HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Watch “The Moon and the Stars” oil painting come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

What does it all mean? What does Time mean? Why are we here?

“In brokenness, we find healing. We learn what parts of ourselves we want to put back together, and which pieces we don’t. This process can feel profoundly sad, as we may be temporarily lost.

When we lose the people, places, and purpose that defined us, we have an opportunity to make different choices. This can be a liberating and life-changing experience. We can be more of who we were always meant to be.”

May we see what’s possible in ourselves. We have the power to be who we were born to be, should we choose it. Let us accept the challenge to be happy, regardless of our circumstances.

God bless and keep you, this day and always, and may 2022 be a year of unlimited hope and spiritual prosperity.

Happy New Year, dear friends!


Garden Walls

Watch this oil painting come to life in under 2 minutes

(time lapse)

In June, I talked about this painting in a blog post called “Solitary Roses“. The part of that post I’d like to highlight today is this: 

“It’s healthy for brains to occasionally build garden walls, where we can retreat into a creative, spiritual, reflective space. ‘Unplugging’ is about much more than simply unplugging from the Internet, cell phones, televisions, or any other electronic gadget or screen. If our mindset is still controlled by the world’s pacing and agendas, we haven’t truly unplugged- we’ve merely paused the stream. What we need is garden walls inside our minds, a place we go when we need to connect our minds to our spirit and body. In that space, we are at peace: undisturbed, unhindered, and unburdened.”

It can be challenging to take time to simply be still, without letting our thoughts race, without staring at a screen, without multi-tasking, and resisting being occupied every second of the day. But if we do this, we can slow down time. Time passes from one hour to the next, one day, month, and year to the next, in a blur of mostly insignificant events that we don’t remember later. When we focus on the passage of time and reflect on who we are, who we want to be, and who we can be for others, we stop the manic pace that makes time race forward without any awareness of it. When we feel gratitude for every moment and pause our lives to notice, time slows.

It is when time slows that we learn the secrets that children, the elderly, and people under emotional crisis (such as grief, post-trauma, disability, etc.) already know: all that matters is right now, this very moment. If only we could feel this way, think of what we’d do with our blessed moment, our most priceless treasure! Time is what we all want when the end is near. Why wait until we’ve lost what we most desire and can never buy? We have time now. Tell your dear ones that you love them. Do something that makes you happy. Build garden walls inside your mind.

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Playing a Tune

Watch oil painting “Serenity Piano” come to life

in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

I composed and played the music for that video. I wrote lyrics for it, but I’d have to dig those up because I don’t remember them. It’s something like “Life is so beautiful”, but it’s fuzzy to me now. Yesterday I had to re-arrange my space to make room for a stash of Christmas presents I need to hide until December 25th. In doing so, I cleared out the corner where my keyboard was inaccessible and collecting dust.

Before I even had everything put away, I couldn’t resist stopping what I was doing to play a little tune. I played a few Christmas carols and realized how long it’s been since I’ve last played. I’ve never learned how to properly play the piano and I’d been working on the chord method when I abandoned the project because I became busy with other things and then let my music become out of my reach for over a year.

It’s a bit of a shock to realize how quickly this sort of thing happens. I pledge now to make regular time for learning how to play the piano and enjoying making music. Is there anything that you had good intentions to learn or do, and you’ve let life clutter it up until you’ve forgotten all about it? How much time has slipped past? It’s not too late! 

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Happy Grief?

Watch this hedgehog oil painting come to life in about 1 minute

(time lapse)

You might remember when I painted this one and shared it in early April? At that time I hoped that the world would have sorted a few things out by the end of summer, and obviously that didn’t happen. But through it all, I try to share happy things when I can. Is there such a thing as “Happy Grief”? In my experience, yes, there is.

When we share hardships collectively as humans traveling in the same time line (those of us currently alive on this planet, spanning four or five generations across the globe) we may feel a special connection with humanity that is unique; and known only by people who experience the crisis together. Of course we may need to be “on the same side”, however we may define that to be. Connection is based on kinship, and that doesn’t happen with those who rule in dominion over us, or with those we perceive as in alignment, enforcement, or loyal to the ideology of those we are oppressed by. We do not bond with our abusers, but we develop intimacy with fellow travelers on the same journey. This is part of the “Happy” side of grief. Feeling close to fellow humans makes us happy.

