Hanging on to Dollar Bills: a Mini Guide to Big Saving and Less Spending

Hanging on to Dollar Bills: a Mini Guide to Big Saving and Less Spending

I’m a natural saver. I blame it on my dad. From the age of thirteen (and my first official job), my dad taught me to save. His method for my paycheck savings involved putting 50% in a bank account to be “saved” and the rest I could spend however I wanted.  I later figured out the purpose to my “saving” was so he could “borrow” (and not necessarily return) the money for family expenses that he and my mom couldn’t afford (or didn’t budget for).  Sometimes that meant 50% of my paycheck went toward groceries, school supplies, or gas for the car.  While this is not an example I would encourage parents to follow, it did get me into a habit of saving.

With Dollar Bills Come Great Responsibility

Over the years, I’ve read books and blogs, watched videos, and taught courses on how to save and spend wisely.  That by no means makes me an expert, but I have learned a thing or two about making the money that comes in last as long as possible. (I attribute this newfound interest in learning to my husband, who is an excellent teacher of good methods of handling money and all things finance-related.)
Every dollar is important (of great worth), and we have a God-inherent responsibility to be a great steward of each dollar we get.

(Insert song: She works hard for the money!)  We work hard for our money, don’t we, friends? Since we work hard to earn it, we need to learn to work hard to save it and spend it.

Today’s post is about spending!  It’s a little bit about saving too–frugal ways that allow us to hold onto those dollars so they last a little longer.

Couponing Done Easier

Ok, I’ve tried the whole Extreme Couponing thing. It doesn’t work for me!  To those of you who do it well, I commend you!  I’m not going to teach you anything extreme.  Instead, I’ll show you slow, diligent moderation.  If you want extreme, check out some of the Queen C’s (C for Coupons!) online like: Krazy Koupon Lady.

Frugal Couponing:  Guidelines I use when couponing

1.  Only coupon what you normally buy anyway.

I used to get caught up in all the coupons: “Buy 2, get 1 free.” “Buy 2, save 50 cents.” “Save $ on over-priced items that wouldn’t normally end up in the shopping cart and are a more expensive alternative even with the coupon.”

Don’t fall for these marketing techniques unless it’s:

a) something you need,
b) something you’re buying anyway,
c) something you need that quantity of, or
d) the best alternative, price-quality wise–if there’s a cheaper alternative you and your family can live with “this time,” then save and go for the cheaper alternative.

Side Note about “This Time”:  Part of being frugal (and a good steward of resources) is to keep a “this time” attitude.  It puts into perspective the short life of each purchase. When comparing brands and prices, think about the life of the product.  How long will it last? One week? A month?  Will my family survive with (cheaper toilet paper or generic ketchup) for just this month?  What about every other month?  Can they handle a cheaper, generic brand just this one time?  You might argue that the difference in price is only a dollar, or even only few cents.  

Remember our goal: to hang onto each dollar a little bit longer. That includes those few cents of savings on each item in the cart. It’s the small things. In order to be more frugal, we have to learn to make small changes now. Small changes now will turn into big changes later.  Every penny counts.  Don’t spend it “just because you have a coupon.”

2.  Use coupon apps.

There are so many money-saving apps out there. Depending on your city, some work better than others.  It might take some trial and error to find the apps that work best for you and your region, but if you want to save money, it’s worth the time to figure out.

Personally, I only use apps that give me real cash savings or cash back, not the ones that work on a points system.  There are some good points systems, but right now, I focus on real, immediate cash.

My favorite apps are:

  • Walmart Savings Catcher – download your receipt after each purchase and watch the real cash grow.  Transfer to PayPal or a Walmart gift card.  They also have an online version: https://savingscatcher.walmart.com/.
  • Kroger and Whole Foods coupon apps–because I don’t have to print anything.
  • I check the Krazy Coupon Lady app just for things I’m going to be buying anyway, so I don’t get caught up in the hype of spending gas, printer ink, and time running all over town to get free things or ‘money-maker’ things that I don’t need.  Time is worth spending frugally too!
  • Ibotta has become another favorite app.  I look for items I plan to buy, and then scan the item and receipt for cash back via PayPal or gift cards.
  • This app doesn’t usually have many items that I normally buy, but for the little time it takes to scroll through and upload receipts, I still consider Checkout 51 worthwhile.

