The Mess of a Work in Progress

Y’all, I love a project. I mean I dearly love a project, especially if it’s for my home. Spray paint and chalk paint are my favorite mediums for almost-instant gratification. This project, painting my china cabinet to use as a bookshelf in my office, was one of my favorites.

Of course I started chalk painting with the LARGEST piece of furniture in my house. I’d like to say it’s because I’m a go-big-or-go-home kind of girl, but really I was scared to death. Thank heavens it turned out better than I dreamed! I guess you could at least say I’m an all-in girl.

Now I’m hooked, and I’ve just started a new project.

I know. Those of you who love old furniture are hyper-ventilating right now. I’m so sorry. Truly. But it was all banged up and need a little new life, so it’s going to be a gorgeous peacock blue soon. I’ll post the final product on Facebook if you want to join me over there.

Do you want to know the truth about my projects, though? The end results are usually great, but the in-between is a pure mess. I don’t know how it happens, but a project in one room takes over the whole house. Kind of like this…

And I’m a terribly messy painter, so I even have special messy clothes.

Can I share something with you? That’s what my insides look like right now, not just my physical surroundings.

For months, God has been doing a project on my heart. The true beginnings were back in the spring when I attended a conference. Although I enjoyed the conference, I didn’t find myself particularly emotional over any of the speakers. Until the end. By the end of the last session, I was holding myself together by a thread. The weird thing was that it wasn’t even the message I had heard. It was just a move of the Spirit. Making a mad dash to the parking lot at the end, I made it almost to my car before I started sobbing. I was still heaving with sobs when I got home.

Barry was panicked of course, wondering what in the world was wrong with me. I couldn’t even tell him. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I really didn’t know what was wrong with me. Finally, I blurted out, “I truly don’t know what’s happening. It just feels like God is plowing my heart.” 

It was like nothing I had ever experienced. Without getting all mystical on you, all I knew was it felt like I was being plowed for a planting.

For months, God has been uprooting and stirring and shaking, and yet I’m still not exactly sure what’s happening or where I’m going. I’m in between, and it’s a mess up in here! I’m definitely not unhappy– in fact, it’s a particularly peaceful season of life otherwise. I’m just waiting to see the end result of this Divine Project.

Here in the messy middle, I’m taking some steps. One at a time. You’ve gotten some hints in my last few blog posts, but I really don’t know what the end result will be.

What I do know is that I’m going to take a little blogging break for at least the month of July. You know that I do this almost every summer, but this break will be more intentional. It’s going to be a time to get quiet and see if God has more to tell me about what He’s doing.

Have you been in a place like this? A season when your spirit is unsettled, but you’re sure that God is remaking something in you for your good?

When I come back, I’ll share some of the steps I’ve taken to seek God. To sit with Him. I may only be leading from one step ahead, but I want to do this together. Let’s hold hands as we grow. Be back soon!

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When You Need to Wait (But You’re Dying to Speak)

I’m almost always a day late and a dollar short, so I’ll probably never have a viral post.

I’m not the girl with the fast reply or quick wit. I’m a ponderer. A processor. A pick-it-aparter.

But don’t let that fool you. Don’t think that I’m silent because I’m not passionate. The opposite is actually true right now. I’m quiet (for now) because I’m so passionate.

When I’m passionate and I speak out of the emotion of passion, I almost always regret it. I have friends who are thoughtful and eloquent under pressure and in the heat of the moment. I wish I were that woman, but I’m not. Instead, I tend to switch into “Action Amy” mode, and usually “she” wreaks havoc.

I earned that nickname when I was a college-student on a mission trip, and did I mention that it wasn’t a compliment? I was the assistant leader on a missions trip with “Praying Pam.” Pam was measured– quick to pray and slow to speak. I was impulsive and quick to jump in to make things happen. Guess who the teens we led liked and respected? Not much of a puzzle, huh?

