5 Questions to Ask When Making a Decision

5 Questions to Ask When Making a Decision

July 31, 2014

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” Luke 14:28-30 (NKJV)

Lysa TerKeurst

I wasn’t in the mood to take on the stress of making another decision. I was just so tired. So spent. Not in the mood to deal with one more thing.

A family friend in her early 20s was looking to move out of her apartment and into a less expensive living situation. We adore this young lady. She’s spent a lot of time with our family. She’s lovely and no trouble at all.

When she asked to move in with us however, I felt a deep sense of caution. We’d been helping a family member through a difficult situation that required a lot of my time and emotional energy.

But maybe I could do this, too, I thought. My heart was certainly saying yes. But my heart and my reality don’t always line up.

So, I knew I needed to take myself through a process of evaluating this decision. And my evaluation would have to include my capacity.

It’s good to use wisdom, knowledge and an understanding of your resource capacity to assess your decisions.

In fact, Luke 14:28-30 encourages it: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?”

I ran this situation through the filter of 5 questions:

1. Do I have the resources to handle this request along with my current responsibilities?
2. Could this fit physically?
3. Could this fit financially?
4. Could this fit spiritually?
5. Could this fit emotionally?

I dug through my purse to retrieve the only paper I could find — a random receipt. I scrawled out a list of things to consider when making this decision.

Did saying yes to this make sense in each of these areas?

Physically? We had a spare bedroom.
Financially? Her small rent payment would cover any additional expenses.
Spiritually? We are Christians, and we want to love other people. This seemed to fall right in line with our core values.

But there was one more aspect to be considered. Could I handle this emotionally? Did I really have the white space to do this and keep an attitude of love?

This is where I felt the most caution. Remember how I was feeling at the time? So tired. So spent.

I’ve learned to pay attention to my emotional capacity and be honest with myself when I’m stretched too thin. When I allow myself to get overloaded emotionally, the worst version of me emerges. And that’s not good for anyone.

As I continued to count the cost and assess my available resources, I felt I should say no. But I also felt I was expected to say yes. Do I go with what I’m expected to do? Or what I feel I should do?

Whenever there is a conflict between what we feel we’re expected to do and what we feel we should do, it’s time to step back from the decision. And seek clarity from the only source free from entanglements.

God.

Praying for wisdom and considering these 5 questions gave me a peace that God would be her provider. Therefore, my saying yes when I knew I should say no would prevent her from experiencing His best provision.

Amazingly, when I called her to explain why this wouldn’t work, she was giddy with excitement over an apartment she’d found that was right in line with her budget.

God provided. He provided my friend with a great living situation. He provided me with another assurance that not every opportunity was meant to be my assignment.

Dear Lord, thank You for providing wisdom whenever we ask for it. Please guide me in the decisions I need to make today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 24:3-4, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Overcome the agony of hard choices by embracing a wisdom-based decision-making process in Lysa’s new book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Although it doesn’t release until August 12, you can be among the first to pre-order your copy by clicking here!

You’re invited to join Lysa for the release of her book, The Best Yes! She’s doing a fun, free webcast on August 12 that you don’t want to miss. Click here to sign up for the information list.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think of a decision you need to make in your life right now. Then, run it through the 5-question filter Lysa talked about today. Remember to be honest about your current commitments and resource availability.

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Comments

  1. I find myself often doing what I’m expected to do versus what’s best for me. Maybe it’s the pure fact that I’m super guilty of people pleasing…or maybe it’s the quick “I need to fix-it” attitude I carry. Either way, the process of stopping, questioning, and taking it to God has definitely not taken a priority with my “doing” attitude. I appreciate your perspective and value the reminder that I need to take it to God. 🙂 I’m so excited to get the new book! This “pre-book insight” is so ‘to my heart’ and what I need! God has definitely given me a powerful friend in you. 🙂

