Monday, June 24, 2013

On The Edge Of Dreams

The ocean stretched out in three directions of infinity, from where I stood on the weathered wood platform. I was still breathless from climbing the rickety salt-seasoned stairs, that terraced like a hanging catwalk, over the rocky crags of the island point. My ascent was rewarded with a view that struck my heart with complete awe.

Intense hues of pink, purple and orange blended into a magnificent fiery sunset. Never in my nineteen years had I seen anything like it. The grandeur was almost more than my eyes could absorb.

All my senses were alive with the smell of  the ocean, the feel of warm tropical breezes and the sound of massive waves crashing against the barrier reef.  It was a magnificent crescendo of surging, frothing, water spray, that echoed like giant cymbals in this orchestra of beauty.

Inside the reef, turquoise colored water was calm and lapped against the uncluttered shoreline. I had come here to be alone with my thoughts and as I stood on the edge of this wild  hidden gem of an island watching the sunset in Roatan Honduras, I realized this really was a dream of mine being lived out.

To get here had taken more brave steps than just the stairs I had ascended. Fresh out of high school I wanted to learn to scuba dive. It seemed simple enough.  It began with the young dream to do something different. The steps unfolded one and then another. Along the path I had to find an instructor to teach and qualify me to dive. There was classroom instruction and tests, on safety and how to operate equipment.

When weights were added to my body and I was pushed to the bottom of the pool, I found out I was claustrophobic. Doing open water dives in Nebraska poses a host of challenges of its own. The water temperature in local lakes is cold and the visibility is often only a few feet. Which made my first dive a fearsome thing when I saw my first fifteen pound fish  - -face to face.

Did you know that fish look one third larger under water than they are in real life?

There was money to save and a trip signed up for. All this so I could travel with people I didn't know, to a place I had never heard of, to scuba dive in this wild, remote location, in water that was hundreds of feet deep.

And now I had climbed to the pinnacle point of the island. Standing there alone, inhaling beauty that can't be captured with a camera, I came face to face with some reality. Right there on the edge of such vastness I realized my infinite smallness and wondered what part I could possibly play in the grand plan of God.

Years later I found a worn piece of paper on which I had scrawled out a few life goals from that young time in my life. Back when I was more of a dreamer and nothing seemed too big to try. They included things such as: Live in the country on ten acres, travel to beautiful places, scuba dive, sky dive, marry an amazing man, have beautiful children, own horses, cows and too many dogs, change the world.....

Some of these things had happened naturally, without great planning. Except the sky diving. At some point I decided it was just a bad idea to jump out of airplanes and put all my faith in a rip cord. Not to mention that my body does something weird and involuntary when I am in high places. The stomach jumps into my throat and my feet melt into rubbery cement.

Aging brings with it some reality that people don't live forever and cynicism sets in, that dreams are for the dreamers that haven't lived much life.

More importantly I now realize how that adolescent list of goals, were all focused on experiences, things and self.

These days I've been dreaming a little. It looks different than when I was younger, because now I believe that my dreams, are really the dreams God placed in me to accomplish for His glory. Not mine. 

My dreams look a little like this. 

I want more of what I already have, which is Jesus, family, love, health, places healed in my heart....

I dream of being free of the strongholds that choke my dreams.

Not to grasp for things that are outside the will of the Father, but I don't want to settle for anything less than all He has for me.

Truly pray. Without. Ceasing.

Make the real-life obedient choices today, that will nourishes my spiritual, physical and emotional health tomorrow.

Renew my mind with His Word and reject the lies of the enemy that I am not enough or will never be enough in any of these areas.  God is my Enough.

Yes. Today. To walk in the confidence of Who’s I am.

Love people despite how they treat me. Oh, to  hand out forgiveness, like candy is tossed out at a kiddie parade! And pray for those who are mean, letting Jesus be the one who rescues.

Have spirit ears and eyes to discern hearts and needs of those I come in contact with.

This dream burns in my soul: To live, to write, to embrace.

Cheer others on in their dreams. 

My out loud dream  is to be disciplined enough to reach higher than I currently am, walk in peace and grace enough to rest where I currently am. To truly believe that Jesus loves me right where I am.

To walk in freedom, love and acceptance so I can write about freedom, love and acceptance.