I learned some painful but powerful lessons on that trip, and Jesus has continued that work in me over the years. He wired me this way, but He’s been growing me in how to manage that wiring. Jesus is teaching me how to harness my passion and measure my words. However, multiple times in the past year, I’ve found myself grieving over the words I spewed as emotion carried me away over something I felt strongly about. Good things. True things. Right things. But said in the wrong way.

Last Sunday, in a series my pastor is teaching on Daniel, I found the key I needed to lead me to a better place, a space in which I speak about my passions without blowing up the room and everybody in it. In the midst of a huge crisis with evil lurking the passage says, “Then Daniel responded with tact and discretion to Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon.” (Holmon) Knowing that he himself faced an unfair and near-certain death, Daniel didn’t explode. He responded to injustice with tact and discretion, or as my NIV version adds,  wisdom. There it is folks. It’s what I need… It’s what we all need in the midst of high-passion situations– tact, discretion and wisdom.

Some  people I know are gifted with these traits. God seems to have woven it into their DNA, but they aren’t just gifts for some. We can all have the gift of wisdom if we ask for it (James 1:5). God just seems to have wired me to need to ask and then wait. In the wait, He refines my words but solidifies my passions, just the combination I need.

All of that is leading to this…

I have some things burning on my heart. Some things that are consuming my thoughts. And I’m dying to talk to you about them, but it’s not time yet. It’s not time because I’m mad, not yet measured. It’s not time because I’m grieving, not yet full of grace.

My friend Michele Cushatt recently modeled a wise wait for me. I commented in Instagram recently on the link to one of her articles (below), and it opened a message dialogue between us. When I told her that I was too mad to speak yet, she told me that the article I love sat in her saved posts for months while she worked through it and refined it. Because of that wait, her post is full of tact, discernment and wisdom.

In this post, I want to do two things. I want to give you the gist of what God is doing in my heart, because I think it’s part of a move of the Spirit that God is doing in His people. It’s my desire for us to join that move here. Also, I want to give you some links to those who are addressing these things well so that you can dive in and prayerfully think about these issues. I’m not ready to unpack all of it yet, but I don’t want to be silent either. These things are too important to me.

Here’s the list in a nutshell:

  • The thread that’s binding all my thoughts and heart-movement together is that we are all made in the image of God. Not one race. Not one gender. ALL.
  • #metoo sisters, I haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced, but I stand with you. Time really is up… and it’s about time. It’s time in the secular world, AND it’s time in the church for changes in attitudes and behaviors toward women. (Not change in biblical truth, but changes in attitude and behavior. I want to urge you to please, please resist the email that might be making your fingertips itch.)
  • I didn’t know what I didn’t know about the divisions of race in our country, but that can’t ever be an excuse. I’m learning and listening.
  • Finally, I’m learning that I don’t have to agree with every point of every voice that’s speaking in a movement, but in order to grow, I have to listen to brothers and sisters with voices outside of my limited experience. I refuse to reside in an echo chamber any longer. That only keeps us stuck.

For my whole ministry life, I’ve been about deeper relationships with God and each other. The list above is only an extension of that passion. The only change is that circle just keeps getting bigger.

I’m watching closely how people of faith are facing these issues, and I’m seeing some who are modeling the way I feel called to move . Others are responding in ways that I don’t feel comfortable emulating. If you’ve been feeling the weight of some of these issues or are now curious about who is influencing me, here are some messengers that I’ve found tremendously helpful (click on the link to watch, listen or read):

Trip Lee from MLK50

Jackie Hill Perry MLK50

A panel from Matt Chandler’s church 

Beth Moore “A Letter to My Brothers”

Jen Wilkin “More Pressing Than Women Preachers”

Michele Cushatt “The Gap of Christian Woman Leaders”

I love each one of you, sisters, but I know that some of you are worried about me after reading this. 🙂 Can I reassure you? Jesus and I are good. So good. And I’m searching the Scriptures as the source of answers, not just reading blogs and watching YouTube.

I want to urge each of you to do the same. Commit to let God’s Word reshape you. Commit to allow God’s Spirit to move you (even into uncomfortable places). Commit to listen and learn. Commit to exhange political ideology for Truth.

