Hope

Stewarding Our Wealth

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“Having gifts that differ
according to the Grace given us,
let us use them…” Romans 12:6

Each one of us has been given different gifts. Gifts of Grace from our Creator. These gifts are the empowerment to bring Glory upon the Earth in an unique way that God designed only you to do. Each time you use your gift you are partnering with God to leave an everlasting Holy imprint of that partnership. Like a fingerprint made with your finger and His Glory-filled ink. But this partnership doesn’t just happen. It’s not accidental nor coincidence. It requires faith and stewardship.

Most people associate stewardship with money. When really it has to do with wealth. What’s that you say? Isn’t wealth and money basically the same thing? I would answer with a resounding, “No!”

While we may not all have bank accounts filled with lots of commas and zeros, the redeemed do all have an account overflowing with the riches of Christ.
Did you know you were wealthy? You are!

One day Jesus told a parable about a man who went on a journey (recorded in Matthew 25). Before he left he gave some of his wealth to his servants to manage -each ACCORDING TO HIS ABILITY – and he expected those servants to multiply what they had be given. The man give one servant five talents, another two and yet another one talent. (Talents here was an amount of money not a skill in the way we use this word in modern times.)

There are so many things that keep us from multiplying the wealth that we have been given. One of the big ones is COMPARISON. We think we all should have the same and when we notice the differences we have bad thoughts. Thoughts of bitterness, jealousy, self loathing, pride. This is why in the Word we are encouraged to consider ourselves with “sober judgment” and “not to compare ourselves with one another.”

Another reason we are unfruitful is having an inaccurate perception of God and his intent for us. In the parable mentioned above the servant given the least amount buried it in FEAR. Although he preserved what he was given, he did nothing to multiply his gift. The excuse he gave his master was that he SAW HIM as harsh, unjust and greedy. Unfortunately, that servant’s perception became his reality!

But the biggest reason we don’t steward our gifts well, why we don’t multiply the wealth we have been given? Forgetfulness! What do we forget? We forget we are forgiven, the Grace of His Salvation (2 Peter 1:9ff)! In forgetting this we discount who God is, His Love for us, and become blinded to our calling.

We forget who WE ARE!

You we were created with unique gifts. When you were filled with the Holy Spirit you were empowered to use those gifts to impact the world with and for the Glory of God. Have you forgotten who you are? Are you aware of the gifts you’ve been given? When we are using our gifts as God designed we feel fully alive. This is good news!

What is that you are doing when you feel fully alive? This is most likely one of your gifts. Is there a way for you to better steward that gift? Put another way, is there something you can do to invest in yourself to make that gift multiply in your life?

“Having gifts that differ, according to the GRACE given us let USE them…”

Begin today using your GIFT!

Do you have questions about finding and stewarding your gifts? Ask them in the comments or send me a private message.

This is your #gracefilledmoment with Debra Bell.

Fear wears a mask named Responsible

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In the few days since the fire (click here to read about it) I have noticed signs of trauma.  It happens mostly at night.  As I snuggle down into my pillows and feel the normally comforting warmth of my blankets I get edgy.  My ears are heightened to sounds around me and I find myself opening my eyes to glance out the window.

I’ll hear an animal scurry or a limb crack in the woods but something tells me, “It’s a fire!”  What was that?  A pop, a rumble?  Are the trees glowing?  My heart starts racing and I want to get out of bed to look.  I quickly recognize my anxiety is irrational.  It’s very unlikely another one of my neighbor’s houses will explode in a roaring inferno.  And, yet, I feel it…

Fear.

The type of fear I felt the day of the fire spurred responsible action.  It caused a respect for the danger and potential reality of a fire.  As a result our family took action steps to be as prepared as possible in the case of a house fire. (Click here for a safety checklist.) But this, this feeling I’m having at night, is not the same kind of fear.  It doesn’t cause responsible action it causes worry and sleeplessness.  This type of fear sneaks in like a villain.  He masquerades as Responsibility.  Like a bad insurance policy he promises security but demands a hefty payment and never delivers.  He’s really a thief.

