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modest dressWelcome back!  Are you ready to…

#4 — Mentor a Changed Attitude

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5).

Reflect Christ, not self.  It is natural to default to self.  We too easily focus on our needs and defend our behaviors.  But it’s not about me!  It’s about God our Creator and Redeemer!  It’s not about first loving “me”; it’s about first loving God.  Loving God first means that we will more easily love and serve others in His name and with His forgiveness, mercy and kindness.  God created the first man and woman in His image.  We have fallen from that perfect image, but because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, it is possible with the help of the Holy Spirit to reflect more of God and less of self.  In what ways can we point people to God and less to ourselves?  How does a woman who professes to worship God speak?  Dress?  Treat others?  What kind of choices does she make?  What does it mean to be free of the life that we thought would make us happy and to, instead, live life in a way that leads others to Christ?

Be a Vessel for Honorable Use.  God’s Word tells us, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).  What is our house?  Who is the “master of the house”?  What is our “good work”?   What more do we learn about ourselves in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20?   What a difference it makes when we see ourselves as God sees us!  Recognizing that our Baptism makes us daughters of God through Christ, we can “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” (2:22).

Practice a Changed Attitude.  On brightly colored sticky notes, write: “It’s not about me”.  Place this reminder on a mirror, in a wallet, by the sink, on the refrigerator, in the car, and inside the cover of a well-worn Bible.  Jesus promised that He would send “another Helper” (John 14:16).  That “Helper”, the Holy Spirit, “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (14:26).  That “Helper” is “the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.  And you also will bear witness” (15:26-27).  When we believe that Jesus is Truth, how will our attitude and witness change?

Adjust Focus.  Instead of fantasizing through the pages of romance novels (which, if played out in real life, should make us blush) or searching for our inner selves through “spiritual masters”, we can find our true identity and rightful behavior in Jesus Christ.  Rather than being tempted by the ideas of others or our own passions, we can turn our eyes away from “irreverent, silly myths” and, instead, “train [ourselves] for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).  Training in godliness begins at the foot of the Cross where, at the beginning and end of every day, we can leave our baggage of sin, disappointments, and wrong perspective.  There, at the Cross, we can focus on Jesus who says, “I am the Way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Live a Holy, Not Sexy Life.  God calls us to be holy (1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:14-16).  We can mentor others away from the self-focus of sensual dress by explaining our responsibility to help men avoid temptation.  A suggested Bible study for girls ages 13 and up is Dressing for Life: Secrets of the Great Cover-up (#LFLDFL) available from CPH.

Resist the Idolatry of Self-Worship.  Analyze words and phrases such as “self-worth”, “self-promotion”, “celebration of self”, and “self-esteem”.  In the last days, writes St. Paul to Timothy, people will be lovers of self (2 Timothy 3:2).  Spend a day with an “older” Christian woman whose life appears self-less.  Ask: Is it necessary to preserve self?  From where do we get our worth?  Is there benefit in promoting self?  Is there any reason to celebrate self?  What do we learn from Christ?  To “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” and to “be renewed in the spirit of your minds” and to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24).

Rebel Against the Culture.    Help a younger generation turn from “me” to others.  Gather a small group of women together for an “It’s Not About Me” night.  Forget the pedicures and pampering.  Instead, discuss what women can do to bring out the best in men by way of dress, speech and behavior.  List the ways that women can help one another practice biblical womanhood and not be shamed in doing so.  Design postcards that proclaim “It’s Not About Me” with 2 Corinthians 4:5 printed on each card.  Finish off with stamping, calligraphy or artwork. Be of service through accountability by sending the cards to one another throughout the year.

What’s Next?  #5: Mentor Self-Control

Ezer’s Handbook is a resource developed by
Linda Bartlett and presented at Titus 2 Retreats.