    • My wonderful husband, Ron Smith and I are trying to figure out when we are going to want to eventually move to our own place. We have been asking ourselves if it’ll work for us… financially, emotionally, even phys-ically. Ultimately, we know that God is always in control over whatever we may go through at each stage of our lives. No decision is going to be easy for us to handle all by ourselves. That’s why we should have a chance to have others help us in our decisions. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” Luke 14:28-30 (NKJV)
      Wow! What a wonderfull verse to begin the morning with! Physical structures are man made. I think that this verse is talking about how God is our strong fortress in all that we may be going through. God can help us overcome whatever challenges that we may be dealing with through out our entire lives.
      “NOT EVERY opportunity is MEANT TO BE my assignment.”
      Wow! How so incredibly true! Whatever opportunity may present itself to be some-thing that God wants us to do. Nevertheless, some opportunities may not be some-thing that is an assignment from God. We have to know how to ask God what oppor-tunities are things He wants us to do, then determine what opportunities may be things we want.
      “Dear Lord, thank You for providing wisdom whenever we ask for it. Please guide me in the decisions I need to make today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”~Lysa TerKeurst
      Wow! What a very powerful prayer! It’s something we should constantly do
      whenever there are any difficult decisions that may need to be made throughout our lifetime. No decision is going to be very easy to make on our own. We need to determine whether we’ve got what it takes to make this happen physically,
      spiritually, financially, even emotionally.
      Proverbs 24:3-4, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is
      established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful
      treasures.” (NIV)
      Wow! What a powerful thought! When we are wise, a foundation for what needs to be done can be built successfully. When we know what needs to be done, we are filled with whatever God may have waiting for us in His wonderous and mighty kingdom. See More

  2. Carolyn says:

    I was curious about your reference to “white space” in the devotional this morning. Could you explain this, expand it oe share where I might find more to read about this concept? Making decisions is particularly difficult for me!

    • Two books might be helpful in this area: Richard Swenson’s “Margin” and Bonnie Gray’s “Finding Spiritual Whitespace.” It’s all about leaving room for God to work.

  3. This one so hit me in the heart. I had a similar incidence with a family member, a facorite aunt. With her health issues I knew working full time away from our home – that was my holdback. In my heart, I felt compelled to let her come and stay, but with her medical and emotional needs, I felt reserved. God provided for her a friend that could be with her always and a secure dwelling place. Not every opportunity is meant to be my assignment. Living as a christian sometimes can cause people to ‘expect’ yes at all we are asked to do and it tugs at your heart because you think: “Serve one another in Love” (Galations 5:13). Overexpending one’s self to the point of exhaustion is not serving in Love. That’s why wisdom is so important. Thank you Lysa! Great insight and clarity so well put! Proverbs 31.org is a wonderful enrichment to me! God bless all!

  4. CINDY J says:

    Good words today 🙂

  5. Such a great reminder that saying “No” can sometimes be the way in which we need to leave God room to say His Best “Yes”! Love you Lysa! <3

  6. Thank you Lysa, wonderful words of wisdom and insight.

  7. God’s timing is so perfect. Our church is gearing up for Sunday School next month and I am stressing over deciding whether or not I should teach again. After, three years, I have found joy in preaching God’s word to little children, however, I a, yearning to nurture myself by attending an adult class this year. Thank you for this Devotion today. I will continue to pray to The Lord for his wisdom and guidance.

  8. Kkenice says:

    Wow! All I can say is Amen, Amen, and Amen! Thank you for your insight and wisdom on this devotion! So right on time! Sometimes I feel crazy when I’m not lead to do the “Christian” thing but we have to know that God gives us true discernment and when we take the time to get still and listen He will let us know when to not get in his way :). I am very grateful for Proverbs 31 ministries and appreciate each of you! Another right on time devotion!

  9. Kathy Long says:

    …and sometimes all the questions have ‘yes’ answers and God still says ‘no’ for reasons we won’t understand till much later. That’s where the process of learning to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit is learned. Feeling God’s peace about a situation is my biggest gauge.

