Celebrate returning to faith, hope, culture and life with community.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Hoping for a Love That Makes Us Silly



 The Stone Collective is a community making much of Jesus as we create art, photography, prose, poems or music that commemorate the wonderful things God does in our lives.

Based on the passage in 1 Samuel 7:12-14, each month we will collect Ebenezer Stones as a regularly practice in the art of worship via our creativity. Want to join in on The Stone Collective? Create your own Stone and link up to LIVE IT OUT! Blog. #TheStoneCollective







 

Let's face it, we all act a little silly in love. 

Once, when I was a junior in college I fell down an entire flight of stairs in my apartment. An entire flight of stairs.

Why?

Because I was too busy texting a new romantic interest. A cute boy had shown interest in me, despite my entire lack of coordination and grace. I was excited, so I skipped a step.



If we're all honest with ourselves, we know that sometimes, as women, we have swooning-tendencies when it comes to falling in love.

But even if you don't classify yourself as a girly-girl when it comes to crushes, or dates, or being swept away by romance, there are still ways of acting crazy in love with people that we know and trust outside of the context of romance, isn't there?

I have a group of girlfriends, my a capella group from college, who I can be completely, unabashedly, whole-heartedly myself around. We're released from having it all together around each other. We can be run down, anxious, sad, happy, goofy, mean, ridiculous, inspiring for no reason. Or. For many reasons. All at once.

We can playfully yell at people on the street from the inside of our cars. We can become regulars at the local tavern and sing along to "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," that the band plays. Every time.


We can be the very worst and the very best versions of ourselves together.

It's silly. It's love.

 


Sometimes, though, we feel the need to be our very best, serious-selves for everyone around us. At work, at play, on the internet...

Or even, through our quiet times and devotionals.

I was explaining this to my current love interest earlier this week. A man who makes me smile and laugh. A man I can be silly with.

I confessed him that it was hard for me to carve out time each morning to pray and journal when daily routines get in the way, or when I'm (honestly) struggling very much to believe it all in my very core.



It seems a little silly, sometimes. To trust a God you can't see. To trust His word. To base careers, and schedules, and life goals around an entity that we can't see.



But I know that God loves me, still. Even in the midst of doubt. Even in the midst of pushing him away. I know that I can be completely myself, the woman full of so many contradictions, to this Being that guides my path, even when I'm too silly to stop and realize what is going on.

He doesn't dismiss my struggles. And He doesn't glaze

over them either.

 

He takes me deeper and deeper. Absorbing me into love, circumstances, relationships, friendships, community and daily tasks that allow me to be myself. The very best and the very worst.




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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lessons Learned from Watching the Bride

Maybe she'll be on the arm of her father. Or maybe life's tragedies took over her story and a faithful brother will be standing by her side.

No matter her circumstance, no matter her history or her present, on the day of her wedding, she'll only carry a bouquet.

It certainly won't look the same as all the others. I happen to have a sweet friend getting married in a few months who will carry a collection of brooches given to her by her friends and relatives.

Whatever she holds, be it peonies or daises, brooches or pompoms, her bouquet will only be a symbol of loveliness, a statement of who she is with her own personal flair.

It will not be a symbol of her past. She won't step-and-touch with her hurts, her mistakes or her former lovers–men or idols. She will only carry her bouquet.

And she will be carried, too, a little. By the weightlessness of love. By the pressure of seating charts and guests lists. Of in-laws and (let's be honest) bridesmaids.

 

She'll be swept away by the march down the aisle.


Not that the past doesn't matter, of course. Not that her worth was only measured on the day her groom knelt down and asked her to be his bride. Her story before her romance is important. It is stunning.

But, the most beautiful thing about a bride is knowing that a different pocket of her story is about to unfold like the petals from a bold bouquet.

And who doesn't love new chapters? Especially those that require you let go of one way of life to make room for another.

























There is a book we were required to read in journalism school called the Things They Carried, an "almost memoir" of a man's experience in the Vietnam War. The story opens with the image of soldiers and the items they chose to bring with them on their journey. They were reminders of loveliness of their lives back home, before the war. Before the destruction.