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teenagersI will never forget the mom and professional church worker who told me she hoped her sons and daughters would practice safe sex.   We were serving together on a life task force and, during lunch break, she confided, “I raised them to be chaste . . . I want them to wait for marriage.  But, once they started college, I encouraged them to use protection because, after all, they’re sexual, too, and I’m scared to death they’re going to be like everyone else.”

I remember the grandma who toured our local pregnancy center.  She thought the best thing parents could do for their daughters was to get them on The Pill so they wouldn’t need a pregnancy test.

Then there was the single father who raised his daughter to believe in Jesus, but made sure she had the Gardasil shot and was using birth control.  “I know what I was like at her age and I know she’s just going to sleep around so I have to look out for her.”

And there was the pastor who told me that he’s taken some girls from his congregation for abortions because “their parents wouldn’t be supportive of an unplanned pregnancy.”  These girls are “just going to do it,” he explained.  “They can’t help it . . . so I need to be there for them.”

Can’t help it?  What does this say about the way adults view children?

Children are sinful human beings born into a love-to-sin-world.  Do we say, “My child is a sinner.  It’s just who he is, so I’m going to help him lie, cheat, and steal with the least amount of damage.”  Is this how God sees children?  Is this how He helps them?

When we don’t see children the way God does, then our mentoring role in their lives is compromised.

Yes, children are sinful… just like their parents and grandparents.  But baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God sees us as His adopted sons and daughters in Christ.  Jesus won for God’s children the privilege of becoming heirs of the heavenly kingdom.  This not only bestows value but defines purpose.

Identity matters!  Our sons and daughters are not “sexual from birth” as Planned Parenthood sees them.  They are not captive to instincts and desires.  They are persons created more in the image of God than the image of wolves and rabbits.     To see children as God does is to realize they are more than flesh and blood but spirit and, because they are spirit, every choice they make will take them either closer to — or farther from — God.

It is the children who suffer when we fail to see them as God does.  Expectations for their purpose and behavior are lowered.  Their future appears grim.

Identity matters.  And, because it does, my grandchildren need me to remind them of what happened at the baptismal font.  Their baptism “is an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him” (1 Peter 3:21-22).  I can literally tell my grandchildren that their Lord and Savior rules!  This means that someday, when they are teenagers, they won’t have to be subject to raging hormones or made foolish by lack of judgment.  In remembering who they are, they will know the source of their wisdom and strength.  This will affect their choices and behavior.  But that’s not all.

When boys and girls see themselves the way God does, the way they view each other will improve.   Relationships will take on new meaning.  Think about it.  If boys see themselves in light of their baptism as sons of God and girls see themselves as daughters of God, then all baptized people become brothers and sisters in Christ.

Can you imagine?  I mean, really!   Can you imagine the impact this would have on high school and college campuses… at the beach… in the workplace… around the neighborhood… and for society as a whole?

I can.  And it renews my hope.

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man at workIt has become tradition for me to read to my husband while he is driving.  Road trips provide opportunity to catch up on good books and engage in hearty conversation.

For a recent journey to the southwest, I selected The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood.  We began reading from William J. Bennett’s book on a previous trip.  It was good to return to his treasure trove of writings gleaned from thinkers such as Alexis de Tocqueville, Teddy Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington, and David Aikman on such topics as war, politics, women and family, faith, and work.  As a wife and mother of sons, I’ve always been fascinated by the gender opposite mine.  I want to know what they think.  What makes them tick.  This desire comes naturally to me as the one God called to “complete” or compliment the male being.  In my vocation as a “helper,” I am inspired to daily bring out the best in any male person whose life intersects mine.  How can I compliment or be of help if I haven’t taken the time to study and learn what men are all about?

