He who is forgiven much, loves much

Carlo_DolciXXSt_Mary_Magdalen
“Our struggles, faults, sins, weaknesses, are God’s reminders to us that we need him!”
 
The scripture from tonight’s Celebration of the Word gospel reading (don’t remember which one) tells about the woman who comes to break the alabaster jar over Jesus’s feet and those who are there rebuke her because she is a bad sinner. Jesus tells the parable, “If a man has two debtors; one owes him $50 and the other $500. Both tell him that they cannot repay so he forgives the debt of both of them. Who will love him more?” The response is, “The man who owed more, I guess.” And Jesus says, “You are right. He who is forgiven much loves much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. This woman’s sins are forgiven because she has loved much.” (or something like that, I am paraphrasing). And it got me to thinking about how it’s like the whole point of our Christian journey is to be weak and mess up and become totally dependent. Because the more I see myself as a total wreck: helpless, needy, and steeped in my own propensity to sin, the more I experience His forgiveness and mercy and grace. And the more I experience His help the more my faith in Him grows. The more my Faith grows, the more in love with Him I fall. And the more in love with Him I am, the more thankful I am to have such a God as He! 
 
But this weak state is so counter-intuitive. So much opposite of how I want to see myself and to be seen. I think of humility as this beautiful, holy, spiritual thing. But really…humility is often humiliating! It is only well after a person’s humility has been tested and tried (and their ego put to death) by the fires of persecution, mis-understanding, opposition, and many mistakes and humiliations piled on over time that it becomes the beautiful, holy image that we see in the Saints (Mother Teresa, for example)
 
 And I think about people who go through so many hardships and they don’t have Faith in our Creator God, I wonder, how do they do it? How do they survive? Every time I fall, every time I struggle to be my best self and fail, it reminds me again (sometimes multiple times a day) that I need a Savior, I need my Faith journey, I need my Christian community. My life would be hopeless without the anchor of belief in our Three in One God. I am so blessed to have found the sure path! Ya know!? I’ve had some pretty low seasons in my lifetime already. I would be dead long ago if I didn’t have the grace of a strong Faith in God. I just know it. 
 
And that’s just it. It is a grace to have Faith. It is absolutely no effort or accomplishment of my own. I don’t know why some have such a hard time believing. I pray for greater and greater showers of grace for anyone reading this who struggles to believe. God will hear and answer me for you because my capacity to love keeps growing exponentially with every fall I take. I will keep falling, and rising again, so that I can love more and so that I can help other people to believe.

A Right and Wrong Way to Go #2

learn how to poop

 

WATCH THIS VIDEO TO LEARN HOW

OK. So even at the toilet “progress” is shown to be having unforeseen consequences on our holistic health. Wow, I am flabbergasted. We humans think we know what we are doing in making things better and easier for ourselves…but maybe we don’t have to have everything so proper and convenient. Maybe that is not what is best for how God made us to be. I can’t believe it myself, but this little tidbit of previously-unknown-to-me information points directly to the core of our spiritual weakness in modern society, again.

Nothing is one dimensional because we are 2 dimensional beings (physical and spiritual). I see a plethora of signs in all of this “new understanding” medical/physical sciences are coming to in our physical experience of the world. For one thing, it all points back to a more natural, ancient approach to doing life. (That is the way human beings have been living, working, relating, socializing, worshiping, eating…and even pooping…up until the last 100 years or so). We have to understand how we are physically made inside to know what is good for us to do outside our bodies. I will boldly assert that if you start with knowing, respecting and nurturing your spiritual side, at least as a whole (like in a society) the physical is taken care of in proper order. Not so, if you look to serve the physical first. This is because the physical is very self-serving, while the spirit tends to see itself in connection with others and especially God. The physical is very accurately a visible sign for what is real, but invisibly going on in us spiritually. If your spirit is sick, your body cannot be healthy or whole indefinitely. If you are physically sick, though, it is possible to be spiritually healthy. As we have sometimes seen in the lives of the great Saints of the Church who suffered for a cause greater than themselves with joy and union with God. Even if you have no sign of disease or poor health today, if you are–and if you continue to serve only the physical aspect of your 2 dimensional being, at some point in your life it is highly likely that you will experience the effects of a sick spirit in your physical body.

