Part One: Is There a Healing Formula?

 

formula

 

I started a series on healing last week, and I want to continue it this week by looking at a passage in John 5 where a crippled man is healed.

I never noticed this passage until recently. About a month ago, I felt drawn to read the accounts of healing in John, and I was astounded to see similarities in the John 5 and John 9 passages — similarities that closely correspond with my own healing experience.

I want to share a few of my observations on both passages in the next few weeks, and perhaps some of what I am saying can illuminate some things for you in your own situation.

The Lame Man by the Pool

In John 5, Jesus approaches a man lying by a healing pool. Apparently, the pool was one where the sick (including the blind, lame, and paralyzed) would come for healing. As legend had it, in a particular season, an angel would descend and stir the waters. Once the angel had stirred the waters, the angel would leave, and it was up to the diseased to get in. The first one in the pool would get the benefit of the medicinal qualities in the water. The man whom Jesus approaches has had no such luck; his friends have all had the benefit of getting in the water, but he has been left behind.

When Jesus comes up to him, Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed. The man complains that no one has helped him in the waters, but Jesus doesn’t need the water to heal him. He tells the man to “get up” and carry his mat. The man does so and is able to walk after thirty-eight years of being paralyzed. He then goes out into the streets and is questioned by Jews as to the man who healed him.

Several important things should be noted about this passage.

1. The man was most likely crippled because of sin.

This may be a highly unpopular way to start this discussion, but one thing that we can learn and observe by reading the account of the cripple’s healing is that it shows us that there can be a connection between sin and illness. This idea is implied because after the healing, Jesus finds the man at the temple and says, “See you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

Sin is not always the reason for infirmity, and we must be cautious to assume that our every illness is caused by sin — but, in some cases, our malady can be invited in by unconfessed sin or sin we are not willing to part with. (Please note that illness can just be a result of the state of our fallen world or an affliction we are born with that has nothing to do with sin.)

In my own experience, my unforgiveness and unresolved anger in the past has brought on problems of severe depression and other physical issues. The sentiment in most Christian communities is that our sin has no affect us because of Jesus’ work on the cross; however, while it is true that we are under no condemnation as Christians (Romans 8:1), this passage suggests the correlation in certain instances between sin and sickness.

2. The healing begins with a stirring of the waters.

The healing in the passage started with a “stirring of the waters.” It’s not clear whether the angel that came down to stir the waters was legend or truth; however, what is understood is that the angel descended only at a particular season and it was the job of the diseased to “get in” (John 5:7).

What this has felt like for me has been a “stirring” or churning in my heart during a church service, and I have felt the need to get out of my seat and go down to the altar for prayer. As I have received prayer, I have felt a directive about an apology I need to make or a resentment I need to let go of. For whatever reason, the stirring initiated the process.

On a larger scope, I have recently very much been on a journey these past few years to allow God to reach some of the broken places in me that haven’t been touched in previous experiences. And the stirring has been more of an outside force — a violent storm taking place in my life with me at the bottom of it. I’ve been confused and scared. But in the midst of the chaos, God has stepped in and chosen to use the undoing — the spinning of elements out of control — to be the starting place for an emotional healing.

3. Jesus may use means that do not make any sense to us in our healing.

For our crippled man in the passage, Jesus came directly to him. The cripple voiced the fact that many of his friends had been healed, and he had never been able to get in the waters. I searched long and hard for an interpretation of this, and I couldn’t find much. But a few things came to mind: Jesus sought him out when he thought his opportunity had passed him by. Jesus did not leave him behind.

And what also very much stands out to me is that the man had a very narrow idea of the method in which he would be healed. He fixated on the one way he thought that it would happen for him: He believed that he had to be the first to get in the healing pools (John 5:7).

You and I are very much the same way. We have an idea in mind about how a healing or promise will come to pass for us. We may think that it has to come through a doctor, or a certain series of steps to get to our goal — but Jesus shows us in this particular passage that He can heal us by means that are beyond our understanding of how it should happen. He will ask us to do things or a series of things that don’t seem to have any correlation to what’s wrong with us. Our way to healing is to follow His directive and trust that it may happen differently for us than we originally envisioned. As commentator Matthew Henry notes:

We are all by nature impotent folks in spiritual things, blind, halt and withered — but effectual provision is made for our cure if we will but observe orders.

