Walking through Restoration

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This is for the ones who are in the pit and aren’t quite sure they’ll make it out.  Maybe you had an affair, maybe you had an abortion, whatever bad choice it is….just know, hope is not lost.   Rest assured that this sin you have struggled with, its already been overcome by the blood of Jesus Christ.  There is forgiveness and freedom offered through His redeeming love.

Last Wednesday, for the first time in over two years, I began teaching a bible study again.  It was a brand new feeling for me and a joyous one at that.  Friends, this is part of my story of restoration lived out.  This is part of the story that I share to give hope to those feeling defeated or completely broken right now.  You may be in the darkest moments, questioning if the Lord will ever use you again.  He can and He will.  However, this requires hard work and obedience from you.  This is no easy process but one filled with victory when you pursue it.  This is a process that requires true repentance, surrender, hard work and obedience.

Repentance – This is not only confessing sin with your mouth but also with your heart.  We can all say “God forgive me for what I’ve done,” but until you have confessed it in your heart and become completely broken over the depravity and awfulness of your sin, you cannot move forward.  I had to come to a point where I saw Jesus hanging on the cross for my sin and it finally wrecked me.  I wanted nothing of it and fell to my knees.

Surrender – I surrendered every single piece of me to the Lord.  I gave Him the ability to do whatever He needed to do with me to heal me.  He removed me from everything I was involved in.  I knew that in order for healing to take place in every aspect of my life, it was imperative to retreat and focus solely on restoration.

Hard Work and Obedience – Heed wise counsel.  The Lord blessed me with an incredible Christian counselor whom I saw weekly (sometimes more!) for over a year.  {Just a little “soapbox” moment here:  when you are seeing a counselor – get your money’s worth.  What I mean is:  if you are going to spend the money and time to get counseling – actually go in there and be honest with them and yourself.  Otherwise, it’s a waste of your time and your money!}   In seeing her, she spoke Truth to me, redirected my thinking when that was appropriate and gave me biblically based tools to equip me.  In addition to seeing a ‘professional’ counselor, I surrounded myself with wise counsel through friendships.  I kept a small circle of woman close that not only encouraged me but they too would speak Truth to me and corrected me when necessary.  This is all under “hard work and obedience” because when you are given wise counsel, sometimes the pill is hard to swallow in what you are instructed to do.  But, you have to be obedient and do it.  These people are who the Lord has given you to walk this part of your journey out.  Listen and Do.  It is hard.  Some of is it really hard.   It’s got to be because at least for me, I was coming out  something awful.  Really really awful. So, I needed the hard, the really really hard.

Through this entire process, the key is staying in God’s Word, filling your heart and mind with God’s Word and living out God’s Word.  Truth – always Truth.  Through this process, my heart was gutted.  I know, that sounds so terrible but it’s the only way to describe it.  There was so much yuck and filth in there, it needed to be gutted.  The Word of God has been the foundation in which my heart was restored.  It is now filled full of His Promises and His Truth.  Psalm 51 was one I read many many days.  It has beautiful truths and promises throughout.  I want to share a few verses from it:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. Psalm 51:12-15

  1. I prayed daily for the Lord to give me a pure heart.(v12)  He did.
  2. I asked Him to restore me.(v12) He has and now I am excited to “teach His ways!”(v13)
  3. I asked Him to forgive me.(v14) He has and now I joyfully sing of His righteousness!(v14)

My lips are open now and declaring His love and faithfulness!  He graciously accepts us and forgives us when we come to Him humble, honest and willing.  He loves you friend and He will use you.

I wanted to share the hard part of this because I never want to fill this blog with ‘fluff.’  I don’t ever want to mislead anyone into thinking this journey is easy.  It’s hard work but so very worth it.  And don’t think for a second that the enemy will take a break on you.  He is waiting for you to give up.  He is waiting for you to become defeated.  Don’t sweet friend.  Our Lord has so much more for you.  And just like me, as He renews and restores you, He will give you opportunities to use the gifts He created you with.

