When You Find Out You Are a Little Bit of a Narcissist Too

Once in a great while, we have a moment in our life that somewhere deep in our hearts, we know is going to mark every minute and every second that comes after that one.  To the people around us, it may seem just like any other moment in time.

But for you, you know it is different. You know that you are going to be different and that life because of that moment is going to be different.

I am not talking about the death of someone we love or the achievement we worked years to obtain.  I am not even talking about marriage or babies or divorces or promotions.

I am talking about the moment that sneaks up on you out of nowhere but changes you so profoundly that you can recall even decades later exactly where you were sitting and how the room smelled and who was present. 

I have had maybe 6 of these moments in my life.  My first one was when I was only 6 years old, and I can still recount it to you in detail.

Recently I had another one.  It has been about 5 months since it happened, and I have maybe shared it with 3 other people beyond the ones that were present in the moment.   This is unusual because all the other times I have experienced something similar, my first reaction was to tell everyone close to me.  I am usually pretty jealous with the most intimate details of my life, but in these cases, the impact was so deep that I couldn’t help but want to share it with every one important in my life!

This time it’s been a slow burn.  I have been chewing on it, meditating on it, praying about it, and just trying to understand the weight of it.  I don’t want it to just be a moment. I want it to be a transformation, and I want that transformation to happen from the inside out without a lot of fanfare along the way.  I don’t want to talk big.  I want to do the heavy lifting to make it a reality.

Today, though, I want to share a little, teeny part of that experience.  It is very personal, so the details shall remain cloudy.  But, my hope is that maybe, just maybe, it can bring some freedom for fellow friends walking around with the same chains.


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It was almost 5 months ago.  We were going through some pretty big changes on all fronts as a family.  We were experiencing changes in our home, changes in our ministry, and even changes in our own perspectives and beliefs.  Again, it wasn’t something we were really talking about.  But it was a season of genuinely seeking God’s will for our future and seeking healing, restoration, and forgiveness in every single area of our lives.  We were good.  Our family was good.  All was good, but we knew that God wanted more of us and for us, and we desperately wanted to be ready to receive whatever that was going to be.

This meant that in some areas we were also asking for some help.  We had been around the block long enough to know that wise counsel and accountability is essential for any Christian truly desiring to grow and mature in their faith.  It was during one of these types of meetings with another couple that the wife suddenly (and quite powerfully if I might add) said, “Sara the root of all of these struggles is comparison.  I am not sure how long it has been going on, but I am guessing for decades.  It is robbing so much from you, and the time has come for it to end.”

I first just stared at her speechless, but she and her husband are powerful intercessors, so they immediately began praying over me.  My husband tucked my hand into his and these 3 individuals spoke, declared, and prayed over me in a way that I had never experienced in my whole life. 

I wept. Then I wept some more.  And finally, there was no where else for all the snot and tears to go, so I composed myself (mostly anyway) and just silently listened and prayed little words in my heart.

There is so much more to this story, but the point of me wanting to share a piece of it today is because as I have processed through the 3 and half decades of my life these last few months, I can see so clearly that in fact the greatest chain I have been wearing, my greatest liability if you will, has been my incessant need to compare myself in EVERY SINGLE area of my life to those around me.

I still have yet to identify exactly how or when it started but my first clear memory of it was from first grade.  My family moved that year, so I was starting a new school and began life in a new neighborhood.  It was the first time I can remember thinking I wasn’t quite up to par…I was still a little too shy and awkward.  I was smart but not the smartest in my class.  I had friends but not very many.  And somewhere around then, deep down I guess I came to terms with always being stuck somewhere in the middle of everything…smart but the smartest, cute but not the prettiest, fast but not the fastest, a good athlete but not the best one, likeable but not the favorite. 


  
   ( Pictures of me from First Grade)


And the thing about my comparison habit is that it was much more inconspicuous than flat out insecurity or low self esteem.  I was fairly confident in my middle of the road status, so for the most part, I just learned to adapt.  I had great friends.  I was still at the top of my class academically.  I played competitive softball. I was class President.  I was active in my youth group at church.  I even dated some. But deep down, I was constantly sizing up everyone else around me, and in one way or another, I always found myself coming up short. 



