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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Grieving The Loss Of A Child Who Is Still Alive

"One of the hardest things you will ever do, my dear, is to grieve the loss of a person who is still alive."

     I am a member of a support group for parents who have disrupted an adoption. One member shared this quote and I immediately knew I wanted to share it on my FB page. But as I was going through the day, I got to thinking it would make a good blog post as I have yet to read anything on how to grieve the loss of your child, while he is still alive.

    Adoption disruption is similar to a death in some ways. Granted in disruption you "chose" to go through with it while you do not choose to loose your child through death. Everything I have read on grief after loss is so familiar the grief, numbness, sense of loss, anger, guilt and sorrow mentioned have been very much a part of our journey.

    Can you grieve for someone whom you spent years trying to love? Can you grieve the loss of a child when you have literally cried buckets of tears, begged, pleaded and yes, even bargained with God to please, please help you love him? The pint sized being who spit in your face, urinated on your floors and screamed for hours on end all because you said something as simple as, "Thank you for picking up your toys." Why would you grieve the loss of that?

Can you grieve the loss of chaos....

...The lack of fear that your child is going to lie and CPS will come knocking on your door?

The lack of judgement from well meaning people who have no clue... 

Is it possible to grieve no longer having to swallow the bile that rises in your throat when someone says they wish they could adopt a child as sweet as your child...how could you grieve something like that.

BUT....

If the chaos is gone, so is the child and so is all hope of healing..

If CPS isn't knocking on your door, then obviously no one is emotionally ill enough to make false accusations, neither is the child who needed your help to heal...

No judgement, means the child isn't in your home to bring it about....

No bile... no chaos... no CPS.... no child.... only grief, and how on earth can you process that grief, when you were unable to process the push-pull relationship your RAD child insisted upon? When you aren't even sure WHAT you are grieving?

  The answer it seems, is to separate the child from his actions but quite honestly, anyone who has a child with RAD will tell you that is well nigh impossible. Attachment disorder yes, full blown RAD however is quite another story.

 So how do you grieve, what do you grieve, should you grieve?

I grieve or maybe process, would be a better term, by talking. The trouble is, adoption disruption is one of those things people don't feel comfortable talking about. I have found that the mention of B's name is all it takes to bring a momentary halt to every conversation in the room. 

    The problem is, those of us who disrupted an adoption need to talk if we are going to heal. That is how God designed us, but what is there to say about the child that used to be yours, the child who now calls another woman mommy? The child with whom you have only a handful of good memories but who was your child nevertheless? It gets old talking about the bad times but for many of us, we have only a small handful of good memories. Remembering those good moments is hard while going over the bad moments can be devastating. So we grieve the child who could still be ours if we hadn't disrupted the adoption, all the while feeling so thankful that those dark days are behind us...

....how can you feel both grief and relief at the same time?





   

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Cabin Trip And New Therapists

     We spent Easter weekend at Deans uncles cabin.  We told the three youngest our plans the day before we left rather than wait until the last moment. Knowing plans ahead of time usually brings about intense anxiety and lot's of not so nice behavior. To solve that problem we began keeping our lips sealed about family gatherings, birthday parties and that type of thing until it was time to get ready to leave. Recently however, I have begun questioning the wisdom of that practice due to various things that have come up. So rather than wait until Friday morning when we started packing up to tell the children we were going away, I told them the day before. I waited until we were home from Joseph's OT appointment to tell them. My plan was to get them excited enough to pitch in with the cleaning without whining. Let's just say that idea wasn't one of my better one's. Around 3:00 I sent Dean a text saying, "Who's bright idea was it to tell the children our cabin plans a day early, anyway?" I think we will go back to our old method of not divulging our plans until the last minute.

   Friday morning everyone pitched in and helped load the truck. Of course the level of excitement was through the roof, along with the noise level but since it was cheerful noise, we didn't complain. Deans parents joined us from Friday afternoon until Saturday afternoon. The children didn't know they were coming so there were loud exclamations of delight when they came in the drive.


Happy Birthday! Dean's parents brought a delicious ice cream cake for his birthday.

