#I Can’t

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You’ve heard it before.  You’ve probably started saying it yourself. ‘I can’t’.  It is quite popular to say when one wishes not to continue processing something stupid. I tried saying it but the Holy Spirit stood against that with scripture.

In Philippians 4:13, the Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“.  Saying ‘I can’t’ regardless of its jovial connotations, goes directly against this new popular saying. I was convicted every single time so, I stopped saying it.

When it would be “appropriate” to say ‘I can’t’, what I was really shortening to convey was I-don’t-feel-like-doing-this-right-now, I-am-so-done-talking-about-this, this-is-on-my-nerves or something similar. Unfortunately, the new shortened speech stands in stark contrast to what the Bible says I am to think. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me means I can do what I don’t feel like doing.  I can complete my thought process.  I can persevere when I want to quit. Do I always feel like it? Heck no! But, I am not to speak against the strength, endurance, and perseverance God is instilling in me with cavalier words like ‘I can’t’.

The Bible says I am to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I can’t renew my mind with words like ‘I can’t’ and expect to know God in His fullness.

Dear SAHM: There Are More Important Things

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Growing up, I remember doing many chores.  I remember all of our responsibilities. Dishes, vacuuming, dusting, Windex glass, picking up after ourselves, daily floor sweeps, any other assignment either parent assigned, plus homework.  It was life.  It taught us all a great deal. We learned how to be responsible, that actions had consequences, that what we do affects others, how to be considerate, etc and how to clean. Even now, as adults, all of my three siblings and myself, can clean a house spotless.

Our house did not go past a certain messy point. Clothes never stayed on the couch for too long. Dishes were never in the sink for more than a meal. The floor never crunched with food or any other substance. We didn’t grow up in mess. My home, however, is not that.

Right now, there are clothes on our couch; clean clothes, but clothes nevertheless. The sink is full of dishes. Clean dishes are in the dishwasher and on the side of the sink.  The kitchen floor has food in the crease where the wall and carpet meets all along the wall. I have two piles of laundry on the floor of our bathroom. I could go on but you get the idea.

A while a go, I posted that I was going to have Jazmine follow a chore chart. It is going pretty well. She is developing good habits and, gradually, learning to choose not to do a half-way job with her chores. I am a task oriented person. I practice not stopping for any kind of break until all or at least the vast majority of a task list is complete. I want to instill this in Jazmine. The thing is, I am sure I was born with the wiring for this kind of thinking but it did not present itself right away.  It was groomed and allowed to grow. I have to give this same time allowance to my Jazmine.

I have a habit of measuring how well my day has gone by how my home looks.  I get where this thought process comes from. I am a SAHM. I don’t work outside of the home. I don’t have a desk or a boss to please. No one readily recognizes my work and says ‘good job’. Not that that is a daily occurance at any job but I don’t get performance reviews etc. All I have as a showcase, if you will, is my home. When people come in, my home is what reflects me. If, by the time I go to bed, my home is tidy, I feel great.  If it is not, I tend to beat myself up.  I think I spent my day doing too much of everything else and did not incorporate tidying up. This evening, it occurred to me that, on a scale of importance, the nurturing of my husband and children’s hearts and their spirits is vastly more important than having a tidy home. Not that my house should remain untidy but if I spend far more time grooming my children and nurturing both them and my husband, while allowing everyone to grow, I have invested my time well.

The state of my home is no longer a personal measure of my worth.

 

Dear Pastor’s Wife: You Don’t Have to Carry the Church

imgres-3After some serious grooming by my parents, sometime in the 8th grade, I discovered I am wired for order. I like systems. I like processes.

Fast forward to the present, that looks like a person who jumps in to help when something goes awry.  At least that is how it presents in me. However, I am sure 99.9% that that trait is brought on by the presence of the Holy Spirit living inside of me. So, when I attend a home party or any event of which I know the person(s) putting it on, if something goes wrong or help is needed to keep things moving, I volunteer.

