Rejoice in God’s Will

Here is a great devotional that is a good addition to my JOY theme this year. I read this yesterday at Crossmap.com titledNot Simply to Endure or to Choose God’s Will but to Rejoice in it.” The author of this devotional is none other than L. B. Cowman of Streams in the Desert. 

I live with several chronic pain illnesses and have often pondered the subject of God’s will, especially during this particular season of my life. Is it really possible to truly rejoice in God’s will, no matter what our difficulties are? Yes it is, and Mr. Cowman’s devotional is a good reminder of this. I especially appreciate this part of the devotional: “the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.”

Not Simply to Endure
or to Choose God’s Will
but to Rejoice in it

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. (2 Corinthians 6:10)

A stoic person despises the shedding of tears, but a Christian is not forbidden to weep.Yet the soul may become silent from excessive grief, just as the quivering sheep may remain quiet beneath the scissors of the shearer. Or, when the heart is at the verge of breaking beneath the waves of a trial, the sufferer may seek relief by crying out with a loud voice. But there is something even better.

It is said that springs of sweet, fresh water pool up amid the saltiness of the oceans, that the fairest Alpine flowers bloom in the wildest and most rugged mountain passes, and that the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.

May it continue to be! Therefore, amid a multitude of trials, souls who love God will discover reasons for boundless, leaping joy. Even though “deep calls to deep”(Ps.42:7), the clear cadence of the Lord’s song will be heard. And during the most difficult hour that could ever enter a human life, it will be possible to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you learned this lesson yet?

Read the rest here.

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Great is Your Faithfulness

Great is Your Faithfulness

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Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:21-23

How often do we do things that disappoint the people in our lives?

Maybe we’ve made a promise that later we found we can’t keep. Perhaps we raise our voice in anger again even though we don’t mean to. And how about the times when a friend or family member tries to sympathize with our pain? They mean well, but you’re certain they just don’t understand. I’m sure you’ve wanted to tell them, “You have no idea what it’s like to be in this kind of pain every day.”

At this point, we have two choices: to dwell on our misery or get on with the business of life.

We can moan and groan about our circumstances so everyone is aware of how much we are hurting, or we can demonstrate God’s presence in our lives by rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful to be with us through our tough times.

I have a very close friend (you know who you are!) who is a good example of one who lets God shine through her in spite of her constant pain. She once shared her feelings about pain with me this way:

“It is just pain. It could be worse. I could be suffering with pain and dying. It is only pain. I can still live and make the most of my life, to extend myself as far as I can go, to reach for the stars, to do the unimaginable. The pain will still be there. So, why not celebrate?”

This dear friend is such an encourager. Her positive attitude is a beacon of light in the darkness of pain. Quite simply, she makes me smile no matter how awful I’m feeling.

Beloved, the Lord is our only hope! He knows exactly what our pain is like and He will help us through it “every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.” He understands how constant pain can undermine a positive attitude and make us feel hopeless. But He’s always with us, ready to offer His love and comfort: “therefore I have hope.” Won’t you please pray with me?

Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s so hard to be cheerful and hopeful when I’m feeling so rotten. It’s easier for me to just give up and let the pain take over. But, Lord, I know that You love me too much to let me feel this way. Thank You for what You are teaching me through these trials and for being with me always. Help me to let Your joy flow through me to touch the lives of others who may also be suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

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Please and Thank You continued

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My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
—Psalm 45:1

Several years after Rick and I first moved to northern Arizona, I was trying to make money through my freelance writing. Psalm 45:1 was my writing goal, but still God dead-ended almost every one of my efforts. It took me some time to finally realize that even though I said I was writing for God’s glory, in fact I was not. I spent tons of time furiously trying to earn money through my writing but my ultimate goal was to become a well-known writer.

When I came face-to-face with that truth, I was appalled. How could I have let myself be pulled into such a different direction from when I first started writing? I immediately stopped writing for about two years while I spent more time in the Word.

A curious thing happened during that writing hiatus. God called me to contribute to a book titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. I’ve shared several of the prayers I wrote for that book here before. The daunting part of this is that the editor gave me only three weeks to write 30 prayer entries—yes, you read that right: 30!