For some reason, the three youngest didn't sleep very well. They were up early every morning and Joseph was awake several times during the night, so when Dean saw there was rain in the forecast, we decided to take them home on Sunday, a day early, so they could sleep in their own beds....and hopefully let us get some sleep as well.


Shooting targets

Lia

Joseph enjoying the swings

Dean, Lia and her baby enjoying a four wheeler ride

Kobi went along to the cabin.

On Thursday afternoon Kiana and Joseph were having big feelings so I handed them a piece of paper and told them to write the best and worst thing about going to the cabin. Joseph said he could only think of good things so I said, "Why don't you write down what you are worried about?" Turns out he was worried Kobi would run away. Last summer I bought the children journals where they wrote their feelings, drew pictures about their day and anything else we felt would help them process their feelings. During the school term, those journals got pushed to the back of the shelf. I think it is time we pull them out again and resume the practice of writing the best and worst thing about each day. Kiana is beginning therapy today and it is bound to stir up some long buried emotions. From prior experience, I know when a child begins therapy things get worse before they get better. Joseph has his first appointment with a psychologist on Monday. It probably wasn't a good idea to have two children begin therapy at once but you can't be picky about such things or you will never find the right time. I must admit I am feeling apprehensive about meeting new therapists. It takes awhile until you know if you can trust them to truly act in your child's best interest. Another concern is, how well do they understand connected parenting and what is their opinion of it. I have learned that many therapists profess to understand childhood trauma and how it affects the child's ability to bond but when it comes to daily implementation, their interpretation of connected parenting is very different than what we believe our children need. You also need to decipher whether or not the therapist feels threatened by your knowledge of attachment, trauma and development. I know for a fact that I have lot's to learn, which is why we are seeking out therapeutic help but I have been immersed in therapy for enough of years that some things have stuck, so every time I meet a new therapist I have to figure out if I need to act ignorant or discuss the things I have learned.

* like my FB page Tales From Our House Blog, to see the links I share regarding trauma, RAD, FASD and adoption.



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Monday, March 28, 2016

The Lonely Path Of Parenting A Child With RAD

lone·li·erlone·li·est
  1. 1a :  being without company :  loneb :  cut off from others :  solitary
  2. 2:  not frequented by human beings :  desolate
  3. 3:  sad from being alone :  lonesome
  4. 4:  producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation
lone·li·ness play\ˈlōn-lē-nəs\ noun

Children with RAD not only isolate themselves, they isolate their parents as well. I no longer have a child with that diagnosis, something I still find hard to fathom. The other evening I told Dean that it still feels like a dream when I think of everything that we went through with B. I remember so many details, all the pain and low times but there is a haze over the memory making it difficult to grasp that those memories are actually part of my life.

Anyway, time and again, I have had moms with children diagnosed with RAD, tell me how lonely they are. These moms immerse themselves in all things RAD, trying to understand what makes their child tick. Unfortunately, they find that they need to parent their emotionally healthy child(ren) completely opposite from how they parent their child with RAD. This is confusing and it takes awhile to figure out exactly how that will look like for your family.  The need to parent children within one family differently, is tough. It is especially hard if the children are close in age and too young to understand why they get consequences while the RAD child "gets" to stay near mom.

  The next strike toward loneliness comes when you try to explain why you parent each child differently. Chances are you are already marked as "The Odd Mom," if your child has RAD. Begin parenting your children differently and relationships are bound to get complicated. It becomes easier and easier to simply stay at home.

And then you (RAD Mom) take your child to therapists and doctors, each who have their own opinion of what is wrong with your child and how you should be parenting him. Since you want what is best for your child you do more research only to see you were making some mistakes. Now you need to figure out how to change the way you were parenting, without having your child with RAD feel he got the upper hand, which would be giving him the illusion that he controls you. All this thinking and talking makes your brain tired. You discuss the pro's and con's with your husband until the clock strike's midnight for the third time in less than a week. I remember telling Dean we should have been defense attorney's, since we were becoming adept at finding any loophole that B would find and figuring out how to reword and rework our plan to make it foolproof, all the while knowing he would find a way around what we said. That kind of mental workout is debilitating and parenting a child with RAD, requires constant thinking of this sort, leaving room for little else. Just staying alive, requires all your brain power. Deep inside you long for a friend but knowing you have nothing to give in return, makes you hesitant to reach out. So you remain lonely because you feel guilty asking someone to befriend you when you are so needy.


