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Sunday, November 8, 2015

The End

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
The End

Written In Jacksonville, Florida
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4

It was time for the 2015 Pocket Full of Quarters Journey to come to an end. I knew it because I felt the "Uncalling." I also knew it because our bank account and credit card balances matched - which meant that as soon as we paid the bill for the last month of travel, we'd be out of money. Besides, I had a grandson turning 4 and I wanted to be at his birthday party in Jacksonville on Sunday. I can always tell when God has released me from a focused journey call because I begin feeling called back to my family.

I left the Fullers in Manchester, Tennessee on Friday. The plan was to drive to Atlanta, have dinner with my best friend, Nancy Edwards, and pick hubby Bob up at the Atlanta airport at 10:00 PM. We had a reservation in an Atlanta campground and planned to drive home on Saturday.

The drive from Manchester to Atlanta was slow and dangerous. What should have taken three hours, took six. Impatient drivers cut across multiple lanes of traffic. I passed several serious accidents and was almost involved in 2. I called Nancy several times to change meetings times. Finally, at 8:30 PM when we realized that traffic wasn't going to allow me to get to our meeting place, Nancy changed meeting locations. My cell phone wasn't charging and my phone wasn't receiving all calls and texts and I felt very alone. I arrived after 9 at the new meeting place, hungry and exhausted. Nancy knew what I liked and had ordered for me so my food was waiting.

I wanted to fall into my best friend's loving arms and allow her to comfort me but she'd brought a friend along who needed the combined ministering attention of the two of us. We do this occasionally and I wasn't surprised. Without any prepping, I assessed the situation, prayed, went into "Encounter Mode," and we ministered together as we have done so many times throughout our lives.

I knew I was going to be late picking Bob up and knew he'd understand. There was more traffic getting to the airport and it was after midnight when I gratefully released the driving and prepping the camper for the night over to him. I collapsed into bed and slept straight through the night.

We've had 198 salvations! I thought as soon as I woke the next morning. We need two more so it will be an even 200. God, it would delight me if you send us 2 more salvations.

I briefed Bob and even though we were both anxious to get to our home in Jacksonville, we began slowly making our way to Jacksonville, stopping where we saw people. We sowed seeds and had great encounters...but no salvations. It was getting late and we just wanted to be home.

"I need coffee to stay awake," Bob said.

"I see a shopping center. Pull off there. Maybe there will be people and we can evangelize one last time."

We pulled in to an empty parking lot. The shopping center had seen more prosperous days. The stores were closed or empty. There was 1 bakery/antique shop that looked open all the way at the end of the parking lot.

"Maybe they have coffee," I suggested. There were no other customers.

"Is your coffee fresh?" Bob asked.

"I'll make more," a cheerful Alexis said. While the coffee was brewing, we found out that her husband and his family were born again Christians. She believed in Jesus but admitted that there was something missing. There certainly was. No one had told her how to invite Jesus into her life. Within minutes, Alexis knew Jesus. That made 199 salvations.

"I have to find a restroom," I told Bob after he got his coffee. He waited and I made my way through the antiques and found myself in a kitchen in the back. There a sad eyed, thin, stringy haired girl was cleaning up after a day of baking.

"Where is the restroom?" I asked. She pointed the way.

"May I give you a gift?" Her name was Michelle. She smiled as I gave her a Gospel Bracelet and told her what it meant.

"You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today," Michelle said. About that time, a man walked in and glared at us.

"Do we need to talk later?" I asked. "I'll wait." I assumed this was her manager and didn't want to get her in trouble.

"No!" she said, glaring back at him. "I need to finish this. We don't have any customers and I'm almost done here." With her manager standing there glaring, she wept as she invited Jesus to be her Savior.

"Thank you God," I prayed. "200!"

Alexis joined us in the kitchen, still smiling. I suggested that the two of them find a church and grow together in their walk with Jesus. I turned to the still glaring manager and offered a bracelet but he wasn't interested. As I left, both woman rolled their eyes at the manager and as he walked toward them, they stepped warily out of his path. I knew there was a story there.

I found the restroom and made my way back to the front of the store. Bob was talking to a vender, managing one of the antique booths. He was the only other person in this huge store and he was sitting down in a chair attached to an oxygen tank. I hadn't even noticed him before.

"John has COPD and the doctors can't do anything else to do for him," Bob reported.

"I'm so sorry," I said to John. "My Daddy had that and I know how hard it is."

"We'd just started talking," Bob said. "John doesn't know where he is going in the next life." That was my cue.

I walked around behind the counter and tied a bracelet on his wrist. I gave the Gospel and after John prayed to invite Jesus into his life, I asked, "Now where are you going in the next life?"

"I reckon I'm going straight to heaven," he said, giving me a big Georgia-boy grin. Yes, he was!

"Wow," I said as we got in the car. "Good job Bob! I also had a salvation in the back of the store."

"I wondered what took so long," Bob said.

"That makes 201," I answered. Should we try for 205?"

"Cheryle!" Bob said, smiling. "You know that when we set a goal, God always blesses us with a bonus. Remember that leap year when we were at 364 salvations? You wanted to have 1 salvation for every day of the year so we needed 2 more. We stopped at Walmart at 11:30 PM on New Year's Eve. Not only did God send 2 more salvations, he gave a bonus of 1 more so we had 367. Can we please go home now?"

We did. We pulled into the driveway late Saturday night October 17, 2015. So far, I'd visited 35 states in 2015. Since leaving home exactly 2 months before, God had allowed us to have 201 salvations. He sent countless more Divine Encounters and many opportunities to train people to give the Gospel. It was the best Pocket Full of Quarters Journey ever. The harvest is the ripest I've ever experienced and we're getting close to 1,000 salvations for the year. Maybe God will send 1001.

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Live Gracefully

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
Live Gracefully

Written In
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name's sake Romans 1:5

Do you live by grace? I pray you are saved by grace but I'm talking about living beyond being saved for eternity. I'm talking about living gracefully - understanding grace in light of everything that happens in your life. For me, living gracefully has been a process with ups and downs, stops and starts, and like peeling away layers of an onion to get to the flavorful part in the middle. This week peeled away another layer of the living gracefully onion.

I spent a couple of days at the home of my ministry mentors, Pastor Ron and Amanda Fuller. Yes, some of the time was spent evangelizing and 4 people met Jesus while I was there but most of the time was spent in their home chapel with Pastor Fuller literally standing at his black board and me taking notes on scripture and process applications for fulfilling God's call to Pocket Full of Change Ministries. Part of Pastor Fuller's call to ministry is equipping others to do the work of equipping the body of Christ for ministry. I am just one of many that he and his wife pour scriptural knowledge, experience with running ministries, and their unique spiritual gifts into. I always leave better prepared to fulfill my call from God.

This time my lesson was about living more gracefully. Technically, I knew that every good and perfect gift came from God. After all, I'm a Bible student. Having said that, I've always had trouble accepting ministry gifts from others. For example, when people take me into their home, I worry about their inconvenience, particularly because part of the nature of what I do means I can't always know ahead when I'm going to arrive. I joke that God doesn't seem to understand scheduling when I open myself to traveling America and going where He leads. Last minute critical assignments and/or encounters delay me for hours or even days. My hosts have to understand that but even when I've clearly heard and obeyed God and the fruits of the surprise encounters are obvious to all, I was still bothered by the scheduling inconveniences to others.

The same has been true when people donate. I worried about their ability to afford it, worried that their love for me put pressure on them, and felt constant pressure to be worthy of their faith in me. You are probably beginning see the problem.
Add to that how blessed I am by the number of people who follow me and reach out via email, text, phone or social media. No matter how many hours I work, I go to bed nightly without something done that has a person waiting. It has been frustrating that even on the most amazing days where I had many salvations, I could still go to bed feeling badly about something I hadn't done.
Now let's talk about my family and friends. I know how blessed I am. No matter how much a part of their lives I was or how hard I tried, I often felt as if I hadn't done enough or had let someone down.

I realized this week just how much all of this tortured me and hampered my effectiveness. Everything I've just mentioned are gifts from God because of His grace. By feeling unworthy or trying to be more worthy, I've been living as if these gifts were either things I earned, things humans gifted to me, or gifts I had to work for. What I'd thought of as humility, gratefulness, and care for others was actually audacity that I was the one Christian to whom God's plan for graceful living didn't apply. Trying to work to be worthy of this many blessings was exhausting because of the impossibility of it. It worked me to death and stole my joy of the blessings. Thinking I could ever be worthy of so many blessings is not scripturally sound and my feelings of unworthiness and gyrations to try to be worthy actually chases away new gifts God wants to give me.

