Beyond Wallowing

Happy Thursday, friends!

I’m so happy to be here with you today. I don’t know what it’s like for you outside, but the sun in shining in my heart when I think of all of us here– a gathering of girls who just want less perfectionism and more joy. That’s what I call freedom!

Freedom. What a beautiful word. It’s right up there with another word I love which is “celebrate”. Celebrate is one of those words that sounds like what it is– balloons, pink icing, and raucous-sounding party favors. Toward the end of last year, I had decided that “celebrate” would be my theme for my January blogs, but I got side-tracked.

I wanted to celebrate, but first I needed to heal.

Now I’m ready to celebrate, and I hope you are too! I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how tough 2016 was, but I want to move on. I’ve never been a wallower, and I don’t intend to start now. Jesus promised us abundant life, and I don’t want to settle for less,

Make sure to come back next week for a video I’ve been saving for months to share with you. I promise that when you watch it that you’ll fully enter into the mood to celebrate with me.

In the meantime, I want to give you a little assignment this week that I’ve been doing since the beginning of January that has lifted me out of any remaining funkiness and washed the wallow right off of me. Here are the steps:

  • Choose a word for 2017 or dust off the one that you started with.
  • Do a little scripture study of your word. You can type it right into BibleGateway.com to find all the verses that contain your word.
    • Your word isn’t in the Bible? That’s ok! Choose a synonym or word that expresses the meaning of your word and search for it. ie.  Your word is “sparkle”. Search “light”.
  • Answer these questions and take some notes on one verse a day:
    • What does it say? I just write out the verse word-for-word.
    • What does it mean? Write down the main idea that God is trying to get across.
    • What do I apply this? Write down an action step to make in your current circumstances based on the truth God showed you.

Next week, I’ll share the video and some insights God has been filling my heart with about my 2017 word.

Want extra inside scoop? Click here to watch this 4-minute video I made for Kathi Lipp’s blog!

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The Pain of an Imperfect Life

Maybe you’ve come here today because you’re feeling the pain of an imperfect life just like I described in my devotion today.

I understand how you’re feeling. (And there’s a gift to encourage you at the bottom of the page.)

If you’re like me and struggle with the pursuit of perfection, that feeling is even more acute. You’ve worked hard to attain the perfect life that you see in other women’s social media posts, but now you’re exhausted, and…

You truly want the best for the people you love, but you’re driving yourself and everybody else crazy with your out-of-control expectations.

Even though you bust your hump on every little thing, you constantly feel the nagging tug of failure.

You’ve been hiding your true self behind the façade of perfection for so long that you almost can’t remember who you really are.

You’re working hard to build the best life possible, but you have no time to enjoy it.

It’s become so critical to be perfect that every mistake or misstep is crushing.

I’ve been in your shoes, but through the love of truth-telling mentors, God-given aha experiences, and the excavation of wrong beliefs, I’ve moved toward celebrating the woman God has created me to be. Of deeper and more fulfilling relationships. Of kissing perfection good-bye and embracing more joy.

That’s the journey I share in my book Breaking Up with Perfect.

Because of the joy I experienced going through the book with a group of women last summer, I want to extend the Online Book Study to you for free. It’s formatted so that you can access every lesson and resource to work through the book at your own pace. Click here to get all the details and to start.

Note to leaders: There are lots of resources just for you so that you can lead your small group through my book! Please feel free to share all beautiful downloads, extra lessons, and fun videos with your group contained in the Online Book Studyand there’s a Leader’s Guide chock-full of information and help for you. You can buy it by clicking here and scrolling down below the book.

I’d love to be with you in person too! A fun way to launch your study would be to have me come speak at your church. Watch the sample video below, and click here to receive more information about having me at your event from our Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker coordinator.

A Gift for You:

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A Little Win that Made a Big Difference

In my last post, I shared a failure from last year. As a recovering perfectionist, I often haven’t dealt well with falling on my face. Failure makes me feel… well, like a failure.