When I’ve waited and I know I’m being led by wisdom, tact and discernment instead of emotion and passion, I’ll write more about these things. Until then, let’s journey and grow together as sisters.

The Winners:

Thanks to all of you who left comments in the last month. I read and treasure each one! Here are the randomly chosen winners:

The Spirit Led Heart    V (5/24/18 5:25 pm)

Breaking Up with Perfect gift package     Sharon C (5/20/18 9:33 am)

Audacious gift package      Shirley (5//18/18  1:11 pm)

Me, Myself and Lies gift package   Tina Hubbard (5/18/18 12:00 pm)

 

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How Can I Be 50 and Still Bad at THIS?

I’ve been sent back to Kindergarten by God AGAIN. In the past, I’ve had to go back to relearn the basics like love and trust and belief.

It’s happening in a new area these days. These new lessons are painful, but I’m thankful that I’m finally learning to listen.

But I’m wondering… how can a woman like me who loves people–I mean really loves people (!)– get to the age of 50 and be such a poor listener?

Several months ago, Lisa Allen, my fabulous leader at Proverbs 31, approached me about being part of a new group at the ministry. It’s a group that’s going through a curriculum called What LIES Between Us by Lucrecia Berry that helps Jesus followers wrestle with issues of race, seeking to create a space where believers of different ethnicities move forward together in unity.

I was thrilled! Lisa’s invitation was an answer to a desire of my heart. “How can I be part of the solution?” I cried out over and over as I’ve watched the news the last few years. I believe racial reconciliation is a place where the church should be leading the way. Love between all believers is something the church needs to be known for when the world sees us as standing against so many things.

I believe it’s true, and yet I’ve been paralyzed, not knowing how to start and being afraid that any move I made would be the wrong one.

God has done a lot in both my mind and heart in the last few months through our group, and I’m excited to share here with  you as things unfold. But there’s one essential element that I’m having to go back and refine an element that I’ve been almost completely missing before I can really move forward. I’m learning to listen even when the conversations are hard. Even when the ideas clash with my preconceptions. Even when the differences seem insurmountable.

Watch the video below“How to Enjoy People Who Aren’t Just Like You” (or click here) for more of what I’m learning such as:

  • The difference between debate, discussion and discourse.
  • A couple of simple scripts to use when you get in a difficult conversation.

Did you catch it? I hope you’ll work on this with me. More to come on this topic as I learn. What is God teaching you about building bonds with people who might see things differently than you?

This is a baby step toward change in me and toward the change I believe I’m responsible to create, but it’s an essential step toward developing a crucial skill.

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Congratulations to the winners of the giveaway packages!

  • Julia LaRue (4/9/18 6:42 am)
  • Myrna (4/9/18 8:22 am)
  • Laura Aranda (4/9/18 9:28 am)
  • Stacy (4/9/18 10:00 am)
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How to Grow Into Your Calling

Do you feel stuck and frustrated?

 

Is your heart full of purpose, but you don’t know how to get to the dream?

I felt the same way eight years ago, but I’ve learned that calling is more about steady growth than sudden leaps forward. I talk all about it with Mimika Cooney in this interview. There are 3 simple steps I share along with a free handout that I believe will help you move forward.

Click here to access the interview. There are lots of great interviews at the summit page, so check them all out!

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Amping Up the Joy in Our Work

At one point or another, we’ve probably all found ourselves out-of-love with our work. Weather your work is in an office, caring for a loved one or changing diapers, you’ve probably had days like me. Days of daydreaming of swinging in a hammock on a beach. With a cold drink in one hand and a good book in the other. And someone fanning me. And sparkles on the water…

Wait. Sorry! My day-dreaming took over, so I’m glad you’re still here.

See, just like I said in today’s devotion, seeing work as drudgery happens to the best of us. Only turning our work into worship gives it worth.

