gravel road girl

Poetry Monday: Cavalier

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I feel this poem warrants some context. The story, the words, are true. As I drove on a warm day last fall, I listened to a news update. It was brief. It was basic. In a few heartbeats, in as many breaths this information came to me, swirled through my thoughts like leaves in a dust devil, and settled just as silently.

In these days of covid-19 and quarantine statistics, we are overwhelmed by numbers and news. Tragedy and heartbreak, loneliness and loss become second-hand stories. It has become too easy to drop this data into yesterday’s memories like pennies in a bank. Do they add up in our hearts and minds? Do we feel the weight? Do we see the people and all the lives, like dominoes, effected with each death? Or maybe we’ve all become a bit cavalier.

CAVALIER

The news relates the death
Of two lives taken
When a car
Crossed the center line.
The collision was
Head on.
Both
Dead at the scene.

It will rain tomorrow
With winds from the north-northwest.

In other news—
Gas prices are up
Sharply.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

 

 

Poetry Monday (kid’s version): Bare Feet & Puddles

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Photo credit: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

BAREFOOT BLUES

It is that time of year,
you know,
when feet begin to sprout.

A little sunshine,
melting snow,
and toes start sticking out.

We see the first
cute blossoms
of little piggy toes.

And then
before you know it,
they’re popping out in rows!

They’ve silently
been growing
inside those dark, dark shoes.

Hurray for warmer weather!
We have the barefoot blues!

 

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Photo credit: Markus Spiske, Unsplash

PUDDLES!
I think that I have never seen
a puddle of that size.
My momma said,
“Don’t jump in that!”
And she is very wise.

But something in my head
was fightin’ with my heart,
I looked at it with longing eyes
and knew I shouldn’t start.

But don’t you know that God above
made puddles for a reason?
For little boys
and little girls
and puddle-jumpin’ season!

 

“We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.”

Monday Poetry: Contrails & Headwind

Photo credit: William Seidle, Unsplash

Photo credit: William Seidle, Unsplash

Contrails

Contrails

Stripe the sky like pink clotheslines

Pulled taut to the setting sun.

Like tattered lavender shirts,

Clouds are tethered to dry

In the cool, night

Air

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Photo credit: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

Headwind

I opened the door to
this new year
and stepped into the brightness
of January.
It took my breath away–
So still, hopeful,
Crisp and untrodden.
I stood,
sheltered and expectant,
weighing the options
of my journey.

Four months now,
walking into a headwind,
eyes down, jaw set,
I only allow momentary
glances
toward a distant horizon.
Biting questions
whip at my mind
and make my eyes
water.
Press into it.
To stop would be
to go backwards.

 

“The years teach much which the days never new.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

An Exercise in Observation

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In my New Year efforts to allow stillness and encourage observation, I stood at the kitchen sink staring out the window. Snow had blanketed everything, but January snow has no magic in it. And now fog wrapped me up and kept me at arm’s length from the rest of the world. This was my observation:

Thursday, January 23, 2020

This fog is so dense I feel as If someone has dropped a white blanket over the whole place. The black pencil lines of trees stick upright in the snow looking almost as if they’re suspended in gauzy nothingness. Shriveled, black rose hips on the rugosa bush all wear frosty, white caps. They remind me of an elderly gathering. . .

Wrinkled, old women with salon-set curls and their crusty counterparts, whose hair stands ruffled after they’ve removed their seed corn caps, settle into cold folding chairs. The coffee is a new moon ringed by white styrofoam–black and strong. Crumbly sugar cookies are offered up from yellowed Tupperware. Heads nod and fingers tap in agreement over the local farm news and neighborhood updates. Not gossip, mind you, just a sharing of births and deaths and all the minutia in between. When talk thins, they drain the last cold, dark drops from their cups, sweep up sugary crumbs with a leathery palm, and push in the chairs. The women wrap their meringue curls in nylon scarves, and the men stomp out to warm the cars. Someone remembers to unplug the coffeepot.