They were treasures that they held onto with clenched fists in the midst of trenches and grenades. Can you imagine how heavy their packs must have been? How spending days at a time on their feet with the extra weight on their backs affected how they moved and stretched in the war?

Their lives, obviously, were not easy. But how much easier would their march in the trenches have been if their loads had been lessened? If they chose not to carry the past with them?

Girlfriends, we might need to take a cue from brides as we all enter this cyclone of joyful wedding seasons. I know I do.

You see, we don't need to carry anything from our pasts into 

the future.


Because if we're believers, we're invited to be a part of a different wedding. A ceremony that showcases Christ as the bridegroom, and the Church as his bride. He redeems our past, and recovers our mistakes.

We don't need to hold onto them. We don't need to support them with our backs, or march with them as shields in front of us.

We can let go, and choose to only bring the good, noble, true and honorable along with us as we step into our futures. Whatever they hold.

We don't have to bring anything else with us.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Crack in My Windshield

Psssst! Hello, dear reader! Please be advised, the subject matter below may be a trigger for some of you. If this is the case, please know that you are loved and you are beautiful. I will say that several times throughout the post, because it is irreversibly true. If you have experienced this, or know someone who has, please report it immediately. The only thing worse than being assaulted is allowing the perpetrator get away with it. You can't control what happened to you, but you can control the actions you take to help protect other women from having to endure the same hardship you have.


***

Yes, the Little Black Dress series is primarily dedicated to singles for the month of February.

However, this post, specifically, is for the one-in-three women who have been torn apart by sexual assault.

It's a hard topic to get into. Few people–myself very much included–have courage enough to say the hard stuff.

But for some people it's easy to make assumptions on this hard stuff without actually having gone through it. Unfortunately (for whatever reason) their voices are louder. That needs to change.

This post is a response to an article I read somewhere in the deep jungle of judgement on the internet. I won't dignify it by linking to it. I'd rather no one give it any more attention.

Essentially it was shaming women who have been raped or assaulted. Telling them that they should stop "crying wolf" because it is their fault they put themselves in a situation to be taken advantage of.

In other words, it was an irresponsible published lie after lie after outrageous, heart-stopping lie.

Ladies, there is a place where you can turn and rest. There is a place where you can recover from the insecurity that dwells in your heart. I hope with all my heart you discover a bit of it here. Because you are loved and you are beautiful.

Don't let ignorant editorials on the internet tell you differently. Forgive me if this one in particular does not do you the justice you deserve.

You deserve justice.

You deserve the world.



Half an inch wide is the crack in my windshield.

I was within the safety of my own car. Driving on the highway.

And then pop! went the rock that sparked a crevice. Small, but noticeable. Enough to do some damage to the glass.

I was following all of the rules of the road. I was driving with my hands at eight and four o'clock. I was following behind the car in front of me with a safe distance of one-two-and-three-Mississippi between us. I wasn't texting. Or speeding.

I was simply driving my car as I have done every day since

was sixteen.


The wheel of the truck in front of me is what pricked the rock alive. It's what made it dance and skip across the road and land on my car.

Virginia law tells me that the driver in front of me at the time is not obligated to pay for the damage.

But, let me be clear: though I am the sole woman responsible for paying for the repairs (via insurance), the crack in my windshield was not my fault.

There are some people in the world (both real life and web versions of it) that would argue otherwise.

They would tell me that I shouldn't have been driving behind a truck.

They would ask me why I even got into the car in the first place. They would shame me for not knowing that driving is dangerous.

They may even try to make me feel guilty for driving behind a truck. They would say that I should have known better. That many other cars have been damaged by rocks before.

I should have learned from the mistakes of other drivers on the road.

The same is true of many of the reactions assault victims receive from people they hoped to trust. Condemning them for their inability to predict a flinging rock hitting their windshield.

What were you doing at his house?

Why were you kissing him?


Why did you wait so long to report this? 

He was so controlling–why were you in a relationship with this man in the first place?

These were the questions I was asked by the men and women on the "committee" to decide whether or not accusations I was bringing against a man in my community were true.

This was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life: having to defend myself to a room full of strangers. Unqualified to detect signs of emotional abuse or trauma. Plucking out the truth as told both by me and the person-in-question.

