A Bountiful Harvest

black-eyed-susan-o

This past weekend, my 17-year-old daughter helped me with collecting seeds from the many spent flowers in our backyard to share with friends, while I disassembled the vegetable beds. There were so many seeds that I was able to broadcast some in both my front and backyard and still have enough to share! She was amazed at how many seeds came from one Black-eyed Susan flower, much less one hundred of the spent flower heads. It was a bountiful harvest!

Not everybody likes Black-eyed Susan flowers. They can self-sow every year, and they do provide some lasting color with some drama to the garden. When they all bloom at once, they are an amazing show of color. When they die back, it’s a slow and ugly death. The stems and the flowers dry up and look pretty sad, but even in death, they provide seeds for the local birds and for the fly-by bird migrating south for the winter. I’m so glad they are in my garden.

This past Friday my husband and I attended the memorial for one of our church members. A young boy, a month away from being seven, died of cancer after fighting a year with multiple tumors on his spine and in his brain. Some would say that he lived a short life. Some would say that he died too young, and yet others would say his short little life touched hundreds of others. That’s what I say because he touched mine.

I’m standing on the scripture found in Psalms 139:16, “Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” The Message

How marvelous that we are like flowers in His garden. Here for a time, for a season, maybe more, yet God has written those days in His book. I believe that the days are written by God, but what we do with our lives fills the pages and brings the story of our lives into others to bless, to encourage, to lift up, to enjoy. Flowers die and so do we. Sometimes it’s hard to watch it happen, but for those like me who believe, only our flesh dies. Our spirits are returned to God to be safely ensconced until we can all be together again. Philippians 1:21, “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” NASB

Just like that one flower head that had an abundance of seeds, that six-year-old boy left behind a ton of blessings for years to come. His mom bravely got up and spoke of how her son’s life impacted many by his love for others and his willingness to share his possessions as he knew that he was headed home to heaven. He touched the lives of teachers and hospital staff, friends and family and all who knew him in the year that he bravely fought his battle with cancer, and he won! What? You ask. He won? How did someone who was dying of cancer win? He is now in heaven, fully healed! No more pain, no more suffering and cancer didn’t win. We will be like Him, healed and whole.

Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

Being a cancer survivor myself, I look for a complete healing in heaven someday. Until then, I will bloom where I’m planted and continue to bless others with as much goodness as possible, for He has written all my days in His book.

 

 

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The Garden Sleeps

The Garden Sleeps

I was born on a warm January day in Bakersfield, California. The cooler days of fall get my mind ready to hibernate in my art room as the temperatures dip below 60. Yes, that’s right, 60 is my ideal low and 85 is my ideal high, maybe even a little warmer.  I have never tolerated the cold very well, so moving to Colorado some 10 years ago has had its challenges for me, especially in the gardening category.

Since being here, I have learned to let the frost kill the tender annuals and not fret over the garden preparing to sleep for the long winters here in Colorado, and I must say that I am truly amazed that such beauty can return after a few feet of snow and several layers of ice without any help from me! God knew what He was doing when he set the climates all around the earth. I just haven’t found “my” climate yet to live in.

The more that I live here in Colorado, the more I’ve learned about endurance, patience and rest through the example of my backyard landscape. You see, I used to be a person who ran from pain, sorrow, and troubles. I’ve had a lot of those very things in my life and it seems like every year that I have lived, I’ve had some of or all of the aforementioned three in my life. I’m a strategic thinker by nature and I can come up with a solution for most problems even before you tell me your whole problem. It’s the way I’m wired, but I didn’t realize this until just a few years ago. Way back when, my go-to solution to my problems was just to “walk away” or better yet, to run as fast and far as I could go. What I didn’t realize is that when I ran away, I took me with me, never learning the needed skills to face issues until the last ten years.

In the garden, as a plant grows, each season and every stage of a plant’s life has meaning and purpose. If a plant, let’s say a fruit tree, grows to maturity without bearing fruit, the gardener will prune it way back and heavily fertilizes it to force new growth that will produce fruit the following season. It’s not like the fruit tree can just take up roots and leave for another garden because it didn’t like being pruned or dumped on. The outside help of the gardener assists the tree in the right season to promote a bountiful harvest that will benefit many in the years to come.  It takes patience, care, and rest.

