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An Invitation to Sit With the King

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One year ago today, I boarded a plane to Kenya, Africa.

I always dreamed of serving in Africa. I always knew I’d go someday. But I never, ever dreamed it would be so soon. You see, it wasn’t my choosing as to when, how, where, or with whom I’d travel to Africa. One random weekday in early June, I looked at a poster on our pastor’s office wall and casually shared that I always dreamed of serving in Africa. He promptly invited me to join a 10-day mission trip to Kenya that was scheduled for November.

I wasn’t planning on going to Africa. Okay, let me clarify a bit, pastor. I wasn’t planning on going RIGHT NOW. I wasn’t expecting you to ask me. Give me a couple years, okay? Give me some space and time to think on this, yes? Give me a few years for my kids to get older. Give me a moment to make every detail right. Let me get the timing just perfect for my husband, my friends, my family and pretty much everyone around me. Then, and only then, I’ll most definitely say yes to your invitation. Can’t we all just agree that five or six months is not nearly enough time to prepare for a life-changing trip to Africa?

Needless to say, I spent nearly three months thinking and overthinking that trip, and finally said yes less than three months before our group was scheduled to depart.

Given my reluctancy to accept God’s invitation to go and serve in Africa, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I found myself on the outside, watching a group of orphaned and abandoned children worship in the most authentic and abandoned way I’d witnessed in 39 years of life on earth.

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I was there. Fully present. Fully immersed in their worship.

But I was sitting on the outside.

Watching.

Admiring.

Wishing I could be one of them.

Wishing I could live and linger in a place of wild, worshipful abandon for the rest of my life.

Yes, this was without a doubt, a glimpse of heaven on earth.

But I was sitting on the outside.

CLICK HERE and join me at www.kriscamealy.com FOR THE REST OF THE STORY… 

What I Learned From Writing Someone’s Obituary

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He called me first. I was on the phone with my husband, so I wasn’t able to answer. Then I received a text. Having received a phone call and text within seconds of each other, I knew the message was urgent and required a prompt and personal response on my part. My husband suggested I hang up and return the call immediately.

“Hi. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your mom this week. We all know it’s going to happen at some point, but it’s still never easy,” I said.

“Thank you very much,” he responded. “Actually, that’s why I called. I need to write up something about my mom for the back of the bulletin for her funeral, and I was wondering if you’d be able to do that for me.”

“Sure,” I said, without giving it much thought. After all, just six days prior a writing colleague suggested that I should consider writing peoples’ life stories. It should’ve been no surprise that I was presented with an opportunity so soon after the suggestion was made to me.

He told me he’d spoken with his siblings, that they’d gathered some information about their mom and her life story, and could I possibly put all of this together and write it in a nice format for the back of the bulletin?

Undoubtedly, YES I can.

Who would say no to such an honor?

Basically, I was being asked to write this woman’s obituary.

I took the son’s notes, spent time putting them into paragraphs and emailed the final draft of the obituary to him around 10:00 p.m. that night.

The next morning bright and early, he shared the draft with his siblings. They removed some information and added some information. He called and asked if I could rewrite and refine the obituary with the changes in mind.

Undoubtedly, YES I can.

I made the changes and emailed the obituary back to him within 30 minutes. He needed to get it to the pastor that morning.

She passed away on Monday. I sent the final draft of the obituary for the funeral bulletin at 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday. The funeral was Thursday. Today it’s Friday.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. – James 4:14

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All of this has me thinking…

What did I learn from writing this woman’s obituary?

It is with great honor and respect of this woman’s life and death, that I share just a few of my learnings. Perhaps one or all will guide your path, your life, the light you shine during your short time on earth.