All we have to do is “observe orders” by reading the Word and putting ourselves in a position to hear from God to do what He says. However, even if we have completely screwed things up, He still comes for us.

Quite frankly, in my journey of inner healing these past few years, I feared that my chances for God using me had passed me by. I knew I had made bad choices earlier in my life, and I didn’t know that God would open any more for me. But even as I had squandered some of my earlier opportunities, God has found me in a similar way that He found the lame man and given me some steps to get free.

4. You may have to participate in the process.

When Jesus approached the man by the pool, he posed the question: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). Obviously, the man wanted healing. He had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. However, Jesus asked the question because he wanted to know the man’s commitment level to the process: Did the man really want to participate in his own healing? According to Henry:

In spiritual cases, people are not willing to be cured of their sins, are loth to part with them. If this point therefore were but gained, if people were willing to be made whole, the work were half done, for Christ is willing to heal, if we be but willing to be healed.”

As Henry notes, “Christ is willing to heal, if we be but willing to be healed.” And again, we see the implied connection between the man’s sin and his infirmity. Jesus is God. He can do anything He wants to. He can heal people in multiple ways through multiple means — with just a snap of his fingers. And often He does.

However, what I have found to be true in my experience is that God has asked something of me. When my infirmity or brokenness is spiritually rooted, I have to repent of the sin to be healed. The way it has happened for me in my most recent journey is that He has presented me with some things to do in digging back in my past — make some contacts. That has been the “getting up” in my process.

As I finish with one, another pops up. I haven’t wanted to do them, and I haven’t even really understood all the reasons why God has given me the directives that He has. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that I didn’t have to do anything because of God’s grace. But what I think can be said about that is that my journey has not been about earning forgiveness or earning God’s favor — it has been about obedience. As I have been obeying God, He has begun to work in me supernaturally to bring about change.

5. He didn’t get up in his own power — He got up in Christ’s power.

A strange thing happens when we obey God. We stir ourselves to act, but it is actually Christ who strengthens and straightens our limbs as we get up. Note what Henry says about this section of the passage:

But if he had not attempted to help himself, he had not been cured, and he must have borne the blame; yet it does not therefore follow that, when he rise and walk, it was by his own strength; no it was by the power of Christ, and he must have all the glory.”

Even in our action, it is still Christ’s power which enables us to walk.

Jesus will not take the steps for you. He will point you the way, show you the step, meet you in the act of faith. But there is a movement on our part that has to happen. We see that just as there is a “getting in” component of the sick into the healing waters, there is a “getting up” component to Jesus’ command.

Jesus can heal people any way He wants to and there is not necessarily a formula that Jesus uses every time He heals in Scripture; however, we can observe some of the steps that occur in His approach to the lame man and recognize how we can allow those to be implemented in our own lives.

Next week I will continue with Part Two of the Healing Formula series and discuss the rest of the John 5 story.

Carol’s note:

It can be really scary to read a post like this because the enemy wants to get into your thoughts and condemn and accuse, but we should notice how compassionate Jesus was in this story. He wasn’t concerned with accusing the man; he was concerned with healing the man. One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:1 because it reminds us that we are forgiven no matter what we’ve done.

If you feel like you have a disease that is spiritually rooted but aren’t sure, ask God and see what He tells you. He promises to give you the wisdom you need (James 1:5). I would also recommend getting prayer at church by your elders or prayer team (James 5:14). In addition, Henry W. Wright’s A More Excellent Way is an excellent resource that gives further insight into spiritually rooted disease.

Related Bible Verses:

John 5:1: “Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’ ”

Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Related Resources:

The website biblegateway.com is a free online Bible resource. It offers different translations of Scripture as well as notes and commentary (such as Matthew Henry commentary) to better understand the meaning and context of Scripture passages.

Are you interested in the spiritual roots of many diseases? Henry W. Wright’s A More Excellent Way: Be in Health talks about spiritual causes for many illnesses such as depression and his advice about how to look at disease from a spiritual standpoint.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and two children.

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Why It Hurts to Heal

healing

When I attended a larger church campus, I sang in the choir, and we would frequently open up the service with the song “Shackles” (Praise You) by Mary Mary.

I always felt like an imposter singing that song. You may be familiar with it, but the lyrics say this: “You broke the chains, now I can lift my hands! And I’m gonna praise you. I’m gonna praise you!” I tried to fake the joy when I sang it because I knew that I was bound up with some shackles inside, and I didn’t know why I couldn’t get to the freedom that other people seemed to be experiencing in Christ.