So what do I do? Well, I start by not being surprised or feeling more unworthy. I'm human and we've all fallen short of the glory of God. I offer grace to myself and accept God's sweet graceful response that He will help me do better in the future. I rebuke the lies from the enemy and trust what the scripture says about the source of gifts. I confess my fears of losing precious gifts, dishonesty in recognizing the source of all gifts, selfishness in trying to hold onto gifts, and the self seeking involved in trying to be worthy of gifts that came to me via grace. I ask for forgiveness, make any necessary amends, and relax and enjoy even more graceful living.

This was a big week for me. I feel like a huge burden was lifted. Gone was the guilt that Pastor Ron and Amanda Fuller stopped all of their other important work and focused just on me. It was replaced with the wonder of the blessing. Imagine how blessed I feel to recognize that those comfortable homes I'd stayed in and all of the people who partnered with me through donations to take Jesus to America were gifts straight from the Creator of the Universe. I went to a birthday party for a grandchild yesterday and was overwhelmed with joy that the God who hung the stars in the sky took the time to craft this family just for me. I turned on my computer for the first time in days this morning and saw the blessings of all the emails without the stabbing pain that people were waiting for a reply. Anything I do for them isn't from me, it is a blessing from God sent when God chooses to send it. Can you imagine the relief of that knowledge? Instead of a voice whispering that I haven't done enough, my voice has shouted to God, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Here is my commitment to you. If you choose to bless this ministry through your homes, time, spiritual gifts, prayers, or donations, I am going to praise God and stand in awe of His gift. We are partners in the joy of taking Jesus to America and participating together in this blessing from God. When you offer to be a conduit for God's gift, I won't insult you by asking if you are sure, worrying about your convenience, or trying to be worthy of your generosity. I'll just enjoy and put to use the blessing from God. When I do something for you, I ask you to do the same. Let's all just enjoy the blessings of God together. That is the gift of graceful living.

Are you worrying about what others think of you? Do you have trouble letting people help you? Does your best not seem good enough? Do you feel unworthy of good things coming your way? Perhaps, it is time to find relief in peeling away another layer on graceful living.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

He Heard Her Cries

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
He Heard Her Cries

Written In Manchester, Tennessee
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. Psalms 18:6

"Can we go evangelizing tonight?" I texted to Tonya.

No hesitation. Just a quick yes. That is how it has always been with Tonya Payne. I ask her to go out and she stops everything and goes out.

Tonya and I have been evangelizing together for years at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. We have led many to Jesus together. I was in Manchester, Tennessee doing some ministry development work for Pocket Full of Change Ministries with my mentors, Pastor Ron and Amanda Fuller. They had a meeting to attend tonight so I texted Tonya. I didn't have to ask her twice.

First, we did the girlfriend thing. We had dinner and caught up on our families. Our waiter was already a Christian but needed prayer for his grandma so we did that. Then we headed to our favorite evangelism spot, Wal-Mart.

We began by praying together in the car. Then, we went inside and gave out Gospel Bracelets (thank you again Cathy Tubbs). Everyone we talked to was either already saved or got saved tonight. We felt the favor of the Lord all over Wal-Mart and 3 people met Jesus.

We both agreed that one particular encounter was worth the entire trip. We met Ashley in the women's clothing department. She caught my attention because of her fragile beauty. She was thin and wore jeans with creatively cut-out holes. Her dark hair, curled in a unique bun, was a stark contrast to her pale skin. She was in town visiting her boyfriend and didn't go to church. She believed in Jesus. Slight jerky movements indicated that she might have a medical condition or possible addiction issues.

When I asked where she was going in the next life, she hoped heaven but wasn't sure. She'd tried to be good but later admitted that she had made many mistakes.

"I try to teach my children not to make the mistakes I made," she told us. We were surprised that she had 2 children because she looked too young. She lived with alcoholic parents who she said had health problems, drove her crazy, and worried her.

She was hungry for every word we spoke and there was no hesitation about praying to meet Jesus. I spoke the words of the Gospel to her but the entire time we talked, she looked into Tonya's loving eyes as if she was drawing strength from Tonya.

When she finished praying, she put her hands over her face and said, "I needed this. I've been crying every night. I needed this!"

"Have you been crying out to God?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "Every night."

"He heard you and just answered your prayers. He has forgiven everything you have ever done. You are His beloved perfect child. One day, you'll be in heaven with Him."

She put her hands over her face again and wiped her eyes. "I needed this," she repeated.

"Do you need prayer for anything else?" I said, probing. "Do you have any strongholds like alcohol or drugs that we need to pray for? Any medical issues?"

"No drugs or alcohol but I've been so sick I can't eat. I eat one bite and I want to throw up. I was supposed to get biopsies done every 6 months and I haven't done that. I feel sick."

"Biopsies for possible cancer?" I asked. She looked sick to me.

"Uterine cancer," she whispered.

"How long has it been since you had a biopsy?" I asked.

"8 years."

"Let me pray for you," I said. This time, I prayed for her health, children, and parents. I encouraged her to see a doctor but she doesn't have medical insurance and it didn't sound like she was going to see a doctor.

Pray for sweet Ashley. Pray for her spiritual growth, health, children, and family situation. I have her email and I'll certainly follow up. I will also ask someone locally to follow up as well.

One thing for absolute certain - Tonya and I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit while talking with Ashley. She'd been crying out to God. He heard her cries and her eternity with Jesus is now sealed.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

I Reckon You're Right

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
I Reckon You're Right

Written In West Memphis, Arkansas
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:

"It is so dark. This road is narrow and bumpy. The giant trees are covered with moss and making a roof over me."

"Cheryle! Are you sure you turned on the right road?"

"I think so. I followed the directions. It says dead end."

"Are you still on the right road? You should have been there by now."

"I'm just getting deeper into the woods. The road is now gravel."

Bob had picked the campground. I was talking to him via my ear bud as I pulled down the long narrow road of the campground, nestled on the Arkansas side of Mississippi River. We knew that I'd be driving late so Bob had carefully made arrangements for the campground host to wait up for me and escort me to my campground.

"If it were daylight, I'd probably like this road," I assured Bob. I saw a fence covered in moss. Even the black metal silhouette of Tom Sawyer looked scary in the dark.

"I'm only getting about every 3rd word," Bob said.

Great, I thought. I'm losing cell coverage.

"I see the office. It looks like a shack. A man is standing out front with a beer can."

"What are you going to do?" I guessed Bob was hearing me again.

"I see someone in the office. I'm going in." Bob stayed on the phone. It turned out that the man only had a cup of coffee. The cheerful host had waited up for me and checked me in. The shack was actually a fun building made to look like Tom Sawyer's cabin. "That man over there will lead you to your site."

"Bob, I'm following a cart. What makes me willing to follow a man I don't know down a long dark dirt road to somewhere I haven't been? I know they probably don't do background checks on these camp workers."

Even in the dark, I could see the beautiful ponds and Mississippi river. We drove all the way to the end of the campground and parked right by the Mississippi River.

The man got out of his cart and walked to my window. I rolled down my window and asked, "What are those lights I'm looking at across the river?"

"That's Memphis," he said.

"It is beautiful."

"This is my favorite site in the entire park," he said cheerfully.

"I can certainly see why. My aunt and uncle and I took a river boat cruise from New Orleans to here a few years back. Would we have passed you?"

"Yes ma'am. The dock is right around this bend. They go back and forth all the time."

"It was a wonderful trip," I said.

"I've heard that. I've always wanted to go."

"I see a park bench and table next to the river. Is that another campsite?"

"No ma'am. That is for anyone to use."

"So I can take my Bible down there tomorrow morning?"

"Your Bible and anything else you want to take."

"Are you a reader of the Bible?"

"Well...," he said, dragging out the l.

"That means no," I laughed. "Did you ever read your Bible?"

"Yes ma'am. I grew up Catholic. We went to Bible class before and after every school day. I had more of it than I ever wanted."

I made the sign of the cross. He laughed and said, "I do pray but I can't rightly say I go to church anymore."

"If you're Catholic, I know you learned about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I also know they taught you about sin."

"I learned all about sin," he joked.

"Do you still believe?"

"I suppose I do."

"What about the next life? Do you know where you are going?"

"I can't know. I suppose that's up to God. He'll make that decision. I sure hope it is somewhere good."

"I hope so too. Actually, the Bible says you can know where you are going."

"Really?" he said, sounding surprised. Bob was still listening to every word but was completely silent.

"Yes," I said. I went through the Gospel scriptures. He emphatically agreed that we'd all sinned.

"It sounds like you learned a lot about Jesus but never met him personally," I said.

"I reckon you're right about that."

"Would you like to meet him now?"