Finally this thought. God sized dreams require God to make them happen. So we pray. Then we do our part while we wait on Him. 

Holley Gerth Quote
Canvas available here.

This isn't an, '.....if you can dream it, you can do it' mentality. 

As Holley Gerth says, in her book You're Made For a God-Sized Dream, "It's less of me and more of Jesus and what He's called me to do."

It is joining the God who made you, in His dream for you, which is better than anything we can personally dream up.

Living out dreams is a journey.

A process.

A redefining of who we are and yes, Who's we are.

What are your dreams? The ones that keep prodding you to move from where you are, to where God is taking you? When you catch a glimpse, it will take your breath away.

In a few weeks I will be celebrating the anniversary of this blog!

I'm so excited that I'm having a giveaway!

To enter, make sure you subscribe to blog updates.

It's easy.

Just look on the sidebar labeled "follow by e-mail!"

 That's it.

 Here are a few of the cool things I'm giving away!

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Day Spring Photo

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Princess Mommy Lessons

It's June and my whole world smells sweet. 

The cottonwood trees are thick in this part of the country. Lobed branches heavy with blooms are swelled and ready to burst. Soon they will explode to release velvety, feathery seeds which will take flight like tiny parachutes. They will become a virtual blizzard, riding on the hot summer air, sticking to sweaty skin and drifting into piles on the edge of the sidewalk. 

It is just part of our summer days.

I've had guests. There are getting taller, but still quite short. One can't reach the light for the bathroom and neither can reach the sink to wash their sticky little fingers without dragging a chair to stand on.

They were the ones who dreamed it up. He said he was the Prince Daddy and she was the Mommy Princess. And they hadn't been in the house for ten minutes when the whole kingdom was in an uproar.

In the aftermath of what came to be known as the incident, clues were found and a case was built. Evidence included a messed up bed, a small blue chair, a fan flapping off kilter from the ceiling, one girl face down on the floor making no noise, but her arms reaching and head lifted looking at me. I scooped her little body up. Soon the air returned to her tiny lungs and she was gripping one side of her face and wailing hard. I was relieved to hear her cry, since that meant she was breathing.

At this point I look to see what time it is.

In my mommy medical experience, the odds go up dramatically for broken bones and concussions after five o'clock. In fact of all the stitches, casts and miscellaneous ambulance rides, none of them happened in the Monday through Friday, nine to five, window of time.

Except one.

The mother of these very children was involved in a crime scene of her own that ended with a fractured growth plate of her sister. And to the best of our reflective detective ability to reenact all the drama, one sister pushed the other sister off the top of the bale pile which resulted in injury to the right wrist of the victim. To our shock it was only 4:40 p.m. on a Friday so we drove like maniacs to the doctors office to have it x-rayed. It felt like we were barely moving, but we made a twenty minute drive happen in record time. 

As this little one gasped for air, I smoothed her curly locks and asked how my little Fire Princess was doing. That is when she informed me that she was "Mommy Princess" and then she started chattering things I wasn't quite sure of, because a Princess can have a language all her own.

I was glad that her eyeball was in her eye socket, even though there was immediate evidence that indicated she may have a black and blue face soon. I'm sure she was in pain, but every Princess Mommy has a little Drama Queen in her and this girl can play that too.

The incident was reenacted and as the pieces were put together, it seems that the two royals were too warm so they devised a plan where they had to collaborate to carry it out.

The white-blonde-haired boy thought it would be a good idea to use the little blue chair and the bed and the little Fire Princess to reach the ceiling fan chain. She climbed on her brothers back to stretch with her brave little hand to pull the cord to make the fan go faster.

Is that a collective gasp that I hear?

Yes, the whole thing went terribly wrong and somehow the spunky little girl ended up with the chair leg in her right cheek,  face down on the floor while her bother managed to retain his balance and continued jumping on the bed. 

A complete stranger recently told me, that it was obvious this Little Prince had a lot of personality just by the way he wore his hair. I think it was his facial expressions that gave it all away. JQ and I have began to realize that we were using the word "no" way too frequently with the animated,  energetic, Boy-Prince. So we try to think through how to redirect all his little guy passion.

We want this to be a house of yes, not a house of no-no-no. 