 

(Pictures from High School) 



This didn’t mean I was judging those or criticizing those around me.  Far from it actually.  I was genuinely just making comparative notes about myself next to them.

The thing is, though, I had no idea this was happening.  I was absolutely blind to it.  It was such an integral part of my norm that I was 100% oblivious to it. 

But I can tell you with absolute certainty that for 30 years it was holding me back.  It was stealing from me.  It was more than just a thorn in my side.  It had left me disabled.  I was not functioning at my full capacity.

“Look how beautiful she is! She doesn’t even have to try.  No wonder he likes her and not me.”

“Did you see her homerun last night?  I am always going to just be a solid base hitter…first or second in the lineup.  Faithful but never that exciting.”

“I love theater.  It is such a rush being up there on stage.  But I can’t sing, so I never could be a real stage actress. She has the whole package.”

“She has so many friends.  Everyone loves her.  She makes them laugh and is a good listener.  When she is around guys, they are practically drooling just watching her talk.”

“Chubby.  That is all I will ever be.  I will never have a body that looks like hers.  And she has had 5 kids!”

“My Spanish is horrendous next to hers.  She can speak it so eloquently.  And she drives all over Guatemala!  I have to stay in my 10 kilometer radius, or I get lost.”

“ I love listening to her teach the Bible.  She knows everything.  She never stumbles over her words like I do when I try.”

“What an amazing Mom.  She is so patient and kind and creative!  Oh my goodness I can’t even remember to sign their agendas.  And I am supposed to be a teacher!”

“She is beautiful.  I know she liked my husband at one time.  I bet she would have been a better wife than me.  At the very least she would have been a prettier one.”

“I want to write.  I love writing, but my words never come out as eloquently as hers do.  My words won’t ever have any kind of impact.”


These are just a few of the thoughts that at one time or another have run through my head…and not just once or twice.  They were constantly there, and little by little they were ruining all that was good in my life. 

Why?

Because when we are convinced that someone else is always doing it better, we eventually just stop trying.  We start just going through the motions.  Slowly our passion fades.  We get stuck in ruts.  We start fighting with our loved ones over ridiculous things we have invented in our minds.  We become more insecure and jealous.  We stop celebrating others and start lending our tongues to criticism and judgment.  Everything becomes a chore.  We lose our vision for the future and our joy in the present.

Folks it’s an ugly path.  Nevertheless, it was one that I was taking for more years than I would like to admit. 

And now that my eyes have been opened, I can see that it is a path that so many are still walking on right this moment. 

Let me tell you right now before you go any farther that it is a trap.  It is a trap that will rob, steal, and destroy all that you love most in this world.  It is subtle.  It is easy to miss the signs or chalk it up to “girls just being girls.”  But it is shrewd. It won’t stop until you decide you have had enough of it.

Until 5 months ago, I would have told you I was a fairly normal, stable, evolving person.  I was certain I had a good handle on my strengths and weaknesses.  I could see progress and growth in my life.  I could clearly identify low points and high points, but through them all, I could see maturity.  I knew that I was a good mom and wife and even most of the time missionary.  I wasn’t a bad person.  I could look in the mirror and think “Oh I look pretty today.” I was genuine in my relationships and had long ago stopped trying to be something I wasn’t.  I thought for the most part I had accepted who I was and made peace with both the things I liked and didn’t like about myself.

But what I didn’t realize is that a very strong, deep root had taken up residence many decades ago, and until I was willing to see it for what it was, I had no hope of really living my life and my calling to the fullest.  Every relationship was being poisoned in a way by this root, and every opportunity was only half-experienced because of this root.

No more though.  Once I realized it.  Once I called it by its name, then little by little I started digging that sucker up.   

What sweet freedom I am enjoying because of it.  

Oh I still have my moments.  Recently I had a huge setback, but I didn’t let it ruin all the hard work I have done up until now.  And in the end, in that particular instance, I realized how my comparison habit also could be a great hindrance to me being able to see people for who they really are.  I get stuck on that one area of their lives that makes me feel like I could never measure up, and I miss the hurt and pain that lies right there on their surface, begging someone to care. 