"Does it take long?" he said worriedly. I guessed there was a wife back at his camper already aggravated that he'd had to wait up on a late camper.

"Not at all. It's the easiest thing you'll ever do," I encouraged.

Then I sure would," he said enthusiastically. He prayed to receive Jesus, looked up and grinned from ear to ear. He made the sign of the cross.

"Don't forget to give him a tract," Bob whispered into my ear. I jumped. I'd forgotten Bob was listening. I reached into my purse and handed him the tract named "You Made the Right Decision."

"Thank you ma'am," he said, pulling off still smiling.

"I knew he was toast as soon as he walked over to your window and was friendly," Bob joked.

"Bob, that was amazing! It was so easy."

"God sure handed it to you didn't he?" Bob agreed.

"Yes and this campsite is beautiful. Thank you for finding it. There is a giant barge going by being pushed by a tug boat. I'll post pictures in the morning.

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Straight to Heaven

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
Straight To Heaven

Written In Checotah, Oklahoma
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass. Romans 21:21

Whenever campgrounds have restaurants, I eat there even if the food looks terrible. This is where campers like to mingle so I want to be there. This campground food was surprisingly delightful.

The couple sitting across from me were both Christians and fascinating people. We talked about computers, space shuttles, and Jesus. After we'd eaten, the wife Mary came over just to sit and talk.

Our server, Stacy, brought the check. I said, "Stacy, I got so busy talking with these people that I forgot to ask if you had any prayer requests. I usually say a blessing before I eat but if you have any, I'll pray for you back at my camper."

She looked completely stunned. Finally she said, "I would never pray for myself. That would be selfish. I would pray for other people but not for me. I don't want to be selfish."

"Stacy," I asked. "Do you believe in prayer?"

"I do," she replied.

"What about church?"

"I don't go," she said, looking ashamed.

"Stacy," I said gently. "The Bible says that all who call on the name of Jesus will be saved. Not all who go to church."

"Thank you," she said.

"What about Jesus? Do you believe in Him?"

"I do," she said.

"What about the next life? Where will you go when this life is over?"

Again, she looked ashamed. "I hope I get to come back and live a better life."

"I have a gift for you," I said, pulling out the Gospel bracelets. "I've already looked around and no one is waiting on you to do anything. May I give you the message of the bracelet?"


I spoke the scriptures, starting with the gold and heaven. She listened to every word. She loved the idea of being washed white as snow. She eagerly agreed to pray to receive Jesus.

"May I hold your hand?" I asked.

"You can, but I have poison oak."

"God will protect me," I said taking her hand.

After she prayed, I asked, "Now where are you going in the next life?"

"Straight to heaven!"

The Holy Spirit Glow was evident on Stacy's face. Mary wept and prayed aloud the entire time Stacy prayed. "Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this," she said to Stacy. "May I hug you?"

"You can if you aren't worried about getting poison oak."

"Like she said," Mary said as she hugged her. "God will protect us."

I saw Stacy several times as I walked around the campground today. She smiled all day and literally lit up when she saw me. She was still beaming when she brought us our dinner at their Chuck Wagon restaurant. I ate with Mary and her husband again and they bought my dinner. What a blessing today was! Is poison oak contagious?

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Monday, October 12, 2015

I Knew It

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
I Knew It

Written In Amarillo, Texas
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

It had been a tough couple of days. Even though my heart wasn't in it, I'd tried to have encounters. They didn't go anywhere. One person even got aggravated, which is rare. I went to bed last night not understanding what was wrong with me. This morning, after another encounter that didn't go smoothly, I asked for prayer.

In hind sight, I realize I was dreading going through Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo has always been a fun place. I stopped there on my first journey in 2002 and fell in love with it. I know it is a tourist town and that some would call it a tourist trap but I love places designed to be fun. Whenever I'm nearby, I stop again. I always do the same thing. I stay at a campground I enjoy. I go to the dog park and play. I walk around the campground waiting for Divine Encounters. At 5:30, a free limousine from the Big Texan restaurant picks me up. The Big Texan is an experience. They have shooting galleries, fun things on the wall, toys everywhere, and a delicious restaurant where musicians move from table to table taking requests. Every year, I've had them play my favorite hymn, In a Garden. I've had salvations every time I visited. Several times, I've run in to people I led to Jesus on previous years and have been blessed.

Two years ago, after my usual fun day in the campground and The Big Texan, my memories of Amarillo changed. The next morning was Sunday. I pulled out of my campsite and headed to church. As I pulled in the church parking lot, my phone rang and my brother told me that Daddy was being rushed to the hospital after having a stroke at church. The next 2 hours were horrible as I waited for news and tried to decide what to do. People prayed for me. I had many phone calls with my husband, mentor Pastor Fuller, best friend Nancy, and brother Vaughan. I spent the next 20 hours making a mad and sad dash for Jacksonville and my Daddy died a few days later. I hadn't been back to Amarillo since. I couldn't stand that Amarillo was ruined for me and wanted to make peace with the city so I could continue to play and evangelize there.

When I let my FaceBook friends know I was in Amarillo and why that was hard, my friend Wanda Brigman posted, "Now I know the reason for the block you experienced. This will be healing for you."

I knew she was right. I relaxed, mostly (but not entirely) stopped evangelizing, and just spent time with God. I didn't even talk to anyone in the limousine on the way to the restaurant. I just let myself get lost in the memories.

I ordered my food and let the bitter sweet memories of how much I'd enjoyed the night before the call about Daddy. I'd led 3 people to Jesus. When the musicians finally got to my table, I requested my hymn, In a Garden, and sang along with them. In between verses, the guitar and fiddle player did an instrumental verse and I felt God comfort me and minister to my soul. By the last verse, I was smiling and in love with Amarillo again.

When they finished playing, I confirmed that they knew the meaning of the hymn. I didn't really need to do that because they were the same singers who had sung to me since 2002 and I knew they were already saved. I just wanted to give them the opportunity to speak their faith.

My server was darting from table to table and thankfully, I felt led to talk with her. When she ran my credit card, I asked if I could give her a bracelet. She was delighted and as I spoke scriptures, tears swelled in her eyes. I invited her to pray.

"I need to give them the take home boxes and take care of their check," she said, pointing to the table next to me. "Don't go anywhere!"

She rushed over to take care of them. She passed me quickly saying, "I need to clean up the table behind you and give them their check. Don't go anywhere!"

"I'm staying right here!"

Finally, she came back and sat calmly at my table. She was on a break and we took our time. She tearfully invited Jesus to be her Lord and Savior.

When she finished, she took a deep breath and leaned back in her chair in relief. She looked amazed.

"You're feeling the Holy Spirit," I said. "Memorize this feeling and walk towards it all of your life."

"It feels good," she nodded and said. "I knew this was going to happen. It was time."

"How did you know this was going to happen?" I asked.

"Because I said a prayer asking God to send me a sign if He was really there. Here you are."

Thank God, I'd decided it was time to face my pain about Amarillo. I'd almost driven Interstate 10 just to avoid dealing with it. Thank God my Christian friend Wanda pays attention to what I'm doing, prays for me, and pointed out what was wrong with me. Thank God it all happened just in time to answer my server's prayer. There is a time for everything.

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They Matched

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
They Matched

Apache Junction, Arizona
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? Romans 10:15

"You match," I teased. They gave me a half smile, looking surprised that I was talking to them. They were holding hands, had straight black hair, and both were dressed all in black. His hair was parted in the middle and pulled back in a clip. He had a black mustache and goatee and was wearing a black muscle shirt that displayed the mythological creatures tattooed on both arms. Her hair was hanging over one bare shoulder across a tank top that read Rebel Saints. Two rings pierced her lips. I squinted to read the words tattooed across her chest like a necklace and before I knew what I was saying, I'd read aloud the words, "Pull the Trigger Bi..h."

"Are you two as interesting as you look?" I asked. They looked at each other, trying to decide how to answer.

Without waiting on an answer I quickly said, "I have a gift for you. These bracelets match and have 1 black bead. May I tie them on and give you the message that goes with them?" They nodded, looking a little stunned.

From the very beginning of the message, I had their full attention. They continued to hold hands as they listened. They'd both gone to church occasionally as children but had never had the Gospel explained to them. Surprisingly, they actually believed in Jesus but hadn't gone to church together at all during their 5 year courtship and marriage. They were mesmerized by the scriptures I quoted and it seemed to me that they'd never discussed Jesus as a couple.

I slowly tied her bracelet on her left hand as I quoted the Bible scriptures that went with each bead. I noticed that as she listened, the fingers of her right hand tightened around his. He wanted the bracelet on his left hand and since she had no intention of letting go of that hand, I had to work around her hand to tie it on.

