The Chance to Love and Be Loved Exists No Matter Where You Are

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When Holy Spirit Moves

I have blogged about my experiences lately with watching other’s worship and how much it has moved me and inspired me to step further out of my comfort zone and into my free praise of our amazing Father. I have been at conventions and other churches that are doing worship the way I feel is the right way for me. They go up front during the music and they sway or jump or dance around. I’ve witnessed worship like I never had before, at these conventions and churches I’ve visited. After I became comfortable with it and began to understand it, I started to crave that freedom myself! I’ve heard others say that when they aren’t finding what they needed in their own church, they left, seeking it somewhere else. I couldn’t imagine leaving my church! These people are more than just bodies standing next to or around me as I worship and learn more about God. These people are more than just friends that I enjoy seeing! They are my family! Not family that I chose for myself, but family that my Father, Abba chose for me! So, I couldn’t just leave and tell them that they are not enough for me! Besides, in loving them, I want what is best for them, too. I want them to experience the freedom that I have found, the love that I have come to know. I want them to be totally consumed with Holy Spirit, to the point that they are not afraid to become “fools for Christ!” (1 Corinthians 4:10)

I had a vision about 6 months ago where I met Jesus, and in our conversation, He told me that I am never to be ashamed of how I worship. EVER! He also told me that there is absolutely NO WRONG WAY to worship, and that no way of worshiping is valued more than any other. If you are worshiping from the heart, and being obedient to how you are being told to worship by Abba, then you are doing everything correctly! If you’re way of worshiping is to just sit there and bask in His presence, or to kneel on the ground, face down, or, like me, to dance and jump with joy, you are doing it right! No one has the right to tell you that if you are still, you aren’t worshiping! Your worship is between you and Abba ONLY! And once you are actually worshiping in earnest, the devil will definitely attack you with your own thoughts. Since my way of worship is so out loud and boisterous, I am constantly afraid that people will think that I am seeking attention for myself, that I am looking for the spotlight. The only spotlight I am seeking is one that comes from my Father. I worship for an audience of One! If you see me and it inspires you to step out of your comfort zone and worship with me, that’s awesome! But my worship isn’t for you. I welcome any and everyone to worship with me, and, in fact, it makes my worship even more enjoyable!

So, with all of that being said, I have been praying for the change in my church that I need so badly. I have been trying to be obedient to God and have been walking down front to dance when I feel He is calling me to. Sometimes a few of my friends will join me, and sometimes, I’m all lone, worrying if others think I’m dancing there, screaming for them to look at me! (That’s the devil talking to me!)

Last week, I was all alone again. I enjoyed my time with Abba, but felt defeated. I felt like it really wasn’t going to ever happen and that I would continue to worship alone up front. I was asking God, do I stop? Do I give up? What would You have me to do? It isn’t working! Could I possibly be the only one who is moved to dance during worship?! I mean, I have my girlfriends, and they dance with me at our seats, and every once in a while they go up front with me, and I love all of that! But I need more! Then, at a class this week, I was inspired through a prophetic word from a friend to try once more. And another friend and I spoke at a lady’s gathering we had at church. Both of us spoke about worshiping down front and how we wished others would join us. Then came Sunday. The music was intoxicating and I was so moved, that I don’t think I could have stayed in my seat if I had wanted to! I walked down front and when I got to my place, I turned around and there were 7 ladies who had joined me! 7!!!! My lucky number and one of God’s favorite numbers! I felt blessed beyond measure! I felt like God had heard my cries and had answered them by inspiring others! I began to cry and I couldn’t contain myself! I wanted to celebrate the love that my Father had shown me! I wanted to scream with joy! As each song played, I could feel Holy Spirit wrap Himself around me closer and tighter, and I just gave myself to Him! I was so overjoyed! Then, the last song came on, and part of the words were, “Yes, Lord, Yes, Lord, Yes, Yes, Lord!” I changed the words to, “More, Lord! More, Lord! More, More Lord!!!” I became overcome with His presence. I was told to get on my knees to worship, so I did. I cried even more and my joy overflowed, and I began to laugh uncontrollably, to the point that I couldn’t stop. It felt so good in that moment (even if it was a little awkward that I was the only one laughing). Then, a friend came to pray for me, and as she touched my shoulder, she fell into fits of laughter, too. What an amazing moment that was! I’d witnessed what they call “Laughing in Spirit,” but I hadn’t really experienced it to that extent. It was overwhelming and uncontrollable. It was a beautiful moment!

Now, I know that my dream of worshiping up front with my brothers and sisters in Christ WILL come true! The flood gates have opened! I just pray that the devil doesn’t stop anyone from joining me. He can be pretty tricky and very powerful, but my God is BIGGER and even more POWERFUL! Thank you, Abba, for loving me the way that you do! And to everyone else, never stop worshiping, in whatever way that is for you!

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I Love the Skin You’re In!

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A friend of mine raises chickens at her house out in the country. She has a beautiful home with lots of room for kids to run and play, and for chickens to lay eggs. I had recently started a diet and was trying to eat healthier foods, so I asked if I could buy some of her home grown eggs. She brought them to church and I took them home. That afternoon, I opened my carton of eggs to see what they looked like when they came from a “farm”. I was used to the beautiful, pure-looking, solid white, same shape, same size eggs that I get from the grocery store. These were definitely NOT those eggs! These were all different shapes and sizes, not to mention the colors! They all had a different shade of brown. Some were very light tan, while others were very dark brown. As I gazed upon them, God spoke to me. He pointed out their differences and how, from just looking at the shells, I would say they were not the same. But if I were to crack them open, they would all have the same contents on the inside. Sure, some might also have a little more yolk, but they would still pretty much all taste the same. You might look at one egg and think that the color or the shape would make it taste different, but if you were to brake them open and cook them, not knowing which egg it came from, you would never be able to tell me which egg came from which shell.

