Tag Archives: Natasha Jackson

Wedding Day arrives

wedding rings

Tomorrow is Wedding Day. At some point around 2:15 p.m., I’ll give the hand of our youngest daughter, Natasha, to her Prince Kory. (Note: I’ve been writing the Wedding Countdown at night, so by the time it’s posted for everyone or by the time most people read it, the calendar has already turned a page, so the tomorrow I’m talking about is Saturday, Sept. 7).

The countdown as featured my advice on “How to Wreck Your Marriage,” rather than giving insight on how to live in bliss happily-ever-after. The 15 wrecking balls that I’ve presented were warnings. And, to some degree, I’ve used all 15 wrecking balls myself during 31 years and counting with my Princess Kelly.

So I speak with authority. That’s a confession, not a boast.

If you’ve ever wrecked a car, you know it’s possible to not only survive the crash, but to also fix the car. Unlike repairing a wrecked car, though, repairing a wrecked marriage can result in an even better marriage. It’s not likely that the car you picked up from the body shop was actually better than it was even before the crash.

Wrecking a marriage can be a solo venture, and it can be done in one fell swoop or, more likely, in several whacks of the wrecking ball. But the repair and restoration is not a solo effort. It requires a team of people who have experienced and can offer grace, while creating an atmosphere of accountability and transparency. You’ll find those people when you seek them, and you’ll be amazed at how available they are when you’re ready stop trying to save face in order to save your marriage.

The truth is, it’s not all that hard to wreck a marriage. The same cannot be said for restoration.

It’s hard work. And you start by owning your part and taking responsibility without blaming your spouse – or your parents for not modeling what it means to love unconditionally and love with grace even when it’s not returned. It’s my guess that no one has shown you how to un-wreck your most precious relationship and most of us have seen in our family of origin or someone close to us that a lot of people simply quit and give up on each other. Or we witnessed one or both parents wailing away with those wrecking balls for years until there was simply nothing left.

We’re overwhelmed, it seems, by examples like that, rather than stories of those who successfully repaired and restored the wreckage.

We use a wrecking ball, whether deliberately or passively, because we want something different: my spouse should change, my circumstances should be difference, my in-laws aren’t what I expected or need, my life should be more interesting or exciting. But when the wreck happens and it looks like you’re reaching the point of no return, start the restoration by considering this reality: Is this what you wanted? If you can say, “I finally got what I wanted,” and that “want” was a mistress, a submissive spouse (he/she is so broken and beaten down that you win) or some twisted sense of respect, is that really what you wanted?

More questions. Are you prepared to do anything to restore the wreck? Are you willing to take your spouse’s hand, open your heart, confess your failures, and get on your knees – with your spouse – and humbly ask your Creator to flood light into the brokenness of your life and marriage? Are you willing – as that first husband wasn’t – to stand and speak against the Enemy, and to fight your own demons to recapture the heart of your Princess?

If you say “no” to any of those questions, ask yourself again. And again. Remember your marriage before the wreck and what it was like to have won your bride’s heart the first time.

Wait a minute. You’re telling me that she’s no longer that fresh-faced, sparkling-eyed girl you married? She’s not the same person?

Really? You don’t think you had something to do with that? And are you the same charming, sweep-her-off-her-feet knight in shining armor?

Restoring the wreck will mean finding and knowing your spouse’s heart – perhaps for the first time. The honesty, time and emotion that it takes is demanding. I know it. It probably also means letting your spouse know – maybe for the first time – how you really feel and what you fear.

What do you want? And how will the rest of your life without him/her look?

Remember my story about looking out over a dark, stagnant lake the night before Kelly and I were married? I realized – just knew it – that life without her would be like that. Empty.

I’ve pushed my marriage to the edge of the cliff a few times. Once it seemed to tumble right over into the abyss, but a circle of grace – friends who were not going to let us crash – intervened and shined light into my heart. Yes, it’s humiliating to allow so many others to “get into your business,” and the road to restoration is a bumpy, uncertain, painful ride. But the heart of your princess awaits.

The alternative? For me it was the stark reality that what I had envisioned on wedding eve, June 4, 1982, could come true if I simply answered, “Yes, this is what I want.”