Another aspect of “Happy Grief” is due to the extreme emotions. When our lows are very low, when our spirits try to counter-correct and restore balance, we swing to the other extreme- very high; happiness, joy, elation, bursts of creativity, optimism, and overall confidence that “everything’s gonna be alright”. We may feel surprisingly nostalgic and have vivid flashbacks to times, places, and people from years ago, or even many years ago. We may then take an abrupt turn in mood, as we remember people we’ve lost, and a world that used to be, but is no more.

During these extreme mood swings, we may land somewhere in the middle, but it’s not an ordinary kind of middle. It’s the middle that happens between highs and lows of crisis grief. In this sacred space, we find the greatest treasure in “Happy Grief”. We feel certain of what is most important in life. We know the secret of happiness, and it’s not things or work or relationships that we do not choose. It’s a secret that many elderly people already know: happiness comes from doing what we want to do.

When we see time as precious, vulnerable, and fleeting; when we feel that our future is uncertain and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed; when we can’t trust that the world we know today will still be there tomorrow… we live differently. We live with intention. We choose to spend time with the people we truly love, and have little patience for time wasted on those we do not enjoy being with. We structure our days differently. We are more willing to do productive work like gardening, baking, or making something homemade without thinking we should be doing work that pays an income or we should be doing nothing at all. Why work if there’s no pay check? Because productive work is happy work, and when we do something productive we are often rewarded with adventure, a pleasant outcome, and connection with others. These things make humans happy.

When we live life with intention, instead of scurrying along each day on a schedule to get each thing done, every item checked off a list, prioritizing meeting the expectations of others, putting paid work ahead of anything else- then we start to live on our own terms. We remember who we really are, and we may wonder why we squandered so much of our life trying to please others and doing what was expected instead of what we want to do. We may wish we had “one more day” with someone we lost. We may feel overwhelmed with regret or pangs of longing.

As the grief emotions sweep over us, we can channel these highs and lows into something good that improves our lives forever. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Be that person you’ve always wished you could be. “Live as if there’s no tomorrow. Love as if we’re on borrowed time.” It’s not just a catchy phrase or song lyrics, it’s real. And we know it’s real when we are in a state of “Happy Grief”. That is what I meant by Happy Grief. Because, when we live as if there’s no tomorrow, we finally learn how to be happy. May we take this precious awareness into a post-grief season, and never forget. But, of course, the grief season must end before the healing can begin. I will pray for deliverance, and I will pray for YOU. I do not need to know who you are to do this. Prayer is powerful. I need only to care. God bless you and your families.

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Back to Work!

The past few weeks I’ve been preparing for the new show series “Inspired by Natalie” vlog, uploading my painting videos to YouTube (not done with

Read More »

Update

First, the above oil painting is one that I’ve shared with you several times before. I’m happy to report that this one was already on

Read More »

Golden Path

I shared this one with you recently, but today I re-edited it for YouTube and it’s somewhat different. It’s another painting video that I needed

Read More »

Slow Change

This lion painting has had several changes of music. This is the latest version for YouTube. The emotional vibe is entirely different, depending on what

Read More »

Heaven Again

I’ve been telling you about my ongoing project to upload my oil paintings to YouTube. This has resulted in editing some of my older work,

Read More »

As Summer Leaves Us

Watch this “Flower Angel” painting come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

You might remember that I shared this oil painting when I finished it at the beginning of May, while the promise of spring was still unfolding. And now here we are approaching the end of August and summer is soon ending. The time has gone by quickly, yet slowly… as time often does.

As summer leaves us I remember how grateful I was to see flowers and feel the sun upon my face when spring first came to us. Now that the heat and insects have made outdoor experiences unpleasant, and the flowers are mostly gone, I suppose we’re feeling ready for the change of seasons. But whether we are committed to it or not, autumn is near – at least it is in my part of the world.

