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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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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Episode #25: Sticky and Prickly- Dealing with Our Tricky Holiday Emotions

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The holidays inevitably boil up some difficult emotions. Childhood hurts reemerge, too many people around fray our nerves, or loneliness leaves us feeling hollow.

Cheri and Amy process helpful ways to deal with our emotions instead of just pushing them down only to have them pop up later.

(Click on the graphic above to access the podcast and the free downloads. Prefer to read rather than listen? Download the transcript right here!)

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Episode #15: Finding the Beautiful in Messy Situations

 

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Cheri and Amy process last week’s interview with Sheila Wray Gregoire through the lens of conflict and no-black-and-white circumstances.

It turns out that messy doesn’t mean ugly. There is redemption and positive personal change that happens when we face the natural complications of life instead of ducking them. Click on the graphic to listen.

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I also had the chance to guest post on my friend Rachel Britton’s blog this week…

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It was an epic story filled with conflict, mystery, and suspense, but it wasn’t a story just told for our entertainment. It was a true story– with God as the hero.

Our little band of women from Proverbs 31 Ministries sat in a small room in India filled with women who faithfully attended the literacy class led by Mission India. One after another, women in the class shared the stories of God’s presence in their lives.

Only months before, these same women didn’t know that God loved them. They didn’t realize that they were valuable and created in His image. They didn’t recognize the work that God was doing on their behalf.

Prayer was changing their lives and their perceptions.

Click here to read the rest.

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It’s Just a Week Away

I’m so excited that the Online Book Study of Breaking Up with Perfect will begin next Monday! It’s going to be a great time of connecting and growing together.

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I know some of you have questions about how the study will happen, so I thought I’d ease any anxiety about the unknown by going through the details today. If you haven’t signed up, please join us! Here’s all you need to do to be ready to join us next Monday:

  • Make sure you’re subscribed to the blog. If you’re receiving this as an email, you’re set to go. Otherwise, click here to subscribe.
  • Purchase either a book or digital version of Breaking Up with Perfect from your favorite book seller by clicking on the name of the retailer. Proverbs 31 Ministries (all proceeds go back into the ministry), Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Christian Book Distributers. I’ve been hearing that the book is a bit scarce, but there are copies around. Lifeway, Family Christian, and Barnes & Noble are also carrying the book in some of their stores, so you may be able to find one right in your home town.
  • Optional: Get a FREE downloadable version of the Participant’s Guide by sending a picture of your receipt or of you with your book to breakingupwithperfect1@gmail.com.
  • Optional: Join the Facebook page where we’ll interact in a more private setting by clicking here.

If you aren’t planning to join us for the whole study, you’ll still get some of the content right here on the blog each week. Make sure to see the info at the bottom of the page about my first interview with Barry before you leave!

If you are planning to participate, here are all the details you’ll need. If I leave your question unanswered, please leave it as a comment, and I’ll be sure to answer it right away!

  • We’re going to be moving through the book super-fast to get it all in during the six weeks we’re together. If you want to start reading ahead, that’s completely fine.
  • Here’s the reading schedule:
    • Week 1 (Aug. 1-7): Intro & Chapter 1
    • Week 2 (Aug. 8-14): Chapters 2 & 3
    • Week 3 (Aug. 15-21): Chapters 4,5 & 6
    • Week 4 (Aug. 22-28): Chapters 7, 8 & 9
    • Week 5 (Aug. 29-Sept. 4): Chapters 10 & 11
    • Week 6 (Sept. 5) Final post on the blog
  • Do only the number of activities that work for you that week. If all you can get done is the reading, that’s just fine! Join & study as much or as little as you can. This is a no guilt zone!
  • The beauty of this study is that it’s “evergreen”. If you get behind, the blog posts will always be here. You can catch up at your own pace.
  • If you’re a small group leader that wants to go through it later with your group, the posts will be here AND I’ll embed the Facebook Live videos in the posts mid-September for additional content for you.