Comparison is a form of narcissism.  Plain and Simple. It makes us the center of the narrative  instead of God.  It makes us walk around with glasses that are not only tainted but were never supposed to be worn in the first place.

In the end, I want my story to reflect a God that is big and powerful and amazing and great and awe inspiring and deserving of all the glory and honor.  I want my life to make a difference not just today but for eternity.  I want to be able to celebrate others but also be able to celebrate God’s work in me too!

If God is the Author and Creator, what business do I have taking notes on His work?  What an insane waste of time and energy.  We were meant for more.  We were made for more.   

But it’s not too late.  Even if this has been the chain you have been dragging around for years, you have the keys to take unlock it. 

Choose More.





(Ridiculous Selfie at the beach from a few weeks ago, but it was the first time in a LONG time that I was just rocking my swimsuit without worrying about what the other ladies at the pool looked like or how I may have not measured up to them.  So it was a big moment for me!)



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The Field of My Own

Books.

Oh how I love them.  I’ve never been one to dream about living in a mansion, but I sure have dreamed of having a beautiful library with a large, overstuffed chair in the corner by the fireplace.  I dreamed of this place where I would do all my deep thinking and go on all my best adventures and have all my favorite conversations.

But even despite my perfect little library, I have managed to read 11 books so far this year.  My goal was 12, one each month, but despite the chaotic nature of this year so far, books have been my little oasis, my way of retreating and unwinding. 

While I like a good variety, every so often I read a book that changes me.  Like the most unexpected sunset after a rainy or cloudy day, once a while, I stumble on a book that stays with me long after I close the last page.  I will find myself daydreaming in the shower or thinking of these characters and the futures that author left to my imagination. I will shut my eyes at night and in the space of a few minutes, I find myself swept into their world and their struggles.  The very first time this happened to me was after reading Number the Stars in 7th grade.  Never in my life had I read a book that grieved me as this one did.  It opened up a whole world to me that I had only briefly heard about from school teachers. But, that was just the beginning.  I had yet to step into a Brave New World or know the boys that were once known as the Lord of the Flies.  I hadn’t yet felt the indignation of Scout while reading To Kill a Mockingbird.  I didn’t know the power of jealousy until the world of Othello.   I hadn’t yet wept through Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry.   I didn’t know how much I would mourn Beth from Little Women. I had yet to read the stories of men like Jim Elliot or Dietrich Bonheoffer or Brother Yun or women like Corrie Ten Boom or Harriet Tubman or Dr. Helen Roseveare or Amy Carmichael. These are just a few of the books and people that have stayed with me…books and people that have changed me and challenged me and inspired me. 

Over the weekend, though, I finished another one to add to this list.  The book was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  The story itself is not a true story, however, it is loosely based on true situations and people from WWII, and while so much of what I read on these pages was not necessarily new, I found myself thinking about Vianne and Isabelle long after I closed the pages of their story.  I have read some reviewers say that Hannah over-sentimentalizes the gravity of the situations her characters struggle through, but I didn’t find this to be true at all.  I found in Vianne and Isabelle women who confronted me and dared me to see beyond my own vision for my life and my family and even for myself.  Vianne constantly believed and said out loud that she wasn’t brave or strong, and yet her story captivated me to the point that I had to ask myself if I would have willingly done what she did…if I would have willingly risked all that she risked.

But Vianne and Isabelle like so many of the other heroes and heroines from my other books forced me to look at myself in the mirror and ask how much I would really be willing to risk in the face of darkness.  I like to pretend I am so strong and brave, but really I know that deep down I am still so very scared and worried. 

I want to dream of adventure, but most times I am too afraid to actually taste it.

I want to imagine myself brave, but usually when the time comes, I am paralyzed with fear and prefer to keep my head down, focused on the path before me.

I want to show my kids that what we do matters and that we do have the power to bring hope and change and good to the lives of others, but then I get scared of what that will cost them and I change my mind.