Even if you average 25-50 cents per shopping trip (like me), that small change quickly adds up.  I’m currently at $5, but hey, that’s a free coffee!  Who doesn’t like free coffee? With Checkout 51, I can cash out when it reaches $20, in which case, who doesn’t like a free movie?  Or one hour of free babysitting? Compliments of a grocery app–yay!

3. Stay on Budget and Just Say No.

Have you noticed we live in an extremely high-consumption society?  The rest of the world calls us consumerists and gluttons.  Why do we let ourselves get caught up in the hype?

Part of frugal living is just saying no.  No to things we don’t need.  Delaying ‘wants’ until we’ve saved up to pay cash for them, which means saying ‘no’ for right now.  There is a time to spend.  Our culture is REALLY good at it.  Admit it, so are you!  I definitely am!

First, though, we need to learn to save.  Save for future needs, for emergencies, for wants.  Save just to save.  If you’re wondering why we learn to be frugal, it’s for those reasons just listed.

A Side Note on Saving:

Saving is the foundation to Big Giving.  Do you ever wish you had enough money to support a missionary for an entire year or build a hospital in a small village? Do you ever think about what it would be like to fund an entire non-profit event?  Or sponsor your kids’ sports team or band trip?

People who give big first had to learn to save big. I recently read that somewhere.  They learned to say no to things they didn’t need so that later, they could enjoy (and appreciate) the things they wanted.  To learn to save big, start small. Start with small, frugal decisions.  Talk it through with your spouse, kids, and friends.  Get them on board and excited.  They’ll hold you accountable and learn along the way!  Who knows? Maybe they’ll do this with you!  It’s so much more fun together!

Being frugal doesn’t have to mean turning into a skimpy cheapskate, but if we learn how to be thoughtful and conscientious about our spending–and saving–we will be on a good path to better things in the future.

Have any other easy couponing tips or apps to share?

hanging on to dollar bills_by tina
Who’s in God’s House?

Who’s in God’s House?

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 4 crazy, homeschooling children ages 9 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.

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Who’s in God’s house?

The Church!  But who or what is the church? And how do you get in? These are all questions that are answered in this month’s Family Time Training Activity called God’s House.  (Download it for free during the month of June or sign up for unlimited access to all their materials.)

You have probably heard someone say, “I’m going to church!”

Although not a bad thing to say because we know what they mean, my husband and I have chosen to reiterate with our kids that we don’t go to church because we are the church.  Instead we say, “We are going to worship.” or “We are going to the church building.”

We chose to do this for two different reasons:

  1.  I did not realize growing up that the church in the Bible was actually referring to those who believed and followed Christ!
  2. One of my husband’s favorite a Capella groups called AVB  had a song called “U Can’t Go to Church.”  He almost always starts singing this song when our children say, “Let’s go to church.” It’s really funny, but it’s a good way to remember that we are the church.

God’s House Activity

Our family has 5 kids ages 9 years old to newborn.  As we sat down to do this activity, I wondered how each of them would process it.  I wondered if they would grasp the main concepts of

  1. How we become part of God’s house &
  2. Who all is a part of God’s house

Using the model of a house was a brilliant way to help explain these two concepts.  A paper template is included with this activity that your older children can fill in as you discuss these concepts with them and your younger children can color and cut while you are talking.

how-do-you-enter-gods-house

Becoming Part of God’s House

God in his infinite mercy uses the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) when it comes to salvation and this Family Time Training activity reinforces that idea.

I was excited how this activity explained that Jesus is the “door/gate” and we enter the house of God only through him.  I made all my children find the door and explained that the only way to enter God’s house is through Jesus.

So Jesus said again, “I am telling you the truth: I am the gate for the sheep.  All others who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Those who come in by me will be saved; they will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness. – John 10:7-10

Question: But how do we go through Jesus to enter the house?

Answer: We must believe that Jesus is the son of God and choose to obey him!

Obeying and disobeying is something children understand.  We are constantly teaching them this.  Explaining that Jesus is the only way into the house and we have to obey him to get in, makes crystal clear sense even to our 3 year old.

Who is a Part of God’s House?

This honestly is probably my favorite part of this activity.  Why?  Because I love Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

In this passage, we see that those who believed and obeyed God in the past are cheering us on in the present.  So there is a clear representation of the body of Christ (God’s House) past and present together.