When you meet with other special needs mom's, you feel like crawling into a hole and crying because the women are talking about the services their child receives and the progress they are making, while your child who appears perfectly healthy, is regressing. You find yourself thinking "If only braces or surgery could "fix" my child." When mom's talk of bad days, you find yourself thinking, "I would be so grateful if I could just have a good moment." You wipe invisible tears and wonder why you thought it was a good idea to leave your house.

Your mommy group shares the cute things their toddlers are doing and you want to do the same, but your mind comes up blank. You can't think of anything to share, at least nothing they can relate to and the loneliness threatens to overwhelm you yet again. 

Your friends discuss houses and styles, their hopes and dreams and you want to be happy for them, but you feel as if you have nothing to add to the conversation, because you are thankful for every day that goes by without another hole being punched through the drywall... and the lonely feeling creeps over you.

  *this post is not intended to point fingers, instead I want to share how lonely it is when your child has RAD. My heart goes out to those who are "In The Trenches" and honestly do not know how they will face another day, hour or even minute. I was there and I know the pain. Thanks to those who invested in our lives when they knew they would receive nothing in return.












Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When Trauma Comes To Stay

      Do you ever wonder what life would be like without trauma? I simply cannot fathom it, even though it has only been 8 years since we began to become intimately familiar with the term. Only 8 years, but those years have taken us on the steepest learning curve of our lives.

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      Trauma does something to a person, it totally reshapes who you are and how you relate to other people. I can't say it has done me any favors but maybe they are still to come.:) 

    We have completely redesigned our lives to acclimate trauma. It pushed it's way into our life and we learned to make the necessary changes as we went along. Dean says, "It was either sink or swim, so we started paddling, hard!"

     I often say I wear trauma glasses, they make my world look different. I look at clothing and think, "Will this color, design, texture negatively affect the child who will be wearing it." The mother of one of our children frequently dressed in black. The child was terrified of people wearing black clothing for a long time after the adoption was finalized and mom was no longer in the picture.

   Trauma covers my planner, I have to make sure I figure in enough time for it. I must make sure I don't make my schedule to full, or trauma will take over and we will pay dearly.

   We treat trauma like a baby. We are like parents who's child has just begun to crawl, they check the floor to make sure it is safe for their child, removing anything that could be a danger to him. We do the same thing when we go away. We automatically look for things that might upset trauma.

   We take trauma to church and I view the service, through trauma's eye's. When Old Testament stories are told, I can sense, rather than see trauma becoming uneasy. Those stories can bring back memories or stir up sleeping ones.

   I take trauma with me wherever I go. If the children aren't with me, my phone is right by my side, waiting for the phone call or text that things aren't going well. When my phone rings I think, "Uh oh, trauma is upset."

  Trauma must be taken into consideration in every aspect of life. Cereal boxes have pictures that make trauma worry, grocery stores remind trauma of being hungry, crying children bring scary memories, going on vacation stirs up trauma's fears....where will he sleep, what will he eat, what will he do. When we pass a police officer, trauma becomes fearful and asking a simple question such as, "What is in your hand," is enough to send trauma into a meltdown.

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   Sometimes I am tempted to simply ignore trauma. After all, what can it do if you refuse to acknowledge it's presence? We have learned that trauma simply becomes bigger, louder, heavier and more prevalent until you acknowledge it. When we acknowledge the fear, hunger, cold, tiredness or whatever has brought trauma to a head, it tends to fade into the background. After upsetting trauma and dealing with the after effects, we vow to be extra vigilant and we are for a time, then we get sloppy and forget how needy trauma is, until to be jerked back to reality by a shrill scream or kick. As much as I despise trauma, it is so much a part of life at our house that I probably wouldn't know what to do with all the extra time I would have in it's absence.`

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Trauma feels very much like the gazelle does in this picture



A Wise Woman Builds Her Home



   Sometimes I feel hypocritical writing about marriage because I have one failed marriage under my belt. On the flip side, I've seen what really doesn't work and have experienced the pure joy of what a "good" marriage is all about. I've been married twice (for a combined total of 14 years) . Luckily the second time has worked out much better than the first! So please grant me grace, but I hope my experiences will only help you in your own marriage (or a friend's)! Here are 10 things I wish I'd known before saying, "I do".