He steals peace and leaves worry.  He steals sleep and leaves weariness.  He steals trust leaving a sense that my life is all dependent on me.

Fortunately, I’d seen this villain before so I recognized him quickly.  And did what you do with a thief who comes in lies and betrays you and tries to steal your precious possessions.  I kicked him out.

Hope, peace and trust in God are some of my most valuable possessions.  An abundant life does not exist without them.  I can not sit passively allowing any type of thinking displace them.  I cannot deny I experienced trauma and that it’s normal to experience triggers that reactivate the feelings of a trauma.  But I won’t allow that to be an excuse to partner with the villain who wants me to think that worry, heightened intensity (aka jumpiness), and anxiety are going to protect me and my family from fire – or any other threat for that matter.

Intimacy with the God who loves perfectly allows a trust that imprisons the villain fear.  The peace that follows isn’t rational.  It transcends understanding.

Fear is a conniving little snake.  He’s not your friend or protector. Has he snuck in on you?  Sometimes we don’t recognize that fear has trespassed until we notice the shortage of what he’s stolen.  Here are just a few examples.

Fear of the future steals our hope.
Fear of the unknown steals our peace.
Fear of rejection steals our relationships.
Fear of failure steals our success.

Do you lack hope in any area of your life?
Do you lack peace?
Do you lack depth and satisfaction in your relationships?
Do you lack momentum towards your destiny?

Perhaps there’s fear there.

Last night I slept without one worrisome thought.  How did I kick out the thief?  I remembered who my God was.  He never promised me a life without trouble but he did promise me a life of peace.  I began to thank him for all he is and all he’s done in my life.  I made a conscious choice to think about those things.  And without another thought fear was gone.

Do you want freedom?  Freedom from fear that causes worry, anxiety, loneliness, depression, perfectionism, performance driven, controlling behaviors is available through a relationship with Jesus.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. Andthe God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9 (emphasis mine)

Do you believe you know at least one person who needs freedom from fear?  Would you share this on your Facebook, Twitter or your favorite social media site?  Recognizing how fear works could be all someone needs to gain back what’s been stolen from them.

Be a herald!  Together we can make a difference!

Miscarried… A Letter to My Unborn Child

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My sweet little one,

I’m sorry.  I’m sorry that for whatever reason you couldn’t join us here.  I’m sorry for all you missed and didn’t get to experience.  I am so sorry I didn’t get to meet you, hold you, nurture you and watch you grow.

I rejoice in your life none-the-less.  And I rejoice that you are knowing an incomparable LOVE in the eternal moment of Heaven.

Today I mourn the loss of your life, grateful that you are in the arms of your Creator.  Yet I have hope.  Hope that you will change the world; not by your feet walking the Earth, the power of your words nor the impact of your decisions.  You will change the world because your existence changed me, hoping for you altered my perspectives.  The presence of your life growing in my body showed me the power of our God and the fragility of life.

CIMG2560

I will not know your personality or passions during my lifetime – but someday I will know you…I just have to wait longer than the few remaining months of my pregnancy.

I will not allow the shortness of your life lack impact on the Earth.  Your life, though brief, will not be without meaning.  You will never know breath in your lungs, the taste of sweetness, nor feel the tenderness of my kisses.  You will never know the burn in your lungs when you run full force across a field for the ball or the exhilaration of jumping from the diving board into a pool for the first time.  You won’t know the butterflies fluttering in your stomach as you fall in love nor the beauty and intimacy of marriage or the joy of having your own children.

Nor will you know disappointment, fear, anger, sickness nor despair.  You will never cry.  All you will ever know is LOVE, JOY and PEACE nestled in the HOPE we wait for.

You were designed to be royal and priestly.

You were knit together with a destiny and it will not go unaccomplished.

What He begins, He finishes.

Your LIFE marked me and I will never be the same.  You made an impact.  And because you changed me – you changed the world.  To what degree, perhaps you can see now, but I will have to wait for.

