Monday, January 26, 2015

Flops & Failures

Just when you think you’ve got it all together… failure sneaks up on you.

Just when you think you’ve got your nerves conquered… they ambush you and beat you up.

For four years now I’ve been coaching you, speakers who are growing your communication skills. I’ve written articles about overcoming your nerves, talked clients and friends off the ledge, and had countless conversations with my music major son about performance anxiety.

And most of the time, I’m not so nervous anymore.

Until yesterday.

Late last week, my worship pastor asked me to do the greeting at my church. Easy peasy. I’ve done it before, and it’s two minutes on stage telling everybody you’re glad they’re there, making a couple of announcements, and asking people to greet each other. No big deal. I’m a professional speaker. This is what I do, so I was happy my church staff felt free to ask me.

I launched into planning… my cute outfit. The other was going to be easy, so my outfit seemed like the most important aspect of preparation.

And it was all fine until we started singing. I was going to follow the first song, and I should have been fine. But I wasn’t. My heart was pounding. My breathing became labored gasps. My hands were dripping.

What in the world?

I wish I could tell you I pulled it together and overcame. But I didn’t. It was awful. I was a mess.  I’ll leave the details to your imagination.

Our church has three services, so I still had two to go. I retreated to the silence of the library to lick my hurt pride and reflect.

Here’s the thing. I really didn’t want to write this today because my mind keeps saying, “Are you CRAZY?! Don’t confess this. No one will ever hire your again. How can anyone trust you to help them if you can’t even help yourself?”

But my heart wants to share with you because I learned/re-learned some important lessons yesterday. Since I think the heart lessons are the most important thing even if some of you count me out as pitiful :), here I am baring my soul.

As I sat in the library and prayed, I asked God, “What happened? What went wrong?” He gently showed me:

  • I moved into this assignment in my own confidence. I had an “I’ve got this” attitude.
  • I saw it as a small assignment. (Small but not insignificant. I LOVE my church!)
  • I spent more time on my outfit than on my knees.
  • I was worried about proving myself. My pastor was in the room for the first time when I spoke from the stage. I think very highly of him, and I wanted to impress him. (ps. This is entirely my issue, not a reflection on who he is.)

So what did I learn?

  • My confidence is to be in Christ alone. I know that confidence is important for anything we do, but focus on self is one of my particular areas of sinfulness and weakness. Self-righteousness. Self-confidence. Self-ishness. God didn’t cause my flop, but He definitely has used it to renew a sense of dependence on Him and a deep knowledge that my only lasting confidence flows from Him.
  • There is no small assignment. I need to approach every opportunity as important and sacred since I’m trusting God to open every door.
  • Prayer is essential. As I’ve often quoted–It’s not just preparation for the work. It is the work.
  • The best lesson for messed up motives is from scripture: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17)

col. 3

So there it is. Up through last night, I really just wanted to throw in the towel, but quitting isn’t an option. We’re called, friends, so we’ve just got to fail, learn, and move forward. I’ve been speaking for 10 years. I’ve spoken to large crowds and small groups. I’ve loved it all, but I can’t forget the simple lessons. God is the source. Motives are everything.

Amy

 

 

 

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Speaker Wow

This is a season of multi-tasking. With the release of my first book, Breaking Up with Perfect, next summer, I’ve added editing and marketing to my other tasks.One of the items on my to-do list for a long time has been to finish Michael Hyatt’s Platformso I thought I’d do a series sharing how I’m processing his insights in relation to speaking ministry. How about buying the book or picking up your copy, and let’s read together!

In the first few chapters, Hyatt discusses the need to not just meet expectations with our product (our speaking) but to exceed expectations. He calls it “Baking in the WOW.”

wow

Hyatt says, “Being successfull means becomeing the expert in recognizing wow when it shows up. More importantly, it means being able to recognize it when it is absent–and insisting that you ask yourself to deliver it.”

As a speaker, I’ve thought a lot about how to add WOW to both the experience an event planner has with me as well as at the event itself. Many of these ideas come from our Proverbs 31 team, and it’s been a pleasure implementing them.

