20 Minutes a Day …

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Twenty minutes may not really seem like a lot of time to accomplish something important, but, if you think about it, what kinds of things do you or can you accomplish in 20- to 30-minute chunks of time throughout your day?

You could:

  • fold a load of laundry
  • watch a recorded episode of a TV show
  • straighten up your desk/file some paperwork
  • read an online article or a chapter of a book
  • scroll through Facebook/Instagram posts
  • make a phone call to a family member or friend
  • check/respond to emails
  • take a walk to clear your head
  • empty the dishwasher
  • play with the dogs
  • stretch or exercise
  • plan a meal/find a new recipe
  • build an intimate relationship with God

Wait! What was that last point? Build a relationship with God? In 20 minutes? That’s not on my “to do” list.

No? Well, perhaps it should be. We all have the same amount of time allotted to us each and every day. And yet, so often the days just seem to slip away from us. Things we never intended or planned for steal our days away, minute by minute. We find ourselves wishing we had more time, but, more likely, what we really want is more peace, more joy, more connectedness … more real-life moments that matter.

Many of us use the lack of time as an excuse for not accomplishing certain things in our days or in our lives. In her blog post on things to do with 30 minutes or less, Courtney Carver shares:

… the real excuse, even if we are really busy, isn’t lack of time. It’s lack of priority. …

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Author Laura Vanderkam says, “Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”

2016-09-11-22-53-472016-09-11-22-54-45Two weeks ago, I chose to take time away from my work (which I spend a lot of time doing) to attend a Women’s Ministry Kick-off Dinner with my sister-in-law, Jena, and my niece-in-law, Brittany. It was a dinner put on by their church to introduce their upcoming Bible studies for the fall, and I was thrilled to hear that Debbie Stuart (who used to be the Director of Women’s Ministry at a church I attended in the past) was going to be the guest speaker that evening. Debbie is currently Director of Ministry Initiatives at Hope for the Heart.

Well, as usual, Debbie did not disappoint. I had done a study with Debbie in the past and though I knew she was good, I had forgotten just how good of a speaker and connector she was. She shares personal stories (funny as well as heart-wrenching) and Scripture in such a way as to touch the lives of those around her and to infuse in them a desire to know and serve the Lord as she does.

I have to be honest here. Even though my thoughts are not biblical, I envy her heart for Jesus. I want what she has. Not her life or the things she has accomplished or acquired in her lifetime … but I want a relationship with God where I seek Him and hear from Him daily, and He is obviously at work in my life the way He is in hers. Debbie reminded us:

The truth is: It is absolutely essential to spend time with the Lord. No excuses. You will not know Him, His will or His way apart from His Word, the Bible.

So simple, and yet so true. The thi2016-09-17-09-19-39ng is – I have been reading the Bible lately. I do this from time to time but not on a regular, daily basis, and not always in a way that I feel I am getting much out of it. In fact, sometimes I don’t really feel like I understand what I read (although when I take the time to use my MacArthur Bible Commentary and/or compare passages to those in The Message [which is very reader friendly], it does help).

20-minutes-a-dayThe night Debbie spoke, she brought with her a book she co-wrote titled, 20 Minutes a Day for the Rest of Your Life. She explains it this way:

This resource is an excellent guide to studying God’s word for practical application. It teaches various Bible study techniques, dynamics and methods to learning how to apply God’s Word to everyday life. It’s not enough to ask, “What does the Bible say, we must discover what does it say TO ME!” It’s not enough to know what the Bible means, we must know what it means TO ME! It is my prayer that you will develop a deeper walk with the Lord and come to know Him better by spending time in His Word.

If you know what you need to do, but you don’t know exactly how to go about doing it, this book might be the guide for you. You can purchase this helpful resource for $6 (plus $2 shipping). They are currently available through this eBay link. Proceeds go to support Prison Ministry for women!

