Monday Morning Musings (with a side of muscle relaxers)

Monday Morning Musings

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Ok, so it’s not still morning, but Monday Morning Musings sounds so much better than Monday Afternoon Musings, doesn’t it? (and besides I’m on pain killers and muscle relaxers for ongoing whiplash issues which now seem to now involve my jaw! so can I just get credit for writing anything coherent at all?? at least I hope this is coherent! 😉

I’m hoping to make these musings a weekly post—a way to process lessons, truths, and word pictures that stand out to me from Sunday.

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And so my musings from yesterday:

  • (Ok, truth be told this was from last week, but it was too good not to include here) Our pastor, Brian Frost, was preaching out of Ephesians 1:11-14talking about how those who have trusted in Jesus are sealed by the Holy Spirit. He then told a story about how one of his sons always makes sure to seal his cookies by licking each one before leaving the table to get a drink. Which made me think….have those of us who have trusted in Jesus been licked by the Holy Spirit???

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  • (This was another gem from last week) So not only have we been licked by the Holy Spirit, but as if Divine spit wasn’t enough, our pastor mentioned John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”Which tells us that those who have confessed Jesus as LORD and King are held firmly in His hands—in which we are un-snatchable. But as if Divine spit and the secure hands of Jesus are not enough of a guarantee—as if we could possibly be lost from the grip from the One who holds all things together, God takes it one step further. Look at the very next verse, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:29. In case you missed it (like I did the first time) Brian spelled it out. Not only are we held secure in Jesus’ hands, but then God takes His hands and puts them around Jesus’. Friends, we are licked by the Spirit and then held in both the Son and the Father’s hands. I don’t know about you, but I believe that is as secure as secure can get!
  • Now for yesterday: Brian, preaching from Ephesians 1:15-23, talked about living as we truly are—co-heirs with Christ! One of our greatest inheritances being that of access to the Father. He encouraged us to come to God as our good and perfect Father—not concerned with following a formula, but just coming to Him as we are—where we are. He gave an example of his boys hearing the ice cream truck and running in for a dollar. “I heard the truck,” Brian said, “I knew what they wanted before they ever burst through the door. So how silly would it have for them to stop everything and before they presented their most pressing request, they first stopped to adore me, telling me how great I am, how tall I am. And then they thanked me for the house I provided for them and the food they had already eaten. And then what if I watched as they debated what they were supposed to do next, remembered they were supposed to confess their sin and proceeded to tell me how they had been fighting earlier—All before they asked me for the dollar?” It made for a good chuckle in the church, but the point was made. Yes, it is important to adore God, to thank God, to confess our sin and intercede for others, but God knows what we need before we need it. He knows our hearts, our worries, our fears, and our distractions. And so isn’t it better to own those. To say, “God, I am so worried about this that I want to give it to you first.” And then as we lay our worries and distractions at His feet, we will be able to worship and adore, thank and confess.

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  • Lastly, another part of our inheritance is power. (And this one blows my mind!) As believers in Jesus, we have within us the same power that rose Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of God! Why should I ever be afraid to do anything God has called me to do??? Think about that power! I can choose what is right because that power dwells within me. I can do what is hard, because that power lives inside of me. I can go where I am sent because that power radiates through me!

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Holy Spirit licking, Father/Son holding, access granting, power giving….it’s been a lot to ponder!

But alas, my muscle relaxers have kicked in and so that is all the musings I can muster for now.

But keep seeking Him! He’s there and He delights in revealing himself!

Much love,
Jen

 

When Stolen Jesus steals your heart

She had me at vomit.

I was recovering from a mild wretched case of the stomach bug when I first stumbled across Jami Amerine’s blog, specifically her post about the need to quarantine oneself when one becomes contaminated by the stomach plague. She spoke truth. Causing me to laugh so hard that my own stomach plague made a brief return. Oh the irony!