We named you Hope.  And now you live in our hope because of where you are.  The remembrance of your  life has become a declaration:

Our true HOPE is in Heaven!

I love you and can’t wait to meet you.

Love,

Mom

reNEWed

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We love New.  New beginnings.  Fresh starts.

Clean slates.

We like January Firsts, Mondays, New fiscal quarters; to flip the page to a new month or week in our calendar.

DSC04887We like new ledgers, balanced books and untainted goals.

We like Resolutions. Solutions. Resolve – unmarred by failed attempts.  The hope in them still bright.

Hope is empowering!  It reminds us our dreams can still come true, our destiny actualized.

One month into 2013 you may have already found yourself falling short in your new years resolutions.  Maybe you set financial or exercise goals, perhaps you made a plan to read more or serve more, be angry less or forgive quickly.  Perhaps you are not seeing the progress you envisioned. Whatever you resolved to do, don’t dismay!

I have some encouragement for you!

The mercy, grace, empowerment and hope of God is available in every breathe.  Mistakes covered, shortcomings made up for, debt paid.  We need only to turn to what He provides.  We do not have to flip the calendar to a new year, month or week.  We don’t need to wait until the new fiscal quarter.

Every. Day. Is. A. Fresh. Start.

His mercies are NEW every morning.”

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”  Lamentations 3:22-23

You can start over right now.  Now is your fresh start.  Now is your new beginning.

Now is your NEW.

In Him you have ALL that you need.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”.  2 Peter 1:3

There’s a Giant in My Promised Land!?

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My husband and I have a custom at the beginning of each year.  We ask God to reveal a theme for the coming 365 days.  This year my husband heard that this was the year of our Supernatural Family.  Sounds exciting!  Like something you’d put on a banner:

2012 The Year of our Supernatural Family!

But what does that mean anyway?  We’re not fully sure.  But we received it with hope and anticipation of an amazing year of life – better than just normal natural!

Then came the word that he was to spend a year away in another country.  We asked, “How do we have a year of a supernatural family if our family is not together?”  Someone said to us, “Maybe this is why you’ll need to be a supernatural family.”  Perhaps they were right.  Perhaps not.  Regardless, our eyes are constantly searching around every twist and turn this year has brought for God to reveal the supernatural family He promised.

So many challenges have stood in front of me that seem to contradict the great promise of this year.

Separation challenges,

                   parenting challenges,

                                 gardening challenges,

                                            relationship challenges,

                                                          logistic challenges,

                                                                         physical challenges.

loneliness…insecurity…rebellion…frustration…disappointment…pressure…injury…

At every turn it seemed like one more giant was standing in the middle of my promised land, taunting me to believe that this promised land was his.

Why does God allow giants to stand in the way of our destiny?

Why does God tell Joshua (and Moses) to go possess the land He promised the people when He knew full well that Jericho was there to oppose them?

We oftentimes ask this “WHY” question when it seems that, if God were really God, He would have beaten the giant, removed the giant from our midst or not allowed him there in the first place. We doubt His goodness or His strength to act on our behalf.

But the REAL question is why do FEAR the giant.  Why do we hesitate or shrink back when we see him blocking our way?  Is that what we should do? Turn back, take a less resisted path, believe the lies that we are LESS THAN, UNDESERVING, PRESUMPTUOUS, or IN DENIAL of reality??  Why not rather believe that we were designed to fight our opposing giants and WIN,

like David who, against all odds, beheaded the great giant Goliath.

In the first movie of The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan reminds Peter he is to be king by showing him the castle where his throne sits.  Peter looks down as Aslan suggests that Peter doubts the prophesy.  Peter says, “That’s just it…I am not who you all think I am.”

And that is indeed THE PROBLEM.

We don’t battle the giants in our land to prove that God is real and good.  We don’t fight the giants for vanity or to impress the crowd.

We fight to prove to OURSELVES that we are indeed WHO God says WE ARE.  However the giant got there, I think we NEED to fight the giant to cure our doubt, to convince US that we are more than conquerers.  That we are who HE says we are.