With so much uncertainty, it is comforting to remember the sameness of seasons. Every year we experience twelve months, fifty-two weeks, and twenty four hours in each of those 365 days. Time passes, both quickly and slowly, and when it does we can look back with certainty that the time we spent is now in the past. Given all that we’ve been through since this time last year, we may be relieved to see the seasons slip forward.

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Serendipity

Watch this oil painting called “Time” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Two days ago I blogged “One gone, another enters” and I was reminded of the story of when Mom died… one dies, another is born. I meant to talk about this yesterday, but the toad drummer distracted me and I had to blog about him first! I figured we could all use something funny and joyful, so I went with that first.

This other story is somber and mysterious, yet uplifting and I’ve shared it here before. But I never know how many have seen the things I’ve written previously, so it’s good to share them again as new friends join us. Also, there’s a bit of an update. The story is now published as the first chapter of “Beauty of Time” and can be read free as part of the new Kindle Vella program which officially launched recently.

I thought I could copy and paste the story in, but Amazon won’t let me do that… which is a good thing I suppose. A screen capture is a bit of a mess to stitch together, so please visit the story directly. It is FREE to read “Serendipity”, and it’s a very cool template, at least in my opinion. The text feels easy on the eyes to read. Anyway, my story is here, and if you like it, there’s a little thumbs up button at the end… that no one has yet pressed. I’m not sure anyone’s even read my stories. I don’t write the type of things that are popular there. But that’s OK, I write what is true to who I am.

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Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Back to Work!

The past few weeks I’ve been preparing for the new show series “Inspired by Natalie” vlog, uploading my painting videos to YouTube (not done with

Read More »

Update

First, the above oil painting is one that I’ve shared with you several times before. I’m happy to report that this one was already on

Read More »

Golden Path

I shared this one with you recently, but today I re-edited it for YouTube and it’s somewhat different. It’s another painting video that I needed

Read More »

Slow Change

This lion painting has had several changes of music. This is the latest version for YouTube. The emotional vibe is entirely different, depending on what

Read More »

Heaven Again

I’ve been telling you about my ongoing project to upload my oil paintings to YouTube. This has resulted in editing some of my older work,

Read More »

Inspired Vlog

First, about the re-edited Sparrows video: You may notice this version has new music dropped in. This is part of my ongoing effort to use

Read More »

Protected

I’m continuing with my project to upload my painting videos to YouTube, after a long break from using that platform. It seems that my videos

Read More »

To be Hated

I decided to give YouTube another try. My videos weren’t been seen on there anymore so I gave up on it. My subscribers weren’t getting

Read More »

Angels Mourn

The story of this angel is one of mourning, looking over the mass graves of children tragically killed long ago. This painting was inspired by

Read More »

Planning

Don’t these parrots look engaged in conversation, with one parrot more chatty than the other? This was my daughter and me this afternoon as we

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Setting or Rising?

Watch my “Trees and Stream” painting come alive in 2 minutes

(time lapse)

Was the sun rising or setting? Was she enjoying the early morning serenity, or was she so absorbed in her book that the sun set on her? Time has no meaning without context. Without it, we choose what it means.

Today, time slipped away and I didn’t paint as I’d pledged to do yesterday. Instead, my daughters had me on a bit of an adventure. At one point I was helping to remove a pine tree that was growing inside a flowering shrub. I transplanted that tree and I plant to decorate it for Christmas. When I do, I’ll think about how my oldest discovered the tree and how excited she was to show it to me. I’ll also remember when my youngest pulled on the root, fell backward onto her bum, while showering me with a cloud of dirt. I’ll recall how she laughed while telling the rest of the family this story.

Maybe I’ll paint the tree. I paint what inspires me. Sometimes it’s not very inspirational, just a project assignment, but I find a way to connect to it. Other times my art is deeply personal, profoundly sad (and I cry while painting it), or a humanitarian statement. But usually, my art is something in-between. It’s the real life moments between the sun rising and setting, when we choose what time means.

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Are you worried?

Watch me paint this puffin in 2 minutes (time lapse)

We have many reasons to feel worried. We worry about our personal circumstances that few (or maybe only we) know about. Private fears keep us awake at night: fears about illness, tragedy, work, financial crisis, grief, and trouble concerning our families. We also worry about things that the world tells us to fear; things that may be real or built upon deception in whole or in part. These worries may never come true, but life has its share of heartache and hardship, so we can never be completely safe from the things we fear. 

