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Wednesday Wind Down: Dichotomic 

Recently, I felt the pain of a woman who’s only desire was to provide the best solution for her children at the expense of what she wished for them. She cried after we prayed together. I bought the items she needed and she agreed to a massage therapy session. I just wanted to help, wanted her to know that I see her. She was the 2nd person for I whom I prayed and to whom I had given. The first person was homeless and when I asked him for a prayer request, his response was to pray for his family. How selfless. These opportunities started hours after I received news that my income would decrease… again. Perfect timing, right? Exactly. That’s what I said too.

Now, I’m not monetarily rich. I’m not a superstar. I don’t have someone taking sensational photos of me at every turn so I can post them on the ‘gram. And I’m definitely not a selfie girl. I just… listen. I sincerely try to listen to God’s voice everyday and anywhere. That’s how this blog Listening at the Speed of Life was born. So, when those opportunities presented themselves, I had to be obedient. No questions asked. 

What have I learned about myself along this journey of obedience? 

  • I hug my students.
  • I even hug strangers. 
  • I pray for people I don’t know.
  • I say thank you. A lot.
  • I love big and I retreat quickly.
  • I boldly express my care.
  • I can speak up when I’m scared.
  • I can ask questions unapologetically. 
  • I seek to understand. 
  • I generally stay to myself, yet I have meaningful relationships.
  • I am a delicate, and resilient balance of mind, body, and spirit.
  • My introversion is beautiful, not a defect.
  • I don’t have to be loud if I don’t want to be.
  • I don’t have to be in the mix to feel included.
  • I like breathing and being, and sometimes these come at the cost of being misunderstood. That’s OK with me now. (It wasn’t when I started.)

So, back to the moment. She was grateful. I was humble. We connected.

The message?

It’s time that we slow down and feel the heartbeat of one another. We’re all humans trying to navigate through this life, and if you’re a Christian, then you’re trying to adhere to a certain compass as you travel on your path. It’s not easy, and we are all doing it… walking it out, journeying into the next dimension of ourselves, and feeling our way around in the darkness of tomorrow’s challenges. 

What would it hurt to wave to the service worker? Speak to the custodian? Give a thank you card to the teacher? Buy an extra meal for the hungry? Or simply hug your friend without it being an obligatory salutation? 

What happened to us orbiting together instead of spinning around each other, being afraid to bump into one another’s space? 

What happened to running the human race together and checking on others along the way?

Peace & Thanks for listening. 

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Monday Motivation: Purpose is inconvenient.

Hello, Warriors!

I have a short stop newsflash for you – if you’re all about walking in your purpose, you must be willing to be inconvenienced. Doing what you are born to do requires a level of humility unlike any other.

Think about it.

  • When it’s time to celebrate a big moment, there is usually music and food involved. That means that someone is working while you’re enjoying the fruits of their labor.
  • In 1 Kings 19:19-21, Elisha was called to be a servant of Elijah, he was plowing oxen.
  • In the 2nd chapter that bears her name, Ruth was gleaning fields trying to support her mother-in-law when Boaz found her and she became King David’s great-grandmother.

In order for your purposeful journey to flourish, there is a tilling of the ground, a rehearsal that makes your body sore, a recipe that doesn’t work, or a car that breaks down. Purpose does not make you comfortable. It makes you birth something you didn’t know you had. Jesus’ purpose in delivering us from evil through his death, burial, and resurrection was beyond uncomfortable and it definitely wasn’t at a convenient time. He was approximately 33 years old when completed his mission, and He did more in 33 years than some of us do in our entire lifetime.

So, keep this in mind today – your purpose will be fruitful… and especially inconvenient. What a beautiful dichotomy.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Wind Down: These Three Things

Where was the Wednesday Wind Down last week? On the road. To Indianapolis, Indiana. So, you have a bit to catch up on.

20180331_145318
I just had to pause and take this shot of Jesus waiting for the curtain to open. 

On Easter weekend, Upon This Rock (UTR) Productions celebrated 34 years of theatrical passion with a trailblazing rendition of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that could rival any Broadway play. Hands down, Sweetheart. It was exciting, invigorating, and  empowering.