By writing out the apostles, the prophets, christian leaders from the past to present, our family, friends and future Christians, we start to see God’s House as more than just what we see sitting in the worship service. We see God’s House as an eternal legacy of Christ, one that is filled with people from the past, present, and the future.  It reminds us that our calling is not just to enter into God’s House through Jesus Christ but to call others to joyfully enter it as well!  We can be praying for our friends, family, and those who don’t know Christ yet but will be our brothers and sisters in Christ one day.

It’s a great way to help our children see that God’s House is filled with people we’ve read about as Bible heroes and reminds us that we can become present day heroes for Christ, too!  

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Taking this Idea a step further!

There are just so many great ways to use this house template to encourage our kids in their faith. Here are a few extras I thought about:

1.  Grab a Cardboard Box

My kids have been playing with cardboard boxes all week, making rocket ships and other contraptions.  You could easily use this small template and turn it into a cardboard box sized template that allowed them to walk into the house and write on the walls and roof.  Keep this in the house or on the porch for a week or so.  Every so often stop, gather around the house and pray.  Pray over your kids, their current church family, their brothers and sisters around the world, and those who will become their brothers and sisters in God’s House.

2. Learn more about Christian Leaders from 100 AD – 2,000 AD

Watch the great animated Torch Lighters Series and learn about St. Augustine, Corrie Ten Boom, and many others who are considered heroes of the faith! Or grab a kid friendly biography about them and make family reading time a time to bolster their faith and courage.

3. Read about Bible Leaders and Prophets

Let each child pick their favorite Bible leaders or prophet and read about them over dinner.  Talk about why they like them so much.  What characteristics would be good to imitate or foster in their own lives?  What draws them to that particular Bible character?  Remind them that these people are in God’s House, too!

How have you explained God’s House or who makes us the church to others?  

Confessions of an Imperfect Homemaker

Confessions of an Imperfect Homemaker

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

Tonight I mopped our kitchen floor.

I know, I know. My post is titled “Confessions of an Imperfect Homemaker” and here I am bragging about accomplishing the hardest chore ever. 😉

 

Would it help if I told you that I can’t recall the last time I mopped our floors?

 

I’m definitely an imperfect homemaker.

 

I’ve printed and laminated chore charts, and I’ve read all kinds of blog posts trying to work up the inspiration and motivation to keep better house. It’s just hard!

 

I used to really beat myself up over my lack of pristine cleaning skills, especially after my daughter was born. The words of someone dear to me were a great encouragement.

 

(I’m going to paraphrase here because it was many years ago, and I can’t remember her words exactly.)

 

“Some people are just naturally good at keeping things clean, and others like things clean, but it doesn’t come naturally.”

 

Can you guess which category I fall under? This sweet friend was in the same category so it was extra encouraging to hear it from someone who truly understands.

 

Those words have stayed with me and helped me find grace for myself. Notice I said grace, not excuses. Yes, I still want to work hard to take care of our home. But I’ve come to terms that I might not have the same results as others, and that’s okay.
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The Life-Giving Home

For Christmas I asked my husband for Sally Clarkson’s book The Life-Giving Home. I really had no idea what it was about. I thought it was going to offer me some inspiration for keeping a tidy home and cooking good meals. While Sally does touch on those things a bit, this book was about so much more. In this book co-written with her daughter, they discuss the many ways to cultivate God’s goodness in your home and give life to your family and all who enter your home. Cleaning and cooking have their place, but habits such as listening, deep conversations, and making time for family devotions and celebrations are life-giving as well!

 

As I scurried through this book, completely enthralled, I realized that my value as a wife, mother, and homemaker is not determined by how clean my house is.  God has designed us as women to bring life into our homes in many different ways. Struggling to keep up with chores does not make me a homemaking failure! House cleaning might not be my best quality, but I certainly have other areas where I thrive. There is no perfect homemaker.  As hard as that might be to believe about some of the women in your life, they too have areas in their life that don’t come naturally.

 

This doesn’t mean that we stay where we are. We can definitely strive to form better habits. Sometimes we just have to rise above what’s not natural for us and get the job done.  There is definitely value in having a tidy home, so this post is not to undermine such chores.