  10. Great thoughts. Perfect questions. Real life frustrations. We have these challenges all the time. Sometimes the answer is Yes but often it is No. It is hard to balance needs, help and ministry while keeping hearts, minds, wills and emotions in line with God’s perfect will. Thanks for this encouraging post.

  11. Lysa, this was a word I needed today. Not about something huge, but about something little (but important to me). My husband and I have been debating about whether to spend the money to go to see a world-famous classical musician play… at $125 per ticket. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I felt like the Lord was telling me to let it go! And I didn’t want to! But financially, it wouldn’t be God’s best for us, even though we could chase it anyway. As soon as I read your opening Scripture, I felt like the Holy Spirit was poking me in the ribs and saying, “See? You need to count the cost of that concert – and it’s more than just a ticket price!” Oh well. Bye-bye, concert. LOL. Thanks for the word!

  12. Thank you for obiedient and sharing this experience in a devotional. I needed t! God is so faithful and I have to remember that feeling of caution should not be ignored. I need to always step back and seek God.

  13. Cristina says:

    Please pray for me, I have to make lots of desions all this month a bout my mothers house an my resources are running out. I need lot of wisdom.

  14. I am going to use your tips in the future!! I had a similar situation come up a few weeks ago–I said yes quickly for the reasons that you listed. Before the person moved in God blessed me with wisdom from someone else who pointed out that I didn’t have the “white space” or the physical health to deal with allowing someone with children to come live with me. Having to go to the person and take back my yes felt horrible, but the following day when I had to sleep most of the day due to my thyroid issues I began to see clearly that it was the best thing that I could have done for both of us. Thank you for sharing this message with us!!

    • Lora, I had the same thing happen in June, when we had offered to take in a family friends daughter in the event their eviction went through, all of our answers to these questions were yes, a few weeks later our circumstances had dramatically changed…and my answer was a no to many of the questions, while my husband knew that our answers were no’s he felt it was wrong to go back on our word. My no’s were so strong, it caused me physical pain, and both my husband and I much emotional pain. We rent the basement from my mother in law, and of course my mother in law, and in law siblings heard us fighting. My mother in law, sibling in laws and husband, worked out a plan to take her in still and I went along with it, even though the idea still was causing me physical pain ( I have anxiety and issues with dealing with stress…in the past my physical response to anxiety and stress was to throw up or pick up whatever virus was going around, evidently my new physical response to stress and anxiety is to have acne breakouts and chest pains, definitely not a heart attack as I was not having other symptoms, and my father has had chest pains associated with anxiety and stress). Thankfully, the next day we received a call from our friend, members of his church had space become available in their own home, and would allow both him and his daughter to stay as long as it took for him to get back on his feet. Had we said yes, and moved her in immediately then this little girl would be in a loving environment, but her father would not be there with her. Their current living situation is what turned out to be best for them

  15. My husbands last day of work it tomorrow. The company he works for his moving their office out of state. I am trying to figure out how to use this devotion when it comes to making the right choice for a new job. He was offered one but it will be working evenings and we will seldom see each other. We desperately need the money to survive. I am terrified if he doesn’t take this job nothing else will come along, at least not in the very near future. I am trying to have faith that my heavenly Father will provide and take care of us but it is SO difficult. How do I use these steps or something similar to help our hearts be ok with accepting a not so right job offer or holding out?

    • If he has been offered a job, let him take it straight away!!! He can then look for another position whilst actually working and earning money. You can see this as our Lord’s provision immediately. And what about you looking for (another) job — sorry, not sure if you are actually working at the moment. You and your husband are in my prayers. Gosia 🙂

  16. Love this! I am SO guilty of saying yes when I should say no. I am learning that if I ALWAYS say yes it doesn’t give other an opportunity to serve and/or grow in their walk of faith and trust in God. Saying no, sometimes, is the best yes you can give! Thank you for this. God bless ~ Tamara

  17. Thank you so much for posting this.pls pray for me.

  18. Tura Klepfer says:

    Lisa thank you so much for this devotion today. God placed it here for me today and I didn’t even realize that I needed it until I read it. Thank you.