When I invited them to meet Jesus, there was no hesitation. They looked at each other as they repeated the words of the prayer, inviting Jesus to be their Savior. They never lost their stunned look during the entire encounter but the answers to my questions and their words during the prayer were soft, clear, and meaningful. We spent a few minutes talking about how to find a church where they would be comfortable and again, they were interested. I took their pictures and they gave me that half smile again as they stared right into the camera.

Please share your faith when you are out shopping, even if someone looks like they won't be interested. This young couple hadn't rejected Jesus. They hadn't been told about how to meet Him and hadn't given Him any thought. It would never have occurred to either of them to go to church together so they needed someone willing to share the Gospel in Wal-Mart.

As I watched them walk off shoulder to shoulder, still holding hands but now wearing their matching bracelets and having matching eternal destinies, I prayed they would find a church that saw past the all-black attire and the tattoos and into the tender hearts of new Christians.

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Welcome Home

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
Welcome Home

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:20

The rest of the family had gone to bed and Deb and I were lingering and talking as we turned off the lights. Suddenly, the doorbell rang.

Two large armed men stood firmly with their feet apart. They wore all black and were decked out in body armor. My children say I have no filter but when Deb let them in, even I knew it wouldn't be prudent to ask them what would happen to them if they died tonight.

It had been such a holy and fun day. At 5:15 AM, Deb's family had gathered for prayer and Bible Study. Each stated their plans for the day before leaving for work or errands. One family member went evangelizing with me at Walmart and we led 8 people to Jesus.

As we all began to arrive back that afternoon, Shiloh and Deb's dog Peanut welcomed us home. Live praise music filled the house as family members prepared for the evening praise and worship service. The dogs frolicked in the living room as other family members laughed and prepared dinner. We sat to eat at their large dining table and joined hands as Deb's husband Steve blessed the food.

After dinner, we sat in the living room singing praises to God, accompanied by live guitar music. I presented a Gospel Conversation Workshop to enthusiastic listeners who asked great questions. We spent a few minutes playing with dogs and cats before finally saying goodnight and heading to various bedrooms.

The armed men standing at the door were a grim reminder that while God had forgiven and forgotten past mistakes made by Deb's family, the world had not.

"We need to see the men!" one said in an authoritative voice.

"I'll get them," Deb said. "They've already gone downstairs to bed. Cheryle, you might want to grab Shiloh." Turning to the men she explained, "We have a house guest so we have an extra dog."

"Good idea," I said, quickly leashing her. Even Shiloh had the good sense not to bark at men with guns.

Deb's adopted family members came back upstairs to sleepily face their probation and security officer's probing questions.

You see, a few years ago, my dear friends, Deb and Steve, felt God leading them to open their home and family to newly released sex offenders (SO's). I spent many hours talking with Deb in the early planning stages of this ministry and something she said has always stuck with me. She said, "Cheryle, most of society has given up on these men. There are no throw-away people in God's Kingdom." In spite of many concerns and objections voiced by family and friends, they were obedient to God.

The armed men were apparently satisfied with what they saw and heard because they left. I hadn't realized I'd been holding my breath until the door closed behind them and I exhaled. The men went back downstairs and I released poor Shiloh from her leash.

To be accepted into Deb and Steve's family, prisoners approaching release dates fill out an application which is prayed over and reviewed by their Ministry Board of Directors. The ministry accepts born again Christians they believe are serious about starting over and need help doing so. Most of their adopted family members were saved in prison and/or active in prison ministries.

I've learned much about SO's during the growth of this ministry. Like most, I'd believed the widely quoted but false statistic that almost all SO's reoffend. What I've found out is that the statistic is a self-fulfilling prophesy and like most statistics, it is important to understand what it is really reporting.

The SO "reoffending" statistic includes those going back to prison for any reason. SO's go back to prison for reasons other than actually reoffending. Some may have drug or alcohol problems and return to prison for crimes associated with that. In Arizona, most SO's on probation are required to take lie detector tests. Any question, even questions unrelated to the crime committed, is fair game and if they fail or the test results are inconclusive, these men could be sent back to prison, which would mean they were included in the statistic as a "re-offender." Needless to say, SO's are nervous, which tends to cause the test results to be inclusive. SO's are required to meet regularly with their probation/parole officers and counselors, which they are charged a fee for. As you can imagine, SO's already have a hard time finding employment and this mandatory time during traditional work hours makes that even harder. If SO's get behind on these payments, they could be sent back to prison. If SO's can't find somewhere to live and become homeless, they could be sent back to prison because they are unable to register an address. Some SO's get so discouraged that they give up and "burn their ticket," which means they deliberately commit a minor offense like skipping a meeting just to go back to prison. Many working with them expect them to reoffend and treat them accordingly. The real statistic - ones who actually reoffend - is more like 30%, which I understand is still too high. The point is that SO's often come out of prison into a system set up for their failure.

I stayed in Deb and Steve's home before they opened their home to SO's. They are family to me. How much did I believe in the power of Christ restoring a life? That was the question I asked myself when deciding to continue staying there when I visit their city. Biblical heroes like Paul and David were murderers and God forgave and restored them. Was there any life that God couldn't restore or any sin He couldn't forgive? I'm in the redemption business and I'd better believe in redemption for all. Not only do I stay there, I make a point of going there and fully participate in their ministry when I'm there.

I wish you could see what I see in this home. I see a Christian couple who decided to make men most would consider unlovable, their beloved family. They drive them to appointments and finance their food, clothing, and transportation until they can do it for themselves. They help them find employment and navigate their way through the requirements they have to meet. They begin and end each day with prayer, praise, and Bible Study, continually encourage them, and gently rebuke them when necessary.

I see men broken by sin and thrilled to be fully restored by God. They treasure and guard their redemption and have spent so much time studying the Bible that their knowledge far surpasses my own. Their eyes glow with awe that Christ loved them enough to forgive them. They appreciate everything done for them and feel blessed to be where they are. They willingly share their testimonies and are serious about helping others meet Jesus. Instead of being bitter about the constraints, they accept what they cannot change and stay determined to live with the joy of the Lord.

I see a happy home where people laugh, share chores agreeably, pray for each other, and work it out when there is conflict. Not every resident has worked out but for those who embrace the love, life, and safety Deb and Steve offer, they soar "as if on eagle's wings."

Deb says that her family loves to hear the words "welcome home." She says it to them often. She even says it to me when I arrive at their home. I am honored to be part of their family. Heaven is our real home and when I stay with Deb and her family, I leave feeling as if I have had a taste of heaven.

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Maybe One Day I'll Be Good Enough

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
Maybe One Day I'll Be Good Enough

Written In Maricopa, Arizona
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

When we arrived at the checkout counter, Andrea had no customers. "How can I help you today my darlings? Did you find everything you needed?" she said.

"We did," I said. She rang up my purchases and since she didn't have any customers waiting except Kathy, I said, "May I give you a gift? Kathy is with me and she doesn't mind waiting for you to ring her up." I started to hand her a Gospel Bracelet and realized Kathy already had a bracelet out and was about to do the same thing.

"She already had one out for you," I said. "I'll let her give it to you."

"I want both of them," Andrea said, reaching her arms out. We laughed as we each tied one on a wrist.

We gave her the bracelet message and she nodded all the way through it. "It sounds like you have heard about Jesus before."

"I have," She said. "That is beautiful. I needed to hear that today."

"Do you go to church anywhere?" I asked.

"Not really. I work on Sundays." She stopped to greet the customer walking through the door with a cheery, "Hello my love. Let me know if I can help you."

"Do you know where you are going in the next life?"

"I'm working on that. I've done a lot of bad things but I'm finally living right. Maybe one day I'll be good enough to go to heaven. I've already been baptized." She greeted someone else entering the store.

"Andrea," I said. "We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. None of us are good enough for heaven. The Bible says our good works can't get us into heaven. Remember the white bead? The gift of God is eternal life. All who call on the name of Jesus will be saved. Can I lead you in a prayer calling on Jesus."

She reached out her hands for mine just as a customer walked up to check out. I stepped out of the way and let her check Kathy and another customer out. Another customer walked up and Kathy and I stepped to the side and waited. 3 more walked up.

I told Kathy, "Satan might as well stop sending so many people. We will wait as long as it takes to finish this conversation."

I prayed, "In the name of Jesus, I bind the enemy working against Andrea. Andrea belongs to Jesus."

No more customers walked up and we stepped back to the counter. Andrea immediately reached out her hands to mine and we prayed claiming belief in Jesus, confessing her sins and finally asking Jesus to be her Savior.

"Now where are you going in the next life?" I asked.

"I am going straight to heaven!"