No Bohns About It     

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mental Health Intake Appointment Woes

    Monday found Joseph and I at a local Mental Health office for an intake appointment. I am struggling to come to grips with the fact that we are going down this road with another child. B and I attended multiple such appointments while seeking the care he needed, and all those memories came rushing back with a vengeance as Joseph and I sat in the familiar 6x6 foot room discussing his history. 

Image result for mental health  photos    The poor therapist likely had no idea how closely he was being scrutinized while he conducted the evaluation. I analyzed everything he said and gave him a mental thumbs up when he listened to my views on Joseph's previous diagnosis of ODD and ADHD.  Most professionals give me the, "You are just the mom, what can you know," look when I disagree with them.

   The intake worker asked if I preferred a male or female therapist for Joseph, which earned him another thumbs up.

   He talked respectfully to Joseph, but didn't go on about how cute he was, another thumbs up. Joseph has the ability to hold his head just so, flash a shy grin and wrap people around his finger. That isn't always such a bad thing, but we can usually tell who understands attachment problems by how quickly and thoroughly they begin playing his game. The therapist rated high in this regard although I forgot to ask him if I will be allowed in the room during Joseph's therapy sessions. I can't believe I forgot one of the most important rules!

   As we were leaving Joseph wondered if he will be coming back to this place. When I said he would, Joseph said, "I like this therapist, cause you do all the talking and I can just listen." Sorry buddy, next time you will have to participate!

   I packed a book for Joseph to read during the appointment because I knew we would be discussing traumatic things. I hoped he wouldn't be able to read his book and listen at the same time. It obviously helped because he laid his book aside when we began going over a particular part of Joseph's history. I asked him if he was finished reading and he replied, "No, I want to hear what you say." 

  I don't like these intake appointments. Giving your child's history while they listen in, isn't conducive to their healing. I feel like I can't give all the details of certain situations because it feels so demeaning to be talking about my child's behavior problems while he is listening in.

Image result for mental health  photos

* like my FB page: Tales From our House Blog. I share information about RAD, FASD, Adoption, Disruption and Mental Health


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Friday, March 11, 2016

"You Are A Mean Old Mom" - An Opportunity To Practice Jesus' Love

       I need to learn coping skills as much as or more than, my children with trauma. The daily grind of deflecting trauma inspired words and actions wears on a body. On the bright side, having parented a child with RAD makes all our current difficulties pale, because nothing attachment related, can compare with RAD. However, in the constant push and pull in our relationships with Kiana and Joseph, it is easy to forget that this is easy in comparison.

   In the past 18 hours, those two have thrown enough accusations my way that I would be tempted to give up, if it wasn't for my knowledge of trauma and how it affects children, Dean patiently and firmly standing behind everything I say and the love and grace Jesus gives.

    "You should make everyone who is telling lies about me stay in the house, instead of making me stay with you!"

   "I don't want to live here any more, it is no fun. Everyone is mean to me!"

    "I am the only adopted girl in my class and it isn't fair!"

   "I don't want you for a mom".... the other child said, "I want you for a mom but I don't want Tristan for a brother."

   "I won't and you can't make me!!!"

   "I hate work, I hate being home and I wish I never had to live here!"

    "You are a big, mean, old mom!"

    "I am not talking about it!"


  "I am going to run away and live some where else, I don't want to be here with you!"

     "You don't care about anything that happens to me!"

    "You don't love me or you wouldn't make rules that I don't like!"

     "I am not doing my school work because it is too hard for me and you don't even care, you just want me to have a hard life!"

   "Why did you adopt me, I want to live with my birth mom, I would be much happier with her!"

   "You always believe the liars!"

   Huffing, sighing, kicking the chairs, sassing, jumping up and down, falling onto the floor and yelling..... is all par for the course.

   Some days I can brush it off, like water rolling off a ducks back but other days, days like today...... it is really hard not to give in and believe the words I hear. 

