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Eden Myrrh Toohey

TEST YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

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Sometimes, I meet a person and I’ve already heard something about them from someone else. Consequently, my opinion of them is tainted no matter how hard I try for it not to be. A few years pass by and I still hold that assumption about them until something happens and I am put into a situation that includes them. I realise that nothing I heard about that person was true and all of the assumptions I had made about them based on what I had heard were shattered. The sad thing is that that could have happened earlier had I not listened to the person who told me the bad stuff. I’m sure we’ve all experienced something along these lines.

I recently read a book by John Adair called “The Art Of Creative Thinking: How To Be Innovative and Develop Great Ideas.” Adair talks about the importance of testing assumptions in creativity: 

“We have all had the experience of taking something for granted as the basis for opinion or action, and then subsequently finding that we had made an assumption – probably an unconscious one – that was unwarranted. Watch out for these preconceptions! They are like hidden sandbanks outside the harbour mouth. Preconceived ideas are the ones you entertain before actual knowledge. The really dangerous ones are those below your level of awareness.”

 Adair likens our thought patterns to light-rays and explains that light-rays travel straight – they may do so for very long, across vast interstellar spaces but they are deflected (or, bent) when they come into the field of influence of a star or any other massive body. Us humans are social thinkers, and the greatest thinkers tend to be people who prefer solidarity because they feel the need to distance themselves psychologically from the ‘powerful influences of received opinion.’

Albert Einstein said,Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity, opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

There is so much truth there in the last two statements you read!

If we want to be truly creative thinkers and make truly creative change by producing truly creative works (whatever they are) it is important that we test all assumptions that we may have knowingly or unknowingly accepted as truths.

We can also, just generally, apply this exercise to our daily walk with Jesus. Maybe you have accepted some false assumptions about yourself and your life, or ideas about how your art should be created or presented. Ask him to reveal those to you today. A vision of who Jesus really is (and not who culture says he is) will revolutionize your world and all your creative thinking! I PROMISE!

Approaching the “Unknown”

I was recently in a situation that I think a lot of us can relate to.

I held a basic acquaintance with some people who are related to me; we lived in different cities, and so I didn’t know them that well. Because of this I had also formed an idea of who they were in my head. However, everything changed when I moved cities and subsequently, lived in their vicinity. Living alongside them meant that I had the opportunity to get to know them a bit better. The initial discomfort and unsaid awkwardness of our relationship (we all had ideas of each other) quickly faded into gentle understanding and a greater love for each other. Doing life with them made me understand why they reacted to things the way that they did; it helped me get a grip on their perspective.

My journey with Jesus has been an interesting one. There have been many ups and downs.

If there is at least one thing that we should understand about walking with Jesus in and amidst the flurry of our crazy society, is that although the truth never changes, our revelation of it does. Our relationship with Jesus can be a lot like my relationship with those family members of mine. A lot of us have pretty bad and untrue ideas about Jesus because our only relationship with him is merely acquaintance. Not friendship or any intimacy whatsoever. Because of this, we may question a lot of what any Biblical authority in our life says (i.e. this could be your pastor, small group leader, whoever…). Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to question – because you must totally question and make sure that the truth is revealed to you – but sometimes your leaders have already walked a road that has brought them to a much clearer understanding of the Father i.e. the more you see, the better you can love (the real-er your expression of love will be).

In 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV), Paul (the super-apostle guy) says the following, “Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely , just as God knows me completely.”

For me, this means that just because I can’t see something properly now (or fully understand it now), does not mean that it’s totally untrue. If you are struggling to accept a truth or are maybe questioning an unknown something in your faith then I suggest that you take out time to spend alone with just you and God. If the conclusion that you come to while trying to understand comes with a peace (whether you end up understanding it or not) then, it is the right thing. If not, then you know what to do. Throw it out.