I suppose that, this being February, the month we celebrate Black History, this topic might have been on my mind a bit already, but I feel like the Lord has been speaking to me more this year about this than He had previously. I have never thought of myself as prejudice, and still do not. I love all people, regardless of race, background, or any other defining characteristic. It really bothers me that this is even an issue, but I know that it is still felt deeply by people that I care a lot about. And their pain has caused me to look around a bit more this year. I have realized that I live in a “privileged” world, where things might be directed more towards my comfort, and this makes me sad. What I’m referring to are ads and TV programs, and probably more, if I really stopped to consider it. At first, I thought this wasn’t true, but then, I started to notice that some of the black children in my Sunday School class colored their papers with people in them the peach tones that we refer to as white. They didn’t add the brown skin tones that I thought that they should. I asked one little girl why she had colored them white. She said “because they WERE white!” I looked at them, and I could see why she would say that. I thought they would still have looked just as nice with a little color to their skin, but what made me sad was that she didn’t even hesitate in making them white. The following Sunday, she did the same thing. Did this mean that she was programmed to always think that, when looking at a blank black and white picture, the people were always white?! How sad!

As little girls, we are given dolls that reflect who we are, so that we can relate to them better. Shouldn’t that be the way we color pictures, too? Not that a child of one race couldn’t color a picture of people of a different race. There is nothing wrong with that at all! In fact, I find that beautiful and healthy! But when that child only colors people a specific race, other than the one they are, what message does that say she is getting? This particular girl is absolutely beautiful! It’s not just about her skin color, it’s about her beautiful, cheerful eyes that light up wherever she goes! It’s about that breath-taking smile that makes my heart happy when I see her. It’s about that beautiful, happy-go-lucky personality that I see in her every single time I am with her! I want her to be proud of who she is and where she comes from and to know, she was made perfectly, by loving hands that were excited about her existence, that she is cared for by a King that loved her enough to die just for HER! And it didn’t matter to Him what her skin color was! I never want the word “prejudice” to enter her naive ears or to stain her pure heart, or any other child’s for that matter! I want her to look at a white child or an Asian child or any other child and see their color differences, but for it not to matter any more than having different colored hair or eyes. It’s just a part of who that child is, but doesn’t change their value or their worth!

As I was driving home today, I was thinking about this blog, and trying to figure out how to write it, and to convey the love that I have for all of God’s people. I didn’t want to come off wrong or offend anyone. This was just what was on my heart. Then, a thought occurred to me. I thought about how white people have a white Jesus, while black people have a black Jesus. I remembered a sermon my pastor had given me that really changed how I viewed Jesus. The topic was the truths about who Jesus really was. He said, after studying the Bible, he’d come to the conclusion that Jesus was probably not attractive at all! In fact, He was probably very homely looking. This was because the Bible is always quick to refer to someone as attractive, if they were. But that description was never given for Jesus. Well, there went any and every picture I’d ever seen of Jesus!

He went on to say that Jesus DEFINITELY was NOT white! This didn’t really surprise me much, since it wouldn’t make much sense that He’d be white, anyway. But my pastor also said that He likely wasn’t black either. He was probably middle eastern, or a similar race.

As I was reflecting on this sermon today, I asked Jesus, “What color were You? Am I allowed to know that? Is that something I can even ask you?! If we were made in Your image, who’s image was made first? A black man or a white man, or someone else?” His reply to me was, “Why does it matter?! Call me a patchwork quilt, because all men were made in My image. No color is wrong or right. I reflect all colors, just like a patchwork quilt.”

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This was a beautiful thought to me. How perfect an answer! Why does it really matter?! It doesn’t! Jesus died for ALL of us, and He didn’t care the color of our skin! He knew that, just like my eggs, our shells mean nothing. It’s what’s on the inside that matters! It’s how we treat each other that matters. It’s how we LOVE each other that matters! Jesus didn’t say, “Love the people who look like you or act like you.” No, He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39 

So, no matter who or where you are, what you look like, how tall you are, what shape you are in, what color hair, eyes or skin you have, I love you! And so does our Maker!!! He made YOU perfectly, with loving hands that were excited about YOUR existence! YOU are cared for by a King that loved you enough to die just for YOU! How exciting is that?! Oh, how I love our Abba, who first loved us! I truly am a blessed child of God, and so are you!

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When I was younger, I went to a church where they would raise a hand to praise God and say Amen. I grew up think I would never raise my hand in church because that was weird and it was that person’s way of saying, “Hey you guys! Look at me! Look at me! I’m praising God!”

They would stand and sing hymns from a book, but dancing wasn’t allowed. I was even yelled at once for dancing to music on the radio while I was waiting in a room of the basement at church! The lady stormed into the room and told us that God didn’t like dancing. She furiously unplugged the radio and took it from the room. We sat in silence, bored out of our minds!

Lord, how my faith has changed! If the me back then could take a journey in time and see the me now, I am so different, I don’t think I would recognize myself! At my church, I sometimes think I might be the wildest praiser there! And I don’t care!

A few weeks ago, I went to a convention named The Call. I went to see Todd White. I was so excited! He’s basically my favorite pastor out there. But once there, my eyes were opened to a whole new way to praise. It felt so alive and spiritual! It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and now I can’t help but miss it! It was one weekend that changed my life!

But I am getting ahead of myself. A few weeks before that, I was at work, entering info on my computer. I listen to a lot of Christian music and sermons during that time to keep my mind from wandering. That day, I was listening to some music that got me right in the heart. And I had a vision, which is kind of like a daydream, but in some respects, different. I was walking with a sea of people. It was so packed, we were shoulder to shoulder. We moved as one because there was no other way to move. Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light before me. I turned my head and covered my eyes with my arm. When I opened my eyes, everyone was gone. Every single person. I was alone in what looked like a beautiful desert. I looked forward to see what that flash was, and there stood Jesus. The light shining from His face kept me from seeing Him, but I knew it was Him. I began to cry and tell Him, “I’m not worthy to be here! I’m not worthy to be in your sight!” I fell to my knees, face in the sand, and began to cry harder.
I love you, Jesus, but I’m so not worthy!”

I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard Jesus say, “Rise, my child. You have passed the test.” I didn’t realize it had been a test. I stood up, and saw everyone that had been there before, but now more spaced out. Each one doing something different. Some were kneeling, arms in the air. Some danced and twirled. Some jumped and yelled. I looked at Jesus wondering what was going on.

“You were born to praise me, but each of you were created differently. Each of you reacts in a different way. You must always stay true to how you were created to praise. Never base your praise on how others around you praise, and never stop your praise because of other’s reactions to your praise.” So, I had praised in earnest, and that was how I had passed my test. I learned not to care how others viewed me when I worship God.