Instead, what I want is to be married to my best friend, to show her my heart and to experience this adventure of life, faith and love side-by-side. There is no alternative to consider.

THIS is what I want.

Recommended reading

Wild at Hearthttp://books.google.com/books/about/Wild_at_Heart.html?id=sQ4_2x6jhuUC

Playlist

In honor of Groom Kory and Bride Natasha, here’s Ol’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra with “Come Rain or Come Shine.

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The Wedding Countdown: 2 days away

Line-in-Sand_3

Five, four, three, two …

Tomorrow will be one: One day until our youngest princess marries her prince. Natasha Jackson and Kory Myrick will tie the knot at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Today was a break-neck busy, dizzying sort of day. As Kelly and Natasha carefully applied swirls of icing to 124 cupcakes, I kept watch over three pork butts on the grill. I’m a charcoal-only guy, sworn to uphold the fine art of grilling by controlling the heat of a briquette – and the smoke of damp chunks of hickory. Once upon a time I thought that barbecuing was simply the act of putting a slab of meat on a grill over flames, with an occasional squirt of lighter fluid to keep the fire raging.

That’s what I now call “desecrating,” not barbecuing the meat. In fact, there’s nothing barbecue about my grilling these days. The sauce can go on the side after the morsels are properly grilled. I can’t even tell you how many years I snuffed out flavor with flame or thick sauce. Grilling is an art form that I seek to master.

A little while ago when I let the dog out I checked the grill – 8:30 p.m. – and the temperature gauge still read 175-degrees. That was exactly 12 hours after I put three pork butt roasts on the grill, flanked on both sides by white-hot briquettes, with a 9×12 drip pan under the meat – about 17 pounds worth of hog heaven. I checked periodically to make sure the temperature was between 225 and 275, turned the meat ever so gently when necessary, and kept the oak chips and chunks smoking after the first hour.

The smallest roast registered 170 degrees at the center just three hours later. The others came off the grill and 12:15 and 12:45, respectively. Given a good half hour for the juices to settle in but not too cool off to noticeably, those butts practically fell apart. The meat either pulled or shredded with ease, and I shared some burnt ends with Natasha as she iced cupcakes. Kelly got some samples of the interior goodness. She’s not a burnt ends fan and not a fan of the spices that gave the outer butt a nice kick: chili powder and cayenne pepper. My rub recipe, which was applied the day before, also includes a healthy amount of paprika (sweetness), salt, pepper, oregano and the primary ingredient: brown sugar.

The pulled pork, my grilled-finished mac and cheese (first time I’ve tried that) and other goodies will be the fare for Friday’s rehearsal dinner.

Tonight (I’m writing this Thursday) is my final entry for “How to Wreck Your Marriage.” Tomorrow’s, on wedding eve, I’ll give some pointers on what to do when you’ve wrecked your marriage.

Yeah. I have some experience. (Guys, I dare you to tell me you don’t).

And tonight, we’re talking about sex. And I’m talking to the guys.

Wrecking ball No. 15 – Believe that sexual purity and faithfulness to your wife is a line in the sand, and as long you don’t cross it, you’re pure.

See that line? You can get right up to it – inch your way closer, closer and right there, just not OVER the line – and you haven’t strayed from your vows. That’s the wrecking ball that will eventually knock you over the line if you keep standing there, toying with your thoughts, fantasies, the thrill of a pursuit or chase that, hey, is just a friendly sort of thing and, besides, all guys do that.

All guys do that: hardly needing to be lured or enticed to the line because they live right next to it. If you’re rationalizing the fantasies that play out in your head, you’re likely connected to others who also have their toes about a millimeter from that purity line. Just stay right there and I promise – You. Will. Wreck. Your. Marriage.

Here’s the thing about that line: It allows for “look but don’t touch,” to flirt and entice without consequences. But, ultimately, it allows for different options. When you’re comfortable enough toeing the line, any marital crisis, unaffectionate moment or indifference from your wife, or the desire to just be “a really good friend” to another woman in a time of need are life circumstances that lead to easy justification for crossing the line.
Every man needs to read “Every Man’s Battle,” subtitled, “Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time.”

