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Also, we must believe that when we talk to God in prayer, He hears us. And not only does He hear, He answers us and gives us what we ask for if it is good for us. The word of God backs this up; Matthew 7 v 7-11 states:

‘Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?’

God expects us to pray continually (1st Thessalonians 5 v 17). Philippians 4 v 6 states, ‘…in every situation…present your requests to God.’ This means God expects us to pray about everything! My mum instilled in me the importance of praying for what I wanted in a spouse whilst I was still in my teens (I know!). Before she got married she prayed for specific qualities in a husband and believe it or not, she got everything she asked for- his character, his looks and even the kind of job he was doing. It may sound a bit far-fetched, but personally, I see the results of prayer every day in my own marriage. I started praying for what I wanted in a husband when I was about sixteen, and I believe God granted me my heart’s desire when I finally met my husband.

You know the Bible also says in James 5 v 16b, ‘…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.’ As a Christian, your prayers have power! Think about it, if you pray for healing and expect to receive it, or pray for a new job and expect to get it, doesn’t it make sense to pray for what you want in a spouse and expect God to grant that desire?

Now just to make something clear, we must never treat God like He is a genie; there to grant us our every wish. We pray because God expects us to, but when we pray, we should surrender our requests to God’s ultimate will and plan for our lives. This means that we may pray for something we really want (such as marriage) but for reasons known only to Himself God may decide not to grant us that particular desire. It doesn’t mean He’s gone against His word, we just need to trust that He knows what’s best for us.

Do you pray for your future husband/wife? What kind of qualities are you believing God for?

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All the media hype and crazy commercialisation can take away from the heart of Valentine’s Day. How did this annual celebration of all things romantic begin? Who started it, and why? In this article you’ll find out more about St Valentine, his true legacy and how can you make the most of this day as a single person.

The man before the marketing

As with Christmas, Easter and many other special days in our calendar, the origins of Valentine’s day are far removed from the deluge of marketing to which we’ve become accustomed. It’s not entirely clear who the patron saint love of love actually was. The stories of St Valentine may be an amalgamation of two different people or the same person at different times. It is generally thought that he was a temple priest, who lived during the time of harsh Roman rule in the third century. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better warriors, he placed a ban on marriage for young males. Valentine defied the decree by continuing to perform marriages. At a time when those who followed Jesus were routinely jailed and persecuted, it’s believed that Valentine also helped Christians to escape the brutal Roman prisons.

Why February 14th?

Rather than being a charming, slushy story, the choice of date for Valentine’s day has both gruesome and pagan roots. Valentine was beheaded around the 14th February for his actions, thus becoming a martyr. The church, seeking to make him a saint in honour of his servitude, created a feast in his name: St Valentine’s Day. The timing had a second purpose. It coincided with the February pagan fertility festival, Lupercalia, much like Christmas’ coincided with the Yuletide/Winter Solstice. This helped to highlight the Christian message at significant junctures, but also linked the themes of love and fertility.

Valentine’s cards

Valentine too was imprisoned for his Christian belief. It’s said that he sent a letter to his jailer’s daughter. He had healed the young woman from her blindness when pressed to ‘prove’ his faith in Jesus. After this, Valentine supposedly fell in love with her. He signed the letter: From your Valentine, and has since inspired billions of lovers to do the same.

The real message

While popular culture has grasped the elements of romance in his story, St Valentine actually teaches us much more about sacrifice and agape. His mission was to help others, stand up to injustice, follow Jesus and refuse to renounce his faith – even if all those things resulted in his death.

So, make this Valentine’s day a reminder of what it is to love your neighbour as yourself. Maybe mark it with a kind or sacrificial action, and with gratitude that – for most of us – we’re free to marry and practice Christianity, without fear of punishment.

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1. The best relationships are built on friendship

When you’re used to relating to someone as a friend, it can be hard to imagine being romantic or passionate with them. But a good friendship can be the best starting point for a healthy, loving relationship. Any happily married couple will tell you that, for a relationship to thrive and last, you need to be good friends, as well as romantic and sexual partners. If you’ve been pals for a while, you already know something of each other’s character and values, and care about the other’s wellbeing. That could be the foundation for a wonderful marriage.