And if we had one dollar for every time someone saw the Fire Princess (aka: Mommy Princess today) and said, "She sure has red hair" - -well a college fund could be established. 

That captain-obvious statement is most often followed by a story about a red-headed child that they have known personally as well.  To this date I have not had one person come up to me when I have our blonde-haired granddaughter-Princess and exclaim "Oh  look at her blonde hair..." followed by a story of someone they once knew with blond hair, etc.

I'm just saying.

Well I'm surprised how these children are four and two and have developed such a high level of a trust and buddy system, but for their own good they may need to stop it.

Our little zany kingdom included food. Lots of food. They ate in waves and drank a lot of my secret-recipe juice in cups and went to the bathroom frequently. They drug toys out of crevices and swam in the hot tub. First it was too hot and then it was too cold and then it really was just right, but the wind came up and blew all the floaties to the neighbors tree line and made dogs bark.

Grandma was duped into letting the two buddies sleep in the same room and the Princess Mommy was still talking long after 10:00 p.m. CST. 

Princess Mommy was back up before the sun and wanted Cheetos for breakfast but the little boy, he ate like a king every thing set before him with his fork in hand.

As the morning disintegrated, I too decided that eating Cheetos for breakfast wasn't an all bad idea and it went fine with coffee if you didn't think about it too long because I was just trying to stay alive here. Orange dye #30 actually must not have helped my situation much, because I found things in the refrigerator that belonged in the bathroom and I have to assume it was me who put them there.

Little Prince and Mommy Princess ask one thousand questions over and over. My favorites were probably, "Why did you put lemons in my lemon-aid?" and "Why does your dog sit on the couch like a person?" There were one thousand accusation too, such as, "She touched my tractor"  and "He took my Buzz Lightyear toy" and life was somewhat better apart than it was together, at times.

Just before our planned departure, the Mommy Princess wanted privacy and slammed the door shut on the grandkid's room, but failed to take into account (or perhaps took into account) that her brothers face was at doorknob level so he took a direct hit to the left cheek. Her bruised cheek happened to be the right cheek. She refused to see the value of apologizing and we all needed a nap by nine in the morning. 

He was carrying a pink purse and she was wedged between the foot board of the bed and the king sized mattress. All you could see was her head sticking out above the bed and her little pink toes dangling all helpless below the bed frame. Before I rescued her I got the camera to record the moment. 

There was some crying over spilled milk which would have had to be shaken out like a salt shaker from the no spill cup.

There should be a Grandma boot-camp to get me whipped into shape, but it all makes me appreciation the mommies and daddies in the every day trenches who love on little sweetums like these.

It's Holy work, that seems like it's wholly hard.

Before leaving I thought I'd run outside to water the plants that bake in the hot afternoon sun. When I returned to the front door, I was greeted by my little guests who were delighted that they had locked their Grandma outside.

At this point I was keeping my cool.

Talking slow and sweet.

My mind is racing while I consider how to avert their attention in the front so I could run around to the side of the house, scale the dog panel and crawl though the dog door, enter the garage running hopes they didn't lock the side door too. 

My grandma infrastructure has disintegrated. It amazes me how one minute everyone is content, the sun is shinning and the birds are singing. One wrong step and the whole thing just spins out of control.

Still, I'm masking the panic in my voice, while they are screeching with delight because they had me eating out of the palm of their sticky hands. It wasn't long though, until I had the upper hand again or at least I was back on the inside looking out instead of the other way around. 

On the way to take them home, they begged to do one of their favorite things ever which isn't ice cream or french fries. Nope. It's the big beautiful new automatic car wash. I don't know why they love it so, but they do, and it works well for me. There is at least five minutes of compete happiness for the little Prince as he watches in wonder at all the machine parts spinning and rolling and spraying in tandem. The Mommy Princess tolerates it with only slight terror as the large brush arms slap against the windows. The car gets cleans and I can check my e-mail. It rates in the Top Ten of Grandma-Grandkid activities.

Sleeping rates #1 on the list, since children are especially angelic when sleeping and I know where they are.

When they arrived home peace and routine were restored and even the dogs were happy. Mostly dogs are happy, but that day the dogs were especially glad to roll in the yard to rub the cooties off or whatever dogs like to rub their backs in. 

