Broken and Blessed

 Several weeks ago, I broke my ankle. In the past, I would have had a giant pity party and lamented the pain and inconvenience to everyone around me. And even though it has put me a little behind in my writing, it hasn’t dimmed my enthusiasm or caused me much distress.

I am writing about it now for two reasons. The first is, I wanted to use this real-life situation to share how negative events can give birth to positive things – that is, if you look for them. The second is, it put a tiny glitch in my binge free life that I had to figure out how to deal with.

Positives From Negatives

I broke my ankle playing tennis. I know, it’s not a contact sport, right? But I couldn’t help going for an overhead that was way out of my reach. As soon as it happened, all play stopped on three courts and everyone rallied around me. They got me to the ER and stayed until my family arrived. After a few days, and when the swelling went down, the orthopedic doc cast it all the way up to the knee.  People sent cards and called to check on me. One friend even sent me a bedside bell. It sounded just like the bells on Downton Abbey except that when I rang it, no one came to my see what I wanted, I just heard peals of laughter coming from the other room.

Since our vacation was set for the following week, my husband rented me a scooter. With one knee propped up and my good leg pushing me forward, I felt like a kid at play. It was an enjoyable conversation starter too. People commented that I needed to have it motorized. I talked to more strangers and made more friends on vacation than I ever would have in the past.

While packing for vacation, I discovered that I could pack four different shoes instead of two pair. I’m not a clothes horse, but I like shoes, so I thought this was a good thing. And since I could not drive, I enjoyed the scenery while my hubby drove from our home in Georgia to the Florida coast.

I also found myself on my knees a good bit. I had to crawl in my bedroom and up and down the stairs. Being on my knees reminded me that I don’t pray as much as I could. It helped me to get back into the habit of praying, whether on my knees or not.

The Glitch

About two weeks after my ankle broke, I noticed my pants were feeling a little tight. I had gone from being active every day of the week to being non-active. At first this caused concern. The old thoughts started taking over.

“I can’t stand this.”
“I have to control my eating so I won’t gain weight.”
“What if I gain so much weight I won’t be able to fit into my clothes?”
“What if I get so bored, I can’t stop eating?”

I spent a couple days trying to work out what to do about these thoughts. And during that time, I noticed my anxiety level was high, my eating was erratic, and my pants were getting tighter. I finally remembered that my body is an amazing biological machine and it did not need me to tell it what to do. It knows how to heal my ankle and it knows how much sustenance I need to make that happen. I had to get back to trusting it.

So, I did what I have trained myself to do from the beginning of this journey. That is, I acknowledged the existence of the anxious thoughts without judging them as good or bad. This means accepting them as being a normal part of my (or anyone’s) journey. This quelled the thoughts and opened my mind up to a better understanding of my situation, which is -I don’t have to restrict my food.

My body will tell me what I need to eat to heal. And if I listen, it will also tell me when it’s time to increase my activity to strengthen my muscles.  If I gain weight during this time, it’s not a bad thing. I can still trust my body without expecting it to be any certain size. This attitude allows my body to function at an optimal level.

If I had not already been on the binge free path, this broken ankle may have put a major dent in my life and caused me much angst. But I thank God every day for my blessings, despite the broken ankle and other trials. It is true for me that mindset, and not circumstances, determine my happiness. This experience has cemented my belief that when I look for the positive, even in the negative, I will find it.

For more on beginning a binge free life start here.

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It May Look Confusing…Just Keep Going

Throughout my binge free journey I have attended therapy and clinics, listened to motivational speakers and read many blogs and books.  I did read a couple of books twice, only because the first time through it didn’t click, and something drew me back for a re-read.  One of these books is called ‘Intuitive Eating’ by dieticians Evelyn Tribole M.S. R.D. and Elyse Resch M.S. R.D. F.A.D.A.  The book describes, in detail, how to learn to eat without dieting and it addresses the phases people go through, based on clients they have treated.

I was attending an out patient eating disorder program when my therapist suggested this book.  Three days a week, I drove to the clinic with the Intuitive Eating book and my food diary in tow.  In the food diary, I kept track of all the food I consumed, and once a week a dietician would examine my diary and make recommendations.

