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What’s My Focus?

 

The other day I had the most vivid dream.  I’m not much of a dreamer, but for some reason, this dream was so vivid and clear.  I could remember the details and emotions elicited by the dream like I was there experiencing it first hand.  From past posts I’ve shared, I like to run.  In this dream, I had trained and prepared for a race.

I remember being in a car driving to the race, trying to get there, but something was always getting in the way–traffic, crowds, roadblocks.  I remember feeling anxious thinking I wasn’t going to make the start of the race.  Then the race started and I wasn’t at the start line.  The crowds of runners passed by me.  Feelings of disappointment and failure rummaged through my heart as I watched the runners pass me. I had prepared and trained for a race I could only watch and not participate in.  Every which way I turned, every time I tried, something got in my way to prevent me from getting to the start line.

After I awoke from my dream, I felt like I failed (nice way to start the day).  I felt the devastation of not completing the race, thinking what does all this mean?  I spent time in prayer asking God the meaning of the dream and heard his gentle response.  He asked me a very simple question, “Are you going to continue to focus on your stumbling blocks or allow me to take care of them?”  “Focus on my purpose for you, I will take care of your stumbling blocks.”

God was right.  At the time of this dream, I was a hot mess.  I was in an ugly rut of taking matters into my own hands, trying to handle things my way, amplifying the stumbling blocks that laid before me.  God was trying to show me, my struggles, my inadequacies, my unbelief will always keep me away from His purpose for me.  Focusing on my struggles making them bigger than God will always take me out of the race, not allowing me to participate and worse yet not finish.

When we live in God's purpose for us, it doesn't matter what struggles or obstacles lie in front of us, if it is His will, He will move them. Click To Tweet

At the time of my dream, I was studying the book of Nehemiah.  If you haven’t read Nehemiah, it is such a wonderful reminder of what God can do when we discover and live in His purpose.  God chose Nehemiah to carry out what He had promised to Abraham.  The Jewish people spent many years in exile and now it was time for God to come through with His promise for restoration of Jerusalem, their holy city.

Nehemiah’s heart was broken when he received news his people (The Jews) were in great trouble and the wall of Jerusalem was broken down.  Once Nehemiah heard of the turmoil, his burning desire to help his people became the sole purpose of his existence.  Two qualities I admire most in Nehemiah were his wise, decisive leadership skills to lead people in the hard work of completing the wall and his prayerful heart.

Before taking on this task of rebuilding this massive wall, Nehemiah devoted four whole months in prayer, praying and fasting before taking action!  Once the four months was over, it only took 52 days to rebuild the wall!  What is so amazing about this task, about 60 years prior Jerusalem’s wall was destroyed and rebuilt which took 20 years to rebuild!

What was the difference?

In both occurrences of the wall, there were obstacles, inward and outward oppression getting in the way of God’s purpose of rebuilding the wall.

Neh. 2:10-  There were enemies getting in the way of rebuilding the wall

Neh.  4:10-11 There was doubt, discouragement, laziness, and fear

Neh. 5:1-5-  The Jews and their families were being exploited as slaves

Neh. 6:1-8- There was an evil conspiracy plotted against Nehemiah to lure him away from the wall

Neh. 6:10-14- Lying prophets tryied to tempt Nehemiah to sin

Nehemiah 6:9 'For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, 'Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.' But now, O God, strengthen my hands.'Click To Tweet

Nehemiah was successfully able to complete the task of finishing the wall because He stayed in prayer and focused on God’s purpose, not the obstacles.

Our obstacles will always prevent us from finishing the race.  Satan will throw obstacles in our path to prevent us from living in God’s purpose for us, to keep us from His plan because He knows God’s ways are greater and better than anything we could ever imagine.

When our focus is on what God is able to do, God will move our obstacles out of the way.Click To Tweet

We have a choice– Focus on our problems or Focus on God’s purpose.