In my video of the puffin, you may notice:

  • As I’m painting, you can see glimpses of other paintings in the background. You see not only this single painting session, where I’m sitting there in my comfy red work shirt painting at home, but the evidence of several others. This represents hours of my energy and focus directed toward creating art to share.
  • If you’ve made it to the end of the video, you saw the music credits. Can you picture someone recording that happy guitar music to share with others? That musician invested energy and focus into making music. It was probably after years of playing the guitar, perhaps a lifetime.
  • And… the puffin is investing time and energy into simply being a puffin.

When we invest our time and energy into CREATING, MAKING, and BEING, we occupy ourselves with the act of living. We have filled the spaces of our minds with positive thoughts, leaving little room left over for worry.

  • CREATE: We don’t have to create art to be creative. I feel the same peaceful awareness of the goodness of creativity when I garden. Planning and growing my garden creates a new living world that is a masterpiece. Creativity can be in the kitchen, the garage, or any other place. An “artist’s studio” is wherever we feel creative.
  • MAKE: I’m grateful when musicians offer their music. I have a tight budget as a one-person enterprise, yet I need quality talent for my art videos. My art is made better when music sets the mood for my videos. But we don’t have to make music to contribute our talents to this world. Not everyone was born to be a musician. We all have our own gifts and talents, even if it seems we don’t. Making the effort to make life better for others, especially our families who love us, is one of the greatest roles we can have. What we make of our lives matters. Each of us has an opportunity to make a difference.
  • BE: When we are busy creating something new or making a difference in the lives of others, we have little energy leftover for worry. But, the true state of peace is when we don’t need to busy ourselves with positive distractions to fill our spiritual spaces… when we are unworried while in a state of simply “being”.

When I was learning about puffins to create that painting, I discovered that the puffin is a social creature who seems to love hanging out with other puffins. Yet there were plenty of instances in which the puffin was fine to be alone while flying, swimming, or simply being. The body language of a puffin suggests a relaxed, content spirit. 

Do you think that the puffin is aware of what an inspiration he is to humanity? As he goes about his animal life, with his funny stature, color block body, and unusual lifestyle combination of flying and swimming, does he worry about anything? This interesting little bird was given a singular purpose to live the life of a puffin. He was given gifts and talents to make that life possible. He was blessed with the company of other puffins for the journey.

Is the puffin immortal? No. They live an average of twenty years. But during that time, they protect each other from predators by forming groups when they are feeding at sea. They are highly social animals and deeply loyal, as they mate for life. To protect themselves, puffins nest high on top of cliffs and burrow deep under the ground. Instinctively, they understand their vulnerability and they take measures to keep themselves safe. But do they “worry” as we humans do? Probably not. It doesn’t seem to be the case.

Puffins are mysterious. They spend a lot of time at sea, where it is difficult for researchers to study them. In a world where every living creature is spied upon, analyzed, and intimately known, the puffin has managed to keep part of its life relatively private. I’ve blogged about how important it is to be mysterious.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, you may have noticed that I’ve mentioned activities like painting, playing music, gardening, cooking, socializing, swimming, and flying (unlike the puffin we obviously need planes, but we too can escape to far away places). Nowhere did I mention filling our time with a devotion to media, the Internet, or packaged passive “entertainment” scripted with an agenda to steer us toward a faux reality, and away from our natural intuitive lifestyle. When we reject that which is fake and choose those things that are real, we live an authentic life. It is easier for us to just “be”.

Our life expectancy is much higher than that of a puffin, yet we waste so much of it in worry. May we strive to invest our time and energy into making and creating until we evolve into “being”, at peace while standing still. Whenever you start to worry, think of my puffin painting. Be a puffin!

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Peace be with You

Watch me paint this Cherokee Rose in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I originally had a completely different post written, one that I spent a couple of hours on. It was briefly published, so some of you may have seen it. Unfortunately the new technology that I was so excited about sharing with you (making a larger painting come “alive” through clickable hotspots to interact with the image), didn’t work when the post went live. So, now I’m writing a new post that relates to my experience this morning.