I had a few weeks to process that and totally digest it before I went to The Call. One of my girlfriends brought her flags there so she could dance with them, if she was able to. We’d danced together with flags before, and I’d felt their power and how they help to communicate our worship to God. But these people were on a whole other level! They were speaking in tongues (something my church had never done) and they were doing something called Laughing in Spirit! THIS intrigued me! It was crazy at first. It started out as one person, rolling on the floor laughing. Then, the person next to them, and then a few people more. Soon, it was like a wave that went through the crowd. You could see the progression as it moved all through the stadium. It was unbelievable! And the feeling that came with it was almost palpable. I could feel Holy Spirit think in that stadium! There was joy and an overflowing…. something that I just couldn’t name! I felt drunk on it. I swayed and trembled. I fell to my knees and prayed that God would show me more. Help me to get some of whatever it was they had! Help me to understand what was going on and to maybe rise up another level to be closer to Him. I prayed that if He wanted me to speak in tongues, I was ready and willing! A short while later, my tongue felt think and dry. I tried to speak, but words came out strange. I stood and danced like I had never danced in church. I felt amazing!

The next morning was Sunday and my friends and I decided to go to a church called  Bethel Cleveland. I was nervous because I’d heard so much about the Bethel in California, but I was also very excited. This service was so opposite of the church I had grown up in. It was loud and people danced in the front, in the aisles, at their seats, wherever they were! Some cried out, and some laid down. It was very alarming, but it would have been more so, had I not just been at The Call the day before. I went to the front, attracted like a moth to a flame, and I was the most tame one up there! I looked around at everyone with glee. THESE were my people! These people were doing what I had felt in my heart and in my mind all along. I just didn’t know how to express it before. I didn’t know if I was allowed to at my current church. I felt so at home there. I wanted more!

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It has been about a month since I was there, and I can see a total change in how I worship now. I swayed to the rhythm before, raised my hands and called it dancing. Now, I don’t do the dancing my heart longs for, but I feel a shift at my church, and I feel like there will be a day when that is welcomed. But I am definitely more active in my worship. I feel it more vibrantly and I don’t care who is watching! It’s not for YOU to see, but for my Father, Abba, to see! He is my King, who sits on His throne, as I dance before Him, to entertain Him alone. I get so much more from my worship now. I feel so much closer to Him. I still haven’t spoken in tongues, but I will, I’m sure, in time.

I was recently listening to a sermon, and the pastor was talking about the meaning of “Worship.” We worship God to become closer to Him, for intimacy. What intimacy really means is IN TO ME SEE! How amazingly true that is!

 

 

I Believe…

I know that I am still working on part 2 of day 2 of my mission, but something happened to me last week that I feel begs to be told.

I was cleaning out some old junk from my mother’s basement and somewhere along the line, I sprained my ankle. It wasn’t one of those sprains where you KNOW when you did it. It was more like I must have twisted my ankle the wrong way at some point and didn’t feel it until I had slowed down after I was close to finishing. I was taking some things out to the trash can when it suddenly started to throb to the point that I couldn’t even put weight on it. I hobbled back inside and told my mom I was finished for the night. I prayed over it and asked God to please, PLEASE heal my ankle! I had a long walk from the parking garage to the chair in my office every morning. I couldn’t imagine that walk while having to limp like this.

When I woke in the morning, the pain was still there. I hobbled around the house getting my daughter and myself ready and out the door, praying again for healing for my ankle. I dropped her off at school, then drove the 5 minutes to my work, parked, and made the long trek (which isn’t really that long on a healthy ankle) into my office. It did take me longer, and it really sucked.

As I sat down at my desk, I felt defeated. My ankle was really hurting by that time and I couldn’t understand why God wasn’t healing it. I’d seen videos and heard about friends who had been healed. I had gone to a prayer night at a local church and even had someone pray over my knees, which had been hurting, and they were healed then. That same night, I had been told that I was destined to be a healer one day. I had felt unworthy, but was willing. But as I sat there, I wondered if that really was something I’d ever be able to do, especially if I couldn’t even heal myself! I was doubting not only myself, but the message I had been given. I asked God, “What am I doing wrong? Why aren’t you healing me!”

Then, I heard him. “Walk expectantly.”

What? So, that was what I was missing?

Just then, my boss asked me if I would create a list of our items in stock in another room. It would take me a bit of time and I would need to be on my feet the whole time, walking around the whole while.

So, here goes, I thought. I gave myself a pep talk. I know for a fact that God loves me, and I know that He wants to heal me. I just had to believe it. Then, the story of the woman who was sick and simply touched Jesus’ cloak flashed across my mind.

43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”  

Luke 8:43-48

And I heard the verse:

29 ….“According to your faith be it done to you.” 

Matthew 9:29

Oh, so, I now I understood! Jesus wanted to heal me, and was probably trying to, but I needed to believe He would and that He was able to. This wasn’t just a “maybe He will, maybe He won’t” kind of thing. After all, the Bible says that if we ask for things, God will give them to us.

“WALK EXPECTANTLY!”

I heard again. So, I got up, and walked into the storage room. NO PAIN! It was absolutely pain free! I’m not making this up! It really happened! Not only did I walk into the stock room, but I put on my earbuds and I danced around as I scanned all of our items!

Later that night, as I relaxed at home, the pain returned just a bit. I thought, Now, why is it returning? Was it only temporary or do I have to do this whole thing over again?

“WALK EXPECTANTLY,” I heard again. What I realized was that I had been sitting there, thinking about how much it had hurt that morning, and how it felt so much better now. Was it real? Had that really happened, or was it just one of those weird pains that is there and then somehow just goes away. and had coincidentally gone as I had prayed. Was I making this all up in my head?

Then, God reminded me of the story of Peter, as he walked on the water towards Jesus. He had no problems until he looked away. The moment he stopped focusing on Jesus and started to worry that he would sink into the water, he did just that! He started to sink! So, what God was trying to tell me was that I needed to remember to focus on Him! To remember that He had healed me. And every time that pain or any other issue would rise up, I simply needed to focus on Jesus and I would make it through and everything would turn out fine! It was an amazing awakening. Since then, my ankle has not hurt again. I began praying and believing in healing for my knees and my feet and everything has been fine! I feel so much better!