I shared my story with them. And through their questions, it became clear that they believed the situation I found myself in was my fault.

It is no wonder that many of these men go unreported. According to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network, 60 percent of assault cases go unreported to the police. And 97 percent of rapists will never see prison time.

And even still I am stunned at the ubiquity of literature that shames women for speaking up. That turns the tables and sheets and heartbreak on the victims that are just trying to seek damage for the glass that has shattered in their lives.

It seems as though there is a bigger problem in the world than women "crying wolf" and drumming up falsified assault cases.

No, the bigger problem is that too many women don't have the encouragement, love, respect, support to warn women of the real wolves that plague the nation.

The wolves that seek to devour the unsuspecting. The women who will one day be blamed for the thing they were not strong enough to fight against.

***

Last May, involuntarily, I stood on the sidelines of a college graduation and watched this man cross the platform. Decked in a black robe. Smile plastered on his face. Tassel swinging from side-to-side.

Knowing that he had just received his master's in counseling. Knowing that he was legally and educationally qualified to counsel men and women with a clean record.

I waited too long to talk to someone about the night I drove behind a large truck. And he was a splintering rock that got away.


Those whose windshields are still intact should not speak about these matters except to encourage victims of sexual assault rather than to shame them.




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Friday, February 14, 2014

A Heart Full of Nickels and Dimes

There is a woman who lives in Texas with a heart full 

of nickels and dimes.

She has high blonde hair and a sparkling smile, which gained her the nickname Miss America. She has a Tami Taylor-level of unyielding love for football. Especially when her boys are playing.

She is the life of the party wherever she goes. She has an iPad that I am convinced she bought to use for Pinterest-party planning and emailing her friends amusing quips of her day-to-day.

She does this all-the-while providing the utmost care for her youngest son. While no one is really watching.

But one day, she received a little more attention for her care than she was expecting.

A few months ago, her son was about to undergo spinal surgery. Months of planning and praying was involved with this decision, and I'm sure thousands of hands and hearts were involved. Lifting him up, wishing him well.

The doctors needed extra blood for her son to help get them through the surgery. She was a match, of course, but she was just under the healthy weight limit to donate.

So she stuffed her pockets with nickels and dimes.


Fistfuls of the heavy, cold metal pieces lined her pants. Making her the perfect weight to donate.

Although, her plan was foiled when to her dismay, they toppled out. She was discovered by the nurses. And it must have sounded like a wind chime, the way the nickels and dimes scattered and bounced on the floor.

When she told me this story, the words made my throat so raw I thought it could never again be satiated.



It is because of this woman that we're not going to talk about chocolates today. We're not going to talk about flowers. Or sparkling rings. Or even the color pink.

Because this blog is dedicated to a love that supersedes these Dollar Store trinkets that tarnish. It goes light-years beyond the matterings of single or taken, engaged or broken.

It is not wrong to talk about these things. Not in the slightest. In fact, I rather like the color pink.

And who doesn't like dates and flowers and chocolates 

(oh my!)?


But I think, on a day like today, I need to step back and ask myself if I'm really prepared to love the people in my life this powerfully.

Enough to weigh myself down, with nickels and dimes in the literal sense, yes, but also to carry struggles and hardships alongside others. To let no stone of hurt or worry go unturned in our friends and family members' lives.

I want love in my life to flow out of me, like nickels and dimes. A heavy representation of the care I have present. Falling to the floor. Clinking and bouncing like a wind chime that twists and turns.

I want to love like the woman in Texas. I want my love to be full of nickels and dimes.


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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fear of Commitment, Probably Not Just for Dudes Anymore

Fear of Commitment is probably not just for dudes anymore.


Okay, okay. Maybe I'm playing a little too much into the stereotypes here. But, countless girlfriends and I have had similar conversations over cocktails, coffee and chips and salsa course at Mexican restaurants:

Are we still living in a world where men are the only ones 

fearful of commitment?


One girlfriend in particular and I recently shared our fears that have surfaced while we've been dating, and some of the odd discussions we've had with the opposite sex.

She told me about a conversation she had with the guy she had been dating pretty seriously for a spell. Without warning, during dinner one night he brought up the "M" word.