  19. Hello I enjoy the devotion today I have been struggling with some decision in my life To find employment and stabilty And make the right decisions And i need wisdom and prayer This was very helpful thanks for the devotionals Carolyn

  20. anonymous says:

    I like to refer to Jesus’s words (the red words) when it comes to helping others. <3 not a scripture about other people laughing. Glad to hear God provided for your friend. 🙂

  21. Thank you so much for this. I will tuck these questions and scripture away. I recently had to make a difficult decision that I am still struggling with my “no” just a bit. This post confirmed that I did indeed make the right decision. God Bless!

  22. Kind of similar consideration to what Kathy L noted: Even if the 5 questions line up but something feels “off”, trust that God is leading you. I had a chance to make a trip to France this summer to help a friend pack for her return to the US (and enjoy her as a local guide, of course!). The five questions aligned but it just didn’t “feel right.” I told her no. During the window when I would have been traveling, my husband and I have been dealing with his older brother’s hospitalization — something God knew would happen, but we didn’t. And all the activities she’d planned for me, she did as “good byes” with her local friends — so much better for closing and maintaining those relationships. God knew more than we did about what was best for that 2 weeks in July.

  23. The Lord has been teaching me lately how to make wise ministry decisions through Paul’s words in Eph. 2:10.
    10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
    He created specific good works beforehand for me, according to how He has gifted me, and calls me to walk in those for His kingdom and glory. This is right in line with your encouragement of “not every opportunity is my assignment”. As a recovering people pleaser, I am learning to say an enthusiastic “yes!” to the ministry assigned to me by my heavenly Father, and a gentle and respectful “no thank you” to other opportunities at church presented to me that fall outside that perameter.
    My husband and I are empty-nesters, and worship at a church made up of primarily twenty-somethings. God revealed to me through Titus 2:3-5 that He was calling me to minister to the sweet young ladies there. This was my assignment. Verse 3 says, “the older women ARE to teach what is good and so train the young women…”. It doesn’t say, “If you have time, or if you feel qualified”. This is God’s design, and He has given me such a love for these young ladies and a passion to see them grow in an authentic faith in Christ. Now almost 6 years later, I have gently and respectfully turned down other ministry opportunities, but I am confident that I am walking in the good works that God created beforehand for me. Thank you, Lysa, for your encouragement today!

  24. I’m going to have to process this one a bit. We live in a world that screams me me me. When Jesus walked the earth his life was not about what was best for him. He paid the greatest cost to do what was best for us even when we didn’t think so. I don’t think we need to say yes to everyone but I also feel we need to be a little more willing to sacrifice what we think may be best for us. If we only serve people when all the pieces seem to fit we will miss many blessings. My greatest joys have come from serving people in situations I didn’t feel I fit.

    • I agree with you. This devotion seemed some what “luke warm” to me. Luke 14:28-30 is talking about building a tower and making sure you can finish the task. I do agree with Lysa that one should consider all the aspects of the cost of helping someone before you commit to a “yes” but I think God still expects us to give our all. The two verses right before the scripture she uses (Luke 14:25-27) says, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” These are really strong words, but following God’s call is not easy- always worth it- but not easy. As you mentioned earlier, a lot of times joy comes from serving when it’s hard to serve. Perseverance comes when we are “spent” but continue fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith (2 Tim 4:7.)

      I think Matthew 25 is a better way of looking at making decisions, especially when helping others.
      ““Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “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.’

      I really hope Lysa reads threads in the comments section because I would love to hear her thoughts on this. There are definitely times when saying “no” is what is best, especially when the end goal is people pleasing, but if it is serving others I feel like we should do everything we can to say “yes” because we are actually serving Jesus.