Then several weeks later while again scrolling through the bowels refined halls of facebook, I came across yet another post by the same engaging, hilarious, truth-bombing author. It was an open letter to her kids telling them that, while she loves them fiercely, they’re not all that great. I think I spit out the sweet tea I had been drinking. Her words soothed my guilt-laden, flowers-after-the-recital-forgetting self.

And I was hooked.

I craved her raw, authentic, hilarious, truth-filled posts. I wondered about the woman behind the computer screen. I imagined what it would be like to meet for coffee. Would she bring the vandals? (her precious and precocious little boys) Would we laugh so hard we snorted while simultaneously worshipping and praising the Savior we both love?

And then I discovered we shared an agent!

What?!?!

For the first time in my life I felt cool!

(and more than a little intimidated. I mean I average 100 views a week, at best! while Jami’s numbers are counted by the 100’s of thousands)

But what I would soon discover is that Jami will be the first to tell you that numbers, viral posts, and book deals are nothing more than a vehicle by which to proclaim the freedom of the Gospel. She will humbly declare that she is who she is because He is who He is.

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Jami writes of freedom and grace and authentic love. Themes which define her life and her writing.

Themes which are woven throughout her first (and completely amazing) book Stolen Jesus.

I have never laughed, cried, pondered and meditated on truth all within the span of three pages before!

Stolen Jesus is the story of how Jami “stole” a picture of Jesus, but ended up having her heart stolen by the real Jesus.

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Discouraged by a lifetime of pursuing religion and relationships with counterfeit messiahs (false ideas of Jesus based on human experience and misrepresentations), Jami set out on a course to discover Who the real Jesus was and why He should matter.

What Jami found has completely changed her life!

Stolen Jesus will force you to think about Who Jesus is to you.

The real Jesus.

And once you know Him, it will change everything.

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Jami, I am so grateful for your willingness to be used by God to speak truth to hungry hearts. Whether it is truth about vomit, kids, dress size or spiritual matters, you write and speak with a vulnerability and authenticity that is beautiful to behold. I pray that Stolen Jesus will find its way into the hearts and hands of those hungry to receive the truth of Jesus and His unfathomable, unending, always pursuing Grace.
Much love to you my friend,

Jen

 

 

God, are you mean?

God, are you mean?

I hesitate a moment before writing the words in my journal. Words that I feel a little guilty for writing, for surely God is not mean, right? He is love, He is good, He is kind and gracious and merciful. I know this to be true from what He reveals about Himself in His Word. I know this to be true from what I have personally experienced. And yet, the question gnaws at my soul.

For the past few months I have been on a personal quest to know God more.

God, who are you? Has become the cry of my heart. The subject of each journal entry. The sole question I ask as I go to His Word.

For so long I have assumed I knew God. I have loved Him for as long as I can remember—first trusting in Him at the age of six, while cuddled up in Strawberry Shortcake sheets with a Care Bear tucked under my arm. I attended Christian school, went to youth retreats, participated in Bible studies. I’ve memorized countless verses and passages and can sing most of the old hymns by heart.

But then I had kids.

And they began asking questions.

And…suddenly I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

“Mommy,” my then five year old son asked while we were driving to the grocery store, “If satan said he was sorry to God, and really meant it, would God forgive him and let him go to heaven?”

Umm…

“Mama,” my daughter asked a few years back, “Why does the Bible say that God hated Esau? God loves everybody right?”

Uh…

“Hey Mom,” my now teenage boy begins, “Doesn’t God seem kinda mean sometimes in the Bible? Why did He make Israel kill all those other nations? And why did he have Achan’s entire family stoned just because Achan stole a few things? Is God mean?”

Uh…

I look down at my journal and trace the words I just wrote.

God, are you mean?

I close my eyes and wait.

For what? I’m not sure.

An answer? A sign? Peace? Wisdom?

Yes.

All of it. Please Lord.

Who am I? The question swirls around my mind before landing in my heart.

Who am I? My gaze lands on the pages of the Bible lying open before me.

Who am I? My head bows in reverence.