My life is very much like that tree in God’s economy. Sometimes I need His help to prune me back in my attitudes or ungratefulness and sometimes that involves a lot of crap being dumped on me and then being forced to rest for a season, but I know from experience that only good comes from His gentle work in my life. I don’t like the pruning and I definitely don’t like the “fertilizer” being applied, but I’ve seen the growth, the fruit and the blessings that my life has been to others. I have experienced the rest that comes when my heavenly Father has worked His will in my heart and I don’t feel the need to run anymore. My garden is a beautiful reminder that He cares, He notices me and He desires to see me flourish in all that He has for me.  In the times of rest, I trust that the next season promises to bring new life and the ability to stand firm in His truths and to see the beauty of His work.

dormant

 

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The Well Worn Path

worn-path

The Well Worn Path

 

We were camping a few weeks ago up at a beautiful campground just about an hour and a half west in the mountains from where we live in the Springs. It gave us some much needed away time from the business of work, school and well, just life in general. We were so excited to set up camp and enjoy 8 days and 7 nights of fun, food, fishing and a sky filled with millions of stars waiting to be seen.

I was looking forward to being still and conversing with God. I do that best when I have some alone time, so with camera in tow, off I went on an easy hike around the campgrounds. Lots of wildflowers dotted the hillsides. The wind was blowing softly, but just enough to make the flowers dance out of focus of my camera. I would have to wait until the wind shifted or died down to capture the colorful beauties that blew in the wind, while at the same time, dodging the hundreds of ants that were scurrying everywhere I stood. If the world ever collapses in on itself, blame it on the billions of ants undermining the earth beneath us. I have never seen so many ants, but that’s another story for another time way.

In spite of the windy day, I shot some great pictures of flowers, the lake, the mountains and some rocks, but I captured a picture that hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a picture of a well-worn path that lead from the road to a loop of campsites. It was a short-cut, where many campers and pets cut through to get to their sites.  On any other day, I would have walked this path myself, not thinking twice about it, but it was as if God himself stood in the path and asked me a question, “Is this your life?” I cocked my head to one side at the question and looked a little closer at the well-worn path.

It was worn down to just sand and gravel. About a one-foot-wide path with wildflowers and grasses on each side. Ants, lots of ants were scurrying back and forth like it was a super highway. There were no trees or shrubs, just a few smashed clumps of grass and maybe a washed out section from the recent summer rain. “How could this compare to my life?” I asked myself. I stepped onto the path and began to ponder what this well-worn path meant to me. With each step, it was like a bright light was showing me the different aspects of the path and how they related to me. Here is what I took away.

I’m too busy. Like the ants scurrying around in every direction, my life tends to be too busy. Yes, the ants have a purpose and even the Bible speaks of their tenacity in their work, but they do take some time to rest, as I should take some time to rest as well.

I let others trample on me. Sometimes I can be a “means to an end” for people. It happens more often than I realize. It’s one thing to be available and a servant, but the more I’m trampled on the better the chance of burnout happening. This applies the other way too, of me using people just to get what “I” need. I need to be valued and purpose to value others.

There’s no growth.  God knew what He was doing when he created life on earth. He took 6 days to create such beauty and put man & woman on it to tend it, not just trample it down to bare ground. My life should reflect growth in its season. I don’t want season after season of bare ground in my heart. Allowing time for gratitude and rest is key to allowing growth to happen. When the path is at rest or no one using it, in time the seeds will take root, the flowers will grow, bloom and life will happen.  If I choose to keep going up and down the path of business, sure I will get to the other side, but no growth will happen.

But there ARE paths all over my life. When I got to the other side of the path, I turned and looked back at the well-worn path. Over my lifetime, I have left many paths for others to follow in my footsteps. Some are examples of what “not to do,” and others of directions of which way to “go.” Like a road map to avoid the pitfalls of life or how to navigate bad news, or relationships and all sorts of things.  My life will have a meaning to my children, my grandchildren, friends, relatives and even strangers that I pass on the path of life, but can they read the map? Are there visible signs that say, “go here,” or “stay out!”

