For years I thought my belief in God was my full testimony and that simply believing made me a Christian, little did I realize that even demons believe—and shudder. I lacked the confession that I was a sinner in desperate need. I needed a savior and his grace. I don’t know at what moment I became a Christian but this is the story of how I learned to walk and dance in the light of an authentic Christian life.
When I was four years old I became very sick with a disease called Severe Aplastic Anemia which is a condition where bone marrow doesn’t produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells. To treat the disease I stayed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center for six weeks and was given a bone marrow transplant. My younger sister, Kate, was the donor. As often happens after a transplant of someone else’s bone marrow I got sick with Chronic Graft versus Host Disease, which means my body was attacked by the new white blood cells since they saw my body as “foreign” and something to fight off. Graft vs. Host Disease is extremely painful and at ten years old I was hardly able to walk and unable to sit up or climb stairs without help—many nights I thought of giving up my fight for life.
I may have felt like belting out Simon and Garfunkel’s words to “I am a Rock” in the past but I have learned that I’d rather feel pain and cry than be a rock or an island because it’s not the pain that I’ve hated the most; it’s the loneliness of holding these things in – memories which need to be told.
Since coming through my illnesses I have a huge amount of admiration for the children who go through traumatic experiences at such a young age and shine outward amidst it. They help others because their tenderness grew. Instead of letting my pain be a catalyst for gentleness, service, and love though, I let it consume me. What an ugly thing that turned out to be and what a slow learning process coming out of it. I am still so weak but then again, I always will be unless God is my strength. This is not just my story. This is our story.
“…My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” – Psalm 73:26
Alone in Darkness
In the hospital I despised nights spent alone, besides a nurse who sat quietly in the corner by my bed. Before leaving one night, Mommy came over to my bedside and handed me a little yellow flashlight she had dug out from her purse. She told me to hang onto it during the night and she would come back for it in the morning, for me to return to her. This was her way of promising her return but I didn’t care about the flashlight; I just wanted her to stay. I pleaded and thought of every excuse possible for her to stay but she had to leave me each time. The stiff, slippery leather chair in the corner of the room wasn’t adequate for a good night’s sleep and she couldn’t cope with another sleepless night. Terror ripped through my body every time she turned towards the door to leave my room. In my head I screamed in fright “Mommy, don’t leave me! Mommy, don’t leave me! Mommy, don’t leave me!” until I heard the latch click shut on the heavy metal door. I was a caged bird forced with another night alone in my prison left only with the promise of my family’s return.
I would lie awake those nights, party because I couldn’t sleep, and partly because of this dread fear that if I did sleep I would never wake up—or I’d wake up somewhere else and not know where I was. Sometimes I flipped the TV on that suspended from an arm way up on the wall and I’d slowly flip through the static channels to find a kid-friendly cartoon but most often I preferred to stay in silence. My nurse seemed to like the shows more than I did. They bored me; all I cared about was being healthy, home with my family and sleeping in my own little bed but instead I was laying there in that huge hospital bed terribly uncomfortable from the short, beach-blonde hairs that fell off my head and made my skin itch as they were scattered, mixed with tears into my sheets, across my pillow and down my Dalmatian-dog pajamas. A few days later they would shave my head – an act which would bring much comfort but a little humiliation too.
The room I laid in was fairly spacious. There were large windows which I could see the helicopter pad from and which let in lots of streaming light during the day; cards with beautiful names scrawled across them from Daddy and Mommy’s friends or awkward letters that somehow spelled out the names of my little friends were plastered quite the length of one of the longer walls (if I remember right, there were a lot anyway); a few balloons clustered in a corner; a small desk; a shelf filled with toys; that stiff, slippery leather recliner; and a little bathroom near the door. The floor was covered in large white tiles and the walls were painted a plain, ugly color too but that wasn’t noticeable with all the lovely cards, letters and gifts we had around the room from all our family and friends . . . but not even that was visible in the darkness, as soon as the light was turned off all the loveliness disappeared and I was left to stare at the blinking lights of machines keeping me alive.