See, here’s the deal: What you think you’ll gain in pleasure, approval, acceptance, confidence – whatever – by testing and eventually crossing that imaginary purity line amounts to a grain of sand compared to the pleasure, affirmation, dignity and strength of being faithful, from seeing the sexual connection of marriage as a body, mind, soul and spirit intimacy that comes from honoring and cherishing your wife.

I’m trying to avoid being preachy, but I need to say that my faith and value system is based on the belief that it’s up to each man to redeem manhood. And every man fights this battle. To the guy who believes that monogamy is old-fashioned and unachievable, my advice is to get far away from the woman who loves you, because you’re setting her up for unspeakable pain. Do her a favor and get out of her life now.

Tough words? No, the tough words come from the empty, tear-drained eyes that accompany the question, “How could you?”

So where is a man supposed to draw the purity line?

Nowhere. There isn’t a line that you can see, that if you simply stay on this side of it, you’re okay. Your wife’s hand, your wife’s heart, your wife’s trust and honor are your anchor. (Spiritually speaking, for us Christians the anchor is Jesus Christ, and the words of Paul the Apostle: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.” There’s no line there, no other options. And it means battling to the death for your beloved princess. Not up for that? You’re not ready for marriage).

This sort of faithfulness and purity is possible, especially if you lock arms and hearts with other men who refuse to draw that line. And you’d better find those allies and partners-in-arms in every season of life. Our biological and sexual “wiring” is one thing. Our sexually-charged, anything-goes culture is out to wreck you: your marriage, your dignity, your manhood – your life.

Guys, no one has suggested this is easy. That’s why it’s called a battle. But every warrior headed for or engaged in battle asks himself, “Is this cause worth it?”

Is your wife worth it? Come on, ask yourself that question.

If you can see that line in the sand, you’re not saying, “Maybe not.” You’ve already said, “No.” You’ve answered that question long before you stepped across that line.

Playlist

Casting Crowns, “Slow Fade.” Please take five minutes to see this powerful music video.

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The calendar speeds up; one week from Wedding Day

crayons

One week from today – seven days – Natasha will have become Mrs. Myrick, saying “I do” to launch forever together with Kory. (Seven days from Saturday, which is when I wrote this, so posting on Sunday means it’s actually only six days away. I’ll double-post at some point this week to get on track).

I’ve done quite a bit of reflection over these past several days, remembering the night before our wedding. I, for one, had no clue about what I was getting into on June 5, 1982. Here we are, 31 years and a couple of months later, and I’m still pretty much clueless – which is why I’m certifiably qualified to present the wrecking balls of “How to Wreck Your Marriage.”

Wrecking ball No. 10 – As promised, this one is the evil twin of “never, ever, ever change or expect change.” This disastrous wrecking ball is called, ”He’ll’/She’ll change once we’re married.”
You just keep telling yourself, because this one extends to family members, friends, associates, etc. Your prince’s friends are particularly boorish and juvenile? Well, that’ll change after you’ve been married. And even if the friends don’t change, YOU will be able to change hubby/wife who will suddenly no longer need to nurture those friendships.

He’ll change. They’ll change. You can change them all. After all, you’re madly in love, which means everyone will change the behaviors and traits that you didn’t like before you were married.

Yeah, keep telling yourself that one.

Her dad won’t be so overbearing and prone to give completely unsolicited advice. His mom has kept the umbilical cord attached up until now, but once you’re married, she’ll automatically let go of baby boy and respect your boundaries. The in-laws will love it that you’ve set boundaries and clearly defined how you expect them to be involved – or not – in your lives.

Before Kelly and I said “I do” lo these many years and months ago, I was an exceptionally picky eater, had poor table manners, and routinely demonstrated a remarkable lack of common sense. Today, things have changed. I have much better table manners, or at least developed those once I’d properly instructed and shown Kishia and Natasha how to belch the A,B,C’s.

Those other things? Nah. Still pretty much the same, although my menu has expanded considerably. Still, given a preference, meals should basically consist of meat and taters, and not taters with little green things thrown in or laying at the side of the plate, or with some odd selection of mustard-raisin dipping sauce, or some such thing.