There was a big problem with this. I was struggling through some massive migraines during all those three weeks. However, God walked with me through the whole thing because I not only got them all written and submitted on time, there was very little final editing that had to be done. And how interesting that the topics I was assigned to write about were “Prayers of Supplication” and “Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving”—in essence, please and thank you!

One of my posts last week was titled Please and Thank You, which was about my first time as a counselor at Royal Family Kids camp. During that week, I spent my days and nights in constant prayers of please and thank you. In the same way, my heart was constantly uttering please and thank you prayers while God supplied the stamina I needed to write those 30 prayers.

God used those three weeks to remind me of where He wants me:
close by His side, relying on Him alone to get me through
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A long time ago I read some wise words from an unknown author. They went something like this:

Don’t get so involved with the work of the Lord that you forget the Lord of the work.

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In the Fiery Furnace

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Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king,
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to
defend ourselves before you in this matter.

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve is able to save us from it,
and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.
But even if he does not, 
we want you to know, O king,
that we will not serve your gods
or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
—Daniel 3:16-18, NIV

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship a gold statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s likeness. They firmly believed God would rescue them from a “blazing furnace.” But their faith didn’t stop there. They refused to worship any other gods or images even if God did not rescue them.

In his fury, Nebuchadnezzar ordered them thrown into a fiery furnace seven times hotter than usual. The intense heat killed several soldiers who were standing near the oven. However, inside of the oven, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were not harmed at all. In fact, four men were seen walking around in that oven, the fourth described “like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25, NKJV).

Do you feel the heat of your own fiery furnace today? Those of us who experience unrelenting pain oftentimes wonder why we are going through this. Will it ever end? Why isn’t God taking away our pain?

There is so much going on in our world today that seeks to divert our attention from God. It is much easier to complain and blame God for everything that is wrong in our lives than to pray for His help in coping with our pain. I admit that I struggle at times with this very thing, as well as the why of the path God is allowing in this season of my life. But when I do that, it turns my focus from God to myself, which keeps me from being able to embrace the joyful hope that is found only in Jesus Christ.

Beloved, God is always with us and fully understands what we’re going through better than any human being ever could. All He asks is that we trust Him to walk with us through our own personal fiery furnaces. He knows our fears and frustrations. He understands our pain. And He will always be there with us and for us.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, sometimes we hurt so much that we don’t have the words to pray what is in our hearts. But You know what we’re going through and what we need from You without our having to say a word. Help us to always reach for Your hand in our fiery furnaces. Amen.

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The LORD is Your Shade

 

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It has been a long, pain-filled summer for me. Thank you for bearing with me as I’ve been sharing some of my old posts with you, mostly by my very close friends and mentors, Pat Knight and Donna Baker. I did not want to completely leave the blogging world for several months, so being able to schedule those precious posts ahead of time really helped.

Thank you again, Pat and Donna, for allowing me to share your hearts with my readers. I love you both so much!

Today I have a new one for you that seems to fit in with how my summer went. 

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The LORD is Your Shade

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I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

—Psalm 121

Years ago, I moved from northern Vermont to Phoenix, Arizona. One of the first things I noticed about the Southwest is how people look for parking in any available shady spot, especially in the summer. There might be loads of open parking spaces near the entrance to a store or business, but if there is any kind of shade elsewhere in the parking lot, you can be sure those shady places are the first to be taken. And no wonder, given that average daytime Phoenix temperatures in the summer are at least 105 degrees.

Although most of us enjoy sunshine, consistent sunlight can damage all sorts of surfaces, including our skin, car finishes, and exterior paint. We are urged to use sunscreen on our skin; the color finish on newer cars includes a clear, sun-resistant top coat. As for the paint peeling off our homes, short of using aluminum siding, all we can do is scrape the peeling areas and repaint every few years.

Ten years ago today, we moved to the north country of Arizona, and as wonderful as the sun is, it still can take its toll up here. Temperatures are typically about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than Phoenix, but it still gets hot up here. And heat truly aggravates my chronic pain illnesses.