Sometimes it hard to shift from drugergy to delight, though. Here are a couple of ways I’ve found to amp up the joy in my work when it’s dulled:

Start Observing a Sabbath

This might seem like a pretty hard-core place to start, but in the last year, God’s been showing me that it’s crucial. The word “crucial” might reinforce our thoughts as an obligation, so let me try again. God’s been showing me that Sabbath is one of His most delicious gifts to us!  Here’s what Isaiah 58: 12-14 tells us,

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

Let’s start with the promises. God promises us JOY and TRIUMPH, opposites of drudgery. He says we’ll feast on our inheritance, a picture of abundance instead of scarcity. That sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Really different than dragging ourselves through each work day.

But there are some “ifs” that precede the promises. To receive those blessings, God tells us that we need to keep the Sabbath holy, call it a delight and follow His ways rather than our own. There’s so much here that we could spend weeks just on this passage.

The gist is that the Sabbath is meant to be a blessing to us, something for our benefit that increases our joy. Let’s embrace that truth instead of believing that Sabbath is an inconvenience (which I have to confess I’ve done for years)! I don’t want to lay out a set of rules about how that’s supposed to look, but I want to encourage you to do what I’ve been implementing better recently.

Take a day off to worship. To rest. To relax and enjoy.

It’s strange how simply taking a Sabbath changes the rest of my workweek, infusing it with more joy.

Re-Focus on the Good

Years ago, a friend asked how my job was going. I shared for awhile, but then I said, “I like my job, but it’s not awesome every day.”

I’ll never forget his apt reply. He said,”Well, if you loved it every day, it would be your hobby, not your job!”

I laughed, but he’s right. Every job we’ll ever have has up-sides and down-sides. Focusing on the positive will help us see our work in a better light than if we focus on the parts that we don’t like.

Here’s an easy exercise to help shift our focus: Divide a paper in half. Start with all the things you don’t like about your job. Here’s your chance to get it all out! (I don’t recommend sharing this with your boss, though.)

Now, on the other half, write down all the things you enjoy about your job. Once you’re done, pray and ask God to help you focus on the positives. As my friend Holly always says, “What we focus on grows.” She’s so right! Multiple times, this little exercise has shifted my feeling about my work back toward joy.

If you’d like to hear more about joy and worship in our work, I’d love to introduce you to Grit ‘n’ Grace, a podcast that I co-host with Cheri Gregory.

Click on the graphic below to visit our site and listen. We’re all about laughs with learning mixed in, so we hope you’ll subscribe and join us every week!

 

 

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How to Create a Better List

Yes, it’s true. I’ve made no secret of my list addiction. My to-do lists keep me on track, supplement my overloaded memory and make me feel accomplished.

But as I’ve shared in today’s devotion, my lists sometimes overtake my true priorities. Not good!

A couple of years ago, my friend Carol shared a new list with me that keeps me on track. It’s called the To-You List, a genius idea straight from the heart of God. Instead of starting our days overcome with our to-do list, let’s replace it with the To-You List, all the things we need to turn over to God as well as our spiritual priorities for the day. This list is more about being than doing, and I’m imagine that if God wrote out our To-You List, it would look something like this:


(You can click on this image to download it and print it!)

It’s the start of the holiday season, so this is just the right time to prioritize our To-You List over our to-do lists. I need to go right now and print this to put on my refrigerator so that I don’t forget!

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If you’d like to hear Carol talk more about how she develops her To-You List, you can watch a video of us discussing it here. That part of the discussion starts at time-marker 12:20.

Breaking Up with Perfect online book study

This video is part of my free Book Study of Breaking Up with Perfect. If you’re looking for a self-paced study, you can find all the details by clicking on the graphic above. There are blog posts, videos and lots of free goodies, I’d love for you to join our private Facebook community too!

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Three Things to Remember If You’re an Imperfect Mom

Motherhood is when perfectionism hit me hardest.

If you’re a mom who resonated with that opening, I’ve got the cure for you today. Jessica Kastner, author of Hiding from the Kids in My Prayer Closet: Finding Grace and Laughter When Motherhood Gets Real, has some wise words for how to overcome perfectionism in motherhood. Please welcome Jessica to the blog today!