Then there was crying because sand got on her toes while sitting in the sand box and she says that she doesn't want to be the Mommy Princess anymore. 

It leaves me somewhat breathless.

A few things I've learned from all this?

All ideas are not good ideas. They just aren't.

Mommy Princesses and their mommy's need their sleep.

Judging someone by the color of their hair
(or whatever we measure by)
is ridiculous.
We need to stop it.

The every day is really the extra-ordinary.

Life is crazy, messy, and imperfect.
Embrace it all like the sloppy wet kiss from a runny nosed child. 

Sometimes we need to take a leap of faith and
sometime we need to take a nap. 

Being a mommy or grand-mommy is important stuff.
In the end, love is still the ultimate goal.

Much of life should be more about yes, than no.
(Lesson from the little prince-boy)

Today we get a fresh start.

Thank goodness God isn't a breathless God.




Not ever.

Since Jesus is in control of the whole Kingdom, all Mommy Princesses' can just rest. Especially on the days you don't want to be the Mommy Princess any more.

Rest in the Father who made us and loves us unconditionally.

The God who formed us and knew us before we were born.

He will never love us less for our mistakes.

He will never love us more when we do amazing things.

All His promises to us are yes in Jesus.

That deserves an Amen. 

Ballerina Photo Credit

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Live In The Grace Of Now

I remember sitting in the back seat of our 1960-ish gold Oldsmobile with my arms crossed and my face set in my best trout pout.  My cuter-than-Shirley-Temple, tousle-haired sister, most always got to be in the front seat, because she was prone to motion sickness. My two brothers whined, punched and cried over the windows in the backseat, so I was usually assigned the middle, to keep mayhem to a minimum.  In that day there were no seat-belt laws or seat-belts for that matter. My mom learned to drive after she was married, at which time my dad gave her the nickname  "Speedy".

Mom often said that people had a hard time seeing gold cars. I suspect that was why she would often slam on the brakes and extend her right arm to save my sister while the three of us in the back were propelled like hand grenades and then generally ran-a-muck fussing over who was touching who.

Yes, it was a wonder we all lived.

I rationalize that my make-believe world, was born out of this kind of chaos.

There in the gold car, I dreamed, that I was currently being held against my will and forced to live with this crazy white family. I consoled my little girl self, that my dog and I would be moving out of the house to live on our own when I turned twelve. Unfortunately I turned twelve in the dead of winter, so we stayed for soup and cinnamon rolls and then it was Christmas time. With a certain degree of confidence, I'm sure mom helped me pack my bag to run away more than once.

So, in my whimsical world, I had been kidnapped from the tribe of  Native Americans that lived a few hours north of us.  When mom bravely trooped us into a store I would look at people like, " me?" It seemed that some clear thinking person would notice how out of place I was.

After all, in my imaginative sphere, I had long dark hair, big brown eyes and beautiful dark skin. I wanted to be called by my Native American name "Julia". There were no Rhonda's in my fairy-tale, so when my name was called, I would look around to see who they could possibly be yelling at.

You might think I'm making this up, but I'm not, which makes it all the more disturbing really.

As a teenager my non-reality carried over. I always thought I was overweight, probably because I felt stuffed, from sitting in front of the television while eating chocolate chip ice cream, ....straight from the carton, ....before supper. I know now that I was not pudgy then. However I have walked in delusion still, as currently I weigh more pounds than my joints can carry comfortably and I try to convince myself that I'm thin.

When I got older, married and became pregnant, I thought my condition was terminal. In some ways I guess it was since I've never fully recovered. Then when the child arrived, I was sure I would never sleep another full night again in my entire life. And I wondered how I would ever survive the next eighteen years of messy diapers, runny noses, sticky floors, piles of laundry and the daily demands of life. Back then, I secretly hoped the children would all be mature and leave home early so I could claim my life back.

I was able to get into the swing of dressing my adorable toe-headed children in darling outfits ...that I chose and trained them to go to sleep at the magic hour, on their soft fluffy beds that had white headboards and were capped with pink ruffly canopies.

Yes it was a little charming.

They were finally learning how not to jump over the basket of folded laundry on their way up the stairs and how to help clean off the table when lunch was finished, when things began to spin terribly out of control again.