I love this Psalm, particularly verses 5 and 6. The Psalmist tells us that the LORD is our shade! Ponder that for a moment. Imagine standing in the middle of the desert with nothing around you for miles. The scorching sun is baking your weary body; you have barely enough energy to put one foot in front of the other. Suddenly the area where you’re standing is in the shade, but you cannot figure out why. You can see no trees or other shelter to provide shade but nevertheless you are being protected from the blazing sun.

This is how I picture God protecting us.

No matter what is happening to us each day that is causing us to feel down, if we look to the only One who matters, He is faithful to shelter us from the blazing heat that can sometimes characterize our lives. 

Beloved, let’s see if we can hang tight to that thought when we need it most! Our Heavenly Father can be our shade no matter how hot things get for us here on earth. We can close our eyes and picture His shade as we go through each trial in our lives, letting it fill us with the certain knowledge that only under the shade of our Father’s loving arms can we find protection and relief from the storms in our lives.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us enough to care about even the smallest details in our lives.

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Great is His Faithfulness

Great is His Faithfulness

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Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.
—Lamentations 3:21-23

How often do we do things that disappoint the people in our lives?

Maybe we’ve made a promise that later we found we can’t keep. Perhaps we raise our voice in anger again even though we don’t mean to. And how about the times when a friend or family member tries to sympathize with our pain? They mean well, but you’re certain they just don’t understand. I’m sure you’ve wanted to tell them, “You have no idea what it’s like to be in this kind of pain every day.”

At this point, we have two choices:
to dwell on our misery
or get on with the business of life.

We can moan and groan about our circumstances so everyone is aware of how much we are hurting, or we can demonstrate God’s presence in our lives by rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful to be with us through our tough times.

I have a very close friend (you know who you are!) who is a good example of one who lets God shine through her in spite of her constant pain. She once shared her feelings about pain with me this way:

“It is just pain. It could be worse. I could be suffering with pain and dying. It is only pain. I can still live and make the most of my life, to extend myself as far as I can go, to reach for the stars, to do the unimaginable. The pain will still be there. So, why not celebrate?”

This dear friend is such an encourager. Her positive attitude is a beacon of light in the darkness of pain. Quite simply, she makes me smile no matter how awful I’m feeling.

Beloved, the Lord is our only hope! He knows exactly what our pain is like and He will help us through it “every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.” He understands how constant pain can undermine a positive attitude and make us feel hopeless. But He’s always with us, ready to offer His love and comfort: “therefore I have hope.”

Won’t you please pray with me?

Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s so hard to be cheerful and hopeful when I’m feeling so rotten. It’s easier for me to just give up and let the pain take over. But, Lord, I know that You love me too much to let me feel this way. Thank You for what You are teaching me through these trials and for being with me always. Help me to let Your joy flow through me to touch the lives of others who may also be suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

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He is Faithful [repost]

Lately I’ve been thinking about how the Lord is leading me in my writing life, and how thankful I am to Him for that. I am going to be starting a new phase soon and will share more about that when the time comes. For now, rather than cut back on my blog posting, I thought I’d share an older post with you once a week or so. 

This particular post from 2012 about God’s faithfulness concerns a very big turning point in my writing career. I discovered that sometimes we need to just stop everything in order to allow our Lord to give us a fresh insight into His plans for us. When I stopped writing a few years back, I had no idea that the hiatus would involve a huge amount of trust in Jesus.

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
—1 Thessalonians 5:24

I’ve been talking and blogging a lot lately about leaning on the Lord with faith and trust. Today I’d like to focus on how faith plays such a huge part in trusting and believing in the Lord’s timing.

By the way, “faith” (a noun) and “believe” (a verb) are both translated from the same Greek word. If you claim to have faith in God, then believing in Him is to put that faith into action. In other words, our faith leads to believing that what God says is true and more important than what we see or feel with our frail and easily persuaded human minds.

Are you still with me? If so, I’d like to share one of the times God reinforced a believing faith in my life.