2. You can’t turn back the clock

Of course, there’s always the risk that a relationship won’t work out and, sadly, that can leave you with less than you had before. Once the nature of a relationship changes, it can be very difficult to go back to being friends (although some people manage it successfully). So yes, if you express your romantic feelings, you run the risk of losing a valued friendship. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it, but it’s wise to be aware of the possible outcomes before making any rash moves, particularly if you’re not sure whether the other person feels the same.

3. Don’t force what isn’t there

Perhaps a friend is pursuing something more with you, and you feel you owe it to them to give it a go, even though you don’t feel the same. Or perhaps you want a relationship so badly that you think you can change your feelings (or theirs) from friendship to desire. Sadly, this rarely works out well. A healthy, long-term relationship needs attraction and sexual chemistry on both sides. It’s not fair on either of you to move forward if the feelings aren’t there.

4. Expect it to be awkward for a while

Maybe you’ve had feelings for this person for a long time. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it, and they’ve caught you by surprise by declaring their desires. Either way, if you decide to explore a relationship, it may feel strange, awkward and embarrassing to be sharing kisses and cuddles with someone you’ve previously viewed as a friend. That’s okay! Take it slowly and allow it to unfold naturally… if you’re right for each other, it’ll soon become your new ‘normal’.

5. Keep it discreet until you’re sure

If you share a friendship group or attend the same church, you can be sure that at the first whiff of romance, everyone’s going to take an interest in your new relationship. Knowing your every move is being watched and speculated about can put a lot of pressure on a blossoming romance. Some people in your circle may also feel uncomfortable, jealous or excluded by your changing relationship, and if it doesn’t work out, some may even take ‘sides’. So you may want to consider keeping your romance on the down-low while you work out your feelings and decide whether you have long-term potential.

6. Accept that it may not work out

While you may have had feelings for someone for a long time, you might have to face the painful possibility that they don’t see you as more than a friend. Or you may start a relationship, only to discover that, while you may be great as pals, you’re unsuited as partners. Failure and rejection are an inevitable part of the dating process – we all have to deal with it, sooner or later. If things don’t work out, treat your friend with kindness, respect and dignity, and move on. The right person for you is out there somewhere.

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Let’s start with the foundations. We need a strong sense of self and a healthy relationship with ourselves in order to date successfully and form a committed relationship with another. Without these foundations, we are prone to fall for the first person who crosses our path or we’ll give up on dating at the first hint of rejection because it hurts too much.

Which brings me on to the inner anchor. We need to have something to hold on to, something to help us to feel grounded, rooted and secure. God can be our inner anchor, but I also like the idea of building up our emotional core so that we feel solid inside. I particularly like the concept of an inner oak tree. Imagine your core is like a tree. Is it strong, able to withstand any shocks, like a sturdy oak? Or is it weak and spindly, easily blown to the ground?

How can you grow your inner oak so that you are more emotionally resilient? We could start with the basics – good nourishment. Are you fed and watered? Do you get enough fresh air? If not, do you need to look after yourself more? And how about your roots? Are you well supported and connected? How can you strengthen your network and feel part of a supportive community? And how can you dig deeper into your faith so that it can steady you when things get tough?

We’re likely to be much more successful at dating if we go out there with an inner oak tree inside, rather than a core that’s turned to mush.

When it comes to self-esteem, I hope it’s obvious why dating without self-worth is a bad idea. I know this from experience. I’ve dated when I haven’t felt good about myself – falling for men who didn’t value me or respect me, accepting crumbs, accepting less than I deserved. And I’ve dated with healthy self-esteem too and I’m pleased to say I’m getting married to a lovely man this June.

Self-esteem comes from doing estimable things – things that are worthy of great respect. So what estimable things can you do this week? How can you treat yourself as a valuable person? Can you make sure you take your lunch break at the office or leave work on time to get to your dance class or to that date you keep putting off? Can you get to bed on time and switch your phone off so that you’re not glued to the screen? Can you speak your truth or stand up for yourself, with family, friends or in your workplace?