And, listen, I wouldn’t tell you to do anything that I hadn’t done first. HAHA! I recently thought that I disagreed with something an elder of mine said that had to do with how I believed.  I didn’t mention it to them straight away, but it was worrying me so much that I had to go to Jesus. I said, ‘Jesus, please help me. I’m going to take three weeks to see if I need a heart change,’ and, that’s exactly what I needed. Although, I can’t be the judge of my own maturity, I’d say I’ve come a long way from where I used to be and I consider it a blessing to slowly learn not to hate on the stuff I can’t understand.

I Laugh When I Cry

I remember listening to British singer/songwriter, Jess Glynne’s Home (produced by Bless Beats) for the first time in February of 2014 and thinking, “Man, this girl has got it.” I had already heard her on collaborations with English electronic four-piece Clean Bandit (Rather Be, 2014), and deep house producer Route 94’s My Love, but for me Home was different. It was hers. It was fresh, honest, and soulful. Glynne showed the signs of someone who had the potential to make it onto my personal “songwriters with substance” list. HAHA! But, seriously, there are very few of those in today’s ratchet mainstream.

Now, it’s more than a year later and the 25 year old Glynne’s debut album, I Cry When I Laugh has been out for about a week. She is the second British Female Solo Artist in the UK to have five-number one singles (the first being Cheryl Cole) this year (2015) and has collaborated on songwriting projects with many top artists (e.g. Iggy Azalea, Rita Ora, Rudimental, M.O) (Wikipedia, 2015).

I was very honestly waiting for her to drop the ball s-o-m-e-w-h-e-r-e, and, yes, while I didn’t really get the point of the intro, Strawberry Fields, or how it linked into the underlying theme of the record (stylistically, lyrically) it didn’t perturb me. It also strikes me as something that I will only ‘get’ or understand after ten listens (I’m on number three).

Gave Me Something is next and Glynne reminds us who she is: the hit making machine who is fresh enough to be relevant today but who also makes us nostalgic, reminding us of the soul music we used to listen to in our mamma’s kitchen during the 80s and 90s. Shouts, claps and choir-like backing vocals characterise this feel good song along with songs like Ain’t Got Far To Go and You Can Find Me.

Jess Glynne proves herself to be Taylor Swift and three pieces of cake in her power ballad Real Love (originally released by Clean Bandit) and Hold My Hand (the album’s second single that held the UK number one spot for three weeks). The catchy and clever chord progression of Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself, even though speaking about heartbreak and human fault (Glynne revealed recently that the album was written after a bad breakup, which we hear come out more in It Ain’t Right and Why Me), shocked me a bit and in a good way. I liked the original more than the official remix done by Stray Doggz featuring Frisco, which I heard first and I normally always love the remixes more. Stray Doggz, changed the chord progression and added a 808/dubstep feel that surprisingly enough, took a bit of the natural energy away from the song.

Glynne incorporates some of her recent features on the 20-song LP (including Not Letting Go done with Tinie Tempah) and we also hear the songwriting style and melodic prowess of fellow British singer/songwriter Emeli Sande on Saddest Vanilla.

All the songs have strong bass lines, daring synth samples and the chord progressions needed to set this pop princess up on a good winning  streak. If it were my album though, I would have maybe left out Bad Blood (it seems like there may be one too many and this may be the weakest strong song of all the strong songs) and would have possibly reconsidered one of the only down tempo songs, Take Me Home.

Over all, the album is refreshing and will definitely be making it on my December, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Every-Time-I-Want-To-Shake-My-Booty-In-The-Car playlists. The content is relatively clean against all standards and uplifting enough for me to play nearly every song with my 12-year-old sister in the car. I gladly welcome this, because not many artists are making pop music that confronts real issues, holds depth and still allows one a good time whilst being musically excellent.

Buy On iTunes Here.

When I Say I Love You

Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Love is not love, which alters when, it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to Remove: O no! It is an ever-fixed mark…Love’s not Time’s foolLove alters not with his brief hours and weeks but bears it out even to the edge of doom.”