I get frustrated and upset when the time I invest seems wasted. I value my time as the greatest treasure I have. Money that is lost can be regained, but time can never be recovered. However, when I will myself to calm down, I can usually see that failed experiences are often more valuable than we think. Even if I can’t see the point of something right away, if I trust that purposeful intentions matter, I can let the issue go.

We can’t always control the outcome of our time investment, but if we approach every minute with purposeful intentions and honest expectations of time well spent, I believe that the spirit of our intentions and expectations will be honored and rewarded. My painting of a Cherokee Rose (at the top of this post) was meant to be part of the hotspotted image that I wanted to share with you. It seems appropriate to share it anyway, as it is a fitting metaphor for my change of blog post.

The Cherokee Rose is one of the elements in my patio garden painting that isn’t a part of my real life garden. I painted it because it is Georgia’s state flower. The project was for my book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia“. Previously, I’d never heard of this type of rose. When I saw a picture of it, I thought it was very pretty. After painting it, I was wistful to get one of these roses, so I looked into where I could get one.

This was weeks after I’d invested my time in painting the Cherokee Rose, formatting the photograph to publish as art in the book, and even designing the beautiful scarf that I’d put together show you (and even modeled it for you! 😂) in my video below. I was very excited about using my oil paintings for fashion. I love pretty things and this was such a thrill!

But, guess what? After all of this… I decided not to get this beautiful rose. It turns out that this rose is apparently quite wild and can be invasive. It needs a lot of space to grow. It’s not at all like my classic red roses that stay contained to their designated pots. In the end, the exotic Cherokee Rose doesn’t work.

I had invested a lot of time and energy into the idea of this rose, an idea that I thought would lead to this rose manifesting itself in my garden. Was that a waste of time? Of course not! I painted this rose in two different paintings, designed my first fashion scarf, and published it in my first art book collection. These are big things that matter to me.

Now, we don’t always see the results of our “wasted time” played out in such an obvious way. Sometimes we are kept in the dark about how the pieces of our lives fit together. Then again, other times the mysteries are much greater than a painting, fashion, or a book. Most of us have stories of moments when we failed to be where we intended to be, only to be at exactly the right place at the right time for a miracle to happen (or a disaster avoided). In such moments, we vow to never again doubt the connectedness of all things.

Every moment matters- even when we can’t see it. We may fail in our original plans, but succeed in ways that only God knows. At the right time, we may know how it all fits together, but it’s possible some things will remain mysteries. When we are at peace with the unknown, we can go about our lives with the best of intentions, while letting go of the disappointment when our plans (no matter how great or how trivial) don’t work. Whatever you’re doing today, may you succeed even if it seems you have failed. No matter the outcome, may peace be with you.

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Back to Work!

The past few weeks I’ve been preparing for the new show series “Inspired by Natalie” vlog, uploading my painting videos to YouTube (not done with

Read More »

Update

First, the above oil painting is one that I’ve shared with you several times before. I’m happy to report that this one was already on

Read More »

Golden Path

I shared this one with you recently, but today I re-edited it for YouTube and it’s somewhat different. It’s another painting video that I needed

Read More »

Do We Want Peace?

Watch me paint “Dove of Peace” in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

Surely most of the world’s people want peace. So why don’t we have it? Who is acting against our wishes? What is our response to these actions against our will?

These are big questions, and the answers appear to be unsolvable. They were unsolvable in ancient days, and unsolvable now. We may want world peace, but those in power do not listen. However, if we want spiritual peace, we as individuals will have it. No one can stop us from this choice.

Inner Peace

Inner peace is often described as being calm even if situations are stressful. Others describe inner peace as being strong in the face of chaos and crisis, rather than crumbling to stress and anxiety. I think of it as a combination of “calm” and “strong”. Spiritual peace is quiet strength.

Quiet strength can make the difference between surviving or not. It can make the difference between saving others or not. It can make the difference between a prosperous, happy life or not. The dangers of panic, anxiety, and fear are often greater than we realize. The absence of inner peace can make us sick, can cause us to make rash unfortunate decisions that harm ourselves or others, and can create favorable conditions for accidents. Whereas, the presence of inner peace protects us from these dangers.