When it comes to trust, it’s difficult to date without it. I was 43 when I finally committed to the man I’ll soon marry. This relationship had been a long time coming. If I hadn’t trusted that I’d eventually find love, I would have given up a long time ago. But because I trusted, I kept growing and developing. I kept learning more about myself, my dating patterns and my relationship history. And I kept changing those patterns so that I could find love.

I trusted that I would get there in the end. I trusted that the men who didn’t want to be with me weren’t right for me and that I’d meet my life partner when the time was right. And it worked. Do you trust that love will come your way? Do you have hope or are you down on dating? How can you build more trust?

Along with trust, I had faith. Faith that I was moving in the right direction. Faith that I deserved to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Faith that all the personal development work I was doing would yield fruit. How much faith do you have? And if your faith is wavering, how can you give it a boost?

The final thing that I’d like to say in my workshop for young adults with cancer and I’d like to share here with you is that it’s important to have fun with dating, to enjoy it. Let’s get out there. Let’s experiment. Let’s practice. Yes, at our own pace, stopping and resting when we need to, but let’s muster our courage and our confidence, flex our inner oak tree and head out on a date.

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1. Pray

Taking time out every day to spend with God can help to refocus on what really matters, particularly for those of us who are prone to introspection. Even just 10 mins at the start and end of each day can help to recentre and remind yourself that you are loved by the one who created you.

2. Read the Bible

January can be a good time to get reacquainted with your Bible. What are the verses that refresh and reassure you? Why not revisit some of your favourite stories, psalms or teachings. If you prefer a little more structure you could try following daily reading notes.

3.Relax

Life can get so busy and loaded with responsibilities, it can be hard to remember to stop and take a moment to relax. On particularly stressful days, find a space where you won’t be interrupted and take a moment to stop, breathe and ask the Holy Spirit in.

4. Get outside

It’s a well-proven fact that exposure to the natural world improves mental health. But with daylight hours being shorter at this time of year (if you live in the northern hemisphere!) it can be hard to find the time to get outside. Can you leave the house a little earlier and walk to work (at least part way), could you get out at lunchtime?

5. Practice gratitude

For each of us, there will always be things in our lives that we want to change and can be easier to focus on what we are striving for and forget what we already have. Take a moment each day to focus on something in your life that you really appreciate. It could be something as simple as a brief catch up with a friend or reminding yourself of those around you that love you.

6. Reach out to others

We know that despite the age of instant and free communication, loneliness and isolation are on the rise. Who in your life might not be having the best time at the moment? A quick message or phone call to a friend or relative can make all the difference.

If it’s more than just the January blues getting you down and you are dealing with stress, anxiety or depression then don’t suffer in silence. Remember, you are not alone and there are people who can help. Speak to a close friend, church leader or even your GP. If you can’t face that, call a helpline such as The Samaritans (116 123). Wishing you a happy and fulfilled start to the year.

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1. It allows you to take stock.

Coming out of a relationship gives you the opportunity to take a step back and reassess your life, what is important to you, and what you’re looking for in a relationship, and hopefully, a life partner. Sometimes when you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, it can be easy to just keep going with the flow, and not take the time to ask important questions like, ‘Why are we together?’, ‘Where is this relationship heading?’, ‘Can I see myself married to this person in the future?’, ‘Do we have similar goals and ambitions?’ and ‘Can we work together to achieve a common purpose?’ The end of a relationship forces you to take stock and address issues that may not have been addressed before, ask yourself tough questions, especially if you’ve made mistakes in the past and think about what lessons you have learnt.

2. It allows you to seek God’s plan for your life.

I’ve noticed that difficult times in my life draw me closer to God, and breakups are no different. At this point, you realise that God is present, and if you draw nearer to Him, He will draw nearer to you as His Word says. But, it’s also an opportunity to seek Him concerning His plan for your life and His will concerning marriage. In Jeremiah 29 verse 13 He says, ‘You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.’ In our brokenness, God is right there, listening, speaking and comforting us. As we draw nearer to Him, He guides us and sometimes even shows us why that relationship was not part of His perfect plan for our lives.

