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August 2022

10 entries from September 2022

The Conference Army in My City

My brothers and sisters in SUM-hood, hello! Jesus belongs in my city

It's Friday here, I'm sitting in my lounge, and I thought I might tell you about something really boosting that I did last week.

I went to a conference called Sistas, an annual women's conference run in my city. Because of the pandemic, there've been no conferences for the last two years. However, this year we have been let out (woohoo!) and it was on. What's more, for the first time the conference was being held in my suburb, Mt Eden.

Now, I had never been to this conference before; but at the last minute I discovered that two friends, both in SUMs, were to be there. Realizing I would get FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) if I didn't go, I umm-ed, ahh-ed, then splashed out on a ticket.

Thursday evening came. I walked through my suburb, entered an auditorium, and came upon about a thousand women gathered in one space!!! My eyes widened. It was a veritable army.

The Lord gave the word; Great was the company of those who proclaimed it: Kings of armies flee, they flee, and she who remains at home divides the spoil (Psalm 68:12, NKJV)

My friends, can I tell you how encouraging it was to see that sight? I don't know about you, but I spend a lot of time with non-Christians. To walk into a room with a thousand Christians flooded my heart with such hope. I looked around that room and thought to myself "This army is in my city." Paula and Ann

Not just that. "This army is in my suburb!"

That wasn't all, though. Something else happened ... With Bryce. Previously, I've found conferences difficult: they take me away from my family at the weekend for a purpose Bryce is not bought into. I do go to conferences, but Christian activities like that always take some thought as I balance it with where Bryce is at.

For that reason I was going to forego the weekend parts, but this time Bryce said out of the blue, "You're going to a conference? That's nice. Make sure you go every day. You've spent the money so you want to enjoy it. Go on Saturday -- You will, won't you?"

((Sorry, what?))

I hesitated, "But it's the weekend and it'd mean leaving you and the boys ..." See, I've got memories from years ago of stuff like this causing conflict. Jess and Ann 3 

"Oh don't worry about us. GO." 

He released me to go. And so I did. I hung out with my two fellow SUM friends -- Paula and Jess (pictured here) -- and had a blast.

One final beautiful thing occurred in the last session I attended: People were invited to come forward for prayer that the voice of God will always be clear in their lives, and the voice of the enemy will dissipate. I just thought of us all, myself included, and so I went down to the front, carrying the SUM community down to the front with me (metaphorically). As one of the prayer team prayed over me, she said: "Marriage is so important in the kingdom," and as she said those particular words, I shook under the power of the Holy Spirit.

I walked home thinking that very thing --

"Marriage is so important in the Kingdom", and

"We, the SUMites, have a purpose; and we must keep listening to God's voice, not the enemy's."

What an encouraging few days. To be through the pandemic and to be with a thousand Christians I was truly refreshed and ready for whatever next thing we are to do as part of the army.

I hope that encouraged you too. How about you, do you go to conferences?

Love you all,

Ann


Child of an Unequally Yoked Marriage: Part Two

Betty Higginbotham is continuing her story today. You can find part one here. On Monday Betty described how she married and had four children, but her husband wasn't a believer. So, we'll let her continue -- Betty Higginbotham

"Oh I tried. I would start going to church and tell myself "I got this", "I got it this time", just to be dragged back down. I did this many times. Never feeling accepted. Loved. My husband and I then got into a lifestyle I'm not proud of. I won't speak of it here. I will say it all but destroyed our marriage.

I battled again. For three years. Spoke of wanting to get back to God, but I didn’t know how. I couldn't just tell my friends or stop the lifestyle. Leave what I thought made my husband happy? No, I couldn't. I didn't know how. But, driving on my way to work one morning I spoke the simplest words. “God if that’s you, if you are calling my name, you and you alone will have to get me out. Because I don't know how to walk away.”

I woke up from a dream one night. It was so vivid and surreal. I was in a deep dirty hole, as if standing at the bottom of a water well. I could see all my sin around me. It was sickeningly scary, filthy. At the top of this deep, deep hole there was a light! A very small light. Oh! If I could just reach that light I would be out of here! Now imagine looking through a toy kaleidoscope, the image of the light getting brighter and brighter before bursting open with magnificent bold bright most beautiful colors like a turning kaleidoscope. I was getting out! I awoke. 