Marriage.

And it freaked. Her. Out. Big time.

 

"It's almost like the roles have reversed," she told me that night between sips of her margarita. "He's the one pushing for this idea of forever and ever---but I still feel like I have all of this stuff I want to accomplish before I settle down. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around..."

Some of the same things can be said about dating relationships, too.

Committing to a long-term relationship is a big decision. It's full of many, many risks. Especially where the heart is concerned.

And it can be completely overwhelming, even frightening, for many of us. Especially when you take into consideration that our hearts are involved.



For my friend, this fear of commitment didn't come from a lack of wanting romance, it came from a place of deep insecurity. She thought that by committing to this person long-term, that perhaps there would be an enhanced set of obligations or expectations.

She wasn't wrong, of course. It's a relationship.

Expectations run wild in relationships.

Don't believe me? Check your Facebook/Instagram feed on February 14th. And check with the ladies you know to see if their significant other performed the romantic holiday flawlessly.

Speaking from someone whose cat threw up on the hood  her boyfriend's car on a Valentine's day long ago in a galaxy far away (high school), these expectations are very rarely met.

And what about the expectations that come along with a life together? What about the pressures specifically saved for women. To perform flawlessly in marriage, child-raising, careers and church communities? Proverbs 31 and whatnot?

No wonder some of us are a little freaked at the expectation of commitment. Even to a dating relationship.

Because first comes love...then comes...well, you know how it goes.

But perhaps the fear isn't really drawn from the thought of being in a relationship at all. Perhaps it lies in the fear of not measuring up. Maybe the fear of commitment doesn't mean what we've conditioned ourselves to believe.

Maybe a fear of commitment is actually fear of what we're 

missing. Of what we don't have to offer.

Maybe the true commitment we need to release ourselves from is the thought process of what a healthy relationship does not look like: a set of expectations and laundry list of dos and don'ts.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

And I didn't grow closer to Jesus

By far the greatest thing about blogging is the community of lovely writers I've met through the last year.

I've heard a lot of people say that their community groups are their lifelines. That they would be lost without them. And that's how I feel about these women who are in the writerly trenches with me. Strapped with their keyboards and ideas.

Each of them are lovely. And each of them a little unsure about something. That's why our friendships spark across the virtual galaxy as they do. That's why we try to speak in whispers just loud enough to be heard over the blinking cursor. Afraid to awaken it. Yet, also afraid that it will remain blinking, flatly. Uninspired.

And this fear of the blinking cursor must be

why we all get along so well.



A week or so ago, one of these writerly friends asked me to swap guest posts with her, as we sometimes do. She wanted me to talk about my current dating situation. She commented on a few pictures she had seen of me and another particularly-bearded face she had seen on Facebook, and asked what I was learning through being in a (capital R) Relationship.

And I had a few thoughts on the matter.

She threw a few other suggestions for a guest post in her email; I could write about how my Relationship was teaching me about the Lord. Or about myself. Or I could offer a few delicate musings on being a Christian in the dating scene.

Finally she said, "Why don't you write a post for me about how you grew closer to Jesus while you were single?"

It was an inspired idea.

But, as I blinked back at the blinking cursor in the body of the email, I knew that it was completely untrue.







You see, born out of my singleness was not a confidence in God. It was not a closer walk with Jesus. It was a wreckage of the house I built my purpose around. It was a complete ache.

It was a time of confusion. And a whining that I desperately wanted to stop, but couldn't.

That's why single ladies are so important to me.

Because nothing, not even readers, or a blog and a community of writers could make me feel as whole as I thought being in a Relationship might. And I will never forget that feeling. It is burned into me like a white tattoo. Faint, but present. The scar still prevalent.

A few days ago I wrote about the 7 Big Mistakes Singles Can Make.

Not growing closer to Jesus was by far the worst mistake

 I could have made.


I won't soon forget the loneliness that shot through my legs and arms like shin splints as a result. Every word spoken, every engagement, every wedding vow and every bridesmaids dress for a wedding that wasn't mine a personal assault on my heart.

And that's a true, yet special, burden that only single women can understand.

Through this waiting and longing, I did not grow closer to Jesus while I was single. Not for an instant.

