Lesson 1

  
Many years of home schooling can leave a mom perplexed with bipolar-like feelings. Once that last lesson is taught at the end of the year, its cause for celebration. You breathe a sigh of relief, one more successful year done, and you can bet the farm, tomorrow you will sleep until at least 7 a.m.!

 In the first weeks of summer, the last thing you want to do, or even think about, is school. Just about the time you’ve become relaxed and comfortable with an academically unaccountable lifestyle, you feel that gentle, though ever present gnawing at the back of your brain. It progressively grows, like the unrelenting itch of poison ivy. You have to scratch it, it even feels good to scratch, but you know the more you scratch, the more the itch will spread. 
You carefully weigh the consequences. Are you ready for this? Can your brain handle it yet? Are you really ready to go all in? You know, once you’ve scratched, the infectious thrill of imparting knowledge will slowly consume you and take over your ever present thought, so you better be sure you’re willing to dive in.
Today, as I had come to the end of the administrative duties for the 2015-2016 school year, I found myself in the final stages of introducing a bright new world of 5th grade through the simple outlining of lessons. It became real with the first entry of my lesson plan book, 
Lesson 1.
 One. An eternity from the required 180 lessons to come. 
Briefly, my enthusiasm waned. It’s like starting an entire life all over again. So daunting. It’s a triumph and a trial that flow together, mingling like the concoction of my cucumber salad of vinegar and sugar.
I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge. As I deliberately and meticulously wrote, Lesson 1, it felt like “the valley.” I thought, “So far from accomplishment, but so enticing nonetheless.”
Now THERE is a lesson!
I walked through a spiritual valley this summer. I relate to everything on a spiritual level. Everything. God is always teaching to those who will learn. How can I be a good teacher if I don’t actively embrace the concept of learning? There is a lesson in every trial, every low, AND on every high mountain top. Most people see the valley as the test. This is where you prove your faith and maturity, and rightly so. Without perseverance in our faith, we cannot grow. But lately the test of my maturity has been pressed upon the mountain top. Will I maintain faith, relationship, and fellowship with my God when I bask in His Glory and feel confident in His Will? 
Somewhere in your spirit, you know, just as a home schooling mom knows, when it’s time to move to the next level. At first, you may resist and hesitate, but the knowing that God has something greater for you …… growth, learning, knowledge ……… He draws your heart to the challenge. 
You KNOW this will require effort. You know this is starting over at ONE, on a new plane of understanding. But you can’t resist. You have to go. There is no alternative because you love God, just as I love my child and want to do the best I can by him. You know there’s more. You want it. I want it. Always. 
As I wrote the all-inclusive, “Lesson 1,” today, I knew it was the beginning of 180 days of effort. 180 days of trial, learning, growing, occasional resistance from my 10 year old son at times, but it’s GODLY instruction that He has commanded me to bestow upon my child. It HAS to be done. Just as the next spurt of growth and spiritual revelation that God intends to bless me with is coming. One and the same. 
So much rides on how we embrace His lessons. We learn so much better through a receptive heart, willing and eager to soar!
I see my spiritual growth, not like my son sees multiples or learning 4 digit division, but rather how he enjoys his favorite subjects of history and science. It’s exciting! It’s new and wondrous! It invites me to want to know more. 
This analogy has given me a new perspective of Lesson 1. It doesn’t matter how far you’ve come, there is always a situation, a subject, a personal issue, SOMETHING, that God wants to talk to you about that starts us over at Day One. One day at a time for 180 days, 9 months, 36 weeks, gains my son a year of education. Can you imagine, how far God can bring us in 180 days on a spiritual level, with all that He has grown us in already?! 
As that invasive, gnawing sensation of God’s beckoning turns into an itch, and as the itch demands to be scratched, and as your spiritual man cries out to answer the call ….. let your spirit be quickened, let your heart be encouraged, as you become aware of that which draws you towards greater strength, growth, and love for your God. Expect challenge, know there will be hard days, and embrace the longevity of strength. But know in the end, you will proceed to the next level. You will prevail …. In all your learning, perseverance, faith and growth, you will maintain the mountain top! Now that you’re aware of the itch, it’s almost impossible not to succumb. 
One more time, I will start again, with Lesson 1.
~Sandra K. Yates 