When I started to find healing in some areas and my chains started flying off, I was most surprised that the healing process wasn’t the beautiful, serene experience I thought it would be. It was excruciating. I felt like I was being ripped apart, my insides tearing and rearranging. Because they were. I felt really fearful and light-headed during some hard conversations. I had days where I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt like something must be terribly wrong that I felt this torn up in the healing process.

But something was actually terribly right.

If you are broken inside, you be in major denial about the reasons why. You may be blaming others, playing the victim — and not even realize what the problem is until Jesus steps into your circumstance. Healing requires you to face the truth. You not only have to face the truth about you — you may have to face the truth about your situation.

I have jotted down a few observations from my journey that may speak to you in whatever place you find yourself in:

1. You may have to face the reality that not only do you have to change, but some things in your situation may have to change as well.

You may have surrounded yourself with people who are telling you what you want to hear — they may have agreed with you as you have been wearing your mask of denial. And some of those relationships may have to be edited and changed. Some awkward confrontations may have to occur as you verbalize how some things you are doing — or they are doing — can’t happen any longer.

Our senior pastor once told a story of a man who called him up one day. The man was a drug addict, and he wanted help getting right with God and giving up his addiction. Our pastor talked with him and told him that he was going to have to let go of the friends he was hanging around in order to get serious about getting on the right path. The young person was shocked to hear that he would have give up his friends. He didn’t want his addiction, but he did want his addict peers. I am not sure what the young man decided because when he got off the phone, our pastor never heard from him again.

The young man wanted healing, but he didn’t want to change or confront those in his situation that were enabling him to make bad choices. However, he needed to eliminate some toxic relationships in his life so that he could start making better choices.

2. Other people may not understand your journey.

Sometimes as you’re walking through healing, you won’t have all the answers, and the painful truth is that some people won’t support you or believe that what you are doing is really for healing.

In my own journey, I was questioned by many, advised to go a different route, even mocked. Some people told me that I shouldn’t do what I was doing because by digging up the past, I would hurt people. I felt pretty selfish. But sometimes you have to do what looks self-centered to others to get inner healing. I had to apologize to some people from many years ago and admit some things I had never admitted to — and, yes, in some cases, I did hurt people with those conversations. But those scary deeds needed to come out in order for me to be free.

I thought this misunderstanding from others must indicate that I was doing something the wrong way, but I have found that people not grasping what is happening in you is actually pretty normal. Not everyone will get it. And they don’t have to.

In John 5 and 9, there are accounts of Jesus healing a cripple and blind man on the Sabbath. Rather than celebrate the restoration of these individuals, the Pharisees mercilessly questioned and insulted the healed persons, condemning their healing experience because it was done on the Sabbath.

I have had some similar experiences. I have gotten blank stares, eye rolls, avoidance, and harsh advice that has been hard to deal with because not only have I had to walk the painful steps involved in healing, but I have also had to walk alone without the help of friends for much of it. I have wanted others to share in and support my choices, but that hasn’t always been the case.

Jesus has continually reminded me that I don’t have to make other people approve or understand. But Jesus did have these rather sharp words to say to the Pharisees in John 9:41:

If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

Jesus called out the Pharisees as the diseased or “blind” ones because they relied on their human understanding in viewing situations rather than allowing Jesus to open up their eyes and give them spiritual insight. Some people in your life will be like the Pharisees — they won’t applaud or celebrate your progress. Instead, they will try to tear you down — and you will have to remain firm in what Jesus wants you to do even if they don’t agree.

3. Healing requires a turning away from broken behavior.

Once you face the truth about a behavior that needs to go, you have to turn away from it. And as much as I would like to tell you that it’s easy to do this, it’s really not. The reality is that if you’re broken, you have probably developed some not-so-good behaviors to cope, perhaps some addictive tendencies. And even when you want to let these go — you’ve relied on them for so long to get through, that it’s tough to know how to be you when the behavior is eliminated.

In my experience, Jesus hasn’t waved his magic wand over me — I’ve had to work on the behaviors as he has revealed them to me. He’s given me the steps, but I have had to participate in the process. Like the crippled man beside the pool of Bethesda, I’ve had to get up at Jesus’ command (John 5:8). As I have attempted to stir myself, it is then that His divine power has met me and enabled me to pick up my mat and walk.