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. Click here for the details.

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Ah motherhood. The place where our girlhood dreams of baby cuddling and tutu shopping collide with the reality of public tantrums and sanity droughts. Even the most prepared, most maternal of moms be all out shocked at the let-down that ensues when our visions of how we thought this would fly fall drastically short.

Big picture: we know we’re blessed beyond measure, and wouldn’t change a thing (okay we’d sleep more). But when you’re in the thick of those “challenging” moments, wondering when  you actually bathed last, or found yourself talking to yard squirrel while home and lonely with baby, it can be hard not to feel like you’re either doing something wrong, or falling short of friends continually Instagramming their smiling offspring  in non-stained shirts. I battled with feelings of disappointment and inadequacy early on, but now three boys in, after a decade of mothering, these three truths that have really helped me experience lots more joy while enjoying my kids.

Focus on what makes you great.

I burn meals. My laundry skills equate to clothing abuse, and I cannot, for all that is good, keep track of school/sports activities. I used to feel so frustrated by the fact that I seemed be missing this motherly chromosome allowing others to enjoy “mommy and me” craft time and managing to remember school holidays.

I slowly realized I might never be a shoo-in for the school’s “room mother,” (thank you, Jesus) but God has shown me how to appreciate the parts of me that do make a great mom. My kids might think potatoes come from a box, but we have dance ‘til ya drop worship parties  in our house, daily, and I have no problem putting my chores or work  aside to  jump on the trampoline with my boys or lay star gazing atop the shed roof. It’s all about the memories and quality time we spend with our kids. Of course we should always be praying to improve, but by focusing on our strengths and celebrating how we rock it, as a mom is key.

Nothing will ever be perfect if kids are involved. Period. 

And the sooner we accept it, the better! Whether it’s a birthday party, family picnic, beach trip or shopping venture, our experiences and outings with kids are very rarely as easy or perfect as we imagined. I don’t care if the sun is shining, the kids are freshly napped and you have a venti macchiato in hand, heaven can turn to disaster in the less than two minutes after baby takes a digger on the cement sidewalk or an older sibling needs a ride two hours before planned. There goes that playdate in the sky.

When we learn to live in the moment and not get hung up on the guaranteed wrenches thrown into our day, we become much more joyful, relaxed moms.

Find your own mother style.

I don’t believe there’s this magic, one-size-fits-all way to mother. The longer you’re a mom, the more you learn to craft your own style and approach parenthood in a way that suits your personality, and your kids’ needs. I think new moms and even some of us veterans get tripped up by feeling our home life has to look a certain way based on our childhood memories, delusions of grandeur, or comparison to friends. But since no child, mother, or set of circumstances are exactly the same, and since nothing (sweet Moses, nothing) prepares us for motherhood, we’ll never have it all “right.”

And just like any form of art, imitation stinks. If you’re a homeschooling mom with night owl kids, let ‘em stay up past ten if that works. If you find dinnertime to be more like veggie-eating boot camp-swallow now or else!-then start making fruit and kale smoothies with a side of bread for dinner, every night. It’s less than ideal at times, but allowing ourselves to approach every part of motherhood, with a blank canvas, really thinking about why and how we do things, can be very freeing, and much more conducive to joy.

Here’s to a great fall, with more laughter, and less perfection. The whites will gleam and the steak will be tender in heaven, that’s for sure.

Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist and a contributor for Beliefnet.com, Huffington Post’s Christianity blog, and CBN.com. As Connecticut’s coordinator for Straight Ahead Ministries, she shares God’s message of hope by leading Bible studies in juvenile detention centers. When she’s not on the trampoline with her three boys in her hometown of Southington, Connecticut, Jessica offers her commentary on Christian life at www.JessicaKastner.com.

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An Easy, Beautiful Way to Make a Difference

Hey, gang!

I wanted to let you know that tonight I’ll be co-hosting an online auction with my friend Sarah Carroll to benefit Encouraging Words, Inc. and Agape School in Kolkata. We’ll have beautiful goods from Nepal for sale, so you can buy something beautiful and help build a Christian school in one of the poorest places in Kolkata.