To look at the mundane and see the beautiful, to find art in the scope of my every day, and then to choose from the vast palette of words and write a painting–that is my most desperate goal.

“You can make anything by writing.”            ~C.S. Lewis

 

Soul Cleansing

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I just got home from a weekend away, and it was lovely–mostly. We were in Branson, Missouri. We got one of those “deals.” Never do that. Just don’t.

But we did go on a gorgeous hike after eating donuts for lunch. We found a great bbq place and enjoyed The Baldknobbers–a famous Branson show. Buuuut, yeah, Branson is not my spirit animal home.

Anyway, I’m not here to reminisce about the Las Vegas of the Midwest–and I mean that in the nicest Midwest way. But I realized that as refreshing as it may be for my body to get away and step out of life’s routine, it’s often hard on the soul.

I LOVE routine. I set my coffee maker before bed so I can come down, fill my cup, and settle into ‘my chair’ without having to hardly open my eyes in the morning. My Bible and journal are there along with my foot-warmer, Marmalade-the-giant-cat. My cup is half-empty before I pick up my journal and pencil in the date. And I usually need a refill by the time I open my Bible. I’m very slow at waking up.

So when I’m out of my routine, I struggle to be in the Word, to find time to pray, to meditate. I usually manage some shortened version of my normal routine often read on my Bible app. If I failed to grab my journal, then I’m lost for writing down my thoughts. And, if sleep was evasive (read: not in my own bed with my own pillow), then time in the Word may not happen at all. Just being honest here. But I also know that by the time Monday rolls around, I’m going to need a good soul-cleaning.

This morning as I sat down to write and read, I thought, “I needed a good brushing and flossing of my soul.”  That was my brain picture.

           Brain picture: my need to create a mental picture of what God is teaching me.

My daily cleansing had been interrupted, and I was feeling the distracted effects. My morning moments of gratitude and reminders of God’s faithfulness had given way to irritation, discontentment, and envy. And there were the nitty-gritty pieces of accusation and self-condemnation that quickly became imbedded in my spirit. My soul ached and my mind grumbled.

But the Word always refreshes, always cleanses. My heart and mind settled into the promises of Lamentations 3:21-25

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.

Simply to meditate on God’s lovingkindess–a term that encompasses His love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, compassion, and faithfulness–is overwhelming and humbling and most certainly soul-cleansing. Contemplating the depth of His love for me turns my mind from thinking about myself and toward praise and gratitude for who He is and His complete faithfulness in all things.

It’s so important to speak the truth about WHO God is and HOW that impacts who we are as believers.

  • His forgiveness is complete; I am not condemned.
  • His love is boundless; I can not earn it.
  • His mercy is new every morning; I am filled with gratitude.
  • His grace is bountiful; I am humbled by His goodness.
  • His compassion is without boundaries; I am compelled to love recklessly.
  • His faithfulness is enough; I am able to rest in Him.

This was the brushing, the cleansing, that I needed.  A refocusing and refreshing of my heart. A flossing out of the untruths that wedged into my thoughts.

What cleansing does your soul need? What refreshing words of truth has He spoken to you lately?

 

Empty Nest?

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I’ve been asked several times these past few weeks how I like being an ’empty nester.’ I’ve hesitated to answer because, if we’re going to continue this analogy, technically, I have hatched four birds in my lifetime and just recently nudged the last one out hoping, with all my bird-like instincts, that he’ll take flight never to return.

I realize this sounds a bit snarky, and ’empty nester’ is a simple handle for saying, “So, after 28 years of having kids under foot, what’s it like to have an empty, quiet house and all that time on your hands?”

Yeah, ’empty nester’ softens the blow, I guess.