Morning brought the hopefulness that morning light so often does, the bustle of activity, and the daily routines of the hospital staff. I rather enjoyed my nurses; they made each day special and had kind words for me. Years after leaving the hospital I was told they would race each other to work in the morning to beat the other one to my room. They called me “The Princess on the 7th Floor”. My parents didn’t want me to get a big head so they kept the special nickname from me until I was older. I think of those nurses fondly even though I can’t picture most of their faces now.
My doctor was kind to me as well but in my four-year-old brain I correlated my pain and sadness from being in the hospital to his presence so I was pretty grumpy around him many days. I am sorry for it now; he didn’t deserve my attitude towards him. He was a funny man and would come into my room each morning with a smile and a joke—which made being sour with him very difficult.
I had this idea that even when I was happy with him I should keep up my act and let him think I was unhappy, so with a mask on over my mouth and nose, (which I wore during the day as people came in and out of my room) I held my laugh but beamed a gigantic smile. I thought my sneaky smile was hidden behind the mask but a long time later he told me he could always tell when I was giving him those joyful smiles because my eyes lit up . . . something I never could have kept hidden.
I had chores even in the hospital room. I don’t remember what they all were now but I remember my chart. If I accomplished my assignments for the day I was able to put little stickers in the appropriate boxes. As I child I adored stickers. They seemed magical to me, I loved to peel them off the sheet, feel their stickiness on my finger and gently smooth them onto a piece of paper. Orca whale stickers were my favorite because that was my favorite animal; they were dignified, strong and free which is exactly what I longed to be. I still have the chore chart today, stuck away in some old scrapbook. If you look at it you’ll see there are many days I without stickers but those were the days I felt the worst.
I remember learning about Jesus by the way my daddy and mommy talked to him through those weeks. One stark realization I remember hitting me as I stood in the middle of the room one day was that nothing could be worse than this. I had heard that this Jesus wouldn’t allow anything to happen to me that I couldn’t handle if I let God be my strength. (“What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27) I remember thinking; this is all I can handle so at least it can’t get worse. Did I believe in God at that point? I think I believed there was a God who was looking over me at that moment but I didn’t have him in my heart, I had no intimate relationship with him—that would come later.
Medications and shots were a regular pattern each day for years. After taking the drugs for a while nothing tasted good anymore other than ice cream so during my time in the hospital Daddy bought me boxes of Schwan’s drumstick sundaes that the nurses allowed him to store in their little freezer. It was almost the only thing I would eat. I guess their sweetness was strong enough to mask the bitter taste cemented to my mouth. Even today I can’t drink a glass of chocolate milk because the nurses thought I wouldn’t be able to taste the loathful, thick, white, creaminess of cyclosporine as well if they mixed it in with some chocolate and milk. They were seriously wrong.
Bath times were awful. I like to take my baths in private, don’t most people? But since I had Hickman line I certainly needed help with my bathing. They would have me climb into this cold, hard, angular metal tub filled with water that they had rolled into the middle of my hospital room. And they expected me to enjoy the experience! I hated those afternoons, I was always afraid more people would barge into the room.
After my bone marrow transplant Grandpa and Grandma brought Kate to my room. All we could do was play games through the window door since it was too risky to let a toddler be around me in case I caught a new sickness from her. I was so sad she couldn’t actually come into the room during those visits but we had fun seeing each other anyway.
Carly was able to visit me on occasion during the few weeks in Omaha. We were given window paint that we could so satisfyingly dip our chubby fingers into and smear the colored wetness all over my huge hospital room windows. We drew red, yellow, blue and green houses, the sunshine, trees, a swing and our family – our family was always altogether in our pictures. I missed having my family together so days like those with a sister have got to be about the closest thing to heaven a child could experience.