To be clear, I no longer believe in coincidence. I don’t believe things “just happen at the exact right time.” I believe those are God moments. But every once in a while, I have a moment where the thought “what if” creeps into my mind. I just have to remember to squash that thought! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE! I have no doubt that Jesus healed my ankle that day, and I have no doubt that He is preparing me for something more, something bigger! When I step up and make the full commitment, that’s when He will start setting things into motion. One day, I WILL be a healer! One day, I WILL be out on the streets healing God’ children! Just like Jesus did. Just like Todd White does now, and many others as well.

Mission of Love (Part 2)

Day 2

We had a big breakfast and then were told about the day’s missions. Half of us were to go to Big Creek Food Pantry, where we would hand out our purses and Jackie would be cutting hair. The other half would swing by a person’s house who was new to Big Creek Missions. They would check it out and take pictures to see what all had to be done to it. Then, they would go to another lady’s house who had 2 kids with autism. They were to clean up her yard and just spend some time with her and maybe give her a moment’s break from the kids, if possible. Again, I knew what I wanted to do, but waited to see where I would be placed. Again, I was placed where I felt I had a calling. I had brought down some nail polish, and thought that would be a nice combo for when the ladies came in for a hair cut. While we were deciding details, Kevin came into the room. I thanked him for setting us up with Mona and told him how wonderful she was and that we had decided to adopt her! He asked where it was I was going for the day. When I told him I was going to the pantry, he said I could call her and ask her to join us. REALLY?! We could do that?! I was overjoyed to have one more day with her! I told Tiffany and Linda and they were just as excited! Kevin gave me her number and I called her.

“Hello?” came Mona’s Appalachian accent.

“Good morning, Mrs. Mona! This is Angie. How are you?”

“Oh, I’m just fine.”

“Well, I called to tell you that we didn’t get enough of you yesterday. We’re not doing anything exciting today, just hanging out at the food pantry. Would you like to join us?”

“Oh yes! That would be nice!” I could hear the happiness in her voice, and this made me even happier. I told her we would be to her in about an hour and asked if that would be enough time. She said yes, and we hung up and I got ready for our day together. I found my friends looking through the purses and choosing a purse for each of the ladies they would be seeing. Kevin told us that purple was Mona’s favorite color and we had seen her carry a small brown purse the day before. So, we chose a small pinkish purple purse for her. We rushed out of the door, eager to see her again. We picked her up and went back to the food pantry.

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Jackie had already begun cutting hair and making people feel beautiful. There was a man in her chair and a cookie cutter boy of about 10 years old who lingered nearby. He was definitely the man’s son, no denying it. He was watching his father get his hair cut. He smiled shyly, but when he was told it was his turn, his smile faded. He wanted nothing to do with Jackie’s scissors. Our friend Carol Ann was helping Jackie with whatever she needed, be it clean up, conversation, or just to hold the mirror. She helped him over to where Jackie sat to cut his hair. I marveled as Carol Ann tenderly held his hands to help comfort him and help him feel secure, and the way Jackie so patiently showed him everything she would be doing and how it would feel if it touched his skin, before she even made the first clip. She IMG_0343talked him through every moment of it. Carol Ann helped with any other need he had, including holding the mirror and telling him how brave he was and how good he was doing.

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Eventually,  Jackie brought out what she called her tickle monster. She told him it would tickle him so much that his tummy would hurt from laughing. She turned on her clippers and as they buzzed, his eyes grew wide with fear. She showed him that the clippers would not hurt him. She invited him to touch it, but when he refused, she put her full hand on the clippers to show him it wouldn’t hurt. He carefullIMG_0345y lifted one finger to touch it. Slowly, his worried frown turned into a smile, and eventually laughter. After his hair cut, I asked if I could take a photo oIMG_0350f him with Jackie to show the difference. Without hesitation, he quickly wrapped his arms around both Jackie and Carol Ann! The change in him was unbelievable! He had come in, a nervous, shy boy, who was a afraid to death of getting his hair cut. But here he was, hugging two strangers. I snapped a photo of his handsome, beaming smile.

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Later, there was a couple that sat at the front, waiting for their turn to have their hair cut. I struck up a conversation with them and talked to each independently, as they waited for the other to finish. Through conversation, I learned that he had worked for the local coal mines in a factory called a coal tipple. Never having met anyone who had ever worked for a coal mine, I was intrigued. I asked him what a coal tipple was, and promptly started IMG_0362looking for images on Google, to help me understand what we was talking about. I learned that a tipple is a structure used at a mine to load the extracted coal for transport into railroad hopper cars. He said it was hard work and it was just as hard and just as dirty as working in the mines. But it was safer because you didn’t have to worry about hitting any pockets of natural gas and having the mine explode coal tipple workerwith you in it. That thought terrified me! We grumble about going to our safe, boring little cubicles each day, but here was a man who had, at one time, gone to work in a mine every day, not knowing if he would come back out again! There weren’t a lot of options around there for jobs, so this was how they made their life. I asked how the men got down into the mines. Did they have to walk all that way or did they have to get into one of those carts they have, like the one’s I’d seen on Indiana Jones?
dirty man trip I imagined them lying on their backs in the darkness of their carts, watching as the various lights flew by over head, one by one. How dark and scary that would be! But I was told that they road in what is called a man trip. Its a short, squaty car that holds around 10 men or less. The men hop on and they go into the mines, sometimes as deep as 7 miles! The man trip has headlights, and there are lights throughout the mine, IMG_0358but its still dark. I wondered what it would be like if there was a storm outside and the electricity went off, and you were 7 miles deep in your tunnel. I remembered the “dungeon” where I work, in the basement of a hospital garage. How I complain about not having windows and not knowing if its a rainy or a beautiful day. But all I need to do is walk up a flight of steps and I can find out. These men go miles into the dark and won’t find out until the end of their shift.