From what I come to know every day, the physical realm is flashing neon bright warning signs for the deadly state of our spirits. You may think I’m a nut case for sharing “how to poop” on my blog and social media (or that I’ve gone poo-less–that is no commercial/chemical based shampoo/deodorant/soap and things like that), but I’m just trying to break free from the impermeable/unhealthy “shell” that my modern society’s conditioning has placed me in. I’m not the nut case, I’m finally claiming sanity in a world plagued by the traditional crazy gene unnecessarily passed on from generation to generation of those living in modern societies across the globe. I am beginning to fully realize that just because “it’s what we’ve always done” or “everybody is doing it” does not mean it is good for us–even when it comes down to how everybody uses the toilet!

Besides. Be honest, how many of you knew how to poop the way humans are supposed to before watching the attached video? I didn’t because my society taught me incorrectly. (But understanding the anatomy of the intestines/rectum makes sense, no??) I am being a bit silly with all my toilet references (but only a bit) to illustrate that this is going on in SO MANY areas of our life, and to point out our way of handing down improper values, dysfunctional cultural norms, false information, unhealthy habits, half-dead religion, etc….even to the point of forgetting how to effectively eliminate feces, and all it’s toxicity, from our human bottoms. We are a sick People and we consistently condition new generations of sick People in our children and youth, because of our own conditioning. Toddlers squat to poop in their diapers, we train that out of them. What else do you think we train out of our (or into) our children as they grow up? What about biases, prejudices and labels? What about self-image disorders? Materialism? We will continue to do this until we remember we are more than just bodies who like everything to be comfortable, immediately pleasurable, and easy. And we find courage to swim against the flow of the unhealthy masses and find out the Truth about what is really good for us and what we were really meant to do and be….hey look, it’s not so hard to do just one new thing at a time. You can start this process of holistic transformation by putting your feet up on a stool the next time you go number 2.

(To me the irony of this is thick as molasses, it’s like the Holy Trinity is going to every length possible to help us understand what we most need is Faith for our spiritual/physical health, and when we find it we will realize that what we most desired was in fact–this Faith for our spirits…the signs are everywhere, even in-maybe especially in-our bodies!)

God’s Loving Lance

mended heart

Beautiful imagery(I found this on facebook)…notice in the human heart made whole by Jesus’s blood there are still the visible cracks from the effects of original and personal sin in our lives (you may need to click the image to make it bigger).

The older I get, the more and more I realize that the Church– The Faith in our Three in One God–is truly the place of in-process-conversion. The Church is a place for the broken to be slowly and deliberately mended to wholeness, the slave to be slowly and deliberately set free, the sick to be slowly and deliberately made well, the fearful to be slowly and deliberately made to love, and the sinner to be slowly and deliberately made holy. It is not a sanctuary just for Saints, there are precious few to be found this side of heaven and they do not seek sanctuary on earth, anyway.

Please don’t look at the Church and see so many imperfect people filling it’s ministries, parishes, and cathedrals and think we are all hypocrites. We are the imperfect, wounded, sinful people who fly to the hope of redemption found in the Christian Faith. Holiness and Healing is a life long journey–very hard and toilsome, full of personal and communal battles to fight and win with the LORD’s grace and mercy. Each of us are at different stages of that journey and the visible progress looks very different from person to person, too. However, each and every one of us realizes our personal conversion by the very same means, the One and Only means, and that is ever increasing Faith in Jesus Christ. We are not hypocrites. We are human and we are simply not “there”, yet.

Don’t let our woundedness;

Don’t let our mistakes;

Don’t let our sinfulness be a stumbling block to your own divine encounter with the Great Physician and the Good Shepherd who wants so much to welcome you to His eternal fold. Jesus wants you so much that He did the unimaginable and paid for all the sins of every person, from time immemorial, who ever hurt you or let you and your loved ones down. And He took upon His flawless self all the hurt, abuse, impurity, disappointment and sin of yours so that you would have a chance to truly Live-full and abundantly forever.

You’ve heard all this before? It’s too phony to take seriously? Well, notice also in the image above of the human heart after Jesus dies on the cross that there is a hole much larger than all the cracks of the effects of sin. The Truth of God and Redemption is complete foolishness in it’s simplicity. Without our first step out in wobbly, but real Faith, the Gospel Truth actually is impossible for us to believe.