And lastly, Do I welcome others? Our lives are to be lived to the fullest, but I doubt that means all alone. Hiking through the woods, it’s natural to look for a trail. A sign that someone else has walked this way before me. It gives me a direction to go, maybe a glorious sight to see somewhere along the way. If my husband and I are walking together and we come up to this path, I don’t direct him to take another route. The natural thing to do is motion him to come my way and stay together. Too many couples tend to “go their own way” and not venture in life together. While they may arrive at the same destination in time, it’s just better to go together to help each other along the way, to keep from stumbling or just to enjoy the journey together.

So what kind of paths can you turn around and see behind you? Will others be able to follow? Have you worn one path out so much that it’s time to slow down? I hope today you will seek the path that Jesus walked while He was here on earth. He has left us a road map in His Word and is longing for us to share it with Him. For His paths lead to glorious things to see!

 

 

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Dandelions in My Garden

dandelion-in-seed

Our current Colorado urban backyard is filled with a variety of trees and an array of plants ranging from flowers to shrubs with two levels of deep green grass. Every spring I go on the dandelion hunt to hand pick and dig out what I can so that my garden is not overwhelmed with the butter colored weeds. I’ve always believed that these weeds were invasive troublemakers and not worth having around. Little did I know, and I sheepishly admit that even dandelions have a purpose in the eco-system that sustains life in the garden.

Did you know that dandelions are actually great for the garden? They make great companion plants and because of their deep tap roots, which can grow up to two feet long, bring nutrients to the top of other shallow-rooted plants? They are loaded with anti-oxidants and the entire plant is edible, roots and all! They attract pollinators who provide the necessary pollination for our garden to develop fruit, and the Russian version of the dandelion is being used to make rubber for tires! An amazing little weed!

The French name for dandelions is “Lion’s tooth.” Because of the way the leaves look like teeth. The English folk name “piss-a-bed” (and indeed the equivalent contemporary French pissenlit) refers to the strong diuretic effect of the plant’s roots. So this weed is no longer a “stupid or useless” addition in my garden as long as I keep it in check, and neither am I stupid or useless in God’s economy.

As a little girl growing up in a farm town in the 60’s, our little urban neighborhood was less than a mile, (as the crow flies) from the nearest almond tree farm. The owner of this tree farm probably had no idea that this small little farm town would grow into a sprawling city within the next 10 years. By the looks of his tree farm, he was meticulous in the care of his trees and the grounds of his sprawling farm.

There were no weeds, no tumbleweeds, not even field grass growing along the entryway to his place. I know this because my mom used to point out how clean and sterile the place looked. She said it was probably because he had no children to have to clean up after all the time. I think it was that the farmer was an A type personality, who like things in order, but either way, it was one of the prettiest farms in the San Joaquin Valley of California.

One day I was walking home from our city park, which was only about 10 minutes from our house, singing and picking dandelions for a bouquet that I would proudly present to my mom. I was only about seven at the time, so I had no idea that dandelions were known around homes and farms as noxious weeds. In my seven-year-old mind, they were just pretty little yellow flowers that turned into a fun thing to blow on after they had gone to seed. I loved blowing on dandelions and chasing the little parachutes that they released until they were all gone. I even heard one of the neighborhood kids that if you made a wish before you blew on the dandelion, that it would come true. Needless to say, none of my wishes ever came true.

Lost in my adventure, I was quickly stopped in my tracks by a crusty old man with a long beard and a fierce look, grabbing the top of my arm and shaking me. “Stop that blowing, stop that blowing on those weeds, do you have any idea what trouble you’re causing my farm?” said the old man. Tears began to immediately flow as I dropped the bouquet of dandelions and wiggled away from the old timer, running as fast as I could in fear of a smack from his belt. Believe it or not, that was legal back then for someone other than your parents to beat the tar out of you if they saw you doing something wrong.