If you’ve been reading Ezerwoman or have attended any Titus 2 Retreats, you’ll know I’m on a quest to help myself and others better appreciate Biblical manhood and womanhood.  Foundational to all discussions on this matter is our identity.  How we define ourselves matters.  How we see ourselves affects our behavior and choices.  If we call ourselves people of God in Christ Jesus, then we are compelled to live as sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty.  (2 Corinthians 6:16-18)

How does a son of God live?  He is called to daily live out his male vocation in a sanctified or holy way.  In other words, he is not called to obsess on himself or his sensuality, but to do all that he does – in married or unmarried life – in the light of what Christ has done for him and to God’s glory.  He is called to work, serve, protect, teach, and relate to other men and women in ways that honor his Creator and Redeemer.

How a man defines himself matters.  How he sees himself matters.  What he does as a man matters.  God’s Word in 1 Thessalonians 4 instructs man to live a life pleasing to the Creator.  It is the will of God and for a man’s sanctification (holiness) that he controls his own body and abstains from what is unholy.  God’s gift of sexuality, or anything having to do with intimacy and procreation, is for use within the parameters of marriage.  Sexuality has very real connections with fatherhood, children and family.

But, what if (as so often happens in this present culture) a man identifies himself as a sexual being?  What will become of him if he can’t live out his sexuality?  Will he simply wilt away into a pitiful heap useful for no good purpose?  Ah, but let us expose the lies and deception.  Man is more than a sexual being.  He is a human being.  A male human being.  Our gender – male or female – is to be lived every day, not reserved for marriage.  To be a man is, literally, a vocation.  To be a good steward who honors God’s created order is a vocation.  The culture is powerfully affected – for generations to come — by the way a man daily chooses to think.  Serve.  Work.

What is the value of work in a man’s life?  Indeed, God created man to be a worker; a good steward of the land, fully engaged in honest and, thus, joyful labor.  Work in a sin-filled world isn’t easy.  It can be frustrating, ordinary, or tiresome.  Nevertheless, work for a man is more than what he does.  Work for a man satisfies his most inner yearnings for order, stability, and significance.

In the prologue to his section on “Man at Work,” William Bennett writes,

Despite what popular culture might convey, we know there is something intrinsically satisfying in being able to plant your own garden, repair your own house, and fix your own car.  Recently, a friend of mine was recovering from life-threatening cancer.  His doctor told him that he could not work, exercise, or enjoy the other fruits of life – all things that men pride themselves on.  I asked him what hurts the most to be without. “Work,” he said.  “I don’t feel like a man.  Work has more to do with me being a man than sex or muscle.”

And so, I continue to study and learn.  And what I learn convinces me of what I know to be true.  God did not call us to a life of sensuality, but of holiness.  Holiness in our vocations as male or female.  Whether we are healthy or not so healthy.  Strikingly handsome or plain.   Married or unmarried.  In work or in play.  In service or at rest.  Not to our glory, but His.

Sensuality may be fleeting; something for this earth.  But, holiness leads to another life and the promise can be trusted.  A son of God lives forever.

(Link: “Heaven and Sexuality,” blog of July 24, 2012)

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Megan is an all American girl.  Like other freshmen in college, she considers herself “modern.”  She communicates by iPhone and Facebook, is comfortable with her “sexuality,” strolls through Victoria’s Secret with her boyfriend, and, ready for a serious relationship, scheduled an appointment to discuss birth control with a Planned Parenthood counselor.

Megan also considers herself to be a Christian.  She attended church regularly with her parents.  She was educated in parochial schools.  Her friends are Christian.  She knows the Bible stories and sings praises to God. 

Megan believes Jesus is her Savior.  If you were to ask her if she is a creation of God, she would answer “Yes!”  She has been taught that she can talk to God as if talking to her daddy.  He is “Abba Father” and, Megan has been assured, there is nothing she can do to change this fact.  Even when Megan forgets to pray or skips worship for another activity or sins in any way, God remains her Heavenly Father.  This gives Megan comfort, especially when she’s lonely or troubled.  She adores her “awesome God” on Sundays.  But, on Mondays, she returns to the “real” world.