But is there anything more sad than an empty nest? I mean a literal empty nest. I have several empty nests that I’ve picked up after storms have knocked them out of trees on our property. Often, they are spring nests–delicate, unfinished, routed out of the tree by a blustery March wind. But sometimes in the golden aftermath of a gusty October day, I’ll find a round nest, heavy with mud and well-used. Perhaps a feather leaves a clue as to its long-gone occupants. Most likely a robin or a blue jay. Cradling it in my hands, I wonder how many eggs once clustered there? How many happy, little chicks took flight from its twiggy edge? Did the parent birds sigh wearily as the last awkward chick cautiously dropped off the edge only to reappear in the next tree over? Probably not–just my odd imaginings.IMG_5992A favorite childhood book of mine and also my children is P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother? In the book, a mother bird leaves her nest briefly to procure a worm for her soon-to-be-hatched baby. In her absence, the baby bird hatches and, perching on the nest’s edge, looks for his mother. Unfortunately, he tumbles out of the nest and down, down, down (so the story goes) to the ground below. Unhurt but unable to fly, the little chap wanders the countryside asking all sorts of animals and machinery, “Are you my mother?” With each answering, “No,” the little bird becomes more desperate in his search. Finally. . .

Well, because I hate spoilers, I won’t share the dramatic yet satisfying ending. You’ll have to read the book. But as I considered this simple story, I realized a few things–

1. The kiddos need to be prepared to leave the nest. Obviously, this little guy
wasn’t. Mine, thankfully, have–mission accomplished.
2. The nest is a great place to come back to, but there’s a big world out there–
people to meet and places to see. They were meant to be a part of it!
3. Finally, my nest isn’t my world, and it’s not about me. The empti-ness is not
about me. Step up. Step out.

I watched a compelling and convicting video by David Flood, a former trouble-maker turned teen-advocate and speaker. It’s worth the five minutes it will take you to watch, but in it he shares these words, not necessarily profound but certainly true, from his 82-year-old mother, “Your life’s not about you.  .  . It’s about your family, your friends. . . Stop thinking your life’s about you. . . Your life’s about all the people around you. That you can teach and touch and impact.”

For 28 beautiful, hard, life-changing, God-trusting, prayer-filled, glorious years, I got to teach and touch and impact the lives of those most dear to me–the children who were simply gifts from God. They’ll always be my children–you never stop being a mom! But it’s time for them to teach and touch and impact their own piece of the world. And it’s time for me to shift my focus, not to me and what is missing, but to who God will place in my path now to teach and to impact for Him, for His glory, and for His kingdom.

For several years now in anticipation of this season of life, I’ve been prayerfully asking God, “What’s next?” And as is usual of my prayers, He did not send me a text, an email, or even a verbal whisper. But in the richness of His Word, He said, “For [you] are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that [I] might walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) As one who knows Christ as my personal Savior, I rest in the promise that He has a purpose and direction for my life, and that purpose is for His glory and for my good. (Being mindful that “His good” does not always look good to us.) I also know that plan won’t be revealed in one fell swoop or in some grand unveiling. So, I will continue to pray like David in Psalm 5, “For to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice. In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”

I’ll pray and eagerly watch with expectation for who God brings into my life, and what circumstances prompt me to step out in faith and in action. Now that my “nest” is empty, I’m pretty sure it’s time for me to look beyond it and step out trusting God for the next thing.

What is pushing you out of the nest? How are you being drawn out of your comfort zone and into a place where you can teach and impact others for good?

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”   ~Corrie Ten Boom

 

 

 

 

Celebrating (Re)Purpose

Celebrating summer!

As I dip my toes back into the waters of writing after a way-too-long absence, I’m searching for purpose and focus. I’ve decided I agonize over this too much. So, my writing “purpose” for July is the the over-used, over-blogged idea of repurposing.

Yada-yada-yada. . . you can read about it everywhere, I know. But, bear with me if:

  1. You’re cheap. I like a good deal, and I’ll share some of mine with you.
  2. You love the idea of seasonal decorating, but you need some fresh ideas.
  3. You would like to learn to decorate with things you already have.