I’m not entirely sure Lord, but I want to know You more. Will you show me? God, will you remove the false ideas and attributes I’ve assigned to You over the years? Will you forgive me for constantly trying to shove you into a box that I can understand? Will you expose the lies about you that I have been believing? And Lord, will you reveal the truth of Yourself through the pages of Your Word?

I open my eyes and they land on ancient words,

“‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor or a man his brother, saying ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’” [Jeremiah 31:33-34 emphasis mine]

Oh, LORD, You are not mean! You are Grace itself. You who answer the prayers of confused mothers and humble truth seekers. And while I will never understand all of Your ways, I will do my best to always trust Your heart.

This quest will continue until the day I stand before Him face to face, and I imagine that even then, I will still spend eternity learning new things about Him.

Yet, it is a quest I will gladly continue for only when we know who God is can we trust what He does. 

So I will continue to sit at His Word and invite Him to reveal Himself to me, and to my children. And when they ask the hard questions (which I pray they will continue to do) we will go to Him together and not be afraid to ask,

God, who are You?

Much love,
Jen

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Tips for enduring survival mode…

Are you weary today? Exhausted? Fed up? All kinds of done?

I have talked to so many people who feel they are at the end of their ropes. They are battle-weary, wounded, and on edge.

The events of the last few weeks and months have taken their toll. Fires, floods, wind, rain, lack of power, destruction of property, and worst of all, loss of loved ones.

Hearts are aching, tempers are flaring, and spirits are feeling crushed.

Please know that you matter. Your feelings matter. Your frustrations and heartbreaks matter. And that it is ok, good even, for you to let yourself feel all those feelings. You have been through a trauma and you are grieving—if not grieving for a loved one, you are grieving for the way things used to be, before a fire, storm, or circumstances beyond your control changed everything.

Take a moment to let yourself feel.

I know it doesn’t feel good. I know human nature is to avoid things that cause us pain. But feeling is the way to healing. Your brain needs a moment to absorb the trauma and process it. It’s like your brain needs to update to a new operating system (and we all know the problems that eventually happen if we go too long without updating!).

So today, may I encourage you to take a moment to feel all the feelings. Talk about your experience with a caring friend. Write about it in a letter or journal. Draw a picture of how your feeling. Make a computer graphic to illustrate your current mood. The method is not what’s important. It’s the act of allowing yourself to feel it and getting it out that’s important.

And while you are letting yourself feel, be gentle with yourself.

You have been through a lot. You may even still be in “survival mode.” This is not a time to try and get back to normal or push yourself to do a ton of things. This is a time to let yourself heal. Set small manageable and realistic goals for yourself. You will get back up and running at full speed soon enough, but for today go easy with yourself.

Your measure of a successful day may be as simple just brushing your teeth! That’s awesome! That’s worthy of celebrating!

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So in case you need permission, here it is:

Be gentle with yourself today and take it easy. Focus on your breathing. Pray. Spend some quiet time with God—even if you’re a little mad at Him (it’s ok, He’s big enough to take it!). And set aside some time (even if it’s just 10 minutes) to let yourself feel. And I promise that eventually, some day, you will begin to heal.

Praying for the battle-weary and hurting hearts today,
Jen

[If you would like to share your story here, please feel free to do so in the comments. And please know that you are not alone! You have a God who adores you and people who care! I care, and would love to pray for you! (and your willingness to share may just help someone else share)]

“In the day that I called, you answered me. You encouraged me with strength in my soul.” Psalm 138:3

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Praying for Florida (my home state)

I was 9 years old when hurricane Elena sat off the west coast of FL for days. At only a cat 1 it obviously wasn’t anything compared to Irma. And yet, as a 9 year old little girl having to leave my house and all my prized stuffed animals, it was terrifying. I remember trying to be brave as I watched my parents packing up what they could, but I couldn’t stop shaking and trembling. My dad, noticing my fear, drew me into his arms and said:
Sugar, it’s ok to cry. This is really scary. So let’s sit here for just a minute and be scared together, ok? I want you to let out all that fear and all those tears and I will hold you tight.
And I did, grateful for the permission to stop trying to be brave for a minute.
Then after several minutes, as the tears began to slow, he said: Now, we’re gonna take a big deep breath, hold it for a second and blow it out. And when we blow it out we are going to pray and thank God for being with us, ask Him to give us courage and strength, ask Him to protect us and those we love, and then we are going to get up and go.
“Ready?” he asked.
I nodded my head and together we took a deep, steadying breath before getting up to head to safety.