 

The day before the last rehearsal, I left Alabama with a worn out spirit, waiting to be refreshed. I won’t lie and say that nothing good happened to me leading up to my departure. Actually, God the Father sent distinct reminders after I cried my eyes out the prior week. I don’t cry often, so why the tears, you ask? Because I felt like a wrung out dish rag. Strong will plus a caring spirit, coupled with a loving heart can create opportunities for people to minimize you. Because I am not boisterous, it is sometimes assumed that I am resilient enough to be kicked around like kindergarten ball at recess.  If you’ve ever felt this way, you know that at some point, you deflate a bit.

Well, since the beginning of the year, there have been significant instances where this assumption occurred, and by late March, I had reached my quota. I recall feeling so low a couple of weeks ago that I pulled over at a parking lot to gather myself on the way home one night because my silent frustration was so loud. There I was, battling the Truth against what was true – 1) that as much as I sincerely give of my time, talent, and treasure, there will always be someone that will disregard it, 2) that I can not control whether someone values my gifts, 3) that at times I feel invisible – trudging along some days just to stay positive and uplifting, 4) that in the midst of invitations to birthday shindigs, bridal showers, baby showers, gender reveals, organizational celebrations, etc. I somehow felt good enough to celebrate with, but not enough to contact otherwise, and lastly 5) that I was God’s Beloved and that I shouldn’t be feeling down in the first place. Ever been there? It’s not a “Woe is me” moment, but a “I’m tired of getting screwed over and fighting for the basics” moment. The vest that was once girding and protecting me was now suffocating me. It needed to come off for a minute. Just for one minute so I could catch my breath from the blows… then, I could strap back on my armor and return to the battlefield. *smh* But, two weeks

20180330_194828
My Sister for Life – Producing Actress/ Vocalist/ Comedienne Moneca Reid 

 ago, I just needed a minute. That minute turned into an hour of outcry over the phone to my sister (with whom I would attend UTR) who understood exactly what I was experiencing. She decoded my tears and congratulated me on giving my frustration a voice.

 

So, now you see my mindset and spiritual state by the time I had to travel to Indiana. I came with a positive outlook, ready to receive whatever God had to show me. Whatever He had to say, I was beyond all ears. My prayer included the resolve that I was coming to Indianapolis empty-hearted, but would not leave empty-handed. I was spiritually hungry, and everything in me was open and available. My assistant role was clear and I was excited to serve and experience my first UTR Production.

In the midst of working backstage, I was absolutely filled. There were 3 things that I heard from God and three responses I released to Him.

  1. “You do all things well.”

  2. “How dare I accept less than what I am worth?”

  3. “You really do know how I feel.”

 

20180331_012130
Living Testimony / Executive Director Sharon L. Hill

Though some loved ones are no longer here, God does all things well. The adversity that we live through brings us closer to the people who need our story. This is the case for Executive Director Sharon L. Hill. Her testimony manifested in the form of Upon This Rock Productions. The smiles you see in that photo are not results of everything being perfect, but of God doing everything well from one point in life to another and another and another…

 

So how dare I accept anything less than what Jesus paid for my heart when He came with my end in mind? He values me so much that He continues to give His Love in exchange for my tainted version. Friends, Lovers, Family… it doesn’t matter. You can not – hear me clearly – you CAN NOT allow yourself to absorb the value that someone has placed on you. Check yourself for “stickers” that others have put on you and remove them quickly. You may need the Father’s help, but you can do it.

When I saw the actors cast as Jesus experience everything I had cried about just days before, it humbled me… quickly. He truly does know how I feel. Now that I’m back home, I can’t imagine the thought of forgetting that Truth. He knows what it feels like to be me. After all, that was the soul purpose of Jesus coming to Earth, destroying the religious status quo, loving the discarded, and obliterating hell’s power. He had to experience life in my shoes. At times, He retreated to pray and regroup. Sometimes, He was frustrated. He was sad. His authority and identity were questioned. He felt loved. He felt happy. He felt betrayed. He felt forgotten. He felt victorious. He is the perfect example of finishing a mission. He is the perfect depiction of Love.