Benefits of Spiritual Strength

The first three items on the list (rational thinking, steadiness, and calming to others) increase the likelihood that we and anyone near us will survive a crisis. Spiritual strength makes an impact on minor situations as well. When we handle problems with authority and grace, stress and anxiety don’t have time to take root. Therefore, we head off tension between people that could have lasting effects. We may even reverse the situation from something potentially damaging to an incident that people are proud to recall.

The second three items (confidence, physical health, and better relationships) are reasons for the final benefit on the list: greater prosperity or other rewards. For when we make good decisions, maintain good health, and make solid connections with the people in our lives, our opportunities for success expand exponentially. It all begins with a choice we can all make as individuals: peace.

People of faith find inner peace through spiritual redemption and confidence in a higher power. It may be difficult for a disillusioned person to find this type of calm, but there are still steps one can take that are general tips for healthy living. Even if not fully convinced of the importance of spirituality, putting a desire for peace into action will encourage a strong spirit.

Tips for Establishing Inner Peace

  1. Cut the cord. Shut off the TV. Turn off your phone. Yank the Internet. Do this for 30 minutes. Next time, try it for longer. Aim to cut back on some of these habits permanently. Cull your accounts, platforms and subscriptions. Carve out time in which you go completely unplugged. No screens. No phone. No earbuds. Just you.
  2. Learn how to tell time. The way we measure time is based on societal rules. Learn how to measure time differently, in a way that works for you. I will explain this further in a few minutes.
  3. Eat well, sleep well, play well, love well. Everything is connected. When one of these is off, our emotional self is effected.
  4. Limit the clutter in your physical spaces. Clean out your vehicle, home, outdoors areas, your closet, your desk, your kitchen cupboards. Everything in your path should be as free of distractions as possible. Make your space pleasant to be in.
  5. Work hard. In everything you do, from taking care of yourself to taking care of others, from vocational goals to hobbies… in every action of your day, expend passionate high energy as much as you can. When you are tired or need to pace yourself, slip into a calm state of deliberate action. Do not allow yourself to be “checked out”, but in all ways be mindful of what you are doing. Time and energy are an investment, a priceless treasure that is finite. Never let it slip away unaware.

When you remove something, you must replace it. For example, if you want to curb an Internet addiction, create a new activity that forces you to turn away from the screens. If you don’t fill the space, it will likely cause you to feel restless and antsy. Your commitment will waver.

The second tip on the list is about measuring time. We often allow outside factors to structure our days. Take control of your most precious resource, the one thing that can neither be added to you or subtracted from you- time. Try this little experiment:

 

  1. Time yourself doing routine things. How long are you really “checking your messages”? How long does it really take you to get ready to go somewhere? How long does it really take you to fix your lunch and eat it? How long does your bedtime routine take? Try not to hurry your natural routine. You want an accurate result.
  2. Time yourself again, based on the estimates you found in step one. Use a timer that makes noise when your time is up. The more obnoxious the sound, the better. If you have a timer that ticks down the final minutes, that’s even better.
  3. Next round, use a sand timer (a tea timer, often in an hour glass shape). If you don’t have one, set a timer that has a pleasant soft sound when it ends, perhaps music.
  4. Next, use no timer at all, but make note of how long it took you to do your routine tasks. Did you move faster or slower than you did before the experiment? Did you move at about the same pace? What difference did an awareness of time make?
  5. Finally, choose a day when you can let go of your schedule and hide all clocks from yourself for a two hour period. How does that feel? Are you anxious? If you are serious about learning how to measure time differently, make at least one hour a week without clocks a regular event.

Self-improvement, health improvement, de-cluttering, and all of the other lifestyle tips do help. They help spiritually strong people as well as those who feel that they are standing on ground zero. But, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably guessed that I believe the biggest help is faith in God. When we believe in a higher power who loves us, we have less fear and anxiety. When we believe that when someone says, “God bless you”, we truly will be blessed, we have inner peace.

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