Nehemiah never lost sight of completing the wall WITH God not FOR God.  He stayed in prayer and asked for God’s wisdom never faltering from His purpose.  Our struggles, our unbelief, our doubts, our past, and insecurities will always keep us away from God’s purpose.  We can choose to amplify our struggles or allow it to be God’s platform for what he’s able to do.

What is your focus?

Do obstacles get in the way of God’s purpose for you?

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Confessions From a Checkbox Christian

Have you ever believed something your whole life and wondered, do I believe what I believe because I believe it or because that is what I’ve been told my whole life?

That is the very question I asked myself when I went away to college and was away from my family for the very first time. I had been a Christian my entire life, but my faith was put to the test when I left home. This was the point in my life was I going to put into practice everything I learned or go along with what the world says I should do? As time went by I found out real fast going along with what the world said I should do got me into trouble. I became more distant from God and wondered why was my life such a mess?

I reflect back upon this time in my life when God was so patient and merciful with me. I can see now how naive I was. In my aimless wandering I became lackadaisical and blind to the realities right in front of me. I came to my senses and realized doing life on my own, without God wasn’t how God designed me.

I started getting back into what I had grown up doing, going to church, praying and periodically reading the Bible. I would have said I was a Christian, but somewhere along the way, my Christianity became more of a routine than it was a relationship with God. Something became lost along the way. I thought by asking Jesus to be my Lord and Savior was all I needed to do to maintain a relationship with Him. How wrong I was. I thought by checking off my boxes of going to church, praying and reading my Bible would make me right with God.

Have you ever been caught in the trap of believing your righteousness came from following a bunch of rules?Click To Tweet

What I discovered along the way, was God cared more about the condition of my heart than me externally conforming to His laws. God reminded me, I was just like the Pharisees in the Bible.

The Pharisees were members of an ancient Jewish sect. They strictly observed the traditions and written laws thinking this made them self-righteous, above everyone else. They thought what made them right with God was living by legalism and keeping the written laws by men. In reality, the Pharisees were hypocrites. They honored God with their lips and not their hearts (Mark 7:6).

Wow, Is that how I was living my life, by only honoring God with my lips and not my heart?

The hard answer was, Yes. God desired all of my heart, not to just do what’s right and conform to his laws.  He cares about the condition of our hearts, and I realized I was just going through the motions with a distant heart.  Obeying God’s laws with a distant heart is like a puppet master controlling his puppet. God doesn’t want to control us like puppets, he wants all of our hearts and desires a relationship with us.

The Pharisees believed God’s grace only extended to those who kept his law (Mark 2:16). They didn’t understand why Jesus talked and ate with tax collectors who were considered sinners. Jesus was teaching them there was not a place where God’s grace can’t reach—we are to love sinners, but not the sin.

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8).

The Pharisees were holding on to the traditions of the elders telling them not to associate with ‘unclean’ men who were sinners. Jesus was telling them, God’s commands in the Bible have more authority than traditions of men.  God’s commands (His love) accept and love everyone, not discriminate and condemn.


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

When I was busy checking off the boxes, living by legalism, I realized there was always going to be another box to check, another rule to follow, or another good deed to accomplish, when was it ever enough to please God?

Living a legalistic life puts the trust in ourselves and not what Jesus did for us. When I was living by legalism, I was putting the hope of salvation upon myself taking God out of the equation. Following all of those rules wasn’t going to get me to heaven—putting my trust and faith in God was.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

In God’s love, we can be set free from checking the boxes.

There will always be another box to check.  The promise of salvation will never come from following a bunch of rules (Galatians 2:21). We are already worthy in God’s eyes don’t have to earn or prove our worth by performing more. If we weren’t worthy, God would have never sent Jesus in the first place.

We receive the righteousness of God through our faith in him.

I realized we become righteous through our faith in Christ, not by anything we do on our own (Philippians 3:9 NLT). Our good works and abiding in God’s commands is a result of His righteousness overflowing from within us—not something we do ourselves.