Florida we cry with you, we pray with you and we take a collective deep breath with you. And while you go about your preparations, those of us who are not in harm’s way, will stay here on our knees in prayer, praying for mercy, for a miracle, for protection.
Floridians, you are stronger than you know, braver than you feel, and most importantly you are not alone!!
Praying without ceasing for the state I love so very much.

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God, where are you?

When flood waters rise and unrelenting rain pours from the sky, God where are you?
When fires rage, consuming everything in their destructive path, God where are you?
When hurricanes churn in open waters, terrorizing those in their paths, God where are you?
When a grim-faced doctor reveals a life-changing diagnosis, God where are you?
When nations war against nations, people against people, brothers against brothers, God where are you?
When children are buried, marriages dissolve, and hurting souls take their own lives, God where are you?

I AM here.

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The words float toward earth—billowing echoes from the throne of Heaven.

I AM here, the echo repeats, I’m closer than the air you breathe, nearer then the heart beating in your chest.

I AM standing beside you, giving you strength.

I AM whispering peace in your ear.

I AM holding your hand as you stand in broken disbelief.

I AM stroking your hair, catching your tears.

I AM waiting within the pages of My Word.

I AM longing for you to look to Me.

I AM the Sovereign God who promises to never leave you nor forsake you.

I AM brokenhearted with you. I AM grieving with you. I AM saddened with you.

But I AM also the author of Hope, and dear one, your story is not over, this moment does not define you. This storm will pass, and you…my precious child, you will be stronger, braver, bolder. You will be changed because you saw Me in the midst of the storm.

For when you see Me—when you look past the visible, into the face of the eternal—you will never be the same.

This is my promise to you:
In Me you will find strength and peace and rest.
In Me you will find hope and courage and wisdom.
In Me you will find refuge and protection and light.

In Me you will find….life.

Many claim to know me, and to some extent they do, yet they do not always portray Me accurately.

Many assume they know me and delight in spouting off trite facts and false claims, this grieves my heart, for it is not who I am.

Many preach condemnation in my name, telling hurting souls that their storm is my wrath poured out on them. Dear one do not believe them. You see, the Father’s wrath was poured out on the cross, on Me. I bore His wrath—for you. Storms are not God’s wrath against mankind, they are simply….storms.

Yet, many cry out “But You can stop the storm.” And yes, yes, I can, but I do not always do so. And this is hard for you to understand. I know that it is and I understand, because my child, my ways are infinitely more complex than you are able to comprehend.

This is why I long for you to know Who I Am, for in knowing Who I Am, you will trust me in the storm.

I have made it as simple as I can for you to know Me. I AM there in the pages of your Bible. That book you have is not a book of rules. It is not a book of condemnation. It is not a book of bedtime stories or fables. And it is not a how-to-book of good living.

It is My Word.
It is My face reflected on thin pages.
It is a portrait of Me.

Read it and search for Me.

Cling to it and ask Me to reveal Myself. I promise I will.

The waters may not recede as quickly as you would like, the hurricane may not dissipate, the diagnosis may remain, but you will be changed.

You will be strengthened when you see My strength.

And you will be filled with Hope when You see my face.


Praying for everyone affected by storms, fires, pain and heartbreak today. May the God of all comfort, comfort you as only He can—by wrapping His steadfast arms of Love tightly around you and giving you His perfect boundless peace as you seek His beautiful face.

Much love,
Jen

 

Simple Complexities

Simple

    adjectivesimpler, simplest.

        1.easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.:
           a simple matter; simple tools.

       2.not elaborate or artificial; plain:
             a simple style.

      3.not ornate or luxurious; unadorned:
               a simple gown.