    I was mulling this over and this thought came to mind, "These situations can be blessings, they give you opportunity to practice the love of Jesus. View these words as blessings instead of trials."

  If you are having a tough day, try viewing the situation as an opportunity to show and share Jesus' love, your outlook on life just might change!

   







    

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Bottle Feeding To Help You Bond With Your Adopted Child

I remember when I first heard about the bottle feeding/bonding concept for children who suffer from attachment issues. I was reading the book, Dandelion On My Pillow, Butcher Knife Beneath by Nancy Thomas and she highly encouraged rocking your child and giving them either sweets or a bottle. I will admit, I thought she was a bit out there on that idea and since I was still learning the ropes of Reactive Attachment Disorder, I filed the idea in the back of my mind and gave it no more thought.

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    Fast forward and it is a Monday evening and sonny and I are attending his weekly therapy session. His therapist brought up the subject of bottle feeding, "B is obviously reacting to the time and care you give Lia (she was a baby at the time). Watching you feed her, reminds him of the lack of nurture he had at her age, I wonder if he wouldn't benefit from bottle feeding" That made a lot of sense, so on our way home from therapy, I stopped at a local store and bought a bottle. 

  One day later in the week after the other children were down for naps, I brought out the bottle, filled it with warm milk and added some chocolate powder. I wasn't sure how B would take the whole bottle feeding idea, so filling the bottle with chocolate milk was a sort of bribe. I needn't have worried though. After I explained what we were going to do, he cheerfully went along with it. However, the whole thing backfired because he used Bottle Time, as we called it, to manipulate and control. We used the bottle for several days, then on and off for a few weeks but discontinued it because it gave B another opportunity to control.

  Fast forward once more, and I am sitting at TAP speaking with Miss S, as I will call her, and the bottle feeding topic came up. Miss S hesitated a bit, then said she has an idea but it is totally up to me if I want to pursue it. She explained how bottle feeding an older child, can increase the bond between him and his adoptive mom, would I want to give it a try? I assured her I was familiar with the concept and was willing to try it, anything to help B and I bond. 

  This time B and I were in a much better place emotionally. B was beginning to bond and I was willing to do whatever it took to strengthen it. I warmed the milk and taking B on my lap, I fed him the bottle. At first it felt really awkward, but as the moments passed, something began stirring in my heart. Love for this hurting little boy began to take root. It wasn't all fun and games, we had our tough times but I came to realize I needed to provide nourishment for my son, just as much as he needed to receive it from me. Sadly our bond disintegrated because of B's great fear of getting close to someone. 


  And we fast forward once more and find ourselves in 2016 with attachment issues once more, albeit with another child. I am still trying to decide how to approach the idea of bottle time, but while I am thinking, I bought a bottle for little sister.

    Little sister has a hang up with bottle's, she loves them. She was placed with us when she was only a few months old, so she had plenty of bottle feeding time with me. I used to discourage her love for bottles but one day I thought, "Lia has a strong bond with us but she needs nurturing as much as her siblings, so why not bottle feed her?"

   I was amazed at the change I saw in Lia, she is more secure, and throws less tantrums. It was a good reminder for me to continue nurturing and what some would call "babying" the children. When a child comes into your home via foster care or adoption, they have a huge deficit in the love and nurture department. It will take years of intense effort to fill their love tanks. A therapist told me that these children are like buckets full of holes, you fill the with love and it promptly drains away. You have to saturate them in love for a long time before those holes will begin to close, allowing their love tanks to fill. It is only after a child's love tank is able to hold water, that they will be able to pour a little love/water into your tank, until then you will need to fill your love tank elsewhere. Loving and nurturing a traumatized child is draining and many are the parents (myself included) who find their own love tanks drained and are unable to meet their child's needs. 








Monday, March 7, 2016

Increasing Nurture & Structure

     Daddy has a meeting to attend tonight and the house is in an uproar. As he was preparing to leave, Dean turned to me and said, "Do you think you will be okay?" I assured him we would be just fine. He hasn't been out the door half an hour yet and I have already settled numerous squabbles. Thankfully Joseph was in bed before Dean got ready to go so he has no idea Daddy isn't home. The girls are taking some quality, "time apart," while they work on their attitude's and big feelings.

