Single and Celibate
Barbara Fortilus is a single woman making her way through the weirdness of modern dating. And she's got big ideas on the upsides and downsides.
About the Guest
Barbara Fortilus is a single black woman making her way through the weirdness of modern dating. And she’s got big ideas on the upsides and downsides.
Single and Celibate
Real Life Loading…
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Season 2, Episode 66: Single Black Woman, Dating
Guest: Barbara Fortilus
Air Date: December 9, 2023
Shelby: All right, Barbara, when did you lose your virginity?
Barbara: I lost my virginity at sixteen.
Barbara: In New York, was being sneaky, without my parents knowing. Went to this person's home. It wasn't like something that I was looking forward to doing. It was more of like a pressure thing. Yes, but it wasn't like I obviously consented to that, but just, yes, it was a regret and not even the greatest experience.
Shelby: Somewhat anxious, always authentic. This is Real Life Loading…
I'm Shelby Abbott and I'm here with my friend, my good friend, Barbara Fortilus. Barbara, you have always been very direct with me, when it comes to talking about, well, practically anything. Like, we will talk about anything. I knew you would talk authentically when it came to this subject. So, I'm really grateful that you want to explore this a little bit and be helpful in the process. Not just for the sake of, like, putting it out there, but just really in order to be helpful. I wanted to ask you, well, first of all, tell me what you do for a living so people have a little bit of context of what our relationship is.
Barbara: I work for FamilyLife®. I'm the Social Media Manager. I help with Real Life Loading sometimes as well.
Shelby: You do, yes.
Barbara: I also do other things on the side as far as like social media things or being a creative and so forth. And Sometimes also do like other creative projects like Spoken Word and I just love all the creative things.
Shelby: Yes, it’s beautiful. I've heard you do a couple of different devotionals, leading group times, and they're always very thoughtful, honest, Jesus focused, gospel centric. I really love that about you. What is your background ethnicity, just so people know that as well?
Barbara: I am Haitian, Haitian American.
Shelby: Haitian American. Mm hmm. And you, did you come? from Haiti to here?
Barbara: I was born in Boston. Yes, grew up mostly in New York. I guess most of my adult life in Orlando, but my parents are Haitian. Yes, born in Haiti.
Shelby: I really wanted to ask you, because I obviously have no idea, tell me what's it been like for you as a single black woman in today's dating culture? I know it's a big question, but I really want to hear your story of what it's been like.
Barbara: Can I use the word ratchet? It's ratchet, I guess.
Shelby: Yes, you can.
Barbara: It's ghetto; it's ratchet. It's also great. There's that too. There's like two sides to, you know, being single.
Shelby: Yes, unpack both those sides.
Barbara: Okay, so I'll start off with the positive side.
Shelby: Okay, we'll start with the good, sure.
Barbara: It's fun being single. It's fun not being tied down to anything, being able to go wherever I want, do whatever I want, be truly focused on where God has called me to be. I can get up and go on a trip if I wanted to.
Shelby: Whenever you want to, yes.
Barbara: I don't got to talk to anybody. I don't have to ask for permission. I can just, like, be free. And I'm also more flexible and available to be of service to people and follow dreams and do fun things. And so, like, I love, just the freedom of singleness.
But then on the other side, too, you have moments of, like, loneliness. Like, I wish I had someone to do life with. Like, where's my boo at God? Like, where, you know, why is this taking forever? And so, now trying to meet people in this day and age, I never thought it would be, like, this tough to actually meet a genuine person, and you would think, like, dating apps and social media.
Shelby: Social media. Is that why?
Barbara: I feel like there are successes with, you'll hear different stories about people, you know, meeting others, like, through dating apps, and they're getting married and stuff like that.
Shelby: Yes, yes it worked out well.
Barbara: But I think for me, it's become a lot harder. I'm very super extroverted.
I love meeting people in person. But then as you get older, you kind of do the same kind of things all the time. And like, so work is one thing.
Barbara: You're at home. And if you're not really going out to meet others, then it's kind of hard to try to find someone you're interested in. But in my case, I don't think that's the problem.