At one point, one of the main characters in The Nightingale says of her son, “I pause, knowing how he will feel when he gets this message, how it will upset him.  That’s because I have let him think I am weak all these years…He watched me stand on the sidelines of his life instead of showing him the field of my own. This is my fault.  It’s no wonder he loves a version of me that is incomplete.”

So I have been asking myself the same question over and over again this last week.

“Sara, what are you so afraid of?”

Maybe you aren’t like me, but if I really stop and take time to evaluate so much of my life, I can see that fear is often the thing dictating what I am doing and saying the most. 

“What if it’s too hard? What if he/she thinks I am weak or that my ideas are stupid?  What if I mess up?  What if this whole thing comes crashing down?  What if they don’t want us anymore?  What if we lose our house?  What if we lose our jobs?  What if my kids get sick?  What if I get sick?  What if we don’t have enough money? What if our marriage can’t survive it? What if? What If? What If?”

I could keep going with all the hundreds of other questions we internally ask ourselves each day.  I could mention the times that these questions cause us to take a detour from the direction deep down we want to go…or even more importantly, the direction God wants us to go.   But you know, just as I do, that we are giving way too much weight to these “What If’s?” We are allowing them too much space, and they are literally STEALING from us…robbing from us moments, experiences, love, pain, joy, grief, heroism, change, transformation, growth, and most of all they are stealing from us a life on the field instead of on the sidelines.

The book opened with this line:

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”



How will we ever know what we are really made of if we are always too afraid to go onto the field and play?

How will we know our strength and capabilities, if we never even suit up for the battle?

I know you are scared. I am scared too.  Sometimes I look at this world around me with all of its hurt and pain and darkness, and I get real scared.  I get scared that I will never be able to do enough, so then I just convince myself that the risk is too great, so why bother?

But my friends…there are so many, right in this very moment in time, that aren’t living with the luxury of turning a blind eye to all this darkness. They are living in the middle of hell-holes all over this world, begging, pleading, asking someone to be brave enough to bring some light their darkness and help rescue them.

Vianne didn’t know she was brave because she never had to be.  She lived with the luxury of a husband who loved and protected her, in a small town in France where life was sunny and beautiful and safe.  She was forced to watch that all change in a matter of months, and in turn, she found the strength to do things and take risks that she never could have imagined.

War showed her who she really was.

Most of us are living on the outskirts of the war…those battles that are taking lives and destroying families.  We see it but only as if it were a movie on a screen.  We see it, we may even mourn it for a brief second, but then we turn it off and move on. 

But these books I have read, both fictional and true, I don’t want to shut their pages and pretend that the stories they tell are only meant for my personal entertainment.  No I want their words to absorb into my head and soak into my heart so that they produce change.

I don’t want to wait until I am forced into the war to suit up for battle.

I want to stop living on the outskirts. I want to stop holding on so tight to all that I hold dear.  I want my kids to see a Mama who is willing to take risks and sacrifice for those that need us.

I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that all that they have…all that is good and beautiful and right and true…is only for them.  I don’t want them to feel threatened when others want to taste these things too.  Instead I want my children to be the first in line to pour all of these things out for them. 

I want them to know that being brave doesn’t mean we aren’t scared.  It means that despite being scared, we press on.  We suit up.  We go in.  We feel that at any point our legs will decide to collapse under the weight of what we are being asked to do, but we continue walking anyway.

This doesn’t mean we are careless or stupid or ignorant of the risk.  It means that knowing FULLY what we are being asked to do, we trust that our God goes before us in the battle anyway.  He is the holder and giver of the light.  We are just allowing Him to use us as His beacons of Hope.

We are brave and yet scared.  We are strong and yet unsure.  We go yet we aren’t sure where.  We love and yet we are at times rejected.  We stay even when we want to run. 


We are light to those that are in the darkness.

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Homeless

I’m back “home” for a couple of weeks.  I’m a week in and have a week more to go.  I put the home in quotation marks because really for more than a decade now, I have a new home. 

But something about this home…the home I grew up in.  Well, it’s just different.  This is the home that when I was 6, I wrote all over the basement walls and promptly blamed my sister.  It didn’t work, though, because well I could write and she was not yet in school, so let’s just say I didn’t get far with that lie. 