What I did do was complain. I did go to bars. I did work too much. I did plow myself into schoolwork. And make out with strangers.

I replaced the search for God with a search for a man. Any man, really.

Nothing was off limits. Not even men who were already taken.

Now, almost a year later, I am living in the grace that coincides with deserving nothing. And I am thankful.

But, it wouldn't have been that hard if I hadn't put up such a fight and a fuss.

Because of course, as many of you know, fighting against the Maker of the Universe just leaves you face down in a pig trough. It leaves you prodigal. And your only chance for redemption is to hope that your Father will welcome you home again with arms as open as the sky.

And it was really only a Relationship with Him that could have rescued me from it all in the first place.



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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

7 Big Mistakes Singles Can Make



Some of us are in a special club of understanding what it's like to be over-the-moon happy and around-the world confused when it comes to people in our lives moving forward with their relationship statuses.

It's sort of like how math class was for me (mathletes need not be attentive to this analogy). As a strident left-brainer and as a student who was bored with the theology of mathematics in general, I struggled big time.

I knew I wasn't dumb. Like, I was mad good at some reading comprehension.

But, something about the numbers messed me up. Something about the formulas just didn't click. I'd watch my classmates with the sparks alive on the tips of their pencils, raising their hands eagerly to answer questions and to even (gulp!) perform math on the board in front of the whole class.

And I just was not there.

But there were days when I just wanted to have everything figured out like my brilliant classmates, especially during Calculus. I didn't want to be the girl having to stay after school to have more time to take a test. I just I just wanted to be a natural.

That's sort of what being single is like. Your peers are spewing off formulas and memorized digits of Pi--they're getting married, having kids and obtaining mortgages. And you're just sitting there trying to find the on switch for your calculator.

Thank goodness for No Child Left Behind, or I'd still be huddling beneath my plastic desk. But there's no such thing as No Singles Left Behind. And I sort of wish that would change.
 


Any rate, for those of you who have struggled to keep up with math--or relationships--like I have, here are 

Seven big mistakes I've made as a single lady.

(There are obviously more, but just for the sake of time/attention spans...we'll do seven).

1. Dishonoring those who are already there.

Being able to think before you write is the profession's greatest asset. Unfortunately, I have a master's degree in journalism, not in watching what I say around others. If I could trade it in, I would.

This was a huge knot in my heart that was very hard to untie. It was the ugliest form of selfishness, really. Because I wasn't in a stage of life where I was willing to trust someone to commit to (or even have free time to date), it was easy for me to have my defenses up toward people who were.

2. Neglecting to love the people already in my life.

Last year, some of the most important women in my life gathered at my kitchen table on Valentine's Day. There was pink champagne. Chocolate covered strawberries. And, had I been in a serious relationship at the time, I would never have met any of them. They are some of the sassiest, most hilarious and independent women I've ever met. And I would have been lost without them.

I would not have had time to foster those relationships if I was in the midst of a romantic one. Because I have a day job. And because I'm not superwoman.

3. Forgetting that Guinea Pigs Are the Best.

I am the first-born in my family. There was always a tinge of pressure to do everything well and right the first time around. The big life stages like driving, taking the SATs (math disaster), graduating high school, picking a college, entering the real world.
But, love, dating and marriage are realms I am released from having to give an example for. And thank goodness.

I've traded secrets, concerns and angst with people who have already done the heavy-lifting of going first. They are relational tutors. They're honest. And if/when relational storms arise in my life, I will know I have wonderful people to turn to.

4. Judging the Relationship dynamics of Others

It's a tempting thing to do: nitpick the flaws in other people's happiness in order to find validation for our own. A lot of the time we do it without thinking about it.

We're all different. And just because someone isn't doing something how you would doesn't mean it's wrong.

5. Being a Party Pooper

Specifically during weddings. This is completely backwards. These are a celebration. A party. An excuse for a new dress, new shoes, and a free dinner--or at least heavy hors d'oeuvres, which is just as amazing! Who could ask for anything more?

Plus, someone cares enough about me to let me be a part of one of the biggest decisions of their lives. What an honor. And if a free glass of wine (or two) is thrown into the deal, what could be better?