My husband is taking a respite from the pulpit for a few weeks. This past Sunday was his second week of absence.  I too was absent last week but returned this week because Jazmine was praise dancing.  We arrived early as is custom when the girls are to dance. But everything was wrong! The deacons had not arrived yet.  The Music Minister was not there and I wasn’t even sure if he would be there. The guest preacher was early. The office he asked to use was locked and no one had a key. There were more non-members who were there to see the girls dance instead of regular church members.  Of course all the non-members were early and there were just a couple of our members there at that time.  I was so embarrassed.  As soon as the guest musician arrived, I asked her if she was ready.  She looked at me confused. She didn’t know she was to lead Praise and Worship. She thought she was only doing one song before the preacher preached. I had no idea what was going on! I was trying to put out what I perceived as fires because nothing looked like it did every other Sunday.

The Minister of Music arrived and, of course, I had blundered big time. The guest musician and the Minister of Music had already talked and things were fine. The deacons came and opened the office for the guest preacher to use. More members, although not nearly the normal amount, arrived. Everything was fine. I was the one who was a mess!

I was walking around hugging every member who showed, trying to chat them up. What I was really doing was non-verbally thanking them for attending. You would have thought I was hosting a party instead of coming in the House of God to hear His Word! It wasn’t until the very end of service that I realized my blunder.

God’s house doesn’t need me in order for it to run. I don’t have to carry the church in my husband’s absence. I could have come in and sat down. I didn’t have to go check on anything. I normally don’t check on anything because that isn’t my lane.  Why was I putting on a show? Why was I being the dog and pony act, facilitating and trying to make people feel welcome? Making people feel welcomed isn’t an act. It’s a state of being. I know that is my normal demeanor but this past Sunday, I carried it out as a way of saying thank you for bearing with us today, much like a hostess at a restaurant says to patrons after having to wait longer than normal for a table. It was wrong.  I was wrong.

Never again. My arms weren’t created to hold up a branch of Zion. My shoulders weren’t built for that weight, so I will not carry it anymore. Dear Pastor’s wife, free yourself.

I Forgot Who HE Was

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I got so bogged down with the current cares of my life. Folk not acting right. Adjusting to always having an endless to-do list.

I often daydream. I think of spectacular events that could happen to or around me.  It’s a nice escape. This daydream was about me being pregnant with twins and being summoned back to the doctor’s office for another sonogram. The midwife wanted to double-check because either one baby had a heart defect or I was actually carrying triplets. Come to find out, I was carrying triplets!

At the quick conclusion of this daydream, I almost laughed out loud! (Really would have but it’s after midnight and I certainly did not want my voice to awake my girls.  Husband would have slept through it) I FORGOT WHO GOD WAS!

I am daydreaming about the impossible when I am currently living what I could not have imagined, but oh so desperately desired, just two years ago.

Two years ago (May 2015), I was focused on my Zumba. I was determined to live and not wallow in longing for another baby. Two years ago, as I was putting away our winter clothes and hanging up our summer clothes, I was hoping that the next time I saw my sweats, it would be in my our new home. Two years ago, at this very same time, I had NO IDEA WHATSOEVER that God was bringing about the unseen into the seen in our lives.

I found out June 2015, Father’s Day to be exact (how perfect is that!) that I was pregnant. In October 2015, my husband told me to start looking for a house. I May 2016, we got an apartment of our very own! God turned things around so fast! It truly was like a rushing wind.

So now, May 2017, as I am refocusing on my Zumba and learning to home school from a place of rest. Now, that I am focused on thoroughly enjoying my 8yr old and toddler. Now, that I have grown comfortable in our own unique house rhythm, I reflect on my “new” longings. Yes, I still desire to be a mother of many. Yes, we need to soon be in the process of looking into move again. But God! He has already done those things for me!  I don’t have to daydream! I experienced it! It was all real! There is no need for me to daydream now either! If I do dare, it can’t be from the wouldn’t-that-be-great camp.  It must be from the I-know-He-can-do-it/Won’t-He-will camp!

Be blessed!

Mommy Who Is Scared Of Chore Enforcement

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First of all, I understand.

You are not alone.

Let me relay my story.  I hope you take comfort.