The old man followed me to my house and went up to knock on the front door. I ran into the backyard to hide in the garden in hopes to escape the horrors of this man coming after me. I had several nightmares after that day and it would be a long time before I picked another bouquet of dandelions! Huddled under a bush in our backyard, I tried to hear the old man talking to my mom. Wondering what I did wrong to cause someone to come to our house and complain. Nothing. I couldn’t hear a thing. All I could do is wait to hear the angry call of my mom to what would be a beating for sure.

After about what seemed like an eternity, I heard my mom call for me. Apparently, she heard the gate close and knew that I was in the backyard. I knew to appear immediately, or my hair would be the handle that she used to pull me up to face her. I stood in silence, shaking as the urine seeped down my legs. I saw my mom’s grin, but it wasn’t for being happy to see me. She was enjoying her power over me and it was invigorating to her by the look on her face. The fear that she had instilled in me gave her a sense of control, something she had none of when it came to my dad ruling over her with his fists. I knew that a lashing was coming because she had already cut a switch from the nearby sycamore tree.

The next thing that I remember was waking up in my bed with the stinging sensation across my legs and my back. I could feel the fresh welts under my urine stained clothes. I pulled the covers over my head and wept for what seemed like hours. It was getting dark and I could smell food and hear voices coming from the kitchen. Hunger pangs gripped my stomach, but I dared not get out of bed except to use the bathroom.

I turned on my nightstand light and tried to be quiet as I lay holding the covers close.  I listened carefully as my parents talked and I heard my name along with the words, stupid, useless and a troublemaker. I knew then that I would have no dinner that night and I asked God what I had done to make him so mad at me. It wasn’t until after I had left home that I found out what I did to deserve such a beating. Back then, I dared not ask why or question what punishment I got while living at home for it meant more of the same if I or one of my siblings asked.

My mom had told me that the old man was so angry of all the neighborhoods being developed around his farm that he blamed every weed coming up on his property on the people moving in. I was just an innocent child, not having a clue of how my actions were impacting the amount of weeds that sprung up on his farm and the old coot was fed up. I don’t think he knew or cared what happened to me that night, but it confirmed my thinking that I needed to find a way out of such an abusive family. More on that in a later blog.

My mom was so embarrassed by this man’s ranting that she told him that I would be “taken care of” and her embarrassment turned to anger instead of defending her innocent daughter. I know this now as her and I had sat down some 20 years later discussing the past that I didn’t understand. She was so sorry and didn’t try to make excuses for her actions, but I knew as she told her side of the story that she was consumed with the deep roots of hate, anger and bitterness for so many things, that caused her to take it all out on her children.

At that moment, I made it a point to let her know that I forgave her for all that haunted me about how they raised us. As I understood her lack of parenting skills, selfishness, rebellion and the poor choices that she made in her life, all I could do is feel sorry for her. Because you see, I too have made poor choices, been rebellious, selfish and in need of forgiveness. How could I not forgive her, when I too have been forgiven much? I couldn’t stand there watching her weep in remorse for the pain and the suffering that she and my dad had caused our family, when years earlier, I too had knelt before the Cross of Calvary, begging God to forgive me of my sins.

Our relationship changed that day, and healing began between us even though to write about it today is hard for me to do.  I felt it necessary so if you have anger, bitterness towards a family member or friend, that you know going to them with the intent to understand their actions and to forgive them is to bring healing to the relationship. After our talk, my mom and I had many years of friendship and closeness before she died. She began to reveal more of her life story, which allowed me to help her sort through it all and to let some things go so that she could have peace.

When I had to tell her in the hospital that she was going to die and go be with Jesus, she was at peace knowing that she was entering eternity with the forgiveness of God. Can you say that? Don’t let years of hurt, disappointment, bitterness or anger keep you from having peace and restoration in your life. If the person that you’re mad at is gone from this earth, lay it all out before God and give it to Him to nail to the cross along with your own sins. He will give you peace, He will give you rest.

Blowing Dandelions

 

 

 

 

 

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I Wonder?