I started using my book the very next day, a2016-09-14-13-09-06fter the dinner. The first method demonstrates studying and praying through the Psalms. Each “session” ends with you asking God for a verse for the day that you can carry with you or post where you will see it and can meditate on it. I put mine up on a little clothesline in my study area.

The following Sunday, I just knew I was on the right track when, in church, the preacher had chosen to focus his time in the pulpit on teaching us all on “How to Meditate on God’s Word.” He used Psalm 1 and walked us all through some methods to 1) Read God’s Word; 2) Study God’s Word (observe, interpret, apply); and 3) Memorize God’s Word. One of the main points I got out of his sermon was the importance of having a plan to follow. There are a lot of books and online sources available to help you set one up; two he suggested were youversion.com (a bible app) and esvbible.org.

Last week, I started a Bible study using Beth Moore’s book James: Mercy Triumphs. The five days of homework each week will definitely give me more than 20 minutes a day in the Bible. But I will continue to use my 20 Minutes a Day … book for the other days of the week so that I can become familiar with the other methods of study and eventually determine what works best for me.

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While doing one night’s homework on James, I came across Beth’s discussions on Galatians 2:8: For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my (Paul’s) ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. Beth said:

God only knows how many effective ministries have disintegrated into irrelevance over addiction to comparison. We talk as those who believe God is omnipotent and omnipresent, but we often act as if He can only work through one person, one method, or one kind of ministry at a time. …

There’s a big, needy world out there, and God’s way of reaching it is to enlist every one of us to do our parts in love and humility, variety and diversity.

So, there is no need for me to compare myself to others or focus on what I lack. God will use me … and you … wherever we are in life and to the extent that we make ourselves available to Him. Even if it is only 20 minutes a day.

Be strong in the Lord my friends. And be faithful.

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“ … it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes
and showers righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

“… those who seek Him, find Him.” see Proverbs 8:17

Puppies, Prayers, and Praises

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I have to apologize for not posting anything in quite some time. I had a very, very busy March, April, and May as our baby girl — Bella — had puppies, and it turned out to be quite a bit of work for both of us.

And then June came along, and I tried several times to write this post, but just couldn’t seem to figure out what I wanted to say. Originally, I was going to write all about what we went through with Bella and the puppies, but today I feel like there is a greater need for a post for those who may need some encouragement (including me). So, I deleted some of the original copy I wrote and started over.

Although there were a lot of sweet moments and fun times during our eight weeks of puppy raising, and I got tons of great photos (plus a puppy to keep), for me personally (and I think even for Bella), it was a pretty stressful time. I worried a lot — about doing the right things at the right times to raise happy, healthy puppies and about making sure they would all be going to good homes. I also worried about the lack of work and a regular paycheck that I had at this time. Of course, if I had had a lot of contract work that I was trying to get done on top of raising puppies, I just might have had a nervous breakdown. There is no way I could have done both. So, I was thankful for the timing, but during this time, I prayed a lot for peace, wisdom, guidance, and for increased faith and trust. I knew that even if my worries seemed unimportant or minor and insignificant compared to what some people were going through, that God cares about me, and the things that affect me matter to Him.

Trusting God

“A lot of people believe that worry is just a part of life. But they are wrong. Worry is actually a kind of unbelief. Worrying says you don’t believe I am big enough to take care of whatever it is that upsets you so much. Worrying says you think I need your help. Wrong! I am big enough. I am strong enough. I love you enough. Bring your problems to Me. You can trust Me to take care of you—and whatever you are worrying about!” ~Jesus Calling for Kids by Sarah Young

Despite the Scripture passages and devotionals (like the one above) I have been reading about worry, I have to admit, I am still having trouble putting it aside. Lately, I have felt overwhelmed by world issues (politics and senseless violence), heartbroken for friends going through relationship issues, concerned for a friend who was recently laid off from her job, and distressed for someone who currently has a job but is so uncomfortable with it that it is making him physically ill.