6. Trying to Force Your Foot into the Wrong Shoe

Trying too hard to make relationships work that were never right to begin with is a big one. The phrase "looking for love in all the wrong places" is a cliche for a reason. Desperation is very unattractive. And it's also dangerous.

Constantly wondering if a man that you're dating is the one just adds a lot of pressure to a part of our lives that is already high-risk for heartbreak. But trying to make him the one too soon, or dreaming of the future too fast can make breakups even more devastating.

7. Forgetting that You Wouldn't Really Change What You 

Already Have

Chances are you have a pretty good life. Think about it, who can do precisely what you're designed to do besides yourself?

If we believe in the God we say we do, we know that we have been called to this moment in our lives for such a time as this. We were each designed to serve and thrive in our own space and time.


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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Little Black Dress Series Part One: Stop Taking Good Advice

Hello, and welcome to day one of the Little Black Dress series! So tickled that you're here! This month, Prodigal Sister is tackling tricky subjects for the new adult demographic in the Christian Church. Specifically the single ladies. Happy readin' and be sure to follow the Prodigal Sister on Facebook for more updates!


February is a month laced with pink ribbons. Helium balloons. Too much Just enough chocolate. And good advice.

Especially for single people.

Every year around this season, when Target makes its entryways look like a wedding reception, it seems like everyone wants to be in on the conversation of "singlehood-shoulds."

What singles should do.

What singles should live for and look forward too.

What singles should appreciate.

Everyone wants to participate in the rumblings of the anti-singles-day, because it's so much easier to give advice than to take it, right? The world wants to shell it out like paper Valentines.

But, what's even easier than giving advice is absorbing it all. To be muddied by it. Or confused by it. The challenges with politely listening and reading advice like this, especially during February, tethered and sewn into our hearts, minds and actions. 


Even if you're the most confident, sassy lady, sure of 

her calling, talents, skills, and beauty this particular 

month may still be a stumbling block.



The internet doesn't make it better. We read things like: 10 Things Every Single Person Should Do While They're Single, 29 Ways to Surviving Valentine's Day When You're Single, and 83 Things You Should Look for in Your Marriage Partner.

We don't really have a clue about these things, do we? So we cling to it. The advice. We scrape our fingers into the dirt of it all. Because we're single. And we want answers. 

There is, of course, wisdom in making informed decisions. In wanting to seek counsel. To ask about experiences and decisions.

However, there is also the opportunity for chaos to flourish. Especially when advice seems so contradictory. Or when it comes without you asking for it.

So, this is your permission to 

shut out the noise. 

 

This is your hall pass to having a clear understanding what your "singlehood-shoulds" should be. This is your free ride to coasting past the"what-ifs" and the wonderings about the future.

Because there is also wisdom in quieting the voices who--however well-intentioned--don't know the full story.

Here's the thing:


When you hear wise, Godly counsel, 

you will know it. 


Because it will not have any contradictions.

Because it will not be on BuzzFeed.

It will most likely come from people who know and love you.


And (plot twist) it may even sound similar to what Christ said to the Samaritan woman at the well.

We've talked about that on this blog before. But the woman in this story was a woman who was searching. You can read the fully story here. The Samaritan woman was with five men. And was sprawling for water.

Don't tell me she wasn't searching for something.

Christ confronted her at the well. But then he offered her life. And a water that would always quench her thirst. Isn't that what we all want? For our families? For our friends? Single or not? 


Advice actually worth following, even if it hurts, it will 

set you free.


This is a season for searching.This is a season for finding Christ. For meeting him at the well and listening to what he has to say.

And...you know, it is absolutely fine not to have to take anyone's word for it. (Excepting, of course, that you have a prayer warrior for a mother, then by all means, listen to her.)

But the greatest thing, in the fray of the swell of the desert, in the mix of the missed opportunities, the bad, bad advice, the lost jobs, the lost loves, the friends who seem to be carrying on into the next new and exciting season without you...that is where you come face-to-face with your Savior.

You have a choice. You can either take all of the advice. Or meet Christ at the well.






*the Little Black Dress graphic was created by my lovely friend, Amanda Geisaka. Doesn't she rock?!

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