When I was living by legalism, I was missing out on the beautiful message of the gospel. God’s love transforms hearts and lives. His love is a free gift in which He offers to everyone. No amount of good works could ever repay Jesus for what he has done for us already.

So take the advice from a recovered box checker, you never have to check another box off again when God’s love is living in your heart. Accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior is the key to my salvation and allowing God to have all my heart is the key to transforming hearts and lives.

It’s all about meeting Jesus right where we are. In Him, we have life to the full that is complete and everlasting (John 10:10). Have a blessed week!

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Praying Through the Storms

Have you ever been through a storm of life and asked yourself the question, “When is this going to end?” ‘How am I going to get through this? Or “Why am I even here?’

The storms of life we go through can feel so burdensome, out of control and chaotic.

One scene in the Bible that sticks out in my mind that describes the storms we go through is the scene where the disciples are rocking in the boat with waves crashing and the wind blowing in Matthew. The disciples are scared and looking for a way out of this storm. Then they see what they think is a ghost, who is actually Jesus.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus was walking towards His disciples on the water during the storm instead of just waiting for them on the other side of the lake (Matt. 14:25)?

Before Jesus came to the disciples in the storm, He was asking them to cross the lake in the boat, to literally be on top of the chaos. The Hebrew word for water is Mayim which literally means chaos. The disciples were fearful and wondering how everything was going to play out.

Like the disciples, we may not like being in the chaos, but can be encouraged that Jesus is always with us in the storms (Matt. 14:24-32).

We can be encouraged that Jesus prays for us in our stormsClick To Tweet

“….he came to them, walking on the sea.” Matt. 14:25 ESV

When the disciples were in the boat being tossed by the waves and wind, Jesus was right there with them. He was praying the disciples’ (Rom. 8:34) faith would not waver. Jesus didn’t send the disciples into the storm by themselves, He was experiencing the storm with them (Mark 6:48). God will never push us into a storm and say, ‘see you later, good luck.’ He is always with us.

Jesus will always come to us in our storms of lifeClick To Tweet

“He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.” Matt. 14:29

The disciples became fearful when their focus was on their circumstances—the big waves, the boat rocking, and the harsh winds. Right before Jesus tells Peter get out of the boat and come to Him, Jesus tells the disciples to “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid,” (Matt. 14:27).

We too can get focused on our circumstances, elevating our fears which limits our ability to see Jesus in the storms. Jesus was trying to teach the disciples that both fear and faith cannot reside at the same time in our hearts and will always blind us to His presence.

The very thing the disciples feared (the sea) is the very thing Jesus used to bring them through. He was showing them that even in the chaos of the storm, Jesus is always in control, we just need to trust in Him.

Jesus will see us through our stormsClick To Tweet

“And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Matt. 14:32

God knows we would never willingly go towards the storm ourselves. He knows what’s best for us and cares for our every need. To pick and choose the parts of life we do and don’t want, is to forfeit God’s greatest blessings. Jesus did not allow Peter or the disciples to sink or drown but showed them what God can do when we have faith.

Imagine what Peter was thinking after he got back into the boat. “I just walked on water with Jesus!” Just think what Peter would have forfeited if he allowed his fears to dictate his response and stayed in the boat. He would have never witnessed first hand what God is able to do when we trust in Him.

When we are going through a storm we can trust….

In our chaos, Jesus is in total control and is always with us.

God has divine authority over all things.

When we are in God’s will, we will always be kept safe in the storms.

We can trust God to take care of us in our storms.

Jesus is the key to eternal peace.

God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.

We can always trust in His plans.

God will prevail.

Jesus walking towards the disciples in the storm is a physical representation of what he does for us in our everyday lives. He is right there with us we just have to look up and reach out.

In our storms, God prays for us and hears our cries. God desires every single crevice of our hearts—even the broken parts. Even when circumstances look bleak, keep praying through the storms, He will protect us and get us safely through.

Are you going through a storm of life right now?