I love being out in the garden on warm summer mornings. On one such morning, I was out in the yard going from bed to bed, looking for weeds to pull and plants to move because of crowding. (My husband calls me his “hummingbird” because I go from plant to plant like one.) I hate to just pull them if I can find another place for them to develop and grow. Even if I have to give them away on Craig’s list or to friends, I just hate seeing them go to waste. I came upon a cosmos plant about six inches tall. It was growing right out of a crack between two pieces of flagstone in the middle of a path that is heavily traveled. It looked like it had been stepped on many times and was leaning a bit because of the abuse of the heavy foot traffic.

I sat down on the flagstone to get a better look at the cosmos to see if it was worth saving. Because they grow so prolific around our property, I wasn’t sure if it was worth the trouble to dig it up and move it to a new spot. In closer examination, the poor little plant was badly abused, yet it still had a small bud on it trying to bloom. I was amazed, to say the least, but the weather was very hot at that time and transplanting this plant meant some extra care to get it to take in its new spot. Just digging it up would damage the roots and possibly kill the tiny plant if I didn’t take extreme care in the whole operation.

As I sat in thought, pondering what would be the fate of the little cosmos, I gazed around the yard, spying out what sight would be best suited for this little guy to grow and flourish. I spotted a great place that had afternoon shade and plenty of room for the cosmos to grow tall and bloom well and that would still give me access to prune spent flowers and tie up top-heavy stems. I could see this being the future for that little plant because, in years past, some of my best plants gained 9 feet in height because they had the best conditions to do so. Leaving that little cosmos in the flagstone, in the middle of the garden path would be certain death, by abuse from us walking on it, a lack of water and too much sun. I decided that I would give it a chance to grow and flourish, blooming in all its beauty, producing more seeds for next year’s garden.

cosmostall

I wonder what it would be like to have not grown up in an abusive home? When I die and go to heaven, will God give me another chance to grow up as a little girl in a happy, loving family? Will I never be able to experience the joy of sitting on my mommy’s lap, rocking me in the comfort of her arms or the welcome hug and laughter that only a father could provide? Because of the abuse of alcohol by my father and the resentment of my mother, my siblings and I never knew what loving parents were. We existed as trampled on kids who were in the way of selfish people. It wasn’t until God carefully plucked me out, between the cracks of my home life and planted me in a place where I could grow, that I experienced love on multiple levels.

I got out and away from a place that I wasn’t ever going to grow and flourish the way that I should, but the life that I left had behind followed me for some time. The pain, the memories, the lack of knowledge on how I should let people treat me was lacking. I grew up really fast, but there were, and maybe still are some hard edges that needed to be sanded off because of my self-preservation mode that I adopted quickly after I had left home.

Cosmos Flowers2

Here I am, decades later, so glad that God had found me and cared for me in a way that caused me to heal from all the things that could have steered my life into a much different direction. The hate, anger, and bitterness toward my parents was released early on and the cycle of abuse broken by the love of God in my life. It took a while and some extreme care on God’s part for me to trust Him enough expose my wounds so that God could treat them with His healing salve of grace, and allow time to heal them. I still have scars, but they now are a reminder of how much God loves me instead of how bad life was. Now I can extend that same grace and love towards others, so they too can grow and thrive under His care.

Have you got wounds that have yet to heal or keep getting re-opened by your mind or others? There is no quick fix, but there is a way to heal those wounds and live a better life. It’s called “giving your life to Christ.” He IS the answer that you’re looking for. He is the solution to the change that needs to come. Will you trust your life to Him? Will you give Him a chance to dig you up and re-plant you into a better place where you can grow and thrive? All it takes is asking Him to come into your heart and make it new. To ask him to forgive you for resisting His love in your life. Ask Him to show you His ways so that you can be healed and grow.

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Then Like a Tree

Roughly 3,500 years ago—right about the time the Ancient Phoenicians were hitting their stride—a tiny cypress tree, no bigger than a fist, sprouted in the swamplands of Central Florida. 3,500 years later, in 2012, that very same cypress burned to the ground.