I asked his wife what it was like to be married to a coal miner. I was thinking it was probably much like being married to a police officer, never knowing if they would come home, or if they would fall in the line of duty. She said no, she never thought about IMG_0360it like that. She said he always came home dirty, from head to toe. She had to clean her bathroom every single night, because otherwise, it would be black. She told me the miners wore masks over their nose and mouth and goggles over their eyes to protect them. Her husband would come home and the only part of him that would be white was a ring around his eyes, nose, and mouth. He said the mask part was very uncomfortable, and a lot of the time, he didn’t even wear it. I thought of all the coal dust that probably got into his lungs.

He had worked a long time in the mines before he was eventually given a uniform. He would put it on to work in, and take it off and leave it at the mineIMG_0359 each day. This made it a little easier for her, because less of the coal dust was coming home with him.

Then, she smiled at me. “And it’s even easier now that he’s retired!”

I asked what they were going to do now that they had been spiffed up with their new hair cuts. He smiled down at his wife and said he was taking her on a date. They would be IMG_0363heading to the next town over, where he planned to take her shopping and see “what other trouble they could get into.” Seeing as they were old enough to be my grandparents, this made me smile. They were still madly in love with each other and it was so nice to see. It was written all over their faces and the way they talked to and about each other. They were definitely a very sweet couple who still had a lot of sass left in them and, it seemed, a lot of life.

 

To be continued on the next post…

 

A Mission of Love (Part 1)

I remember, as a little girl of maybe 10 or 12, excitedly sitting in the pews of my normally boring church, hanging on every word of the lady at the pulpit as they spilled out of her mouth. I remember thinking how interesting her life must be and being so intrigued with her passion, as she spoke about her life. She was a missionary. She had just returned from Africa and she was trying to raise money for another trip. She said she had left her heart in Africa and felt the urge to go back again. She was showing pictures and telling us of her adventures. She was an older lady with salt and pepper hair, tied up in a loose bun, with warm, deep brown chocolaty eyes, and sun-baked, wrinkly, leather skin. But to me, she was so beautiful! I wondered if I would one day be brave enough to do anything like what she was describing. Would God ever choose me? And if He did, would I be brave enough to go, or would I be like Jonah, and run away, only to end up in the belly of a whale?

That day was long ago, and that memory had long been forgotten, stored away with so many others. But recently, God reminded me of that day. I awoke from a dream, and the memory was fresh in my mind, as if it had just happened. I remembered my necklace that my step mother had bought from her, to help support her. I remembered wearing it for a long time afterwards. Where had that necklace gone? It had been made by her African friends. I wish I could reach back into my memories and pluck it out so I could wear it again. So I could feel her passion again. But God had a reason for reminding me.

I had just heard about a missionary trip that the ladies were doing at my church. This one not far away, just over 3 hours to the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. The cost was minimal, merely $90. But, as all humans do, I wanted a sign that I was supposed to go on this trip. I wanted to know without a doubt, that God wanted me there. So, just as Gideon laid out his fleece, I made my own bargain. I told God that if He made a way for me to be there, if He could just make it free for me, I would go. Of course, that didn’t mean that I was just going to sit back and do nothing. So, I joined the ladies for a bake sale and we raised money to help pay our way. We also collected purses and supplies to put into them to take with us and hand out while we were there. One lady even donated a bunch of beautiful jewelry to sell at our bake sale, and some to add to the purses! We raised $500 in just one day! I’d say that was a loud and clear message from God, not only for me, but for some other ladies as well. So, we were on our way, with packed purses in tow.

Day 1:

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We started out early on a Friday, meeting at our church at 6:30, before the sun even decided it was time to roll out of bed! We packed our belongings into four cars and we were on our way. There were ten of us, and one more to join us the next day. We were all so excited that we never, even once the whole trip, turned on the radio! We chattered the whole way down. I was with several ladies that I attend church with regularly. I considered them to be good friends because we talked when we saw each other, and prayed for each other when we needed it. But I had longed for a closer relationship with them. Life gets busy and it’s hard to sometimes get together outside of church, but this was our chance, and I was loving every second of it!

We stopped at Denny’s Restaurant half way down for a rest and a breather and to fill our tummies before moving on. The food was wonderful and the service was slow. It was definitely a Southern atmosphere! With full bellies and happy hearts, we continued on to our destination.

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About four hours after leaving our church, we finally arrived to the old school house that would be our home for the weekend. Big Creek Mission is an organization that helps serve the needs of the community. They also help people like me, who have a longing to help others, but don’t know where to start. They have a list of people with various needs, who apply for that help, and receive it freely. Then volunteers come from all over and stay at the mission and build porches, repair roofs, fixes homes, or just hold a hand and chat with a lonely heart. Whatever is needed, that is what we are called to do. But we are told adamantly that every service we provide, no matter how big or small, circles around the person’s needs and their heart. If we are building a roof or just cleaning up a yard, and we see the person needs a little one on one time, THAT is what is more important! It’s not about the service that is being provided, even if we think it’s important to get it done. It’s about making sure that person knows that THEY are the most important part of that service and they are loved.

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When we got there, we were introduced to the gentleman that runs the place, Kevin. He was a tall man with an athletic build,  a genuinely warm smile, and an eagerness to help others, including making sure that our trip didn’t just help those in need, but that we were happy and satisfied with whatever it was we did. He would be the one to connect us with whomever we helped and explain the details of each mission. He was also the one who would be cooking our delicious food for the weekend! He showed us to our room and then left to get the details for our first mission.

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Our room was a large, brightly lit old classroom. There were 18 bunk beds along the walls. I was amazed at the size and roominess of it, having imagined a small, dark room with uncomfortably thin mattresses and an odor I was sure would be left behind from previous inhabitants. I, of course, dropped my belongings in a chair with glee and promptly crawled to the very top bunk next to the window, proclaiming it Rapunzel’s tower and telling my friends that if they wanted to visit me, they could forgo the ladder and simply climb up my long blond hair! Of course, my hair actually only goes to the middle of my back, so they better be good jumpers, too!