That new season we were  running tire tread completely off the rims of cars day and night. We tried to only make two trips to town a day. It seemed like I was helpless to stop the insanity of a full calendar. Weekends and summers were even busier than winters and the winters were long and overloaded. We homeschooled, homesteaded, and tried to do some homemaking but were rarely at home. The two children played three instruments each and only one of those did they probably play at all well and the younger child said she would not play any instruments and we were all fine with that.

Suddenly they moved out and my friend brought me a puppy to get over it all. In what seemed like overnight I had passed through the seven layers of the candy cane forest and come out into the meadow of middle age.

No really.

Yes, mostly the children are now raised. Only it is twenty eight years later, we are a little breathless and sometimes we think that one of our children will move back into the basement and live until we die so they can then take over the master bedroom. It may have been a dream I had.

But right now its my husband, three dogs and two vacuum cleaners.

The ride of life has made the driving to town with my mom in the gold Oldsmobile and surviving my siblings, look like the easy part.

The tide has now turned and my children are relating stories that I don't think really happened and even if they did, I'm not sure how accurate they can remember events that occurred when they were infants.

The whole thing has left me wondering what in the world to do now.

If you are still reading, thank you. There should be free gifts and balloons for all.

What is wrong with me!?!

The words, "living intentionally" are illusive. There is no such thing as "balance." The seasons of life are often wild, exhausting and unexpected even with the best laid plans.

The media promotes youth, beauty and wrinkle free living. As if you can really control aging. It sells the idea that living life is really for the young and darling.

Even in the Christian community I often feel that if you are over the hill you may as well pull over to the side of the road and park. It doesn't help that our society teaches that we work and live to retire so we can check out of the community in our prime  to enjoy our golden years in the southern sunlight.

One thing I've heard repeated over and over it is this: "I did my time serving, it's someone else turn."

Certainly I get that. I really do.
But I'm fighting the drag and pull to throw it all in and head south for the winter in my spiritual life, which is really my whole life.

It was never meant to be, church on Sunday and Bible study on Wednesday and the rest of the days I do my own thing while sipping high dollar coffee.

At this point we should be at least a little over ourselves already. We should be settled, more in tune with reality.

I've stood at the edge of the graves of both my brothers and thought things like  "I'm so glad we fought, wrestled, built forts and started the chicken coop on fire....."  Why didn't we spend more time contending with life's bigger issues?

Too much time I have wasted searching for meaning, clarity, and acceptance in this life and trying to be something I'm not.

We spent too many years quoting blocks of scriptures to our children instead of just living it out like Jesus.

How amazing is it, that mostly Jesus only quoted scripture to rule-keeping-Pharisees?

The woman caught in adultery.
No scripture was quoted.

The tax collector in the tree?
No scripture was quoted.

The woman at the well who had been through five husbands and lived with a man?
Nope. No scripture quoted.

Jesus drew people to Himself thorough love and relationship.

In this new season of change I just want to be more like Jesus and love on as many people as I can.

I want to rest in all the imperfect messiness of this body, my life, the relationships and embrace it all like a big sloppy wet kiss.

I want to live brave and live in the right now.

Young moms....

My best advice to you is to go to bed as soon as you can, get up when you have to and pray more than  you currently probably are, for everything. Be very careful what gets your yes. Don't buy into the press of what everyone else is doing. You are molding little hearts in the shape of  Jesus and where you lack He will step in and be enough.

Ladies who find yourselves amazed to have survived the season of raising children....

No matter what the journey has looked like, may we be just walk in faith and be humble servants? Be careful of what gets our yes, yet giving our time, energy and talents away freely? And remember Caleb in the Bible? I love his passion. And I love that he did some of his greatest exploits in his eighties.

All we have to do is go where the Lord will lead us - -in faith, if we really listen.

Settled. Not striving.

Fully living in the grace and reality of right now.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Living Our Art

It was all warm and enchanting to me. The sun rays piercing through the thicket of trees, casting shadows that bounced with the breeze, through the lace curtains onto the table.

In the corner of her kitchen stood an easel cradling her current art creation-in-progress. On her walls hung other pieces. Some tiny, some so grand in size that they overpowered the wall where they hung. She chattered about how poorly she paints and yet she spoke about each piece as if it were an intimate friend. I could sense the passion with which each one was bore forth.