Walk With The Wise

  
Your toddler reaches for a hot stove, and you jump into action to prevent an injury. After the disaster is averted, you calmly, yet firmly explain in a way they can understand, “Hot. Don’t touch.” Of course, there are some kids who have to push the boundaries and learn from experience despite your warnings and lectures of love.
Fast track a few years and you’re teaching your child responsibility for their actions, then how to treat others despite how they are treated, and giving (not so solicited) advice on hurt feelings and dealing with rejection. We haven’t even reached pre-teen years yet. 
Everything we do for our children comes from wisdom gained through experience. Our ultimate goal, although we may not readily admit it, is not just to teach and protect, but to keep them from pain and hurts we’ve experienced. It’s as natural as it is noble. 
But it doesn’t always work.
I’ve always tried to relate to my children, not just on their level, but where they are in their young lives. Like most parents, I’ve been through it, done it, and have learned from my mistakes and triumphs. Although each child is different in the way they process, their goals, and in their perceptions, experience gives me the knowledge of how they feel. I have been that child, teenager, or young adult. The key is, to have compassion where THEY are at that moment, not the end result I see coming. I try to remember the sadness or anger I felt at the time, I try to recall what I did or how I wanted to retaliate. 
I recall a particular interchange between my son and I. He was being unusually resistant to my advice. I asked him, “When you get stuck on a level in a game and can’t solve the situation, what do you do?” He said, “I’ll find a person that knows how to get past it.” I asked, “How do they know how to get past it?” He said, “Because they’ve already done it.” And so I tell him, “Just as these people will show you the way out, is the same way I’m trying to guide you through this particular situation. I’ve already done it. I pretty much know the end result. So I’m passing that on to you so YOU know what to do and not do, to succeed.” 

 

Does my 9 year old always take my advice? Sometimes. Sometimes not.
If you’re lucky, when your children are older, they will come to you with problems or ask for advice on important decisions. Sometimes they will listen, sometimes they won’t. The important thing is, TO ADVISE.
I’ve learned there are occasions when advice will be readily received, followed, and a positive result is obtained. I’ve also learned that advice can be heard, not followed, but a lesson is still learned down the road. In the midst of the chaos that followed rejected words of wisdom, perhaps it is passed on to a sibling or friend, from hindsight or the echoes of regret. It vibrates through their heart in tones of, “I should have, if only, and if I had listened ….. ” It’s the same sad lyric in which you gained your own experience. Even if they don’t adhere, they are still gaining wisdom. When we remember our own paths of regret, grace and compassion are easily given to those we see stumble. 
As this realization becomes known deep down in the hearts of those we have touched, the wisdom spreads. Some will ignore, some will hear but not do, and there are those who will hear and DO. You will never know how far reaching and how broadly your words will spread. Never. It’s a cycle of experience, that begets wisdom, that begets grace. 
The next time you’re sharing wisdom to the vacant eyes of your teenager in an attempt to get him to “see,” or feel as though the instruction to your stubborn child is falling on rocky ground, or if you’re simply giving loving advice to a friend … Remember, openly received and accepted or not, it is your job, your obligation as one who has walked before them …. to lovingly pass on your wisdom, knowledge, and Godly advice. 

 

Having to see immediate results is vanity. Knowing you’ve led someone down the right path, is Godly. It is their choice to follow. 
Always, always, be willing to receive advice, lest we grow arrogant and proudful. We are never too old to learn and grow!
In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, “There’s someone who’s already been where we must go. In the light of what they’ve learned we find that we will grow wise, if we walk with the wise.”
~ Sandra K. Yates 

A Mama’s Heart 

  

Spending time with you
Even for just a moment
Completes this
Mama’s heart. 
Though our moments
Are not many right now
And I dream of when
They’ll outnumber the stars,
I am thankful for having
Peace.
Peace in knowing that
God is doing a tremendous
Work in you.
A work that neither you
Nor I may understand,
But a work that shall 
Be finished in a way
That only God can finish.
I am looking into our future,
And we all look better than
We look right now.
Stand strong and remember
Whose you are,
For though you are mine,
You first were His.

~ S. Gable 



A visit from my adult son prompted these words. While his walk wasn’t showing the divine work at hand, I knew the seeds that had been sown and the Word I’d received at the altar as I’d wept.  “Stand up and rejoice, for the work is already being done!”  Not many months after his visit, my prodigal son came home. The Lord is faithful to His faithful,  and I will forever stand on His promises.💜


Make Your Own Bed

  

How many times have you heard the often condescending, tough love, and sometimes, judgmental quote, 
“You made your bed, now you can sleep in it.” 
Where it’s not quite as motivating as 
“You reap what you sow,” I believe most people mean it in a good way. 

I’d like to think I’m not the only person who does this, but some mornings I get up late. I’m in a rush, and making the bed is an everyday, mundane, five minute chore. 
Especially in my current living situation, but really all my life, I’ve felt like if a bed is unmade, it makes the whole room look trashed. Back in the day, if I knew one of the boys’ beds was not made, it haunted me like a sin unconfessed, until I went upstairs to pay penance and made it right.
 For me, making the beds HAS to be done.