I don’t know about you but just when I feel comfortable with the way my life is going, that’s when I know God will start to shake things up a bit. I like to say He is moving me from one comfort zone to the next!

One of the examples of this in my own life happened about seven years ago. After several years of writing, my well of imagination seemed to have run dry. I had unexpectedly lost my desire to write.

Those who know me best suggested that I was probably experiencing writer’s block, but God simply had other plans for me. In the midst of my quiet times with Him, I felt Him telling me to stop everything writing-related for a time and focus on Him as I rested my exhausted body and mind.

As difficult as it was to understand this, I knew God was asking me to put into action what I believe to be true: God is more than worthy of my faith and trust.

My writing hiatus came to an abrupt end about a year later when a writing assignment dropped into my inbox that I knew had to be from the Lord. I had sent my resume to a publisher the previous year and then forgotten about it. Now this same publisher offered me an assignment that was tailor-made for my style of writing.

But there was a problem: not only was the deadline a mere three weeks away, but I needed to research and write while battling severe daily migraines.

The migraine issue was not a new thing, but I just cannot think clearly when in the midst of one of these nausea creating, light and sound bothering, hair hurting migraines hits me. And it was happening on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, I struggled through this assignment day after day, sometimes praying through my tears. And—day after day—God provided me with the ideas I needed plus the necessary strength to get this enormous amount of writing done in such a short period of time.

The finished book was a compilation of prayers written by me and several other authors. By the grace of God and by believing that He would faithfully help me complete this assignment on time, I met my deadline of composing 31 prayer devotionals.

You read that right: 31 devotionals in 3 weeks!

In great pain I toiled through the writing of every single one of those devotionals but God was faithful in giving me exactly the strength I needed exactly when I needed it most.

Beloved, are you facing something in your life that seems too much for you to handle? Maybe—like I did—you think there is nothing you can contribute because of your circumstances or illness or limited energy.

If you take away anything from what I went through, it should be this: when God wants us to do something for Him, He does not expect us to do it on our own. He just wants us to have faith and believe that He will walk with us through it.

He is the Great Enabler and will always grant us exactly the amount of strength and stamina we need to finish whatever He calls us to do!

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Thankful for God’s Blessings

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Every so often I like to share some of my devotionals with you that were published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. My assignment was to write 30 devotionals for this book, and I had only 3 weeks to get them done. That tight deadline was stressful enough, but having migraines 24/7 only added more stress. When I wasn’t writing, I was sleeping!

Thankfully, God’s continuous grace and mercy got me through this difficult assignment. Looking back now, I can say that He carried me through all my painful circumstances to write what He had in mind for me. I hope you are as blessed when you read this as I was while I was writing it. To God be the glory for walking with me through it!

Please enjoy this devotional. It was the first in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God for His blessings . . .

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. —Psalm 103:1-2

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. —John 1:16

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.. —Ephesians 1:3

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. —James 1:17

. . . I will pray.

Holy Lord,

Lately I’ve been reflecting on how much You have blessed me, and it brings tears to my eyes as I realize You supply all these things because You love me so much.

I look around my home and see how You have amply provided for all my needs. Comfortable furniture fills my rooms. There is food in the pantry and refrigerator to nourish my body. The clothes in my closet keep me warm in winter and allow me to be cool in summer.

I am surrounded by family and friends who love and care about me. Did You place them in my life to help me through the rough patches? It seems that way to me.

I know there are times I don’t appreciate You as much as I should. Instead, I grumble and complain about the most insignificant things. That’s when You remind me that You are always with me—and that is the biggest and best blessing of all. When I’m happy and joyful, You cheer me up even more. And when I’m feeling low, it helps me to remember that the most precious part of my life is knowing You.

Thank You for being the Giver of bountiful blessings.

Amen.

Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some. —Charles Dickens

[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

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The Peace of God

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The Peace of God

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. —Philippians 4:6

“Are we there yet?”

I’m sure many of us have heard these words from our children more times than we care to remember. It’s always exciting to travel to new places and see new sights. But once there, the newness quickly subsides and the children—and probably us if we’re being truthful—long to be back home with their friends. They want to return to the familiar surroundings of their own neighborhood.