God wouldn’t allow me to sink into despair this time, though. The morning after I sat in my chair and realigned my identity with His sacrifice, God reminded me of a way that I had grown during the year.

Withdrawing from God during hard times has always been my tendency. Oh, I might look fine on the outside, maintaining a bright smile and my regular activities, but my prayer life would fizzle when bumps in the road were under my feet.

God gently reminded me that I didn’t do that this year. I brought each emotion to Him and laid it at His feet. I asked Him the big questions and begged Him to intervene. I approached Him with confidence, knowing that He loved me and would see me through. Following David’s counsel, I poured out my hear to Him.

To get a glimpse at how big of a change that’s been for me and get some encouragement about how you too can stay close to God in hard times, click here to read the rest of this post over at Kathi Lipp’s blog.

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Jesus Helped Me Bounce Back

I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl.

My personality leans naturally toward sunny, and joy seems to be a gift God has woven into my DNA. I tend to be able to let things run off me, and I’m not offended easily.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not completely Polly Anna. Just like you, I’ve had pain and losses and disappointments, but I’ve always rebounded pretty easily.

Until 2016.  2016 kicked my booty.

In multiple areas of my life, I experienced some things that broke my heart, and instead of settling in to let God heal and reassemble, I wrestled. I cried. I sank into the hurt, and as I embraced the hurt instead of God’s healing, I fought a loosing battle with…

Doubt

Despair

Disappointment

I didn’t stay in these dark places all day every day, but slowly over the course of the year, I was moving towards decline instead of growing towards incline. I covered it pretty well, though, so that most around me didn’t know the darkness I was experiencing.

Finally, in the weeks before Christmas, I confessed to Barry and a friend, “I feel like I’m walking along the edge of a cliff. I’m ok right this minute, but I feel like I could fall off into a major depression at any moment.”

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever let your circumstances overwhelm you? I knew that’s what I had done.

I let my circumstances overwhelm me, and only I can let that happen. Still, I couldn’t figure out how to stop.

The day after I had confided the depths of my hurt to Barry, I sat in the chair where I meet Jesus every morning, and I asked Him, “How did I get here? And how do I get out?”

Gently, He reminded me of two blog posts that I had read in the previous weeks, one from a wise mentor and one from a young woman who is the daughter of a friend. Then He whispered into my heart with a voice as clear as yours across the phone lines, “Amy, you’ve let your identity slide back into what you do. Your identity isn’t in what you do. It’s to be in Christ.”

Oh. Yeah.

It’s so simple, isn’t it? Even baby Christians know this is the way it’s supposed to work, but I forgot somehow… even though I pecked out these words on my keyboard in 2014,

“When tasks rise to the top of my priorities, I stop seeing myself as the richly loved daughter of King Jesus and start feeling like the stepdaughter dressed in rags scrubbing the floor under her Father’s harsh, critical gaze. I start to see God as an unrecognizable taskmaster, and I begin to believe I’m only created to do His work…. Viewing God simply as a divine project manager skews our view of ourselves into dangerously prideful territory, where the work of our hands is exalted above the work of God’s Spirit. The path to the perfectionism pit is short when we trust our own methods and focus on our product.”  ~Breaking Up with Perfect

Even though it was hard to admit that I needed to learn an old lesson again, I thanked God for clearly showing me how to get back on the path to joy. I asked for His forgiveness in allowing my identity to be anyplace but in the safe and loving arms of Jesus, and I asked Him to change my heart.

That’s when a miracle happened.

I’m not one to bandy around lightly a weighty word like “miracle”, friends. I know I experienced a true miracle and the healing of my heart. Many times God heals over time, but this time, I got out of my chair almost physically lighter for having let go of the heft of my own responsibility and shifting into Christ’s rest.

And yet I worried… I was worried that it might be temporary. Or that the sadness might come back the next day. Or that I couldn’t live in this joy, but I’ve experienced a permanent change of heart.

Jesus helped me bounce back.

