Finding Out What We’re Capable of

It’s been 10 months since I started the challenge of strengthening my weak, creaky body. Someone asked me the other day, “What exactly is wrong with your body?” I didn’t know how to answer that in a neat and tidy way – the best I could come up with is that I was never physically active, my body has always been small and weak, and then I had babies, and all my muscles went out of balance while trying to deal with the extra weight of being pregnant. And then I didn’t recover.

For those of you who have been following along regularly, you know that my therapist has promised great changes if I can reach a 10 minute plank – the ultimate way to get my muscles back into balance. He hints at more crazy exercises to follow, but won’t get into get into the details right now while I’m trying to accomplish my goal of a 10 minute goal.

In the beginning, I could plank for 25 seconds. I’ve been working away at it every single day since last December, and many of you rejoiced with me when I hit the five minute mark.:) You have no idea how much I’ve loved your sweet words of encouragement, and all of the reports from others who have also started planking! You guys are amazing!

Five minutes was super exciting, and it felt awesome to reach that goal, but it was never the intention to stay there, so for the last month and a half, I’ve been trying to increase my time, but I’ve been SO STUCK!!! It’s been incredibly frustrating to stay at that five minute mark for so long, but I’ve kept at it, knowing that at some point, things have to change.

This last weekend, I hit a slump. There are times when the pain in my body flares up, whether it’s from stress, sickness, or just getting stiff from sitting too long. We’ve had a couple of fundraisers and events to go to where I haven’t been able to start doing yoga poses halfway through – sometimes, it’s just not socially acceptable to relieve tight muscles in public places, although I was tempted to bring my yoga mat and find a back corner somewhere where no one would notice what I was doing!

By Sunday night, I was in so much pain, I just sat on the floor in our living room and cried. My muscle therapist is out of town for a few weeks, and I didn’t know what to do. I could make an appointment with someone else, but he’s very specialized, and has been helping me for over five years, so quickly finding someone new wouldn’t really work well for this situation.

I knew I needed to plank, but couldn’t imagine that going well, considering the amount of pain I was in. I decided to do my best, and if I couldn’t last the whole five minutes, it would still be better than nothing.

Well, I hit the four minute mark, and was still okay, so decided to try for five. When I got to five minutes, I was still feeling okay, so went for another 10 seconds. Anytime I increase my time, I do it in 10 second increments, and then collapse on the floor, panting and unable to move for a few minutes until I’ve recovered. This time, I made it to five minutes and 20 seconds, then 30, 40…I finally stopped at six minutes!!! What in the world???!!! It was a planking miracle!! Ben said I didn’t seem that tired, compared to other times. It didn’t even make sense.

It felt like God wanted to give me a boost – a little supernatural strength to encourage me when things were looking too hard. I felt amazing afterwards. That’s the weird thing about planking – it is crazy hard and painful, but it actually makes me feel better when I do it.

The next day, I had no idea what to expect. I got into position, and sent up a quick prayer before I started planking – “God, give me strength. If that was a one-time thing, I’ll totally understand, but help me to do this!!” Six minutes again!!! My ten minute goal is looking closer all the time!

The most amazing thing about this whole process is seeing how God made the body able to work really well. I watch muscles developing in my arms, and see the different ways in which my body rises to the occasion. I can do this – my body is capable of being strong and healthy and meeting physical demands. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m finding all of it to be delightful. I’m told a six-pack is in my future, and I would find that delightful, as well!;)

I’m always on the look-out for inspiring quotes to keep me going on this little adventure, so here’s my latest bunch of favorites:

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yesterdaysource

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Do you have any goals you’re working towards? Surprising yourself of what you’re truly capable of?

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Struggling to Life

My body hurts.

As I’ve shared before, I’m going through the painful process of strengthening my weak muscles which were injured from having babies. According to my therapist, this strengthening phase is exciting progress and I’m doing well, but unfortunately, when it comes to exercise, “doing well” can actually be really painful. These creaky muscles are being challenged to do things they’re not used to doing, and there’s no easy, fast way around that.

The good news is that I’ve been at this long enough to start experiencing some of the benefits. Although I hurt all the time, I can feel certain movements getting easier, and am noticing how my body feels stronger, which is outrageously exciting.:)

But sometimes, I just get tired of hurting. On one of those days, some dear friends were praying for me and the pain I’ve been trying to push through. One  friend said, “It’s like a butterfly trying to get out of it’s cocoon – you’re struggling to life!”

That resonated deeply with me, because years ago, I read about a man watching a butterfly struggling out of a cocoon. After a long while, he couldn’t stand watching helplessly, so he carefully cut the cocoon and instantly freed the butterfly. But what he didn’t realize was how necessary the struggle was – the butterfly lay there, unable to fly, because the fight to be free was what strengthened its wings.

The struggle is necessary and life-giving.

Our culture is all about instant gratification, but the struggle to true strength and health does not come instantly. I really wish it did. I’ve prayed for a miracle for years. I believe God could heal me instantly, and this would be convenient and awesome. But one day, as I was asking God to take all the pain away in a moment, it became clear to me that I was asking Him for something I could really do myself.

God made my body to work well. There is nothing permanently broken in my body – there’s just a lot of weakness and muscles out of balance. And while I know He could fix it all in an instant, I also know that I could get my butt off the couch, and go use my muscles the way God intended me to use them.

I still ask Him to take the pain away, but I also ask Him to give me the strength to push through this season of pain and struggle. I ask Him to help my body work the way He made it to.