    • C. Smith says:

      I know what you mean. If I haven’t been through several situations myself I would probably have said the same thing. I did what I thought I was supposed to be doing for years, even when I felt the little nudge that there was something else I needed to be doing instead. However I kept doing the same thing because I honestly felt like no one else could do it and I needed to sacrifice myself for the very reasons you mentioned.
      But then one day I made the break. I recruited and trained others then gently stepped away. It wasn’t easy but after years of nudging from the Holy Spirit, I knew I couldn’t deny him any longer.
      Guess what! God has placed me in an incredible ministry that I am so much better suited for AND it’s so much more than I have ever imagined. In addition, stress levels have gone down and my relationship with my husband and children have improved. Yes, there is a different set of sacrifices, however am joyfully serving Him again!

  25. I am going through some issues that require me to be strung out – actually have been for the last 8 years. I feel as though I was put in the position I am, for the benefit of God and to witness to others. However, what happens when we feel we’ve met that brick wall – where we don’t feel as though we can go any farther. We want to do God’s will, yet we are weak. Seeking God only in our time of weakness is not something that should be encouraged. We need to praise Him at times of glory also (Which is done frequently). Although, it seems like lately there are more problems than what we started with, more stress, more anxiety, more cost…Sometimes I feel really lost and it’s a daily struggle to keep in mind that I am merely a pawn in the game and only here to do what I’m told…but, God, I’m tired…I’m spent, I don’t know what to do….Thanks for sharing Lysa

    • Heather. You are not “merely a pawn in the game”. You are God’s unique creation. You are never alone (yes, believe it!). God cares for you, unique and beautiful as you are. Don’t worry about the devotion itself, I think it missed the mark for many of us. Seems that you and I, we have both “hit a wall”. I can relate to what you are saying, without wanting to tell my whole story here. You are in my prayers, though. Can you take a day off at all, just try and relax, and be? Or a few hours, even? Try to find your own path? Or, just do “the next right thing”? I’d like to get to know you better. All the very best, God bless, Gosia

  26. Mary Beth says:

    I wish I had this along time ago. Even now. I have someone living with my husband and me and the emotional stress is starting to wear on me. This person is trying to find a job and has an interview next week (please pray that he gets it). I’m fearful if I give him a time frame to find his own place certain family members will be mad at me. I really don’t know how to handle this situation. As a Christian I feel it is my obligation to keep a roof over his head and food in his belly. As a family friend I feel the same way but looking from the outside why is it my responsibility to do this!!! See what I mean . . .

  27. Mrs. McLaughlin says:

    This is good advise, but I would say it is missing one major KEY concept. You are making this decision by yourself. What you have outlined is a very good process for decision making. I would only add that after you have followed this process, you should pray, then bring this to your husband to make the decision. A man’s role is to lead his family. You are depriving him of his God given role. I would suggest that you always ask your husband when making any big decision. In my opinion, you are bringing too much stress on yourself when God has provided a leader in your life. If not a husband, then your dad, uncle, brother, elder, anyone you can consult will greatly reduce stress.

    Don’t forget about the wisdom God has instilled in the leader in your life! And don’t take this authority away from him.

  28. Michelle Bisson says:

    In the midst of several life changing decisions. I tend to get sidetracked with others needs and wants interfering. Perfect timing

  29. Deborah says:

    This devotion is so timely. I wish that I had sought God’s wisdom when in a similar situation with a family member instead of automatically saying yes in order not to have hurt feelings. Now all I can do is pray for God to intervene in a situation where I am miserable.

  30. This is an amazing Devotion for people pleasers like myself.This year God has been challenging me to say no to people that are not my responsibility even though I love them,when I have said no to some they didn’t like that I have some new Boundaries established but I’m ok because God has shown me which way to go and He never leaves me.I guess God has been house cleaning some friends that were not really.