That’s just the way we are. While we might want to do something different and out of the norm, we still long to be back in our own homes and familiar surroundings.

Chronic illness in particular takes us out of our comfort zone and places us in an unknown situation. Where before we could rely on our bodies to perform in a certain predictable way, now we don’t know from one day to the next (sometimes hour by hour) what to expect. Will I be able to shake the fibrofog that stalks me most days? And how about simple tasks like the laundry and dusting? Will I need help with those jobs?

God tells us to “be anxious for nothing.” I don’t know about you, but at times that’s difficult for me. I long to be certain that I’ll feel well enough to accompany Rick when we make a date to join friends for dinner. And what about this blog? Will I have enough energy to keep up with it?

But God also tells us to be thankful “in everything.”  To me that means no matter what is happening with me on any given day, I must trust that God knows what needs to be done and will enable me to do the important things.

Phil-4-7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:7

Beloved, doesn’t it comfort your hearts to read that? What this means to me is that as long as I cling to God and His promises—no matter how I feel—He will grant me that special peace that can only come from completely trusting in Him.

The peace of God. I don’t know about you, but I sure am glad I have His peace to keep me calm in my circumstances. What a wonderful promise!

AnnaSmile

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How to Be Happy [Repost from 4-15-2012]

A blast from the past on this . . .

HAPPY SUNDAY!

On this Happy Sunday, I’d like to share what I’ve found about this thing called happiness.

The dictionary defines happy as:

  • delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing
  • characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy
  • favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky
  • in high spirits
  • satisfied

Here are some synonyms that also describe being happy:

  • blessed
  • cheerful
  • content
  • delighted
  • glad
  • joyful
  • peaceful
  • upbeat

On the other hand, here are a few words that describe what happy is not:

  • depressed
  • discouraged
  • dissatisfied
  • miserable
  • sad
  • sorrowful

What struck me most reading through all of this were the words satisfied and peaceful—two wonderful words describing how one can most times lead to the other. If we’re satisfied with what we have and about our life in general, we feel peaceful about it —that “peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

I have found that being truly happy does not depend on our circumstances. Consider this: no one’s life is perfect. We all struggle with something in our lives, oftentimes several somethings all at the same time. All of these somethings come with bad and good. Let me explain with a very personal example.

I struggle every single day with several chronic illnesses, but the worst of my health issues these days are debilitating migraines. I start each day with a migraine and a lot of the time it subsides for two to three hours (sometimes more on a really good day) before it returns around dinner time to reclaim me as its unwilling victim.

These migraines impact every single aspect of my life. I have had to cancel or postpone countless appointments, trips and gatherings with friends and family. I very often have to turn down my sweet hubby’s invitations to go out with him for a meal or a motorcycle ride.

Those are my bad somethings.

I used to have the “poor me” attitude until God worked in me to remind me that nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37) with Him in my life. It has only been through my utter dependence on Him and my faith in Him as my constant Comforter that I have finally realized the good that has come from this season in my life. I now have a more complete reliance on Him for everything. There is also the realization that my pain-filled existence on this earth is nothing compared to the joy that awaits me in heaven. Adding to these is the awareness that God is teaching me new things about myself through these experiences every single day.

Those are the good parts of my bad somethings.

Wow. Can you see how much more there is to the good parts? The good parts are the positive results of those negative somethings. I can honestly say that in all this I have found that peace of God that transcends all understanding!

Here are a few great quotes I found about being happy:

  • “There are two ways of being happy: We must either diminish our wants or augment our means – either may do – the result is the same and it is for each man to decide for himself and to do that which happens to be easier. —Benjamin Franklin
  • “He who is of calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden.” —Plato
  • “The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have, instead of what you don’t have.” —Woody Allen

Finally, here’s some of what the Bible has to say about being happy:

  • “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” —Proverbs 15:13
  • “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. “—Ecclesiastes 3:11-13
  • “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.”  —Ecclesiastes 7:14
  • Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.”  —James 5:13

Singing songs of praise and thanksgiving…

AnnaSmile

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