On a bitterly cold winter night Daddy drove up to the hospital, parked inside the parking garage I could see from one of my windows and stood out in the wintry-Nebraska wind forming a little snowman for me to look at from my window. Once he got up to my room he took me over to the window to point out where the snowman sat. I was so touched he would have stayed out in the cold any longer than necessary just to build me a snowman. I stood there by the window for a few minutes straining and searching for the cold little creation on the parking garage wall but I never found him. I felt so bad for not being able to see him since Daddy had been so sweet in building the little guy. When he asked if I liked it I smiled, lied and told him that yes, it was very nice. I felt terrible for lying to him but I felt even worse for not being able to spot his kind creation.
A feeling of guilt and confusion between lying and pleasing my dad haunted me often in the years following. How had I done wrong when all I wanted was to please my dad? Was there really a power behind this moral law pulling at my heart? I wondered.
Through my sicknesses I hated the pain. I didn’t hate God, my family, or the doctors; I hated my circumstances. I didn’t understand why I was there or when I could go home. I was terrified and lonely but I always kept quiet on the outside.
I suppose I had courage in spite of fear but I would have denied it as a child. I received a medal for my ‘exceptional courage and bravery’ from the National Guard of Nebraska but for years I hated to look at it because I thought it was undeserved. I thought they were awarding me for being fearless but they didn’t know about all those times I screamed in my head. I didn’t understand that courage isn’t the absence of fear but rather the ability to think clearly, and remain hopeful even while you’re frightened out of your imagination.
A few weeks after returning home from the long hospital stay I lay in my own little bed and thought about the resurrection story, I knew it well the night before the Easter holiday in 1997. I also thought about where I would be if I had died in the hospital. I realized I would have gone to hell because Jesus wasn’t living in my heart. I called Mom into my room that night and prayed to accept Jesus into my heart with her there, but I hardly understood or thought I needed grace at that time; I was interested in life insurance, not a higher quality of life.
Since I was four it has taken my body ten long years to heal and since then almost as long for my heart and soul to heal from pain I’ve mostly allowed on myself through the time my body was suffering. I let my spirit wither away until there was almost nothing left. When I realized how far gone I was and how much I had hardened my heart I determined to fight hard to get back to where I could feel and love again. It’s a difficult undertaking to soften my heart, learn selflessness, and joy. Simply working through understanding things takes a while . . . at least it has for me.
Like Tom Petty’s song,“Square One”, says: “It took a world of trouble, it took a world of tears; it took a long time to get back here.”
As a young child I had a tender, gentle heart; and laughter, I’m told, like silvery bells. Over the years I let that heart turn hard and silent. Instead of dancing in the sunlight I was hiding in a closet. I wouldn’t let people know my weaknesses, my failures and my fears and because of this I didn’t let them see the light and joy. I couldn’t half hide in the closet; I was either all there or all in the light. Staying in the closet the beauty in my heart faded and the ugliness grew.
The little caterpillar of a girl had been cocooned—I found myself hiding from people and not letting anyone else have the least control of my life as long as I could help it. I continually forgot I never once had ultimate control over my life and I never would. I began to act like my own god, even as I claimed to love the One True God but as it says in 1st John 2, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
I’ve struggled greatly in knowing what specifically caused this change from joy to sorrow, from openness to bitterness, from trust to distrust. My family loved me, they took care of me, my sisters were my best friends and even though some people in my life do not seem to love me much they were not terribly unkind to me. This sounds little like the roots of pain to me.
Maybe it was a lot of little things then . . . but maybe they aren’t so little and I am just starting to realize that. For years I told myself that I was fine, no one and nothing had hurt me and so I didn’t need any help but now I’ve finally been able to understand and to accept that even the seemingly small incidents and misunderstandings in a childhood can be traumatic and leave hurtful impressions because children don’t fully understand what is going on—children are naive. They may sound small but not dealt with these “small” pains have spread and grown large—cutting deep and leaving scars.
Like, maybe I wasn’t ready to face the utter loneliness, horrifying fear and the sudden reality of death before I could even write my name.