I'm always outside doing different things, talking to different people. I am open. I'm extroverted. I'll come say hi to you. I will do whatever. I just think like dating apps are just harder for me to connect with someone, because you would go on there and people don't talk. You have all these weird photos of people holding up their fishes, the fish that they caught. [Laughter] I don’t know, pictures of their dogs. Oh yes. Alright. There's, yes, it's just weird. Well, we could unpack that later.
Then you also just have people with their agendas of like, you know, why they're on the dating app, trying to hook up. Yes, trying to hook up or they're leading you to a certain kind of way of thinking, making it sound like it's something that they would want to move forward with, like, as a goal of marriage or serious relationship. But then when you kind of just learn a little bit more about the individual, they just want to smash and that's pretty much it.
So, there are a lot of times I feel like I'm not seen. A lot of times I feel like God has like an invisible blanket on me. Like, because I can be in a lot of settings and I could see a lot of different people and I'm like, “Ooh, all right, Lord,” but there's nothing. It's like every time there's an expectation that this year I will meet my person, the years keep passing. It's been like eleven years since, eleven years of singleness, yes without any dating.
Shelby: You haven't dated anyone?
Barbara: Yes, for eleven years.
Shelby: Oh really?
Barbara: It's been a while. It's something to celebrate, but it's also sometimes there's moments like, man like I never knew that it was going to be eleven years of singleness.
Shelby: Yes, you never would've predicted that for yourself.
Barbara: Because I've always desired a relationship. I've always desired marriage since I was a kid. But then, I would also say that my ideas of relationship and marriage has been skewed a lot in many different ways.
Shelby: Why is that?
Barbara: Because sometimes I want marriage for my own selfish reasons. Because I can't do certain things, like, I know that married people can. So, I'm like, that's why I want marriage. But then I start to realize, too, that that's not the solution to a lusting problem, or that's not the solution to, like, you can still lust even when you're married.
Shelby: Drag lust right into marriage with you. You're totally right.
Barbara: It's not the solution to whatever issue that you have internally, and so that's something that I have to, like, submit to the Lord often.
Shelby: Is there a different element, forgive me if I'm being a little bit too frank here, but is there a different element for the fact that you're a black woman as opposed to maybe a different ethnicity? Has that changed the landscape in a unique way?
Barbara: I mean, I'll say this. I feel like black women, I think, we are looked at as being aggressive, very forward.
Shelby: Okay, mm hmm.
Barbara: There is like, I'm always being told that I'm not feminine enough.
Shelby: Really? Who tells you that?
Barbara: Yes. I'm told that a lot. Just the males in my life, you know.
Shelby: For real?
Barbara: Yes, I'm not feminine enough.
Shelby: I need to talk to these males.
Barbara: Yes, just go, you know.
Shelby: I'll check in with my gigantic frame.
Barbara: But more so because I am very strong in my opinions. I don't back down for certain things. I can be submissive if you're worth submitting to. That's the mindset sometimes.
Shelby: Well, you're not called to be submissive to all men, just to your husband, biblically. You don't have one of those, so yes. And I think your directness is one of the things that I love about you. Like, I love that God has made you that way. That is like, one of the best parts about you. Not at all one of the worst parts about you.
Barbara: Thanks Shelby, but not all people feel that way. Not everyone feels that way. And I think, there is like this thing happening today where there is this like, masculine versus femininity, you have the red pill community, you have this battle between black men and black women, where we’re just butting heads. This group is asking for this group to submit to my authority and this group is well, you ain't make no money. You ain't taking me out and taking me out on trips. You ain't doing this and you ain't doing that and so we're just not connecting.
I feel like you just have a bunch of single people walking around without really having a right idea of what it means to be in a relationship, to let God guide that relationship, to all of us humble ourselves. We all have pros and cons to who we are and we don't have the willingness to grow together and learn each other in that kind of way.
I kind of see that a lot, like we're all waiting for this perfect person to come into our lives with all of these standards that are met, instead of how about we meet each other where we are and help each other grow with my strengths and your weaknesses and your strengths and my weaknesses and grow together. But we're looking for this, like, he has to have all of these checklists done, or she has to have this checklist, and that's when she'll be considered a perfect person for me, a person I could do life with, when that's not necessarily true at all.