As I stood in the classroom last week before the study began, the enemy was steadily trying to get in my head and my heart as he had many times over the last several weeks.  “No one is coming Dawn.”  “They know you are teaching and people don’t want to hear from you Dawn.”  “People think you’re a liar Dawn.”  “You are a scam Dawn.”  And in that moment I said, “you are a liar Satan” and I once again prayed for the Lord to calm my heart and use me for His glory.  He did.  Woman after woman came in that classroom until we couldn’t put anyone else in there.  And in that moment, the Lord spoke to me and said, “here it is Dawn, now let me use you.”

I now have the privilege of teaching His Word again to several beautiful women.  And I now understand what a privilege it is to be part of ministry.  One that I will never again take for granted.  (Yes, I said never!)  I understand that it is not me that’s great, it is Him that works in and through me that is.  Pride has no part in the Lord’s work.  Humility does.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

I don’t know how He will use you and your story sweet friend but He will.   Stay with it, even in the tough stuff because victory is on the other side.

Freedom in Forgiveness

This is something I have been praying for, for a long time.  I asked Jeremy to consider writing a blog because I thought people could be encouraged hearing from him.  His first response was, “I can’t write.  I’m not good at that stuff.”  I told him that I just wanted him to share his part of the story and to please pray over it.  I left it at that.  Well, today I opened my email and here it was asking for help with wording and grammar.  He decided to share his heart with you.  While this was tough for me to read, I know it came straight from his heart and it is my honor to share it with you.  And so here it is, Jeremy’s first blog post:

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Forgiveness is something I have always felt I’ve been able to do pretty easy. It was the way I was raised and then coming to know the Lord I knew that I needed to forgive people because I was forgiven through Jesus Christ. Over these past 2 years it’s something that I truly had to rely on to make it through the day sometimes.  The pain and hurt that I went through is something I don’t wish on my worst enemy. I remember the day my world came crashing down in front of me. I came home thinking everything was fine.  Then, I remember my mother-in-law coming over and Dawn talking with her in the kitchen.  She then said to the boys “lets go for a ride and go see what Grandad is doing at the house” and they quickly left.  I didn’t know she was coming over, it caught me by surprise and when I looked at Dawns face I could tell something was wrong. She asked me to come into the living room and sit down because she had to talk with me about something. I could feel my stomach start to drop and cramp up. I was probably the most scared in that moment that I have ever been. I knew something wasn’t right but couldn’t fathom what it was.  In my mind, I was trying to think back on that day and even a couple of days back trying to figure out what I could have done to make her so upset that the boys needed to go away for us to talk. I remember the expression on her face when she said those words, “I had an affair.” I couldn’t believe it because I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. I am a very loyal person and probably to a fault so it was hard to believe that someone I loved and would die for could betray me in such a way and with a friend of mine at that. I just remember over the next couple of days just lying on the floor crying uncontrollably and the pain that was going through my body I can’t even explain what that was like.  The emotions I went through is something I will never forget.  But, the freedom and blessing I have received by God for forgiving both her and the other person is more powerful than words can express. Even more, the freedom in forgiving someone, even though an apology was never given, I can’t even explain.  Unfortunately, I have never received an apology from the man.  I point that out because you need to understand that even when you don’t get what you ‘think’ you need or deserve, you still have to be obedient and do what Scripture calls us to do.  That is to forgive. Christ didn’t deserve to die, nor did we deserve His forgiveness.  But He still did and we still got it.  It’s only through Jesus Christ I am able to do it. Being able to forgive a person and or persons that betrayed my trust and love for them was something that took me awhile to truly and wholly do even for me. For something that normally comes easy for me, it didn’t this time.  Yet, I did it through the strength of my God because it is what I am commanded to do in Scripture.