In the “real” world, Megan was sharing a bed with her boyfriend.  They were in love and being responsibly adult.  Planned Parenthood helped her to separate the act of sex from procreation.  One weekend while visiting her parents, Megan did the usual thing by attending church with them.  But, what happened took Megan by surprise.  This day, the pastor seemed to look right at her.  The Word he spoke did not comfort but, instead, convicted.  Megan heard him say that those who follow the flesh by being sexually immoral, impure, and sensual are in danger of missing heaven (Galatians 5:19-21).  Megan also heard him say that a new person in Christ is equipped to guard against passions and desires (vv. 23-24).

Megan was conflicted.  She did not leave church that morning in a good mood.  What did it mean to be a “new person?”  How did that fit with being a “sexual being” as she had been taught to see herself?  Couldn’t she love Jesus and know He died for her, yet be “modern” in her thinking and behavior?  In an honest moment with her parents, Megan expressed fear.  “I’ve always known God loves me, no matter what.  No matter what, right Dad?  Right, Mom?”  In a way, Megan was asking what so many Christians might be asking themselves: If disobedience or sin cannot make me less God’s child, what does it matter what I do?  Why is it so important to obey God?  Why can’t I just follow my instincts?  Do whatever feels right for me depending on the situation?  Won’t it all work out in the end?  After all, Jesus died so that my sins are forgiven!

This is most certainly true.  Jesus died for a world of sinners.  You.  Me.  Every person ever conceived.  But, dear Megan, our behavior matters.  Why?  Because our behavior changes our attitude toward God.  Evidence of this abounds.  It is seen in a culture that determines for itself what is “right” and “wrong.”  It is the Christian parent who asks the pastor not to speak about the sin of living together lest his daughter co-habitating with her fiancé stops coming to church.  It is the pro-life Christian who has four children but isn’t married to any of their daddies.  It is the Christian woman whose choice of clothing reflects her glory rather than God’s and, intentionally or not, becomes a temptress.  It is the Christian father who, fearing for his daughter’s future, insists she have an abortion.  It is the Christian mother who defends her son’s homosexual lifestyle, saying, “God made him that way.”  It is whole bodies of Christians who want Jesus to wrap Himself around the desires of their hearts. 

The heart, says the world, is good and can be trusted.  The heart, says God’s Word, is deceptive and not to be trusted.   Ah, the fickle human heart!  It is influenced by the world and our own sinful flesh to oppose the Lord God even while it thinks it is still clinging to Him.   

Is Megan doing what we Christians too often do?  She knows she is saved and has the promise of heaven.  But, does she want God to fit her world?  She acknowledges God as her Creator but, depending on her circumstance, does she re-define what He has made?   She says Jesus is her Savior, but does He have anything to say about her relationships and choices?  She finds hope in being a “new person in Christ,” but is she talking and walking like a sinner bound to sin?    

Megan’s identity matters.  She is a child of God because of what Jesus did for her.  She has divine possibilities.  A rich inheritance.   Megan’s behavior also matters.  How does a daughter honor her Father?  How does she reflect His kind of love?  Patience?  Kindness?  Purity?   Megan’s identity as a child of God will never change.  But, her choices and behavior can change her attitude toward God.  Even place her inheritance at risk.

Our identity and behavior matter.  When we separate our God-given identity from the “real” world identity we give ourselves (at any given time, in any given circumstance), we are in danger.  We are in danger when we re-define things of God such as the value of human life, being male or female, purity, and marriage.  We are in danger when we follow instincts of the flesh and stubbornly defend every personal choice.  We are in danger when we exchange His Truth for our opinion.  These are dangerous behaviors that change our attitude toward God.  It is the most dangerous thing of all to make God what we want Him to be.

But, when children of God trust His Word to be living, active, and mighty in “real” life, our perspective of the world changes.  It does not hold us captive.  It is temporary.  It is a place we journey through on our way home to our Father’s Kingdom.  It is opportunity to think, speak, dress, work, play, love, care, and choose in ways that encourage others to ask: “Who is your Father?”  “Why do you do the things you do?” “What is your hope?”