Shelby: In general, do you think that kind of mindset, that kind of mentality has bled over into the Christian community, and if so, what ways has that been acceptable in the Christian community? Like what maybe the norms now that have been affected by that kind of mindset that you would just go, I don't know why Christians think this. Maybe it's just Christian men in particular or is it Christian women too?
Barbara: There's both.
Shelby: There's both?
Barbara: Yes, there's both, unrealistic expectations on both sides. Okay for sure. And I think it has gone into the Christian community. I think we're doing a lot of we're not doing enough engaging in social media and influencers that agree with us and that connect with our way of thinking and we're not doing enough like diving into the Bible and seeing the characteristics of what a godly man and a godly woman should be and look like, being like Jesus is. And so, we're allowing other people's opinions and thoughts to overtake how we go about life or how we connect with relationships things like that. It's definitely within the church for sure. Because if I were to have a conversation like this with a friend who also goes to church, they would agree with some of the things.
Shelby: He’s got to make this much money. He's got to treat me like a princess in whatever way.
Barbara: Yes, Mm hmm, and then she has to have looks like this, she has be this way, she has to again submit to me in this way, and it's not valid.
Shelby: Yes, gosh, I didn't, I mean, I was, I'm unaware of this. It makes me sad.
I love that you've pointed out, though, that they're, in general, taking their cues from this kind of secular mindset as opposed to Scripture, as opposed to looking to the true man, Jesus. We're looking in the wrong places to get our cues on how to behave, how to think, what to expect. And it's kind of ruining, would you say it's kind of ruining people?
Barbara: Oh, for sure, that's why I'm still single. [Laughter]
Shelby: Well, what's it, what's it like different for women as it is for men? Like, is there a distinct difference, do you say in the Christian dating world right now? What's different for women that may be not be true for men right now?
Barbara: That's a great question. It's funny that you talk about that, because I feel like in today's generation men are, I'm not trying to generalize, but just with the spaces that I've been in--
Shelby: What your experiences are, they're valid.
Barbara: --I don't see too many men being bold anymore to like, you know, initiate, to pursue. It's like there's an expectation for women to do that for them.
Shelby: Really? But then you're coming on too strong? I don't get it.
Barbara: Yes, right. So you're not going to say something, you're not going to like, and I'm sure, like, there's ways that a woman could indicate that she's interested. But it's like, we have to shoot shots. We have to go up to the guy and be like, “Hey, I like you. Do you want to go on a date?”
Shelby: And then after that, you have to be not too aggressive. Correct.
Barbara: Correct. So it's like this weird like—
Shelby: back and forth.
Barbara: Yes. And that's the part that gets me a lot is like I just need you to be bolder. And I think also because of my personality, I have to learn myself, like this is actually like something that the Lord has to help me with, when it comes to like interacting with men or people that I'm interested in, like learning to be still and let that person come to you.
Because I'm, again, because of my personality, I will go up to you. Hey, you know, I would try to have a conversation with you. I would have all this other stuff. But in the case of dating, if I find myself interested, I have to actually force myself to pull back, let this person try to talk to you, let this person initiate, let this person do this down a third. And I don't see enough men doing that. They're not initiating. They're not coming to you and saying that they like you. They're not. It's like we have to do a little bit more, because men are a bit shy now and things like that. That may not be true for everyone, but I've seen a number of that happening today.
Shelby: Do you have opinions about why that is? Why are men not doing the initiating? Why are they too shy right now?
Barbara: I think they're, it's not even just in the place of dating, I think they're just shy in a lot of different areas and maybe lack of discipleship.
Shelby: Okay, that's probably true.
Barbara: Again, what they're being taught and told. There's just like this whole masculine community, alpha male community, that they're being preached just to do a certain thing, like let a woman take care of you. I mean that's not what is always being said, but there is this like generation of let me go look for a woman who has her bag together, meaning she has money. She can take care of me and I'm like living under her and I'm like, there isn't responsibility.
Barbara: Yes, that's happening in today’s generation again, not generalizing, but there's a lot of that going on. There's a lot of men not taking initiation in a lot of different areas. But then there's also, again, women can't just talk about the men.
Shelby: Yes, it's a two-sided problem.