  1. In the end, your life will be reduced to a few short paragraphs in an obituary. What would you like those paragraphs to say? You are not victim to what happens in your life, nor are you victim to what shows up in your obituary. You have a chance to change the trajectory of your life NOW.
  2. Whether you believe it or not, whether you believe you’re making a difference or not, you WILL be a part of someone’s obituary. Your name is important. Your contribution and service to others is important. Your presence and dedication to others is important. Whose obituary will you be on, and how are you contributing to their life today?
  3. Isn’t it beautiful to have grandchildren, great-grandchildren, extended relatives and friends? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a powerful influence in your grandchildren and great-grandchildrens’ lives? How will they remember you once you are gone? What legacy will you leave for future generations? How about extended relatives and friends? What relationships are you fostering now that will actually hold weight on your death bed? Who’s the friend you can’t imagine life without? Who’s the cousin or aunt or great uncle for whom you always had a special affection?
  4. Your mistakes, your sins, your faults, your terrible mishaps, and the worst moments of your life will rarely show up on your obituary. People will remember the BEST of you. What do you want that BEST to look like?
  5. LOVE is perhaps the one and only thing you want to show up most on your obituary. Love deeply, to the best of your ability.
  6. Work hard, but definitely not too hard. Work with your heart. Work with the end in mind. Do you want to be remembered for earning $200,000.00 a year, or do you want to be remembered for being a great leader? Do you want to be remembered for never missing a single day of work, or do you want to be remembered for being committed and dedicated to whatever you did? Do you want to be remembered for being “over” hundreds of employees, or do you want to be remembered for being a faithful mentor and guide? Do you want to be remembered for all the awards you won, or do you want to be remembered as a servant heart? The list could go on and on. Be wise about your work, for the days are short in this one wild and crazy life.
  7. What are you doing to stay busy in your down time? Watching TV? Watching your iPhone? Vacuuming? Dusting? Or would you rather be remembered for something cool and interesting like knitting, skydiving, woodworking, writing, traveling to all the continents, pottery, jewelry making, or something super cool like that? Find and develop your interests now and as you’re able. Who knows? Maybe someday your grandchild will find your box of antique rulers and bottle caps, and will think it’s the coolest collection in the world!
  8. If your entire life had to be summarized in just ONE sentence, what would you want it to say? What do you want to be known for? How do you want to be remembered? What kind of legacy do you want to leave for future generations? What changes can you make that will begin to shape and mold the ONE sentence that describes your life? Hint: It’s not necessarily about WHAT you did, it’s more about WHO you were. “She was always such a graceful lady.” “He was such a funny guy.” “She was such a kind and generous soul.” “He was committed to his family.” “She was faithful to the end.” “He never gave up on his dreams.” “She sure went through a lot, but she was one tough cookie.”
  9. What do you believe at the core of who you are? Believe me, your core beliefs will show up on your obituary. What do you believe, and how is that being expressed in your life? It’s worth pondering today and every day.
  10. What would be devastating and terribly unfortunate if it never showed up in your obituary? What are your dreams, your plans for your life? Is there some goal, some life aspiration, some way of living and being that you need to commit to so that someday when your obituary is written, it will actually show up and be remembered? What is your one true calling? Are you short-changing yourself? Are you foregoing your dreams for daily pursuits that don’t have any long-lasting legacy power? Are you selling your soul for things that won’t really matter at the end of life? If you were to die today, what would be missing from your obituary tomorrow? Move towards the thing that’s missing.

That’s it. That’s all I learned from writing someone’s obituary.

Be blessed. Be a blessing. Live life as if it counts. Live today as if it’s your last.

greensig

I Am Woman

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I am woman.

Born from my mother’s womb. Bloody. Bruised. Breathing, bright and beautiful.

Still in pain, her belly barren, Mama bowed low and bestowed upon me all names I’d ever need.

Precious.

Princess.

Queen.

Diva.

Beautiful.

Beloved Daughter.

Born to bring light and life, dignity and strength, elegance and grace.

I am woman.

Yes.

I am woman.

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Do it all. Have it all. BE. ALL. The world tells me how and who I should be.

