God Doesn’t Make Wrong Turns (Part Two)

After Spring Break 2019, I wrote a blog post talking about how I went to a different town with my best friend for the day and we missed our turn, but I trusted her anyway. A few months later, we learned that while she did miss her turn, she wasn’t actually going the wrong way. If we had kept going instead of turning around, then we still would have made it to our destination. When our other friend and I told her that, she joked, “So even when I’m wrong, I’m still right.” And once again, I felt the Holy Spirit whispering to my soul, “That was about Me and it was for you.”

God Doesn’t Make Wrong Turns (Part One) was about trusting God the same way that I trusted Shelby. I thought she missed her turn, but I didn’t say anything, because I trusted she knew where she was going. This post is about trusting God when He takes me in a different direction than I expected.

When Shelby and I were going to Boerne, we took what would have been the shortest and fastest route. I usually try to do that. I try to take the shortest and fastest route to get anywhere both literally and metaphorically. I usually don’t want to take longer than I have to. Every once in a while though, I decide I want to take the scenic route instead. A month or so after Shelby and I went to Boerne, I had to go back & I decided to take the scenic route. That’s when I realized Shelby and I could have stayed on the “wrong” route and still would have made it to our destination the month before. Me taking that scenic route began a lesson in my life that I’d heard a thousand times but hadn’t applied until now. “Even when I’m wrong, I’m still right.” Shelby was joking when she said that. She’s human and she’s wrong sometimes, but God is perfect and never wrong. So, even when I think He’s wrong, He’s still right.

We all walk different journeys in life. We all have different roads maps. But we all have the same destination. Whatever our roadmaps are, our destination is God. Every Christian road leads to Him. And we think we know how to get to Him. Most of us want to take the shortest and fastest route to Him. Some of us may be able to take the short and fast route, but most of us are called to take the scenic route. We plan on the short route and we beg God to turn around when He doesn’t take the turn, but we’re usually called to take the long and scenic route. Why? I think it’s because it’s more beautiful and it’s different every time we take it.

The shorter route to Boerne goes through a town called Grey Forest and Grey Forrest is gorgeous. As gorgeous as it is, it looks the same pretty much every time I drive through. The longer route to Boerne takes a highway through the hill country. It’s always different. Various wildlife run on and along the highway. There are a bunch of ranches and farms along the route with horses, cows, goats, and even some exotic animals. And there are a few bodies of water. Bodies of water never look the same. The whole route is beautiful and looks different each time. Since realizing that, I’ve purposely taken that route every time I’ve had to go to Boerne and I need to keep that same mentality in life.

The shortest and fastest route in life might be beautiful like Grey Forrest, but it’s quiet and still. Sometimes that’s great and needed in life. Most of the time our life needs the longer and scenic route like highway 16. Things need to be moving and changing, because that’s when we see the beauty of God and His creation and His story. Yeah, Grey Forrest is a beautiful image of how unchanging and peaceful God is. But the long route is a reminder that God creates beautiful things. It’s a reminder that He has a plan, even when it takes more time to unfold than we think it will. When given the choice on which route to take, neither route is wrong. God’s okay with us choosing the short and calm route when given the opportunity. And sometimes He’ll only give us that option. Other times He’ll only give us the long route. We have to be okay with that. We have to recognize that God wants us to see something along the route before we get to the destination. And, in m experience, those are the most beautiful moments. Now, if only I could remember that when I’m begging to take the short route and He’a telling me to take the long route! Because even when I think He’s wrong, He’s still right!

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Kitchen Cabinets & Malunion Fractures – A Look at 2018 & 2019

A year or so ago when I moved into my apartment, my best friend came over and unwittingly gave me a visual representation of what friendship should be. My sister and I had a random mirror standing in the living room and it was super dirty and smudged from previously being in storage. My best friend couldn’t stand looking at it and I hadn’t really felt like cleaning it, so she grabbed some Windex and cleaned the mirror. Then, maybe the same day or during a different visit, I pulled a pan or something from my kitchen cabinet and she noticed it was a chaotic mess. Again, I didn’t feel like organizing it, so I just left it that way. Again, because she didn’t like it that way, she decided to organize my kitchen cabinet, so it actually made sense when I grabbed things out of it. A few times after that, she organized a few of my other things too. It seems silly, but today I realized while listening to a podcast about anxiety that those moments were incredibly significant moments in my life because they represent something so much more important.