3. It frees you up to experience the fullness of what God has in store for you.

The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes from God and that He can do so much more than we could ever ask or think. When you leave a relationship that is not right for you, it frees you up to enter into what God has in store for you. Even if that relationship was not necessarily bad, or unhealthy, you may decide that your plans for the future do not align, and decide to go separate ways. Whilst the decision to go separate ways may be really difficult, it releases both parties to discover and live the best life that God has planned for them.

4. It can strengthen your friendships and relationships with others.

When you’re going through a breakup, if you’re anything like me you may call one or two of your closest friends and family and pour out your heart to them. Even if your friends may not have supported your relationship, you will find that your good friends will be there for you, listening to you as you recount things for the umpteenth time over the phone! Some may organise a day out, or fun activities to cheer you up. Friends that have been through similar situations can be very understanding and those moments of sharing and pouring out our hearts can draw us closer together.

5. It gives us hope for the future.

This may sound surprising. Hope? After a breakup? Chances are that you may not feel very hopeful after going through a difficult breakup. But, the Bible teaches that God orders the steps of the righteous, and that includes every aspect of our lives, including relationships! If that relationship you were hoping would end in marriage has suddenly ended, you can be sure that it is because God has another plan. And God’s plan is always better. Rejoice that God did not allow you to go through with something mediocre, or worse still, potentially dangerous for your future. Trust that what is to come is much better than what was before. Your better days are ahead, and that is something worth looking forward to!

Hope this encouraged you. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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The campaign, which can be seen on the London Underground and Manchester Metrolink this month has been created by award-winning dating site ChristianConnection.com. One advert states that “Love is patient, love is kind. (But sometimes hard to find).” That is, unless you’re looking in the right place.”

Joff Williams from Christian Connection explains: “We know that for many Christians who are seeking a partner, it’s really important to find someone who shares their faith. But this can be difficult when people lead such busy lives. After spending time at work, church and with friends and family, there can be little time left for dating. And there are so many dating sites and apps available now, it can be hard to know which one to choose”.

Thousands of people have already met a partner since the site launched nearly 20 years ago and many happy couples have been keen to share their stories and photos. One couple recently told their story to BBC News, in a feature exploring how people of faith find each other. Miriam and Emmanuel met on Christian Connection and have been happily married for six months. Emmanuel told the BBC: “I met other women who weren’t of the same faith as me, which was difficult. So, I thought if I want to get married [to a Christian], I need to refine this search” Miriam says, “It was as if we were best friends straight away! Now we are married I’m so excited for our future!”

January is traditionally the busiest time of year for online dating, as people make resolutions to get fit, eat healthier and find a partner. Williams says “We see membership numbers almost double in January, so it’s a great time to step out of your comfort zone and meet someone new. But whether you’re a Christian or not, single or otherwise, we hope this campaign will put a smile on your face at a time when we all need a little bit of positivity in our lives.”

Download a PDF of the adverts here

Download Hi-res JPEGs in a ZIP file here

You can find out more about Christian Connection here.

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The campaign, which can be seen on the Manchester Metrolink this month has been created by award-winning dating site ChristianConnection.com. One advert states that “Love is patient, love is kind. (But sometimes hard to find).” That is, unless you’re looking in the right place.”

Joff Williams from Christian Connection explains: “We know that for many Christians who are seeking a partner, it’s really important to find someone who shares their faith. But this can be difficult when people lead such busy lives. After spending time at work, church and with friends and family, there can be little time left for dating. And there are so many dating sites and apps available now, it can be hard to know which one to choose”.

Thousands of people have already met a partner since the site launched nearly 20 years ago and many happy couples have been keen to share their stories and photos. One couple recently told their story to BBC News, in a feature exploring how people of faith find each other. Miriam and Emmanuel met on Christian Connection and have been happily married for six months. Emmanuel told the BBC: “I met other women who weren’t of the same faith as me, which was difficult. So, I thought if I want to get married [to a Christian], I need to refine this search” Miriam says, “It was as if we were best friends straight away! Now we are married I’m so excited for our future!”