Kevin returned and had several missions we could choose from. I should pause here and tell you that I had made a second bargain with God. I had told Him that if He allowed me to go on this trip for free, then I would freely offer my services, wherever they were needed. I wouldn’t speak up and jump at something that I wanted to do, but only do whatever was assigned to me, with a happy heart. Anyone that knows me, knows how hard it is for me to be silent! But that was what I did. Kevin had three assignments. There was a lady who had recently lost her husband and needed to get out of the house. There was another lady that just needed someone to come and visit with her. And there was a nursing home that had a bunch of people who needed some love. I sat, waiting for others to choose their missions, knowing which one I would like to choose. My girlfriend, Jackie, had come down with an intent to cut people’s hair for them. She’s an amazing hair stylist. So, she chose to go to the nursing home to see when she could come back and cut their hair, and maybe paint a few nails while she was there. Another friend of mine, Tiffany, and her mother, Linda, had recently lost a close family member, so they chose to go visit with the first lady. Everyone quickly decided their paths, and I was assigned to the first lady. I was over the moon! That was exactly who I had wanted to help! God had taken care of me! I don’t want to start naming these people, just to protect their privacy, so, we’ll call her Mona.

Mona lived the farthest away, up in a mountain with a gravel road. June loaned me her Jeep and off we went, Tiffany, Linda, and I. The country roads were beautiful, with trickling creeks and breathtaking views. Kevin had hooked me up with Google maps and the location of Mrs. Mona. It lead us right to her, no problems! The only problem we had once we got there was that there was a mountain on one side of us, and a straight down cliff on the other! I literally prayed for safety and stability as I wound down Mona’s drive way! The first thing we saw, as we pulled up in front of her house, was the grave of her husband, complete with funeral flowers, right in her front yard! City girl that I am, I couldn’t believe why anyone would want that reminder right in her front yard! To me, it would be like a knife, stabbing me every time I walked past it. But it was her yard, and we had to respect whatever it was she did or wanted.

We had chatted on the way about the person we would find here. What would she be like? Was she older? Was she quiet or would she be spunky? What could we possibly do that could fill that terrible hole in her heart? We’d decided, from the minimal things Kevin had told us, that she was spunky and she’d be fun to be around, after we lifted her spirits. But as we walked up her porch ramp to meet her, I began to get nervous. What if she didn’t like us? What if losing her husband had made her crabby and mean? How could we help her then? But the moment she opened her front door, even before we got to the top of her ramp, all of that nervousness went away! There stood an older lady with shoulder length salt and pepper hair and a big beautiful smile on her face! She welcomed each of us with a warm hug and asked us to come in. As we sat, Tiffany and Linda on the couch, Mona in a chair, and me on the floor (my usual comfy spot), it began to rain. We listened to the music of the rain on the tin roof as it fell, and I, remembering she wanted to get out of the house, envisioned us sliding off the side of the cliff, pushed over by the rain and the mud. So, again, I said a little prayer for safety and stability, and maybe that the rain would stop.

We talked for a bit and got to know Mona. Tiffany and Linda told them of how their loved one had recently passed and that they could understand what she was going through. As Mona told us how her “Bo” had passed, it reminded me of my father in law’s passing and I understood why God had me there. My father in law had only been gone a year. He had been in the hospital and then come out. We thought he was in the clear, but then we’d found out that he had blood poisoning from bed sours that he’d had. We lost him, and it was hard on us all, with all of our “if only’s”. Mona’s husband Bo had been in the hospital as well, and she’d brought him home, thinking he was going to be ok, only to realize that wouldn’t be the case. My heart ached for her. She told us that they had a conversation before he’d died about where to bury him.

He’d said, “Bury my over yonder.” Mona pointed out, beyond her front yard to where the creek was.

Mona replied, in her sweet Appalachian accent, “But there’s rocks over there. Ain’t nobody gonna be able to bury you there!”

Bo said, “Alright, that’s fine. Then just bury me wherever ya want to.”

She said she still needed him close, so, she buried him in the front yard where she could still talk to him and go visit him. There was a bench and chairs that I had missed on my way in, when I was so focused on the grave they surrounded. She said that was where they would sit together and just relax in the sun and enjoy nature. With him being so close, she could still enjoy that with him. I could tell that he might be gone in body, but he was still close in spirit. It touched me that her love for him was so strong that she still needed him near. I could see that my first assumptions were wrong, and I began to see the grave of her husband in a different light.

The rain eventually  stopped, and we asked her where she would like to go for the day. She shot up straight in her seat, her whole face lighting up, and she looked like a child as she said, “Dairy Queen!” We all giggled and said that was exactly where we would go. As we walked out of her door, we ran into her three cats. She introduced us and I was drawn to one she had named Thumper. We asked why his name was Thumper and she said, “Because he thumps everywhere!”

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We drove away from her house and noticed an old car body with trees growing out of the middle of it. Mona was amused at my thrill to see it. I stopped the Jeep and got out and took pictures. I told her that it reminded me of Harry Potter with his car and the Womping Tree. She said Bo and his brother had taken parts from it to fix another car and had just left it there. Now it’s part of Mother Nature’s artwork!

 

We got to Dairy Queen and ordered our ice cream. I told them that I had given up chocolate for Lent, which was a HUGE sacrifice for me and complete torture in places like this. Tiffany, who treats me like a sister, promptly told me how delicious her chocolaty ice cream was. BRAT! Mona giggled at her. She mostly stayed quiet and just took in everything around her. I worried that we were talking too much, that she didn’t feel included in our conversation. I wanted her to feel relaxed and welcomed into whatever we said. I wanted to get her mind off of anything that bothered her. Yet, there we were, discussing our husbands and children. Was she ok with this conversation, I wondered?

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We finished our ice cream and she said she’d like to go to the grocery store. She seemed to everyone there! They all said hello and asked how she was doing. She smiled politely and said she was fine, and moved on. Tiffany, amazed with the prices of meats and produce in the store, proclaimed that she was moving down there so she could shop in that store! Mona smiled at our amazement.

Towards the end of the grocery store visit, Mona’s eyes lit up with child-like amusement. “Angie, lookie there!” she said as she pointed.

“What am I looking at?” I curiously asked, looking around.

“Lookie over there, too! And there!”

“What? What am I looking at?”

“It’s chocolate! It’s over there, too!” She dutifully pointed out all of the chocolate I couldn’t have and then laughed herself silly at her own joke.

I laughed and told her, “You are not a nice person! Why do you enjoy torturing me?! You and Tiffany both!! God help me!” We laughed some more and then I went around the check outs to wait for her at the front of the store.