I am thankful that my work has started up again, but stressed that it will be a little while before the money starts coming in regularly. I am grateful for all the blessings I do have but can’t help but feel anxious about today and the days ahead. I want to move past my stress and embrace an attitude of gratitude … but some days it is just hard.

Lysa TerKeurst recently posted this:

I want to challenge you to pray prayers that make God your focus rather than your circumstances — Here are a few I’ve been inspired to pray:

God, despite my circumstances, I will find reasons to praise You.

God, even when I feel disappointed by what life brings, I will trust You to bring good out of bad.

God, no matter what, I will hold on to You and Your truths.

God, my deepest desire is for more of You in me. And if that is the desire of my heart, I will never be disillusioned.

He will work things out

I am trying to follow her advice and that of other wise counselors.

With God all things are possible. Your impossibilities and mine are really opportunities to trust God and believe His Word. They are opportunities to experience God’s power and faithfulness in our lives. ~Krista Williams

Trust God

I also try very hard to be an encourager to others on a daily basis. In fact, I often post things on Facebook that I hope will help someone else in need. But some days even encouragers need encouragement. Please pray for me if you get a moment, and let me know how I can pray for you.

Rest in God's Rescue

Lord, I know You and I trust You to bring us safely through our trials. Please fill our hearts with Your peace and help us focus on You and all our blessings, not current circumstances. Show us how to respond to our problems in a way that honors You. Help us to notice and respond when others are in need of our prayers on their behalf. We praise you and thank you for Your wisdom, Your kindness, Your love, Your promise of protection, and Your perfect plan for our lives. Thank you for being our Shield and our Comforter, our Deliverer and our Strength. We love you and pray all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Praises to God

Praying for You

Praying for you

Today, I wanted to take a moment to lift up my family members and friends (and even those of you who I don’t know who happen to be reading this) who are going through some tough times right now. I have shared stories with some of you over the past few weeks or heard about your troubles recently, and my heart aches for many of you while it breaks for still others. But I wanted you to know that, despite how you feel at this moment, you are not alone. You’ve got me … and you’ve got God on your side (even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes).

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Consider this:

Pearls are the outcome of struggle. They are rare and priceless, unique and treasured. They are a product of irritation and are created as defense against something that is hard, something that doesn’t belong.

A pearl is a product of suffering. It is a healed wound.

And it takes perseverance and grit to produce anything.

Life is filled with struggle. But it’s not wasted hardship and trials. Our struggle is irritating and annoying, sometimes it’s heartbreaking and horrible, but it’s producing something good within us.

Kristen Welch, For When You Struggle

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Whatever it is you are going through, it is possible that this situation is refining you, and you will come through it stronger, happier, more determined, more faithful, and a better version of YOU.

Lord, I lift up my personal concerns as well as the various troubles many I know are experiencing and I turn them over to you: financial issues; job concerns; health problems; troubled relationships; infidelity; addiction; the loss of loved ones; feelings of depression, anxiety, emptiness, and loneliness; unfulfilled dreams; and so many other issues of this world. Help us to put aside our tears and our fears, our worrying and obsessing, so that we may draw closer to you, and trust in your divine intervention on our behalf. Heavenly Father, I pray for many individuals today specifically CC, BC, AF, TA, AL, VC, RL, AS, BF, GK, EC, JS, BW, JL, TL, EW, KC, LR, KS. I pray that you will heal them, comfort them, help them, and lead them along the right path, and give them hope for a better future. Lord, you are our strength and our shield. My heart trusts in you, and I am helped. (Ps 28:7) In Jesus’ name, I pray for all of you. Amen. 

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Book Break: Taming the To-Do List

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How ironic that I have been procrastinating for weeks … oh wait, make that months … on writing my review of the book Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day by Glynnis Whitwer. As someone who always has several To-Do lists going, with some items continually moving to new lists rather than being marked off, I knew this book was for me. Although directed toward women (probably because of her connection to Proverbs 31 Ministries), the ideas Glynnis shares from a biblical perspective can be applicable to and applied by anyone.