So think of the things that irritate you most about the other. Now tell yourself that he/she loves you so much that he/she will no longer have a desire or capacity to be irritating. And if future hubby/wifey has a mom/dad that needs to butt out of your business, future hubby/wife will take care of that after you’re married because, after all, you two now wear the grown-up pants and you’re figuring out this marriage thing a step and a day at a time.

Yep, things will change for sure, but probably not the way you want them to change, although you have a distinct new direction in mind for your spouse. When using this wrecking ball, be sure to remind your spouse of all the ways he/she hasn’t yet changed, and that if he/she simply loved you more, she’d change. She’ll appreciate hearing that.

Playlist

I might be the only person on the planet who prefers Gerard Butler’s Phantom, so here, with some of the most powerful lyrics and emotions, is “Music of the Night” from the 2004 film, Phantom of the Opera.

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Wedding countdown and more marriage-wrecking advice

Today's selected photo has nothing to do with today's post. I simply love randomness - and penguins.

Today’s selected photo has nothing to do with today’s post. I simply love randomness – and penguins.

Hear ye, hear ye: Nuptials in nine days. Natasha Jackson weds Kory Myrick on Sept. 7. Next week will be a whirlwind, and although I have a number of tasks leading up to the big day, my only duties on wedding day will be:

1 – Walk bride down aisle; give her away.
2 – Bring wedding gifts to our house after wedding. (Bride and groom will retrieve in a few days).
3 – Return tuxes/attire to Men’s Wearhouse.

Even I can handle that.

I made that list as a precursor to today’s installment of “How to Wreck a Marriage.”

Wrecking ball No. 7: Make a list and keep it going – a list of wrongs, offenses and those times your spouse was just having a bad day and you wanted her to be having a good day because, well, you can’t both have bad days at once.

The list accomplishes a number of purposes, of which two are primary:

1 – It shows that you’re keeping a list, so your spouse had better be aware, and just might not want another entry. You are a force to be reckoned with.

2 – It’s ammunition. You write the list with permanent marker and use a neon orange highlighter to showcase the worst offenses, and maybe add a sticky note strip for quick retrieval and reference.

And like any well-prepared battler, you keep the ammo close for future use. Some of the ammo represents the “nuclear option,” which is That One Thing (or things) that your spouse has no defense for, no redeeming explanation for and no comeback for. Even though your spouse has apologized, pleaded for forgiveness and relived that offense over and over again (good for you!), you keep that one handy if you need a nuke. That moment might come when you’re in a corner and instead of relenting and admitting and owning your part in the real or imagined disagreement at hand, you launch an ICBM, equipped with a war-head that splatters your spouse’s worst moments all over the place. Again.

Justifying your own actions or words by pointing out That One Thing or even a lesser offense – which is not as bad as yours, of course, so keep pointing that out – is an ideal way to use this wrecking ball.

And what makes this method extra fun is that both spouses can load up the missile war-heads with nukes.

“I remember that time that you …”

“Well if you hadn’t done that thing …”

“You mean that thing you told me was off the table because you forgave me?”

“Oh, but you weren’t really sorry, or you wouldn’t be acting like THIS!”

The list of wrongs and offenses is indeed a heavy wrecking ball, capable of smashing a marriage in no time at all. (The antithesis is grace, love and forgiveness). So, if you want to wreck your marriage, keep the list in a mental file, have a hard copy that you carry in your wallet or purse, and make sure to make digital back-ups. A bonus back-up and great addition for the wrecking ball is to share your list with friends, your parents and the in-laws.

Woo-hoo! Now you’ve got some power. By now you’ve got the hang of it and are seeing that those lists can wreck all kinds of relationships with siblings, daughters, sons, moms and dads.

You’ll show ‘em! Keep enough lists and, by golly, you’ll be all alone in no time, no longer bothered by the past sins and offenses of others.

Playlist

I’ve given you Southern Gospel, Classic Rock, contemporary Christian and whatever genre “Afternoon Delight” falls under. Recently I’ve fallen in love with the sound of the Big Band/World War II era, and this just might be my new all-time favorite tune, recorded by the great Crooner himself, Bing Crosby (1944).