Hearing this segment of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 119 being quoted continually by the young, passionate Miss Dashwood of Jane Austin’s Sense & Sensibility got me thinking about the love of Jesus. O Lord, I thought, Shakespeare, who was himself a sinful son of man actually set a really high standard for human love. How much more then, should I love God? But I struggle so to keep my affections centered on Jesus, to consistently keep my heart and sights fixed upon him. Logically, my inability to love Jesus consistently must indicate  that I am also doomed to struggle at loving His people: my family, friends, and future spouse, the way 1 Corinthians 13 or Exodus 20 (the commandments) instruct us to. After pondering the above, reading some books and searching the Scriptures, I thanked Jesus for the comforting thought that it was He who first chose to love me. He first set the bar for love, whether it is human or divine. If you have ever struggled to love (humans or God) then let’s explore together …

The first question: How do I love Jesus with everything?

In Colossians, Paul pronounced that we must take possession of what we already have in Christ and devote ourselves to it. The Webster’s dictionary explains the word devote as to consecrate, give up oneself, or one’s life, efforts etc. exclusively to (God), zealously loving or loyal – fanatically pious person . In 1 Corinthians 14 vs.1 we, as disciples of Jesus, are told that love is our highest goal. To reach this goal we must love Jesus (Matt 22vs.37-39). We must become passionate for Him. And so, yes, as I have already stated, our zealous loyalty and consecration wane regularly, but passion for God is acquired not given, we must grab a hold of it. It is an act of the will, we must decide. We have to develop a hunger for Jesus, and walk with the Holy Spirit daily, so that Faith, Hope and Love, and the Fruits of the Spirit are born and grow within us. Warren W. Wiersbe, author of Be Complete put it beautifully, “In the language of the New Testament, to be filled means to be ‘controlled by’. When we are filled with anger, we are controlled by anger. To be ‘filled with the Spirit’ (Eph 5vs.18), means to be ‘controlled by the Spirit’”. For one to be ‘filled with Jesus’ who is love, means to be controlled by love. The flesh has not won. We, (you and I) are dead to sin, and Jesus has overcome, but it takes God to love God. In grace and mercy He looks favourably upon our weakness and imperfection, and allows us to come before Him and place our affections on Him.

The second question: How do I give this love to others, romantically and unromantically?

To summarise the definitions of the Greek words for love used in the Bible: Phileo refers to love for friends and family, Eros has to do with sexual, erotic love, and Agape refers to God’s love for us. My conviction is that love is an act of the will – not just intense feeling or affection. Erich Fromm says, “Some people view romance as a great mystery, some think it’s beyond their control, as if falling in love were like falling in a pond. But, the word falling is a contradiction in the terms. To “fall” in love denotes passivity, and love is the most active of occupations.” The word ‘occupation’ means a job or profession, suggesting that we must work  at love”. To me, the most obvious way to “work at love” is to follow Jesus. “And now I will show you the most excellent way…4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth . It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.7 LOVE NEVER FAILS….”(1Cor 13vs.1-13). The Bible is also very clear about a husband’s responsibility to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25 – a most dangerous, very popular verse) and about the wife’s responsibility to love through submission to her husband.

But let’s not only get stuck on loving the one’s closest to us – although sometimes we neglect them the most, let us also remember that Jesus’ heart is for all people! As He said to Peter in John 21:

“… then feed my sheep”

“Feed my sheep”

“Feed my sheep”

Oh, I don’t think Jesus repeated that statement three times for nothing. He knew that loving people is the hardest.

I am challenged greatly by John 2:23 (NLT), “Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover Celebration, many began to trust in Him. 24 But Jesus didn’t trust them, because He knew human nature. 25 No one needed to tell Him what mankind is really like.” Jesus knew that our hearts are sinful, but He still loved. He still endured terrible hardships for us so we could ALL know the love of the Father. My own human nature demands that I constantly choose to love. But I fail dismally. We all do. But we must try again. Victor Hugo once said, “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” We love because He first loved us, not because we are very good at love.

So the next time I say I love you I am simply saying: “I have chosen.”

Why Those Who’ve Dreamed Can Never Criticize

Have you seen it? When an artist pulls you in with himself or herself? It’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to push all the heavy air occupying the place where you stand into the corners of the room , so that everyone sits with baited breath only breathing in what you let out.