The podcast I was listening to is called “Directionally Challenged with Candice King and Kayla Ewell.” This podcast episode was about anxiety and it started with the question, “What does anxiety mean to you?” I thought about it and I didn’t have a chance to answer it for myself before Candice answered with the best definition I’ve ever heard. She said something like, “It’s quicksand. I get stuck and the more I struggle or try to get out the worse it gets.” Later on, she and Kayla and their guest talked about their toolboxes to get out of the quicksand. You have to have self-compassion, you have to find creative outlets, you have to find your own ways of coping, and you have to let other people help you out. While they were talking about letting other people help you out of your anxiety and or depression, something they said made me think of the mirror and the cabinet and how like real life those moments were.

2018 was a year of major anxiety for me. I faced depression and was tempted with self-harm far more than I ever would have expected to be after coming away from that in 2012 and these feelings really piled on the anxiety as I dealt with familial drama, financial drama, and kind of just life in general. Through these struggles I learned about all the tools God has given me to fight my personal battle. In order to learn about these tools though, I had to go through a long, hard battle.

For me, 2018 was a year of breaking and healing. It was a spiritual version of something in the medical world called a malunion fracture. A malunion fracture is when a broken bone grows back together without properly healing. To my uneducated knowledge, this most often happens when someone either doesn’t know they’ve been hurt, or they don’t realize they’ve been hurt as badly as they have been. For the malunion fracture to heal properly, the doctor may have to rebreak the bone and then reset it. That’s what God had to do for me this year. I had a few malunion fractures in my heart and God had to allow my heart to be rebroken so that I could heal properly. I didn’t know about these malunion fractures though until they were rebroken.

A few years ago, I really thought that God and I had tackled the bulk of my struggles with anxiety and that it wasn’t much of a struggle for me anymore. 2018 taught me I was wrong. Anxiety, depression, and self-harm are probably going to be things that I battle with for my whole life. There will be times when it’s not as bad and I’ll get stronger every time, but I’ll likely deal with these things forever and that’s okay. There are going to be times in my life when malunion fractures come up in my life and anxiety will occur because I have to deal with them. It will be hard and I probably won’t like the process but I will be necessary for me to heal and grow in my relationships with people and with God.

And here’s the thing about anxiety that I think a lot of Christians feel even more anxiety over. In and of itself, anxiety is not a sin. Anxiety is an emotion that tells me when I need to slow down and focus more on God than others or things. Sin only comes into play when I let my anxiety control me instead of choosing to let God control my anxiety. I can choose to dwell on my anxiety and let it take me to dark places or I can choose to use my anxiety to draw me closer to God and the healthy relationships He has provided for me.

That’s where my best friend cleaning my mirror and organizing my kitchen cabinet comes into the picture. Yes, she did that in a literal sense, but all throughout this year she and a few other friends have done that in a metaphorical sense as well. They’ve loved me, they’ve cared about me, and they’ve celebrated me. In doing so, they’ve helped me see my spiritual and emotional reflections better and they’ve helped me to organize the clutter of my mental cabinets.

In 2018, I was reminded what my actual identity looks like. I was reminded that it’s okay and important to rearrange things in my life and to get rid of things that negatively affect my mental health. Through my dearest friends who have chatted with me and loved me, I’ve seen what godly and healthy relationships are supposed to look like. Because of that, I’ve learned which relationships I need to just get rid of all together and which relationships I need to push to the back of my “cabinet” and not use quite as often, if ever. While doing that, God worked on my malunion fractures and reset them so that now as I head into a new year they are truly healed and ready for whatever God may have for me in the next chapter of my life.

Normally at the end/beginning of the year I give a brief recap of the year before and then set out my goals for the coming new year. This year I can’t really recap 2018 because I didn’t accomplish any of my goals. I’m going into 2019 a few pounds heavier than I went into 2018 instead of leaving 2018 twenty-five to fifty pounds lighter. I didn’t read very many books or finish any television series’. I didn’t read my Bible every day and I didn’t journal every day (though I did do a lot better at both this year than I normally do. I journaled almost every day and read my Bible or a Bible plan on average a couple times a week.) I didn’t create something new every day and I didn’t really change my eating habits very much. But all of that is okay. I don’t feel sad or discouraged by not meeting any of these goals because I can honestly say I’m leaving 2018 feeling a lot lighter than I felt during the rest of the year, because I’ve finally realized that with God I can control my anxiety. I’ve realized that asking for prayer and help is okay and so, so important. I’ve also realized that if my friendship fears were grounded in any amount of truth, then I wouldn’t have the same best friends after six years of them knowing me.