It is very important to forgive so you can move forward with your life and not let anger and sadness and bitterness take control.  It would be very easy to give in to those feelings of hurt and anger, use them as an excuse or as leverage but that would mean keeping myself in chains and not living in the freedom of the Cross.  I choose not to live like that.  I know forgiveness doesn’t come easy for many, so I pray that if it’s not easy for you to forgive, that God would give you a peace about it and the power to do it.  Know that Jesus died on the cross for you and forgave your sins so in return we have to forgive others no matter what the situation.  My situation was just about as bad as it could get.  Yet, I chose forgiveness.   And because I chose that, Dawn and I are mended.  I love her with my whole heart.  I trust her completely.  I know that the Lord is using us for Him.  This is a result of obedience and living out the Gospel.

“This, then, is how you should pray:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”   Matthew 6:9-15

Tender Hearts

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I am not a morning person at all…..and so when my eyes pop open at 5:45 a.m. and I am wide awake, I choose to believe it’s the Lord.  So, as I laid there this morning, I began to just pray.   As I prayed, my heart began to stir.  When Jeremy got up he said, “what are you doing up so early?”  I said, “I’ve got to write a blog!”  And here I am, in my favorite spot on our back porch sharing with you.  I am going to step into a little bit of very personal things to Jeremy and I’s heart.  I believe that is what the Lord has asked me to do today and so because of that, I believe someone out here needed to hear this.  So, walk with me into a glimpse of our hearts…..

Occasionally Jeremy and I find ourselves in a conversation about our stuff. {Stuff meaning the part of our journey we’ve been on these last two years} Yesterday was one of those days.  These conversations have evolved over time where at first they were filled with overwhelming heartbreak, sometimes anger, and a lot of hurt to tenderness, joy and much much hope.  We were sitting at lunch and I was sharing with Jeremy a conversation I had at church yesterday morning.  Someone had come up and asked me a question pertaining to our stuff.  So, as I was sharing this with Jeremy it spurred us into an even deeper conversation on the topic.  {This is where I am going to share with you something that we don’t share very often.}  Part of going through something so devastating is the ripple effects.  Ripple effects are almost like the aftershock so to speak.  One of those ripple effects is changes in relationships, specifically friendships.  I have shared before that we lost friendships through this.  Several in fact.  But, let me be very transparent here and tell you that Jeremy and I both still struggle here. I have one friend in particular that I lost that still leaves me brokenhearted at times.  Jeremy has one friend in particular that he lost that still leaves him brokenhearted at times.  Why do I tell you this?  For a few reasons, but most important to let you know how important it is to remain tenderhearted when it’s easy to allow your heart to harden.  Remember me sharing that ‘hope’ thing with you?  This is one of those things we still hope for after two years.  We don’t share this often because most times people say, “give up.”  OR “They weren’t your real friend anyway” OR  “Just move on” and so on.  And I get it.  Yet, deep in our hearts we can’t do that.  We love these people, we pray for these people and we hope for these people.  Maybe we are crazy, I don’t know?  But, what I do know is that what I have seen resolved, redeemed and restored in the last two years is nothing short of an incredible God’s work and so I will not give up hope on things still broken.  I believe in what Psalm 27:13-14 says that “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  I will continue to “wait for the Lord, being strong and taking heart.  Waiting for the Lord.”

So, I share with you this short story today to tell you that this little tender heart secret Jeremy and I keep tucked away with hope remaining is because of the confidence we have in a big God and not in ourselves.  Friend, the Lord restored Jeremy and I to a place in our lives I couldn’t have dreamed of being.  Because of that, we believe fully that our Lord knows no bounds and can redeem and resolve anything.  So, sweet friend hold onto hope and keep your heart clear of hardness.  It is so important for our hearts to remain tender to the Lord as He works in His perfect timing, not our desired timing.

More than anyone in the situation we were in, Jeremy could have hardened his heart immediately.  Yet, from day one, even through heart shattering hurt, his heart remained tender to what the Lord was going to do.  As we sat yesterday ending our conversation, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “more than anything that breaks our hearts Dawn,  while I  wouldn’t wish the hurt I felt at the beginning of all this on my worst enemy, I wouldn’t take it back because of where we are today.

Oh, I love this man and his tender heart.  Remain tender and don’t give up hope today friend.

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  Psalm 27: 13-14

Dealing with Disappointment…While Keeping Perspective.