Do you trust in what God is able to do, to step out of the boat like Peter, reach out your hand and say, “Lord, save me?” (Matt. 14:30)

Prayer- Dear Lord, we know you are the God of peace and maker of all things. Sometimes life can get so hard and burdensome. We pray that we will seek you in our storms and trust in your plans, your ways, and power. We pray we will hold onto your promises when our surrounding circumstances look defeating. We pray our faith will not waver and we will be anchored in the storms. Thank you, Lord, for praying for us and being our God who loves us. We praise you in our storms. In Jesus name. Amen.

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Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 51). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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Lost Faith

Have you ever lost something very valuable?  Something that no amount of money could replace because it was invaluable?  When I was younger I almost lost something that couldn’t be replaced–my faith.  I made choices I am not proud of and those choices lead me to places I didn’t want to be.  In those moments I turned away from God, He never left my side and His merciful love brought me back home.  In the end, I questioned what was so important for me to abandon my faith?

In the Bible, the disciples were some of the closest people to Jesus.  They walked, talked and followed Him,  heard him speak, saw him perform miracles and yet coward to worldly persecution almost losing their most valuable possession–their faith.

At the Last Supper Jesus warned the disciples that someone would betray Him, one who was eating among them (Mark 14:18).  After the Last Supper, He even warns Peter that he would deny Him (Mark 14:27) and tells the disciples, they will also scatter.

Jesus warned the disciples that their faith would be tested and they too would turn away from their faith.  

“This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”  Matthew 26:31

When Jesus says this, Peter proclaims all the other followers may fall, but I will not (Mark 14:29).  Jesus then tells Peter, before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times (Mark 14:30).  Peter and the others emphatically claimed, even if they had to die with Jesus, they would never disown Him (Mark 14:31).

When Judas appeared in the Garden of Gethsemane with the Roman soldiers, he kissed Jesus on the cheek to signal to the soldiers which one was Jesus.  “The men seized Jesus and arrested him” (Mark 14:44-46).  After Jesus was arrested everyone including the disciples scattered like sheep.

It scares me to think even the people that walked, talked and followed Jesus deserted and fled Him at the time He needed them most.  Everyone left Jesus because they were afraid that they too would be arrested for being associated with Him.

Peter moments before said He would never flee or deny His Lord and Savior.  The disciples proclaimed they would die before ever disowning Jesus.  And yet they fled.

When worldly persecution infringes upon our faith how easy is it to flee in the other direction? Click To Tweet

It was even easy for the disciples who were students of Jesus.  For three years they listened to His teachings, His warnings, His messages.  And yet they fled in fear of getting arrested.

What happened to their faith?

In the three years with Jesus, the disciples witnessed Jesus walk on water, calm the storms, feed 5,000 people with 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish, raise the dead, heal the sick and lame, give the blind their sight, cast our demons and turn wine to water.  They witnessed with their own eyes the very things Jesus was capable of.  They proclaimed Jesus as their Messiah and Lord.  And yet most of them weren’t even present at the cross at their own Messiah’s death, in His greatest suffering.

The disciples fear of persecution caused them to react with their flesh and not their faith.  Who knows?  Maybe their fear saved them from also being crucified on the cross?

It didn’t take long for the disciples’ faith to be restored.  After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to Mary Magdelene and two men walking in the country (Mark 16:9,12).  Jesus told them to go tell the disciples.  When Jesus appeared to the disciples he rebuked them for their lack of faith and stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen (Mark 16:14).  Again they didn’t believe!

The disciples were able to see firsthand the scars of Jesus, proof that he had indeed been crucified, buried and resurrected.  The eyewitnesses weren’t enough to convince their unbelieving hearts that Jesus had risen!  They had to see with their own eyes!

Just 7 days after Jesus’ death the disciples would boldly profess their faith in Jesus again without any fear at the Pentecost [1].  According to the book of Acts, their faith never wavered again and they stood firm even in the face of persecution.