One thing is for sure — everyone who experienced Jesus then and everyone who experiences His Love now have probably said one or all of those three responses above. As you wind down tonight or get ready to start your day, I pray that you are reminded of God’s Love toward you.  I had to get that off my chest before I went to bed, so I hope you feel the virtual hugs through your screen.

Peace, Love, and Thanks for listening, Sweetheart.

 

 

Speak My Language

*SMH*

I was reading a devotional on YouVersion and Matthew 13:13 jumped out at me. He knows us all too well. Better than we know ourselves. And He know that we need parables, not a dissertation. After reading this scripture, all I could do was shake my head and say “Thank you, Jesus, for speaking my language.” My sentiment was two-fold and I am grateful that Jesus serves as both a bridge and a translator for my life.

#1 – It’s a blessing to have a Bridge!

Jesus knows that we won’t always get it right on the first go ’round… or the second, or third. We mess up, even with instructions in our hands. We screw up, even when we have help readily available. We toil over assignments even after we have been equipped. We have the tools, but sometimes there’s a glitch between the tool and the user. Thank God for a Savior that can speak our language so we can connect the dots! He helps us get the Message. He’s the Bridge. He’s the Link. He’s the Plug. And we have complete access to cross over into a better version of ourselves with His help.

#2 – He’s the Perfect Translator!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always pray in complete sentences. Sometimes my words are disjunct and dysfunctional. Sometimes I raise my voice and sometimes I sob with muffled sounds. Depending upon where I am, I may pray within my spirit without moving my lips. The best part of it all is that Jesus understands my language! When I can’t connect the dots of my emotions with the words of my soul, Jesus translates for me. He carries my sadness and my joy with Him as we walk together along this journey called life. He hears me and understands me. And I’m so glad about it!

There are certain types of prayer (intercessory, adoration, etc.), but ultimately it should be a lifestyle. Don’t ever be afraid to pray. It’s just a line of communication between you and your Creator, so start talking. You already have the Perfect Translator. *smile*

Peace & Thanks for listening!

 

Protect Your Merry!

Merry Christmas, Sweethearts! I know a photo of Serena may not be your thought of Christmas, but allow me to explain why it perfectly fits mine.

I had to protect my Merry yesterday (and for the last couple of weeks, for that matter.) I mean, I fiercely protected it like Serena Williams defending her side of the tennis court. A few people got clap-backs that they inadvertently signed up for. Rude shoppers, irresponsible drivers, and inconsiderate individuals/former friends in my circle could have sucked the happy right out of my bubble, but I swatted them like flies… and I have no remorse.

They didn’t know that I had to fight to gather my Merry.

I searched for its pieces while crawling through the barren forest of my spiritual winter. I scrounged. I foraged. I created little piles of joy around me, forming a 360-degree barrier between me and the world – me and the reality of my bank account, professional transition, and life changes. I replayed fond memories of my father instead of anticipating his absence on yet another holiday.  Four months later and I still patch the holes of my heart with thoughts of his smile to protect the cracks of my heart from the cold winds of grief. My piles of Merry were the only boundaries I had to keep the darkness from penetrating my oxygenated peace.

So, you had best believe, that I defended my happy with everything I had yesterday. To keep from crying sporadically in public places, I thought of his spirit dancing and I spoke to him.

“I love you.”
“I know.”
“I’m trying.”
“I miss you.”
“Thanks for everything.”

DP1745482_xmas_trees_Glass_OrnamentsTo keep from royally cussing someone clean out (as we say in the South), I retracted the sporty backhand that was perfectly poised under my tongue and said “Have a blessed day.” Friends that were jolly as long as I supported them have surprisingly fallen away like leaves from trees when reciprocity made sense. I stuffed a little happy there too so the wind couldn’t get in and make me bitter. I let the angels do their jobs. I summoned God the Father to comfort me and the Holy Spirit to keep aerating my Merry with reminders of Truth. I let a harvest of joy grow from seeds of gratefulness. As I stood in front of my heater, I thanked Him for warmth. As my feet hurt from working, I thanked Him for the opportunity. As I drove on lesser gas as I normally do, I thanked Him for my wheels. As I coughed and massaged my face from sinus pain, I thanked Him for life. When I ate leftovers, I thanked Him for provision. Upon receiving random messages from sweet friends, I released the expectation from hearing from certain ones and truly let the peace of God rule and wash the hurt away. These things fortified my Merry and I wasn’t letting anything rob me of it.

