Monthly Archives: February 2016

Gallbladder Pain, Surgery & Recovery Tips

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Well, if pain isn’t an effective teacher, I don’t know what is!  It’ll make a believer out of you, that’s for sure.

Abdominal pain sent me to the ER on January 20th and subsequent, persistent pain led me to have a HIDA scan, which confirmed my gallbladder was only functioning at 36%.  Big surprise there.  I was in pain and I knew something was amiss!  Thankfully at my follow up appointment with my primary care doctor, he suggested I immediately make an appointment for a consultation with a good surgeon.  He gave me the name of the same surgeon who performed my daughter’s appendectomy this time last year, so I felt like I was in good hands there.  His office was able to schedule my laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gallbladder surgery) within days and I am happy to report that just a week post-op, I feel like I have a new lease on life!

Because surgery is such a big deal to those who are generally in good health and because knowing some useful tips can aid in the recovery process, I decided to post a few ideas that helped me.

So, here we go:

  1. Be your own health advocate!  Research the best doctors and hospitals in your area.  No one has your best interest at heart more than you.
  2. If something doesn’t feel right in your body, do not delay seeking medical treatment.
  3. Communicate effectively with all involved in your health care.  I prefer to type up my own “Medical History” information sheet, which includes herbal supplements I routinely take, thorough surgical history, allergies, etc.  I give this to each and every specialist I visit to ensure we are all on the same page.  I have found my efforts to be appreciated by the providers.
  4. Research but don’t over-research!  Searching medical advice out online can be a catch 22 situation.  First of all, everyone is unique in their symptoms, previous medical history and surgical outcomes.  Just because someone else has a horrible reaction to a particular drug, doesn’t mean you will.  And just because someone else has pervasive digestive issues post-op, doesn’t mean you will either.  Take everything you read with a grain of salt and discuss any concerns with your doctor.  This will temper science fiction with reality.
  5. Once your surgery date is scheduled, try to occupy your mind with useful tasks in the meantime.  Don’t spend your days worrying yourself into an ulcer.  Trust that the hospital and surgeon will do what they do every day – and that is, care for you in the best possible way.  And don’t forget to pray.  Ask God to give you peace.  He will.
  6. One thought that helped me a great deal leading up to my surgery was the fact that I would go in at 6:00 a.m. on that Monday, surgery would commence at 7:30 a.m. and by 8:30 a.m. it would all be over!  What a comforting thought!  Within hours, I would be on the recovery side of things and on my way to feeling better!  This thought process helped me tremendously!  This way, I didn’t solely focus on how scary the looming surgery seemed to me, but instead, on the positive side of things.
  7. Ice chips!  I have never in my life (well, outside of giving birth) loved ice chips more than post-op!  They soothed my throat, which was a little sore due to the breathing tube during surgery.  I was on ice chips only for the whole day post-op and they helped me so much.
  8. If given the option, stay overnight post-op!  My surgeon left it up to me and I really needed to stay based on my pain level and the fact that I had been also battling a raging UTI.  The nurse gave me a shot that helped to counteract the occurrence of blood clots, plus they attached these inflatable wraps on your legs to promote adequate circulation.  Both gave me a lot of peace.  Blood clots post-op are serious and can be fatal.  I wound up staying in the hospital for a day and a half.  Although I didn’t get much sleep, I did receive wonderful care.  It was a blessing to have my husband stay the night with me as well.  I think he slept better than I did.
  9. Pain meds … If you experience any unusual side effects at all, call your doctor.  You are not bothering them.  This is the job they signed up for.  I actually felt like I couldn’t catch my full breath on the first pain medicine they gave me after taking it for a little over a day.  Thanks to my brother-in-law, I finally called my surgeon to see if they could prescribe something else.  Don’t just live with the problem.  It could be serious.  Thankfully, I got a different pain medicine and only needed to be on that for a day or so longer before switching to Advil.   —   Going into the surgery, I thought I’d need to be on the prescription pain meds longer, but by Day 5, I was off of them.  I don’t like how they make you feel anyway and was overjoyed to be done with them!  (I plan on letting my primary care doctor know about the side effects of the initial pain med for future reference.)
  10. Bloating & Fluid Build up.  Because they fill your abdomen with carbon dioxide and the after affects from the surgery in general, your middle will be very swollen.  Expect this.  Plan on wearing the loosest clothing you can find post-op!  The first few days I definitely preferred wearing a gown.  It seemed to me that I appeared 9 months pregnant!  Ah!  I weighed myself once I got home from the hospital and I was up 12 lbs.  This is Day 7 and has gone down to only being up 1.5 lbs.  I expect to be at my pre-op weight very soon, if not below, based on my current diet.  The bloating will pass.  Give yourself time.