Our rebellion, our fear, our ignorance, our disbelief, our pride are the very things that will make us abandon our faith and choose the other way.  We may not be able to witness Jesus firsthand like the disciples did, but we can witness Jesus firsthand by staying in The Word and through prayer.

Can you relate to the disciples?  They allowed their fears to almost lose the most valuable thing in their lives–their faith.  I’m so glad after Jesus’ resurrection they never questioned their faith again.

Have you ever allowed something to come in between you and God?

Have you ever lost your faith?

I am ashamed to admit I walked away from God for a period of time in my life.  It was one of the worst decisions I made in my life.  I never knew how valuable my faith was until I lost it.  I once was lost, but now I’m found.  God’s profound abundant love, captivated me.  His neverending mercy and grace, consumed me.  His forgiveness and sacrifice embraced my heart to never walk away from my faith again.

Maybe you’re hurting, in a place you don’t want to be.  Maybe you feel like you’re so far from God and don’t know how to get back.  I promise you, God is there waiting for you.  He wants you.  All we have to say is “God help me.” He will be there, I promise.

Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 343). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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What I am Most Thankful For……

I love Thanksgiving.  It’s a season for giving thanks, fellowship, serving one another and sharing a meal with each other.  It’s a time we can enjoy each other and share what we are thankful for.

Or maybe it’s not.  Maybe Thanksgiving reveals everything we don’t have and haven’t accomplished.  Thanksgiving may be like a magnifying glass examining the little details of our lives that expose everything we are not.

To cover up our flaws, we assemble the perfect table and meal, making it seem like we have it all together, but really we’re falling apart on the inside.

Can you relate?

Of course, I am thankful for my family, our health and how abundantly blessed we are.  It’s so easy to thank God when things are going well in our lives.  It’s not so easy when they are not.

When things are falling apart and I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread, I am most thankful for Jesus.  I am thankful that even in my messes, I am complete in Jesus.  Even in my suffering, I am blessed.

It’s amazing when Jesus meets us in our messes, our storms, and flaws–He turns them into life’s greatest blessings.  

If I never experienced failure, I would never know the deeper meaning of perseverance–How God makes the impossible, possible.

If I never trained for a marathon, I would never have known the power of God’s strength.

If I never went through the loss of our son, I would never experience the deeper meaning of God’s love and His glorious plan that one day we will see him again.

If I never had trials in my marriage or as a parent, I would never have realized the value in growing my patience and building a stronger foundation in Jesus.  

To remove our messes, our struggles and flaws are to remove God’s glorious blessings.  


What am I Most Thankful For?  Jesus.  

I am not thankful for my trials but am thankful to have Jesus to walk with me in my trials.

When I struggle, I think of Job.  When his cattle was destroyed he still gave thanks.  When his family was killed he still gave thanks to God.  When his crops were destroyed he gave thanks.  When his health was at stake, he gave thanks.  When everything was taken away from him, he never stopped thanking God.  His thankfulness in his devastation produced a greater blessing he could have ever received than if he focused on everything he didn’t have.

No Jesus + Everything = Nothing.

Jesus + Nothing= Everything

Even when I have nothing, I have everything in Jesus.  There is always something to be thankful for.  I am nothing without Jesus.
  
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”  (1 Thes. 5:18)

Behind every trial, there is a greater blessing.

This Thanksgiving, give thanks not just for what we are grateful for.  Thank God for everything in between–the struggle, the trial and our flaws and you will be blessed beyond measure.

When we GIVE THANKS in our trials, it helps us focus on God’s GOODNESS and that His LOVE endures FOREVER.  

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1)

A Thanksgiving Prayer-  

THANK YOU, Lord Jesus, not only for our family, our health and the food we will eat this THANKSGIVING But also for our TRIALS we have endured this year.  We are not thankful for our suffering, but thankful that you are good and know what is BEST for US!