It’s not easy. It’s not easy to move your legs and bend your body in submission to the beat, or sway with the bass. The stage is always a blank page, and some people paint with the most admirable fervor and passion. They paint without ever thinking that maybe they would get a stroke wrong, or place the wrong colour.

That is a gift. To let it all out and still have people give it back to you saying that it wasn’t good enough. Do they bare their souls for a living with the risk of being told that what they’ve treasured for so long is ugly, or not good enough? Do they? Does that office job leave your feeling the high of fulfillment? If it does, by all means, carry on. That is what you are made to do and the world is a better place because of it.

But, if it does not, maybe you need to reconsider. Maybe, you need to take a step towards living your dreams.

I recently read Steven Pressifield’s book The War of Art; I highly recommend it to every person who considers him or her self a creative and who wants’ to do work that will impact culture. Pressifield mentions that it is important for one to develop a core of self-confidence and advancement.

I have met many people who simply don’t have the drive to do or be better, it is truly sad. Meeting people like that made me sure of the life that I didn’t ever want to live.

Socrates said, “The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery, while those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.” One may initially face fear when cutting themselves free from groupthink, and this is what Pressifield calls the despair of freedom.

Once one has done this – taken the leap of faith towards realisation in their own life – they will almost never criticise others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement. Watch yourself carefully; lest you start to manifest critical behavior because it is resistance against you doing what you were meant to do and you will only harm yourself. It is also impetrative that you as an artist or dreamer realize that the best thing that you could do for someone else like you is to serve as an inspiration or example to them. If you are finding yourself being very critical about those who are taking the risks, maybe it’s because you haven’t faced the fear in your life! Look, fear is normal. Following one’s dreams is a scary business, but this is what our Creator made us for.

“Are you paralysed with fear? That’s good. The more scared we are of a work or calling, the surer we are that we have to do it. The degree of fear equated to the strength of resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there would be no resistance.” – Steven Pressifield

Got Trust Issues?

“At this age I’m only interested in Consistency, Stability, Respect and Loyalty,” read someone’s shared meme on my Facebook wall the other day. Thanks to Tumblr, Pinterest and Drake we have thousands of memes like this floating around, perfectly articulating how we feel about relationships with people i.e. friendships now that we’ve entered into adulthood. Because, let’s be honest, there comes a time when all a person wants to do is make the circle smaller; holding close only those who are genuine, likeminded and have vision.

I fear that this is harder than it seems though. Adulthood is actually a graduation.

I’m the last person who wants to hear this. Primary school was painful, and I left there feeling like the world owes me some kind of respite; a break from gang-ups and kicks in the face (literally, I saw it happen…) from the people who you thought were your friends. But no, these ‘friendship-break-ups’ happen and have the capacity to immobilise you if you don’t work on a few things in your own life.

Here are two things that are worth working on in yourself with regards to any friendship or relationship:

  1. Our Expectations: “Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is of little love.” – Erich Fromm. After you’ve lived life for a while, it’s hard not to get hardhearted and cynical about people, especially if you’ve been hurt before. But, you can’t go through life without trusting and loving. Love is an act of the will and there is no guarantee that you’ll get it back. If you want to cultivate trust and openness with someone, don’t expect them to make the first move – YOU DO IT. If you’re vulnerable with someone, they will know that they can be vulnerable with you too, and even though it doesn’t always happen immediately. One also learns to expect less from people (understanding their weaknesses) without being cynical about them, I feel strongly that this comes from a secure identity – I am happy to find mine in Jesus. He has taught me to look beyond myself, and outside of myself. What he says about me far supersedes my abilities and gifting; knowing that I can only love because he gives me love is also quite freeing .
  1. Our Reactions: It is so important that we react to people from a place of peace, and, let’s be honest, that is hard to get right every time, but if we allow ourselves to develop a good character (which, I feel can be learned if we apply ourselves in our families and daily endeavours), it is much easier to love people. A good temperament is an imperative development in oneself.