Throughout the month of July, I’ll share with you a variety of ways I repurpose, rearrange, and refresh my house and garden with inexpensive (mostly) and unusual items. I hope you’ll follow along!

Celebrating the 4th of July!

After Christmas, the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday for decorating. Those pops of red, white, and blue sparkle the whole month of July and well into August for me. So come along on the tour, and I’ll explain as I go.

I really can’t get enough of old postcards, and those little stands that are holding them are weighted, metal flower frogs. I probably have a dozen flower frogs of various shapes. They’re easily found at antique stores and flea markets ranging in price from $3-$10 depending on the size and shape. You’ll see in many of the pictures that I use them throughout my house, and I use them all the year round. I simply swap out the postcard. But, you could use photos taken seasonally or maybe a hand-written, seasonal recipe card.

But getting back to the postcards. . .

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This is my postcard drawer. Postcards are, hands down, the cheapest, easiest, most interesting way to add variety to your seasonal decorations. I have postcards for every season and almost every holiday. Christmas and New Years are the easiest to find, and Halloween is the most difficult. But if you’re a history junkie like me, I’m simply fascinated by the hand-written notes scrawled on the backs of these postcards.

Some share tidbits of family news, young love, or long-awaited homecomings. The price is right at $1-$3 for most cards.

 Display them in old card holders or start your own collection of “frogs.” They can also be easily slipped into the corner of a mirror or displayed on the fridge.

As you can see, old books play a big part in all of my seasonal decorating.

 

I keep my eye out for red books, especially, as they can be used for the Fourth of July AND Christmas. Blue books work in the winter months as well as July 4th. I have a stash of green books for spring and orange and black for fall. Whatever colors are not in use simply fill a basket in a corner. 

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Old thermoses. . . 

 . . . old, blue bottles. . . 

. . . inexpensive mini-flags, as well as seashells collected on vacations are all easy and inexpensive pops of red, white, and blue. Maybe you don’t have “old, blue bottles,” but even a Ball canning jar filled with shells and a couple of flags perched in it adds a great touch to your table. And you might not have an old Bingo game, but  a couple boxes of sparklers tied with a red ribbon and tucked up beside a vase of daisies works, too. 

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Do you have a carpenter’s ruler that was your dad’s or grandpa’s? I have several that sit in my windows shaped into stars. This black, metal one was a few sticks short, but it still works as a star! Another little bottle and another little flag–it doesn’t take much to say, “Happy Independence Day!”

Even a tablecloth or an apron (I know, who has aprons anymore–I do!) can become a decoration. “Storing” my outside tablecloth over the back of a chair and a vintage apron on the corner of the chalk board are casual ways to add that color without much fuss. 

What else do you have that’s red, white, and blue? Croquet balls? Any other toys or sports equipment you could swipe for the month of July? I nabbed this old, metal Pepsi truck off a local Facebook swap site for a steal–$15. I know, not everyone has “an old, metal Pepsi truck.” But maybe you have a child’s baseball glove and a worn baseball. Fit those together on your bookshelf, tuck in a flag or two, and fill a small jar with peppermints to go beside it–voila!

And perhaps the simplest addition to any summertime decor. . .

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               seashells

They’re free (or really cheap on-line!), and force you to take some time to look for the beauty in small, simple things.

 

I hope you’ve found at least one take-away idea for repurposing your own things for a festive Fourth, or maybe you’ve been inspired to seek out some new treasures. 

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”    ~Confucius

 

 

 

 

 

 

SLIVERS

wood 2

The rough spots catch me–

Piercing painfully, I

Draw back quickly and inspect the wound.

The sliver is easily seen, easily extracted.

It’s a good sliver—

if there is such–

obvious and intrusive,

simply plucked from beneath the skin.

But the bad sliver—

Deep and small—initially unnoticed,

but festering with time and avoidance–

too sensitive to touch,

too painful to ignore.

It affects the whole body despite its size.

I must tend to it.

Silly, how small it is

Yet it can distract me from the most important things.

 

I have slivers in my heart, too.