Are you struggling with the hurt of unexpected circumstances? The pain of being misunderstood? The despair of doubting your calling?

I have one step for you to take. Do a little heart check. Where is your identity resting? Is it tethered to the crumbly underpinnings of your own work? Your own efforts? Your own calling?

Or is it attached firmly to the sure foundation of Christ– a place of rest and safety and unfailing love?

Taking that one step, checking where my identity lay, and asking God to move it back where it belonged set me back on the right track. I believe it can help you too!

In picking apart how I got into the pit and how God helped me out, He also let me see the growth and good that has happened this year. Please hang with me next week to hear about a major victory that might be just what you need too!

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Congratulations to Katharine (1.5.17 10:35 am), the winner of a copy of Overwhelmed!

If you read this, and your first reaction was, “Oh pooh! I really wanted to win that book!” can I make a suggestion? Go and buy it today anyway. There’s still an opportunity to get the companion planner for free when you buy it, so click on the title above and see all the details.

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Don’t Miss This Excellent Advice for the New Year

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you had a joyful and restful Christmas season and are ready to jump into a fresh start.

Truthfully? 2016 was a tough year for me. (I’ll share more about this next week and why I know 2017 is going to be better.) In fact, it fell into the “overwhelming” category, so I’m invigorated by the idea of a new beginning!

If you felt overwhelmed last year too, I’ve got a treat for you. My dear friends Cheri Gregory and Kathi Lipp have just released their second book together called Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity. It’s a genius book chock full of ways to change our thinking and practical steps to take to reclaim a joyful life.

This guest post written just for us from Cheri is rocking my world (and making me laugh myself silly– BONUS!), so make sure to read to the end and leave a comment today to enter to win a free copy of the book. It’s just the advice we all need to maximize 2017!

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The Regret vs. Risk Conundrum

I never saw the Jell-O.

I should have been focusing on my family; we were all gathered at Griswold’s to celebrate my eighth-grade graduation. But I only had eyes for the cute guy at the table next to ours.

That wavy blonde hair! That surfer tan!

After casting him several sly glances, I was sure he was staring at me. Or would be, if I could just catch his attention.

As I got up to get more salad, I wondered, How can I make an impression on him?

I knew I was dressed to impress. After all, I’d tried on and discarded a dozen outfits before settling on a velour blouse, flowing skirt, and—best of all—my very first pair of high-heeled shoes.

I exuded all the sophistication a clueless preteen could muster.

Look confident. Confidence always makes an impression.        

While heaping baby spinach on my plate, I squared my shoulders. As I poured salad dressing, I practiced casual hair flips.

Walking back to my table, I picked up my pace and was thrilled as my new high heels tapped the rhythmic beat of my bold stride. Just as I passed the table next to ours, I flashed my well-rehearsed, spontaneous smile.

Which is why I never saw the Jell-O.

Suddenly, my right foot shot out from under me. Bewildered, I staggered back, lurched forward, then pitched my tray as I became a windmill of flailing arms and legs before sprawling flat on my face.

Even with my skirt and slip flipped up over my head, I heard the entire restaurant laughing at the spectacle I’d made of myself.

Especially the cute guy at the table next to ours.

I’d made an impression on him, all right.

How Perfectionism Poses as Our Protector

Whenever the question, “What’s your most embarrassing moment?” arises, I pull out The Jell-O Incident.

As an HSP—a Highly Sensitive Person—I experience my emotions with extra intensity. So thirty-seven years later, I still feel all the overwhelming feels of that day:

The dashed hopes.

The public humiliation.

The burning shame.

I never want to feel that way again!

Amy and I recently had a great conversation about how Perfectionism keeps us from taking risks. (If you’re a Grit ‘n’ Grace member, you’ll get to listen in, soon!)

Perfectionism poses as our protector.

We tell ourselves, I never want to feel that way again!

And Perfectionism is quick to assure us: “As long as you don’t take any risks, I promise that you’ll never feel that way again.”

Is Self-Preservation Worth the Loss?