Barbara: We also do the most where there's these crazy expectations of like this reel that I saw a couple months ago, and this girl was getting at this dude and who she was like, he took her on a date. She brought her friends. And he was like, if you can't pay for my dinner and all my friends, all my 10 friends that I brought over to this thing, then you're not good enough to date me.
Shelby: Wow! 10 friends?
Barbara: Like, what? Yes, so that's a little wild too. It's like, are you serious? Like, we're trying to get to know each other. I don't owe you, owe your friends anything. He was looking like, is she serious right now? She was just, you know, you need to be able to buy my hair. You need to be able to take me out on trips. You need to be able to buy my expensive bags. That's what's also being taught to the young women as well.
We've kind of missed the whole part of like what love, and obviously that's not love, but what it is for a relationship to happen, for two people to come together, to genuinely be there for each other, love each other, things like that.
Shelby: Yes, that feels all very transactional. It feels very like, if you do this for me, then I will be with you. It's like a commodity to be used up and then discarded when I'm done with you. Like, it's interesting. My bet is that mentality. That's an extreme mentality for sure. Like I would say that that that just takes it to the nth degree. But I think that mentality can roll over into our everyday experiences with other people.
If we think this at a grand level, we go, we kind of look at that and go, that's ridiculous. That mentality still can trickle down into what can this friendship do for me? What can even like, if you see a celebrity, you have to take a picture with that celebrity, so that you can post that on social media, so that people can look at you and go, “Oh, you were with so and so.” Now I'm not saying it's wrong to take a picture with a celebrity. I'm not saying that's wrong at all. But if you're doing it in your heart for the reason that you want people to love and appreciate you, you have used that celebrity in order to benefit yourself.
Shelby: I think we do that all the time with people and with, one up one down relationships, like you're more important than me, I'm more important than you, that kind of thing. We're using people and if we're not careful, that could bleed over into how we think about God.
We could think, God, if you don't bless me with certain things. I'm going to turn my back on You and go another way. I'm going to walk out, because we want God for His stuff. We don't want God for Himself. I mean, it's the parable of the lost son. It's Luke 15 all over again. This is ancient stuff. We're just rehashing it in different ways today. So you got to be careful, really careful.
Barbara: You know, it's funny that you said that. When I decided to become celibate, fully like, giving that to the Lord and saying, “Lord, I--
Shelby: When did that happen, by the way?
Barbara: That happened at age twenty-two or twenty-three. I moved here to Orlando, Florida. I found this church. Like God was just kind of speaking to me about just taking Him seriously, like giving your whole self. So I decided to go ahead and do that. I said, “Lord, I will stop this part of me having sexual relationships with people - just dating for the sake of dating. I want to devote this to You.” Because like I've had really bad experiences, went through a lot of different things. Lust has been tied to me since I was a little kid. I've been exposed to sexual things as a little kid. Even today it's still a struggle. “However, Lord, I am going to devote myself to you.”
But when I did that though, there was like in my mind, I thought because I have decided to create this covenant with you, that you were going to bless me with marriage at some point.
Barbara: So this happened in I think 2013 or 2014. So every year I'm thinking, but I thought we had a deal.
Shelby: Yes, because I'm doing this, You owe me this, and that's not happening now.
Barbara: Yes, I thought we had a deal and more years have passed by and I'm just like, God, “I see you doing this for all of my friends. I see this happening all over social media. I see this everywhere. So what is it about me that, like, why can't I have this too?”
Then it's like, this year is when I started to think about that a little bit more. Like, the Lord, He never promised me that. I said that. I said, “If I do this, that He would you provide me with one person in marriage.”
Shelby: And you're like, okay, agreed. But He didn't, He didn't agree to anything.
Barbara: He never said that, “Okay, because you do this, I'm going to do this.” He never said that at all. Every year became like this point of view that I had of God or feeling like I'm not being seen. Or it pushed me in other ways with my temptations or whatever. Like, all right. Well, since You're clearly not going to bless this, I'm going to just have my way for a moment. You know what I'm saying? I'm going to do my own thing for a moment.