Simple.

How I find myself craving the simple things of this world right now. A quiet evening, a dew-laced morning, a hot cup of coffee in my kitchen. Less noise; more quiet.

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Simple.

How my heart aches for simple faith. Faith that believes Jesus’ words to “Come and follow Me” are enough. That in following Him I will find life and hope and peace. That in following Him I will see Him for who He is and myself as He sees me. Faith that doesn’t feel like a burden I drag behind me.

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Simple.

How my soul thirsts for the simple study of God’s Word. “God, who are You?” is the cry of my heart. “Show me who You are, the real You, the true You. Not the you I have always assumed. Not the you I have been told by others. Not the Baptist you, the Methodist you, the Catholic you, the new-age you, the Americanized you. But You, the One True God who delights in revealing Himself to people through the pages of Your Word. Reveal Yourself to Me Lord so that I might see You.

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Simple.

How my mind craves quiet. Silence, where only the still small voice of God can be heard.

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Simple.

How my lungs ache to breathe in God’s peace, like a glorious mist that fills my lungs.

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Simple.

How my eyes take in the beauty found in this world, evidence of God’s Presence here among His people.

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Simple.

Simplicity seems too complex a concept, and yet, it is by its very definition easy to understand—plain. And so I will search for the simple.

I will cling to the unadorned.

I will treasure that which is not elaborate or ornate, in my quest to see more of the One who is. 

For it is in the simple things that complexities of God are revealed.

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Much love,
Jen

My first mammogram….

Yesterday I joined the ranks of many women who have gone before me as I had my first mammogram. And all I can say is:

How is it, that in the year 2017, the best the medical community can offer women for mammography is a glorified Panini press?!?!

Y’all, I had NO idea! None.

I didn’t even know that I was going to be squished and pressed like a panini yesterday. It all happened while experiencing the other joy of womanhood—the well-woman exam.

As if laying there on the table in your paper gown in all your glory while trying to pay attention to the doctor’s idle chit-chat isn’t bad enough (I mean seriously doc no amount of chit-chat is going to make this experience feel normal!) Then the doctor casually mentions that women over the age of 40 really need to start having mammograms and that, conveniently enough, they now offer them right down the hall.

I get dressed and follow the signs to the mammography suite (yep, cause calling it a suite makes it all better!)

I am warmly greeted and welcomed to the “club.” There’s lovely music playing and the color pink is everywhere.

“Sugar,” a kind older woman calls out to me, “We can take you back now.”

She leads me to a small dressing room and points to a basket, “The gown opens in the front. Then just head through that door when you’re ready.”

I open the “gown” only to discover that it’s a vest. A short—only to the waist—paper vest.

Why is this a problem??

Because I’m wearing a dress!!!

You see, I have this neurotic fear of a doctor walking in the room while I am in a state of partial dress. Yes, I know the doctor is soon to see me in a much less, but for some reason I have this need to undress as quickly as possible to avoid the dreaded walk-in. And so I wear dresses to these kind of appointments. Easy on, easy off.

But now I stand here, holding a paper vest, feeling the blood drain from my head.

Maybe it looks longer on, I rationalize.

It doesn’t.

So now I stand in a pink paper vest and my underwear, weighing my options.

I try pulling my dress on like a skirt (stupid small neck line) I try wrapping the dress around my waist like a sarong (it’s too short) I try creating shorts out of another paper vest (sadly, I now look like I’m wearing a pink paper diaper!!!)

My neck is covered with purple splotches. Surely this is not happening. Surely I am not going to have to leave this (un)dressing room in my underwear!

“Jennifer? Honey? You ok in there?” the woman calls.

“Um….I don’t have pants,” I reply in a hysterical yelp.

“It’s ok,” she chuckled. “Just come on out.”

Dear Lord, has it really come to this?

I peak through the door like a mouse assessing its surroundings.

Just the one woman.

Deep breath. And walk.

“Bad day to wear a dress huh?” I hear myself say.

“Go ahead and step over here,” I am told. “Step right to the machine and I’ll position you.”