About a year later in the same lifestyle we were drinking and partying as usual, but in a split second a series of events happened that made my whole world blow up. It left me with no one. No friends. On the verge of divorce. I cried. I cried so hard. I didn't understand! But in my total brokenness, I heard a still soft voice. "Yet I am still here. Never to leave you nor forsake you."

From then on, I committed to follow God. I was 44 and have not looked back or missed one minute of that life since. It's taken a lot of healing. Rekindled relationships with family. Renewed friendships with my sisters, a closer bond like never before. I'm still with my husband of 34 years. We have much more of an understanding and are a lot more in tune with one another.

I struggled so long trying to "ride the fence". I knew the truth from a young age. I saw miracles at young ages. I heard God's voice. I used his power. Why did I struggle so? Well, my mother told me when I was 8: “They are battling for your life BUT satan will not win!” She claimed my victory in Jesus’ name from the very beginning. She had so much more faith in God and his promise (Acts 16:31 Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household!) than she did in the path I was taking. She did not sway nor waver. She only believed God’s word was true. She knew that day 10 years ago would come. She believed what God said was the end result would come to pass. To this day, all her children have accepted and are living for Jesus Christ.

I tell you all of this to pass along the hope and faith my mother had. No matter the road your children take, or are now on, it is not the end of their story! Satan may win some battles but the war is won only by the one who shed his blood for me, for you and your household, the one who stomps the serpent's head!

Now for things you did not see in my story.

  1. I was never physically abused even though I had an abusive alcoholic father.
  2. I didn't die nor have any effect of my overdose. Not even long term. I'm still healthy today.
  3. I was never addicted to drugs or alcohol. I could always take it or leave it.
  4. God saved my marriage. More than once. My husband is still not saved but God has a plan for his life.

Throughout my life God was there. Covering me. Protecting me. When you see your daughter or son taking a different path, stop. Look through the eyes of our Savior and see his end result, his promise that is written in Acts 16:31.

I pray this gives someone, just one, encouragement that the lost child will return home to Christ. As parents we are the seed planters. It may take others to water that seed for its growth. Much love to you all and God bless.

Hi. I am Betty Higginbotham from Southwest Louisiana where I work as a geriatric nurse. I have been a believer all my life but I have known Christ for the last 10 years. I am 53 years old and have been married for 34 years with 4 beautiful daughters.


A Child of an Unequally Yoked Marriage: Part One

We're privileged today to have a guest post from fellow SUMite, Betty Higginbotham. Betty is going to share her testimony of growing up in an unequally yoked home - And, wow, what a testimony. 

The testimony will be in two parts -- Part one today, and part two on Wednesday. Now, over to Betty -- Betty Higginbotham

"First I want everyone to understand what you see is not what will be. It will be what God says. Nothing less. Never ever stop praying for your children. Never give up and ALWAYS cover them in the blood of Jesus. As I tell my story of a child growing up in an unequally yoked marriage, pay attention to things that did not happen. I'll explain later.

I was the youngest daughter of five, born to a Spirit-filled praying mother. One who never lied to me and always told me basic need-to-know details of what was happening in the spirit realm of my life. My father was as good as gold. A wonderful man who did whatever it took to make sure his family was fed. Until he drank. He was an alcoholic. It took over most of his very being. He tried hard to fight his personal demons to no avail, he always lost. He would curse God. He was abusive to my mother but for some reason I was protected.

As a very little girl he would take me to bars. Back then it wasn't uncommon. I would drink cokes and eat chips while he visited and flirted. Mother would let me go for two reasons. 1. He came home earlier than normal. 2. He wouldn't drink whiskey thus no physical harm to her would be done. She told me one time "I always cover you in the blood." I quickly learned to do as Mom says, do as Dad says, do as sis says and just keep everyone pleased. It’ll be ok then. So I became a people pleaser.

I remember when I was around 8 years old, I must have passed out, unresponsive. I was taken to the hospital, and tests were run to find nothing. When I woke and Mother and I were leaving she looked me in the eyes, saying: "They are battling for your life but satan can't have you".