So, as I leave 2018 and head into 2019, I’m not making any plans or setting any goals. I’ll continue and start a few new practices like journaling, creating more, sleeping to the light sound of worship music in the background, tracking my daily stress levels, and keeping track of what I do and don’t eat or how I do or don’t exercise, but I’m not setting any goals. I’m just going to read my Bible, worship the Lord in song and written word, and let my friends help me when I don’t know how to help myself. Because no matter what happens in 2019 and no matter how often I feel anxious or worried, I won’t let it consume me. I will live in peace with the Lord and know that “no matter what my future holds, I know Who holds my future.”

24: Crazy (Fear)ce

24. 2018. Both the same year in my world. Both a year of constantly feeling fearful, crazy, and or fierce all at the same time or one after the other. Life is unpredictable and everchanging. I like to know things and stay where I am. 24 didn’t tell me anything until after it happened and rarely let me stay in the same place doing the same thing for longer than a few moments at a time. 24 was a year of drama. Family drama. Financial drama. Apartment drama. Just drama. I spent a lot of time praying and texting my best friend for support and prayers, and sometimes texting my other best friends and blogging for some sort of comprehension into my crazy life. I wrote a lot of songs about feeling fearful, crazy, and fierce. I listened to the same 15 to 30 songs over and over and over again without really listening to much else. And I may or may not have broken down a lot this year. Seriously, I didn’t even fangirl much this year. That’s how crazy it’s been.

To be honest, as I look back on this year, it’s probably been emotionally on par with my junior year of high school. When I was a junior in high school, I found myself struggling with depression and self-harm pretty much every single day. At 24, I felt myself on the edge of fighting the same battle almost every day as well. 24 was different though. Junior year was a year of brokenness that I gave into. As I broke, I gave in and grew weak. I focused on my depression, I lived in a constant state of anxiety, and I physically harmed myself regularly just to feel something different than the ache in my soul. 24 was a year of brokenness that I fought. When I felt depressed and anxious or was tempted to give in to the destructive addiction that is self-harm, I found other ways to cope. I reached out to my best friend, I wrote music and or blog posts, I listened to one or both of my main playlists, “Be Still” and “Fierce,” and or I let myself fangirl a little harder over old fandoms just so I could focus on something other than life’s craziness.

24 took me on a rollercoaster full of twists and turns that turned my finances, my family, and my feelings upside down and all around. Every day, often multiple times a day, I looked for a rainbow or sunshine or even just a glimmer of a light at the end of the tunnel. Every night I felt like I was just getting closer and closer to eternal darkness. Every once in a while though, I saw a small ray of sunshine as the storm clouds just barely parted just enough for me to remember darkness can never last forever. New friends left their sparkle in my life, old friends reminded me who and Whose I am, and kids and teens reminded me to have faith and look for beauty.

24 did leave me often feeling depressed and anxious. It often had me so worried and stressed that I didn’t even finish one tv series in the whole 365 days of the year, I barely watched any movies, and I only read a few books. My fangirl game for 24 was majorly lacking. That may seem silly, but when you’re known as the fangirl, it says a lot. Even still, 24 taught me that I am so much stronger than I used to be, so much stronger than I ever thought I could be. If you had told me my junior year that life would get better and I would get stronger, then I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had told me senior year that if I ever fell into a state of darkness again, then I’d be strong enough not to give in, then I also wouldn’t have believed you. Heck, even if you had told me at 23 or 24 that I’d be strong enough to fight through darkness that could rival my junior year, then I for sure wouldn’t have believed you. Here I am though. I’m 25 and I made it through the darkness of 24 without giving in and while fighting for my life at every turn. I cried out to Jesus and gave my darkness to Him. I learned to cope in a healthy way by praying and asking for prayer. I even let myself feel the hurt and the pain and the darkness whenever necessary. I grew a lot at 24. I learned a lot too.