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These days, we are all busy. It seems like there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. And, if you’re like me, there are always some tasks that, for whatever reason, we keep avoiding by filling up our schedules with things that matter little (answering emails, scrolling through Pinterest) rather than those that would make a greater impact on our lives (scheduling appointments, writing a blog post). Glynnis notes, “My goal in dealing with procrastination isn’t to get more done. I want to get more of the right things done.”

The book starts out by describing procrastination as: “an intentional delay of something we could do but choose not to. Although it might include a shifting of priorities, its root cause is our resistance toward the task.” Glynnis says that once we identify the why, or the reasons for our delays, we can then strategize the how for dealing with them. Following are just a few reasons why some of us procrastinate:

  • We make choices against what we know is best to avoid physical or emotional discomfort.
  • We are bombarded by texts, emails, phone calls, private messages, and social media connections. Others often expect a prompt response, and so we drop everything to reply, which then derails our own projects and plans for the day.
  • When we are overwhelmed with too much to do and we are faced with the choice between an easy accomplishment that we can check off our list or a harder, more demanding task (that would require facing a weakness), we often take the easier route. So the hard stuff doesn’t get done.
  • Some of us are perfectionists. If we can’t do something perfectly, we tend to not want to do it at all. “Perfection is the enemy of learning and growing and enjoying areas of life where we haven’t achieved mastery.”

Whatever the reason, there is always a cost for each decision we make to choose one task or thing over another. Glynnis details the price we pay in the ways of character, calling, unmet potential, health, and relationships. But procrastination may also cost us in peace, disorder, hurry, and disobedience to God. She then goes on to share some suggestions for replacing bad habits with good as well as some guidance for strengthening willpower and becoming a wise time manager. (I can’t cover all of that information here, so you’ll just have to read the book yourself.)

At the beginning of the book, Glynnis suggests that readers identify two tasks or projects that they have been procrastinating on — one small task and one larger, personal goal. At the end of each chapter, she asks us to revisit these two items and write down some practical applications between them and what we just learned. While reading this book, I have to admit that I did not make as much progress as I had hoped in my larger, personal goal. I still have some of my own procrastination issues to work through for that. However, I am pleased to say that I did have success with the regular task that I had chosen to manage better. Perhaps Taming the To-Do List would be helpful to you as well.

 A couple excerpts from the book: 

“Always remember that procrastination doesn’t
define you. Your worth and value will never be found
in how quickly you complete a task or how many items
you check off your to-do list.”

“All procrastination is delay, but not all delay is procrastination. … Sometimes the right thing is to reschedule, reevaluate, or change our plans. Sometimes we have to abandon preset goals for a greater goal. Other times God has us do a 180-degree turn, and it would be disobedient to keep going the same direction. Sometimes God gives us a blessing, or allows a challenge, that requires us to postpone our plans. A wise woman listens and watches to see what God might be doing. And she adapts her plans to His when necessary.”

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Online Overview

No matter how hard women work or how much they accomplish in a day, there’s lingering anxiety and guilt over what they didn’t do. We just wish the world would stop for a day so we could catch up.

Glynnis Whitwer has identified what makes us feel so overburdened—and it’s probably not what you think. Taming the To-Do List exposes a seismic shift in our society: from one in which most of us were proactive toward one where we now carry the burden of having to respond—to every email, text, tweet, and message we receive. This major shift creates a cycle where everyone else sets the priorities for our days, rather than us designing our own lives.

Taming the To-Do List addresses this significant change in how we manage our time and the issue of procrastination from a woman’s point of view. It addresses the common household tasks many women put off, like doing housework and scheduling doctor’s appointments, and moves on to the larger, more life-impacting delays of dreams and goals. Combining practical, easy-to-apply advice with solid research and biblical truth, this book is a compassionate yet challenging message of hope for those struggling to choose their best work over busy work.