See? That large hole is necessary for the saving, cleansing, transforming power of the Blood of God’s Only Son to enter us. It begins to break open with our first blind step of Faith towards what we cannot see or understand. This happy void is left in our heart when we lay down our ego and pride on the alter and find there a measure of humility. This painful extraction of pride is the first step of Faith and it is every single step of Faith for all the days of our lives. The gaping, glorious wound it leaves behind is the only way for God to enter and convert us. Praise the LORD, He made a Way for us!

God stands at the door of your heart and knocks. You have every ability to ignore and not answer Him. He will not beat down the door, even though He loves you so very much that this separation He feels from you kills Him. But, be sure, the moment you come to the door and open it to Him, no matter how hesitantly you do so, God takes the Loving lance to your heart and begins a lifetime, with you, on the slow and deliberate journey to a destination wildly beyond your every hope and dream.

I love you, I’m sorry I love you so poorly because of my sinfulness. But with all my heart and prayers, I truly do hope you will open the door today and everyday for the rest of your earthly life….<3

Lord, Make Me Your Offender

St. Polycarp #3 Martyr of Smyrna

I want to be an offender like St. Polycarp was an offender (and Sts. Padre Pio, Teresa of Avila, Jean Marie Vianney and so many more Saints, as well). Not of my own motivation or from my own judgments; No. But to be courageous and willing to be disliked and unpopular in order to be a spokesman for the True Words of the Holy Spirit into the souls of other human beings. Because I know that these kinds of rebukes and criticisms do not offend the soul or the life. They offend the flesh and the pride and the complacency. The soul and the true life of a person does not take offense to anything except that which blasphemes the one True God and all that He has made sacred. If the soul or the life itself is blasphemed, abused, or criticized it remembers that it is in fact guilty and worthy of such a treatment and a charge. So it takes no offense for its own sake. The flesh, on the other hand, is quick to defend its own perceived entitlements and comforts. I want to offend the flesh nature in you! I’d rather see your flesh offended and any hope of your friendship lost to me than to see your soul perish. I want my own flesh nature to be offended, too! Oh so much, I want to see it for what it is (death) and to not fall victim to its shallow self-interests any longer.

I will strive to recall this the next time I think I’ve been wronged in some way and that old familiar feeling of being offended creeps in on me. I am a sinner; I am guilty as charged. I have no basis upon which to defend myself except in the cross of Christ crucified. And the cross of Christ crucified reveals to me that to truly Live is to be put to death in my flesh so that I will rise in new spiritual Life. How can I be so easily offended when my God willing humiliated His own Son for my sake?! How pampered I am! How immature and selfish of me to love myself so much in such a childish way as to assert that I deserve a certain kind of treatment from other people and a certain kind of experience in this temporary world. I am easily offended because I am a sinner who erroneously thinks she is a good person. God—Jesus Christ—is the only person in the history of mankind who has ever been genuinely offended. Not me. Not you. Not ever.

Sex and Sexuality Obsession

no-attraction

I don’t think our times are so different than any other time of history when it comes to the vices of the human flesh, however, it could be if we would learn from the past and stop repeating the same ‘ol, same ‘ol. What I am specifically reflecting on today is that people are so obsessed with sex and sexuality. And so have I been for nearly all of my life. I was sexually abused, the first time I can remember at age 2, the last time at age 13 . My flip was switched on so young. I was exposed to adult things and began to understand them so that, beginning at age 5, I was instructing my innocent male peers on what that appendage in their pants was used for–and practicing with them. I never have a memory of not being aware of sexual arousal.

Because of my decision to remain celibate as an adult, and also because of my fear of intimacy and trust issues due to my upbringing which has greatly assisted my celibacy, I feel that I am more innocent and naïve today than I ever was as a child. But believe me, I am no Saint. Over my lifetime I have experienced attractions to men, women, married men, married women all of the above and I still do. Most of these attractions are very innocent in nature. All of them began innocent. I like somebody, I admire them, and I want to know them and to be around them. I’m pretty sure that this kind of attraction is necessary for human relationship. But there have been instances where the line between, innocent and not so innocent, attractions have been crossed by my hormones and I started to wonder, “Am I sexually attracted to this person?” And then, of course, there have been the emotionally chaotic experiences when beyond a doubt, and to my dismay because I am a “good” Christian girl, I had to admit, “Yes. I am sexually attracted to this person!” What is sexual attraction but just another feeling and emotion or desire? Why do we put this particular kind of attraction on a pedestal as if it means more than the other attractions, feelings and desires we have, for good and for bad?