Daughter. Granddaughter. Sister. Niece. Cousin. Wife. Mother. Stepmother. Godmother. Aunt. Grandmother. Great Grandmother. Friend. Friendly. Best Friend. Bestie. Mentee. Mentor. Single. Stay-at-Home Mom. Work-from-Home Mom. Working Mom. Part-Time Working Mom. PTA Mom. Volunteer. Cook. Chef. Chocolate-Chip Cookie Maker. Taxi-Cab Driver. Counselor. Psychologist. Fair. Balanced. Business Woman. Writer. Actor. Artist. Elegant. Engineer. Model. Sexy. Sexy Mama. One Hot Mama. Rocker. Beautiful. Beast. Built. Big Breasted. Athletic. Trim. Thin. Funny. Smart. Witty. Kind. Savvy. Independent. Submissive. Generous. Giving. Philanthropist. Missionary. Designer. Graphic Designer. Pinterest Pretty. Stylish. Sassy. Hip. Cool. Calm. Collected. Casual. Considerate. Revolutionary. Chic. Prim. Proper. Perfect. Primped to the Nines. Fashion Forward. Poised. Politically Informed. Politically Correct. Quiet. Polite. Thoughtful. Thorough. Thick-Skinned. Vulnerable. Flexible. Decisive. Fierce.

I do it all.

Or maybe not.

I try to DO, HAVE and BE.

I am woman.

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My voice, it will not be silenced. My heart, it’s torn. My life, let it be.

Most days I’m filled with insecurity.

God formed me, fashioned me, made me and named me.

I’m here for a reason.

I’m not a possession or a productivity robot.

I long to be seen for who I am, for who I really am.

There is nobody, nobody like me.

I am claimed. Named.

Beautiful. Holy. Chosen. Precious one.

I am woman.

pinksig

 

I Didn’t Dream Big Enough

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Before I left for my trip to Haiti in February 2014, I grabbed the ridiculously overpriced “Penny For Your Thoughts” journal my husband received at work somewhere along the way. We’d kept it safe in its original packaging on a shelf in our entryway closet for months. Perhaps we’d donate it to a silent auction. Perhaps we’d give it as a gift someday. After all, the price tag said something like $54. Even I, a lover of words, couldn’t imagine why ANY person would pay $54 for a journal. Yes, I grossly underestimated the worth of that journal. When I got to Haiti, I randomly scrawled notes here and there as the mission necessitated. Prayer requests from our two sponsored children. Info about another child we began sponsoring nine months later. An inspiring quote about Compassion International beneficiaries being “sleeping giants.” Notes here and there. As IF I was never going to use that journal again. As IF it was only good for its paper.

One month after I returned from Haiti, I opened that journal back up, turned to the first page, and began by writing insights I gleaned from rereading journals from my past. I was on a blogging break, and desperately needed to figure out where I’d been and where I was going. Nine months later, I stopped working as a speech-language pathologist to focus on writing and photography, and take advantage of time home with my children while they’re still somewhat young. Today, there’s only ONE blank page in that “A Penny For Your Thoughts” journal. I’ve carried it around everywhere, through everything, for the past 2 1/2 years. Who knew?!

I’ve adored that journal. It’s been my companion through days of transition, days of unknown, days of heartache and chaos, and days of dreaming. But the timing couldn’t be more perfect. It’s time for a new journal!

Knowing I was going to be purchasing a new journal soon, I took time to page through my “A Penny For Your Thoughts” journal last week. I’m compelled to share something significant I learned from rereading one of the pages.

Listen, and listen closely because this is profound.

Over the course of the past 4 1/2 years, I’ve learned to dream. I’ve learned to dream BIG DREAMS. 

In all honesty, it’s crossed my mind that I’ve gone mad, or that maybe I’m losing my mind bit by bit. But the truth is, I didn’t dream BIG enough. 

Yes, you heard me right.

I didn’t dream big enough.