For event planners…

1. Quick response– I make it a policy to get in touch with event planners within 24 hours of the confirmation of a contract from our office. You may be doing first contacts yourself, but the 24 hour rule is still a good one. Since the first conversation is pretty lengthy and detailed, I usually send an email first telling how excited I am about the event and scheduling our first phone meeting.

2. Listening & a partnership mentality– The thing I say to an event planner is, “Tell me about your event. I want to hear about your hopes and dreams for the outcome.” I used to launch in with my own set of questions, but I’ve learned that listening first is important. I want the event planner to know that I’m coming alongside, but I want to follow her leadership. I also want her to know that I’m a partner in implementing her vision, not just a speaker who is going to show up, take the stage, do her thing, and leave.

3. Availability–When we finish the first conversation, I double check to see if the event planner has my email and phone number. I tell her that I’m available to her any time and that she can communicate with me in the way that works best for her. You’d be shocked at how many stories I hear at this point about diva-ish behavior from speakers. It’s just tragic to think that any of us who call ourselves Christian speakers would behave in a way that Jesus never would.

4. Individualization– I make short, very amateur (but enthusiastic!) videos with my iPhone for each event and send it to event planners. It tells a potential attendee how excited I am to be with her and how it won’t be the same if she’s not there. I know I love to see a face and hear a voice before I register for an event, so I hope my little videos help event planners with their registration. Planners can produce these for church services or use them “as-is” on their Facebook page.

For events…

5. Pre-Prayer– A couple of years ago, my precious friend Wendy Blight challenged me to begin praying for each attendee by name before an event. I can’t describe the powerful difference this practice has made in my events. I feel bonded to the individual women there before I even arrive, and I sense that God is working in the quiet time before an event to prepare each heart.

6. Arriving early– I remember an event at my church years ago when the speaker arrived long after her scheduled arrival, rushed in, insisted on prioritizing her book table, and missed the time praying with our group before she stood to speak. That made quite an impression on me. I never want to do that to a group of women. I tend toward being at events overly early. I want to make sure I have time to greet and meet all the leaders and set-up team when I arrive as well as being done setting up my book table and praying with the group before the first attendee arrives. Arrival/registration time for the attendees is when I float around and great women as they arrive–another way to start your speaking time with lots of faces smiling at you. :)

7. Fresh passion– Although I re-use messages, I almost always do some degree of rewriting for an event. I don’t take the message out of a folder, stick it in a notebook, and deliver it. I spend time with the scripture again, asking God to speak to my heart all over. Often I have new stories or fresh lessons to share in an old message. This practice allows me to hear God’s voice for each group even if I haven’t written a new message top to bottom. It also keeps me excited and engaged in my messages.

8. Availability– As long as I’m at the event location, I’m available to the women at the event to talk and/or pray. One event planner asked me, “Will you be available during the retreat? Will you eat with our women, or do you spend your extra time in your room?” I was stunned by the question. After I explained that I think the best ministry happens when I’m off stage, she told me about a speaker they’d had the year before who they only saw when she was on stage. After sessions, she’d retreat to her room, and she ate her meals in her room. Ugh! Y’all! We’re there to serve, serve, serve.

9. Appreciation– After each event, part of my wrap-up at home is to hand-write a thank you note to the event planner. I end by saying I’d love to serve them any way I can in the future. This allows me to open the door for referrals for other speakers too.

Creating WOW for an event planner means that you’ll often be asked back or that your name will be passed to her peers. Creating WOW for an event means that your words will be used to make a difference in someone’s life. But creating WOW isn’t just for everyone else.

I hope this series will be a place where your juices start flowing! Will you share? How do you create WOW for your event planners and events?

Amy

 

 

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Taking the Next Step

I’ve got a special treat at the end of the video, so please take a few minutes to watch. :) If you are a subscriber, you can click here to see the video.

I hope hearing my voice and seeing my face helps you decide to try Next Step. As you can see, I’m not scary at all! I’m an encourager at heart walking the journey with you.