Here’s what the weekly schedule will look like:

  • Monday Moments— Mondays have two separate parts.
    • There will be blog posts right here connecting Breaking Up with Perfect to my powerful lessons from my last trip to India. This will be a slant on the book that nobody but our group will get!
    • I’ll also be on our private Facebook page each Monday night at 8:00 – 8:30 pm ET on Facebook Live for personal interaction with YOU. The first 15 minutes will be video. The second will be questions that allow you to join into a conversation. It’s going to be fast-paced and fun!
      • Participate Live— Go to our private Facebook page at 8:00 pm Eastern Time, and the video will be right there. You can leave comments that I’ll be able to see, so I can answer questions and interact with you personally. It’s a BLAST, and I’ll give you some directions each night so that you can participate fully.
      • Watch any time— If you can’t tune in live, you’ll still be able to watch the video and comment. We’d love to hear from you when you can chime in. I know the time will be tough for you west coast girls and our international participants.
  • Thursday Thrills— Some fun FREE resources will be shared on the blog and on the Facebook page. Make sure to join us both places!
  • Friday Forum— Each week on Friday, we’ll have a chance to share together on the Facebook page. What was your light bulb moment for the week? Questions will be posted in the morning, and you can comment when you have time. Make sure to join the community fun! Your comment will enter you for some great {Giveaways}.

Finally, there are only 7 days left before we start, so please invite your friends by sending them the link to this post. We’ve got great momentum in building this movement to break up with perfect.

I think that about covers it. Do you have any additional questions? I’d love to help!

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As a little extra this week, I wanted to share the podcast of the very first interview that Barry and I have done together. We had a great time talking about what it looks like for two strong-willed people to navigate marriage and parenting together–sparks and fireworks! Click on the graphic below to listen.

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Party-in-a-Box Giveaway and a New Podcast Episode

I’m incredibly excited to have so many of you participating in the Online Book Study of Breaking Up with Perfect.

Change is always more powerful in a group, and our cyber-group is going to be fabulous! If you haven’t registered yet, click here for all the details.

Maybe some of you have a small group at church or a neighborhood group that would like to go through the study together and add some face-time to our Facebook time each week.

If you buy your books together, I’ll offer two goodies to you:

    • A free copy of the downloadable Leader’s Guide
    • An entry into the Party-in-a Box Giveaway. I’ll send you lots of fun party supplies for your group to end the time with a celebration. See the good stuff below!

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Here’s what you do to collect your free Leader’s Guide and to enter:

  • Take a picture or screen shot of your receipt that shows your purchase of five or more books.
  • Send that picture to breakingupwithperfect2@gmail.com. We’ll reply with the link to the downloadable Leader’s Guide.

This offer is only good July 15-29, so make sure to gather your group, purchase your books, and send your picture in the next two weeks. (Don’t tell anybody, but I hope YOU win!)

Note to leaders: The content of the online study will be “evergreen”. You’ll be able to access the content on my blog any time in the future, and I’m going to go back and embed the videos from the Private FB page into the blog once the study is over.

 

Podcast Episode #016–When Looking Good is Actually Bad

Part of creating a perfect facade is covering bad motives with an approval-winning actions.

Cheri & Amy dig deep and get real about the ways they’ve looked good while masking skewed motivations and discuss the do-able solution.

Click on the graphic below to join them as they process how to use our gifts for God’s glory and bask in God’s love– from the inside out.

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What Happened to Big Hair & Attitude?

Alright y’all… I promised full disclosure for those of you who read today’s devotion. Don’t laugh. It’s not nice.

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Do you see me? Back row. Far right. Oh. Mercy. Those were the days, my friends. Am I right?

Moving right along.

Even though I was a goofy teenager, I was much more my authentic self in eighth grade than in my mid-twenties to early forties. I wouldn’t go back to pimples, gales of loud giggles, and wanting to fit into the popular crowd, but God has been teaching me for the last decade to live life as the most authentic version of myself that He always intended.

If you’re where I was 10 years ago… Exhausted from trying to keep up the facade of perfection… Finding my friendships were fraying as life got harder… Longing to live with more joy, more freedom, and deeper relationships…

Then I’ve got something just for YOU!

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August 1- September 5, I’m hosting an online book study of Breaking Up with Perfect, and we’re going to have a blast together!

To join the study in three easy steps, just follow the links below (but make sure to come back for the important information in the sentence under the bullet points):

  1. Subscribe to the blog by clicking here. If you’re already subscribed to my blog, you can skip to step #2
  2. Join the private Facebook page by clicking here.
  3. Buy the book by clicking on your favorite book seller  Proverbs 31 Ministries    Barnes & Noble    Amazon

To get all the details and directions about how to access a free download of the Participant’s Guide, click here. (There are directions for the free guide both for those of you whole have just bought the book and for those who already own it. I’m an equal opportunity gifter!)

I’m so excited about moving forward in less perfectionism and more freedom together. I promise that the lessons we learn will bring you into deeper relationship with God, others, AND yourself!