Mother always took me to church. She was so faithful to God and his house. When I was 12 years old I received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I was in bed asleep one night, my bed facing two windows on each side of one wall with a box fan in the left window. A very real greyish/green image crawled through my window and fan, touching and shaking my right big toe speaking to me saying "Get up! Get up Betty! Come with me". I sprung up standing on my bed shouting "Rebuke! In the name of Jesus. Now go!" It quickly fled. My mother standing in the doorway said "do you know what you did?" I answered yes. This is where the real battle begins.

At the age of 14 we finally left my father, moving states away, in with my oldest sister and her family. At this point I felt I belonged nowhere. On either side. I was quickly introduced to drugs and alcohol for myself. It escalated so fast. My 'friends' did it so here I was, pleasing them by joining in. This new introduction led to a date rape by my boyfriend. This was before date rape was a spoken thing. He broke up with me after that. I tried overdosing on my mother’s pills. In the ER they pumped my stomach to find nothing. Not one piece of evidence that I had just swallowed over a hundred little pills. (See what God did there?)

I moved back to my home state in with a friend and her family just before age 15 and rekindled a somewhat relationship with my father. It was ok. This family protected me from much of his alcoholism.

At age 18 I met the man I would marry. Still a people pleaser, I forgot everything to create a life with him. With a stepdaughter and three of our own we had a beautiful unsaved family" ... 

That's where we pause the story, and Betty will continue on Wednesday. 

Hi. I am Betty Higginbotham from Southwest Louisiana where I work as a geriatric nurse. I have been a believer all my life but I have known Christ for the last 10 years. I am 53 years old and have been married for 34 years with 4 beautiful daughters.


Trials -- Count it all Joy?!

Dear friends, Ann here. His word 2

Sigh, my heart is full! Yesterday morning I got up, made a pot of coffee, opened Zoom and there was Lynn along with a screen full of other SUM faces. Most were from America, one from England, and another from New Zealand.

When I see the SUM community in person like that I want to reach through the screen, pull you into my living room, and say a big hello. There's a lot of love here for you.

Most enjoyably, we sat with the Word of God for 40 minutes, then broke off into discussion groups.

My friends, if you want to join in next week or any of the following weeks, for as much or little as you can, please do. Email me at annhutch42@gmail.com. I might even be able to send you a recording of this last session (we're still working that out). I can certainly send you the Zoom link for upcoming sessions. 3pm Pacific, Wednesdays.

The Word of God. Isn't it wonderful! Since we're in the Book of James, can I encourage you to read it, even if you're not able to join on Zoom? I also will write the odd post about James on the blog as we focus on that book. Today, I want to do that, so here's a little introductory thought:

This week, a long-time friend of our community, Jim Edwards, sent me some writing that he had done about the Book of James. He wrote a book called Living and Breathing Hebrews to Jude (2008), and it's a paraphrase of the New Testament's epistles. I read the James segment and absolutely loved it. (Man, how I love the creative things God births through people in our community!) From that, here's something Jim wrote --

"James is full of one-liners: some seriously tough sound-bites. As sound-bites they can easily be misunderstood, and easily produce condemnation—beware! Each chapter has at least one. I’ve highlighted them in the notes, but you are likely to hardly notice them in my translation.

Most, however, are wonderful, direct, hard-hitting promises, where direct simple language helps the memory and adds power to the simple statement."

I'd never thought of the Book of James like that, but it's true. As you read it, you do get pummeled by the occasional 'oomph' verse that makes you gulp.

So I wanted to share the first one of those today, right from chapter 1:2. Are you ready? Here we go:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2, NKJV).

Really?

The verse continues:

.. knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing

My friends, what are the trials you've been through as part of your faith walk? How hard have they been? For me, certain trials have been almost unbearable; others not quite so stark, but still trials. Today I wrote in the margin five key trials I've been through since being a Christian. One of those is the SUM. At points in my SUM I have thought "Nothing could be as hard as this." There's something about the SUM walk that is so very difficult because it involves deeply spiritual issues.