The first quarter of that “Penny For Your Thoughts” journal is filled to the brim with dreaming. I allowed myself to go there. In fact, the ultimate purpose of those first pages was to put all my hopes and dreams down on paper. I looked back through the past, tried to piece together the bigger storyline of my life, and used that as a foundation to dream about what the second half of my life could look like. This was an intentional exercise. Nobody was judging me. Nobody was silently critiquing. I didn’t care if my dreams were totally out of line or totally achievable. I just wrote them down as they came to me. Yes, I allowed myself to dream big all over those pages.

Yet even in my grandest and freest state of dreaming, I didn’t dream big enough.

On one side of the journal page, I wrote down my “Big Picture” vision. It’s fairly vague to the naked eye, but still spot on. The vision I have for the second half of my life has never wavered.

Here’s the kicker. I didn’t dream big enough in the details.

On the other side of the journal page, I wrote down all the details of my dream as concisely as I could. There were 10 points. Keep in mind, I thought these were long-term goals, goals I could reach or see the “beginnings of…within the next 4-8 years” if everything went perfectly as planned. As of today, I have already achieved 5 out of 10 of those detailed dreams. I’m working on #6. And I was seriously close to achieving #7, but the outcome was largely out of my control.

Needless to say, reviewing my journal was an incredibly eye-opening exercise.

I didn’t dream big enough!

I didn’t dream big enough.

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So what’s the point of sharing this with you today?

The likelihood is that none of us have ever DREAMED big enough! The likelihood is that none of us have ever BELIEVED enough.

So how do we move from disbelief to belief? How do we get from here to there? How do we move from today to tomorrow? How do we move purposefully and intentionally towards the ultimate vision we have for life? How do we fulfill our God-given purpose here on earth?

Take time.

Sit down.

Get quiet.

Listen to the still small voice.

Think long and hard about WHAT we love, HOW we can best help others, and WHY we’re here.

Dream.

Get quiet again.

Pray.

Dream even BIGGER.

Pray again.

Then mark it all down. Write it. Speak it. Share it. Remember it. Revise as needed. And don’t ever forget.

In the meantime, trust that God works ALL things together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

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There’s a reason we’re here. Let’s live out every detail, every dream we have for ourselves and best yet, every dream God has planned for us.

I don’t know about you, but I have some work to do. In the next three weeks, I’m going to purchase a new journal. I’m also going to buy a planner. My goal is to write down that vague, but spot on lifelong vision all over again, but this time, I’m dreaming WAY bigger about the details. I’m going over every area of my life, I’m getting still and praying over everything, and I’m not holding back. I’ve dreamed MANY dreams in the past 2 1/2 years that have never been documented anywhere. In the next three weeks, all those great big dreams are going to be written down. I don’t care if they’re crazy or impossible or if everyone would say “Whatever, that’s totally dreaming and never happening.” Then I’m going to take that planner and I’m going to map out my days more intentionally to ensure I’m prioritizing the things I want and need to prioritize.

I’m 40. But If I live as long as my grandfather, I could have another 56+ years of life on earth. It’s time to dig deep and dream bigger. There’s a reason I’m still here. There’s a reason you’re still here.

So how about you?

Do you need to dream a little?

Do you need to dream a little bigger?

Perhaps you need to sit still long enough to hear…

You’re here for a reason.

There’s more in store for you, beloved.

What will it be?

greensig

I Needed a Haircut to See Myself Differently

Three or four years ago, I started threatening my husband that I was going to cut my hair off super short and dye it blonde. I casually threatened and joked because I knew I wasn’t brave or bold enough to cut it all off. I casually threatened and joked because I knew my husband strongly prefers me and his girls to have long hair. That is, until one year ago when my husband shaved his head. He began to understand where I was coming from, and granted me complete freedom to go ahead and cut and color my hair however I wanted.

Okay. I know you’re going to roll your eyes, puke in your mouth a bit (if you’re my husband), or maybe even wonder “What in the WORLD is Amy thinking? Has she gone mad?” But think Miley Cyrus. Yes, this is the haircut I envisioned in my mind all those years. No need to go into details, but you know this cut has an even edgier styling option, right?