  11. Get up and walk around!  This seems like cruel and unusual punishment initially post-op, but it is crucial to recovery.  My husband and I did a couple laps around the hospital floor, pulling the i.v. cart and all that first night post-op.  I was glad to have my husband there with me since they didn’t want me to walk alone.  Even once I was at home, I continued to get up and walk to the living room and kitchen a couple times a day.  Do as much as you can tolerate…and proceed slowly.  Stop when you feel tired to rest for a moment.
  12. Sleeping.  Ah, this is the tricky part post-op!  At least it was for me!  I slept propped up in a sitting position for the first five days!  This felt best for me.  I also had a pillow under my knees for comfort.  While the pain medicine made me sleepy, it also had this undesirable side effect of making me feel “on edge”.  So, my sleep was really broken up (even more than usual) for the first several days.
  13. Burping and Carbon Dioxide.  Surgeries kind of throw proper etiquette to the way side.  I have never burped so frequently in all my life as I have post-op!  This is one of the ways your body expels the carbon dioxide they fill your abdomen with during surgery.  Of course, air exudes out of both ends naturally.  Many people experience intense shoulder pain post-op due to the carbon dioxide getting trapped.  A heating pad can help ease this.  I only had a little of this pain, thankfully.  I did, however, keep the heating pad close by to use on my rib cage.
  14. Bowel Functions.  Resuming normal bodily functions post-op is top priority, for sure.  Apparently, general anesthesia temporarily halts bowel function, in addition to the pain medicine’s common side effect of constipation.  (Of course, prior to gallbladder surgery, I had constipation due to it not functioning properly so the stage was really set for me.)  I was so glad the surgeon suggested Miralax as it is GENTLE on the stomach and will not cause further pain as it works.  I mentioned that I had Senna at home and was going to take that and he noted that it tends to cause cramping.  So glad we had that conversation because I didn’t need to add insult to injury!  Miralax worked like a charm and the best thing about it is, it does not contain gritty granules that are hard to swallow.  It is flavorless and can be mixed with water or juice.  I chose to mix mine with apple juice and I honestly couldn’t tell there was anything in my juice!  Be patient with yourself.  I am accustomed to my body working like “clock work” and begin to worry when it doesn’t.  But it is important to allow your body time to adjust.  Obviously if things do not begin to resume normal function in several days to a week, it’s time to put in a call to the doctor.  Allow common sense to prevail.
  15. Diet.  My post-op dietary instructions were to resume a “normal diet”.  I can eat whatever I like.  Stop.  Wait.  However, because the previous pain I experienced when my gallbladder issues were raging placed me on a chicken noodle soup, crackers and fruit diet, I hesitate to deviate far from that so soon.  I prefer to err on the side of caution and delay eating fatty foods, meats in any real quantity and any processed foods.  This is simply my preference.  I also have recently learned that I have a (non-alcoholic) fatty liver, so that is a factor for me.  Of course, we know that fatty  and processed foods place more of a demand on the digestive tract, so I’d like to ease my system back into optimum health.  Obviously this is a personal choice but I am choosing to eat bland foods, soups, fruits and vegetables and generally, as healthy as I can.
  16. Stay hydrated!  I keep two cups of water on my nightstand at all times right now.  This way when I empty one, my husband or kids do not have to go racing to refill my cup.  Plus, it encourages me to drink more.  The prescription pain meds dry out your mouth so much, you will want to drink anyway.  But, because our bodies are primarily made up of water, it is imperative to the healing process.  I do drink a cup of coffee in the morning, several cups of apple or cranberry juice throughout the day but primarily water otherwise.
  17. Shower as soon as you can.  My instructions were that I could shower pretty much right away.  This makes a world of difference in how you feel.  Even if you are still in pain, it helps to make you feel human again.
  18. Moods.  Your post-op moods may vary from euphoric to feeling a little sad.  I think this has to be normal in most cases, based on the medications and the surgical experience.  You will likely feel back to your normal self very soon.  Give yourself grace and focus on better days ahead as your body heals.  Obviously if low moods drag on, consult your doctor.  Again, common sense.
  19. When friends, neighbors, family want to help … Let them!!  Now is not the time for pride.  If someone asks if they can drop off a meal, graciously allow them to and thank them from the bottom of your heart!  Your family will thank you.  Be sure to write out thank you notes once you recover for all the thoughtfulness others have shown.
  20. Schedule your follow-up appt!  My surgeon wants to see me two weeks’ post-op, which means I will see him next Monday.  At that time, he will ensure my four incisions are healing nicely and offer the surgery pathology results.
  21. Primary Care Physician follow-up … Because my white blood cell counts were elevated upon discharge, I will follow up with lab work with my primary care doctor in a few weeks.  This is probably a good idea after any surgery just to ensure that your body is healing properly.