Mighty Warrior

In another scene of Narnia, Peter rushes to the aide of his sisters who are being attacked by wolves.  Aslan and his army arrive as Peter is in the thick of the fight.  A soldier is about to jump in to fight the wolf who appears to be overtaking Peter.  But Aslan stops him declaring, “This is Peter’s fight.”

He new Peter had it in him to win.  And he knew Peter needed to BELIEVE that he had it in him too!

We are nearly one fourth of the way done with Jonathan’s tour.  But we are also nearly three fourths done with 2012.  It’s true there have been surprising and admittedly daunting twists and turns that I’d rather have not dealt with this year.  But at every turn, opposing giant starring me down, my doting Father has been here.  Encouraging me, teaching me, strengthening me.  Giving me hope and affirming His promise.  I see our family becoming more supernatural with every beheaded giant!

Do you have a giant in your path, taunting you?  Blocking you from your GOD given destiny?  God has strength for you.  He has grace for you.  He has ideas for you.  He created you and believes in what he made you to be.  Perhaps conquering that giant is the very thing that will unveil more of who you were made to be!  Like Narnia’s Peter, who, through battle, finally realized he was a KING.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Copyright ©2012 makeitplainontablets.wordpress.com

Tilling the Soil of My Heart

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Today while my children and soon-to-depart husband napped, I spent time weeding an old flower bed in my yard.  Two years ago we planted this bed full of tulip bulbs to bloom about the time our daughter would be born.

Anna’s Tulips

Once those beautiful and memorial blooms faded and died this bed became home to overgrown weeds and bugs.  The following year only 5 or 6 of 60 untended tulips pressed up through the earth.  With my new found success in the pot garden, I got inspired to tackle this weed filled beast and plant food producing plants.  Cantaloupes (and maybe another zucchini) are in our future!

Weeding in Progress!
In Progress

As I turned the soil, removed the weeds and discovered what insects were living there I was reminded of a passage.  In Matthew 13 Jesus tells the parable of the sower in which the heart of man is illustrated as soil.  In the parable some of the soil was beaten down, some was shallow, some was riddled with thorns and some was good – ready to receive seed and be fruitful.

I learned from my father who has gardened his whole life that even good soil needs to be turned and crops rotated in order to remain fruitful.  For example, you wouldn’t want to plant tomatoes year after year in the same spot, in the same soil.  The nutrients of the soil would eventually be depleted and the crop would dwindle or worse.  Also time, water and pressure makes the ground hard and difficult for roots to grow in.  Therefore, each season the soil needs to be turned up or tilled.

There are times in our life where the soil of our heart needs to be examined and turned over.

“How do you till the soil of the heart?”  I asked as my spade dug a clod of dirt and clay.  I clenched it with my gloved hand and crushed it.  It fell to pieces. The roots of weeds were exposed and easily removed.

…Brokenness…

“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  A broken and repentant heart you will not reject, O God.”  Psalm 51:7 NLT

Tomorrow my husband will board a plane for a job in a foreign land.  It will keep him away for a year.  I am taking time at the dawn of this season to till my heart.  Brokenness is easily found on the the horizon as I grieve his leaving.  Taking the interpretation of repentance referring to direction rather than a word for apology, I pause to re-focus on the truths that hold my course on this journey. (Blog tip: Each highlighted line is a link to a related article.)

God is still God – And always is no matter what happens.

God is Trustworthy

He created and knows EVERYTHING and still knows me, loves me and wants me.

He has great plans!  I need not worry or fear.

And He’s here for me.

Worshipping this morning I listened to this song.  It would be the link to the one point above that doesn’t have one. “You Know Me” Bethel Music with Steffany Frizzell

I embark on this new season, to be honest, with a little anxiety…but a lot of hope too.  Much is unknown and unfamiliar but I have anticipation for great surprises and a fulfilling adventure!  If you think of it – please keep my family in prayer.

Ready!

Blessings!

Copyright ©2012 makeitplainontablets.wordpress.com

Do you know who you are?

