NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Why you should go to the Library this Summer

It’s officially summer now and I have a bit more free time on my hands so I’ve been going to the library more regularly. I don’t know why, but for a good portion of my life I didn’t take advantage of our public library system here in Texas. But now that I’ve started, I can’t imagine not having it. So if you’re hitting those summer dog days and needing something to do, check out your local library.

Here are my three reasons why you should check it out.

1. Books! Whether it’s rereading one of your favorites or getting into a new series or even getting audio books for those long road trips, you can’t beat the library’s policy of three weeks rental for free. This summer I started reading the Guardians of Ga’hoole Series. I saw the movie years ago and always thought the series sounded interesting, but I finally got around to it with the help of my local library. And I’m currently starting John Flanagan’s Brotherband Series. I loved his Ranger’s Apprentice series and this one is starting off just as exciting.

2. Movies! Did you know you can rent movies at the library? They even have some Blu-ray movies! No download time, no fees, no quick return to the Redbox. You pick your movie for free and can keep it for 3 weeks! There’s no other place that can compete with that. I’ve been finding quite a few movies I’ve always meant to watch and never have. And since Blockbuster is out of business and Netflix has limited options, this seems like the best way to finally watch those old films. They even have newer releases. Although it might be a bit of a wait, so if you really want to see something, you might want to still use Redbox or another movie watching option. And you should always check the DVD’s before you check out, some have smudges and scratches and I’ve had trouble with a few. But for the most part, this is an excellent way to get some summer entertainment.

3. Programs! Now I don’t really get involved with these, I’d rather just get my books and movies and be gone. But libraries always have cool things going on, like Summer Reading Challenges where you can earn a free book, or events for kids and parents. So if you need some free entertainment, check it out.

And lastly, since I’m talking about libraries, I want to give a quick announcement. As many of you know, I have published 2 youth adventure books in my Finding Home Series: The Orphan’s Journey and The Lost Brother. This week La Vernia Public Library will be getting a copy of each of these books for people to check out. I hope whoever lives near La Vernia enjoys the addition to the library and gets a chance to check out the books.

Well that’s it for now, enjoy the summer and take advantage of your local library.

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Worth Waiting For Cars 3

If you read my blog posts you know I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Cars 3. If you do decide to read this, be aware that I will share some of the story plot points. So if you don’t want to be spoiled on anything, you can wait till after you’ve seen the movie to read my review. But if you don’t mind a general overview, go ahead and read.

Before I get to the review, though, I want to share something else. You see this past weekend, when Cars 3 came out, my church had organized a youth retreat for our students. I was helping teach at the retreat and our focus was on God’s Kingdom and living for it instead of yourself. I found my desire to see Cars 3 as a perfect illustration at the retreat, so I thought I’d share it here as well.

Although I love movies and get excited to see ones I’ve been waiting for, living for them is not fulfilling. At the end of the day, a movie is just a movie. Two hours and it’s over, maybe you liked it, maybe you didn’t, but it’s not as important as other things in life. When I committed to teaching at this retreat, I was showing by my actions that I value the Kingdom of God more than getting what I want. Even though I would have loved to see Cars 3 on opening night, living for God and His kingdom is so much more important to me and more valuable in the long run. His Kingdom doesn’t end, like movies do, and He satisfies us with His presence, love, peace and truth in a way that nothing else can.

So anyway, I just wanted to share that before I give my review. I think putting things into perspective helped me enjoy this movie more. I wasn’t looking for a perfect movie to satisfy all of my desires, but instead got to just enjoy it for what it is. Plus I got to see it with two of my closest friends and laugh with them during the whole thing, which makes any movie experience ten times better.

If you couldn’t tell from the above comments, I loved this movie. It was just what the original story needed as it’s sequel. There were tons of funny parts. I especially liked seeing McQueen’s interactions with his fellow racers and then with the new character Cruz. One of my favorite scenes was when Cruz tells Lightning he has to name all of his tires and he responds with the most sarcastic and hilarious response: “Lefty, Righty, Backy and Backy Jr.” It’s fun to see them learning from each other and although I was hoping for Lightning to have a big comeback, seeing him become a mentor to Cruz was ultimately much more satisfying.