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When People Want to Tell You Who You Are

I got a nasty-gram last week. She said that I’m spoiled. Indulged. Ungrateful. Whiny. A bad example. And unchristian.

Ouch!

The truth is that I can be all those things on occasion. Can’t you? (If think you’re never any of those things ever, you might want to unsubscribe from my blog today. We’re going to keep it real here.)

I’m not defined by those flaws, though. They aren’t the predominate markers of my character, but that’s only because of Jesus. Without Him and Holy Spirit who lives in me, I’d sink to all the lowest denominators. I’m sure of it.

But because of Jesus, those names don’t stick to me. In fact, I was able to laugh at such a caricature and also to have an achy heart for the hurt of the person who would write such things to me.

How have I gotten to that place? You might want to know since we all deal with nasty-grams in some form, and they aren’t fun.

First, I have compassion on the person that called me those names because I’ve done the same thing to others. I’m not bold enough to write them in a comment, but I sure have thought them. Based on my own flawed perceptions, I’ve labeled others with my own list of negatives. A series of events in the last few weeks have reminded me to remember that there are tender hearts on the other side of conflict. My perceptions don’t always reflect the whole story, so labels and names have no place.

Second, I’m learning to remind myself of the names that God calls me so that the way others define me doesn’t touch me.

I’ve been reflecting on this particularly in the sense of calling. What if my calling is questioned by others? What if the work of my calling is actually stripped away by circumstances? What does that mean for me?

I thought about Paul who constantly started his letters to the churches with a statement of his calling:

Romans 1:1, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…

I Cor. 1:1, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”

II Cor. 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”

Galatians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead”

Ephes. 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus,[a] the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Look what he did there! Called them by their name too!)

Over and over again, Paul restated his calling. Check out all his letters. They almost all start this way. Why?

I definitely think it was a reminder to the church, but could it be that Paul was reminding himself too? Had people attacked him and questioned his calling?

We know they had! In II Corinthians 10:10, Paul said, “For some say, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.'” Whew. Sounds like Paul received a nasty-gram or two himself, and the whole chapter sounds like a defense of his calling.

Let’s do what Paul did. Instead of being crushed under the weight of the words of those who misunderstand us or want to purposefully discourage us, let’s remind ourselves of this truth over and over:

Today, if you’re overcome by unearned criticism, the negative commentary of naysayers, or circumstances that aren’t going your way, put your trust in God’s hands and repeat like Paul repeated, “I __(insert your name here)__, am called to __(insert your calling)__.!”

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I want y’all to know that I read every comment, and you are each precious to me for leaving it. Although there are too many to reply to them all, I pray over them as I read. You are loved!

Congratulations to Tammy (6.10.16 7:22 am)! You are the winner of a copy of Breaking Up with Perfect from your comment left last week.

 

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How Do I Find a Mentor?

I was overwhelmed by the response to last week’s devotion and blog post. I’m pretty sure that’s the most comments I’ve ever gotten on a post. Although I know the giveaway was the big draw;), I think the response also exposes the longing of our hearts. We long to be connected in both giving and receiving relationships.

The post was a call to give of ourselves, but many of you indicated that you’re in need of a mentor. You want to be someone’s One Woman. One reader even sent me an email to ask the big question… How do you find a mentor? Here’s what she said:

I think a Christian mentor would help. I just don’t know how to get one. I was hoping you could give me some ideas? Keep in mind I’m insecure and it’s hard for me to talk to people I don’t know. Thank so much for your time! ~ A Reader

Lots of people have asked me similar questions over the years. One friend even said, “You’re so lucky. I’d love to have one mentor, and you’ve had lots!”

In response, I want to bring a little clarity and give a few suggestions about finding a mentor.

First, I’m not lucky to have had lots of mentors. I’m not special. With the exception of a couple, my mentors didn’t choose me. I chose them– and then followed them around like a crazy stalker girl. You think I’m kidding. But I’m not.

Here’s the key element. To find a great mentor, look for a woman who already has what you know you need.

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She should have some other qualifications too. She should be:

  • A woman who knows God’s Word and lives by it.
  • A woman who points others to scripture instead of spouting her own opinions.
  • A woman who is known for keeping confidences. You sure don’t want a mentor who is a gossip.
  • A woman who is already living the things you want to learn. She’s proven.

Start with prayer, asking God to show you just the right woman who will be able to mentor you. Dig deep and find your grit. It’s a little scary to ask someone to spend time with you, especially if you struggle with insecurity, but ask God to fill you with His confidence.