THANK YOU for giving us what we NEED not what we WANT.  You Always have the best plans ever!  THANK YOU for going AHEAD of us and PREPARING  a place for us, even in our STRUGGLES we know this is only our TEMPORARY HOME.

THANK YOU for our circumstances that are beyond our control, they TEACH US to depend and lean on you making us closer to YOU.  THANK YOU for unanswered PRAYERS, they help us to TRUST in you, in your PERFECT PLAN.

THANK YOU for WALKING with US in the fiery furnace.  If you we didn’t have your hand to hold onto we would never know you are ALWAYS with us and will NEVER leave US.  THANK YOU for your FORGIVENESS when we fail and make bad choices.  THANK YOU for your LOVE and ALWAYS being there even in our MESSES.

THANK YOU for our DESPERATE Moments when we feel like we have nothing left, we can always depend on YOUR STRENGTH.  THANK YOU for our roadblocks and detours, they show us that when we follow Jesus, He knows the WAY!

THANK YOU for our failures and losses, they show us there is no greater reward than Jesus.  THANK YOU for your perfect gift of ETERNAL LIFE!  No matter what we go through it does not compare to the glorious reward of HEAVEN when we accept Jesus as our Savior!  THANK YOU for your PERFECT LOVE AND PLAN!  AMEN

What are you Most Thankful For this Thanksgiving?

What will you give Thanks for?

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Vacuum lines, Bleach in the Sink and Jesus

You might be thinking what do vacuum lines on the carpet, bleach in the sink and Jesus have to do with one another? Actually they have a lot to do with one another. I have a confession to make. I am guilty of quickly vacuuming my house, making vacuum lines on the carpet and spraying bleach in the sink right before my husband gets home from work, to give my house the ‘appearance’ it has been cleaned.

Sometimes it is easier to give the house the ‘appearance’ it has been cleaned than actually cleaning it, so my husband doesn’t wonder ‘what did you do all day’ if the house wasn’t cleaned? The funny thing about only doing the minimal cleaning job, the house doesn’t stay cleaned for very long and quickly goes back into it’s unclean state. Vacuum lines and the smell of bleach eventually fade away.

It makes me think how this relates to life. There can be so much focus and emphasis on trying to maintain the appearance that everything is okay on the outside but really it is falling apart on the inside. It is only a matter of time before everything starts to fall apart because trying to keep up with ‘the appearance’ everything is okay becomes exhausting.

Have you been there? Can you relate? Have you tried to maintain a life with the appearance that everything is great in your life, but really it’s not? Or are you trying to maintain an image to others but really living a double life? External appearances and images are temporary and will never last forever.

“All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field, the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” 1 Peter 3:24-25

I am guilty of slipping into the mindset it’s just easier to do the minimal work instead of really doing what I am suppose to do. It isn’t until Jesus gently puts his hands on my face and whispers into my ear, ‘That life of keeping up the appearance everything is okay will never sustain or fulfill you the way I can eternally.’

Who am I really fooling? God knows what is in my heart. Why do I try so hard to seek the approval of the world instead of God? The only way to keep a heart pure and focused on Jesus is by spending time with him in his word and prayer everyday. His words are what keep us clean and last.

He accepts and loves us despite our shortcomings. We don’t have to earn his love or approval he accepts us just the way we are. Accepting God’s truth for us will set us free from the bondage of finding approval in worldly acceptance. We will always fall short.

We don’t have to try to be something we are not. When God’s love shines through our life, we will never have to keep up with external appearances again. The precious blood of Jesus redeems us, pays the price for us, it is what will endure forever, maintain and sustain us, transforming us from the inside out.

His love will never fail you. His love is greater. You are loved!

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” Psalm 119:9

Going deeper: Psalm 119 is a devotional about the word of God. To read more about having a heart that is pure read Psalm 119:9-16.

Can you relate to this post? Have appearances ever been greater than God in your life?

Where do you seek your acceptance and approval? I would love to hear from you!  Leave your comments below.

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