  31. This was very encouraging though I think we should add one more thing to consider: What is God teaching me right now?
    I am in a situation that I could easily change and chalk it up to not having the emotional capacity to endure it. However, Gos has been taking me through yet another time of learning to depend on Him and not my own strength. I think all your numbered questions are great, but we have to remember that we aren’t doing this life on our own. God is there through all of it with us…even when we think we don’t have the resources, can’t do it physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually. If I were to change the situation I’m in, I would be missing out on so many blessings from being obedient to God and learning through this time, as well as the people who are being blessed by my obedience.

  32. Wow! This really blessed me!

  33. Kim Autry says:

    Thank you for thinking out loud. I like to say yes and often find myself feeling stretched thin.
    I appreciate how real your devotionals are and how quickly I can apply them to my life.

  34. Latasha says:

    Thank you Lysa for that real life devotion. I needed that. Everybody and everything is not your assignment. You taught me how to pray and ask and recognize my assignment. It’s similar to my associate friend and I begin to tell her no after many episodes of yes. Because I wasn’t helping her to learn and know God’s very best. The only difference in our situations is my associate friend gotten upset and it turned out to a argument. But it’s better know. It’s just I prayed and asked God to help her find her way and she did. But she also demanded all my time and I had to tell her the truth that God opened up all these doors for her job training rent payment income school a church and counseling and testimony of how she’s not the same women she was seventeen years ago committing crimes. Even though I know Lysa family friend was kind. My associate friend was at times but she had rather someone give their all and cried and stomp their feet and became envious over someone else success and mine which is my testimony is because she didn’t appreciate she would tell me all God done for her so she would become jealous and immature and angry and want everyone attention. Even though I’m still in great grief over this associate friend counting other people blessings and becoming envious it’s because she weren’t counting her own and she felt other people didn’t deserve their blessings. Today she can see God and him working on her she became better than yesterday. But I learned that she wasn’t my assignment and I continued to pray for her. Every know and then I have to say acknowledge God. But God knows I was being pulled thin. But because of Lysa devotion I became thicker. Love ya !!!! (Lysa♡♥♡♥♥Congrats!!!) Yes!!!! The Best Yes!!!!

  35. Great word for a recovering co-dependent. I can’t wait for the book!

  36. Jennifer says:

    In my devotional time I have learned to seek wisdom before making decisions…I have not seen the 5 questions. Your post spoke directly to me today,thank you!

  37. Sheryl Mulder says:

    Such an excellent well timed Word.
    Thank you

  38. This. It’s what my heart needs to grasp. What God has been working from the deep insides of me. “Whenever there is a conflict between what we feel we’re expected to do and what we feel we should do, it’s time to step back from the decision. And seek clarity from the only source free from entanglements.
    God.” Thank you for putting words to it.

  39. THANK YOU for such clear thots and wisdom…..I need this burned into my mind! I say yes too many times simply because I think it is expected of me!!!!!

  40. Ho Lysa,
    I was not able to pre order your new book The Best Yes. My security virus said your site was not secure.
    Could I please make an order by telephone? If not, please tell me how I can get a pre-ordered copy.
    I want to give to my daughters, who are stressed with daily living decision, raising a Godly family, et.
    Sincerely,
    A Godly Mom looking out for her children,
    Lille Osborne

  41. Thank you for this devotion. It was timely and an answer to my hearts prayers concerning taking a job or not. I am blessed by the clarity and God-touch expressed here. Thank you so very much…God is timely and answers even before we call…God bless you as you share your words from God.

  42. Vicki MUSSELMAN says:

    Thank you for this. Such good wisdom.

  43. I’m worried about this message. It seems a bit calculated to me. What about: Mark 12:30-32 New American Standard Bible (NASB):
    “(…) and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second [commandment] is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Unconditional love? Prayerfully, Gosia 🙂

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