For decades after The Jell-O Incident, I avoided anything that would make me feel that way again. 

All activities during which I could slip and fall—literally or figuratively—were totally off limits.

No dancing, no charades, no karaoke, to name just a few.

Looking at this list, my logical reaction is: Oh, well, nothing important. No great losses.

But my eyes sting as I recognize all that I’ve missed for so long:

Fun. 

Play. 

Celebration.

Such staggering losses, all in the name of self-protection.

What Perfectionism Fails to Disclose

When Perfectionism presents itself as our protector, it fails to disclose one vital truth:

Risks hurt less than regrets.

Not the kind of foolish life-threatening risks that wisdom and discretion guide us away from.

But the kinds of harmless risks that are just for fun. Risks that help us get over ourselves. Risks that connect us to other people, via laughter shared and memories made.

Risks like dancing (perhaps badly), playing charades (that nobody can guess), and singing karaoke (totally off-tune).

Perfectionism insists that we should regret every time we try and fail.

But when it comes to harmless risks? My greatest regret is failing to try.

Playing it safe.

Not risking enough.

Being a perpetual prisoner of perfectionism.

Finding Freedom to Risk

John 8:36 (ESV) offers these words of hope:  “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

The astonishing truth is that you and me? We are free!

Free to take harmless risks. Free from unnecessary regrets.

So whenever that old Jello Incident sense of I never want to feel that way again! rises up again, I’m learning to reassure myself with words like these, which you’re free to us, too:

Oh, I’m going to “feel that way again”—over and over again. It’s part of life. 

I’m okay. I don’t have to take it too seriously. 

When I find myself on the floor, I can catch my breath. Get back up. Take a bow. Laugh it off. 

I’d rather take risks than live with regrets.

We are free indeed.

The Giveaway:

Kathi and Cheri would like to send a copy of Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos & Restore Your Sanity to one of you!

To qualify for the drawing, you need to do TWO things:

#1. LEAVE A COMMENT below.

#2. SHARE THIS POST on social media.

That’s it! Once you do both, your name will be entered into the random drawing. Be sure to tell your friends so they can sign up too. The drawing will take place on Monday, January 9th, so don’t delay! {Contest is limited to US & Canadian readers only.}

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Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker and the bestselling author of several books, including Clutter Free, The Husband Project, and The Get Yourself Organized Project. She and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four young adults.

Cheri Gregory spends her weekdays teaching teens and weekends speaking at women’s retreats. She’s been married to her college sweetheart, Daniel, for more than 28 years. The Gregorys and their young adult kids, Annemarie and Jonathon, live in California

About Overwhelmed:

Feeling overwhelmed? Wondering if it’s possible to move from “out of my mind” to “in control” when you’ve got too many projects on your plate and too much mess in your relationships?

Kathi and Cheri want to show you five surprising reasons why you become stressed, why social media solutions don’t often work, and how you can finally create a plan that works for you. As you identify your underlying hurts, uncover hope, and embrace practical healing, you’ll understand how to…

  • trade the to-do list that controls you for a calendar that allows space in your life
  • decide whose feedback to forget and whose input to invite
  • replace fear of the future with peace in the present

You can simplify and savor your life—guilt free! Clutter, tasks, and relationships may overwhelm you now, but God can help you overcome with grace.

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Merry Christmas and One More Chance

It’s a gray day in NC, but the glow of my Christmas tree and morning thoughts of you are shining brightly.

This is my last post before Christmas, so I want to wish  you a beautiful holiday and close communion with Emmanuel, God with Us, this week. I’m praying for us all to be filled by Him fully!

In this last podcast before Christmas, Cheri & I wanted to focus completely on Jesus, but we couldn’t come up with quite the right idea for a show. Finally, Cheri said that she thought we needed to pull part of our interview with Michele Cushatt off the editing room floor. I agreed wholeheartedly.

There’s one sentence in this interview that took my breathe away way back in the summer, and it’s a sentence that’s been haunting me ever since. Listen and let me know if you know what it is!