Glynnis Whitwer is on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries as the Executive Director of Communications for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is the editor and one of the writers of Encouragement for Today, the Proverbs 31 e-mail devotions, with over 750,000 daily readers. Glynnis and her husband Tod have five young adult children live in Glendale, Arizona. Visit http://www.GlynnisWhitwer.com or http://www.Proverbs31.org to learn more.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Defining Relationships

Heart Leaf

I was looking through old digital files, trying to find examples of some of my past work to create an online portfolio, when I came across a questionnaire on relationships that one of my nieces sent out in 2008. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner and the topics of love and relationships so relevant at this time, I thought this would be a great piece to post. I read through it all, and wouldn’t change any of my answers, even today.

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Did you think you would find your soul mate?  I had doubts early on. In fact, when I was in my 20s, I used to say I would never get married. I had seen too many bad relationships to think it was possible. But then I did marry, and I really loved him. But we never had any deep conversations about life and our beliefs and our future goals. We didn’t communicate and we didn’t spend quality time together; we just sort of drifted, and in the end we drifted apart. Once again, I didn’t believe that I would marry someone else. But God has a way of redirecting your steps when you get off track, and I believe He set the situation up so that Bart and I would meet. And when we did, things started coming together more clearly for both of us. Do I believe he is my soul mate? Yes. I think we make each other better people than we were when we were alone. Do I think that a soul mate will meet your every need in life? No. I think that you cannot expect one person to be everything to you; that’s where your friends and family come in. So you need to always be sure to continue to cultivate your friendships as well as your love relationship and not let one supersede the other.

What does it mean to be in love? That’s a tough one. Many people confuse being in lust with being in love. Or they enjoy that excitement you get when you first meet someone and you can’t stop thinking of them and you want to spend all your time with them. That doesn’t make it love though. In fact, you may feel strong feelings of love or attachment for someone and yet that person is still not who you are meant to spend your life with. I guess being in love means that you begin to realize that life is not all about you and what you can get out of a relationship, but what you can do for that other person to help them grow and know that they are truly special in someone else’s eyes. It’s about wanting to give someone else the bigger piece of pie even if you’d like it for yourself (and knowing that if they were serving, they’d give you the bigger piece).  :)

16What makes you happiest about your relationship? That I know I am truly loved for who I am and that he would do anything to make me happy (well, not anything horrible).

Do you believe that you will be with this person forever? Yes

Do you believe God has a plan for you? Yes. I have been learning a lot about this through a class I have been taking called “Following God’s Will.” I also found this great passage in a devotional that I wanted to share with you:

“God’s plan for your life is not a written script that you must follow; rather, it is a journey with various important destinations and appointments, but also a great deal of freedom as to the pace and scope of the travel. God’s plan for you will always have a sense of mystery about it, but you can be certain that as you seek his leading, God will guide and direct you on your journey. Most of God’s promises are conditional. In other words, they depend on something that you are asked to do. If you separate yourself from God, you are removing yourself from his plan, his guidance, and his promises. Come back to him, and he will redeem your lost time.”

What do you believe is an unhealthy relationship? One where you find yourself crying more than laughing; one where the other person belittles you or hurts you in some way on a regular basis.

Do you think that people are alone because they make themselves that way? Some people choose to be alone, but I do not believe it is the case for everyone. I have heard a lot of single women talk about how they wish they could find the right person and get married. I feel for those women, but I don’t know how they are living their lives or what they are doing to actually find that right person. But sometimes God has other plans for their lives and they will continue to be unhappy until they are open to God’s will rather than their own.

Should you change for a person? You should be willing to change if that change is actually growth and something positive. But, no, I don’t think you should change in your overall belief system or in a way that is uncomfortable to you simply to keep another person around.