When I’ve had a really solid, good night’s sleep, which isn’t often, sometimes the bed doesn’t look that bad. The blankets are pretty much in place rather than the abstract art I generally create during the course of tossing and turning through the night. So, in my rush, rather than strip off the quilt and comforter, shaking the sheets to rid the dust until wash day, and fitting the sheets properly, I’ll “arrange.” 
It goes like this. OK, so if I just give a tug here and a pull there, yeah, I can get it all to line up, but that tug made the comforter uneven and this pull doesn’t make the lines straight, and now I’m back to wrangling the sheets in place. Consequently, I will spend more time trying NOT to make the bed, than it would have taken to do it properly. Inevitably, every time, I end up with having wrinkles in my sheets, uneven blankets, and a completely unsatisfied feeling. Sheesh!

As I was doing this (just the other day), it occurred to me how we try to do this with life. 

When you go through a traumatic experience in life, such as a death in your family, divorce, or even a break up with a boy/girlfriend, there is a mess of stuff left behind. Things get jumbled and mixed up. Feelings, emotions, beliefs, and self-worth get tossed around, kicked about, and confused. One of the mistakes I’ve made, is trying to rearrange all that stuff in a quick fix. Let’s stuff if all under the crumpled covers and pretend it isn’t there. How many people do that?
If you dump or get dumped by someone, all your friends are egging you on with “more fish in the sea,” and taking you out to party and find “the next, better guy.” While in your heart, things are rumpled, confused, and your self-worth is wrinkled. There has been no time to put it into perspective, make things right, and work it out. It’s a quick fix to cover the unsightly mess you’ve just witnessed and possibly helped create. I focus on this particular situation, because it’s the most common one, and also, the most inevitable mistake.
If I have learned anything in life, it’s this. Everything, EVERY THING, is a learning experience. If you don’t take time to learn the lesson, you will go around that same problem, conflict, MOUNTAIN, as did the Israelites, again and again. 
God created us with feelings and emotions, so we would love, give, have compassion and sacrifice …… in a minute understanding of His love for us. We are supposed to feel, hurt, cry, laugh, and experience the epitome of emotion. Society, pride, and defense tell us not to feel. Don’t work through it, don’t learn a lesson here, move on, BLAME, and forget about it.
I’m here to tell you, that’s a trap, a vicious cycle that will only lead to more heartache, not just for you, but for those you will touch thereafter.
There is always something to gain, always. 

With a knowing eye, a father might warn his daughter of a boy who is a player. He sees it. He knows, for it may have been him at some point. The daughter doesn’t listen, she falls for the boy and he hurts her. What does Daddy expect? He expects his daughter not just to adhere to wisdom in the future, but to learn a lesson and gain wisdom from experience on her own.
So our Father expects of us. 
Everyone will experience loss, disappointment, and pain. I would encourage you, especially the younger generation, to pause before you “arrange” the situation. Take time to remove the covers of confusion, get in touch with the reasons you’re feeling how you feel. Investigate why there was a failure, what mistakes you made, how can you avoid making them again. Be honest with yourself and don’t just blame someone or something else. Shake off all the dirt of unforgiveness and bitterness that was left behind, and learn the lessons of failure by doing it right, so you can walk away with a sense of pride. Don’t mask the problem with another man, another relationship, that is already doomed because you haven’t worked through the last failure. 
Don’t make half attempts at life. The road less traveled is sometimes harder right now, but in the long run, it’s so, SO much more rewarding.
Take ……. a breath. Take time. The time you spend recovering will be a fraction of the time you spend repairing.
For everything, there is a season.
     ~Sandra K. Yates 


Cleft Of The Rock

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Have you ever been in between a rock and a hard place?
Moses was….
He was put there by God Himself and there Moses waited for God’s goodness to go by him.
The glory of God!!!!
Then God passed by Moses…..

Sometimes life gets hard and we feel alone just like that place Moses was in long ago ….
And then we see God’s sweet sweet goodness!

We don’t focus on the hardness of the place we are in anymore because God is there!

So be encouraged today and invite God into your hard place !!! He is so good!

-Michelle Knapton

A Beautiful Mess

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Well, I’m convinced that the first Christmas wasn’t a quiet night. Let’s review…

Luke 2:4-7 NIV
The Birth of Jesus

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

I’m bracing myself for Christmas. I know I should be telling you all about how to have a calm and peaceful Christmas Eve when kids read themselves stories and tuck themselves into bed. When shopping has been done for weeks and you have time to rest by the wood fire sipping tea and having a conversation with your hubby.