{Note:  These tips and ideas are based solely on my experience and my health history.  I am not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on T.V.  I offer this advice as considerations if you or a loved one has to undergo a similar procedure.}

I hope this list is helpful.  If you’d care to add anything, please do so in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!  Here’s wishing all of us good health!  God bless!

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The Immutability of God

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Now what does that exactly mean?  Immutable means: fixed, set, established, doesn’t change, constant, static, enduring, permanent.  I love this!

God’s unchanging nature has always been one of the most precious qualities to me.  He will not change.  He isn’t loving today and hateful tomorrow.  He doesn’t forgive me today and hold a grudge tomorrow.  He isn’t kind today and evil tomorrow.  He cannot change.  It isn’t in His divine nature, friend.  Isn’t that comforting to know?

The Bible says, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.”  Psalm 103:8

Verse 17 goes on to say, “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting…”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” ~ James 1:17

Psalm 107:1 says, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever.”

Verses 8 and 9 say, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”

That’s the character of the God I serve.  He is good.  He is merciful.  He is just.

 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” ~ I John 4:7-8

He is loving.

These Scriptures demonstrate and reveal to us the unchanging character of God.

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and for ever.”  ~ Hebrews 13:8

He will not change.  He cannot change.

He has loved us with an everlasting love.  (Jeremiah 31:3)

When my circumstances change, my God doesn’t.  When my seasons change, God remains constant.  When my bank account changes or my relationships change, God is steadfast.  Unmovable in His love and grace for my life.

“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”  ~ Psalm 18:1-2

I challenge you today, friend, to dig into the Word of God and see for yourself the character of God.  “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”  (Psalm 34:8)  Do not neglect the Scriptures because the task seems tedious.  Our lives can become so hectic and fast paced that we lose sight of the true source of our strength.  Get into the habit of daily reading the Word of God and not merely checking off a reading list.  God is more interested in your spiritual growth than how many chapters you’re rushing through each day.  Read His love story to us and watch your spirit soar and your walk with Christ grow in ways you never knew were possible!

Blessings, my friend!  May we continually grow in His grace.  And may you be reminded of God’s constant character and steadfast love.

 

 

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Never Give Up!

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Winston Churchill gave a famous speech where he uttered:

“Never, never, never give up!”

He also said, “If you’re going through hell – keep going.”

I want to urge you today that if you seem to be facing insurmountable odds and life is just too difficult to go on … Keep placing one foot in front of the other!  Baby steps.

One step leads to another and before you know it, you are in a new season of life.  Life is ever changing and things won’t always remain the same.

Sometimes it’s easy for our emotions to get the best of us and we can readily succumb to the devil’s lies that we should just throw in the towel, that life is just too hard.

Life is hard sometimes and its load can seem overwhelming, but you and I are here for a purpose.  God created each one of us and has placed unique gifts and talents inside each of us.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”  ~ John 16:33

If we have placed our faith, hope and trust in God, then we know that He is able to carry us through seasons that are too difficult to handle alone.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

~ II Corinthians 12:9-11

I pray that if you find the pain of your life unbearable today, my friend, that Jesus would hold you close and reveal His love to you as only He can.  You are loved by an Almighty God, who knows everything about you and still chooses to love.  That’s love, friend.  He loves with an unfailing, never ending kind of love.  I pray that God’s peace, the peace that surpasses all human understanding would so envelope your soul that you will find rest and comfort like you’ve never known.  Lastly, I pray for God’s grace to be with you during this trying time, that God will provide for your every need and that you will have renewed hope in Christ.