This is the home I played school with my dolls. 

This is the home that I learned to ride a bike and played catch with my dad in the backyard. 

This is the home that I spent almost every evening eating dinner with my family and all of the other surprise guests that would show up on any given night. 

This is my home.  This is my place of comfort and refuge.  It is the place where I come to find rest and recovery.  It’s the place that I receive so much love and grace.  It’s the place that just makes me remember the Sara that first fell in love with Jesus.  It brings me inspiration, and it provides me a place to lay my weary head.

And let’s just say that when I got off that airplane a little over a week ago, my head, my body, my entire being was feeling more than just a little weary.  I spent the first 4 days here just holding back tears at every turn.  I would be in the passenger seat in my Mom’s car and a song would come on or we would pass a certain tree, and the next thing I know, my eyes are filled to the brim and a few tears trickling down my cheek. 

One evening while I was changing my daughter after her bath, she pointedly asked me, “Why did you marry someone from a different country?”

I was taken off guard so I asked her to explain what she meant.

“Mommy, I mean why do you and Papi have to be from 2 different places.  It makes me so sad sometimes.  Because when I am here, I miss everyone in Guatemala, but when I am Guatemala, I miss everyone here.  And I don’t like it.  It is very hard for me, and it makes me really sad.”

This all came from a 7 year old, but I basically could have asked the same thing. Of course, I am so thankful for her Papi and that he is my husband, and I tried to explain the best I could in a way she could understand.  But the truth was, I sometimes still struggle understanding it all too.

All these years later, and I am still amazed at how hard this is.  I am amazed at how difficult it is to passionately and fiercely love two sets of people and places separated by thousands of miles. 

And if truth really be told, these last few months, I was starting to wonder if it wasn’t all a big mistake.  It all just felt plain HARD.  There were no highs and lows.  There were no real breakthroughs. There were no moments of “oh yes this all makes sense.”  No it was just plain, old HARD! I felt lonely and confused and scared and tired…so very, very tired. 

For so many years, I admired many women that had stood on large platforms or were leading large ministries.  I admired them and secretly probably even envied them too.  It seemed like the pinnacle of Christian Ministry.  I feel embarrassed and slightly ashamed to admit that, but I do it because I am certain that I am not the only one to have ever had those thoughts.  As Christians and especially as Christians in full-time ministry, deep down we struggle with the desire to also be recognized for our obedience.  We want God’s glory, but we kind of want our own too.  It may not be a very pretty truth but deep down for many, it is the truth all the same.

Nevertheless, I didn’t realize we were going to be thrust into that kind of platform and leadership so soon.  I wasn’t prepared.  I had a plan.  I had a timeline.  We weren’t ready.  There was still other stuff we needed to do first.  Yet, there we were like 2 doe-eyed kids trying to do what we were being asked yet feeling so completely incapable and unprepared. 

And the real ugly truth for me was that I didn’t like it one bit.  Don’t get me wrong; I was thankful for a fresh opportunity to use some gifts and abilities that I hadn’t been able to use in a very long time.  So much of what we were being asked to do was right up my alley as far as what makes me passionate.  But it was really, stinking hard.  It was pressing us on all sides, and I was not enjoying feeling flattened out at every turn.  

“God this is not what I signed up for.  This is not what I had in mind.  I am having trouble trusting You with this.  This is just too dang hard.  I think I just don’t want to do this anymore.  Pick someone else.  Choose a different one.  I AM OUT!”

These are just a few of the thoughts I had rolling around in my head.  I never said them to anyone, but I felt them deep in my heart, and my 7 year old’s confession just made them bubble right back up to surface.  Suddenly I was seeing everything through this one lens; this lens that was convinced that God was holding out on me.  He wasn’t providing when we desperately needed provision.  He wasn’t carrying a burden that I felt was crushing me underneath its weight.  He wasn’t answering when I was crying out.  He wasn’t defending us when we were feeling defeated. 

What a beautiful gift it is to know that we have a God that is big enough to handle these crises of faith.  He is mighty enough to handle my anger.  He is merciful enough to gently handle my fears.  He carefully and patiently removed the lens.  He wiped my tears.  He whispered His truths to my often deaf ears once again.