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Why am I talking about haircuts and sharing photos of celebrities today, anyway? Because this seemingly random story about hair has a real-life application. There’s a bigger lesson to be learned here, and I didn’t realize it until I cut my hair.

So let’s go back in time a bit. I promise, this won’t take long.

I’m super low maintenance when it comes to my hair. When I say SUPER low maintenance, I mean it. I get my haircut twice a year AT MOST. I don’t make appointments ahead of time. I pretty much get to the point of emergency and take an appointment wherever I can get in. Hence, the longest amount of time I’ve stayed with one stylist in my adult life is maybe a year or two. I’ve only highlighted my hair a couple times, and have never had a full color job. Garnier Fructis is my shampoo of choice ($3 or less with coupon). Typically, I have ONE high-end smoothing product to help manage my frizzy hair, and that lasts me for several years because I use it so sparingly. Five minutes is the perfect amount of time for styling; anything beyond that is annoying and crosses into high maintenance. And anyone who knows me in real life knows that I love, love, LOVE ponytails. Ponytails are the best, especially when you’ve had the lovely experience of lice through your house twice in one year. Yeah, ever since that, I’ve worn the ponytail 5-6 days a week.

Moving on.

I’d last gotten a haircut in early September 2015. I wore my hair in a bun while I was in Kenya, and kept the spirit of Kenya alive by wearing my hair in a bun EVERY SINGLE DAY from November 26, 2015 through April 26, 2016 when I finally got my haircut. That’s five months, people! I thought the bun was totally working until my former neighbor’s mom saw me in the store and said she barely recognized me because my hair was “so slicked back.” (I wasn’t sure her words were meant as a compliment. I, for one, loved the bun, but knew it was another trap.)

Time to get that haircut.

I’d been thinking and talking about that short haircut for SO long, that I knew this haircut was going to be TOTALLY SHORT or SAFE AND BORING (think ponytail).

Research phase began.

Maybe I should get something dark and edgy, like rocker Demi Lovato?

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Maybe I should get something chic and sophisticated, like my one and only television role model, Megyn Kelly?

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Ultimately, I narrowed my selection to two realistic favorites which I shared on my Facebook page so people could give me their opinions on the cuts. Julianne Hough rocking the short, but not TOO short hair.

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Or Emma Watson rocking the safe, but definitely short style.

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The rubber hit the road. It was time to decide. Money was budgeted. The appointment was booked. My decision was SAFE or SHORT, and I was going SHORT. I wasn’t 100% sure about the decision, but I was hovering around 97%.

This is me the night before the haircut. No makeup. Hair just washed and air dried. No products. No styling. My thick, frizzy inherited hair is a challenge to manage. Can you imagine how long it takes to tame this into something presentable everyday (besides a ponytail)?

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This is me the morning of the haircut. Slicked back into a bun. The same way I’d worn it every day for the past five months.

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Haircut time!

I went to a new salon and booked with a stylist I’d never met. Thank goodness I had a solid referral from a former patient’s mom I trust whole-heartedly when it comes to matters of the hair!

I showed the stylist all the short hair photos I’d pinned. She didn’t want to cut my hair quite that short since it was the first time she’d EVER cut my hair and didn’t know how it was going to respond. So we agreed on a slightly longer version, Carrie Underwood’s 2016 Grammy’s cut. I knew the cut was longer than anything I’d envisioned, but it was still MUCH shorter than any style I’d had since 5th grade, so I agreed.

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“All this hair is weighing you down,” she said.

So off went the hair.

I didn’t bat an eye.

This haircut was long, long overdue.

It was freeing. A weight literally lifted off my shoulders.

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I had a few errands to do, but knew my husband was eagerly awaiting the results of my big haircut. All the friends and family who’d weighed in on my haircut on Facebook would appreciate an “after” picture, right? So I tried a couple selfies in the car, but that didn’t work out very well. (Selfies are the worst thing ever. SO awkward!)