And maybe my baby heart felt the twinge of abandonment some nights when in reality my parents found it so hard to leave the hospital room for the night and always rushed back to me the next morning. I was terrified. Trying to be brave, I plastered a smile on my face and pushed my fears down—instead of facing them. Further down in my soul, they have grown and swollen into greater fears now. It might seem small that I will hardly let a friend carry luggage for me in a train station but that is only the ebb to the greater wave of not allowing anyone to see my heart. This is what makes me want to be in control: I have believed that if I’m in control I will be safe and unhurt.
I blamed some hardships our family went through on me. I felt like the stress of my illness and the decisions that came with it for them, the burden of not having the money for the bills, the tension of living between the hospital and home, the sadness of splitting our family up so I wouldn’t catch a cold from my sisters with my low immune system was all my fault.
When I was four or five Dad sold his old, red farm pickup and bought a new, brown Chevy. I knew how pleased he was at having this new vehicle but we had it only a matter of weeks before he sold it . . . to pay the medical bills.
Since my parents had given me so much and suffered for me I felt like I needed to be good for them and I felt the same toward God. I tried for many years to pay back all they had given up but the problem was, I could never be good enough by my own standard—I was not perfect but I practically acted as if I was. I hated myself and how I acted and I took the hate out on my family and God. The very people I wanted to love, I instead hurt . . . over and over again. I was in the pit of emotional despair and I continually felt unworthy of love, guilty and ugly. My parents never blamed me for hard things that happened to our family or ever implied such a thing so why did I feel I should be held responsible?
The simple answer: Satan. He fights a constant battle between what he wills and what God wills and we are in the middle of it. For a while when I was young I had nightmares and hated to go to bed because I was scared of Satan and his power. I thought Satan would come and kill me in my sleep, kidnap me or something dreadful like that. My mom tried to calm my fears and I soon hardly thought of him anymore. He was put aside with the tooth fairy and Santa Clause as those figments of children’s imaginations. What I needed was to trust Christ but I chose to ignore Satan instead.
Without knowing what the word meant, I had become a realist. I felt like everything was up to me then: my thoughts and my decisions and if I was tempted . . . well of course, that was my fault too and it was a sin (or so I thought) but at least I was in control (or so I thought). I blamed myself for everything, not believing in the power Satan holds and this is a dangerous place to be in because when we disbelieve in Satan, his powers are magnified, not eradicated.
Satan has an easy job in controlling Western society these days because no one believes in him anymore and why would we avoid someone who we believe doesn’t exist? I have realized that like me, many people today in western culture don’t feel like they need God because they don’t acknowledge his enemy. As one of my friends, Anthony Marks, recently wrote: “We are told we have an enemy in scripture, but [like God,] he too is a distant idea. All the while, the world is dying. Our ignorance or resistance is at the expense of enemy domain and acquisition; he builds strongholds while we interact with the physical like nothing is amiss. We do not see the lies that bind the world around us, yet we wonder what keeps mankind from accepting our God with open arms. We fight our battles in courtrooms while the enemy claims spiritual space. We gather for coffee and donuts while the dead reside outside our walls . . . Without an enemy, we have no urgency.”
Yes, we blindly follow Satan when he sneaks just enough truth into his lies for the weak-minded to gullibly follow him to their deaths. While visiting Peru a woman told me she believes she is living through hell now, this put a deep ache in my heart to know she was living hopelessly but I understand now it’s equally as tragic to believe there is no hell. Without hell who needs a gracious savior?
So lies have been whispered into my heart to pull me away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ, to try to convince me my family’s difficulties are all my fault, people abandon me, I know nothing worth saying, and I can never make a positive impact in the world so I should give up trying. Through these many lies Satan lured me into a long and slow death-life and I sinfully chose to believe and follow him.