There is a lot of theory floating around today saying that we are able to find peace, joy, hope, love and all those good things if we would only look within ourselves. Honestly, when I look inside myself, I see emptiness, and I have the tendency to get really depressed when I sit looking at my belly button all day. The fact that I can take a little bit of time out every day for some peace and quiet and look out to/depend on Jesus makes things so much easier for me. Especially when I know that I am depending on someone else, and I need that if I’m going to trust anyone, because life can be painful.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying be naïve about your relationships with people, just don’t carry around a lack of trust because that is a burden that no one wants to carry on a day-to-day basis.

Lessons Learnt From Tertiary Education

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When I eventually got down to studying after school I realised that having too much choice wasn’t a very good thing for me at all. Too much choice creates indecision in a person like me – a creative who doesn’t want to be tied down to any one thing for too long.

My parents gave me an ultimatum and after working a holiday job at a photo (and camera) store, I decided that there was no way that I was going to be one of those people still earning minimum wage at fifty-five.

So I decided to study because studying at a tertiary level:

  1. Increases your earning capacity;
  2. Gives you a sense of accomplishment;
  3. Helps you get that job you want (to some degree – excuse the pun) as it is more often than not, a requirement;

I totally understand ‘making it’ in life is dependent on a whole lot of factors, and that one has to be equally street smart and book smart but I also know that experience (‘in the real world’) is the best teacher, but I have been studying for a while now, and have also studied a few different things (full time and correspondence) while working jobs on the side. Here are three lessons University taught me that the jobs couldn’t teach me:

  1. It has made me aware, and got me thinking! Studying truly opened my eyes as a young African and made me aware of the things that were going on around me. It helped me to understand how I could apply my knowledge and ideas to my world. I started thinking about things I had never thought about before, and steadily became more and more appreciative of my continent – awake to the rich possibilities that Africa could be!
  2. University isn’t for weaklings, chickens, ‘scardy pants’ or sissies:  For every person who completes his or her degree there’s a person who doesn’t. I look up to everyone and anyone who has passed their undergraduate degree because it’s hard! It requires consistency, commitment and all round good character. There have been so many times when I have felt like quitting, but I have to constantly remind myself that once you start a cycle of not finishing what you start, it’s Very! Very! Very! hard to break it.
  3. There’s a time for everything (this is your preparation period!): I mentioned earlier that I didn’t go straight into university, and that meant that a lot of the people that I finished school with completed their degrees way before me (I’m still finishing mine, LOL). I have also seen tons of people get pregnant, married… and pregnant and sometimes, it has left me questioning some of my choices. One day when I was going through a rough patch my dad encouraged me with this: “There’s a time for everything in life. A time to be a child, a time to study, a time to get married, a time to have a family etc. If you don’t do things in their time, life can get very messy and you may never get the chance again…” He was saying that NOW is the time to build – for me that meant building myself, my dreams and whatever else. There is an allotted time in my life for everything, if I had had children first, then it may have been very hard to try and find the time to study. Sure, there are other people who do it, but they aren’t me. I now find myself constantly thanking God for the time that he has given me, and praying that I use it to the best of my ability even when for some reason it ‘seems’ like I may be behind, going too slowly, or not getting anywhere.

And look, it’s not for everyone, but it sure is some stuff to think about if you are planning your way forward!

I’m In Love With The FOMO!

I recently woke up with the title of a book that I had read in high school on my mind, and when stuff like that happens, I must always follow it up because it is bound to mean something. Luckily, I am quite the sentimental person when it comes to good books, important documents and letters, and I found it easily on my shelf.

The book is called, “I Heard The Owl Call My Name” and is author, Margaret Craven’s first novel. It is about a young unmarried Anglican priest, Mark, who doesn’t have long to live and is sent to the Indian Village of Kingcome in British Columbia. Craven writes of Mark’s last life journey living amongst the Indian people and finding deeper meaning so beautifully that I quickly knew why I had the nudge to reread it.