   Sometimes I long for the day when something as simple as an evening meeting won't call for such extreme reactions, but I remind myself how quickly time passes. Now is the time to nurture, love and instruct my children. As Lia sat beside me working through her big feelings, she wasn't in the mood to be held, I was reminded of something we were told at an Empowered To Connect Seminar, "When you increase the structure, you must increase the nurture."   

   Dean and I are pretty good at providing the nurture and structure our children need, but for some reason we struggle to provide both at the same time. Maybe it is because doing both at once requires so much more self discipline in our own lives. When I focus on nurturing my children I hate to enforce those necessary boundaries and when I make sure the boundaries are well marked, I find it harder to pour on the nurture. So often we find ourselves in the ditch on one side other the other, walking the middle road just seems hard to do.

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Nurturing your child may look something like this:
-rocking the child who scarcely fits on your lap
-patting his back until he falls asleep
-spooning food into his mouth, even though he is perfectly able to eat himself
-putting band aid's on almost invisible scrapes
-rubbing his arm during a church service
-packing a snack when you go away to assure your child that there will be enough food for him

Structure:
-making sure he gets 12 hours (or as much as he needs) of sleep every night even if it means sacrificing
-always having your child in line of vision
-answering prompts with, "Yes mom and yes dad."
-limiting play to a certain portion of the room

There are many more ways to nurture your child and many different ways of providing the necessary structure, but these are a few of the things we implement. The degree to which these things are  used vary from child to child, they also increase and decrease as they are needed.

  A child has to feel safe and secure before he will begin to heal from his trauma. For our children, having daddy gone triggers their fear of abandonment... and now that my little people are calmed down enough to accept some nurturing, I better hop to it!
   

Thursday, March 3, 2016

When God Calls You To Adopt And You Fear The Unknown

   Sometimes I fear people look at our adoption journey and decide not to follow through with it because they worry their story will look like ours. There are a lot of scary stories out there and I know I write about some of the tougher things you may face if you do decide to foster and/or adopt don't let that stop you. Go into it with an open mind and a willing heart and God will bless you despite the tough times.

   Like most people we got into foster care for two reason's; our house felt empty with only one child and we felt God calling us to it. 

  We naively thought taking in younger children would mean "less problems." I feel ashamed when I think about it now, but at the time that is how we felt, beside's we knew nothing about parenting an older child, as Tristan had just turned 4. We were advised not to mess up the birth order which made sense, and still does. But that leaves me wondering who will care for the older children if everyone thinks like we did. 

  Kiana came to us and a few short months later, Joseph and B came. We were busy, but happy. 3 babies made me forget the months of empty arms and Tristan loved having children to play with.

    B was different from the moment he was placed with us, but we thought he simply needed time to adjust. As the months passed and then a year came and went, we grew suspicious that there was more going on than we realized. By then the boys case was moving toward adoption and we hoped adoption would help him feel more secure. It didn't.

   We gradually came to realize that B's struggle's would not be overcome in a few months of therapy. Kiana and Joseph were struggling as well, but we didn't realize the magnitude of what we were facing.

    God graciously led us small step by small step, until one day I realized that caring for my children was going to mean much more than typical child rearing. I remember thinking, "I can't do this!"

   But God was gracious, he continued to lead us along, revealing one diagnosis at a time. If we would have known RAD, FASD, 2.5 years of out of home treatment, years of therapy, a CYS investigation and an adoption disruption was ahead of us, I fear we wouldn't have pursued adoption. 

   Think of all the blessings we would have missed out on! All the friends we have made, the lessons we have learned and the people who have impacted our lives, none of it would have happened. Sometimes God takes us on a difficult journey to prepare us for greater blessings, other times it is to refine us, or you may be used as an instrument to bless others, come what may, he has a purpose and a plan. 

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  So if you are thinking of opening your home to the some of the most vulnerable among us and feel God is calling you, don't let the "horror stories" stand in the way. God will make a way even when there doesn't seem to be a way and if He does call you to one of the situations you fear, He will give you the grace and courage to face it head on.


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