24 taught me that Mosaic MSC is right. Jesus does make the darkness tremble. 24 taught me there is strength in vulnerability and weakness. 24 taught me that even in fear and anxiety I am brave and strong. 24 taught me that reaching out for help, even simply asking for prayer or an ear to listen is not weakness, but strength. 24 taught me that when I let God work for me, He never gives me more than “I” can handle. 24 also taught me that family isn’t who you’re related to by blood but who you’re related to by His blood. Without music and without my church family, I wouldn’t have made it through 24 without majorly crashing and burning. With music and my church family, I was able to tuck my wings in as they carried me through the trenches and flew for me.

As I head into 25 and 2019, I’m not going to set any New Year’s goals. Instead, I’m just going to rest and rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of 24. I’m going to keep track of the things I do in 2019. I’m going to keep track of how I feel at the end of every day at 25. And, I’m going to enjoy life as it happens. Whether good or bad, I’m going to thank God for every day and remember that even on my worst days, He and His people are with me.

When Fear Creeps In

Since April 30, 2018, my only job has been as a delivery driver for the apps UberEats and Doordash. This has been great, because I’ve been able to work whenever I want and get paid whenever I want. Three weeks ago, I started a new job. That new job will be paying me nearly five dollars more an hour than I average as a delivery driver, but it will only be paying me once every two weeks. For the first pay period, I have to wait four weeks to get paid. That’s not good for someone who has been behind on bills and now doesn’t have time to work all day for a job that pays immediately if need be. Needless to say, on top of the endless stress I’ve been feeling essentially nonstop for the past two years (some from my own doing and some not), I’ve been feeling even more stress. I’m already behind on bills and now it seems like I won’t ever be able to catch up because of this waiting period until I get paid. In between the moments of unbearable stress I’ve been feeling the past two years, God has really been showing, or at least trying to show me (I don’t always listen very well), how to handle stress in a healthy way. But more than that, He’s been asking me to trust Him. That’s hard. I’m a person who likes to know things. I like to know the when, where, and how of everything in my life. I haven’t done much knowing in the past two years. Everything’s kind of just been a constant progression of “I know something you don’t know” in terms of the when, where, and how of things happening. Today, God quickly reminded me of the ways in which I can combat against stress.