Sea WorldThis picture was taken last week at Sea World while we were on vacation in Florida. This picture is full of smiles and fun because this in fact was one of the coolest experiences we have ever done.  In the words of my son Kaden, “I love dolphins now!”  But what you don’t see in this picture is the heartache I was feeling from getting a call just an hour before this excursion saying my Grandmother had a stroke and had passed away.  Also, in this picture behind the smiles is the excruciating pain Jeremy was in that landed us in the hospital that afternoon.  It was such a bizarre day that I even sat through the Shamu show crying under my sunglasses! What in the world?  I kept telling Jeremy we could go because I knew how much pain he was in;  he insisted on staying because he didn’t want to ruin this for the boys.  Yet, by late afternoon the boys could sense their Daddy’s pain and told us that “it was okay if we needed to go, they knew Dad was not feeling well.” Can I say I am so thankful these sweet boys are like their Daddy?  Such tender hearts!   So, Jeremy ended up getting admitted into the hospital in Orlando for a night.  After getting him settled in the hospital, I went back to our resort to get myself and the boys settled for the night and to start trying to get flights changed to come home early for my Grandmother’s funeral.  Then realized that I couldn’t do that yet because I didn’t know when Jeremy was getting out of the hospital.  So, I then laid in the bed by myself quietly weeping over the chaos of the day; the heartbreak of losing my grandmother and Jeremy having to be admitted to the hospital and thinking “Geez, this was supposed to be vacation?!?!”  And then I hit reset on my thinking.

I stepped back and gained perspective.  My “old normal” would have been to get in a tizzy and selfishly pitch my own little fit about all of this wrecking our plans.  Yet, in that moment, I just said thank you Lord for giving us a great 3 days together as a family.  We had a wonderful beginning of the week.  Yes, I was heartbroken that my grandmother had passed away, but she was 91 years old, was ready for the Lord to take her home and I knew she was in a better place where her body was completely healed and she could once again walk.  Yes, I was sad Jeremy was in the hospital on vacation, but I knew it was temporary, he would be given medication and would be okay.  But, I was not going to complain or be upset about vacation getting interrupted.  What a privilege it is to even have a vacation when I have met many that don’t even know what a vacation is because all they are worried about is where their next meal is going to come from.  I also thought about those in Louisiana that are losing their homes, their livelihood, basically everything through record flooding and there is nothing they can do about it but watch.  I then looked at the picture of that precious 5-year-old boy in the ambulance in Syria covered in blood and ash, living in a country under relentless attack.  He’s not worried about the first day of school and I’m sure has never been on a vacation, he is just wondering if he is going to survive!

So, as I laid sad and stressed over my circumstances I asked the Lord to give me peace in my heart and wisdom in my mind to ‘deal’ with what I had to deal with.  Yet, I asked Him to help me remain in a place where I kept perspective on what a privileged life I lead and how even when my heart hurts or things are tough, I am still privileged.  I am meant for so much more than being upset over vacation being interrupted.

Our perspective has to reset often, or at least mine does.  We have to pan out of what is right in front of us and take an overview of life around us.  No, it’s not a comparison thing, it’s a perspective thing.  I remained thankful for the time we had as a family for vacation, even though it was cut short, because I realized this wasn’t the end of the world!

–Please don’t misunderstand me:  Many of you sweet friends are dealing with much heavier things than I could possibly fathom.  You are in major crisis from losing a child or a spouse, battling a disease that may not be cured on this earth, maybe dealing with abuse or many other things I cannot imagine.  These are circumstances that go beyond what I am addressing here.  And because of that precious friend, I am praying for you right now.  I am praying the King of all Kings wraps His mighty arms around you and carries you through.-

My purpose in this blog is for those of us dealing with more trivial things, things that are not major crisis’. Things like our feelings getting hurt by someone, stress at work or like me, vacation getting interrupted.  In these moments, we must keep perspective.    We must remember we are meant for so much more.  That more, is sharing the love of Christ.  Whether it be through missions in a foreign country, traveling to Louisiana to help victims of a flood, maybe serving at your local homeless shelter or simply helping out your neighbor–we are meant for more than flipping out over small things.  Remember that even if “so and so” hurt your feelings, 5 year old Omran Daqneesh of Syria just found himself in the middle of an airstrike instead of a kindergarten classroom.