Maybe you’re like me. You’re holding onto your Merry with both hands and you’re trying to keep it alive in the midst of hardship, loss, or change. I pray that you protect it with everything you got – that you exhibit the grit needed to keep the light in your spirit on, that you regain the strength and courage to fight for your happy, fight for your joy, and fight for your right to live. Don’t be distracted by what you don’t have. Defend what you have and let God heal the cracks. Let the angels of protection do their jobs. Hold fiercely to the Truth that Jesus was born so you could live.

You are loved.
You are cared for.
You are the reason Christmas exists, and your Christmas is Merry because Merry is a state of mind.

I love you and Merry Christmas, Sweethearts! Peace & Thanks for listening!

Photo of Serena Williams courtesy of Tennis.com
Photo of Christmas tree ornaments courtesy of Lowes.com

#bloglikecrazy: Day 28 – Measure

Can we just chat for a minute? OK. Cool.

I was tickled after reading a devotional last night about not being offended by someone else’s portion of talents and gifts. I mean certified tickled. I was laughing in bed and shook my head in amazement before falling asleep.

Check this out: Matthew 25:15 from The Parable of the Talents

“To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one,
each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.”

So, if you don’t know the story, a master has to leave town for awhile and gives his workers a portion of his wealth to manage while he’s gone. To one servant, he gave 5 talents. To another, he gave two talents. And to the third one, he gave one talent. Now, one talent is worth about 15 years of labor’s wages, so each man had enough to work with. Totally excuse free.

But this is what got me laughing. We pay so much attention to what someone else has, how many talents they received from the Master, that we forget the part that says “each according to his own ability.” Now, check it – if we just grow what WE were allocated, it can still double which is WAY more than what we had (Matthew 25:16-17)!

Then, if that wasn’t enough, both the 5-talent and 3-talent servants got the same response from the master:

Matthew 25:21 (NLT)
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” 

It didn’t matter how much they started with because he knew what he gave them in the first place. He just needed him to grow what they had. Isn’t that a simple concept. God is sitting there waiting on us to just grow what we’ve been given. Don’t worry about the size and placement; just multiply it! Multiply your measure, your gifts, love, peace, laughter… make it grow! The 1-talent servant was deemed wicked because he didn’t have faith in action to believe what he had was enough. Shame on all of us for thinking that way sometimes. And that’s what made me giggle as I turned on my side and set my alarm for the next day. I’ve been doing this thing all wrong. I just have to grow what’s in my hand because it is enough and the God that gave it to me is enough too.

And not to mention that even the verses of the parable doubled (14+14 = 28). LOL!

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

No Matter What 

Flight Write: ATL -> DCA -> PVD

No matter what, God is good. 

His goodness is not contingent upon my feelings,  reactions, or justifications. He is good. Period. And His mercy endureth forever (Psalm 136:1) – which means whatever I’m going through, whenever I’m going through,  wherever I’m going through it, He is still good. He transcends time and situation. There is nothing too far where God’s mercy can’t reach; He’s already tHEre. There is nothing too hard for Him where His goodness will not reign.Psalm 136.1 YouVersion

I have a list of things that went wrong in the last 7 days, but I also have a list of what went right. They combat each other, and then they balance each other out.

How can you laugh when your license plate was stolen off of your car in broad daylight? You get grateful that your car wasn’t missing too.

How do you not be upset that you have to work on your day off? You become grateful for employment. 

How do you breathe when someone leaves your life? You begin to thank God for the time you had, knowing that s/he could have been born on the other side of the world and you would have missed out on her/his awesomeness.

I’ve grown in this area, this No Matter What territory. Life’s challenges continue to improve my agility. I’d like to think that I came straight from heaven with it, but it was forged in me through my parents and mentors that served as night lights along the way. 

CAUTION: This No Matter What mentality is not for the faint of heart. It comes with distractions sprinkled like glitter on a carpeted floor, luring your focus away from your purpose as you attempt to walk forward. It has splashes of anger as you recall the sacrifices you made while fighting your demons… alone. It requires you to acknowledge the bad stuff, square up, and say that all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)… and believe it. It means crying tears of courage that leak from your broken heart.