My daughter Jazmine is 8 years old. If you are new to this blog, for the first 7 years of Jazmine’s life, we lived with my mother-in-law.  Life was very different then.  I had a lot of “help”; most of which was an easy fix to a current situation. During this past 11 months of living under our own roof, I’ve had to grow A LOT! Jazmine had to grow a lot. It could not and did not happen all at once. Discipline is an area where I’ve had stunted growth. I am not talking about behavioral discipline. I am talking about enforcing chores and household responsibilities.

Jazmine has chores, meaning I’ve assigned them and she knows what things she is responsible for doing.  She also knows how to complete each task to Mommy’s specifications. However, I have not done a consistent job of enforcing those responsibilities. She knows she is to vacuum after dinner but, often enough, because I dismayed at having to address her non-verbal unpleasantness at being told to complete the chore, I would not say a word but let it go.  Other times, it’s not that I didn’t feel like enforcing but that a greater need arose. Namely, Baby Grace needed and eye kept on her while I finish something in another part of the house. Jazmine can not yet vacuum and watch a toddler so, I nixed the vacuum for babysitting.

My husband and I just got back from having some time away.  Now that we are back home, and our weekly routine gears up again tomorrow, I have had time to reflect. I can not be that worn out anymore. I can not stay up late after our girls are in bed to clean, fold, and wash. My husband does not need to stay up after working to straighten up.

The Bible is clear. It says, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19).  Although that verse is referring to the Israelites teaching their children to carefully obey God’s commands, you will notice that the children are with their parents. The children are with them in the house, on the road, at bedtime, and in the morning. I’ve not had Jazmine by my side while doing most of the things needed to run a household. I’ve let her entertain herself while I completed my chores. I’ve done her and myself a disservice.

I was afraid to enforce before because of what it would cost me. Time.

It’s like teaching her to tie her shoes all over again.  When she was 5, I had to add an extra 5-10 minutes to the get-out-of-the-house routine to allow her time to work at tying her shoes. It was worth it but oh so labor intensive. Until today, I’ve shied away from enforcing chores because I did not want that labor intensive work day-in and day-out for the next few weeks (months) on end while raising a toddler whom, I swear to beans, has hit the terrible twos at 14 months of age!

But the Bible says, “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17) I can take comfort in that, as much hard work that will go into this next stretch of mothering, delight is awaiting me on the other end.

So, fellow scared Mommies, let us journey on together shall we?

Disclaimer:  My decision not to act was selfish and unloving. My desire for perfection (regarding cleanliness) in my home effectively killed much-needed instruction from me to my child. I am armed with laminated and posted chore charts (one of which is pictured above) and a determination to make household responsibilities just as important as school. I will enforce the chores she knows how to do.  Whatever task I am about to do in our home that is new to her, my Jazmine will be by my side.  I will be teaching and she will be observing and learning. We will be conversing. I will not expect perfection when she first attempts task nor when it’s her 50th attempt. I will, however, expect improvement. 

Scripture Works Together

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I was scared tonight. I started back teaching Zumba two months ago. I co-teach once a week.  I teach one half hour and the lead instructor teaches the other half hour.  I have led two full one-hour classes. As happy as I am to be able to teach again, and get paid, I am always nervous. I was such a Zumba snob before.  I would criticize instructors in a heartbeat. I’ve walked out of classes if I didn’t like their style of teaching, mannerisms, song choice, etc. Now that I am the teacher, I had to acknowledge how afraid I was of reaping what I had sown.

It does not feel good to have people walk out of a class you are teaching. I know people leave class for reasons other than they don’t like the class. Folk leave because they only planned to do 30 minutes.  Some maybe trying out a class and are not committed to one format. Knowing this does not make it easier to see people leaving while you are doing your best to teach.

Praise God, I pushed through but I was reminded of several verses as I did.  Matthew 12:36Galatians 6:7James 1:19, Ephesians 4:29.  All of these verses work together.

Careless words are rash, quickly spoken words, phrases, or comments that are spoken without thought to what you are saying. Once those words escape, you are responsible for them.  You have sown those words into your life. You will reap those words because you failed to be quick to listen but instead was quick to speak and slow to listen.  You spoke corruption instead of edification.