January is traditionally the busiest time of year for online dating, as people make resolutions to get fit, eat healthier and find a partner. Williams says “We see membership numbers almost double in January, so it’s a great time to step out of your comfort zone and meet someone new. But whether you’re a Christian or not, single or otherwise, we hope this campaign will put a smile on your face at a time when we all need a little bit of positivity in our lives.”

Download a PDF of the adverts here

Download Hi-res JPEGs in a ZIP file here

You can find out more about Christian Connection here.

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1. VR experience

A Virtual Reality experience – where you put on a headset to ‘see’ and move around in whole alternative world in front of your eyes – makes the most of a new and growing technology. VR can take the form of animation, education, otherwise impossible adventures and voyages, games, art installations and much more. Look out for VR in museums, bringing the past into the present, as well as Virtual Reality cafes and pop-ups in your area. You could enjoy a date – and an adventure in space or history – that’ll give you something to talk about afterwards.

2. Geocaching treasure hunt

If you’d prefer to get outdoors and find out if you collaborate well with your date, try geocaching. A kind of digital treasure hunt, geocaching uses GPS technology to guide you to hidden ‘caches’ – small containers with trinkets and a log book – using your mobile GPS to navigate coordinates. It’s simple to start, too. Just download a free app for your phone and set off with your date on a hunt for the unexpected. Don’t forget to check the weather first!

3. Fly a drone

Previous generations flew kites, now we can fly drones too. These amazing devices are remote controlled flying machines, and range from the super expensive to the affordable. So if you fancy learning the controls and taking some breathtaking aerial photos (don’t worry – you stay on the ground!) to keep as a memento of your day, this is a high tech way to surprise your date and get some fresh air. Just make sure you follow the rules of flight and keep away from airports!

4. Short films

A movie and meal is a traditional date night and can seem a little daunting if you’re just getting to know someone. But if you’d like to make it a little different, opt for a short film or two. The shorter running time gives you more chance to chat afterwards and doesn’t tie you to a full two or three-hour slot – perfect if it’s the first meet. Plus you may just discover an exciting new piece of independent cinema in the process, and as it’s usually indie cinemas or alternative venues that show short films – often with a nice cafe on site – you might get to explore a new place too. Lots of potential conversation starters.

5. Vegan dining

Whatever your usual diet, why not have an ethical, epicurean adventure and go animal-free? Try one of the very many vegan eateries popping up all around and #Veganuary (going vegan for the first month of the year) is a great time to start! Discover new flavours – or introduce your date to a favourite vegan haunt – and share a meal with plenty of nutritious plant-based goodness. With vegan cakes, pizzas, burgers and even chicken alternatives becoming popular, you might not even notice the difference!

6. Mocktail making

If you’re doing ‘dry January’ or are teetotal you can still enjoy the creativity and fun in cocktail making by going for alcohol-free ‘mocktail’ options. Sign up for a mixology class, or buy in a bunch of ingredients if you’re comfortable being at home together, and have a blast mixing weird and wonderful concoctions using your favourite fruity flavours. Inventing a cocktail dedicated to your date also makes for a personal, romantic gesture, if you’re feeling daring!

7. Upcycling projects

Want a creative date but strapped for cash? If you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty, look into giving your belongings a new lease of life and investigate ‘upcycling’. Revitalise old unwanted furniture, clothes and random objects by upcycling them with a re-paint, new upholstery, or an artisan design technique. See if there’s a local upcycling hub to visit together or look at instruction videos online and make your project as simple or elaborate as you like. It’s another great way to share ideas and work together, learning about your date’s potential DIY and art skills along the way – and get a home makeover too.

8. Foraging

If a standard stroll in the woods seems a little too pedestrian, join a guided forage. Foraging takes you into the countryside – or even into unexpected areas of plant life in urban areas – to discover what nature has to offer. Not only will you learn about medicinal plants on your doorstep, but you’ll get the sense of achievement that comes with finding your own food, along with fresh air and exercise. Joining a group also means you won’t be alone with a stranger if this is your first date – and if you do discover anything that looks edible, check with your guide before risking it!