Remember, to activate your offer, just fill out the Request Information form before midnight, Wednesday, Jan. 14th!

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Corrected Links

I’m so sorry yesterday’s post had some broken links! I did some cutting and pasting, so they didn’t transfer.

Click here to access the linked links. :)

Amy

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

15 Tips to Grow Your Speaking Ministry in 2015

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you had a fabulous Christmas with renewing rest and strengthening family time. I enjoyed a little hiatus, but I’m raring to go into a fresh, new year of growth and opportunities. How about you?

2015

I want to challenge each of you to take some time today or tomorrow to write down some next steps for your speaking ministry. Maybe you’re just starting out and need to find a fellow speaker to interview about the details of being a speaker. Perhaps you’re a very seasoned speaker who needs to mine your recent spiritual lessons for some exciting new messages. For all of us, this is the year to take steps to get the messages God has put in our hearts out to audiences who are dying to hear His truth!

No matter where you are, you can take tangible steps to grow your speaking ministry. Here are my top 15 tips for 2015:

1. Spend a day (or as much time as you can carve out) in a quiet place with just your Bible and a journal. Worship, pray and read God’s Word. Ask Him to speak to you about His agenda for you for the year. Read this blog post for more details about a retreat with Jesus.

2. Pray before you speak, “Lord, help me to love You first and to love these women as you love them.” Watch your focus change and your nerves subside.

3. Lay aside a percentage of each of your speaking fees for reinvestment back into your ministry.

4. Purchase a book that will challenge you in your speaking and implement at least one new idea in your next message. We’ve got some great suggestions in our reading list on the sidebar! I’ve gotten half way through Platform by Michael Hyatt and Resonate by Nancy Duarte. Finishing them and implementing what I learn is at the top of my list.

5. Schedule time each week to work on your speaking ministry–studying, writing new messages or working on marketing tasks.

6. Seek out someone who lives very differently than you as a friend. One of the ways God is expanding my horizons and teaching me new things is through some friends who do ministry in different arenas as well as two friends who live with significant handicaps. These friendships and the lessons we learn through them impact our messages significantly.

7. Start saving your pennies and attend She Speaks. It’s a feast for your mind and soul! Registration will open early March.

8. Prayerfully set a goal for how many times you’ll speak this year. Be open to all kinds of venues for speaking (including making announcements, emceeing events, teaching Sunday school, etc), and speak as often as possible. Pray for chances to share God’s message and exercise your “speaking muscle”.

9. Record yourself (digital recorders are worth the investment) or ask to be recorded each time you speak. Then listen to yourself! I know it’s excruciating, but you’ll identify more needs for improvement by doing this than by any other single thing.  Video is even better (worse?).  Watching yourself will alert you to areas that need work.

10. Subscribe to blogs that will give you information about being a better speaker and getting the word out about your ministry. We’d love for you to subscribe here for our free weekly speaker tips, of course!  We also have additional information posted on our Facebook page.   Also, I recommend Micheal Hyatt’s blog as well as signing up for Rob Eager’s Monday Morning Marketing Tips.

11.  Listen to great speakers and analyze the structure of their messages.  There are tons of free podcasts.  A few of my favorites are any of my Proverbs 31 sisters, Jennifer Rothschild, Andy Stanley and Ravi Zacharias.

12. Watch TED Talks to fill your mind with challenging ideas and the opportunity to listen to some fabulous speakers. Here are a few of my favorites: Mandisa, Diana Nyad, Bill Gates, Jane Fonda and my all-time favorite, genius TED Talk by Jane McGonigal.

13. Choose 12 of Tracie’s marketing ideas, and implement one each month this year.

14. Get out and live a bigger life. Take a day-trip. Ride your bike. Play with children. Cook international food. Break out of your rut, and do something different! Not only will it energize you, it will give you material for your messages.

15. And last but not least…use Next Step Speaker Services to help you individually with message development, message evaluation or developing marketing pieces. Learn more about our service by viewing this video. If you’d like to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION CALL click here

I’m here to be your cheerleader for all of 2015! I’m in this growth process right along with you, so let’s take some next steps together.