I saw this in my own life, bright and vivid in color.  At least two people left my class tonight.  Again, I know there are more than one reason why people leave but unless you know why before hand, a dwindling class is not good. Starting out with 10 participants and ending up with close to 30 is great.  The inverse, not so much.

Now that conviction has taken place, my everything changes.  The way I speak, how much I speak, when I speak, all of it changes.  It will change the people who chose to be around me.  Folks gather when tearing something/someone down and would rather exclude those to build up unless they themselves are in need of edification and encouragement. It will be me who gives alternative reasons why people may be behaving a certain way. It will be me sticking up for people I don’t even know when others start to tear them down. It will be me being the Suzy Sunshine trying to deter conversation from casting judgment on someones actions so that my companions don’t end up speaking carelessly.

Everyone takes a trip on that slippery slope of careless words spoken in the present that leads to future strife. Now that I am aware of it, not only am I responsible to keep from taking that ride, out of love, I am also obligated to help others stay as far away from that slope as possible.

Alas, when I thought my circle of companions had grown small enough, I can feel it getting even smaller. (deep sigh) All for Christ and Christ alone.

How To Let Go And Let God

PreparingBabyLayetteLet Go and Let God is a song and a cliché within the church. Not that that saying has no truth, but it is often used so haphazardly that the full weight of the words is missed.

I long for more children. An itch has been scratched since having Baby Grace but it still feels that my family is not yet complete. I long for the boy my husband can father in the home; a boy from my womb. While we have been trying, I have not yet felt the desperation I had while waiting for Baby Grace to come. As Baby Grace continues to grow and out grow, I have not parted with a thing.  I have been, once again, hoarding but calling it wisdom.  Better to store and wait for another child than to give away and have to repurchase right? No.  Saving is wisdom.  Hoarding is folly.  Hoarding/Storing takes on the mindset that if we give it away, we could never again regain it. God provided the first time and He can and will provide again. Let go and let God.

During today’s sermon, God impressed upon me that I was hoarding his blessings.  He had to remind me that He provided for Baby Grace and He will provide for the next baby, whenever that happens.  I had to release my coveted Puj Baby Tub, stretchy car seat canopy, sneak-a-peak car seat cover, and nursing cover. My bargain bought breast pump, Close & Secure Portable Infant Sleeper, and my numerous baby wearing gear, all I released.  I released EVERYTHING over and over and over again until it was complete and real and not just lip service.

God provided before.  He will provide again. Why? Because He told me to let go. I didn’t decide to just let go and hope he’ll catch me because I desire for new. No. He told me to let go so I am. I know He will provide yet again because He did for Jazmine and Baby Grace.  I KNOW He will do it for whenever the next baby comes.  By the time you read this, I will have already made a call to see if a new mom needs anything I have and I will have sent a text asking another mom to come view my wares and to take whatever she needs. Whatever is left will be posted on my MOPS group Facebook page.  Whatever is left after that will be consigned at the next local Tot Swap for $1-$3.  I look forward to being a conduit for God’s blessings.

God Never Promised To Do Anything Our Way

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It is true that God breaks EVERY chain. He is powerful enough to do the impossible.  I know that from experience.  God’s word says it, I believed His word and trusted that He would do what He said He would do, and He did it.

His methods and timing? So, so, soooo far off from my own but then again, He never promised to do anything our way.

I have been operating in a state of heartbrokenness for 2.5 years. In all that time of suffering in one particular, yet far-reaching, area of life, He also healed other areas, improved situations, changed my thinking, and grew me astronomically. God is always at work, even if something hurts.

A few days ago, while I was doing some mundane daily task, God spoke.  I was hesitant to attribute that new dawning that occurred to Him because although the words were new, the idea wasn’t. Now, after a few days of walking in that new dawning, I can say that it was from God. God said I am always on display.

When you are a leader, you are always on display but at a young age, I learned from others that all leaders need a place to let their hair down. A place where no one is paying exact attention to every single thing you say and do. In my adulthood, God taught me that if letting your hair down means doing an about-face from who you are, that is pretending you are something you are not in front of most people and being who you really are in front of others. Even with that knowledge, I still looked for places where I did not have to be “on” all the time. I could say something severely crass (which I am inclined to do) and not be held accountable for it later by someone who never thought I would say such a thing. I loved those safe havens and often looked for more safe havens but I soon learned why you don’t have many safe havens.  That goes back to what God said about letting your hair down. So, I grew from that place to wanting to be in an environment that, although my speech and behavior rarely differed, I wasn’t under super watchful eyes.  No one was jotting notes about my parenting, clothes, conversation, etiquette…you get the idea.