We’re doing it via Facebook Live so join the fun at 7:00 pm Eastern Time by clicking here to go to the auction Facebook page.

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How to Reach Every Beautiful Face and Heart

Did you know that Proverbs 31 Ministries’…

First 5 app has been downloaded in 115 countries in the world–including the UK, Singapore, the Philippines and Nigeria?

Devotions are distributed worldwide and that our top 11 countries include 2 in North America, 1 in Europe, 3 in Africa, 3 in SE Asia, and 2 in the South Pacific?

Online Bible Studies + Devotions + First 5 + website and social media reach = 192 countries total?

Y’all those statistics leave me in tears. Those aren’t just numbers. They’re faces.

Can you see them?

They’re every skin hue you can imagine. The variety and beauty of those faces are dazzling, and just below each face beats a heart. A heart created by God to be returned to Him.

I love Proverbs 31 Ministries for so many reasons, but the main one may be our desire to reach every heart around the world with the transforming gospel of Jesus. I’m proud to give of our family finances to support such an effort.

Will you click here to read my devotion today, and will you pray about giving to support the teaching of God’s Word that’s spreading through the world via Proverbs 31? I’d be so proud to have you stand with me!

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Something Sweet

We’re women, so by definition we wear lots of hats.

Nurturer

Employee

Domestic consultant

Family CEO

You know the deal, and I’m sure if you made a list of all your rolls, you could fill pages with all your gifts, responsibilities, and life investments. Sometimes the enormity of it all can make your head spin!

Last week I spent the week in FL with Barry. While he was on the road in his new territory, I worked at my computer in the hotel room, but I also took advantage of the workout room. And I worked HARD.

I sweated and toiled on the treadmill (thank goodness that Chip and Joanna were my companions to mix in some fun with the work), and by the end of the week, all my discipline really felt good. My pants were a little looser too. That’ll make a girl say hallelujah!

Whether you’re running on a treadmill or creating at your work or vacuuming in your home, I know you’ve been working hard too. We’re fulfilling the God-created blessing of work and this scripture…

She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks. (Proverbs 31: 17)

All that work and discipline and work felt good, but late in the week, Barry and I were walking along through the business district near the hotel when we spotted a sign that said “French bakery” across the street. Oh dear.

I agonized for a bit, but then I decided that all that work deserved a little something sweet. The 80/20 rule, you know?So we hoped right across the street and bought this little box of goodness.

I’ve had macarons bought in a store before, and they’re ok, but they in no way compare to the scrumptiousness of these little jewels. We truly shared them one at a time because the yumminess of each bite was so satisfying. I’m grieving that I’m now home and so many miles away from more, but that’s probably God’s provision for my waistline! Enough about macarons already….

Here’s my profound permission for you:

Do something sweet for yourself today.

Seriously. Work hard at all the Lord has given you to do. Sweat and toil, because He’s embedded joy and satisfaction in it. But He made life sweet too. It’s to be enjoyed, not just endured, so do something to add a little sweetness today.

Cuddle with a grandchild.

Lay in the sunshine with a book.

Make your favorite cookies.

Turn up the radio and sing out loud.

Dance.

Whatever delights your heart and seems sweet to your soul, take a little time to indulge amidst the work of your day.

 

An exciting announcement:

You know me as mom, wife, speaker, writer… but maybe you don’t know I’m also a speaker coach. (Those of you who aren’t speakers or writers probably have friends who are, so would you hang in there with the post and consider sharing? I’d be so grateful!)

This week my partner Melanie Chitwood and I launched a brand new home for Next Step Coaching Services where we serve speakers and writers. I’m so, so excited about the new site, because it was designed to share lots and lots of free help along with information about our individualized coaching.

If you haven’t seen the site yet, I invite you to click on the graphic below and take a peek. I hope it encourages you, and I’d be so honored if you’d share it up.

Love being in community with y’all!

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