Nature is her soul-palette.

Her brush strokes crowned mountains with snow and formed cascading clear streams that I could almost hear splashing across the canvas.

I'm in awe because she is a true artist. A visionary. One who produces something from nothing. One like you might find in a quaint little shop talking about mixed media, tone, depth and wearing a funny hat.

I tell her, "I wish I were an artist."

Matter-of-everyday-fact-like she replied, "Oh everyone is an artist."

I munched on my cookie.  "Nope. Not me."

She stepped close and touched my hand as if to make sure I had a pulse or in hopes I would hear what she was about to say with all my beating heart.

"The very first glimpse we get of God is this: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth....' "

She went on stating her case, that since the Bible says we are all made in His image, she believed that every person is made with gifts and talents to create art and express themselves creatively.


And she believed that art isn't a thing.

It is a way of life.

She pressed me with a question: "What in me could not be silenced? What thing keeps bubbling forth? "

She told me too, it probably would seem impossible.

Then I remember this blond headed little girl drawing a picture with green grass, a fence and my dream horse. Proudly displaying it in class, only to have the teacher say, "Well your picture almost looks like a horse."

That little girl never drew another horse. And worse, she started listening to the crowd of voices in her head that taunt doubt about ever being good enough to even bother.

And doesn't that happen every day?

Children who feel free to create masterpieces that cover refrigerators, until they are stifled by "educated" well-meaning people. And then the refrigerator art dwindles and they too believe that art is for people who stand on boardwalks with easels.

That day I admitted to her and hoped no one else in the whole wide world could hear me say it.

"I think I'm supposed to write."

It was a relief to hear the words tumble out. Truth was, I had boxes full of small scraps of papers with a single word or a scrawled out sentence on it.

I wrote in my head all the time. Once I bought a typewriter with dreams of hearing the metal arms slap repetitive tics as I tapped out something worth reading. Mostly I used white out. Thank goodness computers came on the heels of that.

Fear kept me from ever putting anything together.

I just collected words.

And it scared me to think about trying to string them together. It paralyzed me to think of anyone ever reading my heart. Untouchable places, being exposed to the light, laid bare to people’s opinions.

The fact is, I am not a wordsmith. I'm not good at speaking the English language for goodness sake. I was thrilled when texting came into existence. Even blogging gives freedom to break the language rules. Yes. That was another problem. I'm just a rule breaker at heart.

The Creator God, takes my little bit and makes it into more than enough.

Now I know too, the thing I can't shake, the thing which burns holes in my heart, are people’s stories.

Seeing and hearing where the Lord is moving.

It. never. gets. old.

Recently my dad handed me, my mom’s paint brushes. It made my chest heave a little.

I don't really paint.

And I found myself saying, "I'm not an artist. What am I going to do with these?" 

The feathery bristles are all splattered and worn. Some brushes I know must have been her favorite, because the filament is worn down to the metal band.

They make me smile because I can still see her beautiful round face, glasses perched on the tip of her nose, with little painter’s palette in hand, as she dabbed and blended her art. 

Her jar of brushes are inspiration for me to keep smoothing the edges of my art.

Right now I'm sitting in a hotel lobby and it's 4:15 a.m. I woke up before my alarm, to write.

Trust me there are few distractions at this time of day. 

Soon, The Artist, will splash a new sunrise painting across the sky and it is something forever inspiring that His mercies are new every morning.

And in a few hours I will have another six month checkup since my cancer in 2010.

It is a privilege to be alive.

I don't know that me, writing once a week, will change the world or for that matter be recognized by the world as a true art form.

But for me it is.

And friends.

I need you to live your art too.

I need to hear what burns deep in your soul, what gets you out of bed when sleep still calls. 

I need to see your dance, walk through your gardens, smell your flowers, see the new splash of color on your walls, sit in your retro re-purposed chair, sip fresh squeezed lemonade and eat your cupcake creations.

No one else can sing the melody of your song.

I need you to sing it.

The world needs you to be fully alive and live your art.

Oh may we. create. good. art.

All for the Creator. The Ultimate Artist of our souls.

#1 Photo Credit   #2 Photo Credit 

© Rhonda Quaney