  1. Be Real with God– In the past couple of days, a few relatively minor issues have arisen and I’ve been really annoyed with God about them. They’ve been things completely out of my or anyone else’s control. I’ve been trying so hard to stay positive and believe that the Lord will provide for my every need. But, as I said, my stress plate has been overloaded lately, so every small issue threatens to topple it over. In those moments, I can feel myself reaching my breaking point, so I cry out to God in frustration. He’s okay with that. I think He even wants it. Most of the time, I’m usually crying something like, “God, why are you allowing this to happen? I’m trying so hard to be positive and get back on track, but every time I’m almost there, there’s a setback and I can’t handle it.” I think it’s healthy to cry out in frustration to the Lord. I think He even wants us to. If we can’t cry out to Him, then who can we cry out to? We just have to remember where the line of respect is and remember to, with His help, reign it in after a little while.
  2. Be Grateful. Normally, about halfway through my frustrated crying, God reminds me of His blessings in my life. At first, I push back in frustration and He gives me time to get over my frustration. Then, He’s kind of like, “Okay, Brittany. You’ve had your time to express your frustration. I’m okay with that, but now it’s time to focus on the positive.” So, I reluctantly release my frustrations to Him and let Him remind me of all the things and people I have to be grateful for. In that moment, after surrendering my frustration and claiming my blessings, I feel so much better than I did in the fear-driven frustrations of before. Today, for example, He let me complain to Him and then He reminded me of something I hadn’t quite realized yet. I get paid this Friday. Then, I’ll have a week off from my new job for Thanksgiving break and will be able to make deliveries all day, every day for a week. This will be convenient because that’s the week all my bills will be due and I’ll be a little short with my coming paycheck. He also reminded me that Black Friday will probably be an exceptionally busy day as people will be shopping all day and won’t want to leave their shopping to eat, so I’ll be able to go to them. And, of course, He reminded me of my Ebenezer Stones. Those are the ways He’s provided me every time I’ve needed Him to in the past. He has always been faithful and He always will be.
  3. Be humble. Fear, at least for me, almost always accompanies a need. Most often, I’m afraid when I think a need won’t be met. In those moments, I have to be humble. I not only have to be willing to humble myself before the Lord in prayer by asking for His provision. I also may have to humble myself and ask others for help. Sometimes, that may be as simple as asking them to pray for me. Other times, that may be asking them for tangible help. Will you take care of me when I have my wisdom teeth removed or when I sprain my ankle? Will you help me fix the A/C in my car? Will you help me move all my things from my old living place to my new living place? Or even, will you lend me some money for gas? Right now, that’s the hardest thing for me to ask because I’m the main reason I’m in a financial bind.
  4. Be in community. I like to be alone more than I like to be with people, but there are people I will more readily sacrifice my alone time for than others. Those are the people who fill me when I’m in dire need of a spiritual recharge. More times than not, that spiritual recharge is needed when I’ve been living in or fighting off fear for one reason or another. In the past several months, fear has been telling me that I need to spend every waking moment working so I can pay my bills. God has been telling me to rest, not only by myself, but most importantly with His people. The past two months, I’ve been in the tightest of financial binds I’ve ever been in. It seems logical that I should spend every waking moment working until I get out of this bind. It’s not practical though. When I found myself in a dark abyss of depression in high school, it was because I was burning myself out trying to climb out of what felt like binds at the time. When I finally came out of that abyss, it was because of fellowship. Now, I have to continue to remember that. I may not be able to say yes to every social event, but when it’s a spiritual social gathering or a one on one spiritual gathering, those are the times when I know I have to say yes. These past three weeks as I’ve been waiting for a paycheck, I’ve been more stressed than I think I’ve been in a long time. Logic says I should be making deliveries whenever I’m not at my nine to five job. Practicality and health say that’s foolish. So, last weekend I spent 36 hours with my best friend at a women’s event. Then, after church the next day, I went to lunch with another friend and had dinner with my family. Today, a week later, I spent about an hour and a half after church with another friend and then had dinner with my family again. These were prime money-making hours, but that doesn’t matter if I’m spiritually burnt out. So, even though it pained me, in the beginning, to do so, I took time off and I fellowshipped. By the end of each social event, I felt recharged and ready to take on the world. If I hadn’t spent time with these darling friends of mine, then I can guarantee you I’d be writing a different post right now.

These are only four simple steps to take when overcoming fear and they pretty much encompass any other step you may need to take, but they’re not easy. Fear is a liar and a thief. Fear doesn’t want to hear our honesty. Fear is a thief of gratitude. And fear, at it’s core, is selfish. Fear is also often accompanied by misery and misery only loves company when the company is also miserable. When the company saps up your fear and gives you peace, misery wants nothing to do with it. So, next time you’re feeling afraid, try these steps. Be real with God. Be grateful. Be humble. And be in fellowship.

Safe. Sunshine. Seen.

I’m not enough. I’m all alone. I’m too much. No one cares. These are just a few of the thoughts that have run through my head at any given time. As a teenager, they were constantly on repeat. Now, I don’t hear these thoughts quite as often, but they’re still there at the back of mind. They’re waiting to attack when I’m at my most vulnerable and insecure. As a teenager, I was always the one trying to be a safe place for people. I always felt like I had to be the sunshine girl. I was the one who always cared and saw others. I never felt like I was on the receiving end. I didn’t feel like I had a safe place. I didn’t feel like anyone was my sunshine girl. I never felt cared for or seen. Then, I started going to Compass Church. It’s been over six years now and I’m still constantly being reminded by Compass Church members that I am enough. I’m not alone. I’m not too much. And I am cared for. I have a safe place. I have a sunshine girl. And I have someone who cares for and sees me.