Megan is the King’s daughter with a divine inheritance in store.  This is compelling reason to live a more noble and holy life.  A life with divine possibilities.   A life that reflects God rather than self.  A life that makes a difference in a “real” world.

T2-4Life  is a mentoring ministry that exists to help young ones make choices that 
reflect the holiness of God, but also remind older ones that mistakes of the past do 
not have dominion over changed people in Christ.  You are welcome to visit T2-4Life.

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John Sommerville is the author of how the News Makes Us Dumb.  Before news became an industry, Sommerville writes, society was held together not by news but by its cultures.  People shared “fairly settled assumptions about what was reasonable, natural, expected or good.”  Scholars call this a culture’s metanarrative — a  narrative that “binds our thinking.”

The Bible provided this metanarrative for Western civilization.  Even nonbelievers were familiar with its stories and ways of structuring moral and social reality.  But the media — the news industry — changed that.  People in this industry generally disregard or blatantly defy the Judeo-Christian narrative.  They believe it’s their job to shape our thinking.  They are constantly raising questions that cause people to doubt Christianity or any cultural traditions grown out of Biblical thinking.  Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, writes, “The result is that many people accept the idea that we should be constantly reevaluating what we believe and understand about the world — including our religious beliefs — but news stories cannot replace a culture’s metanarrative, because, by its very nature, the news gives priority to the shocking and the new.  It is a cycle of endless deconstruction.”

“The good news,” writes Colson, “is that Americans are recognizing that the ‘news’ is becoming a little more than vulgar entertainment, largely irrelevant to our lives.”

A good practice is to use the news for appropriate and limited purposes.  Sommerville offers this suggestion: “We should balance our bloated appetite for news with a cultural diet rich in books, reflection, and discussion.  And we should put the news through a mental metanarrative grid — asking ourselves if the ‘news’ being offered up reinforces our cultural story — and our views of Christianity — or tears it apart.”  Colson agrees.  “The news may make us dumb — but reading and discussing great books, especially the Bible, leads to the kinds of wisdom that brings real understanding.”

Appreciation to How Now Shall We Live Devotional
by Charles Colson, Tyndale House Publishers

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The word “male” (Genesis 1:27), from the Hebrew word zakar, could be translated: “the remembering one.  Isn’t this a strange description for the male?   What is it that God wants man to remember?

God’s wants man to remember His Story (history).  His instructions for life.  His warnings away from death.  Just as Adam passed on God’s Word to Eve, so is man to pass on God’s Word to his family today — sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters.  Whoa.  Stop.  Adam passed on God’s Word to Eve?

Based on Genesis 1:27, I used to assume that God made man and woman at the same time.  That God instructed them both not to eat of the one tree.  That in choosing to do so, they would know good and evil… and die.  I was ignorant of God’s Word.  I was guilty of reading one passage, but not another.  God uses the first part of Genesis, chapter 2, to give more detail on His creation.  God didn’t create man and woman at the same time — or in the same way or for the same purpose.  Eve had not yet come to be when God gave the man His instructions for life and warnings against death.  She learned of God’s Word from man.  And, in God’s order of things, she would be privileged to help him remember it.  Trust it.  Use it.

One day, Satan slithered right past the man to deceive the woman.  The twister of Truth knew that Adam was entrusted with the responsibility of remembering God’s Word so he flattered the woman.  Put her in the role of leader.  Perhaps intoxicated by this attention, she disobeyed God and doubted His Word.  In doubt, she was foolishly emboldened to not only speak for God but add her own words as if they were His.  Eve’s words should have been to her husband.  She should have beseeched him to remember God’s Word and use it to engage the enemy.  Instead, she chose to tempt man to also eat of forbidden fruit.   Adam could have resisted.  Turned Satan on his tail.  But, failing to remember God’s Word and use it, the man was ill-equipped to cover his wife.  Lead away from danger.  God held man responsible because he failed to remember.  To act.  To engage the liar with Truth.  To bring order out of chaos.