As a young person and feeling these normal attractions paired with hormonal floods that sometimes got so intense they became torturous, I wrestled with my sexuality. I felt pressured to define it with absolute certainty even though I was not having sex. I thought that whomever any strong desire was directed at defined who I was. “I must be gay!” “I must be an adulterer!” “I’m such a perve!” Oh youth, how dramatic you are. But it’s not like you can talk about this stuff with anyone when you are young, inexperienced and insecure. And if you do talk to someone you think you can trust, man, it is so easy in our culture to be led astray. As I was once. I took the ungodly advice, “Experiment, find out if it feels good to you, no big deal.” and did something I regret to this day, probably the only regret I really have in my whole life. But I learned. I learned to heed the still small voice inside that told me I knew it was wrong no matter what any trusted, admired, or desired person ever says. Sex is a holy thing, reserved for husband and wife—and, even in marriage, sex is never for the sole purpose of pleasuring oneself.

I listened to a funny and interesting Lighthouse talk recently that says sex has a nature and purpose, and it is two-fold. 1. It is unitive. It brings the husband and wife together in a mutual, unique, exclusive (to all others outside of the marital union), and sacramental[a] way.  And 2. It is procreative. Sex has a purpose and that purpose is to bring about new life. To act outside of or block either of these two natures of the act of sex is to violate the nature and purpose of sex as it is intended to be and to make unholy what is meant to be holy. To have sex outside of the unity of the two persons is rape, adultery, sodomy or fornification. To have sex while blocking the potential for new life is selfish pleasure seeking. It says no to the role of co-creators as God has commissioned us, “..be fruitful and multiply..” and uses each other for free personal gratification. I know many “good” Christian married folks are balking at this statement right now. Please don’t take my word for it, I don’t make the rules for godly living. Pray, discern, and learn why the Catholic Church teaches that contraceptives are sinful. (And why, until the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s, did all Christians hold that contracepting was sinful?) It’s the same as any commandment of God. It is not to hurt you, thwart your good times or control you. It is to free you to experience life to the full and to be safe from consequences of living outside of God’s will for your body, your spouse’s body, your marriage. It is a very good teaching, a very Christian practice. And like all Christian practices and disciplines, it is not easy.

Sex and attraction are normal and good aspects of being human. But our sexual experiences and our attractions of any kind do not define who we are. If we find that our sexual experiences are sinful; are usury or are not open to the potential for new life, then it would be a good start for all of us to confess these shortcomings and to go about the process of reconciliation. “Go and leave your life of sin”, Jesus says to the adulterous woman. Easier said, no doubt. But definitely possible. And if we find ourselves experiencing sexual attractions to another person; maybe we are married and this person is not our spouse, maybe the person is of our same sex, maybe we are unmarried and desire an unmarried person of the opposite sex, whatever the case may be. No sexual attraction or desire is any worse or better than any other. Even in marriage, sexual desire does not get a free unlimited rides pass. Sin is sin. One particular weakness does not make you look any worse in the eyes of God than does another. We are all called to be saints. Each and every one of us. If we are not married we are called to be chaste. If we are married we are called to be chaste. If we are homosexual we are called to be chaste. If we are heterosexual we are called to be chaste. If we are human beings, we are called to be chaste. We are called to treat others and ourselves as persons made in the image and likeness of God and not to use the body of another for our own end; for our own pleasure and desire fulfillment.

To me, this makes the whole issue of sex and sexuality pretty simple and clear cut. Like it could finally be time to move on to the next thing and grow beyond a mentality where sex and attraction is the center of all things. Be holy. Be patient. Be self-controlled. Be Loving.  I don’t claim it to be easy. But it isn’t any harder than self-mastery is in any area of my life where I have a strong desire for something. Please remember this when you are tempted to beat up on yourself, or on other people, because of sexual attractions that you think are wrong or bad. For one thing, sexual experiences and attractions do not define a person. And for another, impurity in any instance, (lust, adultery, fornification, rape, homosexuality, masturbation, sex abuse, pornography[b], sex addition….etc) are no less and no more a sin than any other violation of the commandments and Love of God (stealing, gossip, idolatry, idleness, gluttony, lying, murder, apathy, hatred…etc). Confess all your sins as the equal offense to Jesus that they are and repent from them. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a true desire for what is good and pleasing to God. And then bear with yourselves, and with others, in love and patience and prayer at every fall so that all of us might fulfill our shared destiny: to become saints!