Perspective is so important.

I will praise the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.  Psalm 34:1

 

Two Years Later…

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img_4884Sometimes I wonder how I even made it through that week.  I knew for a week’s time that I was going to have to confess to Jeremy.  I just had to wait for him to get home from a trip to tell him.  One night that week found me laying on the bathroom floor trying to get even a minutes sleep in between waiting for the heaves over the toilet to subside.  My entire being was distraught thinking about the fact that I may be days away from losing my husband, my children, basically my life as I knew it because of my choices.  Sin destroys you spiritually, mentally and sometimes even physically.  Confession and surrender redeems you entirely.

Today marks two years.  Two years of a journey that has gone from the greatest depths of heartache, betrayal and brokenness one could imagine to victory and hope.  You might wonder why I even ‘remember’ these specific days.  Maybe you are saying, “why don’t you just forget it and move on.”  Well, I’ve definitely moved on but let me tell you this:  trauma changes you – whether it be trauma you brought on yourself or trauma from a tragic accident, whatever trauma it is, it changes you.  That is why I remember.  I never want to sweep it under the rug, not talk about it or pretend it didn’t happen.  It’s my story, it changed me and I don’t ever want to forget it.

 I remember it for Grace:  I never quite understood what grace truly was until that is all that I could truly accept.  Grace upon grace upon grace.  My heart didn’t extend grace to others because I didn’t understand how much I needed it myself.  Yet, when it was extended to me from my God, my husband and many of those around me – it became clear what it was.   And so I remember this day so that I won’t forget how to truly extend grace to those around me.

I remember it for Hope:  Outside of grace the word I have clung to for these last two years is hope.  Hoping for different things at different times but always hope.  About a year before my world crumbled, I had bought a brand new devotional book by Beth Moore called Whispers of Hope. It was a devotional on prayer.  Yet, I never opened it.  You see, my heart was somewhere else, and I had a hard time praying.  How was I supposed to ‘pray’ when I was doing something so awful?  I felt like I couldn’t.  If I prayed, I would have to confess this thing and I just couldn’t do that.  So in those moments, because of myself, my lifeline to the Lord was quiet and that book remained unopened.  That is until everything was exposed; I was exposed and nothing was left to hide.  It was then that I came upon this book on my shelf and dared to open it.  When I bought that book, the Lord knew exactly when I’d open it. This book guided me on the days I was so lost for words, I didn’t know what to pray.  This book, which is also a journal, has written in it some of my most desperate heart cries and gut-wrenching thoughts from those first days and months.  Friend, I haven’t been able to open this book since I finished it.  I can’t bring myself to read the words I wrote.  I’m not sure I ever will.  But, what I know is that even in the midst of writing the agonizing thoughts and brokenness, I would still write out words of hope.  Just little bits of hope. “You are faithful Lord.”  “I trust you God.” Those words weren’t hard to write but at times they were hard to believe.  Yet, He was faithful.  And so, as I continue to walk this journey, I remain hopeful yet for many things.  But, I can say without any hesitation that the Lord has truly healed me, my husband and our marriage.  For that, I am eternally grateful. There are things I have hoped for over the last two years that I have yet to see happen.   When they don’t happen, I simply trust.  I trust that the Lord is working and in His time, I will see those things materialize.  I will not give up hope.

Through this journey I have learned to rely wholly on the Lord. I have learned to extend grace where before I would have rolled my eyes, judged in my heart and turned away.   I have learned that being obedient means completely surrendering yourself and doing what the Lord asks without doubt, hesitation or half-hearted effort.  So because of all I learned, I remember, I reflect and I continue to hope.

One final reason that I remember:  When I find myself hearing about someone in those same shoes, I can walk beside them in the depths of their darkness and say, “I understand.”  I can help them to know the hope of a Savior and the healing of surrender.  And before I start to judge, instead will be grace.  Always grace.