However… 

 

If, like me, you find yourself struggling to keep up with the house cleaning, here is my message:

 

We don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves when certain aspects of homemaking don’t come naturally. We should look for the gifts we’ve been given and appreciate the ways we care for our family that come easy to us. Maybe it’s the yummy food we cook, the adventurous spirit we have, the way we are emotionally in tune with the individual needs of our family members, or our love for story time. I’m not sure what your niche is, but Momma, you better believe that you have one! We can go about our lives confidently, knowing that Christ gives us what we need to serve the ones we love with glad and true hearts. While our responsibility to care as a wife, mother, and homemaker is great we can find strength in knowing that we have a heavenly Father who cares for us.

 

psalm-121_5-2

 

“The Lord himself watches over you! 
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.”
Psalm 121:5

 

Give Yourself Grace

 

So pick yourself up, fellow struggling homemaker! Offer yourself some grace and realize you are exactly what your family needs.You might find that you’re not struggling as badly as you thought. You’ve got this!

 

A Priceless Gift for Father’s Day

A Priceless Gift for Father’s Day

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 4 crazy, homeschooling children ages 9 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.

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“Father’s Day is coming!” my daughter excitedly squealed.

It was actually twenty-two days away when our oldest daughter decided to start planning and creating the precious gift she would give to her beloved daddy. For two hours, she sat at the kitchen island, writing funny poems about her daddy.  Each poem was on a separate note card with an illustration of the poem.

She was so excited about her gift that she hid it so he wouldn’t find it.  But the anticipation of giving her gift was so great that the first moment she saw him, she ran to find her gift and gave it to him right then and there.

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Now what?!

With less than twenty days until Father’s Day, she came up with another gift idea.  She decided to make him a picture frame out of Popsicle sticks.  The picture frame idea evolved into a 6-inch container that she would decorate to hold his supplies.

Giving gifts is definitely one of her love languages.  Her eyes, smile, and heart radiated with love as she watched the gift being unwrapped, knowing that she put love into it.

Jumping Back to Mother’s Day

Our daughter had the same enthusiasm about creating a Mother’s Day gift for me. This ignited a passion in her younger siblings’ hearts as well. She and her brother worked hard on their gifts. Both spent lots of time…I mean days collecting and creating just the perfect gift.

But before the gifts could be given to me, my oldest son’s gift broke. So did his heart. He had worked so long on collecting and placing items just right in a glass jar. When he went to gather his gift and realized it was destroyed, he started crying .

Of course, as parents all we want is their love and appreciation. I happened to overhear the commotion when he discovered the broken gift. Quickly but quietly, I let my husband know to tell our son the best present  he could ever give me is the biggest and best hug he could give.

Once my son calmed down and my husband relied this vital information, our son came running to me and I received the best and biggest hug he has ever given me.  I loved on him and thanked him for that amazing present. His smile reached from ear to ear!

Giving the Simple and Priceless Gifts Top Priority

We live in an over-materialistic world.  As time has passed, physical gifts mean a little less to me every year.  It’s wonderful when someone takes the time to truly put their heart and energy into making or purchasing a gift that the other really needs or wants.  Or in the case of children, just shows how much they care.

But the idea of buying something just to have something to give because it’s a certain day doesn’t really mean that much to me.  I’d rather spend time with my family, making memories or cherishing the priceless personalized gifts which can’t be bought in stores.

Giving a Priceless Gift

These two instances, along with thinking about a sweet friend and her three kids whose husband and father is overseas, got me thinking about a priceless gift that would be treasured by fathers forever.

Instantly, this popped to mind: the precious voices of our children lifting us up to God!  

Doesn’t your heart just melt when you hear your children praying for you?  This simple, selfless act can hang on in our hearts and minds for weeks, months, and years.

doesnt-your-heart-just-melt-when-you-hear-your-children-praying-for-you-this-simple-selfless-act-can-hang-on-in-our-hearts-and-minds-for-weeks-months-and-years

So how about recording a video of your children praying over their precious fathers?  

Or if you do not have the ability to record a video, write out their prayers.

These beautiful recordings or letters can be easily accessed whenever their father is having a hard day.  He can hear the prayer from their own heart once again and feel the love and power surround him!

It may not be a new grill or golf club, but this priceless gift will inspire fathers’ hearts for years and possibly decades to come!