I learned a lot from the program and came out with a better attitude and more appreciation for my body.  But the eating puzzle still didn’t fit together.  If I could eat intuitively, like the book said, why did I have to measure and keep track of my food in the program?  And then there was the paragraph in the book, on page 90- “Beware of the I-Can-Eat-Whatever-I-Want, As-Much-As-I-Want, Whenever-I-Feel-Like-It-Trap,” which basically stated that you should eat unconditionally, but “eating whenever you feel like it, without regard to hunger and fullness, might not be a very satisfying experience and might cause physical discomfort.  Attunement with your body’s satiety cues is an important part of this process.”

Okay, now, I was really confused. There was a condition to ‘unconditionally.’  It just didn’t add up.  I was expected to learn to eat what I want, but it cannot be what I really want, it must be the best thing for my body and it must be enough to satisfy my body, but it can’t be too much or too little.  And it has to be when I am hungry, and I have to stop when I am satisfied. OMG!

I graduated from the program, ditched the book and looked for a food plan I could live with.  I checked out the overeaters anonymous food plans, the paleo diet and whole 30 plans.  I tried them all.  I kept journaling my food.  I played tennis more and rode my bike and joined a gym.  The bingeing lessened, but I struggled with it and still didn’t know what satisfaction with a meal felt like.

I need to skip some of the story here, which I will write about later, but let’s just say, two years elapsed and some things happened, and I finally made the decision to forget about the food plans, the diary and the scale.  I stopped exercising just to burn calories and began playing tennis and riding the bike for fun.  I cancelled the gym membership.  I began to do the one thing I have been wanting to do for years… that is –eat without guilt.

Despite the warning in the book, I decided to eat anything I wanted, any where I wanted, anytime I wanted, with no guilt.  Read that again, with no guilt.  That means I ate with no thoughts of dieting in the future to make up for it, with no thought of having to exercise to ward off the calories, no thought of eating less or ‘better’ tomorrow.  I stopped reading food labels.  I didn’t eat out of entitlement, and I didn’t give up on myself, I just ate what I wanted and what tasted good.  I knew this was the only way I would come to terms with myself.  So, I went all in.

For the first few months, I occasionally overate.  But it was only in guiltless overeating that I learned how to eat normally.  I did gain a few pounds during that time, and almost went back to dieting for this reason.  But I stuck it out, and within a few more months, I was eating and feeling satisfied and not overeating.  Bingeing seemed like a foreign language, I didn’t even understand the hold it once had over me.  And the book, which I read two years earlier made a lot more sense.  When I re-read it, I saw myself and understood it.  If it hadn’t been for that one warning paragraph, I may have tried this sooner.

The point is, when I try to control what, when, where or how much I should eat, my body sees this as a warning that there is something wrong with the food source.  So, it goes into craving mode to ensure I eat more food to thwart the coming restriction or whatever is wrong with the food source.  And when I become desperate to not overeat, my body fights harder to get more food now.  Suddenly, I want to eat anything that looks scrumptious.  And the only things that appear scrumptious are sweets and high fat foods which, as my smart body knows, are calorie dense.  And calories are what it is looking for to continue to function while the food source problem gets straightened out.

Of course, there was no problem with the food source.  The problem was me, giving my body a false signal.  As smart as my body is, it can not interpret my restriction of food as a good thing.  Why?  Because I wasn’t eating to nourish my body, my desire was to eat less to lose weight to be a better person, to feel like I fit in.  I did not honor my body, how could I expect it to honor me?

We must work with our body and not against it.  And the best way, I have found, is to allow myself to eat with no guilt or thoughts of restriction.  This way, my body is satisfied that there will always be food available, it will settle down and stop the cravings.

The hardest part for me, in doing this, was trusting myself.  Even after I made the decision, I second guessed myself several times, but I persevered.  Then my body began to honor me by only wanting to eat at the usual meal times.  It stopped craving sweets and fatty foods.  And now, when I do feel like eating cake, I don’t need a whole cake or even a whole piece, usually a couple bites satisfies me.  The key is allowing myself to eat, and choosing what I feel like eating and not what I think I should have based on calories or fats or macros.

So, I eat what I want, where I want, any time I want.  I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am satisfied. (Yes, this is a real thing you can acquire.)  Sometimes, if I think I am full, but want a few more bites, I take them, and its okay.  Some days I eat more than others, but over a week’s time, it evens out.  I don’t force myself to eat more vegetables or healthier foods, but I eat them because I prefer them now.  And even though weight loss was not my goal, I have lost the weight I gained initially and have remained at an even weight since then.