This world is not our home.  We are pilgrims passing through until that day when God calls us home.  Until then, this world needs you.  This world needs to see God’s love demonstrated through your life.

May we all be strengthened in His might and His power to be a blessing to a lost and dying world.   Never give up, my friend.

Greater things are in store for you!  Your miracle and breakthrough could be just around the corner.  Don’t quit now!  Keep walking this faith walk.  God will give you the strength.  Trust Him today.

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Peace in the Midst of the Storm

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Did you know that it is possible to have peace in the midst of the storm?

Psalm 23 has been a consistent “go to” comforting passage for me over the years and still has an unparalleled capacity to calm my deepest fears and quiet my restless soul.

It starts out – “The Lord is my Shepherd.”  Is He your shepherd today, friend?  Ah, what peace floods my soul to know that God not only comforts me, but guides me.  After all, that’s the role of a shepherd.

Verse 2 says, ” He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:  He leadeth me beside the still waters.”

What a tranquil visual that verse contains!  It’s as if God is saying, “Come, quiet your anxious soul.  Rest a while.”

I’m reminded of the New Testament verse that says:

“Take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  ~ Matthew 11:29

Verse 4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” 

If you find yourself in a storm today, I encourage you to read Psalm 23 and really absorb each verse, line by line.  There is rest for your weary soul and nourishment for your thirsty spirit.  God is the Friend, who sticks closer than a brother.  (Proverbs 18:24)

God holds all power in His hands and He is able to calm your storm today.  And should He choose not to calm the seas in your life, He promises to sustain you each step along the way.  Many times we do not understand God’s timing and His ways but we are not called to understand.  We are called to trust and obey instead.

When the storm clouds rage, I challenge you to focus on the One who holds the storm in His safe and loving hands.  Focus on His power and not the power of the clouds that produce rain.  Their power is limited.  That is all they can produce.  God’s power, however, is limitless and knows no bounds.  It is His hands I am choosing to cling to in the storm.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”  ~  Psalm 23:6

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Surgery in T-4 Days…

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The next four days cannot pass soon enough!  I’m focusing on my recovery period more so than the upcoming gall bladder surgery.  (at least that’s what I keep telling myself)  The truth is, no one wants to have surgery, but, in this case, I so want it behind me so I can move toward better health!  I’ve been on bed rest for the last three weeks since my ER visit and this is entirely contrary to my normal routine.  I’m usually very busy, so this little “vacation” of sorts, a miserable one at that, has been very strange.

The nurse called from the hospital yesterday to review my medical history, etc. and really put my mind at ease when we discussed my past vasovagal response.  She noted on my file for them not to place the i.v. in my hand, but in my arm rather.  What a huge answer to prayer this was!!  I really did not want to pass out again in pre-op, like I did previously with another surgery.  This offers a great deal of peace of mind for me and is so comforting to know they will respect my wishes.  Of course, I may have to remind the pre-op nurse of this on the morning of my surgery, but now I feel comfortable making my preference known and knowing they can accommodate it.

It is never a good feeling being out of control and that is exactly what a vasovagal response is.  It’s an involuntary reaction to pain or a situation that your physical body wants to escape.  And so, you pass out – sort of a self-preservation response.  So, I’m very glad to remove this scenario from possibly reoccurring altogether.

I’m so looking forward to feeling better!  I’ve been trying to reassure my kids (16 & 18) that this is a very routine surgery and I may be home the same day, etc.  They’ve been so concerned about me but I think they’re relaxing a little now.  I hope so.  I don’t want them to worry.  First of all, I know ultimately I’m in God’s hands and there is a great peace knowing that!  Secondly, I believe the surgeon is highly skilled and the hospital is very competent.  So, I believe my surgery should go smoothly and I’ll be on the mend very shortly.  This time next week, my body will be in the healing phase! Praise the Lord for that!

Then, I will recover for a couple months and have a hysterectomy.  (glutton for punishment, huh?)  Again, while I’m not looking forward to the surgery itself, I am excited about my recovery.  2016 will be a humdinger of a year but I know that God is walking beside me each step of the way and that gives me great peace!  I also am confident that He is working ALL things together for my good and His glory!  (Romans 8:28)

My husband and kids have been wonderful caretakers of me and I’m grateful for that.  I am, however, looking forward to resuming my normal responsibilities once I recover.