This is the last time I’ll send out the link to Grit ‘n’ Grace from my blog. 

From now on, you’ll get one blog post a week from me. If you’d like to continue to get the link to the podcast (Grit ‘n’ Grace) weekly in your email box, you’ll need to subscribe by clicking here. You’ll get a free gift too!

Merry Christmas, y’all! Click on the graphic below to listen to Michele’s heart-capturing words about Jesus.

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When You Lend a Helping Hand

‘Tis the season for giving, and I have to confess that I mostly like it that way. I’m much more comfortable with giving.

In God’s calendar, though, there are seasons for both giving and receiving. As I shared in today’s devotion, “When You Need a Helping Hand“, I’m incredibly thankful for the women who have shared their life with me when I’m in need. They spurred my desire to grow and mature!

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Growth and maturity. That’s the goal.

How do we know that we’ve matured? (Not “arrived” but grown up a little.) Mature women look around for those who they can help. This is the beautiful cycle that passes the Good News from one generation to the next. Paul was the perfect example in how he trained Timothy and then said to him, “ And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (II Timothy 2:2 NIV)

If you need a hand, how do you find it? If you have a hand to lend, how can you find who needs it? Strangely, the answer is the same for both.

We need to serve to connect.

In the spirit of Christmas giving and to give you a little help in a season when your brain may be weary, I’ve made a download to get you started. Click on the graphic below to download and print. I hope it helps!

Since this is my last post before Christmas, I’d like to offer two other free gifts to you!

Click on the graphic above, enter your email, and receive a download of this mini-ebook along with an encouraging blog post in your email each week.

Click on this graphic, enter your email, and receive 12 permission slips to break bad rules along with the Grit ‘n’ Grace podcast in your email each week. Here’s more info about Grit ‘n’ Grace:

Grit ‘n’ Grace is refreshment for women worn out from following bad rules, working to keep everybody else happy, and overextending their time and emotions. Through interviews with insightful and inspiring guests, Cheri Gregory and Amy Carroll will help you to:

~ Recalculate your journey from our culture’s bad rules to your own Jesus-made path.
~ Overcome error terror as you commit to learning from failure.
~ Replace the exhaustion of self-made goodness with the rest of God’s grace.
~ Discern whose input to invite and whose feedback to forget.
~ Leverage the strength of your emotions instead of either ignoring or being ruled by them.

So join us with your favorite cup of sweet tea and listen in weekly for a new episode of Grit ‘n’ Grace!

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Episode #27: Jesus, The Lord of Grace

For the last two weeks of our Holiday Break series, Cheri and I turn our full attention to Jesus. Just as it should be!

We all need grace for our failures, and Jesus’ disciples needed it too.

Suzie Eller points to both Judas and Peter as stunning failures who had Jesus’ forgiveness extended to them. One chose to accept grace and one rejected it.

Will we live a life of thank you for the grace we’ve been extended? This is the perfect season receive grace with thankfulness.

Click on the graphic above to listen, or download the transcript right here!

Note: Starting at the first of the year, I’ll stop posting the podcast links here and go back to sending just one blog post a week to subscribers. We hope that you’ll continue joining us for the podcast, though! If you scroll down to the bottom of the podcast page, you’ll see an opportunity to subscribe there. Cheri and I want to give you the option of receiving all three of our weekly mailings (1 post from me, 1 post from her, 1 podcast post) or any combination of the three. 🙂

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Into the Yes

In November, I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home from a speaking event when I heard a familiar sound beside me. It was the crinkle of turning Bible pages. I glanced over and saw the most adorable woman reading intently, so I couldn’t resist.

“What are you studying?” I asked. (Don’t miss her picture at the bottom. You can feel her energy and fun, so you know you would have talked to her too! )

That question opened the sweetest conversation where my new friend Anna’s story of giving unfolded. It was so moving that I wanted to share it with you here.