After the failed selfie attempt, I went into the mall to do my errands.

As I walked the aisles, I remembered that if there’s one vanity item I really do love and appreciate, it’s clothing. With the exception of a sports bra, I haven’t requested a clothing budget in forever and a day. I glanced at myself in mirrors, trying to determine if I liked this haircut or not, whether I looked good in it or not. Was I crazy for thinking this was a good idea? What’s more, I looked deep in my eyes and noticed they didn’t sparkle any more or less after the haircut.

That’s when I started noticing a difference. Right there in the mall. Right after my big haircut. That’s when I started feeling and SEEING a difference.

This wasn’t really about a short haircut. This was about proving to myself that it was okay to take a risk. This was about proving to myself that it would turn out okay even if it wasn’t perfect. This was aligning my outsides more closely to my transformed insides. This was about seeing myself differently. This was about seeing the world differently. This, in fact, had very little to do with my outward physical appearance and very much to do with my wellness, wholeness and perspective on life. This was about me learning to say no AND yes to what’s me AND what’s not me. This was about embracing my life and taking responsibility for how I choose to live it.

I needed to think, believe and behave differently than I had before.

I needed to see myself differently. 

I needed to see differently.

And that’s exactly what began to happen when I got my haircut.

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I tried some more selfies that afternoon and again the next morning, but I never did share an “after” picture on my Facebook page. Guess it’s all here today, right?

Here’s the truth. The haircut wasn’t about everyone else, anyway. I didn’t need anyone’s approval or disapproval. In the end, the haircut was about taking the RISK I knew I needed to take.

Maybe I’m taking this too far. Maybe I’m overanalyzing this haircut. But what if I’m not?

What’s on your heart? What small or big decision’s been weighing on your mind for days, weeks, months or years? What risk have you been longing to take, but fear has stopped you for some reason? What do you KNOW you need to do, but can’t bring yourself to do it for any reason at all?

Here’s the secret. Nobody knows but me, but I’ve been saying YES to a lot of little things since I got that haircut six weeks ago. Saying YES to the haircut helped me see myself and the world differently, which gave me confidence to say YES to a bunch of things I wanted and needed to say YES to.

So what’s your YES today? What risk do you need to take – small or big – to propel yourself forward in life? Perhaps you need a haircut, too? Or perhaps it’s something else, anything else. I’m believing somebody’s out there, somebody’s listening, somebody needs to hear this.

TAKE the RISK.

Do it.

See your life differently.

See life differently.

See differently.

pinksig

Christine De Leon - I appreciate the symbolism. Fear keeps us tied up and weighed down in what “seems” comfortable and practical, but it’s stagnant. It’s risky to make a change. But changes bring new perspectives and new growth and new life to make a healthier you…with healthier hair added in! Bravo!June 20, 2016 – 10:21 am

Stephanie Arnold - I’m glad I read this. I’m in the process of debating a major haircut as well. I think you made a great choice. You look so much younger. It looks great on you.June 19, 2016 – 4:57 pm

Lisa - I just stumbled across your blog from FB but wanted to comment and say how much I really LOVE your new haircut. It looks SO good on you! Also I love the perspective you bring about how it encouraged you to make other small changes or risks in your life. It is freeing when we have that knowledge about ourselves.June 19, 2016 – 3:21 pm

Denise Korman - I love your hair !! It is so flattering … And this blog is one of my favorite blogs…take a risk !!!June 10, 2016 – 2:22 am

Cathy Olson - You look Amazing!June 9, 2016 – 3:59 pm

Jaimie West Bowman - This is awesome Amy!! I love how you looked deeper to see what that urge was about. It looks great on you :)June 9, 2016 – 3:26 pm

Amy Jacobson - Love, love, love it! I recently took 9 inches off and it feels awesome!June 9, 2016 – 3:16 pm

Mary Katherine Boyle - love it !June 9, 2016 – 2:39 pm