Another trial I faced was a nine-month period of illness last year - Illness that was mysterious to the doctors, and for which there was no apparent solution. That was no light thing to walk through either. Almost every day during those nine months I had a little cry to myself. It was a different kind of battle to the SUM.

Count it joy? That I can do when I'm through the battle. It's harder to do when in the battle. But I can certainly engage with the concept and think about what it means.

Here's something intriguing Lynn said today on Zoom. She said (I'm paraphrasing): "Trials show you what lies you've been believing, and help you break those lies." Not that God brings us our trials, but he uses them mightily.

So, here's a discussion question: Think back on a trial you have faced. What lies did it bring to light?

Wow, that's a deep question. I might need some time to think on that myself. I'll leave you with it, and here's to us enjoying the Book of James these next few weeks. If you want to post your answer to the question in the comments, please do!

Love you all,

Ann


Let's Talk Live and Fall Bible Study

Hi SUMites,

Today we have a couple of things to update you on --

Let's Talk Live and Fall Bible Study

We're going to pause our Let's Talk Live videos for the next few weeks, until 19 October 2022. So, you won't see us streaming on YouTube or Facebook for a while. BUT, instead, we'll be running our study of the Book of James on Zoom for five weeks, starting today. We really can't wait to see you. It is free, and if you haven't already there's still time for you to sign up:

REGISTER NOW! Study of the Book of James (Spiritually Unequal Marriage)

Latest Video on Difficult Marriages

I also wanted to share the last live video that Lynn and I did, about difficult marriages. We know that some in our community are battling through a very challenging marriage, and you really have our hearts. In this video we had a conversation about how a believer can navigate that situation.

So, those are our two updates today. Looking forward to seeing as many of you on Zoom this week as can make it, and we will be back again on the blog on Friday.

Love,

Ann


Gatekeepers

7EADF9A6-E07B-437C-A163-CC6B56E73862By Amanda Pace

I had prayed about what to write and settled on this story before I watched Lynn’s amazing video on spiritual warfare in the SUMite facebook group. Isn’t God’s timing amazing! This post will also be about warfare, but it is more of a personal testimony as well as declarations I feel God wants me to share with all of you to claim for yourselves. So here we go!

Years ago, I was attending my wonderful church and went up front to ask for prayer as I often did. I was feeling so weak and alone, like my life and marriage were falling apart. I was so scared of what might happen to my kids and their faith. In short, I was filled with doubt and fear. 

My pastors knew me and my situation, so I didn’t have to explain much when I came up for prayer. They knew my husband was and is an atheist, that I had two young children, and that my husband was struggling with depression and addiction. They knew I struggled with my emotions as well as my confidence at the time. So there was no shortage of things I needed prayer for!

My pastors wife (who was also Co-pastor) began to pray over me. During the prayer for strength and courage she paused, went to her seat and grabbed something, and came back. She had me open my had and put something in it. Keys. She wrapped my hand in hers and told me to remember that I am the gatekeeper of my home. That I CHOOSE who I lock and unlock the door for. I have the God-given power to kick evil out of my home! She said I am like Jeal, driving a peg into the enemies head (Judges 4:21)! Let me tell you, God showed up big time during that prayer session!

I came home feeling so emboldened with the power of the Holy Spirit! I remember going down into our basement, where my husband spent most of his time, feeling ready for battle! I swear I could have physically taken off a demons head had it shown up in the flesh at that moment! This daughter of the King was ready for WAR! But of course, this battle was not one of the flesh. So I stood there, in the darkness. The air felt thick and heavy, like the enemy knew I was there and could feel what was coming. I could feel them too. The weight of all my husbands demonic oppressors hanging over me. And I was filled with righteous anger. I began to rebuke every single spirit! I laid my hands on things I knew had been gateways and bound them up (TV, XBox, ect.). I cried out boldly, fearlessly, OUT LOUD, and in full confidence that I was working in God's will! It truly was glorious!

Some changes were immediate, and some were still a long way off. But I remember when things started to shift even my husband noticed he was changing without  intentionally trying to! I remember him asking me once, half joking, “What did you do to me?”. I just smiled. Someday he will know exactly what God did through me. And I cannot wait for the day I can discuss it with him.