In particular, when Jesus revealed to me that I had a real addiction to approval, I knew that it was true, but turning away from that has been a whole separate thing. I developed that addiction to cope with rejection and gain acceptance. I still battle feelings of rejection, and that is what I naturally want to turn to when I feel insecure or left out.

I used to look at drug addicts and alcoholics and think, “Why can’t they just quit?” And now I get the fact that their addiction is something they developed to fill themselves — and without getting healed and free, they still need that substance to deaden what hurts. We all have addictive behaviors we create to feel complete — some involve substances.

I turned to people.

The truth is that healing requires a cleaning out, a scraping away of the broken places with God’s tools — to make way for the clean indwelling of His presence. He has to dig out and prune and cut to make you into what He knows you can be. The transformation doesn’t happen without any pain. Just like a physical wound has to be cleaned and scabbed over to heal — an emotional wound is similar in that the cutting out process feels really awful before it begins to feel good.

But while the physician’s knife slices into uncomfortable places and roots out attitudes and behaviors that are not of God, the end result is a peaceful feeling inside.

No torment. No guilt. No agony.

Freedom.

Because as Hebrews 12:11 suggests, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Related Bible Verses:

John 5:8: “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”

John 9:11: “He replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’ ”

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and two children.

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Why I Don’t Have to Do It Myself

pier-555392_1280 “I can do it myself!” my daughter announced as she raced ahead of me down the sidewalk. My heart did a little sideways flip-flop as I watched her neon shoes hit the pavement, causing her Lalaloopsy backpack to bounce against her narrow frame.

It was the second day of kindergarten. At my daughter’s pleading, I had allowed her to ride the bus home from school. As the bus rumbled to a stop and the kids filed out, I did not catch sight of her. Worried that she had been placed on the wrong bus, I peered in to ask the driver and found my daughter giggling with two new friends on the front seat.

Looking surprised to see me, she jumped out of her seat and bounced down the stairs onto the sidewalk. Her feet had barely hit the pavement before she whirled around and insisted, “I can do it myself!”

Obviously, she had no idea where to exit because this was her first time riding the bus home, but rather than admit her need for my help, she declared that she would have been just fine had I not leaned in and collected her.

Watching that determined little girl skip away down the sidewalk, I felt a rustle in my spirit. Isn’t this what I do to God on a regular basis? How often does He fetch me off the bus only to see me claim that it was all my own doing?

Perhaps that heart flutter I felt was because I am often the little girl in this interchange. I am the one telling God, “I can do it myself.”

How did I get so independent?

A can-do spirit has always been stitched into my DNA — my parents would most likely corroborate, but in looking back, I also developed self-reliance as a weapon I used to fight back against circumstances I couldn’t control.

Unfortunately, I had some situations in my childhood where I tried to voice my needs, and I was answered with irritation, anger, or silence. No one wants her, I rationalized. People don’t want to be bothered with a problem. That happens when you speak.

I became self-sufficient so that I wouldn’t impose on anyone. I built a fortress of one to protect myself — I didn’t realize that whether or not people always have good reactions to me, I need to share my needs. God doesn’t want me to cover her up. I am not “a problem” just because I communicate what’s inside — even if some people have reacted to me in that way.

Is it really all up to me?

Self-sufficiency wasn’t the only way that I tried to manage those people around me and make them like me; I also made the decision to be really useful. Not only would I never inconvenience the people in my life by expressing what I wanted, but I would also display how productive I could be — how successful. I would prove to everyone I was worth it.

Particularly in college and the first few years of teaching, I became extremely performance-driven. Although I didn’t recognize it as such, I was relying on my own fleshly attitudes to make it through my life. I believed in God, but I didn’t really know that He could help me with all the finite details of my emotions. I didn’t think He cared about that. My “It’s all up to me. I have to make this happen” attitude in college took a toll on my body.

I developed a nervous stomach and paralyzing fear and anxiety. While other people agonized over the extra pounds they were gaining, I fit easily in size zero jeans. All of my worrying whittled me down to very thin. One particular Sunday, I went forward at church for prayer when stress had brought me to the point of near collapse — and the preacher happened to say something about the cause of anxiety during the prayer time: fear.