The pains of my youth have,

thankfully,

been plucked—though not painlessly.

They were obvious and ugly.

Garnered from rough choices and youthful ideals.

Now the deeper slivers, though less obvious,

Reveal themselves.

Slivers of fear,

Shards of discontent,

Slender slips of doubt that resonant

the hurts of why, the aches of when.

In the wisdom granted in the asking,

He shows me the painful changes He needs to make.

Extracting the invasive slivers of selfishness.

Gently, yet firmly, working out pride, fear, worry.

They are so deeply imbedded

I have almost become accustomed to their pain.

But He reminds me,

“They distract you from the important things.”

 

 Watch over your heart with all diligence; for from it flows the springs of life.

Proverbs 4:23

 

Fifty-one

*A moment of explanation: the following thoughts were written almost two and a half years ago. I was turning the corner on half a century; I was no longer a home-school mom, and truthfully, I wasn’t sure where I was headed. The words I wrote were really just for me, a ‘brain dump’ as I call it. A pep talk to my mid-life self. But reading it again, now, I see truth in it that perhaps someone else can use, no matter the age. I haven’t edited it since I wrote it–just pure thoughts about dreams and creativity and moving forward. I will say, I have progressed along this path, although sometimes in shadows and sometimes in light.

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How do I begin to recreate myself at 51? How do I figure out the person I thought I would be when I was young and had so many dreams? How do I believe that I can still be some version of that person? How do I know what to let go of and what to pursue? How do I honor the Lord in all of this? How do I sort out what is selfish and what is Spirit directed? How do I end and begin again?How do I let go of one thing before I grab onto another? I don’t even know what the “another” is. How do I believe what others may believe about me? How do I reconcile earthly longings with heavenly purposes? How do I move myself back into the creativity that I so long for? Where do I find that again? How deeply do I have to delve to draw it back to the surface? How do I let myself try and fail and try yet again only to fail; I’m not good at that; I don’t even know what that feels like. How do I give myself permission to not be good at something? How do I find peace simply in the trying–not for sale, not for praise, not for purpose–simply for the effort of trying? How do I draw together the fragments of me that have settled to the bottom and really don’t fit rightly anymore? Do the pieces finally come back together in a way I can’t envision? Who is the different me that I haven’t even thought about? What is there that I have not yet discovered in these 51 years?

In these almost 24 years of being a mom, I have found someone I never thought I would–sometimes worse than I thought, sometime better. Who, now, is around this next bend? Someone worse or someone better? I hope I’ve gained enough wisdom to not be too much worse. How do I press on to be someone better? I want to be someone new. Where are the strands to tug on and pull this ‘someone’ out of the shy darkness? The places she has settled herself for so long in waiting, patiently. Now is the time to begin. Let all things be worthy of the effort of creativity. Try and fail and try and fail–it’s o.k. Find contentment in it for the sake of creativity. Give it away! Do not become stuck in purpose, quality, time, expense. Let your mind and heart bound far outside the structured lines you’ve given yourself for so long. Every child dreams of hidden places and secret rooms. We are rarely blessed to be granted one. But what about the ‘hidden places’ and ‘secret rooms’ that life still has in store–just in me. The things I have yet to find out about myself, and the surprise of it is simply for me to slip in and be content in my newness. The joy of being in that space in me. How do I begin this search? I truly feel and need (which will be a struggle) to press painfully against my current space of safety. I always do those things that are expected of me, and they always take priority. How do I make creativity a priority? How do I crumble the walls of expectation and do the unnecessary yet creative thing? How do I NOT feel guilty about that? Life will move on if I don’t always do the expected and necessary.

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”   ~Pearce

 

 

 

A Button Story

Once upon a time there was a beautiful, young maiden.

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A-hem! A BEAUTIFUL, YOUNG MAIDEN. . . 

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O.k., that’s better. This lovely maiden had her heart set on marrying a handsome and thoughtful young man.