I believe God brought this to mind for me to share to remind us all, yet again, that we DO hold power! Through HIM! Ladies and gents, we should walk into life every day like we are in a battle we KNOW we cannot lose! With our heads held high, confident, bold, glowing with His love! Take hold of His promises and SHOUT them out! No matter what things look like in the flesh - the flesh is a liar anyway! See with our spiritual eyes the truth that God has laid out before us! We are gatekeepers and warriors! Walk in peace and confidence because you KNOW He is walking with you!

What can you declare freedom from TODAY as the gatekeeper of your home? I would love to read about it in the comments!


Book of James: Have You Signed Up?

Team SUM, hi! Book of James

The time is fast approaching for our Fall Bible Study! Yes, we are going to study the Book of James, and it will start next week on Wednesday. I (Ann) really can't wait, and I know Lynn is super looking forward to it too.

One of the things we're most looking forward to is seeing your faces on Zoom.

So, with that in mind, if you haven't already signed up, here are the details again:

Event Timing: Wednesdays starting: September 14 through October 12, 2022

Event Address: Zoom Meeting Every Wednesday at 3:00 PM, Pacific (Check your local time zone.)
Registration is Free. You will receive a Zoom link upon the completion of your registration.

To register, click on this link below:

REGISTER NOW! Study of the Book of James (Spiritually Unequal Marriage)

There are quite a few of us signed up already, and the more the merrier we say. We truly are a church without walls.

See you next week!

Ann 


God Works in Mysterious Ways

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Photo courtesy of Cottonbro and Pexels.com

Having just read Ann’s Monday post on guilt I thought I’d share a post I’ve shared a couple of times over the last 10 years. As this month, it’s my 10-year anniversary of finding this community.

It was September 2012. I had always wanted to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference and having a publisher for Angelguard  I thought it a useful way of building some momentum for its release a few months later.

My wife and I combined it with a holiday to the US with the plan to attend the conference in DFW on our final leg before heading home. The conference had started, and I was having a ball meeting lots of fascinating authors including some of my heroes plus gaining a lot of useful information. There was one workshop titled “How to Market Your Fiction Like a non-Fiction Pro” that featured four presenters.

It was an excellent workshop spread over two sessions. One of the non-fiction authors shared a little of their journey on writing a non-fiction book about being married to a pre-believer. All of a sudden, this workshop now had added meaning.

That author was none other than our own, Dineen Miller, who for those who are new, was one of the original founders with Lynn. Dineen, is a rarity in publishing, being both an author of non-fiction and fiction. Her award-winning novel, The Soul Saver, is tremendous.

On the workshop ending, I was on my way to an appointment with an editor when I happened to notice Dineen waiting in the same area. She was by herself so I introduced myself and shared how I too was married to a pre-believer. We chatted very briefly, Dineen mentioned the SUM community and to my delight gave me a copy of “Winning Him Without Words”. She only brought two to the conference and I was the fortunate one to receive the second one. Talk about a blessing.

The Lies of the Enemy

Up to that time, one of my struggles in church life and faith was a belief that any ministry I undertook including through my writing would not be blessed because I was in a spiritually mismatched marriage.

As I sat in the workshop listening to Dineen, I was struck by the revelation that what I’d believed for so long was a lie. The scales of deceit shattered on reading the first few chapters of Lynn and Dineen’s book, “Winning Him Without Words”.

A few weeks later having read both books and explored this community’s blog, I genuinely felt a changed man. Have you ever experienced that? Having a lie that you convinced yourself for years being zapped.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
 and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:5-6 NKJV)

The above verse took on new meaning and continues to. Our perceptions can be so misleading. I continue to meditate on these verses most days.

I’d carried that chestnut around for many years. In some ways I had come to believe my marriage and I didn’t deserve to be blessed.

In addition, I hid behind my SUM status, so I didn’t get involved in a lot of Christian activities, fearful of being rejected by believers. And so my walk with the Lord stagnated as it simply relied on my own initiative. As we’ve shared before, we need each other and fellow believers to walk with us. That is how we are made, whether we’re single, married to a pre-believer or a believer.

What About You?