Every year I’m blessed with Christmas amnesia. I only remember the good and forget the weird, grumpy, or just plain crazy stuff that goes on in my house. Remember, just because we love Jesus and are saved doesn’t mean we are perfect or that will have the perfect Christmas. It just means that we are continually under construction.

So we seek H I M.

Just like the wisemen, we still seek Him.

We especially seek Him at Christmas time. God’s Word says He will never leave us or forsake us, so why the need to seek Him? Isn’t He already there?
Beloved, there is a place inside each one of us longing to be filled. It’s the perfect place for Jesus. Without Him we seek to fill the void with semi positive and negative behaviors. Helicopter parenting, excessive worry, additions and idols, we will seek to fill a place meant for only Jesus to occupy. Other things just don’t fit and leave us feeling empty and still searching.

At Christmastime we are seeking to have a deeper more fulfilling relationship with Him. This Christmas go deeper. Seek to know Him more and know who you are in Him. On Christmas morning my family wakes up. We sing happy birthday to Jesus. We light the Christmas candle on the advent wreath and we read the kid version of the Christmas story. That’s the important part of the celebration for me. Then chaos happens. It’s a blurred frenzy of family, friends,gifts, food and way too much screen time and garbage. My Christmas is very messy. It’s filled with Jesus, love, joy, peace and there are also tears (he just opened that …he’s not sharing …you’re not my best brother anymore…wrapping paper flying …odd comments and just a whole lotta weird.) No wonder I have Christmas amnesia each year!

It’s a beautiful mess, our beautiful mess, and I don’t mind; I know my identity in Jesus. He’s the greatest gift to me.
And the greatest gift we can give is sharing with our friends and loved ones who they are in Christ.
~Marina Wright

Be A Warrior

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Ever go on a mommy date with a worrier? It’s challenging right? The conversation revolves around the negative. To immunize or not; we worry, to homeschool or not; we worry. To breast or bottle feed; we worry.
What color was the poop…we worry.

I’m not talking about healthy concern here, I’m talking about a worrier.
As moms we are called to care for God’s children and love our spouses. We are called to be concerned for them, but not to worry over them and every possible situation they might encounter. We are called to fill one another up not drag each other down.

When we worry we take our eyes off of God and focus on the worship of self. How am I going to handle this, control this, instead of vertically venting it to God and listening for His direction.
-Marina Wright

Luke 12:22-32 NIV

Do Not Worry

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[a]?26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

The All-Purpose Garment

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I am not much of a fashionista at all. Many moons ago I would have classified myself as one. I loved clothes and shoes and accessories and purses and never left my house unless I was made up from head to toe, full makeup and all!
My mom, sisters, and I always liked to play fashion police. We would laugh and say- “Watch out, we might have to write you a ticket!” if we captured each other wearing something that was not up to our fashion worthy standards.

I am so glad fashion tickets are not a jail worthy offense. I would definitely be in the ole Hoose Gow now. I am not sure if it was having twins that ended that desire, or if the 40 pounds I still carry 15 years later deters me from wanting to get all dolled up or invest in a new wardrobe. I don’t even wear makeup on most days anymore. These days I really am not concerned with what I wear as long as I got all parts covered and I am not busting out of any seams.
I know there needs to be a healthy balance and I am still working on the wardrobe, the 40 pounds, and putting on a little lipstick and mascara.

My twin sister has a funny saying- “a little lipstick and paint can make a girl what she ain’t” That always makes me laugh, and there is some truth to it. We do have to make an effort and find our perfect balance. Some people it is in their DNA to get dolled up everyday, and that is OK!

Sometimes all of it can be a mask to try and hide our insecurities or defy the aging process by covering ourselves with the latest and greatest makeup or clothes. We have to make sure that is not our motive. No matter what we put on the outside, the inside is what really matters.

I read this verse recently and I loved it in the Message translation:

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. ~ Colossians 3:12-14MSG

Now I could totally dig having someone just pick out my wardrobe everyday. And having an all-purpose garment, oh now that would be nice. No matter where you are going or what you will be doing you will never be under or over dressed. It just won’t be possible. It will always fit and be the right color too. The wardrobe God picks for us, as listed above, never goes out of style. No worries of ever getting a fashion ticket either. If we are putting on what He picks out, there’s no wrong way to wear it. You will always be the one that wore it best!

P.S.
And for the makeup part, the best anti-aging go-to product -Jesus!
Just keep basking in His presence and His Word every morning and the wrinkles and worries are instantly smoothed out and filled in. Your skin will have that perfect glow too!