Known as “The Senator,” this majestic, 118-foot tall tree was one of the oldest organisms in the world. Over the course of its long life, it survived hurricanes, disease and logging sprees, serving as a landmark for Seminole Indians, a tourist attraction for curious Victorians, and a spiritual epicenter for pilgrims hoping to bask, literally, in the shade of history. Investigators later charged a 26-year-old woman with setting the tree on fire so that she could have some light while doing her drugs beneath it! The tree is gone now and many school children and tourists will not get to see the magnificent marvel of nature it once was, but arborist had taken part of the tree years before and created a new one in hopes that it would outlive many generations to come. I’m so glad that they did this!

We are a lot like trees and plants you know. We were once a tiny microscopic unknown seed that has grown to weather many storms, sicknesses and all the crazy things that we have done in the name of fun over a lifetime. I want to show you just how much we can learn from these mighty giants of old. How we are so very similar to these ancient kings and how we might learn the mysteries of heaven by watching how a tree or plant grows, lives and dies.

Let’s start at the beginning of a tree’s life as a seed. Seeds are made up of three components. The embryo, endosperm and the seed coat. The seed coat is the shell that protects it until the time is right and the threat of a killing frost is gone. The rains come and push the tiny seed into the soil, softening the outer shell allowing the seed to emerge to the place it will call home. When conditions are just right, and it has the right amount of light the embryo’s outer shell will split and the first signs of growth will appear, reaching deep into the soil forming roots that will sustain the growing tree. Until the roots are formed, the tiny seed will live off the endosperm for nutrients. When this is gone, the tree’s tiny roots dive deep soaking up much-needed nutrients from the ground. Ever so tiny, the tree must focus on its roots, diving deep down to lock itself into the ground so that the first spring rains that are sure to come don’t wash it loose and expose it to die in the elements.  Leaves begin to form as the trunk grows daily. This is easier to see when the tree is small and can be measured.

Many seasons go by and the tiny seedling has survived scouring deer and foraging rabbits, not to mention the harsh and brutal seasons that can wreak havoc on a young sapling. Each year the tree forms new branches and a canopy of leaves, but no seed pods or fruit because it’s not come of age yet. Sound familiar?  As a gardener, I love to go out to my garden daily and tend to it. Giving each section some much-needed water, fertilizer and care if I want to see the beauty that’s ahead. Sure I can just “let it grow,” but without my daily care, there will be pests that devour or diseases that destroy and weeds that will surely grow to strangle out the beauty that can be. The love that I put into my garden will be reflected in its health and display of growth and beauty for years to come. We are three components when we are formed inside the womb; body, mind, and soul. As we begin to grow in our mother’s wombs we sprout limbs and form into the humans that we are at birth. Once we are separated from our “seed coat” the womb, our growth can be easily measured. We cry for nutrients daily as a tree or plant would need rain and sunlight to grow. We begin to develop as the seasons pass, but it’s not until we hit about 13 years of age that the time has come for change. A change that has meaning, a change that could potentially bring new life. A change that can make or break forest.

kid and tree

Like trees and plants, we need the right conditions to grow into strong, responsible and productive adults.  I can’t imagine the parent that would just “let us go” and expect us to be a healthy adult contributing productively to society without repercussions. If children aren’t encourage to grow with purpose, then they will be overcome and devoured by others. If they are not loved and nurtured, they will be lost emotionally seeking to find the love that they are missing in others who would take advantage of them. Their spirits will be weakened to the point of not wanting to live and thrive in a world that has potential. I speak from personal experience. Without the right tending and daily care, we are left to be overcome by the weeds of depression.

I once bought a piece of property in the country that had been unkempt and uncared for. It was literally just a few trees and lots of weeds so tall and thick that you could be swallowed up in them. I labored hard for a year to clear the property of the weeds to reveal some beautiful trees and a wonderful space for a garden and created many nooks for reflecting and enjoyment. Indeed, it was a labor of love, for many visitors were in awe and amazed by its beauty. How much more could our children thrive with our tending and love in their lives to reveal the beauty and possibilities that could affect their generation and generations to come? It will be hard, there will be sweat and for sure there will be tears, but it will be worth the time and effort to see them flourish as one of the strong mighty trees that we look up to.

 

Yard

One corner of my yard

 

 

 

 

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