Here’s an extract: “When he (Mark) looked up some friends with whom he had attended college, he realized with shock that he no longer talked the same language. They spoke freely of their problems and assumed they were his also. Had he noticed how many young people there were now who seemed to find in life no challenge? And how did he handle the growing materialism in which so many people feel no need of faith…”

“Superficiality is the curse of our age,” says writer Richard Foster, “The doctrine of instant satisfaction is the primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” How deep may you ask? Well, all the way to the core.

I find myself questioning my depth quite often – depth of character, spiritual depth, depth of focus. In order to be someone who builds their identity on more than just their performance, outfit posts and gifting, I have to, more often than not, pull away from the business of life.

Why do we all harbour such a strange fear of being alone? Why do we have this compulsive obsessive love with the Fear Of Missing Out (FoMO), imagining how things could be different for us, as we continually desire to stay connected to what others are doing? Yes, I think maybe, if we unplugged, the novel experience that we so desire would be discovering ourselves, discovering our voice. The protagonist in my beloved book, Mark, found that he no longer talked with the voice that his contemporaries spoke with (stress, sickness, materialism, lack of hope, faithlessness, no vision) once he drew away from them for a bit. He also found that life was more rewarding because he was able to see the beauty.

Life will be both lonely and scary sometimes, but it is an inescapable part of our journey. The quicker you come to grips with that, the quicker you find meaning and rest. There will always be a time to be with people – it could be tomorrow, but if this is for you, then make today the day that you breakup with your ‘FOMO’, save data, stop pretending to be stressed, quit unnecessary business and feed your soul.

Bic Blooper Clicks Us Into Women’s Month

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Navigating through culture in today’s climate is like walking on hot coals. Say one wrong word, oh, please, dare slip and you are guaranteed to have haters coming out from under the rocks. Poor Bic! It’s evident that the pen manufacturer shared a few wrong words too many in their Women’s Day advert aired through their Facebook page for the South African National Holiday the other day. The advert that read: “Look like a girl, Act like a lady, Think like a man, Work like a boss…” was deleted soon after, but not before, a slew of comments crying out against the company’s ‘sexist remarks’ on all social media and replaced by an apology that was replaced again. My heart aches for the team that watched as their statement that was meant to be ‘empowering’ was torn to shreds. I’d imagine, and I am probably not too far off, that this is the stuff that marketing and PR teams get fired for especially since this is not the first (2012) but second time being in the spotlight for ‘sexist’ remarks. The first time, they introduced pink pens for women, and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres had something to say.

Look, personally, I don’t get my knickers twisted for apparent ‘sexist’ remarks, even though I am a woman and have faced MANY challenges in my chosen line of work The glass ceiling is the realist thing. What I do get my knickers twisted for is the fact that we as women (and men, but we aren’t talking about men here) are all too happy to make a big deal about some advertisement, all the while not making a big deal about the array of gross double standard and inequality that confronts our identities daily (through the magazines we read, the crazy degrading music that a lot of mainstream female and male artists put out, how we allow ourselves to dress… the list goes on).

Owen Strachan paints out a scene from the movie Juno in the introduction of the book Good: The Joy Of Christian Womanhood and Manhood:

‘The lips of the young woman quivered. Tears rolled down her face. Her angry father started at her. ‘I thought you were the kind of girl that didn’t get into this sort of trouble,’ he said. She looked back at him confused and adrift: ‘I guess I don’t really know what kind of girl I am.’”

And, there ladies and gentlemen, is the cry of a whole generation. Can you hear it? It’s faint, but it’s there. It is the cry of many girls who have grown up in homes where their father was absent, who have not known their true worth, who’s parent’s are divorced, who are struggling to find identity. There are cries from girls whose voices were taken away from them.

I can tell you now, my friend, that there are many better things to do than trolling a marketing bankrupt company’s Internet presence this Women’s Month.

The first of which could be finding your identity. If you are lost at how to do this, and need some help, I’d reckon that Jesus does a pretty good job at helping with that (ask me, I know…).

The second best thing you can do, if you are a woman, is to love yourself, and then finding someone else to love on.

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