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
— 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 ESV
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Practical Ways to Help You Find Balance

>> Compromise – Find ways to compromise on what foods to allow in your house and what foods to not allow. I learned that I had self-control with specific items. Instead of telling my husband no chips in the house, I asked him to buy only the kinds I knew I was indifferent about. Instead of purchasing Salt and Vinegar chips every time, we would just buy it once every few months.

>> Out of sight, out of mind – Like I said earlier, my husband loves donuts. So now, the few times he buys them, I asked him to place them in the microwave. This way they arent in my face, forcing myself to practice self-control every time I walk into the kitchen.

>> Maintain open and honest communication – My husband tried to motivate me, but he didn't understand why I couldn't accept his advice. Any time he tried to help, it just made me more upset. Sometimes the only people we are open to receiving advice from are people who have walked in our shoes. It took me awhile to explain that to my husband, but when I finally let him know, he knew how to communicate with me.

>> Admit you are weak – the hardest part of this journey was admitting that I am weak and cannot do it alone. I needed accountability partners. I needed God. It is because of my weakness that I have seen God work in my life, so I rejoice in my struggles because here is where I have found my savior.

How Physical Fitness & Self-Worth Affected My Relationships

I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY WEIGHT - Part V Relationships/ROTC

This piece is Part 5 of a 9 Part Series called I Am Not Defined By My Weight, inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face". 

Recently, I decided to take the 5 Love Languages quiz to figure out my love language. The quiz determined my love language is “Words of Affirmation," meaning for me, actions do not speak louder than words. Unsolicited compliments, kind/encouraging words are genuinely life-giving, and the opposite can be earth-shattering.

love language self esteem rotc.jpg

Understanding this love language brought a lot of things into perspective.

From growing up obsessed with physical appearance, to listening to immature boys call me fat, I started to believe the lies that I am what I weigh. Strangers repeated these words often enough, it consumed me and crushed my spirit.   All throughout college, I unknowingly battled these misperceptions, trying to discover who I was and what my purpose was in life. When I joined ROTC, it exacerbated the belief that I wasn't enough.

Firstly, please realize I am not faulting the Air Force, Ohio State or ROTC for any of my self-esteem problems.  I had fantastic cadre members (the officers/enlisted members in charge) and peers that encouraged and motivated me. My story is more than the four years in ROTC.My struggle is a culmination of my culture, my perceptions, and my individual experiences.

ROTC Experience

From day one in ROTC, I was aware I did not meet standards and would have to lose weight to wear the uniform. I also could not pass a PT test (physical training test) to save my life—another requirement to serve in the Air Force.

Knowing this, I continued on.

I went to mandatory PT twice a week, and watched, as every single person was faster, skinnier, and stronger than me. I was also one of a few cadets who did not meet standards, thus was required to march around campus in civilian clothes.

You can say I stuck out like a sore thumb. Because of this, I regularly had people asking me why I wasn't in uniform and what did I mean by "not meeting standards."

Talk about awkward.

I had to explain to people I was too fat to wear the uniform. I would feel sick to my stomach.

ROTC PT.jpg
ROTC PT .jpg

To make matters worse, we would have PT tests once a quarter where we would get weighed in, tape measured, and then tested on pushups, sit-ups and a mile and a half run.

If I didn't make weight, it was an automatic failure and no more uniform for me.  So instead of fueling my body appropriately to do well on those PT tests, I would starve myself the weak prior and spend hours in the sauna wearing a sweat suit to make sure I could make weight.

You can probably guess my performance during those tests were subpar.

It was a lose-lose situation.

In hindsight, I wish I had reached out for help on how to lose weight the right way. I knew there were standards I needed to uphold, yet every Friday after weigh-ins I would binge on Taco Bell as a reward for surviving another week. When I would go out with friends, I would enjoy massive amounts of food and then force myself to puke it up. Not only would the calories not count, but it also prevented hangovers. Pretty distorted, am I right?

Thankfully, that season is behind me, but there is still more to the story.

Self-worth and Relationships

“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.” – Robert Holden

Even after I had finally achieved the Air Force's goal weight, I still struggled with self-worth. I was finally wearing the uniform, but I was the slowest person on the track. It wasn't enough to make weight, nor pass the PT test. The next expectation was to get 100 points on the PT test, and I was rarely hitting 90.

I felt like a failure, a big fat failure.

It was during this time I started developing feelings for one of the guys in ROTC, except I tried my hardest to fight those feelings.

See, this guy was white, skinny, and came from the suburbs of Ohio.

I, on the other hand, was Puerto Rican, chubby, and from inner-city Cleveland.

What the heck would people think if they saw a big Hispanic girl with a skinny white boy? 

What would my family say? 

I was not going to allow myself to be embarrassed like that. Plus, why would a thin person want to be with a fat person? I genuinely believed I was too big to be loved. That I needed to find someone bigger than me or else it would never work.

I fixated on these beliefs so much, I pushed this guy away from me, into the arms of another girl.

It wasn’t until I realized the other girl was not interested in him that I decided I could not suppress my feelings any longer.

I had to tell him how I felt, despite feeling unworthy of him or his love.

Lessons Learned

♥ Determine your long-term goals and ensure your short-term goals help you achieve your objective. I  solely focused on making sure the scale moved down, I practiced unhealthy habits that hindered long-term weight loss.

♥ Progress is progress. Celebrate all of your small achievements. Every little achievement adds up to big success.

♥ Ask for help. Don’t allow your pride to get in the way of achieving your goal. I relied heavily on my own strength that it took me longer than it should have to reach my target.

♥ Don’t compare yourself to other people. No one has walked in your shoes. You were uniquely created, and no one in the world matches you. Comparing yourself to other people steals your joy.