“I’ll Be Seeing You.”

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Guest blog: Missing my Granny

By NATASHA JACKSON             

 

I didn’t realize until the other day that I am still grieving the loss of my Granny Nola. Of course I cried when she died. I cried a lot. And I cried at her funeral. But I had a lot of peace about her going because I wasn’t the one taking care of her when she got really sick. I was in Fiji. And I wrote her a “good-bye on this earth” letter while I was there and my mom read it to her. I didn’t see her at her absolute worst. And I’m so thankful that I didn’t.

But a few weeks ago, I went to a senior assisted living center in Warrensburg and played and sang piano for the sweet old folks. To me, I did horribly. My voice was cracking the whole time because I was getting so emotional. When I played the hymn, “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” there was an elderly woman in the front row who started singing along to my poor piano skills. She sang so loudly and clearly. When I looked up at her, she had her eyes closed and was smiling so big. It really touched my heart. When I started to play and sing “Amazing Grace,” my emotions took over and I broke down. I had to stop playing. I was sobbing in front of 30 or so very elderly people. I felt so ridiculous. I mean, who breaks down like that in front of people they don’t even know?

I felt so rude. I had come to bless these people with my musical gifts, and I couldn’t even get through it. Of course I had to tell them what was up. I told them that my great-grandma had passed away and we shared a very unique bond over the Gospel and old hymns. No one understands that side of me better than my Granny Nola did.

The night before her funeral, I had a dream that she was whole, beautiful, and healthy. She was singing “In The Garden,” one of our most favorite old hymns. She loved roses. And she loved Jesus. Granny was so ready to go and be with Him where she could walk and talk with Him. She expressed to me several times how ready she was to go Home. The first verse and chorus:

“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses; And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.”

Granny is with Jesus. Experiencing joy incomparable to anything anyone on earth has experienced. Instead of mourning that she is gone, we should be rejoicing that she is there. And I do. But I miss her.

My Granny got me the most thoughtful present I have ever received. For my birthday one year, she gave me a book that had something like 9 or 10 CD’s in it, and they were all instrumental hymns.

At the assisted living center, I had to stop playing hymns and switched to contemporary worship songs. I apologized for my breakdown, and they were all more than understanding. I thought that I was going there to bless these people. But really, it was the other way around. I was blessed, because being there with them helped my heart continue to heal and go through the grieving process.

I thought I was done hurting about my Granny being gone. But apparently I wasn’t, and being at that center was exactly what my heart needed to heal. When I was finished, I went up and talked to the lady who had sung along when I played the old hymns. Her name was Virginia. She asked how old my grandmother was when she passed. “84, almost 85” I said. With a big smile and a tear in her eye, she proudly stated, “I’m 85.” She also played the cello when she was my age. She was delighted to hear that I had and asked me to come and play for her sometime. I told her I would come and help her to relive some memories. Her smile couldn’t have been any wider.

I sensed Granny’s spirit in that place. Not because it was a home for “old people,” but because it was a place where the Lord was worshiped and they loved their old hymns. Just like Granny and me.

Journal Note: Here’s Alan Jackson performing “In The Garden.”

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Overcoming words that sting

Note: Due to a technical glitch, the guest post scheduled for today by Natasha Jackson has been delayed. (Hey, Tash: Send me that story in the body of an email).

Meanwhile, let me share a couple of photos of our youngest daughter: Natasha’s senior picture with her cello (circa 2005) and a much more recent photo (July 2012).

You’ll read in this upcoming guest post about Natasha playing her cello at a nursing home. She earned a cello scholarship to attend the University of Central Missouri (graduated 2011) and played in the orchestra. There’s a much longer story here with incredible scenes about Natasha going to Cameroon and Fiji to spread the Gospel and to share her awesome heart. The story would include sad scenes where some tried to trim her edges, to get her to fit in a theological box, and generally became exasperated — maybe even disappointed? — that Natasha has always rejected being cut from the cloth of conformity and tradition.

She is most definitely cut from a different piece of cloth. The sadness is from the breath-taking blessing that box-stuffers and edge-trimmers miss when they don’t see her heart.