Are you at a point in your life and marriage that you wonder if you and it can be blessed? May I encourage you to share your concern with the Lord. He wants our heart and wants us to want to share everything that is in it. Talk about it and spend time listening to how He responds. You might be surprised with His words.

Do you not get involved with others out of shame or guilt?

As we’ve discussed before, it can be a lot harder for we SUMites to get involved as often we find churches are full of couples and we’re one of the singles. I’m currently in this situation with my new church, as I venture back to in-person church after a year away due to COVID and caring for my parents.

Once again, may I encourage you to give it over to Jesus. He is passionate about connection with others and the church. He will make a way as long as we present ourselves willing to participate. For so many years, I hid away in my home making excuses and wasn’t allowing God to do His thing.

God is good. Meeting Dineen ten years ago at the workshop and witnessing how He used our meeting is still a moment that I cherish. As is our continued friendship. Dineen is in St. Louis at this very moment attending this year’s conference as she’s on staff. I so wish I was there too. Because one never knows what the Lord will do in such moments as long as we choose to take a step and believe He will step with us.

He certainly is mysterious.

When was the last time you experienced a moment or touch of mystery or wonder from our Lord? We’d love to read about it in the comments below.

Grace and peace, dear friends


For Those Battling Guilt Over A Spiritually Mismatched Marriage

By Ann Hutchison Guilt

Hi SUM family,

Different kinds of spiritually mismatched marriages come with certain challenges, and today I want to talk about the kind where a Christian married a non-believer, is now battling guilt over it, and analyzing the situation: 'What did I do, and what now?'

That's so hard, and if that's you, you have my heart.

We have readers who write in about this one, and some have shared they have a real question about whether it's OK to treasure their marriage now, or whether it's possible for their shared life with their spouse to be blessed, ever. That's on top of all the other challenges an unequally yoked marriage brings.

How many of you out there have walked this, I wonder? It's one of those questions our founding leaders, Lynn and Dineen, had to navigate early on in our ministry. And, over the subsequent sixteen years we've seen a lot of people's journeys and sought God's perspective. Based on that here's some collective wisdom on this particular topic: --

To reflect on our past choices is a good thing, so if you're going through that process now in relation to your marriage decision, it's perhaps part of your growth. As Christians, we do that on all sorts of matters. We ask "Did I submit to God there?" and repent of the times we didn't. So, that is a natural part of being a Christian and in your marriage you will likely have a period of time where you do look back on the decision you made and bring it before God.

However, then we must forgive ourselves for anything God has forgiven us of.

Repentance comes with Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10), and it's a process where we say "I would have done things differently, if I could go back". Once we have done that, if our repentant heart cry was genuine, God looks at us and doesn't see it again. Not in a condemning way, that is. He will still see the fact you made certain choices because you're navigating the consequences. However, in terms of his posture towards you, you can picture that what he sees is Jesus's blood all over this. 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, NKJV)

What now?

So now you move forward. Can you treasure your spouse? You sure can. In fact, this is now your call of obedience. You walk forward and treat your union in line with God's design for marriage: Binding. As long as there is no abuse, of course. If your spouse is abusive God does not ask you to stay, but if this is a normal marriage (with normal ups and downs) you must treat your spouse as God sees them: As your 'one' and 'the one' he is pursuing with great love himself.

This marriage is something you are to steward well and God will watch to see how you walk it. As always, you are being asked to submit to God and not sin, but this time the way you do that is by honoring your marriage covenant and walking out the unequally yoked life with wisdom.

In short:

If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him (1 Corinthians 7:12-13, NKJV)

And --

Let each one of you in particular so love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:33, NKJV)

So your challenge now is to run with that with gusto: Treat your spouse as the top person in your life, love them well, be faithful until the end, get a few good marriage books, and throw yourself into trying.

Can your marriage be blessed? Experience tells us yes, it just depends on how you walk it out from now on. Nurture your own faith life, obey God by caring for your spouse, and God will respond to that. You will still walk out the consequences of a spiritually mismatched marriage, but God will bless your household in spiritual ways through your future obedience.

So those are a few thoughts on that difficult topic. Have any of you walked this particular path, and if so, would you like to share anything in the comments?

Love to you all,

Ann