Will you use any of these tips? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’re planning your speaking year!

Amy

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Controlling Your Nerves–Part 3

Late one night, I got an email from Renee Swope.  “Are you still up?  Call me!”  Renee and her family had just gotten the exciting news that it was time to go get Aster, their daughter that they were adopting from Ethiopia.  Renee asked if I could cover one of her events in California, and I happily answered “yes”.

In the weeks before the event, I had several wonderful talks with the coordinator, prepared my messages and packed for CA with excitement.  Renee had warned me that it’s a fun trip but a hard trip.  “Friday night is especially hard,” she explained, “for a speaker when your body is screaming to go to bed about the time that you stand to speak.”

I felt the typical flutters as I was being introduced, but I square breathed through it as I stood to speak.  I can’t really tell you what happened after that.  Although I wasn’t nervous, I felt flat and tired.  I’m a big face reader (not always a good idea as you’ll see), so I scanned the crowd for engaged, smiling faces without finding one.  My funny stories got little patters of laughter, and I felt disconnected and unfocused.

I walked back to my room alone and in a panic.  I was failing.  I had failed the women at the event.  I had failed Renee.  I was failing God in my weekend assignment.  The night was one of tossing and turning, and then I dragged my tired body out of bed to pray at dawn.  As I walked down to the camp pond, I was overcome with discouragement and the heavy weight of responsibility.  How could I spend the rest of the weekend with these women?  I had blown the first impression, and I cried out to God to redeem the weekend.

In mid-plea, God’s firm but gentle voice rang through my head, “Amy if you will take your eyes off yourself and fix them on me…if you will fix your eyes on me and love the women here, it will all be ok.”

fail

In the silence of the morning with the rosy dawn painting the surface of the pond, my heart settled and rested.  God had given me something I could do, so I began to pray.  I praised God for who He is.  I thanked Him for the many good things that He had been doing.  I asked Him to pour His love for the women at the event into my heart.  Finally, I asked God to speak through me for the rest of the weekend–not for my sake but for the women there.

The breakfast bell rang, and as I walked into the bright cafeteria, women began to approach me.  One after another wanted to share what God had spoken to them through me the night before.  I couldn’t believe it!  I’m still not sure what happened or why I thought I had done so miserably.  Maybe the women had been as tired as I was.  Maybe it was just a less emotional group.  I really don’t know to this day.

What I do know is that God had used the situation to teach me the best tip yet about managing my nerves.  Focus on Him and love the women that I am speaking to.   Those things take my eyes off my own performance and settle me heart and nerves.

This wraps up our series on managing your nerves, but we’d still love to hear your tips.

This is the last blog post until the New Year. I’m taking a December blogging break, so I’d like to wish you a very merry Christmas!

Amy

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Controlling Your Nerves–Part 2

 

When I get nervous, I start to lose my breath which isn’t great for a speaker.

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Photo Credit

I want my audience to be at ease as I start, and a shaky voice just doesn’t do it.  I struggled for a long time with this problem until one day I heard a radio personality talk about a method called square breathing.

Although my nervousness has lessened with time and practice, I still feel the butterflies start during my introduction.  I’ve learned to embrace a little nervousness as a natural adrenaline rush that will help me open with energy, but I want to have a steady voice.  Square breathing has been the answer for me.  Here are the steps:

  • While counting to 4, inhale slowly through your nose.
  • Hold the breath for 4 slow counts.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth while counting to 4.
  • Hold the breath for 4 slow counts.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

I think this works for several reasons.  It makes me slow my breathing down which keeps me from hyperventilating.  It floods my body with oxygen which helps clear and sharpen my mind.  It also gives my brain something to do (counting) besides thinking about how nervous I am!

I hope this simple, practical tip will be helpful.  If you have any tips, please share them in the comments.