All of our favorite characters are back, even Chick Hicks, and their interactions match their personalities perfectly. This film stays true to the original Cars feel, and shows the value of community and relationships over just winning. And it also dives deeper into the background for Doc’s character and shows how much Lightning changed him as well.

All in all this is a very heartwarming story and it was well worth the wait. So good job with the sequel Pixar! I hope you do this with all future sequels.

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Wonder Woman

If you haven’t seen Wonder Woman yet, be warned, there are spoilers in my review. So I’ve put off writing a review for Wonder Woman even though I saw it in theaters opening night. I think it’s because I really wanted to like this movie and most of the reviews and responses to the movie were very positive. But I just didn’t come out of the theater thinking ‘I loved that movie’ and I wasn’t really sure why. But now that I’ve had some time to think it over, I’ve come up with some reasons why I didn’t love this movie.

Now don’t get me wrong, this movie is a very high quality film and I’m glad it’s getting good reviews and people are enjoying it. I don’t want to start any arguments or make anyone upset. But since I have reviewed movies in the past, I wanted to at least give my opinion.

First off, one thing that makes me love a movie is the comedy. Not all movies need to have comedy, but even dramas I think are improved with moments of comic relief. Wonder Woman too, includes some comedic moments, but most of them are based in sexual humor which is awkward to me and not very funny. I don’t like that kind of comedy and so I found this movie very lacking in any funny moments that usually make me enjoy a superhero movie.

In addition, what makes me really enjoy a movie is a connection to the main character and a desire for them to succeed or accomplish their goal. I’m still not sure why, but I just didn’t connect to Wonder Woman as a character. I didn’t care what happened to her and even when her love interest died, I didn’t cry. Maybe it has something to do with her being a god and not having many things is common with me, or many of the other characters.

And speaking of the whole god thing, that was another reason I didn’t like the movie. As a Christian, any film that has it’s story line based in mythology always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I believe there is one true God and seeing anything with reference to other gods is just always harder for me to get into. But that’s just who Wonder Woman is, so I don’t blame the movie at all, they are sticking to the original comic for her back story, as they should. It’s just another reason that I personally had a hard time enjoying this movie. I prefer superheroes who get their powers by accident or technology instead of because they are a ‘god.’

And lastly, I had a hard time following the story in Wonder Woman. She seems to believe for most of the movie that she just has to defeat this one bad guy, Ares, and then everyone will stop fighting and there will be peace. It’s a naive understanding and I enjoyed seeing her discover that killing one bad guy won’t solve everything when she kills the German with her sword and the fighting doesn’t stop. But then the audience is shown that in fact it was just the wrong bad guy and even her sword isn’t the weapon we thought it was. So instead Wonder Woman is the weapon and some other guy is Ares and she battles him, wins and then the fighting stops.

So it felt like they were setting up an alternate ending where Wonder Woman doesn’t just defeat a bad guy and win, but then that ending sort of happened anyway. So I felt led on as an audience member. I don’t mind it usually when movies have surprises that you weren’t expecting, but it just felt like it was trying to do something new and then said never mind we’ll just do the regular ending that everybody expected at first.

In conclusion, as I’ve already said, I didn’t enjoy the movie. And that’s sad because I was really excited about it and was hoping I’d really enjoy it. I loved the scenery and setting in World War 1 and I liked Chris Pine’s acting and several of the action sequences were very well done. But in the end, it just wasn’t for me.

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Why I’m excited for Cars 3

As many of you know, I love kids movies. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good adult film, there are many that I do. But honestly, I love the kids movies. They’re funny, heartwarming, and I don’t have to worry about crude language or inappropriate scenes. Plus, I’ve found that many kids movies have compelling stories and characters that I just fall in love with.

One of my favorite movies from when I was growing up is Cars. I know there are some out there who didn’t like it, or thought it was not as original as other movies. But I loved it: the music, the animation, the plot. I especially loved seeing how the main character Lightning McQueen matured through the movie, made real friends, and started to care more for others than himself. And I was shocked, but in a good way, when he didn’t win the big Piston Cup at the end of the movie but chose to help an injured car finish the race instead. That scene really highlighted how much Lightning had changed.