[a]Sacramental means something experienced in the physical realm of earth that foreshadows a spiritual reality of heaven. (CCC) (see also, Chris West’s talk on the Theology of the Body)

[b]Struggling with pornography?

The Battlefield is the Soul

The Golden Thread

 

The following is an excerpt from The Golden Thread: A Novel About St. Ignatius Loyola by Louis de Wohl. St. Ignatius is the man who founded the Jesuits. This is a very moving, entertaining, and insightful look into the mind of a military man discerning the still small voice within him. It is very much manly; a definite “guy” thought process. But so revealing also! I hope you enjoy!

It was something that was going on in him, that had been going on in him for weeks. He was thinking about two different things, and each of them caused a whole chain of thoughts, and they were alternating in his mind.

The first thought chain was the planning of his future career, his rise to power, his rise to honors and to a position in which he could look boldly at his great lady’s lovely face. All this I have done, I have done it for you. It was a chain of glittering, sparkling thoughts; it was all a knight could desire, and he had tasted it again and again. And the more often he tasted it, the less it became. Its sparkle had gone dull, its glitter cheap. It was as if he had gained for himself, for a deed of incredible valor, the Order of the Golden Fleece, and he had walked on clouds. But a second deed of equal valor earned him the matchless Order for a second time. Then a third, a fourth and tenth—and it all looked strangely absurd, as if the court fool had looted the king’s box in which the orders were kept and hung them all around his own neck. He could still think of it with pleasure—but only as far as the deeds themselves went. And even they left a feeling of dissatisfaction, of hunger not appeased, of hopes remaining unfulfilled in their very fulfillment.

The second thought chain saw him on the road to the Holy Land. The knight not of a queen, but of God. There was no glitter here and no sparkle.

Going barefoot to Jerusalem, eating nothing but herbs, mortifying the flesh in a hundred ways to subjugate it and firmly establish an iron rule over that which Friar Francis used to call “Brother Ass”. Climbing the narrow footpath to God’s own fortress in the skies, as Dominic did and Onuphrius, careless of jeers and jibes, jeering and jibing himself at the temptation of Satan.

And here no bitter afterthought remained, no disappointment, no weary discontent.

All the glitter of the first thought chain became habitual—and ended in boredom.

But this new path could bore one as little as could God himself.

Why was this so?

Now that he knew it as a fact, he had to have an answer.

With the sharpness of a knife he dissected it.

If something desirable left a stale taste in the mouth, could it come from a good source?

Was it possible that Satan was the author of his ambition, of his dreams of greatness for the sake of an earthly queen who was someone else’s wife? And if so, was the purpose of such dreams to drown that other voice, urging him to imitate the saints?

He sat up in his bed. He could do so without difficulty.

“Yes”, he said coldly.

In the next moment he realized that this affirmation by itself solved also the second riddle—his lack of interest in what had happened in the affairs of the duke of Najera, and even in what was brewing at the frontiers of Spain.

Francis, Dominic, Onuphrius: none of them had cared for worldly affairs.

The battleground of the knights of God was the soul.

The soul that had to be wrested away from the enemy and won for God, his own first, then those of other’s later.

But who was he, to think of such things?

What qualifications, what credentials had he for joining the company of the saints?

None. Absolutely none. Whoever heard of a saint who had spent his time in gaming, dueling, and the courtship of women? It was absurd.

Or—was it?

Again his mind cut deep into the confusion of his thoughts. What was the true situation on the battlefield?

He smiled grimly. The very fact that he was thinking about the issue showed that the battle had already begun.

Intelligence reported that the enemy occupied a great part of the field.

The enemy’s move was an attack on the grounds that any serious resistance was futile because he occupied most of the field.

But if it were not for that fact, there would be no battle! General Saint Augustine and even General Saint Francis had to deal with a similar situation when they first gave battle to the enemy.