Satan led me to hide from everyone in bitterness and depression to supposedly protect my heart and bring me joy. I was right where he wanted me: lonely and afraid, cowering in darkness and daily becoming more and more complacent as I was giving up my values, hopes, and dreams; wallowing in my guilt and self-pity; wondering where joy had gone and locking the door on my past. Satan promises the closet as a safe haven from the painful world and as Keith Green says, “Satan will be there to share your dark, eternal home.” He is the king of death and he will do all he can to have people live lifelessly and die hopelessly. Let me tell you though, Satan is wrong—selfishness won’t bring joy.
The deepest misery comes from within the closet, because when you lock things up in your heart you automatically lock up the bad as well as the good, the past as well as the future, the pain as well as the love; it’s all behind the same door marked “Life”. The paradox of this door is that you first have to die to yourself before you can experience the life on the other side because life on the other side belongs to Christ, not to man. As C. S. Lewis put it, “In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”
One area of my life I have believed these lies are in my relationships with boys. Growing up, I tried to be virtuous and cultivate a beautiful heart but boys I’ve known have not always treated my heart as a treasure and even I began to forget that it is. Through high school no boy was interested in me beyond friendship but so many of those friends were asking Kate out on dates. I swallowed my frustration and told myself that that was all I was really worth—friendship—and something about me wasn’t enough, or maybe I was too much of something, for deeper love. Was I not pretty enough? Was I too serious? I tried becoming someone else and hiding my own personality and dreams to seem adequate to someone else. I have even laughed in ridicule at the meaning of my name: ‘Laurel leaves’ denote victory and honor. What would I ever be victorious about and why should I deserve honor?
Recently this lowly self-image I have had came to my attention and I realized I was asking “Why me? Am I really worth pursuing? What’s so special about my heart? Why am I so worthy of honor?” in regard to young men as well as my Heavenly Father.
I had gone from thinking too highly of myself and that I deserved all the best (as if I were God) to thinking too lowly of myself and that I deserved nothing. The second great commandment is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In that one commandment we are taught two things: love others and love yourself. So where was the balance? Where was the middle ground?
Becoming a Butterfly
I hated the lifestyle I led, I didn’t want to pretend any longer, and instead I desired genuineness and closeness in my relationship with Christ. As for hoping for a husband, I told myself if I ever wanted a man to love me, I wanted him to love me for who I really am (with the pain I’ve felt and inflicted) not as a masquerading impersonation trying to live up to her own ridiculous standards.
Through God’s mercy I found grace and redemption. The truth that Christ died to accept me as I am and that he loves me despite my trash was breathed into my heart. I don’t know at what moment this came but I finally understood I couldn’t control my life, avoid pain, fix, or hide my problems even in a closet so I chose to give up trying to prove my own worth to God, other people, and to myself, as well as judging myself and others because it doesn’t matter. I am letting him be my defender and letting him restore and transform me.
As I stepped out of the closet to dance with my Father in the light I realized Jesus had been waiting all along, knocking on the door and waiting for me to accept his hand but in stubbornness and pride I had covered my ears, all the while complaining of the silence and loneliness I felt.
I believed there was a deeper, authentic life offered so helpless and needy, I chose a life of vulnerability and I am falling in love with The One who has the nail pierced hands because of his love for me.
Even since breaking free of the cocoon I still have days I believe Satan’s lies and would like to creep under a rug to disappear. All the wrong and stupid things I’ve done and said run through my head and drive me crazy with regret. “Homeward Bound” is my song in those moments (or days). Every day I feel depressed I think of the words “all my words come back to me, in shades of mediocrity, like emptiness in harmony. I need someone to comfort me”.
Is it wrong to feel like I need people, their love and comfort? I have recently thought I should be content alone as I’m letting Christ use me by giving out to others and that I’m being purely selfish when I think I need people. I thought my focus was completely wrong every time I enjoy and gain so much from a friendship but the truth is I don’t have a heart completely like God’s. While I am made in his image, my heart is not the same. When it comes to the way God and I love it is through divine opposition that I am able to draw near to him in a complementary way. He is complete, lacking in nothing, and completely able to give everything without needing anything in return—his love is a Gift-love whereas I am empty and nothing without Christ and need to be filled and made—my love is a Need-love. He said “It is not good for man to be alone” so while I do have Christ and I don’t have to be married, I do need others around me. C. S. Lewis said “We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves” and now I wholeheartedly agree with him.