Last night our Bible study leader brought chicken, rice, salad and cupcakes for dinner, which was very thoughtful.  The kids were very excited.  And a couple neighbors have offered to bring dinner post-surgery too.  And our Bible study leader will bring dinner again next week.  We appreciate their kindness so much.  I think the last time we had someone bring us dinner was when our daughter was born – 18 years ago!  We are so accustomed to blessing others that sometimes it’s a little strange being on the receiving end.  Although if there ever was a time when someone needs a blessing – it’s when they’re going to have surgery, I have to say.

If you would, please say a prayer regarding my surgery and for peace for our family.  Thanks so much!  Blessings!

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble…Be still and know that I am God.”  ~ Psalm 46:1,10

 

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Waiting for Surgery

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Surgery is such a common occurrence these days that it is possible you or someone you know will have surgery in the near future.  As I find myself in that category, I thought I’d offer some useful tips for both the patient and friends and family.

To the patient first – 

  •  My best advice is to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible regarding the type of surgery you will undergo.  The more you know, the less you will worry.  The fear of the unknown is a terrible thing.
  • Discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor.
  • Prepare your household (stock up on groceries, make sure things are taken care of in advance that usually rely on your efforts.)
  • Pay all bills and make sure spouse knows where important papers are.
  • Pamper yourself a little.
  • Pray and leave the surgery in God’s hands.
  • Relax.  Before you know it, the surgery will be history and you’ll be on the road to recovery!

To friends & family –

  • Ask your friend or family member how you can best offer assistance.
  • Plan to prepare a simple meal to drop off after surgery. (Don’t linger.  They need rest and are likely in pain.)
  • Offer to do light grocery shopping.
  • Write a thoughtful get well card.  (Everyone loves to be thought of, especially when they’re not feeling up to par.)
  • Give a little thinking of you gift. (lip balm, lotion, word search puzzle book, etc.)
  • Pray for their healing, comfort and peace during this time.

 

I hope this was helpful.  If you’d like to add any tips, please leave a comment.

Here’s wishing all of us a healthy year!

 

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When Heaven is Silent

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Have you ever prayed about something near and dear to your heart for a long time and all your spirit hears are crickets?  Yeah, me too.  It’s times like those that it is easy to believe two lies:  1.)  God doesn’t hear us.  or 2.)  God chooses not to answer.

When I’m feeling spiritually weak, I am prone to believe one or both of these lies.

The Bible says that we walk by faith, not by sight, right? I’m so glad our spiritual walk is based on what the Bible says and not on how we feel or what we see.

“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” ~ I John 5:14-15

Over the course of my life, I have prayed countless prayers.  Some have taken years before I saw the answers come to fruition.  That just makes the answer that much more sweet.  Ah, the delays.  Why the delays?  We may never know this side of heaven but what we do know is that God wants us to pray, expecting that we will receive.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” ~ Hebrews 4:16

Probably my favorite parable of all is that of the widow and the unjust judge.  She kept beseeching his help and finally because this widow was relentless – She would NOT give up – The judge granted her request!  (lest she weary him)  I love this because it illustrates the power of standing firm in prayer, never giving up – no matter what!  Tenacious praying!

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;

Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.

And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?

I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” ~ Luke 18:1-8

Now, God does not have the attitude of this unjust judge, but rather, Jesus was drawing a contrast to our heavenly Father.  If this was the response of the unjust judge, what do you think the response of our Abba Father would be when one of His children calls?

I recently received a glimpse of the beginnings of an answer to one of my heart’s cries and I was indeed humbled once again.  Humbled because it showed me that despite my faith, maybe sometimes I doubt whether God is working behind the scenes.

Just because we cannot see the manifestation of the object of our prayer does not mean there isn’t movement!

It is possible that some answers to prayer may not be visible or made known to us during our lifetime.  It may be that future realities will be born out of today’s prayer.  And these realities may be birthed long after we are gone.  That should give us cause to pray even more fervently because I do not believe that prayers die.  I believe that God remembers our petitions to throne of grace and that He will cause His perfect will to be accomplished.  But the vehicle for this to be carried out is prayer.  In this regard, I believe prayer is a great legacy.

So, don’t give up on those prayers that are near to your heart, my friend.  God knows.  He hears.  He sees your tears and knows the cry of your heart.

“Rejoice evermore.   Pray without ceasing.  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” ~ James 5:16

 

 

 

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