Cars 2 was a bit of a disappointment to me. It revolved more around Mater than Lightning and the story just wasn’t as compelling or interesting. And what do you know, we still don’t get to see Lightning win a big race. It’s canceled due to espionage.

But now Cars 3 is about to come out and I’m so excited. From the previews this story clearly revolves around Lightning once again. Only now, he is the older car, like Doc was in the first film. And even though he’s racing against faster and younger cars, he is determined to win one last race. I’m hoping that finally, we’ll get to see Lightning win a race at the end of this movie and learn more good lessons along the way.

Pixar hasn’t been afraid to deal with tragedy in the past, such as Ellie dying in Up or Coral dying in Finding Nemo. So I’m excited to see how they will treat this crash that Lightning will experience.

So if you’re not excited yet, here’s a preview. And I hope we all get the Cars sequel we’ve been waiting 10 years for.

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Texas Road Trip

Over this past weekend, I got to take a road trip across a portion of the great state of Texas with my family. We drove over 1000 miles in our little gold minivan and visited some amazing places that I had never seen before. I thought I’d share some of the highlights on this blog in case anyone out there is thinking of going to West Texas sometime soon.

View from the top of Enchanted Rock

We started our trip by stopping at one of my favorite State Parks: Enchanted Rock. This natural large slab of Granite is a sight to behold, even though climbing it can be a bit strenuous and boy if you wear a hat, you better hold on to it tight, because it gets super windy up on top of the stone. But the view is great and there’s nothing like the feeling of conquering a small mountain. Plus, since it is near Fredericksburg, you can plan on picking up some fresh peaches or maybe even some peach ice cream.

Then we drove on to Balmorhea State Park to spend the night. It’s this cool little town in the middle of the desert that has natural springs that flow year round. It’s like an oasis in the hot dry land. They have turned the springs into a swimming pool for visitors of the state park. There were all sorts of fish and clear cool water to dive in and swim around. I even got to see rare Head Water Catfish that are all black and have blue eyes. My brother said it reminded him of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. Since there’s water, there is also a lot of wildlife in this area, in particular we saw many birds. I even got to see a hummingbird’s nest for the first time in my life. They make them out of spiderwebs. I would highly recommend stopping at this State Park, and I hope to go back sometime this winter.

Head Water Catfish that look like Toothless

From Balmorhea, we drove to Fort Davis, specifically to the Davis Mountains State Park. The McDonald Observatory is a short drive from the park and our first night there, we got to go to a star party and enjoy seeing the constellations, several planets, a galaxy and star clusters through the multiple telescopes provided. It was so much fun, and for the rest of the trip, I loved looking up at the night sky to see what I could remember from the tour. The stars in West Texas are just gorgeous, I can see so many more without the light pollution of a city and especially if you get up on a mountain, your view isn’t blocked by trees. This is one of my favorite things we did on this trip, and if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it.

At McDonald Observatory

There were several hiking trails and a great bird watching area in the state park, and Fort Davis National Park was also a short drive away. I wish we had more time to explore the historic structures, but the Fort closes at 5 pm everyday, so plan ahead if you decide to go. In Fort Davis itself, we found several cool little shops to explore, like an old-timey soda fountain, and an ice cream shop built into a train’s caboose. There was even a Rattlesnake museum. I was fine seeing the scaly creatures behind glass but I’m glad we didn’t run into any on our hikes. Speaking of hikes, we stopped at this random picnic sight on the drive between Fort Davis and the State Park and found an excellent place to boulder (or climb big rocks without the aid of ropes). It provided a great view of the area and was a lot of fun.

Hiking in the Davis Mountains

At Fort Davis National Park

Ice Cream from a Caboose

Bouldering

Lastly, we drove to Marfa to see if we could spot any of the mysterious lights that come out in the evenings. It would have been fun to explore Marfa itself a bit more, but most of our time was spent waiting at the observation area for the sun to set. It was a wonderful place to watch the sunset and I took a lot of pictures, but all the lights we saw in the distance were clearly car lights, so not sure if I’m a believer in the “Marfa Lights.” But it was still a fun place to go, and the sunset made it all worth it to me.