So, I did exactly what I thought the book, in that tiny paragraph, told me not to do.  Maybe there are some people who actually want to keep overeating or bingeing and not worry about it.  But I will give my readers credit for being smart enough to know that it is not a trap that someone else ensnares you in,  it is will-full self destructive behavior.  And we’ve all had enough of that.  What we want is behavior that enhances our lives.  I figure if you are reading this post your goal is to nourish your body, satisfy your psyche and live a happier life.

I recommend you read the book.  It may not make sense the first time around, but let the information just sink in.  And don’t worry about the disclaimer, just eat.  Eat what you want, when you want it, without guilt or shame.  The more you do this, the more sense the book makes.

“It’s not the thought of eating everything in sight that is the problem, it’s the thought of restricting food to lose weight that makes you want to eat everything in sight.”

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A New Normal

Week 43 -Monday 6AM
I open my eyes. I want to jump up and run downstairs to weigh myself. I want to validate that I am doing something right. I will not go downstairs, I will stay in bed. If the number on the scale is higher than I expect it to be, I could be disappointed and mope around the rest of the day trying to decide if my new lifestyle is working for me. If the number is less than what I expect, I could go all vain and ignore the other good changes in my life. If the number is exactly what I think it will be, I will be validated…
Oh, that’s right, I’m not supposed to be using the number on the scale to tell me if I am worthy. After working on this concept for 43 weeks, the same time frame as a pregnancy, you would think I wouldn’t have to re-remember this every morning. Its not the digital blue number that is the problem, it’s the way I interpret it. I infuse it with meaning about respect and pride and love and worthiness. The scale doesn’t just tell me how much I weigh, it tells who I am, it predicts who I could be, it shows me my failures and celebrates my victories. Shouldn’t I want to know the reality of my weight? Its 6 am and already I’m overthinking. I feel like this is part of my DNA or something.

The above was an excerpt from my journal over a year ago.  I usually go to my journal only when I want to get ideas for articles, but sometimes I see an entry that defined me and I wonder how I even made it through that time.

I am in a completely different mindset now.  I haven’t thought about my weight in months.  I haven’t binged in two years.  My life seems almost boring compared to the times when I actively struggled with food and my body. I am what I always dreamed of being, a normal eater.  And, like many things we aspire to, its not as glamorous as it seemed.  But I am happy and content, which is something I never thought I would say.

Sometimes I wonder if I am too confident, if something will happen that will break me down and send me running back to food.  But my life is not perfect, in fact sometimes it downright stinks, and I haven’t used food to soothe my soul yet.  I don’t even want to.  Now that I can eat anything I want anytime I want, eating doesn’t hold the mystique for me it used to.  It’s a normal function of everyday life. Ho hum.

When I first realized that chocolate cake didn’t really turn me on anymore, it was a letdown.  But I have learned to do many other things to bring fun and enjoyment to my life.  One of those things is to accept and love myself, not in an arrogant way, but in a…well, a normal way.

If you struggle with food or depression or anxiety or self pity, or any other thing that you want to change in your life, just know that you can change to create a new normal.  But first you must accept yourself the way you are at this very moment.  Instead of trying to change what you don’t like about yourself, like everything about yourself and change those things that don’t fit in with the person you want to be.

 

“Instead of trying to change what you don’t like about yourself, like everything about yourself and change those things that don’t fit in with the person you want to be.” MD stmaryseditedaaaaa

There Can Be No Doubt

Recently I watched an online video by a doctor who stated that we should not eat from a certain group of foods.  He had a very impressive background being a surgeon, a public speaker and writer in scientific journals for many years.  He also lost weight at some point in his adult life and was determined that the foods he cut from his diet played a significant role in his weight loss and in keeping it off.

I was mesmerized with the video and how professional and scientific it was.  Just for fun, I googled the foods he restricts and found doctors with just as impressive backgrounds who didn’t agree with him at all.  Their websites were not quite as ‘in your face’ as his, but they, too, believed that certain groups of foods are unhealthy for humans.  However, their lists were completely different than the first doctor’s.  I added all these foods together and realized that if I restricted every food group touted as bad by someone somewhere, I would probably end up having to eat dirt and maybe a few wild berries.