And just this screwed up thought process of what the Lord talked to me about and what I thought life would be, and what I thought He would promise me, and what my future would be and all this other stuff. Here we go eleven years later, single. There's points where I'm very satisfied in that, and there's points where I'm just like, “All right, like, when is this going to happen?” Because, you know, there's times where that gets really, like, temptation gets really hard.
Shelby: You and I have talked about this a little bit, like, you know, that He didn't promise you marriage, that wasn't part of the deal. What did He promise you?
Barbara: He promised me, of course, salvation.
Shelby: Mm hmm.
Barbara: He promised me peace. He promised me unconditional love. He promised me purpose in life. He promised me joy, all the fruits of the spirit, pretty much.
Shelby: Yes, yes, yes.
Barbara: He promised me community. That whole, a man should not be alone. That has been misconstrued in my mind for so long. I'm thinking, like, “Oh, everyone is supposed to be in a relationship.” But He did promise that in a different kind of way.
He promised you people, friends, family, you know, that can surround you every day and, like, you can do life with them and you can love them and they can love you, that type of thing. He promised that He'll provide for me. That I shouldn't have to worry about stuff. Those are the things that He promised me.
Like, it's not these, and sometimes He does give people specific, visions--
Shelby: And specific things He wants to provide for people.
Barbara: --and specific things about what He wants to the context of my singleness, and the context of marriage. Sometimes I get a little discouraged still of what that means, of like, okay, Lord, if this is a desire in me, you know, there's another verse, like, “He'll give you the desires of your heart.”
I thought at some point, okay, if this is a desire, then that means You're going to meet this desire. So I have to constantly think about is this desire the Lord's desire? And if it is His desire, then it's either I just need to be more patient, that this journey is taking a little longer compared to other people, or He will fulfill His desire in other ways, or this is not His desire. So I struggle with that a lot.
But when I realized that, I started to think about when I am feeling more like I need this to happen. It's when I'm consuming things, or if I'm thinking about things too much. Let's say, for example, I just watched, I love hopeless romantic movies, K-Dramas. So I love the lovey-dovey stuff when people are holding hands and gazing into each other's eyes.
When I start to consume that a little too much, and when I start to see relationships with people in the street, or when I'm like looking at my friends. All these things are influencing the way that I'm thinking. That's when it feels a bit more urgent at the moment. Like I need it to happen right now. But then I have to stop and think like, you've been doing this for eleven years and you've been fine.
Barbara: So, maybe it's not as urgent start to think about: what's been influencing you, what you've been listening to, what you've been taking in. And also remind yourself too, if it's not God's desire, I'm like God, “Would you please take this away from me?” Because I start to take that desire that's precious and that's beautiful in the Lord's eyes and turn it into something that's very ugly, and again, lustful.
Shelby: Turn into an idol.
Barbara: Yes, because then I can go a whole different direction in my temptations and my thoughts or whatever with that as well. So yes, it's like a roller coaster with this.
Shelby: Yes, it's not perfect and the one thing that I've found is that the Lord is with you in all of those things. That He is with you when you're doing great. He's with you when you just messed up. And you complete, you know, for the millionth time you did the same thing over and over again. And you're like why can't I get my life together in this specific area? He fully accepts you in that area. Like He fully embraces you when you're doing well and when you're doing poorly. The process is a part of really what it means to have a relationship with God. It's not necessarily this end goal of one day when I get married, things are good. Like you said, “You're going to drag all that baggage into your marriage.” Whatever you're wrestling with now, it's going to be in that in the future.
One of the things that I wish I would have done, I was talking to a friend about this last night at dinner. I was like, “Did you ever, when you were younger, did you ever pray for wisdom?” And he goes, “Maybe when I was like in high school, I prayed for wisdom, but like when I became a Christian and kind of got into the flow of life in college and then post college, I don't ever remember doing that.”
I was like, I don't remember praying for that either. But wisdom is something that God says in Scripture, if you pray for wisdom, He will grant it to you. [Paraphrased] Now, that might look differently for different people, like what wisdom looks like. But if you pray for wisdom, if you cry out for wisdom, then you could just trust your decision making afterward when it comes to big things and little things.
It's a life that's yielded to God, like submitted to Him, and you're asking Him for wisdom and not allowing, things like your past and the shame that might come as a result of the compromises that you've made in the past.