Sunset in Marfa

Well I hope you enjoyed the pictures and a glimpse into what’s out there in West Texas.

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Snapshots

I’ve been going through my old phone photos today and man, I’ve taken a ton of pictures. It’s funny how more often I take them now that I can do it with my phone, which I pretty much always have with me. Sometimes they’re very random, like a picture of a receipt or a screenshot of something I found online. Other times it’s a pretty sunset or a selfie with friends. But each photo brings back a memory and gives a little snapshot of my life. And although every memory might not be a happy one, they are all significant.

This past week I’ve been learning from God how significant life is and even my life. He didn’t create any unimportant people, we are all important to His plan and have a unique role in it. I may not always be in the spotlight, and for me that’s a comforting thing, but what I do each day does matter. How I talk to someone, how I drive, what I think about and notice, and what I choose to do or not do all has an importance that I don’t always see.

So may these random photos and my little ramblings remind you today that you are important, significant and loved by the One True God and that He has you right where He wants you.

The beauty of spring flowers and new life

My cat reminding me to take time to relax

A reminder to get a new perspective

Celebrating Easter with people I love

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Sneak Peek of the Pirate Princess

So I’ve been working on the next book in the Finding Home trilogy and I thought it was high time for a preview of the newest book. So, if you’ve read any of my books or you’re interested in adventure stories for young readers, I hope you enjoy this preview for Finding Home: The Pirate Princess.

Serina stared out at the violent waves, as they finished their job of wrecking the small rowboat to shreds. It felt like the sea was mocking her, arrogantly destroying her last shred of hope. How could it have gone this wrong? The sand felt hot against her bare feet, but she didn’t move, she couldn’t. Her whole world had crumbled and there was nothing she could do about it. Why? What did I do to deserve this? She clenched her fists and tried to keep the tears from coming but they came anyway, adding to the saltwater that already covered her trembling body. Now that she was alone, she couldn’t hold it together anymore. Why couldn’t it have been me? Why did they have to take Adrian? Why does it always have to be Adrian? Why can’t God just give me what I want for once in my life? She pulled on her hair, tempted to rip it out in frustration. But instead she fell to her knees and sobbed.

She didn’t know how long she’d been crying but her eyes refused to produce any more tears. She was dehydrated, drained and she felt like giving up. She looked up at the sky. “Alright, fine. I give up. Are you happy now? I’m sick of trying to do things my way. It never works and I’m tired of it. I don’t have anyone else so I’m giving You a chance. So help me save Adrian, please. He’s the last person to deserve this.”

She waited, silently hoping for a thundering voice to speak. But the roar of the waves and the cawing of seagulls was all she heard. Then in the distance she spotted a dark spot on the horizon. What is that? She stood up and put her hand to her forehead to block the sun and help her see clearer.

She stared for so long that her eyes began to hurt, but she didn’t take them off of the small dot. The wait was almost unbearable, the heat stifling, her clothes were already almost dry as the sun beat down on her. But the dot continued to get bigger and a flame of hope had lit in her chest that she held onto with everything she had left. Please be a ship. Please!

Finally the mast and sails took shape and Serina jumped with excitement. “Yes! A ship! Thank you God!” She didn’t care about anything else, not her torn dress or parched throat, or empty stomach. She just kept staring at that lovely ship. It was the most beautiful thing in the world to her. Thank you God!

Caleb stumbled out of the trees. “I heard you yelling, what happened?”

“A ship!” Serina said excitedly and pointed. She stopped as she realized Caleb was alive. She turned to him and gave him a big hug. “We’re saved!”

Caleb indulged her hug for a moment then stood back and blushed. “Do you still happen to have that spyglass?”

Serina wondered how she could have forgotten about it as she had watched that small dot getting closer. I really must be tired. She reached into her damp jacket and fished out the spyglass. She gave it to him with a smile.

Caleb took it and stared out at the ship. After a minute he mumbled sarcastically, “Oh great.”

All of the excitement drained out of Serina in an instant. “What?”

Caleb handed her the spyglass. “Take a look for yourself.”