In the midst of all the hype in the media about what is good and bad for us, it is difficult to feel comfortable eating whatever you think you want. We all want to do the right thing for ourselves and our bodies.  But the people we depend on for information about diet and nutrition have let us down.  And I don’t mean any disrespect, but just because doctors and medical professionals have degrees behind their names doesn’t mean they understand the problem of overeating and obesity.  If doctors, diets, pills, nutrition experts and exercise gurus had the magic solution to the problem of obesity, overeating and disordered eating, it would have already been solved by now!

And the reason it has not been solved is because we buy into what the ‘experts’ say.  We think they know better than we do what we should eat. This is false! No one knows better what you should eat than you and your body. And once you begin to trust yourself you will understand this concept.

The first several months of my binge free journey I would second guess myself.  I would hear of a new breakthrough diet or some new superfood that we should be eating and I doubted my decision to eat what I wanted.  I wondered if I should go back to counting calories or trying out the new food or stop eating certain foods. When these thoughts crept up, I found myself with cravings, which made it harder to eat sensibly.  In other words, thoughts of restricting portions of food (by counting calories) or thoughts of restricting certain types of foods (sugars, fats) caused me to crave more food and eat more.

I do advocate eliminating one thing from your diet, though, and that is guilt.  Yes, guilt is the number one cause of the restrictive thoughts that create cravings and make you overeat.  When you eat what you want, you must truly believe that you can eat anything you want now and forever after.  This means you cannot worry about how many cookies you may eat now, you cannot think about eating less at the next meal or running five miles to make up for these calories.  You can’t think of the cookies as a special ‘treat’ that you are only allowed to eat once in a while.  You must allow yourself to enjoy the cookies for what they are and tell yourself you can eat them anytime.

Once you can do this, shame-free, you will find yourself eating a few cookies and putting the rest away.  There is no urgency to eat them all now if you can eat them anytime you want.  And by allowing yourself this freedom, your body will reward you by giving you a feeling of satisfaction after a couple of cookies or telling you when it doesn’t really need or want cookies, and you will grow to be repulsed by the thought of eating the whole box.  You don’t believe this?  Give it a try and see the amazing results.

The statement, ‘eat whatever you want’ may sound like sketchy advice, but it is the only advice that helped me to stop bingeing and overeating. And I am not the only one. There is a large presence on the internet, in books and videos stating that restricting certain foods or portion sizes does not produce the results we hope it will, and even increases our chances of eating unhealthily and gaining weight in the future.  Unfortunately,  some of that hype places too much importance on keeping weight down.  (This warrants an entire article to itself, stay tuned.)

I don’t have the technical skills or the money to make a slick video just yet, but when I do, I will be as adamant as the doctor who wants you stay away from certain foods.   But my mantra is- don’t restrict any food from your diet.  I want to stand on the street corner and shout to everyone I see, “Eat what you think you and your body want and need, eat when you want, wherever you want, however you want, as much as you want, with no guilt, no shame, and watch yourself morph in to the person you have only dreamed about becoming.  Free yourself from bingeing and overeating forever.” Amen.

I have stepped down from my soapbox now. Thank you for reading!

Binge free- steps to start – click here

“Food is not something to try to avoid.  It is energy for your body.  Give your body some credit for knowing what to do with it.” MDfall color impression again

Our Functional Lies

Recovering from binge eating is not unlike recovering from an addiction.  Even though I don’t believe binge eating falls into the addiction category (here’s why), I do recognize that there are underlying beliefs and attitudes common to both.  The one I want to focus on today is truth.  Or rather lying.  It’s not truth that is the problem, it’s the lies we tell to cover up the truth, to disguise ourselves from reality.

Some of us, myself included, believe our own lies.  We become so adept at telling them, we forget there is a truth.  Lying becomes a thing we must do to make ourselves more valuable or at least less shameful.  You may impress someone with a lie, but once you speak it, trust is broken down.  You can’t build a relationship on lies or half-truths.  And you can’t trust yourself when you don’t know what the truth really is. So, how do we get out of this maze?