Amy

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Controlling Your Nerves–Part 1

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic of controlling my nerves before I speak. While my nerves have settled over time (if you struggle, I promise it gets better with practice), they still flair up. If the setting is different, if there’s someone I esteem in the audience, or if I haven’t had time to prepare, I can still find myself overwhelmed with nervousness.

At She Speaks last summer, I felt fine on the stage in front of 400+ women, but I fell apart when I had to read introductions at the beginning of breakouts. Go figure!

Nerves can hit at the strangest times, but with a few tips, we can learn to manage them. This series is a “re-run”, but I thought it was a topic it would be useful to revisit. Today’s is fantastic advice from Lysa TerKeurst!

You have less than 5 seconds to make your first impression on an audience.  If those first 5 seconds are spend shuffling notes, grabbing the podium for dear life, and trying to catch your run away breath… your audience will start to feel as nervous as you do.

The best way I know to calm my nerves right away and set the audience at ease is to make the first words out of my mouth something I can say confidently and boldly without notes and without hesitation.  After just a few profound sentences that lead my audience to know the exact point of my message, I transition into a personal story that relates to my point.

Personal stories are great because you don’t need notes, your personality can shine through, and people are captivated by stories.  When you feel you have your audience captivated, your nerves will dissipate!  It’s amazing what confidence this builds in you and what connection it creates with the audience.

My only word of caution is to remember your transition from the end of your story back to the point of your message.  You don’t want to make it all the way down the field only to fumble at the goal line.  I have no idea why I just used a sports analogy, but it worked.

Happy speaking sweet friends!

lysaLysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith through following Jesus Christ. As president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lysa has led thousands to make their walk with God an invigorating journey.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Dream Big Dreams

I know from the comments that last week’s post on waiting resonated with many of you. In response, I want to give you a valuable resource. Last year, in the midst of one of my hardest waits ever, I read Holley Gerth’s book You’re Made for a God-Sized DreamIt both encouraged me and strengthened my resolve.

Here is a reprint of one of Holley’s blog posts that I pray will encourage you as you wait today.

God-sized Dream = a desire in your heart for more of what God has for you.

photo by horia varlan

Yesterday we kicked off our God-sized dreams journey together. It’s a new year and there’s so much in store for us. As I thought about what’s ahead, I couldn’t help thinking about what’s behind too.

We all have a back story.

You do.

I do too.

I don’t talk about mine much. But I thought as we get started together I should tell you a few things. Because it might be tempting to come here and think that the road to where I am now has been easy. Or that I have it all together. Or that all have my God-sized dreams have happened. But none of those are true.

In reality, I’ve struggled off an on with depression and social anxiety most of my life.

My husband and I have walked through many, many years of infertility and we have a baby in heaven.

God asked me to leave a job with people I loved and take a step of faith without having any idea what would happen. 

I still have days when I feel crazy and wonder what in the world I’m doing and the fear doesn’t just knock but BANGS on the door of my heart.

You see, God-sized dreams aren’t about being perfect. Or getting what we want. Or things working out the way we plan.

I can tell you this, on your God-sized dreams journey…

You will feel fear.

You will fail at some point.

And you may even find that you have to let a dream go.

But I can also tell you, on your God-sized dreams journey…

You will become more courageous.

You will have victories you never through possible.

And you will be filled up with what you really need, which is less of you and more of Jesus in your life.

God-sized dreaming isn’t for wimps.

But at the same time it’s really only for wimps.

Because we all are exactly that. We’re weak and broken and afraid. And we’re also strong and whole and filled with the resurrection power of Christ.

We are living paradoxes and nothing will show you that more than a God-sized dream.

If you’re looking at all this God-sized dreams stuff with a bit of skepticism can I just whisper,“It’s okay to feel that way. But dare to come with us anyway. Not because of where you will go but because of where this journey will take you…and that’s closer to the heart of God.”

Dare to turn the page on your back story.

It’s time for a new beginning.

**Reprinted with permission of Holley Gerth.

Climber-by-HolleyGerth.com_

Holley-pic-4-01

 

Holley Gerth is an author and coach who loves encouraging women. Please visit her wonderful blog for more about stoking the fires of your dream. This post is just the beginning of a series of amazing posts about God-sized dreams.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

What to Do While You Wait

The discouragement in my friend’s voice cracked my heart as I listened. “I just want to speak and write,” she said. “And I don’t know how to make that happen.”