Serina hurriedly pulled the odd contraption to her eye and tried to focus. Her hands were trembling too much and she had to take a deep breath to calm her nerves. Finally she found the ship among the vast blue ocean. She couldn’t see anything wrong with it. It looked sturdy and large enough to fit two extra passengers. But then she spotted the flag. The ugly red with a black X chilled her to the bones. “Oh no, it’s the pirates.”

“No, really? Ya think?”

“What are we going to do now?”

Caleb threw his hands up in the air. “I have no idea! But they’re headed straight here. It’s probably one of their bases of operation.”

“Maybe we could hide.”

Caleb shook his head. “I searched the whole island and besides a fresh spring it’s worthless. There’s nowhere we could hide where they wouldn’t spot us. It’s just not that big.”

Serina felt her chest tighten as the ship came nearer and nearer. And I thought things couldn’t get any worse.

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Jesus Changes Things

Now that summer is getting closer, I’ve been thinking about how it’s going to look different than past summers. For the past thirteen years (since 2003) I have taken part in our church’s summer outreach called Great Adventure. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’ve seen some posts about it in the past. Looking back, it really has had a huge impact on me personally. The first year I attended a Backyard Bible Club as one of the oldest children. (I was going into 7th grade). It’s similar to a Vacation Bible School except that the high school and middle school students from our church would go into different neighborhoods to run a club for a little over an hour. Adults helped drive the students and host the clubs but the students did the teaching.

The next year when I was going into 8th grade I joined one of the student teams and helped teach grade school kids who came to the clubs. It was a huge growing experience for me. I learned how to talk in front of a crowd, connect with kids, share the gospel with different illustrations, and be a part of a team. The next year I was stretched even more. I was going into high school and old enough to be a captain or leader of one of the student teams. It was intimidating, but I felt like God really wanted me to say yes, so I did. I went to several training camps for the first time (I should have gone to one of them the year before, but was on a vacation during it). That summer I learned so much about relying on God, trusting Him, and stepping out in obedience. I got to see kids come to Christ and see my own growth in sharing the gospel and doing what was uncomfortable.

After that year, I was hooked. I wanted to do Great Adventure every year. It had changed me, made me more confident in what God could do if I trusted Him and obeyed. It was exciting to see Him answer prayers, give us energy and work in the lives of the children we were teaching.

Although I wanted to be a part of it, I didn’t exactly want to be a leader again. I thought I’d done my time and now that there were more high schoolers in our youth group, I could let someone else be the captain. But God had other ideas. I ended up being a captain every summer after that up until I graduated from high school and went to college.

You know how when something really works for you, you think it should work the same for others? Like you don’t want it to change? It’s easy to make a good thing into a tradition. I totally do the same thing with restaurants. I keep going back to the ones I’ve been to before and am more hesitant to try new places. But anyway, for the next four years I always returned home for the summer and helped however I could with Great Adventure. It usually meant going to the training camps, taking pictures at the clubs, organizing supplies, and just helping others with what I had learned.

I started seeing changes though. When I had done Bible Clubs, we had gone to two clubs in the morning and 2 in the evening. At one point we even had clubs Monday through Friday and then a huge carnival called Summerfest on Saturday or Sunday. It was a pretty huge commitment and it took a lot of hard work.

But as the years passed, things changed. We ended up switching to only evening clubs, stopping on Thursday, and instead of a huge party at the church, we had individual block parties at each club. We also started writing our own curriculum instead of using other church’s scripts. And we changed the name to Summer Bible Clubs instead of Backyard Bible Clubs. Some of the changes I liked, others were hard to accept. But each year it seemed like God wanted to do things a bit differently. Those “good old days” I’d had in my high school years weren’t the same. But somehow it was still good. I guess God has a better plan than me.

After college I was able to intern at the church and help write the curriculum for several years. I brought all of my experience from the past but tried to be open to doing things differently. We added new games, changed how we shared the gospel with personal testimonies, and just tried new things to make it more friendly to unchurched families.