You must first recognize you have a problem.  I’m not talking about your overeating problem.  You already recognized that or your wouldn’t be reading this blog.  But think about the kind of lies you tell others or yourself, not just deceitful lies, but your functional lies.  These can be lies about your feelings, needs and desires.  They can be lies about your past or even about not being hungry and pushing your plate away when you really want to finish that pasta.  We use these lies to prevent shame or enhance our standing in someone else’s eyes.  We use them to trick ourselves into believing we are okay or are doing the right thing.

I used to tell the story that I learned how to swim because my dad pushed me off a dock into a deep lake when I was seven years old.  In reality, I took swimming lessons the summer I was seven.  I also used to tell people that I went to Catholic school from first through twelfth grade.  Actually, I only went to parochial school for a few years.  But, to me, it just sounded more impressive to say otherwise.

These lies were innocuous. They were not bad or dangerous, but they reinforced a sense in me that I was not enough as I was.  I had to constantly think of enhancements to my story to keep people interested.  And the more I told these lies, the easier it was to weave a tapestry of a false life.

 Once you start this, it eventually becomes second nature to hide events and thoughts and feelings from others.  You may even be convinced that you are protecting them.  But this is an arrogant position to function from, as if you think you are smarter or have a greater depth of being than everyone around you. You convince yourself you must lie so that others will not make false assumptions about you, because they would never understand and accept you if you told them the truth, right?

In this type of existence, you may feel lost and empty, you don’t know what you want out of life because you cannot accept yourself for who you are.  In my case, this led to harsh scrutiny of my body.  I didn’t have very close relationships with other stable people and instead of examining my interactions with them, I blamed my outward appearance. I looked for diets and food plans to keep me on track and when these failed, I became bulimic.  Even after overcoming bulimia, I was still obsessed with food and body issues, for many years, to a point of malfunction.

And really, all the suffering I put myself through over the years was only caused because I believed the biggest lie of all – that I was not good enough just the way I was.

 

“I am not concerned what others think about me, I am concerned what God thinks about me.” MDcut out advanced

Do You Have What It Takes?

If you’ve read any other posts from this blog, you know I believe anyone can cultivate any trait they desire. You may not believe it just yet, but you were born with the characteristics of integrity, persistence, a positive outlook, a thankful spirit, self-confidence, and many more.  You didn’t miss the boat if you had a crappy childhood or made bad decisions in the past.  You don’t have a character flaw or some defect in your brain. You can cultivate characteristics you desire to be successful in any endeavor you choose.  All you must realize is that you don’t need to DO anything to earn these traits. You possess them already, they are just waiting to be acknowledged.

Success can be defined in many ways.  To some, it’s a great paying job, to others its completion of a creative endeavor, to someone else it may be getting healthy or overcoming a setback.  For me, overcoming binge eating was a huge hurdle. And I’ve had days, in the past, where getting out of bed meant I had a successful day.  But whatever you call success, we all have some common characteristics that make it happen.  It could be hard work, determination, persistence, confidence or desire.  It could be changing a process or creating a daily habit.

Whatever you think it requires to be successful, there is one underlying belief which is the foundation for any positive trait you desire.  This is a knowledge that you are valuable. And I’m not talking about a value that comes from prior successes and accolades from others.  I’m talking about a belief in the core of your being that you are okay, that no matter what happens, you have everything you need to do what you want to do.

You may say, “How can I believe I’m valuable if I feel so unworthy?” or “I feel like I have a hole inside that can’t be filled with anything.”  Well, here’s the revelation- just because you don’t feel worthy or significant doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy or significant.  Your feelings don’t reflect your value.  They only reflect the thoughts and beliefs you have learned during your experience of life.  And no action on your part, good or bad, will change your inherent value.  You are a valuable human being whether you believe and feel it, or not.

What Happened?

We all start out with confidence as kids, but life happens, and we end up second guessing ourselves.  I remember, in seventh grade, being chosen to represent my school in an oratory contest. I had a month to practice and knew I could win.  I was so excited, I ran home that Friday afternoon and read the speech to my mom.  She promptly told me I would have stage fright.  I know she didn’t mean to quench my enthusiasm, she just meant to warn me that it would be different up on the stage.  But that word ‘stage fright’ stayed with me.  By Monday morning, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t possibly get up in front of hundreds of people because I would have stage fright.  So, when I got to school, I found myself explaining to the nuns why I couldn’t do this.  They quickly dismissed me and found someone else to represent the school.  I was heartbroken and ashamed.