Andrea lived near Kathy so Kathy invited her to the church that she attended when she was in town. Andrea gave us both a hug and we left.

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Make It a Matter of Prayer

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
Make It a Matter of Prayer

Written In Sedona, Arizona
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Does prayer matter to you? Do you believe it changes things? Is it as essential to you as your food and water? Is it your first response to everything? One of the things I like best about evangelizing with Kathy Hollenberry is how much she depends on to do the work of evangelism. It is absolutely why we lead so many people to Christ when we are together.

In 2015, Kathy and I have evangelized together in Tennessee, Washington DC, Virginia, New York, Washington state, and Arizona. I have lost count of how many we've led to Christ together but I know that in the last 7 days, 43 people prayed with us to meet Jesus. We bounce back and forth between taking the evangelism lead while the other prays. We stop between salvations to pray. We pray over stores, people, ambulances and fire trucks. We do devotions and prayer in the morning and pray at every meal. We stop and pray aloud when something scares us, breaks our heart, or inspires us. Basically, during our time together, we make everything a matter of prayer.

We'd evangelized in Sedona, Arizona before so we knew we were entering a spiritual battle ground. Beautiful Sedona is a New Age hub for the world. Shops selling crystals, readings, aura photographs, vortex tours, and the like are everywhere, sometimes 3-4 in a block. This week, we stopped and prayed as we passed these shops and went inside to pray and evangelize at many.

The first day in Sedona was hard. We talked with many, locals and tourists, offering the same loving approach we always use but were shut down for various reasons at every encounter. No one smiled and some glared or stared as we walked past, without even knowing what we were doing. The spiritual darkness was thick enough to feel and when it grew dark outside, we simply couldn't take it another minute.

We decided to return to the hotel and as we walked back to Hallelujah, Kathy stopped and prayed, "Lord, send us a Divine Encounter. We really need something uplifting."

I added, "Yes Lord. We're going back to our hotel room feeling the darkness of this place. It would be a favor to us if you would send us something uplifting."

We began walking again and God answered our prayer a minute later when a woman said, "Why don't you come into my store?" It was a toy store, so you didn't have to ask me twice. We went inside and laughed as we both bought toys for grandchildren. That by itself was uplifting enough. However, God wasn't done blessing us. We offered the woman a Gospel bracelet, which pleased her. The good news the bracelet represented pleased her even more. In just a few minutes, this woman happily and joyfully prayed to receive Jesus. She was having knee pain so Kathy offered to pray for her knees. During the prayer, the woman felt a healing tingling from God pass through her knees and when we left the store, she was feeling good spiritually and physically. Prayer matters!

Kathy and I immediately sent out texts, social media posts, and e-mails requesting prayer for the next day in Sedona. The response was instantaneous as people wrote back and reposted our requests. Below is a portion of what our friend and prayer warrior Julie Airis wrote:

"John 8:12: Jesus said I am the Light of the world. He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of Life. Lord cover Kathy and Cheryle with your glorious light! May the darkness flee away from them and not harm them in any way. May the glory of God illuminate them and cause your opposers to fear you and be delivered from their great darkness! Make your invitation to forgiveness and to inherit heaven irresistible and grant they will put their faith in you Lord."

Kathy and I praised God for such a direct answer to prayer. We slept well and woke up the next morning ready to go. Before we left the hotel, 4 workers had met Jesus. The entire day was filled with light. When we pulled back into our hotel at 9 PM, 21 people had met Jesus in a single day. Yes, we still had dark and disturbing encounters but prayer had protected and empowered us.

I encourage you to make everything a matter of prayer. When something disturbs you, stop immediately and pray. Praise God when good things happen. Be bold and pray aloud as you walk down the sidewalk and through the grocery stores. Pray while driving, sitting in church, and in the shower. Hang out with people who think that kind of praying is normal and will stop and pray aloud with you no matter where you are. Text your friends to ask for prayer about everything - just don't do it while you are driving.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Surprise Surprise Surprise

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
Surprise Surprise Surprise

Written In Phoenix, Arizona
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Remember Gomer Pyle's famous line, "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise?" That was how I felt after paying for my hair color and cut.

The entire 2 hours had been uncomfortable, starting with me telling my stylist why I was in town. Her jaw clenched as she explained her eclectic religious heritage that included family members making her attend LDS, Catholic, non-denominational, and Lutheran services with a little Judaism sprinkled in. She had no use for any of it and appeared to have no interest in heaven, God, or Jesus. She considered her entire family either crazy or at the very least dysfunctional so the various organized religions they practiced held no attraction for her. I thought she was someone who had moved on from her family issues and had built a stable life for herself and her 12 year old son that didn't include religion or God.

I managed to speak 4 simple Gospel scriptures and made a few unsuccessful attempts to reach her emotionally. I was looking for what I call the Holy Spirit Hook but her face remained stoic and her language clipped and professional. I finally decided to let her off the hook and changed the subject to mundane things like the weather and raising children.

When she finished, I let her know that I loved my color and style and walked to the front to pay. I generously tipped her and even her goodbye was professional and a little distant.

I got to the door, opened it, and realized that while I had over the course of the 2 hours managed to give the entire Gospel, I had not asked if she wanted to meet Jesus. Up until that point, I had respected her boundaries and hadn't pushed and I didn't want to ruin it by annoying her. I was sure she wasn't interested in calling on Jesus but my rule is that if I give the Gospel, I always invite people to meet Jesus. I hesitated but felt the firm insistence of the Holy Spirit to go back. I walked back to her station.

"I hate to bother you again," I said timidly as I interrupted her sweeping up my hair. "I would never want to push you but I just realized that I told you about Jesus but didn't invite you to meet him. My personal opinion is that it is rude to tell someone about the greatest party there ever was and not invite them to it. Would you allow me the privilege of leading you in a prayer to invite Jesus to be your Lord and Savior?"

"Let's go outside!" she said firmly as she grabbed my arm and pulled me to the door. I wondered if she was furious.

When we got outside, she went to crying and said, "I can't believe you came here today. You have no idea what is going on in my life. I am in a custody battle for my son and yesterday, I got a DUI. I'm worried about how that will affect keeping my son. I don't know what is going to happen. Will I go to jail? Will I lose my license and my son? How will I work to support my son if I can't even drive? I came to work today feeling like the worst person ever and here you are talking to me about forgiveness of sin. I can't believe it."

I was as surprised as I've ever been giving the Gospel. Nothing about her appearance or demeanor indicated any of that. She just seemed like someone who wasn't interested in what she called "religion." I took both of her hands and looked her in the eyes.

"God sent me to you today to tell you that He loves you and is offering you forgiveness and a fresh start. This salon was a long way from where I was and when my GPS suggested it, I knew there had to be others closer but decided to just drive here. God picked this salon for me because of you. May I please lead you in a prayer calling on the name of Jesus?"

She agreed and prayed, clearly repeating the words I suggested. When we got to the part where she confessed that she was a sinner and asked for forgiveness, she wept.

"You're forgiven now," I told her when we finished. "God has forgotten your past and washed you white as snow. He won't even remember your past. You will still have to face the courts, the DUI, and the custody battle but you will do it with the strength of Jesus behind you. You mentioned earlier that your weight was an issue and just now you mentioned drinking. Are food and alcohol problems for you?"

"They are," she admitted. "It seems like I'm addicted to everything. I don't know how to stop."

"You just did," I said. "It sounds like food and alcohol are what the Bible calls strongholds. May I pray for you and ask God to break your strongholds? I also want to pray for your various legal issues."

"Please," she whispered. I took her hands and felt them tremble as I offered up a commanding and pleading prayer to God on her behalf.

When I finished, I suggested both Alcoholics and Overeaters Anonymous. She agreed to go to both. We talked about how to pick out a church and since I used to live in Phoenix, I was able to offer a couple of suggestions. I got her contact information and we hugged for about the 5th time.

"I can't believe it," she whispered. "I came here today feeling hopeless and now I have so much hope." I reminded her again about church and getting support for her strongholds.

I have no words to explain how surprised I was. I was surprised that the words of the Gospel had touched her. It seemed like they were falling on deaf or emotionless ears. I was surprised that after spending 2 hours with her, I had no idea of the burdens she carried. I had almost left without inviting her to meet Jesus and was certainly surprised at the depth of her longing for the peace, strength, and forgiveness Jesus offered. If ever anyone was convicted of her sin and ready to meet Jesus, it was her, and I didn't even know it. I left thanking God for the power in the Gospel, the undeniable value and influence of His Spirit, and the people who taught me the discipline of sticking to my evangelism training even when I think it isn't going to be successful.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Please Let Us Find Them Again

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
Please Let Us Find Them Again

San Jose, California
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Luke 15:22

Our mall evangelizing day was amazing. We'd been in the mall about an hour and had led many to Jesus. We prayed with an entire family and two groups of teenagers. Two of the teenagers didn't speak English but I had Billy Graham's Spanish Track and we walked them through the Gospel using the tract. I wish you could have seen their faces when they read the prayer aloud together in Spanish.