Once you’ve found the woman you want to learn from, ask yourself some questions:

  • Do I need some time to talk through an issue with her, or can I just learn by observing?
  • What phase of life is she in? Will she have time to dedicate to being a mentor?
  • How can I serve her as well as asking her to share with me?

Some women will be honored by being asked to be a mentor and will jump at the chance. Others might feel intimidated by either the time or other demands. I suggest simply inviting the woman you’d like to spend time with to lunch or coffee or dessert. Plan to make it a one-time deal to start with and see how it goes.

If the time together goes well, you can say,”I learned so much from talking to you. Could we do this again?” I think it’s good to ease into the mentoring friendship rather than to start with a set time-frame or expectation in mind.

I’ve had some women ask me to mentor them, and sometimes I’ve had to say no because of the phase of life I’m in. Don’t let a “no” discourage you, and don’t take it personally. Continue to pray for the right mentor and continue to reach out. God is faithful, and He will lead you to the right one.

Do you have any other questions about mentoring or thoughts you’d like to share? I’ll try to keep up and answer your questions this week.

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Giveaway Winners:

Congratulations to the 2 winners of last week’s giveaways!! Michelle O’Connor (5/25/16 8:16 am) won copies of Breaking Up with Perfect and The Husband Project. Veronica Morales (5/30/16 6:51 pm) won the 5-book pack. I hope you enjoy the books, ladies!

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The Case for Conflict

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Have you downloaded First 5 onto your phone yet? If you haven’t, pause now. Seriously. Leave this post (but come right back! :)), find First 5 in your app store, and download it.

You might be wondering about why I’m so insistent. It’s not because it’s from Proverbs 31 Ministries, and I’m part of the team. It’s not because I love my phone so much that I can’t even put it down in my quiet time.

It’s because First 5 has me more excited about reading the Bible in the morning than I have been in the longest time.

And God is using that little app in the most powerful way in my life. He’s reminding me that His Word is for me. To speak to me daily. Right in the midst of my circumstances. When they’re joyful. And when they’re stinky.

This week, I have to confess that I’m feeling stinky about some of my circumstances. I’m smack in the middle of some relational stuff that’s making me squirm, and I have two friends in separate cities who are in far worse situations than I’m in. It’s enough to make a Jesus-loving girl want to move to Costa Rica and build a hut on the beach with some palm fronds. (Yes, that little scenario might be well-enough thought out to make it seem like I’ve been dreaming about this for days.)

The reforming perfectionist in me wants to run. To hide. To disappear. I hate the imperfection of conflict and unsettled relationships. In the past, I would back out of the room so stealthily that you’d wonder where I went. You’d turn around… and POOF! I was gone. But God has been teaching me a different way, so here I am sitting at my computer typing instead of enjoying ocean breezes on the coast of South America.

I dragged myself out of bed this morning longing to curl back into a fetal position for the rest of the day, and I dropped my heavy limbs down into my “quiet time chair” to start on Acts 15, today’s scripture for First 5.

That’s where I found it. Just what I needed.

Acts 15 is the account of the conflict in the early church over circumcision. The party of the Pharisees –those rule-loving folks– said that the new Gentile believers had to be circumcised to be saved, but scripture says that Paul and Barnabus were in “sharp dispute and debate” with them.

I actually love that the Bible uses the word “sharp” to describe the conflict. This word leaves no room for thinking that these guys calmly and gently talked through this matter. This word makes it clear that there was passion and vigor and maybe a little raised volume.

To get the whole fabulous, scriptural lesson about the marks of healthy conflict, you’ll just have to download the app, but here’s the statement Whitney Capps used that captured my heart this morning:

Acts 15 shows us how  to behave in the midst of conflict. Was everybody involved happy slappy at the end? I doubt it, but God’s people acted like His people and sought His Word, His will and His best in a hard situation. They moved through conflict into unity.

That’s when I knew God was speaking straight through His Word to me. This isn’t a time to run. This isn’t a time to disappear or move to Costa Rica. This is the time to draw close to God’s Word and to His people. This is the time to work it through and work it out. This is the time to jump into the deep instead of jumping ship.

What’s God’s Word speaking to you today? I’d love to hear!

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Thanks to all of you who left a comment to enter to win Come with Me! Congratulations to Mary Louise Buchiere (5.10.16 10:39 am) who is the winner! I’ve sent you an email for your address. 🙂

Please note my new policy: I announce winners here and send personal emails, but I will choose a new winner if I haven’t received your address within a week.

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