Natasha’s gigantic heart is both blessing and curse. She feels and experiences emotions in a profound, raw way. We’ve shared some of those moments of great laughter and giddy joy. We’ve shared the opposite of those pleasant moments. I’ve often told Natasha that she loves big and hurts big.

Now, just tell her she can’t do something …

Some of the most hurtful words came several years back from her cello teacher. Natasha arrived for a lesson with a folder of information and music that she needed to learn for her audition for a cello scholarship. The private music teacher — someone whom we paid a substantial sum of money over a period of three years — looked at the material and then announced, “You’re not good enough for this. You don’t have what it takes.”

I mention the “substantial sum of money” reference because — and all the music teachers out there need to hear this — you shouldn’t keep taking someone’s cash if, at some point, you believe the student just ain’t got it. You should end the relationship and move on. That’s the honest, dignified thing to do.

We ended the relationship ourselves, and shortly after, Natasha earned a “1” rating on cello at district music contest (and her school, Harrisburg High School, didn’t have an orchestra/strings program), and she also earned that cello scholarship.

Maybe the greatest lesson Natasha learned from that was not necessarily overcoming the words that stung, but now that she is giving private music lessons — piano and voice — she won’t pass on those words that hurt.

Finally … yesterday’s post about the coolest titles — godparent, uncle, Grandpa — completely left out the two most important titles that I cherish: dad and husband. (And one of our former foster sons still calls me “Pops,” which is pretty cool, too).

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Kianna: ‘Follow your heart’

GUEST POST by Natasha Jackson

My sister, Kishia, just had her baby on Wednesday. It was an INCREDIBLE day. Here’s my letter to the sweet little princess … my precious niece. (Letter originally appeared on my blog, “Sweet Hour of Prayer.”)

Kianna,
 
If anyone in the family could describe me in one word, they’d probably say I’m a “butterfly.” I’m not known for staying in one place for too long. I go where the wind goes. And what is that wind? That’s the Lord, hopefully, that I’m following! I feel like about 98 percent of the time my decisions are based on God’s leading. I gotta leave some room for error. I’m human.

But my personality, too, is very much of a butterfly. I love going from place to place to learn new things, and teach people things. My goal is to show the love of Christ to anyone God puts in my path. Sometimes, I don’t do the best job of that ‑ but I sure do try. Sometimes I miss it, even though I don’t mean to.
 
With that being said, I haven’t been known to be around the family as much as most. Generally when family get-together’s happen, I’m off on a mission trip or women’s retreat that I’m either leading or attending. I haven’t given much attention over the past few years to family. Part of that is because I live further away than any of the others in our family. But I’ve decided over the past year or so to not let the miles be an excuse anymore.
 
Just two months ago, your Great-Great-Grandma Nola went to go be with Jesus. We all wanted so much for you to meet her. But I’m sure that you two already knew each other. If people have guardian angels, I’m sure that she is yours. Just like all of us, she loved you so much before you were born. Even when she couldn’t remember anything because she was so sick, she remembered you.

The pain of Granny Nola leaving this world is still very fresh. But, Kianna, you have helped ease that pain. When I saw your face just moments after you were born, something in my heart changed. As I held you, I wanted nothing more than to make you smile. I can’t wait to get to know you.
 
So this is my promise to you, Sweet Princess: I will be there for you. I have had some great examples as to how to be a really good aunt. And I plan on even surpassing those examples! I don’t know where the wind is going to blow me next. I don’t know what God has in store for me in my next season of life. I might be miles away from you, but I won’t let that keep me from you. And I promise to be there for your mommy and daddy, too. I haven’t done the best job at that either. But that’s going to change.
 
You are already the sweetest little girl. I can’t wait to see how you change the world ‑ because you’ll change it just by being yourself! Don’t try to be anyone else, because you are incredible. I can tell you from many, many examples and stories in my own life that you should feel free to follow your dreams. No dreams are silly. So go with it.

Follow your heart.

I can’t wait to see what you teach all of us. And I can’t wait to tell you about the adventures I’ve had in my life.
 
You are truly the most beautiful little girl that I have ever seen. And I can’t wait to see you grow into a stunning little lady!

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