~ XXOO Michelle Bollom

Find Your Voice

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Do you struggle finding your voice? Do you feel pressured into saying yes when inside you’re really screaming NOOOOO!
Do you say yes out of pressures or not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings? Do you complain and dread that you ever said yes to something? Do you make yourself miserable or compromise your integrity trying to get out of that dreadful yes you didn’t really mean?
Do you feel aggravated or upset at people or their actions? Do you get on the phone telling all your girlfriends about all your frustrations, but never address it directly with the person that upset you or hurt your feelings? Do you have a problem setting boundaries?
I love Joyce Meyer. She does not sugar coat anything. She talks about overcoming all these areas and so much more in real, sound, biblical ways. She has really been instrumental in my spiritual transformation over the years.
One of her books that really helped me years ago was Approval Addiction. I always thought of myself as a person that really could give a rat’s behind what other people thought, but I actually did all those things I just described above. I couldn’t find my true voice for most of my life. I took all my frustrations to others or out on others. I filled my friends and families ears with all my frustrations, instead of taking it all to Jesus. What Joyce means by “Take it to the Throne instead of the Phone”
I was horrible at setting boundaries too. I constantly let others poop in my yard till I got the courage to put up good fences. If they got through my fence, I got good at asking them to pick up and take their poop with them. (That is another amazing message by Momma Joyce on boundaries that I highly recommend)
I was a stuffer. I stuffed my emotions for many years. I stuffed with food, shopping, and one compulsion after another. When I got so full from the stuffing my words and emotions, I finally erupted in anger. I would blow and everyone around me better take cover. I did not blow very much when I was younger, but when emotional stuffing and hormones and being a mother of twins got all mixed up together, it was like all the ingredients needed for a Mt. St. Helens type of blow. I am so thankful for recovery and Jesus. I still work the steps of recovering to this day.
Growing up I did not feel that I had the right to express my opinions if they differed from what I witnessed in those of authority around me. To disagree was to be hostile. To have your own opinion apart from others meant you had lost your ever loving mind. I remember having a differing opinion from my grandmother growing up and getting slapped across the face for it. I learned early on to get comfortable just going with the flow and pleasing others. I got real good at keeping it all inside and was not able to find my voice for far too long. It wasn’t until going with the flow and not expressing my true feelings almost killed me. I felt like a powder keg about ready to explode most days, and most days I did blow! I started to resent others because I could not find my voice or set boundaries effectively. I was stressed out and ready to run far far away from it all. Fear kept me drowning in a sea of debt and food and misery.
Only God was able to take all that dysfunction and restore and transform it into something beautiful. His Spirit and His word will transform us if we let it.
A verse that speaks to me is Matthew 5:37;
“Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37 NLT.
As a talker, that verse is not one that is very easy for me. I still have to surrender my words and mouth to God to let my words be worthy and few daily. Some days I am better at this and some day’s not so much. It is a learning and growing process. You can bet the more you focus on certain areas the more slip ups in that area you will experience. The evil one likes to use our words a lot.
It is a testing and purification process of ourselves making us to become more Christ like. God can use it all for His Glory if we let Him, but first we have to surrender our control and our mouth to Him. Only the Holy Spirit can work it all out through us if we let Him have His way.

When we can’t find our words, take comfort in these Promises!

I am the LORD your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. ~ Psalm 81:10 GWT
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. ~ Colossians 4:6 NIV
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say. ~ Exodus 4:12 NIV
May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and in His grace gave us unfailing courage and a firm hope, encourage you and strengthen you always to do and say what is good. (2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17 GNB)

If we take all our words and situations to God and ask Him to fill our mouth, we will be much better at saying:
I am sorry; I don’t have peace about that so I don’t believe that is God’s will for me.
No, that doesn’t work for me.
Let me pray about that and get back to you.
Yes, that works for me.
Yes, I would love to help you.
Yes, I will
No, I won’t
Yes
No
Or whatever else He needs us to say!

Lord, help me to release every situation to You before I respond. Your ways and words are perfect Father. Open my mouth and fill it with what You will have me say. Forgive me for going against the rhythms of Your peace and perfect will. Teach me Your ways of setting the appropriate boundaries I need to. Forgive me for running off at my mouth. Show me areas I have built up bitterness and resentments that need to be released and help me to let them go. Forgive me for bypassing Your Throne and running to the phone. Let me see every situation as an opportunity to grow in Christ. May my words be worthy, truthful, and few. Let my Yes be Yes and my No be No. I thank You for changing me and helping me to find the right words and boundaries that help me flourish in this life. Transform me and restore me Lord. May my words always be seasoned with Your Love. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

~XXOO, Michelle Bollom