"Where are you from originally?" I asked a husband and wife. Their lovely baby daughter had gotten our attention.

"We're from Viet Nam," the husband said in excellent English.

"Do you also understand my English?" I asked the wife. She did. I was relieved because I wasn't carrying any Vietnamese tracts.

"Was your family Buddhist or Catholic in Viet Nam?" I asked.

"Buddhist but we only go to the temple once a year for tradition. We don't really follow it," the husband answered.

"We're Christians," I said. "May we give you a gift?" They agreed and I gave each of them a Gospel bracelet. I took my time, making sure to tell the story of Jesus and use the convicting Gospel Scriptures. They were fascinated. They knew about Jesus but had assumed people were born into Christianity the way they were born into Buddhism. When I asked if they wanted to pray to meet Jesus, they both said yes and smiled throughout the prayer. All 5 of us were deeply moved by their interest and joy. We offered suggestions for what to do next, gave a tract, and a group member told them how to find a Vietnamese church.

As we walked away, a man in our group said, "I wish I had gotten his name. They may be neighbors and I'd like to stay in touch."

"I can't believe I forgot," I said, gasping. "I try to remember to always ask for contact information from adults. Not everyone says yes but many do. I just forgot. The reason you haven't seen me ask for contact information yet today is because our conversations have either been with teenagers under 18 or with people where there was a language barrier. In those cases, I trust God and the tracts I give them."

"They went that way," a group member said. "Let's try to catch them."

We walked quickly in that direction but were disappointed not to find them. I felt sick because I knew the couple would have welcomed the contact and the help getting started in their Christian walk.

"Please God, let us find them again," I prayed.

We continued evangelizing and eventually led 12 people to Jesus. "God always puts on a show when I'm training new people," I said. "It isn't always this way."

One of our group members began pointing and said excitedly, "Isn't that them? That couple we were looking for?"

Sure enough, God had answered my prayer and we found them. As I expected, they willingly gave their contact information. They were indeed a neighbor of a member of our group and appreciated the attention. That experience gave new meaning to the words "he was lost and now he is found."

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Blessed By Our Past

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
Blessed by Our Past

Written in San Jose, California
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

Some of you may not know that I taught piano for 38 years. My students were gifts from God that still bless me today. I had my first student at aged 16 and I taught until Bob moved me to Phoenix in 2006. I loved teaching piano. My piano teacher, Mrs. Warren, arranged for my first student and taught me that the role of a piano teacher was crucial because in most cases, piano teachers spend more individual time with a child than any other adult except their parents and possibly grandparents. I decided at 16, to accept the responsibility. In addition to teaching them piano, I committed to praying for them weekly on the day of their lessons, a practice I continue today. I also mentored them in their Christian walks, nursed them through broken hearts, challenged them when they needed it, and did my best to be present at important events. People might say I was a blessing to my students and I pray I was, but trust me, they blessed me more.

I may have stopped teaching but on this journey, I continued to be blessed by my past. Margo Bouchillon is what we in the biz call a good piano mom. A good piano parent shows up on time, doesn't force piano lessons but insists on practice, makes music fun, follows directions from and celebrates their piano teacher, and makes their piano teacher laugh. A good piano parent is why some students become good enough to fall in love with music and to be able to enjoy it for a lifetime.

Margo loved music and made it a priority. The result - her sons loved music and serve their churches through music as adults. I taught Margo's sons while they lived in Jacksonville, Florida and believe it or not, became reacquainted with her in State College when her youngest son attended Penn State, went to my church, and just happened to end up in the same Life Group as me.

Margo lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington and invited me to visit her. I go where I'm invited and spent a few days in her lovely home. I was totally blessed by Margo's love of Jesus, hospitality, and encouragement. The result of Margo hosting me was that 4 people came to know Jesus while I was there and I left refreshed and with clean clothes.

Now let's talk about Kristen Givens Smith. I've known her most of her life. She took piano from me for 12 years and was my son's duet partner. Her parents were also good piano parents and I consider their entire family my family. Kristen and I formed a special bond early on. Kristen's Mom called me on Christmas night asking me if I would be Kristen's teacher and I've always told Kristen that she was my Christmas present. Kristen is a daughter of my heart. When she is happy, it makes my heart soar and when her heart is broken, mine is as well.

Kristen is all grown up now with a family of her own and I spent several days with that family in San Jose, California. Her husband, Charles, is a former employee of our software firm and was one of the brightest engineers we ever hired. They are Christians and love God and their church. It was a joy watching how much they enjoyed their 1-year-old son Piers.

During my time with Kristen, we had our nails done, where 2 people met Jesus. Then we went to lunch and our server met Jesus. Can you imagine the blessing of going evangelizing with a former piano student?

Sunday was a day tailor made for me. Charles and Kristen made it happen. It started with me speaking twice at their church on my favorite topic - evangelism. Kristen sang the solo in church and what a blessing it was to me to hear that sweet lovely voice I'd accompanied her when she was a child. We went to a picnic at her church and I got to witness first hand just how beloved they were in their church community. It was everything I'd ever prayed for on Kristen's behalf. After the picnic, a group of 5 of us from her church went evangelizing and 12 more people met Jesus.

The day ended with me getting to keep precious Piers while they went out. We "facetimed" with Bob. Here's another thing that you might not know. Bob supported my teaching in the same way he supports my ministry and he loves my students as much as I. We enjoyed Pier's playing with Rascal over the phone and showing Bob how he could throw a ball. We taught him to say GrandBobby and Gi Gi. Bob said, "You sure do have precious cargo there. Are you sure he is only 1?"

Those seeds we sowed into those young lives so many years ago have blessed us 10 times over.

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Looking for Comfort

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
Looking For Comfort

Written in San Jose, California
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26

I spent a few days with my former piano student, Kristen Givens, and we got our nails done. What a treat. They finished mine first so I took a seat up front. A young woman plopped down in the chair beside me and I noticed her sleeve - an arm covered with body art.

"I'm Cheryle. Tell me about your body art," I said. Her name was Stephanie. She explained each tattoo and as expected, it told a story of her life.

"I went in a tattoo parlor last week," I said.

"Really!" she replied, sounding delighted and surprised at the same time. "Did you get a tattoo?"

"No," I said. "Sorry. I travel the country ministering to people and I met a woman who asked me to visit her tattoo artist daughter. I do what I'm asked. How cool is it that I get to do my work while watching someone put on a tattoo?"

"Very cool," she said. "What kind of ministry?"

"I talk to people about Jesus. Do you go to church?"

"I didn't but I've been the last couple of weeks. I'm going through a hard divorce and I thought it might give me comfort."

"I'm so sorry you're going through a divorce. You're seeking the Great Comforter. The Holy Spirit comes to us after we call on the name of Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Church certainly seems like a logical place to start. Did you find comfort?"

"I felt something. I went back the next week."

"Stephanie, do you know where you are going in the next life?"

"I hope heaven but I don't really know."

"If when you get to heaven, God asks you why He should let you in, what would you say?"

"I'd say I've tried to be good." She paused for a second and looked down. The defeat in her eyes broke my heart. She continued, "I don't know if I've been good enough."

"We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. None of us are good enough. The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life. All who call on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. Can I lead you in a prayer calling on Jesus?"

She eagerly agreed to praying and letting me hold her hand. It was as if everyone disappeared and we were the only 2 people around. When she finished praying, she smiled excitedly, threw her arms around me, and hugged me tight.

"We're ready for you," the nail tech announced. Stephanie hugged me again and whispered, "Thank you."

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Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Hard Not to Debate or Teach

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
It's Hard Not to Debate or Teach

Written In: Mount Shasta, California
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Remind others about these things, and warn them before God not to argue over words. Arguing does not do any good but only destroys those who are listening. 2 Timothy 2:14

"If you debate with or teach the pre-saved, you're done," I say at every Gospel Conversation Workshop I lead. "You can't debate with or teach theology to someone who is pre-saved. The Bible says it is foolishness to them. Besides, your argument isn't with them, it's with the enemy. If you argue with the enemy, you've already lost."

I say it repeatedly because I know personally how hard it is not to argue or debate. No matter how many times I say it, I'll take a group out to observe Gospel Conversations and invariably, someone brings along a spirit of debate or a teacher voice. Trust me, in my flesh, I can have both.