9. Silent disco

Dance like no one’s watching with a silent disco. Instead of music blasting across the room, you control the volume as the music is piped directly into headphones each dancer is given, meaning when you want a break or to chat to your date, you can just take them off for some peace. Whether dancing through the streets or in a fun venue (museums and zoos have been known to host silent discos in the evenings), you can cast off your inhibitions as you boogie along with others, with the beats in your headphones. It makes for a silly, funny and joyful date – although won’t be for everyone, especially if you’re feeling shy, but it’s a fun way to join in without feeling too visible.

It’s a New Year and a new start. January is a great time to get out meeting people. So whether you utilise the latest tech, take in the great outdoors, or do something to promote sustainability, have a blessed time dating in 2019.

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1. ‘I’ll put the effort into creating a knockout profile’
Your online dating profile is like your shop window or advert, helping other members decide whether to get in touch with you, so it’s worth taking the time to write the best one you can. Profiles that attract interest tend to be concise, lively and positive, and give a flavour of who you are as a unique individual, so include something about your special interests, how you love to spend your time, and your priorities in life. Keep pictures clear, simple and smiley. Choose images in which you look your best, but don’t overdo it – heavy make-up, soft focus or overly-posed pictures can be off-putting. Photos that are several years out of date are considered misleading and aren’t viewed kindly!

2. ‘I’ll be bold and proactive about starting conversations’
If you’re new to online dating and you’re a bit nervous – which is completely natural – it’s tempting to sit tight and passively wait for people to approach you (us ladies are especially guilty of this). But remember, everyone’s in the same boat. You’ll get better results and meet more people if you reach out with messages and waves, start conversations and get active on the discussion boards. The more you put in, the more you get out. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet that great person because you don’t have the courage to say ‘Hi’ – just dive in and get involved!

3. ‘I’ll keep an open mind about who I might meet’
It’s good to have an idea of the kind of person you’re looking for and to know your deal breakers. However, outside of that, it pays to give anyone with any potential a chance, as you might be surprised who you click with. Many people are happily married to someone who wasn’t their ‘type’ – or so they thought! – and who they might have dismissed on a dating website. In fact, if your type hasn’t worked out up until now, maybe it’s time to try something different! A wise person is open to finding that spark where they least expect it.

4. ‘If I click with someone, I’ll meet up with them quickly’
Research shows that in most successful relationships that start online, the couple met within two weeks of initial contact. That’s right: two weeks! That might seem fast, but a lengthy online or phone relationship can build up pressure and expectation, making it awkward when you finally meet. It’s also easy to create a false image of someone in your mind, only to be disappointed when you meet in person – and frustrated that you’ve wasted so much of each other’s time. Meeting up quickly (if possible) means you can discover if there’s any attraction, plus there’s less time to build up those nerves. (But however long you’ve been chatting to someone, you should always follow safety precautions.)

5. ‘I’ll be kind and courteous to everyone online’
Dating websites can come as something of a shock to the system! In real life, someone is unlikely to ignore you or rudely reject you to your face, but the same doesn’t always apply online – even, sadly, on a Christian website. Try to remember that rejection isn’t personal (how can it be if they don’t know you?), and rudeness says more about them than about you. Lead by example by treating people as you’d like to be treated – reply to messages, even if it’s to say, ‘Thank you but I don’t feel we have potential’; be polite and courteous (unless someone is being demanding or inappropriate); and if you need to reject someone, do it firmly but kindly.

6. ‘I’ll stay positive and motivated, and trust God for the outcome’
While some online daters meet their perfect partner quickly, for most of us, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You might have to kiss (or at least have a coffee with) a lot of frogs to find your prince (or princess). So try not to become discouraged. Stay positive and motivated, and try to have fun (although it’s okay to take a break if you become fatigued or jaded). Take it to God in prayer, and trust that the right person for you is out there. And remember that every person you meet is one step closer to finding your true love!

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