Oh dear Lord! She does. And with all the gentleness of a mover trying to shove a sofa through a narrow doorway. I am not well-endowed and so I think she was having to pull all the available skin from my entire torso to have something to put on the machine! She pulled and tugged and yanked (all while I stand pant-less). And then just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, she says, “Ok, lots of pressure coming,” and she closes the panini press, giving it one last tug!

Are you kidding me??? This is the best we can do for women???

“Just breathe,” I am told.

I’d really rather not, cause passing out sounds really good right now. Not only will I be oblivious to this…event, but I won’t fall because my boob and all the skin from my neck and abdomen is literally stuck in a panini press!!

I am told to stop breathing for a moment while she takes the image.

Way ahead of you lady!!

We repeat the process on the other side.

It is done. Thank you God!

I turn to leave.

“Oh wait, sugar, we have to do it from the side now…”

Wait…what?

Yep, let’s turn the press on its side and squeeze the panini vertically!

Y’all…really?

Finally, we are done. The tech says words. I don’t know what they are. I make my way back to the dressing room, feeling like my once small chest is now hanging down to my knees.

I throw the paper vest away and put my stupid dress back on. I walk out of the room, avoiding eye contact with everyone. Do I need to check out? I don’t care. I exit the waiting room, confident they will send a bill or something.

As I flee from the “suite” a woman is entering. She looks wide-eyed, unsure, and around 40, She’s wearing a dress. Oh, poor thing….

I sit in the car for 5 whole minutes trying to process what just happened. And then I start hysterically laughing.

For you see, a few days ago I confided to my husband that one of my biggest fears with this whole book publishing thing is that pride might creep into my heart. I asked him to pray with me that in all things and at all times I will point to Jesus and remain humble in my heart.

You guys, be careful what you pray for! Because God might just give you a “humility moment” to reflect back on…a humility moment in the form of a pink paper vest, underwear and a panini press!!

(Disclaimer: although the experience was less than awesome, I am so grateful that mammogram detection has saved countless lives! So, go get your mammograms. After all, if I can do it, you can do it. Just do yourself a favor and wear pants!!!) 

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When the storm just won’t quit

“Peace. Be still.”

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The storm was raging. Their boat was filling. They were panicking.

But Jesus? He was sleeping.

Don’t you wish you could sleep through the storm today? Curl up, pull the covers over your ponding head and retreat into a blissful state of unconsciousness?

Do you long for the wind to stop blowing? The waves to stop ponding? Your boat to stop filling?

Is it starting to feel like the storm will never stop?

Do you long for Jesus to say, “Peace. Be still,” to your storm? Maybe you are even growing weary, thinking that He will never calm your storm. Or feeling hurt that He seems to speak Peace into other’s storms, but not your own?

If so, would you take just a moment to consider the familiar passage from Mark 4 in a different light?

Had the disciples not awakened Jesus, He would have continued to sleep.

He only rebuked the storm because His disciples were freaking out, and He chose to use that moment to demonstrate another aspect of His character to them—that He had power over even the wind and seas.

Yet, prior to the disciples terrified wake up call, Jesus was sound asleep.

He was at peace, in the storm…with them!

He was soaked, just as they were soaked!

And yet, He did not fear the storm. He knew that they would not perish. He knew that He was in complete control. He knew there was purpose in the storm. He knew that those He loved were safe with Him. And so…He slept.

It is natural to want the storms to stop. Storms are uncomfortable and scary.

But if your storm feels relentless today, know that you are not alone in that boat. The One who made you, loves you and has a plan for you is with you. And though you may feel frustrated that He seems to be asleep in the stern, know that—trust that—He is fully aware of what is going on. He is fully with you and for you.

I wonder….what would have happened if the disciples had chosen to lay down beside Him that day? To see His restful state as an example to follow during the storm?

Today, as the storm rages around you, would you snuggle up beside Jesus and let Him speak peace to your heart.

For there you will find rest in the middle of the storm.

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Much love,
Jen