Twice this week, in separate encounters, I had women tell me that they grew up in church and believed in Jesus. They even believed in the resurrection. And yet, when I asked where they were going in the next life, both women told me they believed in reincarnation. Both woman preferred to return as an animal - one didn't care what kind and the other preferred being a pampered house cat. When I suggested that they pretend for a moment that they were standing at heaven's gate and got asked why God should let them into heaven, they both said that they would tell God they had been good.

The spirit of debate tried to use me to say, "If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, how can you believe in reincarnation? What would be the point of Jesus being crucified for you and coming back from the dead if he was just going to send you back to earth as a dog or cat?" There is nothing to do with that spirit except to rebuke it. We are not to fight with weapons of the world and debate is a weapon of the world.

The teacher in me wanted to explain that being good would not get them into heaven and that only the grace of Jesus could get them into heaven. I bit my tongue. No one likes to be told they are wrong and the encounter would have ended badly.

In both cases, I reminded myself of the only point of asking the two important questions:
1. Where do you think you are going in the next life?
2. If God asks why He should let you into His heaven, how will you answer?

The point of asking those 2 questions is to find out if they are saved - not to correct their theology or debate their opinions. Neither of these women had met Jesus personally. They had grown up in church, learned about Jesus, but had never entered into a relationship with Jesus. The absence of the Holy Spirit testifying to Truth had allowed their active imaginations to run with the popular opinions of the culture.

Instead of debating or teaching, I joked with them for a minute and said that I hoped they got to come back as one of my pets because we spoiled them rotten. They laughed. Then, I turned serious and stuck to my training. "God loved you so much that He sent His only son that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The cost of that sin is death. However, the gift of God is eternal life. My favorite line in the entire Bible is that all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. May I lead you in a prayer calling on Jesus?"

I was surprised in both cases when they eagerly said yes. Afterward, I told them that all of heaven was throwing a party and that there 'ain't no party like an angel party.' I broke the news to them that they wouldn't be coming back as an animal and neither woman argued or seemed disappointed. In fact, both seemed thrilled.

What is interesting is that after they were saved, they seemed to lean into my teaching voice. They listened intently when I explained that what they were feeling was the Holy Spirit and that I wanted them to memorize that feeling and walk towards it all of their life. They nodded at the suggestion of church and the Bible. Both women gave their email for future correspondence (teaching).

The spirit of debate is just that, an evil spirit. It never solves anything. I've never seen anyone win a debate with the person they are debating with. There is a time for a gentle loving teacher voice - just not with the pre-saved.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It's All God

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
It's All God

Written In: Seattle, Washington
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalms 28:7

"You are so good at this. I could never do what you do."

I hear those words often. People think they're complimenting me but they feel like daggers going through my heart. It means I've failed at communicating that everyone can successfully give the Gospel and that the only secret I have is that the power comes from God. Yes, I'm an evangelist but Biblically, that means I'm supposed to equip Christ's body to give the Gospel. It doesn't mean that people with similar gifting are the only ones who are supposed to lead others to Christ.

Also, I hear that "Cheryle has a great formula for giving the Gospel." The formula I use and teach is tried and true and has been used by evangelists for centuries. Billy Graham used it in his crusades. Evangelist Riley Stevenson with Kenneth Copland Ministries uses it to lead thousands to Jesus each year. Jacksonville Florida's amazing evangelist, Mrs. Lindsey, used it. I could go on and on but faith in words like "the harvest is ripe," "the word of God will not return void," and "I am always with you" frees everyone up to find out if someone is saved, give Gospel scriptures, and ask people to meet Jesus.

People are amazed that I seem to know "exactly what to say" in each situation when in fact, I depend on a process, the scripture, and the fact that the Holy Spirit will supply the exact right words. If you hear just the right words coming out of my mouth at exactly the right time, you can pretty much figure those words came from the Holy Spirit. In my flesh, I have no filter - just ask my kids.

One of the reasons I enjoy evangelizing with my friend Kathy Hollenberry is that she gets where the source of the power is. It's all God. She isn't in awe of my gifting as an evangelist. She knows God gives gifts and is respectful of the gifting but is in awe of the source of the gifting. Kathy and I are different personality-wise and a good example that any personality type can successfully give the Gospel. By her own words, she isn't naturally a "people person." I am. Kathy and I both understand that God has called everyone to the Great Commission and that He will supply our needs. Kathy and I get together several times a year to evangelize and when we do, God multiplies the harvest.

Trust me, it isn't that Kathy and I always agree on evangelism processes. Over the years, we've had our struggles with working out joint processes. What makes us a strong team is that we both trust prayer and the scriptures. That allows us the humility and the confidence to challenge each other, seek truth together, work out conflict using scripture, and become better individually and at working together. What has developed over the years is a strong Gospel Team and a deep friendship.

I love it that Kathy isn't so in awe of my evangelism gift that she hangs back in my shadow. I love it that she doesn't try to compete with my gifting. I love it that she knows her value to the team and walks up right beside me and confidently joins the conversation. I love it that she is almost always right when she feels led to talk to a particular person. I love it that if I'm doing something else, she goes off and gives the Gospel by herself. I love it that when she takes the lead, she doesn't mind if I interject. I love it when she says, "Cheryle, don't you want to tell them..." I love it that she lets me use my evangelism gifting to teach her and when she is sure that what I'm saying lines up with the word of God, she applies it. I love it that I learned another evangelism technique from her just this week. I love it that she cares so much about people meeting Jesus.

I particularly love that I have had the privilege of watching her grow into an evangelist herself. Since she became a Christian, she has cared about and given the Gospel. Now she is growing in her ability to "equip the body of Christ." When we take groups out, she keeps evangelism going while I stop to teach. She encourages the timid (and occasionally the lazy) to step up and give the Gospel. She takes the lead in training certain individuals and adds to my teaching if I leave something out.

Kathy and I evangelized together for 3 days in Seattle. 27 people met Jesus in a city where people have said that evangelism doesn't work. We'll be doing the same thing in Phoenix in a couple of weeks. We would love for you to join us any time we go out. If you join us, don't try to tell us that you can't give the Gospel like we do. We know better. The Lord is our strength and our shield. Our hearts trust in Him. He helps us and He will help you. We'll pass on a process that if you stick to and trust God, you will lead people to Jesus. Our hearts will leap for joy and we will praise Him when you lead people to Jesus. Your only limitation will be your willingness and your faith in God.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

High and Lifted Up

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
High and Lifted Up

Written In: Enumclaw, Washington
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8

"I don't have time for a massage."

"Cheryle!" Bob said. "You haven't had one in weeks. You know what happens if you go too long. Your credits are stacking up at Massage Envy so it won't even cost you anything. It is literally 10 minutes from your campground. Call them and make an appointment."

It was Monday and I was trying to get a Monday Ministry Moment out. I was hoping they didn't have an appointment because I had so much to do. I know many think of massages as a relaxing treat. For me, they are therapeutic. My muscles tend to get painful knots or what they call "trigger points." The pain gets worse and eventually stops me if I don't get them worked our regularly. The longer I wait, the harder they are to work out. Working them out takes deep pressure that I literally have to breathe through the pain to get results. Massages have always hurt but my life is rugged and Bob and I decided years ago that they are essential to performing my job. Bob keeps up with the schedule way better than I do. After all, he has to live with me when I've waited too long.

But alas, they had a morning appointment. It was an exercise to pack up the camper and get there on time. I kept losing and dropping things and had to wait for the shower. I muttered, "What is the point of a massage if it stresses me out to get there?" Shiloh didn't answer.

Also, I was meeting my host for the 2 events I was doing the next day and knew that I'd arrive at lunch with greasy skin and hair and smell like peppermint. By the time I arrived at my massage, my fruits of the spirit were rotting and plopping to the ground, one by one.

In the Bible Study I had attended the day before, they had asked the question, "If you're having a bad day, are you more or less likely to share your faith."

I'd glibly answered, "If you pray for opportunities and depend on a process and the scripture, how our day is going isn't relevant."

Someone had asked the question, "Isn't God better able to use you if you are peaceful and feeling close to Him?"

I had already spoken to the first question and decided to let others answer it but my answer would have been, "He will use me either way. I just enjoy it more when the fruits are blooming in my life." I would have also added, "Letting God use us and seeing the Holy Spirit at work is the quickest way I know to allow the Fruits of the Spirit to begin blooming again."

Apparently, that was true. I undressed, laid face down on the table, and wasn't 60 seconds into the massage before I realized it was a Divine Appointment. Because I named where I was, I'm not going to go into the personal details of the encounter but trust me when I say that we both knew the encounter was orchestrated by God. My massage therapist had actually been seeking the answers to the questions she was asking. When it was time for her to pray and invite Jesus into her life, we both agreed that we should wait until the end and I had clothes on. I was relieved but have prayed with people while lying under a sheet on a massage table.