Gift-love is the very mark of authentic Christian life because in it we are like God. We can love in some measure the way God loves us—patiently, selflessly, and forgivingly but this kind of love can easily turn into Need-love in unhealthy ways. This happens when we give and share what we have with others because without giving we end up feeling worse.
So while Need-love isn’t inherently wrong, Using Need-love disguised as Gift-love is dangerous because it can suck the life out of those I want to love simply because I want their love in return. I used to do “kindnesses” for others but always expected something in return, which was not real love; when I didn’t receive what I expected (and thought I deserved) it made me feel sorry for myself and like people treated me unfairly. My ego grew as my heart was blinded to the fact I was the one treating others unkindly. I have taken so much while calling it “a gift.” Love had become my god, and in that it became a demon.
Now that I understand Satan even uses love as a vice, this is how I desire to love: again, to quote Lewis: “The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love. It must work towards is own abdication . . . the hour when we can say ‘They need me no longer’ should be our reward.”
Learning to Fly
I have found my wings and now I am learning to fly. When Satan returns to my ear with lies, hoping to catch me again in my weaknesses I now know I have a choice to how I respond. I can either choose to give into temptation, which would lead to sin; or through the grace of God throw back my head and tell Satan he won’t have his way because I can intentionally choose to dance in the light, fight for joy and find my confidence in Christ. 1st Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also prove the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” If I ignore this choice I have I will automatically be choosing to return to darkness because that is where my default lies.
I am helpless and I am given each and every breath that I breathe. I am a treasure because God has loved me and I need him. He chose me and made me beautiful; without him I am an ugly sinner but thankfully, through his grace and forgiveness I have a soul alive and thriving. I am confident, not because I am beautiful in and of myself but through Jesus—the perfect, glorious, and truly beautiful creation of God. I am a new creation who finds her ultimate comfort, security, and significance in him alone. He will never leave me and nothing can take me away from him. I am his forever.
Despite Satan’s lies, I have no reason to wait until I am good enough for God to use me or love me and I have no reason to punish myself by shunning his blessings in my life. I am not good enough for God, I never will be and I can give up trying because there is no need to be perfect when it is by grace we have been saved through faith, and this is not of our doing; it is a gift of God. Instead, I can learn trust, obedience, dependence, and humility through my weaknesses and imperfections while I allow God to fill this empty vessel.
My obedience to Christ used to come from a feeling of guilt and shame–like I had to pay something back but now I am dancing in the light and paying a debt of gratitude. I want to give Him all I have and all I am because I love him.
G. K. Chesterton wrote in his book Orthodoxy “No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world: but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on. Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing? Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiescence? Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair? Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist? Is he enough of a Christian to die to it?” I want to be. I am in this with all my heart.
When I am in the darkness my life revolves around me: my desires, my hurt and my joy but Christ has freed me with his love from my own self-absorption which makes me able to give to others and focus on them and their needs instead of my own. I can daily choose (and it is a daily choice) to join him in the work he has been about in my life and in other’s. God has scripted a beautiful love story in my life, I choose to accept it and rejoice that I have the chance to let God use me and my love and grace, in someone else’s story.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” – 2nd Corinthians 1:3, 5
To signify and celebrate the life I find in Jesus I was baptized in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Lima, Peru in July 2011. I had a very bad cold and by the end of the following long day I was sitting in a train station practically falling asleep and a friend asked me how I was feeling. I said I felt terrible. He was surprised and replied “Really? You don’t look like it. You’re radiating!” “I’m radiating what?” I asked in bewilderment. “Joy” he answered.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.” — Psalm 23 ESV
Laurel leaves are a sign of victory, which I now claim. I have victory in Jesus!