So that brings us to today and now the latest change has come. Instead of doing Bible clubs for one week, we’re going to connect to neighbors at parks throughout a whole month, and have groups within our church plan their own outreach activities. And instead of teaching students how to run a club, we’re going to teach them how to share the gospel with their friends and to view their schools as their mission field.

It’s kind of hard for me to let go of Bible clubs. I learned so much from them and they were a huge part of my life for the past thirteen years. But as I’ve seen Jesus change our plans every summer and still be faithful to do even greater things, I will trust Him in this. Because I do not worship a curriculum, a tradition, or my own preferences. I worship Jesus Christ. His ways are always best. He is always making things new and changing us from the inside, so I can’t expect Him to do things the same way forever. His purpose is unchanging. His goal is fixed. But His methods can be quite surprising and unconventional. So wherever He leads our church, I know it’s best, because He is always right.

Anyway, I hope you learned something from my ramblings about change and learn to trust Jesus in what He’s changing in your life too.

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I am a Teapot

So I was sitting in church on Sunday and for some reason I started thinking about a teapot. Maybe it’s because I had been reading/watching some movies and books based in Wonderland and tea seems like a big deal there. But anyway, I started thinking about how God pours His love into our lives but it’s not meant to just stay in our hearts, we in turn should pour out His love to others. It’s kind of like how a teapot is pretty useless if you just put warm tea in it and let it sit there. But if you pour it out into other people’s teacups, everyone can enjoy it. I know it’s not the greatest analogy, but for some reason it came to mind and I thought I’d write a poem about it. Also, I kept noticing references to pouring throughout the church service, so maybe God was trying to tell me something. In any case, I hope you enjoy this short poem.

I am a Teapot

I am a Teapot
short and stout.
Not meant to sit pretty
but to be filled and poured out.

God pours in His love
and I pour it back out.
And find I’m most full
when I’ve shared love about.

But I must never forget
the love that I give,
comes not from myself,
but from Him who first gave.

And so I return to be filled once again
and pour out His love that never ends.

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The Idol of Marriage

I’m a single lady and I’ve gotten all the questions about when are you going to get married, is there anyone you like, etc. I’m sure there’s some single guys out there who can relate as well. But I was thinking about it the other night and I just got kind of sick of how our culture views marriage, so I decided to write this blog post.

Our culture has set up marriage as this huge goal for life. All of these movies and books and TV shows have marriage and romance as the goal. People pick up on this and eventually relatives and friends begin to assume that you can’t be happy till you’re married, or in a romantic relationship. And it’s not that I don’t want to be married someday. I would love that. But I also know that anything, even a good thing like marriage, is not supposed to be what we base our life on. It can’t fulfill my desire for happiness any more than money or a successful career can.

And as I’ve seen more and more of my friends getting married, I can see it’s true for everyone. Marriage is a good thing and there is a lot of blessing and happiness in it. But there is also a lot of hardship and frustration. One person cannot make you happy all of the time, even if they try really hard. And the “happily ever after” fairy tale is a lie. Life is hard, and so is marriage and often times it involves deep hurts, disagreements, hard situations and working through that is tough. It’s even tougher if you’ve built up marriage into a myth and idol to strive for that will somehow make you happy and fulfilled. Even though I’m not married I can confidently say marriage cannot make you happy. Because nothing in this life will. The only thing, the only One who can is God. Nothing can replace Him. He is where we get meaning, fulfillment, happiness, joy, peace, love and everything good from.

So no, I’m not married. And I honestly don’t know if I will ever be married on this earth. But that doesn’t mean I am unhappy or unfulfilled, or even sad. Sure there’s a part of me that would still like to be married and might be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. But it’s not what my life is all about, and I won’t be crushed if it never happens. Because I do have God, and I love Him with all my heart and soul. And He loves me more than I can imagine, and better than a husband ever could.

So, sorry for the rant. But I’m sick of this culture pushing marriage on everyone as the only way to be happy. Because it’s not the only way, and it really isn’t a way at all. Without God, nothing will satisfy you, not even marriage. So if you’re married, congratulations, and I hope you enjoy it but remember to look for your ultimate satisfaction in Christ. And if you’re not, please don’t set all your hopes and dreams on finding that one special guy or girl. No one can fulfill your life like that. Only God can.

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