It all could have ended there.  But, God’s love for His creation endures forever.  He promised that another Man would come.   The Man who would remember the Word and use it to cover every sinful man, woman, and child.  That Man is the Word.  The Word sent from the Father to be the Savior from sin.  In Jesus Christ, man has new opportunity to remember the Word and use it.  And woman remains privileged to help man remember.

How does she do this?

The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tear it down (Proverbs 12:1).

She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life . . . she opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue . . . the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31).  (Note: She deserves to be praised not because she is so amazing, but because she is not deceived by the world.*)

She is reverent in behavior, not a slanderer or slave to much wine.  She teaches what is good, and so trains the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands [as to God], that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5).

Even if her husband doesn’t obey the Word, she may win him by her behavior when he sees her respectful and pure conduct . . . when she lets her adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious . . . likewise, her husband lives with her in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since she is an heir with him of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:1-7).  (No offense here!  God expresses care, not disrespect, for women because physically, women are typically smaller in size and weaker in strength which could make them vulnerable to abuse.  Husbands are not to exploit their size and strength in unkind ways.*)

A husband needs a wife who will patiently help him remember God’s Word.  Use it and pass it on.  On this earth, there is no more powerful union — for the benefit of children.  Society.  A future of hope.

*With appreciation for commentaries
from The Lutheran Study Bible

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I could always count on the questions.  After each presentation on purity, girls — often shy, sometimes bold — would ask questions.  About boys.  Themselves.  Relationships.  Love.  Mothers brought their daughters to these events, but often stayed in the background.

Mothers were also in the audiences of the “lifestyle show” Judy Hayen and I took on the road.  The event, titled “Dressing for Life: Secrets of the Great Cover-up,” gave opportunity to address the consequences of “sexy” dress, casual attitudes about intimacy, and risky behaviors.  Clothing is fun.  But, whose idea is it?  Why does the Designer of clothing say we need more than fig leaves?  Why shouldn’t a boys hand go under a girls clothes?  The “lifestyle” show concluded with the perfect dress: the white wedding dress and why we wait to wear it.  It wasn’t the girls but the mothers who had tears in their eyes.  I know, I know.  Wedding dresses bring tears of joy to many moms.  But, I believe I also saw tears of disappointment and regret.  I know the statistics.  Too many don’t wait to wear the white wedding dress because oxytocin, not necessarily love, makes us warm and tingly.

Dozens of women have shared their abortion choices with me.  These choices were made after a touch.  A kiss.  Then the procreative act.   Oxytocin flipped the love circuit in their female brain.  There is trust.   A bond.  But physical contact and the oxytocin response it generates can blind women to a bad relationships.  These women, years after their abortions, explain to me tears of  failure.  Psychological trauma.  Heartache.  Loss.  Spiritual grief.

What were women who became mothers — of living or dead children — told about oxytocin?  What choices did they make because they weren’t told?  What were the consequences?  Is there a reason to keep from our daughters and granddaughters knowledge about their bodies?  How they are designed to function?  And why?

We are not captive to mistakes of the past.  They are forgiven because of Jesus Christ.  His death and resurrection are victory over every sin.  All we need to do is be sorry for our sins and confess them to God.  Then, in Christ, we are set free.  We are new every morning.  In Christ, we have the hope of better choices.  This hope is for daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and a neighborhood of girls.

God made oxytocin because He loves life.  He created one man to bond with one woman in marriage for life.  He joins with husband and wife in the procreational act of sex to bring new life.  He entrusts each new boy or girl to the nurture and instruction of their mom and dad.  With all of this, there is a future. There is hope.

Seems to me all ezerwomen should be talking about this.

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