The reason I love it so much is that Anna gave from what was already in her hands. She heard from God, looked down at what she had, and gave generously. Think you have nothing to give? Well, listen to Anna’s story and maybe you’ll reconsider. Please welcome Anna!

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My sweet friends, as I have been looking toward the Christmas season I have found myself wanting more. MORE!!!!! Let me explain.

As part of my business with a beauty, health and wellness company, we release an exclusive holiday line each year that is specifically for gifts for the holidays. People love this and wait all year for these products to come out!  They are luxurious.  I literally groan when I put them on because they smell and feel so good.

So! Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get excited about the Open Houses I have lined up to release them this year. This is an opportunity for people to come, experience, have fun, and shop to their heart’s content for their friends and loved ones.  Such a great time and I couldn’t for the life of me get excited about it. The dates were set, the holidays are approaching, but I couldn’t send out the invites.

Finally, after wrestling with this for weeks, I got still and asked the Lord about it. “What is this Lord?? Why can’t I get excited about this?! Why can’t I send these out these invitations? Friends, it came to me so quickly why I couldn’t get excited. It was because it didn’t matter.  I laid it down and walked away, trusting His timing with my planning.

Two days later, I was in my quiet space with Him praying about other things when what I needed to do hit me. And I mean an immediate knowingAt each of my events I would provide blank Christmas cards for those who attend to write letters of love and encouragement to girls that have been rescued from sex trafficking.  Additionally, anyone who wants to can purchase gifts for these girls at wholesale.

I started deeply sobbing knowing this was of the Lord. I immediately reached out to a friend who has been working with these girls and shared what God had just put on my heart. Seconds later, she texted me back–at 6 a.m. mind you–affirming this prompting as she had just stepped into conversation with a global organization who rescues these girls. My friend has been working locally and is now committed globally and I had no idea.  This is the invitation of God.

Friends, I was scared. I am a little bit scared. I immediately asked 6-8 close friends to pray for me as I step into what I know is a battlefield. I have been roughed up in the battle in the past, and a piece of me fears stepping back in. But, girls, so much more than the fear of the battle is these beauties–the fight for their redemption– and the invitation of God. So much more!!!

 Will I ever know them? Only God knows. What I do know is that He has given me an invitation to tangibly love His crushed vessels. His tender ones. And I have a literal balm of Gilead and a platform I can use to get it to them.  We are calling this Gifts of Redemption. I say ‘we’ because it is so very we. It is the we of everyone who steps in.

Today I want to ask you, will you give when you feel pause?  Even especially when we feel pause in activities that are common to us?  Will you be willing with me to give this pause stillness and ask the Lord honestly and openly, “What is it Lord?”  Will you lay down your plan in trust of His?  And with that, can He have your Yes with whatever He tells you?

And can I just remind you that His promise to us is always life to the full?? As I wrote this He reminded me of 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

This requires our agreement. This requires our yes.

I have to tell you that Gifts of Redemption has come out of nowhere for me.  This has never been a heart burning passion for me. However, from the moment I said “Yes”, He has only continued to give invitation even deeper into the Yes, and I am experiencing more and more of life to the full.

This season, let us step more and more into the Yes.

anna

 

Meet Anna… Wife to Ryan for 9 years, momma to two babies in heaven and two babies in my arms, the deepest of my longings is to say YES to Jesus every single day.

 

If you would like to be part of giving to Gifts of Redemption, please email Anna at alltimewoot@gmail.com for all the details. She’ll even write a handwritten card to include with your gift!

Also, consider what’s in your hands. A talent? A small business? Some extra time? In some quiet–a pause– ask God how He might want you to give what you’ve already got.

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Episode #26: Prioritizing Our People

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How can we truly focus on others in healthy ways this holiday season?

When holiday emotions are high, God calls us to follow Jesus’ example in cherishing others and handling them gently.

Cheri and Amy discuss how to shift our thinking in ways that lovingly prioritize our people.

Click on the graphic above to listen and access terrific free resources. Prefer to read rather than listen? Download the transcript right here!

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