What are grounds to end a relationship?  physical abuse, mental abuse, unfaithfulness, unhappiness that cannot be reconciled, a total disconnect spiritually

What do you think is the biggest mistake you ever made in a relationship?  Not communicating. Also staying in a relationship simply because it was easier than getting out or because I didn’t want to be alone.Heart leaf

Can you be friends with an ex? Yes, I believe that is possible. In fact, it would be a preferable situation than to one of animosity. But it’s not always realistic.

Can girls and guys be [just] friends? Yes. If you are in a serious relationship, and your significant other has a friend of the opposite sex, as long as you have a strong and trusting relationship, there shouldn’t be a problem. However, if there is something missing from your relationship and it is not complete, then you (or your mate) may find yourself still in search of that elusive thing, and in that case — opposite sex friends may begin to become more than just friends. In those situations, it’s not possible to keep an innocent friendship. If neither of you has a significant other, then I guess in that case, it depends on how you feel about yourself (your self-esteem) and what the friendship provides for you.

What do think the most helpful information is you can give a person about relationships?  I just read a quote the other day that I thought was appropriate for this: “Just because you had a nightmare doesn’t mean you should stop dreaming.” —Jill Scott, Grammy Award-winning singer

You’re probably going to have some bad ones, or at the very least unfulfilling relationships, but you shouldn’t give up on love. Of course, no one’s going to come knocking on your door to find you. You’ve got to go out there and live your life. Do the things you enjoy with people you like to be around. When you’re out there participating in the world, being yourself, that’s when you will be open to the opportunities of finding someone who shares your interests and dreams.

Are you happy? Why or not?  Yes. Life may not be easy and all roses, but despite what the world tells us, I don’t believe that’s the way it is supposed to be anyway. We’re all going to have trials, but it’s how we react to them and what we do with them that moves us along our life path. And it’s who you have beside you, to help you get around the potholes and over the speed bumps, that makes the trip easier — whether that is a spouse, a friend, or a family member. We need other people in our lives and we need a purpose. Those things can help us be happy, but in the end it’s still up to us to choose to be happy. You shouldn’t always be in “pursuit of happiness,” however, but learn to be happy where you are . . . in every moment.

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Think about it. Are you in a fulfilling relationship? Are you happy?
What do you need to do today to get on the right path for YOU?

Come Away with Me

Come Away with Me

“Come away with me by yourselves
to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
Mark 6:31

In her One Word Coffee Link Up, Bonnie Gray encourages her readers to read this verse, focus on it, and determine what draws their attention. What word or thought speaks to you today? Take it from this Scripture or whatever passage you may be reading today.

For me, the phrase, “Come away with me” stands out. It is an important reminder that I need to be setting aside a little time each day, separating myself from my daily work and worries, to focus on God’s specific word and direction for me.

I spend a lot of time on the computer and on the Internet. It is an amazing source of information. I can look up new recipes; I can map out directions to a nature reserve or dog park; I can find videos of songs I enjoy. As Holley Gerth says in What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days,

“When it comes to information, the internet is a brilliant source. Yet long before computers were even thought of, a greater source of wisdom existed. … The only trouble seems to be that he tends to be a lot more vague than the search results on our screens. We want a recipe for chicken, and all we need to do is click Enter for five million results to appear. Then we pick one and we’re ready for dinner. But when we want a recipe for life, the process isn’t as clear. We can become frustrated when we confuse knowledge with wisdom. Knowledge is about information. Wisdom is about transformation.”

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Today, I invite you to step away from the computer, from your phone, from everyday distractions and busyness to listen to God’s whispers to your heart. Read from a favorite devotional, participate in a Bible study [I miss the ones my neighbor in Kentucky organized], or use the Internet to find some inspirational blogs. There are so many good ones out there.

Whatever route you choose to take to “come away” with Jesus, just do it! You will experience a closeness to Him and an inner peace and strength that will help you get through whatever life throws your way.

“Lord, thank you for being the source of all wisdom. I’m glad I can come to you when I’m not sure what to do. I trust that you will hear my heart and be willing to answer.” [HG]

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