The 2.5 years of brokenness I was in stemmed from my safe place being broken. The severe hurt I experienced resulted from realizing, understanding, and knowing for a fact that what at one point was my safe harbor, had turned into an operation theater.

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An operation theater was commonly used the in 1900’s

Instead of being, feeling, and knowing I was safe, I was dissected as sport and laid bare for all to see, judge, and comment on.  It was an extremely emotionally draining, difficult time. I made changes to keep from being in that theater. Hard changes.  Changes I never ever thought I’d have to make.   All the while, however, asking and seeking the Lord for Him to change things. His perfect timing was 2.5 years later which was 2 years past my time frame (lol).

I can now return to those former safe places and feel a semblance of safety again.  Not because the people have changed but because God has changed me. I was not ready to accept that God’s calling on my life meant that I would always be on display. I am ready now. He led me in baby steps although that last (at least for now) step felt like a giant leap. Now that I accept His calling on my life, I can go back. I can sit knowing I am in the theater but not fearing it. I can live out loud knowing that my mannerisms and etiquette are being watched but not looking for it to be watched nor shy away from the watchful eyes.

I am healed!

Homeschool Jealousies

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In the culture of homeschooling, there is no “right” way to do it.  It is all based on what is needed, wanted, and works for your family.  As  long as you meet the requirements of education set forth by your state, you can get there as creatively as you please. That is a beautiful part of homeschooling.

On of the subsets within the culture is not pretty, biblically or otherwise. Homeschool jealousies. Homeschool jealousies can arise in almost any aspect of homeschooling. curriculum used, activities attended, activities completed, co-op group choices, child development, etc. etc. I have found myself wrapped up in homeschool jealousies at one time or another. It’s not pretty, it’s not fun, and it wars on your family.  God prepared me for this most recent bout.

Kelly is a very dear friend of mine and I’ve had the privilege of watching her children grow up. When her eldest was in elementary school, she had a very best friend.  They were in the same class and all the same activities.  Kelly stayed home so the very best friend was often over after school.  One day while I was there after a school day ended, the girls were doing their homework.  Kelly told me that the very best friend was very behind in her education.  I sat down to work with the her to try to assess where the disconnect was and offer encouragement. The very best friend was SEVERELY behind. Not because she wasn’t capable or didn’t want to learn.  She was behind because she needed more help in getting the lessons. I recognized it in how she tried to get the right answer just so she could be seen as keeping up even though she had no understanding. Kelly talked to the mother of the very best friend about this and the mother said she and Kelly’s daughter were the same and her child could keep up just fine without any additional support.  This did not address the issue and years later, it is not better.

My Jazmine has a very best friend. They are the same in many ways and participate in many of the same activities.  However, in this case, my Jazmine, though not behind, is on par (if not slightly advanced) in her second grade education. My Jazmine’s very best friend however, is advanced. Most recently, and this is often a occurance in homeschooling, her very best friend moved up in grade level. At my first hearing this from my Jazmine, I was taken aback. My initial Mommy reaction (thought in my head not said out of my mouth) was, ‘how is she moved up? You both are the same? She can’t out learn you!’ Immediately, in my mind, I was trying to decipher ways my Jazmine could keep up. After all, she’s not incapable.  Perhaps she could be challenged more? Perhaps she could benefit from an increased workload? Perhaps I could move her curriculum up a grade level too? Perhaps we could add more educational activities/opportunities to allow her to further flourish? Perhaps…perhaps I could get a dag-on grip!

I could have smacked myself.  I IMMEDIATELY remembered the mother of the very best friend. I sounded just_like_her! NO FREAKING WAY! Children can remain friends regardless of educational prowess. Activities may change but, especially in homeschooling families, as long as parents make the effort for the child to be with their friends, that friendship can flourish! My Jazmine’s very best friend will remain her very best friend because all parents involved are committed to that happening!  All parents involved in this situation are actual adults, not children pretending to be adults.