 

Two years and Hope later, I will continue.

 

 

 

These Things I Pray…..

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Sarah Vanderford Photography

I remember that day so clearly:  the day we found out we were having twins and that they were boys’.   I was going to a midwife for my prenatal care and this particular midwifery only did one ultrasound your entire pregnancy and that was at 5 months.  I had been extremely sick my first trimester, losing 15 pounds.  Morning sickness is a form of torture, I’m sure of it.  Everyone just thought that this was what my body did during pregnancy.  No one, including me, ever thought that I was so sick because TWO babies were in my belly!   So, as this day approached I was coming out of morning sickness and getting more and more excited!  We had a boy name and a girl name picked out.  We went in for the ultrasound, back when you still brought in a VHS tape for them to record the ultrasound for you and your reaction when they told you what you were having.  So after setting everything up and turning everything on,  the woman places the little instrument on my belly and immediately starts shutting everything off.  I began to panic thinking something was wrong with the baby.  She then looked at us and said “do either of you have twins in your family?”  We both said, “No.”  She replied, “well you do now!”  I began crying, Jeremy began laughing and we left the office that day completely shocked!  We now had four months to prepare for not one baby but two!  Now, here we are in middle school.  WOAH.  Being a boy mom is fun, adventurous and often times gross.  As a boy mom cleaning toilets is the worst and frequently makes me angry.  How does one miss the giant toilet bowl when going ‘potty?’  Seriously……  And as a boy mom, we didn’t dress up Barbie’s, we never played with babydolls and I don’t get to share beauty secrets and makeup tips. It was Tonka trucks, Bob the Builder and GI Joe’s all the way.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.   I look at these two boys’ today and I get excited imagining what the Lord has in store for them!  I am so excited to see the path that He has created for them.  Yet, I’m not a fool to think that path will be without hiccups, struggles and missteps.  It is starting off great though!  Our greatest hope and prayer became a reality this past year when they both accepted Christ and are now followers of Him.  There is no greater joy than to see your children surrender their lives and put their hope in Jesus Christ.  Now it is our duty as parents to nurture that by living a life that exemplifies that and also teach our children the Word of God.  We should also instill in them good manners and life skills, which includes discipline, to help them to know how to face this BIG crazy world!   I do have to say, they could not have a more incredible model of a Godly man than their father.  For that, I am exceedingly thankful.  My hearts prayer is that they will follow the lead of their Daddy.   But I will tell you this:  the number one thing that I do as a Mom every single day for these two boys is pray for them:  Every Single Day.  While these specifics I am listing are daily written prayers in my journal, often times a situation arises that causes me to pray earnestly in a different direction for them whether it be a friendship, a specific middle school struggle, schoolwork etc.  The point here is that one of our most important duties as parents is to pray unfailingly for our children.

Daily I pray over these three things:

  1. Their walk with the Lord: as they grow older that it matures and remains their focus.
  2. Protection and Strength from the Lord. Protect their hearts, eyes and ears from junk.  But when (not if but when) they are faced with ‘junk’ that they will have the strength to turn away from whatever it is and speak Truth to whomever is sharing it.
  3. Future Spouse: I believe it is so very important to be praying now for whomever the Lord has chosen for each of them.  She is out there, living her life right now. (Hey Girl!  I’m praying for you beautiful!)  So, I pray daily that the Lord is surrounding her with Godly examples in her life and that He is doing a work in her heart.  I also pray for the relationship I will have with her.  I hate that “mother-in-law” has such a negative association to it.  I pray for a beautiful relationship with my future daughters-in-law.

One day I hope to show my boys my journal of prayers for them.  Maybe on their wedding day, I don’t know?  But, what I do know is that I will never cease in praying for them.  The Lord has so graciously gifted us two precious boys to teach, nurture and love.  I count that a privilege and want to treat it as such.

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, children, a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them.  Such men will never be put to shame when they speak with their enemies at the city gate.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Psalm 127:3-5