We left the grocery and she said she wanted to go to the dollar store, so we stopped by Family Dollar. As we walked around, we somehow lost Tiffany and Linda. Mona pointed it out and asked if we should go looking for them. “NO!” was my reply. “Now I have you all to myself, and I don’t have to share you!” She laughed and asked if she should be worried. I smiled and told, “Maybe yes, maybe no.” And then I winked at her. Too bad Tiff showed up shortly after. I was really enjoying Mrs. Mona! She fit right in with our personalities. She was definitely spunky and full of life! There were moments that you could see her hurt as plain as the nose on her face, but she was so happy and content that those moments passed quickly, and it wasn’t long before she was teasing one of us or just smiling at our shenanigans. She might have been quiet, but I was quickly learning that all she really wanted was to be around people, to listen to someone else talk and be welcomed into the conversation whenever she had something to add to it. I couldn’t help but fall head over heals in love with her. She was cute and so much fun to be around. There was a spark in her that drew you to her like a magnet.

The day was drawing to an end, and we drove her home. As we walked her up the ramp, there came a loud pitter-patter behind us, as if a large dog were following us. I turned to see Thumper as he passed me. Facing forward, there was Mrs. Mona smiling her big, beautiful smile. “See? Thumper!” It totally made sense now! There was no quiet in that cat. He was definitely my kind of cat!

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We helped her get settled into her house and we told her we really enjoyed her and that we would come back to visit soon. Tiffany and Linda asked if it would be ok to go down and say goodbye to Bo, too. Mona seemed touched and said yes, of course. I was worried about the darkness, so I got right into the car, thinking they would be quick. But when they didn’t come, I got out to see what they were doing. I found Tiffany praying at Bo’s grave, IMG_0316.JPGwith tears in her eyes, and Linda in a similar way. I was moved by their hearts and the way they already seemed to love Mona, and had such an affinity for Bo, whom neither had ever met. I was moved by the fact that they took the time to stop and pray for this couple that we had only just met. It was a reminder to me to stop and smell the roses, as they say. I was reminded that this wasn’t just about getting Mona’s mind off of it. It was about taking care of Mona’s heart, and she had such a big, beautiful, joyful heart. She waited on the porch and waved to us with a sad smile and an “I love ya’ll. Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?” as we got into the car and drove away. She stayed there on that porch until we were out of sight. My heart was sad, and yet over flowing, all at the same time. How could you care so quickly and so deeply about someone you just met? But, somehow, she had snuck her way into our hearts.

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We were worried about being late for dinner, but I couldn’t speed on these windy country roads. We chatted about the day and how wonderful it been. We were all definitely amazed at how much we felt we had been blessed. We had gone down to bless someone else and had ended up getting blessed ourselves! It’s crazy how God works that way!

As we were speeding along the best we could, we came upon an accident! It was a bright blue car laying on it’s side, that had seemingly just driven off the road and through the guard rails. My heart leaped into my throat and I quickly pulled down the street next to the car and into the first driveway. My thought was, “Here’s our next mission from God! Save this person before the car explodes!!!” My heart pounding, I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough! I nervously fumbled with the seat belt and finally was free. Beside me, Tiffany was jumping out of the car and was running around the backside, ready for action. I was half way out of the car, one foot in, one foot out, when we both noticed the large, unmistakable traffic cones at the edge of the road. How could we have missed that?! We breathed a sigh of relief and looked at each other. Pictures!!! No one was going to believe this! After snapping a few, we got back into the car and drove the rest of the way back to the mission.

We burst through the front doors. “Girls! You are NOT going to believe what we just saw!” We told them of the car we had just seen and they began to laugh. What’s so funny? They had just done the EXACT same thing, right down to the driver having one foot in and one foot out before realizing it was an older accident. We laughed together and then compared pictures. They were exactly the same! Too funny! I couldn’t help but wonder, was that a test from God? Did we pass? I sure hope so!

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Dinner was divine! I had expected peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or pasty spaghetti from a package. Something that was barely edible, since we were on a mission trip. I had thought that was what Missionaries ate. How wrong I was! Instead, we had salad with anything you wanted on top, bourbon chicken, cheese covered tomatoes, potato wedges and green beans! Then, for dessert, we had vanilla pudding with bananas and Nilla wafers. We sat at fold up picnic table while we ate and enjoyed our conversations and fellowship. We met another group of people from Mississippi tIMG_0322hat had been there already and were heading out the next day. They regaled us with stories of their time there, and I truly enjoyed our conversation. Many of them were teenagers, and I was amazed at the bright God-light shining from them already. What a true blessing these kids were! What a bright future they must have!

 

 

Then, we all went into our room and sat in a circle and told each other about our day and our experiences on our missions. It was amazing how much we all seemed to receive. I had always thought the missiIMG_0333on was about the people we were going to help. Not that they were any less than any of us. We are all equally loved children of God and we all have times of trouble, or times of need. I was just going down to do my share to help out. But I truly hadn’t thought about what I would receive in return. To me, it really was all about whomever it was that we would meet. But, as we all told our stories, each one of us said that we had also been blessed. We’d been blessed with a feeling of love, and of accomplishment. One friend said that all she did was sit with her lady, as the lady stroked her arm and just seemed to want some kind of human touch. It’s actually very hard for me to explain exactly what I was feeling as I sat there listening to the events of the day,  and how they affected my friends, but it was like nothing I had ever felt before. We had devotions and listened to worship music and talked for awhile. We had planned to play a game, but we were enjoying each other so much, we never got a chance to. We all went to bed that night exhausted, but feeling satisfied with what we had done that day.

As I said my evening prayers, I asked God to bless Mona and to help her to heal and be ok with the life she would now lead. I asked that He would send her people to take care of her and that she would never feel lonely. I also told Him that if He wanted some alone time with me in the morning, He better wake me up early. My phone was plugged in on the other side of the room. I didn’t want to bother anyone with my alarm, since it would take me some time to climb down from my tower and get to it. He must have liked that idea, because He woke me up at 6:00 the next morning, before anyone else. I sat and read my Bible for an hour before anyone from my group even got us. I reveled in the warmth of everything that had happened so far, and we hadn’t even been there 24 hours. What would this new day bring? What blessings did God have in store for us? We would soon find out!