This indeed was the meaning of this kind of battle; no, it was the battle itself. By asking for his qualifications and credentials the enemy suggested—capitulation.

It was a treacherous attack. For it tried to make use of the very virtue of humility. “You are not worthy of such an aim. Give it up.” But a Christian said, “Lord, I am not worthy”, and then went on to receive the Lord all the same!

And the man who had first said, “Lord, I am no worthy”, was—a soldier, a Roman officer.

The battle is on, he thought, with an entirely new kind of eager satisfaction. No, it had always been on, but so far he had been a very bad general. He had neglected his army and its equipment. He had let the enemy filter in where he could have been repulsed.

Now at long last he had recognized the state of affairs—no, he had begun to recognize it. There would have to be the most thorough inspection of both men and material; there would have to be changes, new equipment, methodical training. And every single one of such measures was in this strange new kind of fighting a sort of battle by itself.

There was no glow in him, no jubilation over such a flood of cognition. He did not rejoice. He knew now that the urge of the saints for penance was a sort of military necessity.

There was no virtue in kissing a leper, as long as he himself was a leper.

He began to examine and test all thoughts welling up in him for their true origin. There must be a way to find out where they came from, whether from God or whether from Satan. There was.

When Magdalena de Araoz entered the room the next time, he asked her for paper and ink. He had found the formula, and he did not want it to slip from his mind. He wrote, “In those who proceed from good to better the good spirit touches such a soul gently and softly as when water drops upon a sponge, and the evil spirit strikes it sharply and noisily, causing disquiet as when water drops upon a stone.”

He liked what he wrote. He decided to go on making notes. Also there were passages, both in the The Life of Christ and in The Flower of the Saints, that he wished to have with him in writing, without having to carry the two heavy books around. He would get a notebook and copy them out.

A great deal of such simple work would have to be done.

He was not only the general, commanding the army. He was also the humblest foot soldier.

The whole thing was a huge task, far bigger than the defense of the citadel of Pamplona or of Fuentarrabia. It was a full-scale war, and he had to do everything by himself.

Public Confession

sorry
I did something today that I NEVER do! And I did it to a friend who also NEVER does it! I made an inappropriate sexual remark. Do you know what she said to me? “I wish you hadn’t given me that image, Trish.” Oh, I felt so dirty, ashamed, and very, very sorry I had decided to say what I said. And, I was even repeating something I heard that I also wished the person hadn’t put the image in my head. I don’t know who that person was because it was so long ago. I don’t remember the person, but I still remember the image every time I hear the certain Christian song it was spoken about! (And I hate that song because of it)
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This world is so debauched. I know many people who think there is little funnier than crude or vulgar jokes. I don’t think they are funny at all. Yet, My behavior today reveals that I am letting this lack of respect for the sacredness and purity of the nuptial union seep into my subconscious. And that is scary, because what is in there will come out when least expected!
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I’m thinking of Matthew Kelly’s car wash analogy again.  And because of this, I am reacting very harshly to my slip up today. One unchecked remark, leads to another and to another and then, I will just be another pervert constantly finding sexual connotations in everything. Blech! That thought grosses me out.
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Purity is my most prayed for virtue. I beg God and Mary for the Grace to possess it. I read and listen to all I can to help me desire it even if I’m thought a prude. But the messages and the voices of the world are so LOUD! It is a very hard thing to be pure in heart and mind…even if you are pure in body.
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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. — Matthew 5 
I want to see God; with all my heart I want to see Him!!
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Just thought I’d share with you a major failure of mine today…worthy of confession next Tuesday. I thank God for my naivety, but those innocent instances are precious and few. In these times so “free” and “open” about XXX, it is hard to be naive about anything.
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“When I came for adoration, an inner recollection took hold of me immediately, and I saw the Lord Jesus tied to a pillar, stripped of His clothes, and the scourging began immediately. I saw four men who took turns at striking the Lord with scourges. My heart almost stopped at the sight of these tortures. The Lord said to me, I suffer even greater pain than that which you see. And Jesus gave me to know for what sins He subjected himself to the scourging: these are sins of impurity. Oh, how dreadful was Jesus’ moral suffering during the scourging! Then Jesus said to me, Look and see the human race in its present condition….” –The Diary of St. Faustina [445]
scourging
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