Have you found that maybe some of that shame that you experienced, because of your compromise from when you were a teenager until you were about twenty-two, has that influenced some of your decision making now? Has that hung over you like a cloud or are you like, “No, I'm, I'm, I'm done with that. I'm good?
Barbara: There is definitely still shame. I feel like the shame that I deal with though is just like the current struggles, like the current - like when I am under this temptation and then when I actually fall into temptation in my own unique ways, that's where the shame of like, “Oh, Barbara, did you ever really give this up?” Because when I said, “Lord, I want to devote my whole self to you.” In my mind, I felt like, all right, this is like, I'm not going to have any more desires.
Shelby: Yes, it's all going to go away. It won't be a battle.
Barbara: It's all going to go away. It won't be a battle. But no, it's like a serious battle. It's the decision making in that process of like, the thought comes into your mind.
What are you going to do with that thought? Are you going to accept the thought, and be like, all right Lord, I'm going to do me for a second, or are you going to, because you, I can literally hear the call of like, go the other direction, you're going the wrong way. Come over here with me.
Shelby: Yes. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man … and He will provide a way out.” [1 Corinthians 10:13 Paraphrased]
Barbara: Get up, go somewhere, go call somebody, go do something, like get in Scripture, do whatever. Then there's literally moments where I hear Him speaking to me and I'm just like, “I don't want this right now, because you're not going to give this to me anyway, so I'm going to just go do what I want to do.”
Then after whatever it is that I'm doing, to fulfill that temptation, it's just a shame right after, like, here you go again, Barbara, you did it again. Then trying to come to Him with it is like, “Lord, I'm tired of, no, it's either, let's not even, I'm tired of coming to You, I think You're tired of me coming to You about this.
Shelby: You feel like God is sick of you. Okay.
Barbara: Yes, but then the Scriptures doesn't say that.
Shelby: Not at all. It doesn't. There's no place you can find chapter and verse that God says, I'm sick of you.
Barbara: Yes, but that's what it feels like. I thought this would be completely gone. I thought this would be like, I would be done with this. These are temptations again, or these are struggles that I've been dealing with since I was four years old. I'm now thirty-three and some of the same things that caught myself doing growing up, even before I lost my virginity, is the same things I'm dealing with today as an adult.
Barbara: And so I'm like, “Lord I want to break free from this.” I hear people who come to the Lord with certain things and God completely changes them. He completely takes things away. But for some reason, this one seems to be my thorn. Like, when I, when I fall, it's like, “Lord, I know I just spoke to You about this last week. I know You don't want to hear this again.” So I'm just going to sit here and just not bring this to You.
Shelby: Yes, but that's not, yes that's not true at all. And you know, in your heart of hearts, that's not true.
Barbara: That's not true. Yes.
Shelby: Yes, but I appreciate you talking about the reality that you're dealing with in those moments. Like that's real. That's honest.
Shelby: And that is I think, something that a lot of people wrestle with. They wrestle with. Yes, I screwed up again. God doesn't want to hear this from me anymore. He's sick of it, so I'm just going to go away.
Shelby: And one thing that we can learn from Scripture is even when Job, Job did a lot of stuff wrong when he got, you know, stripped away of everything. But the one thing he did right is that he went to God with his griping and complaining and yelling and anger. He went to God, not away from Him. His wife was like, “curse God and die.” Like, go away and he was like, no, I'm not going to do that. He did a lot of stuff wrong, but he went to God in the process.
Barbara: Mm hmm.
Shelby: I want to say thank you to you, again, for your vulnerability. Barbara, I love your strong personality. I love your sense of humor. I love your boldness. I love how good you are at your job. Thank you for sharing all this stuff today with me, and I know that God delights in you, smiles at you, and thinks the way that He made you is perfectly good, the way that He made you.
Barbara: Oh, love you too, Shelby. Thanks.
Shelby: Isn't she great? I'm just so thankful for Barbara's vulnerability and willingness to talk with me about things like this. Because what you heard is a legitimate part of what she's going through right now. And that's important to me. Not only as her friend, but as someone who cares about what's happening out there in a world that I'm unfamiliar with.
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