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Who are you?  What defines who you are?  We all wear many hats.  Some wear more than others, but I can throw a list out and hit hats that many of us wear:

Wife

Daughter

Father

Nurse (or whatever your profession is)

Friend

Homemaker

American

Student

Lover

Liar

Thief

Addict

and I am sure you can think of more, good and bad.

But, is this who you are?

Below is a story about me and the end of my first marriage.  A story about a storm that changed my life and my heart. A storm where white lightening crashed against a dark sky and illuminated the end and the beginning of myself.  An illumination that glowed bright until all I was left with was a brilliant rainbow of promise against a fresh blue sky of Hope.

I used to define myself as a good person, a nurse, someone who cares for others, the baby of eleven children, financially frugal, organized planner, homemaker, young, athletic, beautiful, thin, and at the very top of the list WIFE.  And I looked forward to being a mother, having traditions in my family, and growing as a unit raising children for God, honoring Him with our lives.  Sounds picture perfect?  Exactly!

After being together seven years (married for four), my husband left me.  It was like he took off a mask of the man he was pretending to be and displayed the man he was.  He left our marriage, our church and all our friends.  I was heartbroken, confused and scared.  And although it didn’t happen all at once, each one of those descriptions that I defined myself with started to disappear.

If I was really a good person he wouldn’t have left.

if I cared for him well he wouldn’t have left.

If I was more beautiful,

if I was more athletic,

IF

IF

IF

  If I was someone else, someone better…

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As time went by, he didn’t come back.  I came to realize that it wouldn’t be long before I wasn’t a wife anymore.  I hardly told anyone he left.  I just kept going to work hoping he’d change his mind. I couldn’t eat or sleep.  I dropped so much weight the doctors at work said I looked like I came from a concentration camp.  I was an anxious mess.  Three months later he told me he wouldn’t end his relationships with other women and that I shouldn’t call him anymore. And then the final blow: I needed to get on with my life and not base it on his.  I hit bottom.  I was so low and empty that very little mattered to me anymore – even God.  And the pain that filled me was so great emotionally and physically that the best way to stop this, I thought, was to die.

So as I was lying in a ball on my living room floor one night weeping; physically ill, emotional drained, and spiritually disconnected and thought about killing myself to end the pain.  I imagined what I was going to do.  I would go into work, get the keys to the narcotics cabinet in the Operating Room (they weren’t computerized back then), and inject myself with that wonderful little drug they use to put patients to sleep before surgery.  By the time someone found me it would be too late.  But, then, I thought that killing myself would be giving up on God; taking away His chance to do something in my life.  And because I thought that that was ultimate sin, without possibility of repentance: after I successfully killed myself I would go to hell and be physically ill, emotional drained and spiritually disconnected eternally.  I felt trapped.  I was living in my own hell with the only way I saw to get out leading to another hell that was worse.  Or so I could imagine.

With my nursing education, I knew that fantasizing about suicide along with a tangible plan was a very bad place to be.  So I called my sister in Las Vegas who is a Christian and lay counselor. I asked her, “Can you come here?  I need help.”  It turned out that after trying to make arrangements to come she couldn’t.  But she flew me to Vegas instead.  And I went for five days.

Before these five days I did not believe in the spiritual world the way I do now.  I didn’t believe we could hear the voice of God or that the Holy Spirit was involved with our daily lives.  But I couldn’t deny that God spoke to me in Vegas and what He said changed me.

It’s difficult to reason with a person in depression.  Though my sister tried to tell me the truth I just couldn’t see it.  I was lying on her bed sobbing, trying to convince her that I was unlovable and there was no hope for me.  That my life was over.  All my dreams were crushed, unrecoverable, trampled in the mud.  From the outside, this sounds ridiculous.  But when it’s you and all you feel is pain and powerlessness it couldn’t be more resonable.