 

 

Looking Forward in Marriage: Retirement

Looking Forward in Marriage: Retirement

Toni D

Toni D

Toni was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma.She graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.After college, she returned to her hometown to marry her best friend, Charles.Toni is a stay at home mom to their three teens, two boys and a girl, whom God led them to homeschool.Her goal is to raise her children to love and serve the Lord.They live on a farm where they grow produce to sell at several farmers markets.She also plays the piano at church and teaches piano.
Toni D

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Together through Almost Everything

My husband and I have been married for almost twenty-six years.  During that time, we have been through so much.  We have been together through most everything listed in our wedding vows.  God has brought us through good and bad times.  At this point in our lives, our oldest child has completed his second year in college, and our middle child will be a senior in the fall.  Our youngest will be a high school sophomore.  So now we are looking to our future.  We recently started discussing what I would do after our children graduated.

I have been a stay at home/homeschooling mom for almost twenty years.  The thought of going back into corporate America does not exactly set well with me.  When I was in college, I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I changed my major numerous times, finally settling on one because if I changed again it would take me longer to graduate.

What Will I Be When I Grow Up?

Once I got my degree and started a career, I was never truly satisfied with my job situation.  (Now, I can see God’s hand in this.)  The position and money was never good enough.  I always felt like something was missing, and it was not until we had our first child that I finally knew what I wanted to be: a mom.  Now, I am looking back at square one. What do I want to be when I grow up? Or rather, what do I want to do when the kids are grown and gone?

My husband and I recently discussed this.  He asked me if I planned to go back to work when the kids graduated.  I had been thinking about it and really could not decide what I wanted to do, even with prayer.  I could not discern if it was God telling me or just my feelings of what I wanted.  The more we discussed it, the more I knew.  I decided that I want to retire!  I am serious!  My husband is six years older than I am.  By the time our youngest graduates, my husband will be just a few years from retirement.  He would like me to retire when he does, so for now that is our plan.

we-have-learned-through-the-years-to-always-listen-for-what-god-wants-us-to-do

Looking Forward to Retirement

We have been discussing what we want in our retirement, and we agreed we wanted to travel.  So for now, that seems to be our plan. Hopefully our plan will agree with God’s plan for our lives, too.  We have learned through the years to always listen for what God wants us to do. I am sure we will continue to discuss this, pray, and change our minds, but right now traveling sounds good and corporate America does not.

What are your plans for retirement?

They Who are Fresh from God

They Who are Fresh from God

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

Have you ever heard the phrase “in the trenches of motherhood?” Perhaps because I’m raising a little one, I’ve used this phrase to describe the phase of motherhood where you are up to your elbows in snot, diapers, and toddler tantrums. Truly, I think this phrase can apply to most stages of motherhood though.

Whether you’re up in the wee hours of the nights making bottles, potty training, helping your kids through mountains of home work, shuffling them to and from activities, confronting teen attitudes, scraping every last penny so they can go to college and eat too, helping them when they become parents…do we ever really climb out of the trenches of motherhood? I’m not so sure we ever do. It seems to me that there is work to be done in every season.

I say this not to complain, however! 

For surely we know that every season has its joys and burdens. It is much more lovely to think about the joys. Sweet cuddles with babies, the excitement in the eyes of discovering tots and preschoolers, the enjoyment that comes from family game nights or summer days at the pool when the kids get older, and the exciting adventures you can take as kids enter the young adult years. Yes, these are times of life worth remembering.

But perhaps today was hard. Perhaps the burdens are screaming much more loudly than the soft and gentle joys. What then? I’m actually asking myself this question right now as my two-and-a-half year old is in the other room resisting bedtime. As often as we hear that we should be focusing on the good, sometimes it’s just really hard.

I came across a beautiful quote the other day from Charles Dickens:

“I love these little people and it is not a slight thing when they who are fresh from God love us.”

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Our children love us and need us–and oh, how significant that is! Jesus thought children were pretty special too. You might recall Matthew 18:1-5:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child over and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth , unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” 

To welcome a child is to welcome Christ. 

Think about that for a moment. Does it change anything to think that as you:

wipe your little one’s nose for the 20th time,

patiently respond to your child’s whining,

venture to the park together in the hot summer sun,

or really listen to your teenager’s thoughts….

you might be welcoming Christ? 

As we do our best to love and raise our children might we be welcoming Christ? Yes, I believe so, IF we do as scripture says and welcome them in HIS name. So, sweet momma, keep it up! Keep on loving and serving your kiddos in the name of Jesus. This work we do is not in vain.

Remember, it is not a slight thing when those little hearts love us so.

and-whoever-welcomes-a-little-child-like-this-in-my-name-welcomes-me

 

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