I wouldn’t say this event was the cause for my struggles throughout life, but it was one of a myriad of events that made me question my value.  I found myself thriving on the encouragement and positive feedback from others.  The problem is, when you look for the approval of others, you end up doing things you think they want you to do and not what you were really meant to do.  It took a long time to realize my confidence had to come from inside me, that it was a direct reflection of my inherent value.  All I had to do was see it.

Applying this to my eating disorders, I came to terms that my exterior body was just a fraction of the totality of me.  And my complete persona is different than anyone else on this earth.  I don’t have to fit into anyone else’s idea of beauty or goodness to be a valuable person.  I don’t have to eat what everyone else thinks I should eat.  I just need to eat what I think I want and need and go from there.  Sometimes I eat too much or too little or the wrong things, but I am confident that my body and I will get it right in the long run and I keep chugging away each day.  And whatever happens, I remember this…..I am a child of God. I don’t have to do anything to earn the grace that God offers me. All I have to do is reach out and accept it.

For more information on how to start the binge free process click here

“Confidence may not be what you think it is.  It may not be the self-assurance that you have talent or that everything is going to work out, it may just be the willingness to take a first step and see what happens.” MDphilbeach

Perpetual Motivation?

Just like it’s easier to clean your house when someone is coming to visit, its easier to eat normally when you are properly motivated. But continual motivation does not come from wanting to lose weight or fit into smaller clothes. Appetite overrides those reasons easily. And motivation doesn’t come from disliking your own body or being disgusted with yourself. (why would you want to help someone you don’t like?) Lasting motivation doesn’t even really come from wanting to be healthier or be your best self.

All these things may inspire you to change something in your life. But when there is no substance to back up the initial surge of motivation, each time you start a diet or make a change in your food or exercise habits, something inside you thwarts your attempts. When you feel stressed or things just don’t turn out like you planned, you lose your mojo.

So how do you ‘stay motivated’ to do the right thing?

The truth about motivation is that it is inconsistent. Its very nature is fleeting and unfaithful. We look at others who accomplish what we only dream of and wonder how they stay so motivated. But it isn’t motivation that keeps them going. It isn’t even their routines and habits. It’s much more basic than that. Motivation is just the key that starts the engine, but your beliefs are the fuel that keep that engine running.

Imagine you know a person that gets on your nerves. Maybe they’ve said unkind things to you or kicked your dog, or they burp in public. For whatever reason, you don’t like or respect them. Now imagine they asked you for a really big favor that would benefit them and puts you in an uncomfortable position. Would you be inclined to help them? Probably not.  Someone being mean to you is not a very good motivator for you to do them a favor.  If they had not been mean to you and treated you with dignity and respect, would you be more willing to help them?

It’s the same for yourself, even if you desperately want to change, you will find it difficult to help yourself if you don’t already like who you are here and now. When you are busy berating yourself and feeling guilty for eating or being overweight, you want to change because you are anxious to be a better person. But this anxiety can blind you to the fact that you already ARE an awesome person. You are already one hundred percent good just the way you are. Getting thinner and healthier will make you thinner and healthier, it will not make you any more valuable than you are now.

So, the secret to staying ‘motivated’ is self-acceptance, self-respect and self-love. No amount of eating right or weight loss can give you these things. But if you can realize them now, as you are, you will be able to do the things you set out to do.

Once you stop the guilt and shame, you will be immune to fast food marketers and food pushers. You will be able to walk into a buffet and eat only what you want and not crave anything else. You will be able to walk into the supermarket with a list of foods and not come out with two boxes of donuts that you will demolish on the way home. You will be able to keep cookies and other treats in your panty without being afraid of eating them all at one sitting.

This is a miraculous feeling and it is within your grasp, no matter how abnormal you think you are, no matter what you have eaten in the past and no matter what anyone has told you. It IS possible to eat well without trying to restrict certain foods, without counting calories and without using sugar free and fat free substitutes. When you accept that you are a valuable person just the way you are, you will find you will naturally have what it takes to take care of yourself and your body.

For  more on Binge Free Living click here

 

Be bold. Don’t beg God for favors. Ask once and thank him that it is already on its way. WIN_20180226_10_11_05_Pro