My sister would go in the bathroom and cry and pray for me.  Her words didn’t seem to make a difference.  One morning she put a worship cd on and left me there in her bed to go take her son to school.  I was exhausted. I nestled into the huge down filled bed and listened to the music.  I can’t say I heard an audible voice but I had a conversation nonetheless. As clear as I have ever heard anyone speak He said,

Don’t you know you are the daughter of the King of the Universe?  I love you!  Why would you let anyone else define you?

My sister returned 15 minutes later.  I was up, dressed and going outside for the newspaper…to find a job!  She was shocked and asked what I was doing.  I said, “I’m moving to Vegas!”  God did not cure my depression in that fifteen minutes.  That was a healing that came through time and process.  I had many beliefs in the core of my being that had to be unlearned and replaced with Truth.  But what He did do was remind me of my identity.  He reminded me who I was, He reminded me who HE was!

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I came back from Vegas with new eyes.  Everything looked different.  Lying in that bed in Vegas I learned the most important thing a person can ever learn:  I AM THE DAUGHTER (or SON) OF THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE!  I was empowered and I had direction.  I had given power to the physical world to define my worth and value.  Because he didn’t love me – I was unlovable.  Because he tossed me aside – I had no value.  No man or job or friendship or anything deserves the right to define us.  We mistakenly give those things that power.  And those things are inevitably going to fail miserably at defining us.  Who better to define us than our creator?  Not to mention the value He gives is so much better than any other.  Spouses, bosses, children, friends, church, tradition, culture they can all make us feel insignificant when we give them the power to define us.

Why would you let someone who is bound to fail because they are human tell you what you are worth when you can allow God to say, “I created and formed you.  Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are mine.  You will pass through deep water and I will be with you in the rivers you will not drown.  You will walk through fire, but you shall not be burned; and the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord, your God, your Savior.  I have given much as ransom for you.  Because you are precious in my eyes, and glorious, and I love you.  I gave my life in exchange for you.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you.  I have chosen you to know, to believe, and understand that it is I, the Lord, there is no Savior, but me.”  (paraphrase of Isaiah 43:1-8)

Who are we to say that God wasted the blood of the Lamb on us, that we are not worth His sacrifice?  Who can say that God is wrong?  Who can challenge him and remain standing?  What does it say to God when we give others power to define us, even ourselves?  Do we not make them a god in a way?  When my self talk is demeaning am I not saying to God, “What do you know?”

So I decided I will no longer allow perishable things to define me.  Not people, position or possessions.

I am an eternal being.  My life will never end.  And because of the blood of Jesus that was used to pay my ransom, I will spend my eternity in Heaven!  When this is true how significant is anything here in the physical world?  Nothing matters except Him!  There is no marriage in Heaven.  There is no parenthood.  There is no money.  There are no popularity or beauty contests.   That doesn’t mean these relationships and things are not important.  How we treat each other and ourselves and steward our possessions is how we show God how grateful we are and how much we love Him.  But these things can not be our goal, they can not be our dream and they can not be what defines us.

So now what?  I tried to live out my dreams, accomplish my will and I failed and found myself devastated.  And I want you to remember that I did all those things thinking I was accomplishing the will of God, being a godly wife and friend, being a “good” person.  But I was still trying to accomplish my will, trying to make myself feel good, trying to complete myself.  Lying that day in my sister’s bed I heard God give me a choice.  He said,

“You tried to live for your (selfish) dreams and look what happened.  Now, do you want to live out My dreams for you or do you want to try it your way again?”

He gave me the free will to choose and would love me either way, but for me, the answer was obvious.

The rest of the story:

Despite my efforts to try and make my marriage work it ended.  Nine months after my husband moved out we were divorced.  I did move to Las Vegas, got a job and an apartment.  I became part of my sister’s church, went to support groups and was surrounded by friends who showed me what love and life looked like. I came to know God more and what He was really like.  I learned how to forgive and found healing for my soul. I became an amazing me that I loved and I learned to dream with God.

Copyright ©2012 makeitplainontablets.wordpress.com

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*** If you are reading this and find you relate to the thoughts of depression and suicide PLEASE get help!  Talk to a friend, pastor, or doctor.  If you don’t know who to call or how to get help please click here.