No Matter What takes practice. Expect bruises. Check for sores. They’ll be there, but keep walking, keep praying, and keep fasting from the feast of your fears.

Believe, no matter what.

Give, no matter what.

Go, no matter what.

Love, no matter what.

And while you’re standing there braving the winds or bent over wounded from the blows, remember that Jesus is Immanuel. He is with you… all the time…

no matter what.

Peace and thanks for listening!

Churchified

african-american-gospel-choir-clip-art-51544
Photo Courtesy of ClipArtHut

 

Written after a conversation with a friend about empty, poisonous church antics. It burned my biscuits.

I don’t want to do church.

I don’t want to play church.

I am the Church.

The Church is me.

It has to breathe.

It has to be.

It has to reach beyond what my eyes can see.

It has to feel the Truth in front of me and slay the dragons I have yet to defeat.

I still have victory over the enemy, but I fight for the prize of the high calling, while boxing these rabid thoughts behind my eyes…

Everyday, I rise.

 

I am the Church.

I am the walking, living, breathing mouthpiece of the most high God.

I inhale His goodness and exhale His obedience.

He is in me and I in Him.

So, I am His hands.

I am His feet.

I am everything He created me to be

Impeccably.

I’m tired of noise in sanctuaries filled with hungry souls.

I’m tired of watching aching bodies leave with gaping holes.

I’m sick of seeing the sick and tired, dying inside pretending to be inspired.

I’m sick of boils bubbling from despair.

Hope expired.

 

Applause! Applause!

A round of applause for everyone on stage

for everyone engaged in cinematic display.

I’m not looking for actors to fill a role.

I’m looking for the Church

the crease

the Fold

the boundaries drawn with blood stained veins

the lines that separate the road from the Way.

 

Do not tempt me with your tinkling cymbals.

Do not entice me with your exclusivity,

But draw me in with Love unscathed

Draw me in with the beauty of His Name

Draw me close to heal my pain

Rain motivation on me

Protect me with your arms of prayer

Don’t manipulate my heartstrings and tell me you care.

Bottom out with me at the feet of Jesus.

Let our souls pour into His Hands until He feeds us

His joy, His love, His strength, His faith.

I’m not interested if it’s any other way.

I am the Church and so are you.

If we can’t be real,

then who are you?

I was always taught that Church was a hospital and an oasis for all to leave better than they arrived. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening every week. Instead, we attend as spectators of a traditional requirement or as mindless participants of a circus act. In a way, we have become conditioned to be churchified.

What do you think?

The Blessing.

There are few times when I travel backward in my mind and find nuggets of perfect synchronicity in a fraction of a second. Saturday was one of those times, so allow me to walk you through the steps. Bear with the chain link of events below as I bare my soul.

STEP 1: THE PLAN

It all began with an idea to have a fun-filled, let-your-hair-down kinda day for my performing arts troupe, which consists of experienced professionals in various industries. They’re amazing superheroes in their respective fields and on any stage of creativity. A beautiful dichotomy of talent if you ask me. This delicate balance needed a breeze of fellowship, so August 13th was set for Summer Fun Day at Avondale Park. I could hardly wait.

STEP 2: THE CONSIDERATION

One of our members attends graduate school out-of-state and was making the trek to spend time with the team, so I watched the weather closely to ensure that she could travel to us safely. I didn’t see some responses from my crew (which I later discovered was due to a technical glitch), so I considered canceling it altogether. After all, we had received bursts of thunderstorms every day that week and Saturday was going to follow suit. I decided to keep the plan based upon the forecast, and added some extra prayer to the meteorologist’s news. So glad I did. The weather was perfect.

IMAG3155STEP 3: THE IDEA

On the previous evening, we held rehearsal and one of our members brought up the notion of eating at Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale, Alabama. I had never been, so I immediately was intrigued and ready to go. The dance of overcasting clouds and sunshine made for a mean game of volleyball and Uno. We were having fun, exactly what I prayed for. It seemed only fitting that we carry the good vibrations over to the restaurant.