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Alas, only one thing stood in their way (well, o.k., quite a few things, but ONE thing was)–a gorgeous gown. The dress of her dreams. The attire of the ages. The get-up of the gods. I think you see what I’m getting at here. She needed the perfect dress. 

And, she actually found it without too much trouble.

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Well, this looks like trouble, I guess. But we found a dress anyway. The trouble came when all the alterations were done. Done except for one little detail. . . 

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Buttons.

The lovely maiden thought the buttons of the dress terribly distasteful and all around ewwwwww! 

“That’s o.k., dear maiden, I, your loving Mother will fix it. I am, after all, your Fairy Fix-it Mother.”

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And so, off trotted the Mother to the fabric store to procure the precise buttons for the perfect wedding gown. She purchased the needed 30–THIRTY!–buttons that would embellish the graceful back of the gorgeous gown. And home she trotted, the Fairy Fix-it Mother, to finish up this last gown-task just six days before the wedding. 

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Carefully, painstakingly the buttons were stitched, in precise and measured fashion, to the gown. Did I mention that there were thirty? Yeah, thirty. . . 

Much later, when the buttons were done and the maiden arrived home from her wanderings, she tried on the dress. Ah, how lovely to have it done! 

But even as the maiden admired the dress, the buttons, so carefully stitched, looked like a line of misbehaving children! Tilted and slanted and shifting with the maiden’s every movement. This would never do! Two slightly OCD maidens stared in horror at the row of buttons–what to do now?!fullsizerender-12

Fairy Fix-it Mother said in her most soothing and confident voice, “No worries, my dear. I’ll figure something out. It will be your most perfect and lovely gown in time for your Big Day.”

“Thanks, Mom!” said lovely maiden, “You’re the best!” (Yeah, I think that’s how it went.)

“What to do. . . what to do. . .what to do,” muttered Mother as she lay wide awake staring at the ceiling and trying to ignore the clock moving from 1:30 to 2:30 and onward. 

“Sleep. I REALLY need sleep. Lord,” prayed the Mother in all seriousness and earnestness, “I need You to give me an answer because I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have time to order the buttons that I need. Please, find me a solution.” And with that prayer, she finally rolled over and went to sleep. 

Morning came too quickly, but almost upon her rising, the Mother had an idea about the buttons. “Funny” how that happens when you pray. 

“Pssst!” said her brain, “What about the buttons on YOUR wedding dress? It’s boxed up right there in your closet.”

“Well, that’s a silly idea!” she said to her brain. “My dress was ivory and the maiden’s is white. That will never work.”

“Listen to me! I’m your brain and God gave me this idea! Get your dress down and just check  and see if those buttons would work. What do you have to lose?”

And so Fairy Fix-it Mother did just that. Hefting down the plastic covered box that had not been opened for almost 31 years, for she and her love had been married in the same church all those years before. Now she carefully open the lid and looked at the lace and satin gown. And all those buttons. . .

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“Maiden, come look at this dress of mine. For fun, try it on.”

Her thoughtful pose and jovial humor told the Mother she was not as enthralled with my 80’s dress as I was. But still, it was lovely to see my sweet girl in the gown of my sweetest dreams. But, alas, I hold you in suspense of the button dilemma!

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Carefully, Mother snipped a button from the sleeve and went to the maiden’s gown and laid it down on the lace. How is it that a button from an ivory dress can match so perfectly to a near-white gown? I don’t know, but it did!

And so, with much rejoicing and and general hooping and hollering, the two maidens snipped 29 buttons (did I mention we needed thirty buttons on that dress?) off the yellowed gown and Fairy Fix-it Mother happily, and most relieved, stitched them onto the maiden’s gown-of-her-dreams. And when her most special of days arrived,. . . fullsizerender-3

. . . she danced with her Poppa in her gorgeous gown while Mother whispered a prayer of blessing and thanks as she thought of her most special of days and the buttons on the dress.

THE END

“Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale of all.” ~Hans Christian Anderson

 

 

 

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