Today one of my dearest mentors and teachers reminded me of some of my very favorite verses.  I memorized this passage when I was only 19 years old and I clung to these verses as I walked through what it meant to be surrendering to be a missionary someday.  I didn’t want to do it, but I knew clearly that was what He was asking me to do.  So, for some reason, I knew someday I would need these verses and desperately tried to seal them into my heart. And today as we discussed some of what has been going on in life, she spoke these verses over me once again.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies…So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:9-10, 16-18

With the commotion of 2 impatient children, I couldn’t really express in the moment what I felt when she reminded me of these verses. However, I can say that as I have continued to reflect on that moment today, I feel overwhelmed at the way God continues to deal with me.  I knew these verses as well as I did my own address and phone number.  I repeated them. I shared them.  I wrote them.  I prayed them.  And yet somehow, in the moment that I needed them the most, I had forgotten all about them.  But God didn’t.  He saw those moments over 15 years ago.  He saw me.  And He knew that nothing was going to speak to my heart today like the reminder of those verses and the promise that they hold. 

Oh how my God knows me.  Oh how He loves me so.

Yesterday, I had the great privilege of sharing about our ministry with one of the Sunday School classes in our church.  This group is made up of the older generation of the church, and it may have been one of my favorite times of sharing yet.  They were enthusiastic and generous and kind with their words and hugs.  But, it was one lady in particular that I will probably never forget.  At the end of class, she shared about her desire to support my husband and I personally as missionaries.  She said it wouldn’t be much, but that one of her greatest privileges is being able to support several different missionaries each month.  I told her how much I admired her faithfulness to the Lord in this way and almost instantly she burst into tears.  

Through her tears, she whispered, “I always wanted to be a missionary.  I begged God to let me be a missionary someday.”

I wanted to scoop her into my arms.  This sweet lady, who was probably a grandmother and great-grandmother tenderly and vulnerably shared one of her deepest regrets.  I don’t know the rest of her story.  I don’t know why she never was able to be a missionary, but it doesn’t really matter. I know God knows her and loves her so much.  I know He will bless her and honor her and care for this very tender and loving woman of Him.

And she probably will never know how that one moment reminded me of the great privilege I have in living this crazy, hard, sometimes lonely life.   It isn’t easy, and there is a very real possibility that it may never really be comfortable or easy. 

But, it is good.  It is rich.  It is wonderful.

“He who has prepared us for THIS VERY THING is God, who as given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  So we are ALWAYS of good COURAGE.  We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by FAITH, not by sight.” -2 Corinthians 5:5-7

I don’t know what “this very thing” is that God has prepared you for. I don’t know what He is asking of you. I don’t know your portion.  But I do know this. 

It will take courage. It will take faith.  It will take more than just a few good intentions.  But we FIX our eyes on Jesus.  We fix them.  That means that they are glued on Him…not on us, not on those around us, not on our circumstances, not on our mistakes, not on our successes…just on Him.  We fix our eyes on HIM.  And we know that whatever He is asking of us is preparing a weight of glory that far outweighs anything this earth could ever hope to give us. 

And then we thank Him.  We thank Him for all that pressing in and even for that affliction because we know that it is taking out some that ugly that still resides in those dark corners of our hearts.  We thank God for loving us enough to take the time to transform us and renew us.  We thank Him for wanting more for us than we often want for ourselves.  We thank Him for giving us more than we deserve and keeping from us what we often do deserve.


How sweet it is to be loved by You, Jesus.

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Some bits and bobbits about this blog...

This blog is mostly just ramblings by yours truly. I talk about my ups and downs being a wife, mother, and missionary in Guatemala. I have a tendency to get off on "soapboxes" as those who love me say but it is my desire that this blog can be a place of encouragement in each of your pilgrimages with Christ. At any moment if this blog becomes more about me than about Christ, than it will be done and over...so please help me stay accountable. To God be all the Glory, Honor, and Power!

Books I am currently reading...

  • Eight Twenty Eight
  • Interrupted
  • The Connected Child
  • This Momentary Marriage
  • Unbroken

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