I have a safe place. Without God I have nothing. I have no safety. No peace. No joy. No identity. No anything. With God, I can have tangible reminders that I am safe. I can have peace. Joy is attainable. And my identity is only found in Him and who He created me to be. My best friend, Shelby, is almost always that tangible reminder for me. She is almost always available when I’m feeling lost, when I’m feeling afraid, when I’m feeling depressed, and really at any time. Six years ago, I met her and she very quickly, but slowly became a place of safety for me. First she was someone I could share my song lyrics with, aka my journal entries. Next, she became a close friend who put in as much effort in our friendship as I did, if not more. Then, she became my best friend. And now she’s the safest place I know in this world other than God. When I need eminded that everything is going to be okay, she’s there with God’s promises. When I just need to vent so I don’t go crazy, she listens. When a topic comes up at church or elsewhere that gets me feeling some kind of way because of personal issues, she’s there and she knows. She doesn’t poke or prod. She just knows. She may ask something like, “How are you feeling,” but then she’ll leave it at that unless I turn it into a conversation. That’s all I needed as a teenager. Someone to ask, “How are you?” and mean it. Someone who knew how I was doing even if I didn’t say anything. I always speak so highly of Shelby and it’s literally just because she’s there and she cares. She’s the kind of safe place I needed as a teenager and it’s the type of safe place I’m so grateful to have now.

“I could be your sunshine girl.” That is a line from the song, Sunshine Girl, by Christian singer, Britt Nicole. This song was one of my anthems in high school, partially because I wanted to be this girl, but also because I needed this girl. The idea of the song is that this girl is whoever you need her to be. She’s there for you no matter what. I wanted to be and have that, but when I listened to it, I mostly just wanted that sunshine girl. I wanted to have someone in my life who could make me smile no matter what because she’s just a bright, shining light in this world. In recent months, I have met one particular sunshine girl named Ana. I don’t know much about Ana, but I do know she is a ray of hope and sunshine wherever she goes. Maybe that comes from a heartbreaking backstory. Maybe she’s always been that way. I don’t know, but whatever she has or hasn’t been through seems to have brought her to a place of ultimate joy and gratitude that shines through whenever I see her.

This past weekend, she was setting up for and promoting a Christmas event our church does for women every year called, Sparkle. By the end of the setup, the table was so silvery and shiny you could practically see your reflection in the decorations. And yet, Ana was still more sparkly. I sat and chatted with her until church started. For that whole fifteen to thirty minutes she continued to shine brighter than the sparkly decorations. And anyone who spoke with her, whether signing up for the event or not, left with a bright smile on their faces too, because Ana is a genuine sunshine girl. Even a second of speaking with her leaves me feeling happy and bright too! For that reason alone, I am so grateful to know this lovely sunshine girl. Even without knowing much about her, she has made my life infinitely more blessed just by being in it.

I have someone who cares for and sees me. I’m an introvert. Contrary to how I often come across, I prefer to keep to myself and observe rather than participate. Every once in a while, an extrovert comes along and tries to change that. This time around, that extrovert is Tamra. Tamra is a ball of energy so wonderfully intense that if I got to speak with her every morning, then I’d never need caffeine again. We met one weekend at a youth day by the river. Her son is in the youth group at church where I volunteer, so she and her husband came to help chaperone. While there, we chatted and got to know each other. Since then, I’ve learned that her spirit animal is probably a golden retriever or something. Every time she sees me, she gets excited, comes up to me, and starts talking to me. If there’s something going on, then she urges me to join in until I do. And I absolutely love it. Just like the golden retriever friend, she immediately sees me, comes to me, and makes sure I’m taken care of. We haven’t known each other very long, and yet I know that if I need anything, then she’s there for me. There’s just something so wonderfully genuine about her that I can’t help but know that she sees me and she cares about me.

In hindsight, I can see that pretty much everyone I knew as a teenager cared about me and loved me. I can see that if I had tried to open up to them, then most of them would have been receptive. I can see that if I had given them a chance, then at least some of them could have been my sunshine girl when I couldn’t be. I can also see that if I hadn’t tried so hard to hide, then more people might have seen me. I didn’t have clear vision then though, so I can’t say that for sure. Now, I can see clearly and I know that if nothing and no one else, then I have at least three very important people in my life. I have Shelby who is my human safe place when I need someone to just be there. I have Ana who is the truest sunshine girl I’ve ever met. Someone to remind to be joyful no matter what. And I have Tamra, someone who sees me and cares for me, even when I don’t want to be seen or cared for. Most of the people at our church would be more than willing and ready to be a safe place, a source of sunshine, or someone to see and care for me. I’d just have to ask them. Shelby, Ana, and Tamra are different though. I don’t have to ask them. They just are and I am so incredibly grateful for that.

Let us all strive to be a safe place for others. Let us all live like Britt Nicole’s sunshine girl, there and ready to be whoever others need us to be in times of joy or sorrow. And let us be open and ready to see and care for those around us.