So to my Jazmine’s very best friend, fly baby fly! achieve! We support you!

To my Jazmine, your Mommy is not going to move hell and high water to keep up with ANYBODY! You move and grow at your own pace and your father and I will be here to support you always!  Fly and soar sweetheart!  We remain proud of you!

The Quickie Queen

Physical intimacy is an important aspect of marriage. (Hmm.  That sentence wasn’t powerful enough.  Let me try again.)  Physical intimacy is vital to a healthy marriage. (There I think that was better.)

When my husband and I were to be married, we had pre-marital counseling.  During those 6 sessions, our Pastor said in most marriages, husbands are the sexual aggressors, but in some marriages, the wives are.  I was stunned to hear that.

I knew me.  I knew I was not getting married to be celibate by ANY means.  Being the good Christian girl that I was, my husband was going to get ALL of this woman as soon as we said I do. I was prepared for all the sexual struggles (he wants it all the time) I’d heard married women talk about and just knew it wasn’t going to be in my  marriage.  I was ready to be ready at ALL times.

It is not always lack of desire that prevents physical intimacy in an otherwise healthy marriage.  Life and its burdens can get in the way. Anxieties, deadlines, and sheer exhaustion can prevent the best efforts. Both husband and wife can try MANY workarounds, strategies, and time set aside to circumvent the negative repercussions of a lack of physical intimacy. Sometimes they work.  Sometimes they don’t.  It all depends on finding out what works for that couple. Trial and error is GREAT when it works but depressing when it fails.

Prayer to protect physical intimacy is important.  Ask God about it. Tell him what you desire and share that with your husband.  Watch God work it out.  He created sex to be with you and your husband. He will make it happen.

There is something to be mindful about when you do pray about physical intimacy.  Do not sabotage your effective prayers with your presets.  The Bible says ask and you shall receive, but be warned not to sabotage the receiving process. God will work in that important area of your marriage.  Start by having him work with you. My story is that while I asked, I remain the same. I responded the same way to my husband when he made an efforts.  That is self sabotage. His gentle touches, impromptu hugs, requests to have me sit near him for a bit (even while I was in the middle of making dinner) are all signs that he desires me. It may take ALL day for the bedroom to take place but he gives clues ALL day that it is on his mind too.

I have sabotaged myself. I was never one for the build-up to the end; not for common everyday practice.  That mess was cool when the only children we had lived with their mothers but now that we have two cock-blocking terrorists (yes, they are blessings and we love them but they do NOTHING to enhance the bedroom), I am in hit-it-and-quit-it mode, ALL the time. No chill. I have become the Quickie Queen.

My work around was to be “ready” at a moments notice. What should have been a temporary fix had become my preset to the point where all I looked for is “right now”.  My preset became to brush off all forms of telling physical contact because it wouldn’t produce immediate results.  Why? Because we could build up all day and one phone call (church, children, or job related) would change the evening.  All the build up for blue clit (female version of blue balls). The emotional build up would be there, the physical touches would be there, the anticipation high and then, nothing. Like a romance novel that ends with nothing but a goodbye wave.

To protect myself from the let down, I would say things like, “Don’t start anything you can’t finish,” and similar phrases to convey that I was not satisfied but desired to be. Talk about poor word choice.  That did nothing to build up my husband. That did nothing to bolster our bedroom. I sabotaged my desires.

While praying for God to move, I still spoke and responded the same way. While in the process of receiving my request, which was evidenced by his touches, words, and nearness, I sabotaged the receiving process by being unresponsive/negatively responding to what was offered. My fear of the possibility of something interfering with our bedroom became a brick wall that prevented me from receiving anything.

Once that realization came crashing down on me, I am now eager to respond to all promise offerings my husband gives me. Why? Because the phone calls weren’t his fault.  I wasn’t the only one disappointed. However, instead of working through that shared emotion together, I shut me and my blue clit off. Shutting off inhibits receiving of any kind.

If you want to receive from the Lord, don’t shut off and don’t sabotage.

Happy Humping!