I called an apologized to Bob. I thanked him for playing the "Head of household" card and insisting I go. The massage had indeed hurt but she had found the exact points that were causing the shoulder pain I'd been having. I write this today having use of my right and left arm - so much more convenient. I left that massage feeling like the song says, "High and lifted up."

I had a delightful lunch with Valerie McKay from my publishing house, Redemption Press. I didn't worry at all about how I looked or smelled but it wouldn't have mattered anyway because she is a certified Massage Therapist and understood completely. I finished the Monday Ministry Moment, wrote a blog post, answered dozens of emails and messages, coordinated other upcoming events, and washed laundry. I did get in bed a little late but everything got done. It was a great day.

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The Call

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
The Call

Written In: Black Diamond, Washington
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:12

"You travel alone?" It's the most common thing I hear. Some imply I'm exercising poor judgment. Others say it in admiration. Many are just afraid for me. I understand the risks and most of the time, I'm careful. For example, I don't camp in places that aren't crowded or lit. I stay aware of my surroundings. I try to stop before dark but that doesn't always work out. My life on the road in Corporate America prepared me for much of what I do and made traveling alone comfortably within my personal paradigm. .

I will say that life on the road isn't easy. Right now, I have another blinker light out. I have clothes in the washing machine that I have to rush to a quarter a mile away in the dark and put them in the dryer in time to get them dry before it closes at 10:00 PM. My camper bathroom has a small clean water leak which I'm pretending isn't there. My holding tank needs to be emptied and I dread that. There is always a list and seemingly, never enough time. I love it when I get a list complete because I briefly allow myself the fantasy that finally, everything is fixed and I can just do my work.

This last week, I traveled across part of the Oregon Trail. I stopped at museums, Interpretative Centers, and signs. I watched a movie and listened to a cowboy concert that told the story of life on the trail. It struck me how difficult and lonely traveling for them was.

We don't know exactly how many died on the trail but it is estimated that about 10% didn't make it. People died of all kinds of things - accidental gun shots, being run over by wagon wheels, hypothermia, cholera, snake bites, human and animal attacks, and on it goes. It is said that there are graves every few feet along the trail. They often buried people in the middle of the trail and drove the wagons over the graves to disguise and protect them from animal and human grave robbers. I thought about how sick my last dog, Belle, got on a trip a few years back and how scared I was. Can you imagine what it would have been like to lose a child on a trail and have to drive off and leave them there buried in the dirt?

Why did they go? Some were missionaries and like me, the travel was a calling. Others sought religious freedom. Some hoped to strike it rich or just to make a better life for their families. Some were running from and others towards something. Some just craved adventure.

I wondered about their spiritual state as they traveled. Did they cry out to God when a wagon wheel broke, someone got sick, or flaming arrows came at them? Did they get discouraged and wonder if God heard them when things didn't end the way they wanted? How was their faith at the end of the journey? I suspect for most, it was deeper.

I studied the wagon wheels. The times I've had flat tires on remote roads disturbed me even though I have a spare tire and AAA that will run to my rescue. Did these weary travelers wonder if they would be able to fix the wagon? Did some get left behind because the wagon wheel couldn't be fixed? This is why Bob immediately answers my (surprisingly frequent) question of “Why would someone put a town here?” with “That’s where the wagon wheel broke.”

I thought about how tired I get from spending so much time in my tiny camper. I visited the National Interpretative Center and studied the wagons, often called Prairie Schooners. Mostly they had a wooden base, wooden wheels, with curved metal bars over the tops and canvas roofs. Sometimes I complain that I can't get the camper temperature to remain constant. I have air conditioning plus electric and gas heat. What did these wagons have? Besides, the wagons were mostly for cargo, the elderly, the infirm, or children. Many walked and slept outside by campfires. Can you imagine how long and uncomfortable the trip must have felt?

Buying groceries is stressful for me. I don't eat like most people and sometimes I have trouble finding what I need. It seems like I am always planning for my food supply. They couldn't worry about things like organic food, balanced diets, or bottled water. They ate and drank what they could find and often suffered for it. Some packed eggs and butter in barrels, which quickly ran out. In the mid 1800's, canning technology helped. Most of what they ate came from hunting and fishing - things like American Bison, deer, antelope, trout, and catfish. They also had to resort to coyote, jack rabbit, rattle snake - nicknamed bush fish, and prairie dog. Maybe I should worry less when I can't find a Whole Foods store.

I had to laugh when I thought about how inconvenienced I was when one of my stove top burners wouldn't work. Trail travelers cooked over open fires and when they couldn't find firewood, they resorted to burning smelly buffalo chips, which the tiny children gathered. They didn't even have hand sanitizer.

My final point is about bathrooms. As mentioned, my camper bathroom has a small leak but is still usable. The condition of campground bathrooms is always a conversation point. I'm pretty OK with dirt and bugs in the shower but am not happy when showers don't have hot water or a mouse tries to shower with me. Just today, I complained about the lack of privacy in the shower house at this campground. Think for moment about bathroom and shower conditions on the trail. Is my life on the road really that hard?

Here's the true answer to that question. My life is harder on the road than it is at home. Yet, my camping life is much easier than camping life was for those traveling the Oregon Trail. Everything is relative. I'm just not sure how relevant easy or hard and safe or risky is when you feel called to do something or driven to do something to make a better life for your family.

If we spend our life catering to convenience and safety, we miss the great adventure of what some might call the "call of the wild" but I call "the call of God." We pray for wisdom and listen. We pray for courage and strength and then act. The world opens before us in a splendor that is beyond our wildest imaginations. Like my Daddy used to say, "I'm not afraid of dying but I am afraid of not living."

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She Was Listening

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
She Was Listening

In Twin Falls, Idaho
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6

"Be careful not to slip! They don't have a rug in there and when I bent over to dry my feet, I slipped right down on the floor. Be careful."

"I'm so sorry you slipped. Are you hurt?" I asked. I had just walked into the KOA bathroom with my shower supplies.

"I will be tomorrow. I think I'm going to tell the office."

"Good idea," I said as she walked out. I was surprised that it didn't turn into an encounter after that lead in but oh well. What do I know? God's ways are mysterious.

I carefully stepped in and out of the shower, noticing that the shower curtains were too short so all of the floors were wet. I dried off and dressed. When I came out of the shower stall to put on my makeup, the same woman said, "You were fast! It doesn't look like you slipped."

"I didn't. I was careful. Thanks for the tip. I thought you left."

"I did but I forgot my blow-dryer." We began talking. You can probably guess that it did indeed turn into an encounter. She was pretty sure she was going to heaven because she'd been good - not perfect - but good. She went to church occasionally. I spoke Gospel scripture to her about salvation by grace and not by works. She got it instantly and wanted to pray for forgiveness and salvation.

The entire time we'd been talking, I was aware of a young woman standing behind me. She was slowly putting on her makeup and using a curling iron while listening carefully. I kept glancing at her in the mirror out of the corner of my eye as I talked to the other woman but hadn't spoken a word to her yet. When I saw that she was getting emotional, I turned to her and said, "Would you like to pray with us?"

"Yes," she said gratefully.

"May we hold hands?" I asked both women. There in the bathroom, standing in a circle, both women prayed to receive Jesus. I got their contact information and the first woman left.

"Where are you from?" I asked, deciding that I needed to know more about this lovely, tattooed, thin woman who had met Jesus so quickly.

"I'm from all over," she wept. "I can't seem to settle down. I'm here with my boyfriend but I don't think it is going to work out."

"How long have you been with him?" I asked.

"A year," she said, continuing to cry. "He is rude to me. I think he wants me to leave. This keeps happening to me."

"It isn't going to happen anymore," I said firmly. "You are leaving this room changed from the inside out. You are a princess of the King of Kings and deserve to be treated accordingly. I can't tell you what to do but I know who can. The Bible promises us wisdom. It is in the book of James. It says that if you ask for wisdom, you will get it. There is a catch however. It also says that if you don't act on that wisdom, you will feel like you are being tossed about in the waves - you will feel seasick. The Bible also promises strength and courage. May I pray for your wisdom, strength, and courage?"

"Yes," she whispered.

I put my arms around her and could feel her trembling. I asked God to grant her the wisdom to know what to do about the boyfriend and the strength and courage to act. After I prayed, I encouraged her to act immediately on the wisdom she received.

"If you decide to leave, do you have somewhere safe to go?" I asked.

"I do," she said. "I could go home to my mother." I have a feeling that will be one happy mother. I have her contact information and can't wait to find out what she did.

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