♥ Love is not dependent on weight. I was so afraid to date someone because I thought I weighed too much, I almost missed out on the best relationship of my life.

Happily Ever After . . . 

Thankfully, I learned how to stifle the negative opinions I had for myself long enough to enter into the best relationship of my life—my marriage. I wish I could tell you that I learned how to love myself before we said our vows, but that would not be true.

I entered my marriage thinking; finally, I would be happy since I had someone who loved me for me.

But that was just not the case.

Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have, and my relationship with myself was not the best.

It was in marriage and motherhood where I learned how to “love” myself.

If you would like to read more, feel free to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or email. Next week I will explore the beginning of my relationship and marriage, and how I learned that I needed to love myself before I could truly accept my husbands love.

5 Lessons Learned.jpg

The Day He Became A Father

The Day He Became A Father

**Possible Triggers**

This is a story of one couples journey through miscarriage and pregnancy. If you are easily triggered, I recommend you invite a friend to read this post first before you go any further. 

Many might say the day my husband became a father was the day our daughter was born. Some might even say it was the day he found out we were pregnant with her.

What do I say?

I saw my husband become a father the day he grieved for our unborn baby.

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Friendship: For a Reason, Season, or a Lifetime

All Friends wedding.jpg
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.
— C.S. Lewis

One of the most difficult things surrounding moving every few years is the ability to find quality and lasting friendships.  You spend enough time at a base to find your community and then the military tells you it’s time to move.  Every move, you question whether or not you’re going to find ladies just as amazing as your last assignment; and you question how many people you will actually keep in contact with.

Sure, I will follow you on Instagram or Facebook, but are we really going to “keep in touch” like we promised? Well, that just depends…

Were we friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime?

I know that may sound harsh, but not every friendship can be for a lifetime. Some friendships start off great and then die down. Other friendships last for a few months or a few years and then no longer serve a purpose. Sometimes, on the rare occasion, you find your female soul mate in the form of a sister from another mister, a best friend whom you will grow old with and become a part of the family.

If you think back to any of your past friendships/relationships, can you identify where people belonged? Did you have a friendship/relationship you thought was going to last a lifetime, but didn’t?

First love ring a bell? How about the best friend you had in middle school?

In hindsight, I see the purpose they served and I am thankful for the time I had with them. No regrets.

Some friendships come into your life for a reason.

Some friendships come into your life for a reason. These friendships serve a purpose or meet a need. When that purpose has been fulfilled, or that need met, the friendship dissipates into a distant memory. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s not like you intentionally befriended the rich girl just so she can buy you those red bottom heals, or the jujube pump bag you’ve been dying for but your hubby wont let you by (it really is the holy grail of pump bags). These friendships happened naturally. Maybe you met them during a short business trip and they were your comfort friend in a scary place. Or maybe you met them in a gym class and they motivated you to finish the workout. These friendships were developed for a reason, a purpose, and once that purpose disappeared, so does the friendship.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28

Some friendships come into your life for a season. 

When I lived in Illinois, I attended one of the best churches I had ever been to. I was involved with many ministries and volunteered any chance I could get.  Through the church, I met many amazing women who filled me up, mentored me, and befriended me during a time when I was very much alone. My first duty assignment was two states away from my family and 735 miles away from my boyfriend.  These ladies came over for dinner often, and we would laugh, cry, and pray about any and everything.  I learned so much from these women and truly believe they helped shape me into the wife and mother I am today.

After 2.5 years, I moved out of the country to finally join my hubby. Slowly, but surely, those friendships ceased to exist. Nothing bad happened. In fact, a lot of great things happened, but God brought these ladies into my life for a season only.  In retrospect, those friendships served a purpose. The purpose was to help me on my journey of developing my faith, of discovering who I was in Christ. I still follow them on social media and think of them often.

I look back at most of those friendships and am so thankful for everything I learned.  Those ladies poured into me and allowed me to grow more than I ever thought was possible. I knew that most of those relationships would not survive a PCS, but I was okay with that. I knew that God had a purpose for each and every one of those ladies.

Some friendships come into your life for a lifetime. 

When we are fortunate, we sometimes make a friend or two that will withstand a lifetime.

A friend who overlooks your brokenness and admires the beauty inside you.

A friend who is open and honest…. who tells you when you’re wrong in a loving manner.

God brings certain people into our life to stay for a lifetime.

In this arena, I have been blessed.

These friendships are the ones that you can go a while without talking, but when you catch up, it is like nothing has changed. These are also the friendships that you will go out of your way to spend time with them even though you only have a few days to spend back home. Sometimes, these are the people that you call in the middle of the night, asking for prayers because you feel so broken or so tempted that you don’t have the strength fight the temptation alone. And when you are extremely blessed, these are the friendships that you pour your deepest secrets or embarrassments, because you can trust them to pray for you and hold you accountable.

I reflect on all the people in my life, those that lasted a long season, or a short reason, and those who are currently still in my life, and I am in awe.  Through military moves across states or across countries, through pregnancies and miscarriages, through heartbreak and marriages, these friendships have all shaped me in one way or another.

Had I disregarded any of them because I knew they weren’t meant to last a lifetime, I would have missed out on so many blessings.

Friendship For a reason, season, or lifetime.png

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Friendships

♥ Recognize that some friendships are only meant for a reason, others for a season, and few for a lifetime.

♥ Don’t harbor bad feelings when friendships dissipate. Instead, recognize the hidden blessings they provided you and continue to nurture the relationships you have control over.

♥ Maintain realistic expectations that sometimes, you may have expected a friendship to last a lifetime, but in reality it was only a season. Although it may hurt, God is in the midst of your relationships.

♥ And no matter the category, cherish your friendships. You never know when a friendship for a reason turns into a friendship for a lifetime.

 
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Can you reflect on your relationships past or present and identify the blessings?