I’ve been there.

And I’ll bet you have too. Here’s the thing… My friend is incredible. She really is. I love  reading every blog post she writes, and although I haven’t heard her speak yet, I already know she rocks the room. She’s a Jesus-loving girl who is incredibly smart and talented. She has a powerful message, and she’s dying to share it. Just like you, I’ll bet.

So what’s the problem?

I wish I could tell her. I want to give her a formula for how to create a breakthrough. If I had that formula, I’d give it to her and to you for free right this very minute.

But I don’t.

waiting pic Photo Credit

All I can tell you is that you’re not alone. I know waiting is hard because I’ve waited too. I’ve been passed over for the big event. I’ve received mailboxes full of rejection letters. I’ve felt the urge to do more and known I was capable of more, yet the doors stayed shut. It doesn’t feel good to wait, but there are some things that you should do while you wait. There are lots of things you don’t have control over to “make it happen”, but here are some areas you can control to make yourself ready when the doors start to swing open:

1. Make it all count. For years and years, I’ve written one blog post after another.  I’ve written a devotion a month for almost a decade. While I was doing the work, I saw each one as completely separate and (truthfully)not  as very valuable.

A friend who has published multiple books gave me great advice when I started writing my book (more info to come!). She told me to take my chapter descriptions and go through all my devotions, messages, and blog posts from the very beginning. “Mine those for your stories and teaching,” she wisely counseled. “Make a list of your past writing under each chapter title where it might belong. Before you start writing a chapter, see if there is content you’ve developed in the past that would fit in the chapter.”

Wowza! It was a revelation!! Re-reading all my past content made me see my journey. So much of it was related to my current book, and I could see how God has been teaching me and healing me.

Don’t make the same mistake I did for years. I didn’t think all those “little” investments of work mattered. All your work matters, so make it all count. (Click here to Tweet) Be purposeful. Be intentional. Be impactful.

2. Build relationships through service. There are so many ways to serve others. Write online book reviews for your favorite speakers and authors. Write a guest blog post for a blogging friend. Speak for free. Do the announcements or emcee an event. I listened to a webinar by Kathi Lipp last week where she advised interning for a local speaker to learn the “business” of ministry. Say “yes” as often as you possibly can.

We shouldn’t serve expecting to get something in return (Just like most people, I have a nose for that, and I don’t like it.), but people who we serve often want to help us when it’s our turn. For example, Kathi shared she often refers her interns when she’s unable to speak for an event. My friend who was the catalyst for this article is reading my manuscript and giving me enormously valuable feedback. I know she’s doing it because she loves me, but you’d better believe I’ll throw all my energy into helping her when it’s her turn. (And I guarantee it WILL be her turn some day!!)

3. Invest in your growth. This is the most important one. While you’re waiting, make sure you’re ready for opportunity. Read blogs. Read books. Practice every chance you get. Share your message for free. Invest in coaching opportunities like Next StepPlatform University, or Compel. Attend conferences like She Speaks or Allume.

Most importantly, invest in your spiritual growth. Be very, very careful not to spend so much time working in ministry that you forget Who it’s all for. Enjoy God by spending time alone with Him each day. Take a spiritual retreat. Do a study. Fellowship with friends who are growing too. Be ruthless with your own sin. Pursue a spiritual mentor. Do what it takes to grow, grow, grow! (While you’re pursuing God, you’ll fall so in love with Him that the waiting will be easier –not easy, just easier. Avoid Him and the wait will be excruciating and fruitless.)

I’m grateful for the years of spiritual formation before doors began to open. I’m thankful that each opportunity seems to follow my children needing me less. Although I wasn’t at the time, I’m glad I wrote all those devotions and blog posts that often felt like a waste of time. God’s timing is perfect, friends. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, but He always has purpose in the wait.

Amy

 

 

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