A light bulb went off in my head, and I began to see how my terror that I wouldn’t measure up or succeed was paralyzing me and causing me to over-work myself in an effort to succeed. When I realized that the antidote to fear is trust, and I could hand over my worry to God and rest — my schoolwork became a lot more manageable. Because at the bottom of all of my self-reliance was a huge fear: that I would fail. I would fail in relationships. I would fail at being successful.

And when I failed — and here was an even bigger fear — I would be rejected.

Acting Out of the Flesh

What I didn’t realize a few years ago is that by trying to change myself to please people, I was attempting to manufacture acceptance from the people around me with my actions. The desire to do things without God is something every person attempts to do whether he or she recognizes it or not. Even Christians can operate in the flesh.

According to a By Divine Design conference I attended this past year, living in the flesh is when I attempt to meet my own needs for love, acceptance, worth and security apart from God. This desire came into the world when Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:1-21). My flesh wants control — but I cannot experience abundant life when I live out of my flesh rather than His Spirit (John 6:63).

I’ve grown up in church all my life and had only heard flesh defined as our sinful nature — but that nature includes the coping skills we use to get what we want out of our environment, even those skills considered socially acceptable (By Design). I tried to do this with my independence and performance; however, there are other coping strategies that exist as well: people-pleasing, criticism of others, religious fanaticism, stoicism, escapism, perfectionism, and the list goes on.

The more I tried to cope by using my own flesh patterns, the more tied up in knots I became. It’s not wrong for me to have needs or express them, or let the people in my life help me feel loved and cherished; however, it’s a problem when I lean the entire weight of my identity on others’ reactions and my own achievements. God never intended me to generate my own devices to get through my circumstances. Consider what God says about how I am to approach life in Proverbs 3:5,6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

The New Living Translation actually says that this means “do not depend on your own understanding.” Therefore, the Bible teaches a dependence on God — not on my own flesh. In practical terms, this means seeking out the advice and will of God in my choices, relationships, and actions. In fact, The NIV Application Commentary suggests that not leaning on my own understanding goes beyond just asking for help in daily decisions; depending on God means “not being wise in my own eyes” (Prov. 3:7).

I shouldn’t necessarily feel guilty if I go somewhere for lunch before consulting Him; however, this does mean that my attitude is one of acknowledging God’s wisdom as surpassing my own. Trying to bull-doze through life on my own strength has been being wise in my own eyes. Being dependent doesn’t mean I don’t have a personality or a brain. Being dependent means giving up my self-made strategies and learning God’s better ones. Being dependent means trusting so that I don’t have to fall for the lie that “it’s all up to me.”

Because the other part of Proverbs 3:5-8 is this: When I choose to depend on God’s ways over my own, He “makes my paths straight.” The Hebrew word for “straight” indicates “travel made safe by clearing and leveling the road” (The NIV Application Commentary). That means when I choose to lean on God instead of myself, He literally clears the way. It doesn’t mean I won’t be met with obstacles, because I will, but I will be traveling a way leveled in advance for me by the Almighty God.

I can rest because He’s got my back. And I don’t know about you, but that way sounds a whole lot better than trying to “do it myself”!

Listen in on our Blab chat on self-reliance vs. God-reliance.

What to take away: 

Where are you right now? Is it possible some of the worry, fear, anxiety you feel is a result of you trying so hard to do it all by yourself? If you ask Him, He will reveal to you the ways that you have attempted to “lean on your own understanding.” He may show you how to better approach situations that have you feeling incompetent, inadequate and defeated.

As I have expressed in other posts, I get anxious and stressed a lot. In fact, since trying to launch out in ministry I have experienced more fear than I ever have — more conflict — more stress. Even having a relationship with Jesus Christ, I often meander and fall off the way He has for me. However, one of my favorite verses is Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I love this verse because sometimes when I survey what I’ve done — how I’ve coped in situations in ways that weren’t that great, I don’t have to feel condemnation for the ways I’ve fallen short.

I may need to go back to a few people; I may need to make some changes at the prompting of the Holy Spirit; but I don’t have to feel that I will never measure up. God never shows me faulty ways that I’ve held onto to make me feel so bad about myself that I lose all hope. He convicts me and reminds me that His grace enables me to let Him help me make some changes and let Him transform me.

So, be encouraged! God wants to replace your self-made strategies with His wisdom and guidance. He wants to show you how to lean on Him through life’s battles. On a practical level — relying on Him means establishing time with Him on a daily basis to pray, listen, and read His Word.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and two children.

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