 

ME? Perfect?! You bet’cha!

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As I’m sure you have noticed, my blog is called Super Mom Lives Elsewhere. That was my corny way of saying, “I’m not perfect!” I have been pondering this post for a few weeks now, but when I begin to write, I get lost in it and sometimes it takes me hours to get it right and get it “finished.” That’s hard on my family somehow, to allow me that time. As I’m sure most mothers have come to find, when you are free and available, no one needs you. The moment the phone rings, you run into a treasured friend or you decide to take a moment for yourself, everyone in your house needs something from you! So, it is with simple bliss that I am able to write this blog today!

So, what has been on my mind, you ask? Well… ME! In a manner of speaking, anyway. Let me begin about a month ago. I went to a SOZO prayer meeting. For those of you who do not know what that is, let me explain it to you. If you are not a Christian, or if you have never heard of SOZO, this may seem a bit loony to you, but please bare with me. SOZO is a prayer that someone else leads on your behalf. In my experience, I went into a room with 3 other ladies, one of whom was in charge and lead the prayer. The other two ladies added to the experience or prayed on their own. During this prayer, you are lead into a deeper relationship with God, and through it, you are helped to break spiritual bonds that keep you from becoming closer with Him. It’s an amazing experience, but to tell you the truth, at first, it scared me to death! It was as if I thought that I could keep my dirty little secrets in the closet, and God wouldn’t find out about them. I thought that He would shine some super natural flashlight on all my dirty little deeds, and it would be like one of those spy movies, where the evil spy was tied up in a chair and the guy questioning him would have this ultra bright light shining in the spy’s face, asking him, “Why did you do what you did?!” But it wasn’t like that at all! It was very loving, and comfortable. True, I was embarrassed at admitting some things, but I was able to express them and let them go.

When you go through this prayer, they ask you to be open minded and to talk about the things that are brought to mind. Then, they go through a list of things that might be chains to you, and then say a prayer of release for each. At the end of this prayer, there is a part where you say something along the lines of, “God, I release this to you, and ask what do you have in return for me?” After one of those times saying the words, I felt God tell me, “You are perfect.” PERFECT ?! I thought.What?! No way! Not me! I am so far from perfect. I thanked Him for those kind words, and, yes, I actually did break down and cry  little. For God to tell ME that I am perfect, well, that just didn’t sound right to me. But who am I to doubt Him?

We all have those things about ourselves that we see when we look in the mirror. I know I do. The things that probably only I notice about myself. The tummy that’s just a bit too round. The bottom with just a bit more “junk” than I’d prefer. The smile lines after too many years of laughter. But there are also those things that I know are on the inside, the things that really make me imperfect. The inability to get anywhere on time for a majority of my existence. The forgetfulness. The judgy part of me that no one sees or hears. There are so many things that I feel are wrong with me. Its as if I am my own worst enemy! As if my reflection could crawl out of that mirror and point directly at my imperfections and announce them to the world! Totally horrifying!

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I see all these imperfections, and I know that they are there. I’M NOT PERFECT!!! If God can see everything, how does He not see those as well? Did we get something wrong, and maybe God does have blind spots? Is He like us humans, when we look at our children? Like the mom who refuses to believe that her perfect little Johnny would punch another kid at school.Or that sweet little Susie would snatch an extra cupcake at her friend’s birthday party while no one was looking. I just can’t accept that! So, how does God think that I am perfect? I struggled with this one hard.

Then, the following Sunday, I went to church, still pondering this. As I was dancing by my seat, worshiping (this is when God talks to me the most), He spoke to me again.

“Angie,” He said, “Do you think I make mistakes?” Of course not! YOU are the one that’s perfect, not me!

“Do you think I make anything halfheartedly? That I ever make something and then say, ‘Good enough!’?” No, that doesn’t sound like something you would do.

“Then, if I only make things perfectly, if I make them to the point that they are exactly how I want them, and since I made you, doesn’t that make you perfect?” MIND BLOWN! Wow! So, I really am perfect! I really am exactly how God wanted me to be, with all of my quirks and weirdness, all of my flaws and my mistakes, EVERYTHING! He made me this way! But why? Why did I have to be this way? Why can’t I remember things? Why am I continually late? The answer became obvious to me. If I was perfect, I wouldn’t need Him. If I was perfect, I wouldn’t lean on Him. If I was perfect, I wouldn’t need anyone. I wouldn’t be a lesson for anyone else, and no one would have anything that they could teach me. I wouldn’t have all those wonderful, deep conversations with my friends that I feel expand my understanding of the world around me, and my understanding of God and spirituality. There are so many reasons that I see now for my imperfections, and now, instead of hating them, I embrace them! Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t love them, and they still get on my nerves, but they don’t get under my skin like before. And I thank God for them. I thank God for another reason to lean on Him, another reason to start a conversation with Him. My imperfections are beautiful.

You are absolutely beautiful, my darling, with no imperfection in you. 

~Song of Solomon 4:7

So, God sees me as perfect. I’m still reeling over this. All my life, I’ve struggled  with my imperfections. I wanted to be like someone else, whom I saw as being way better than me. I’ve driven to be just as good at something as the person I put on a pedestal. I’ve never looked at myself and thought, “Wow! I’m perfect!” And while I still don’t see myself as perfect, and my self esteem still isn’t the greatest, I know that God sees me that way. I continually pray that God will help me to see myself the way that He does. I want to look at myself adoringly and have mercy on myself when I make mistakes. I don’t want to be angry at myself anymore when I fall short of my own expectations. I am perfectly created!

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

~ Ephesians 2:10

I also realized that if I am so focused on my flaws, I can’t see the good things that God instilled in me to help others with. There are so many there, too. Like my ability to be so outgoing, my huge heart that is able to love any and everyone, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what they have done in their past. My inability to stay mad at anyone, because I am such a person of joy, that it is actually a struggle for me to get angry! And there are so many other things that I never thought about, simply because I was so focused on what I couldn’t do or what I was messing up.

I think we are all like that. So, if you put your imperfections aside, what is it about you that makes you so awesome? What did God put inside you that can help others? That other people might be able to learn from you? I bet, if you asked God to reveal them to you, He’d give you a huge list that would rival any list you could make of your flaws!

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