STEP 4: THE GOODNESSIMAG3164

The food was delicious and so was the laughter. We sang along to the old school soul music showering over our cozy little table of five. We were enjoying each other’s company, exactly what I prayed for. Then, enter a smiling stranger who politely asked us if we were about to leave and if he and his family could have our table. If you’ve been to Saw’s in Avondale, you know the severity of this request. There are less than 10 tables in this eatery and the line to obtain one when they open at 11 starts at 10:40 AM at best. I’m ashamed to admit that I shook my head “no.” Thank God for my friend, who apparently was closer to Jesus than I was in that moment, that said yes and my stone-faced look morphed into a smile and a nod. IMAG3169He was kind and respectful, and I was proudly selfish. I’m usually the person that is cognizant of busy hours and needed seats, but on that day, I didn’t want to be considerate. I was marinating in the loveliness of time that our team rarely experiences without the demands of a deadline. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want it to end…
but it was time.

IMAG3173STEP 5: THE SUGGESTION

After releasing our table, the same friend that suggested Saw’s pointed our attention to a thrift store nearby that she loves to visit. Sozo Trading Company was the destined place. Being the economical giants that we are, we jumped at the chance to embark on another adventure. Like giddy children filled with wonder, we walked inside and immediately felt peace. Dakota greeted us with a smile and noticed our matching shirts. She inquired of our talents and we agreed to perform a human video before we left.

STEP 6: THE CRUX
Remember when I gave you the demographics of the team in THE PLAN? The challenge that comes with our creative make-up is that schedule clashes are inevitable and not everyone learns the same piece at the time it is taught. In this instance, there was also the factor that one of our members had not performed with us in over a year. So, the suggestions started flowing. “What about this?” “Were you here when we did that song?” “I don’t know that one, but I can learn it.” The communication about the business at hand resulted in my spirit being nudged to return to the first song I heard in my soul stereo – How He Loves Us by Jesus Culture featuring Kim Walker-Smith. It fitted the mission of Sozo perfectly, so I shared those thoughts with my team. So, in true Workmanship Incorporated anointing, we quickly forged as a unit and half of our quad learned the piece in the back of the store. The funny part is that no one batted an eye of curiosity or annoyance. They just shopped around us as if our full-bodied belonged in the setting. In less than 45 minutes, we were all caught up and ready to serve.

STEP 7: THE BLESSING 

WINC at Sozo
Thank you, Dakota.

We ministered. Right there inside of the front entrance doors.
If you’ve never performed a human video, it requires all of your muscles to cooperate and be in sync with those around you in order to present the storyline clearly. Two of us were negotiating with our bodies about previous injuries, two of us had learned the piece in minutes, and all of us were in sync. It was beautifully amazing. As usual, we performed for an audience of ONE – the ONE who gives us Life and the ONE who needs it. Dakota recorded and took pictures. When the song was over and we expired all we had, Dakota was teary and patrons were nearby. A man approached us with watery gratefulness in his eyes and hugged us, thanking us for the message of Love. His courage to be touched is what sincerely touched me. An open masculine heart is said to be soft, weak, or feminine by society’s standards unless they’re crying about winning a championship, but at that moment… he felt loved and reminded, and that was all that mattered. Then, it dawned on me. He was my blessing. Dakota was my blessing. Austin and Amanda (fellow Sozo staff) were my blessing. The gentleman at the restaurant was my blessing. Steps 1 through 7 were the blessing that led to the makarios moment… this man hugging people he didn’t know because of a Message that we said silently. We were presented with the opportunity to eulogeó (to speak well of, praise, or bless) God in the presence of His people and it resulted as a makarios experience for ourselves and others (refers to the believer in Christ who is satisfied and secure in the midst of life’s hardships because of the indwelling fullness of the Spirit).

What did I learn that day?

That your plans are never yours. They always affect someone else, even when you don’t know it. And you’ll be better off letting God lead the choices you make because He always has a two-edged blessing waiting for you. Blessings are always simultaneously designed. They are never unilateral.

To learn more about Greek words related to “blessing/blessed,” click here and here. I hope you enjoy the insight as much as I did.

Peace & Thanks for Listening. (I know it was a long one this time, so really… thank you.)

 

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