I’ve lived with pain for so many years, I don’t remember what it’s like not to have it. Right now, though, the pain I’m experiencing is different – before I hurt because I was weak and my body was not working right. Now I hurt because I’m getting stronger and pushing myself to new levels. Totally different kind of pain! Can we call it “exciting pain”?! The pain of progress? A friend suggested I find a new word for “pain”, just to remind myself how this present pain is different from the old pain. I like this idea, but I’m still working on finding the right word!

For on the days when I get discouraged, and wish this was all a lot easier, I’ve been putting together a little collection of quotes. Since I’m doing a lot of squats these days, I found it fairly amusing to come across this quote: “No sweat, no beauty. No squat, no booty.” When I shared this with Ben, he said, “That’s my life  motto, really….”

Here are a few of my other favorites, in case you are also in need of a little inspiration!

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And when I can’t make it seem pretty or inspirational anymore, and I’m just down to pure desperation, there’s always this one:

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 Anything you’re struggling through right now? What’s your motivation to keep going?

Getting Pulled Up by the Roots

Last week, I had such an amazing experience – I keep going back to it in my mind again and again, and when I was thinking and praying about what to write today, that experience popped into my mind once again….

I was having a really hard day last week – struggling with something weighing far too heavily on my mind. I asked Ben, “How many times have I cried over this same issue?” He said, “Too many.” Too true.

As I sat there on my bed, praying and crying yet again about the issue I was struggling with, I kept getting this extremely clear picture in my mind of roots being pulled out of the ground. It was as though I saw this emotional pain as the physical pain of uprooting. I wanted desperately to be free of that nasty weed, but the roots were hanging on tight. Somehow, it seemed clear to me that I needed to go through the pain and uprooting, even if it would hurt for the time being, so the weed could be gone.

roots

An hour later, I was reading to Anika from Matthew, and suddenly a verse jumped out at me:

“Jesus replied, ‘There are plants that my Father in heaven has not planted. They will be pulled up by the roots….'”

Jesus was talking about the Pharisees, so this was used in a completely different context, but it was so strange to read that verse after the crystal-clear picture I’d had earlier in my mind. Jesus was saying the Pharisees would be uprooted later, but for me in that moment, I felt as though that truth sunk in deeply – if God has not planted something, it must be uprooted.

I could actually feel the release of those roots slithering up from the soil of my life, and I kept thinking, “No matter how hard or painful, I want Him to pull it out. I want to learn to release the roots of what He has not planted.”

And something has changed in me. Every time I’m tempted to go back into that place of pain and sorrow over the issue I was struggling with, and return to that weight I keep insisting on dragging with me, I picture those roots being pulled up. I keep surrendering the issue to God, and asking Him to teach me how to release it.

Is there anything needing to be uprooted in your life?

Praying for a Stranger’s Nose, and Other Crazy Prayers…

Oh, what to say??! I have been so overwhelmed by the support, prayers, and encouragement passed on from all of you!! Thank you for blessing me so richly in this way!

I was very tempted to keep Wednesday’s post to myself, originally. When a friend asked me if I would blog about my December experience, I immediately said, “NO WAY!!!”

My thought was that I could write about it in January, when it was all over, and just let you know about all the awesome things that had happened. And if nothing ended up happening, you would never need to know!

But as I prayed about it, I got the sense, over and over again, that this is for everyone. It might be happening to me, specifically, but we all learn from each other. We share our struggles, and pass on encouragement, and God speaks to everyone involved.

Ann Voskamp wrote (long ago, in a post I can’t find anymore) that when we choose to share our stories, it heals twice – we are healed, and the one hearing the story is healed. This is why we share.

I was thinking of all those people Jesus went around healing in the New Testament, and realized that by healing, He blessed those who were healed directly, but He also blessed everyone who witnessed it, because it was such a display of His awesome power. He used His words and His actions to communicate with people, and they were all amazed.

Sometimes I wonder if we all just need to be amazed a bit more often. He is as amazing today as He was back then.

I was recently blessed with being part of a healing experience for someone else, and it was incredible.

A few weeks ago, at the prophecy class I’m attending at Church of the Rock, the pastor said he had paired us all up with someone before the class started, but he wasn’t going to tell us who we were paired up with. He asked us to sit where we were, pray for this person we didn’t know, and write down whatever God said to us.

Because I was extremely skeptical about how this would go, I turned to my friend and said, “And after that, we’ll do palm reading and get out our crystal balls!!”

She said, “Oh, Kendra, have more faith!”

So I sat there, trying to focus, asking God to take away my snarky attitude and to increase my faith.

Gradually, my mind seemed to slow down and become quiet, and I waited for what God would tell me. A verse from Romans came to mind, so I wrote that down, and then I got a few different pictures in my mind, as well as some words.

But what stood out the most came when I asked God if this person needed healing for anything. Suddenly, all I could see in my mind was a nose. I had a really bad cold myself, so I brushed it off at first, thinking I must just be thinking of my own nose. But again and again, this picture of a nose seemed to be in my mind.

So I began to pray for this nose, asking God if this nose needed healing, and it seemed to me as though this nose was very congested. There was a hard mass that was blocking it.

Still feeling very uncertain and skeptical, I wrote on my paper, “Nose? Healing? Congestion?”

After awhile, the pastor paired us up with the person we had been praying for. As I sat down with my partner, it was very obvious that he did not have a cold. I began to feel very foolish about this whole nose business.

I told him about the verse, and the other things that had come to me while praying. Some of them were very meaningful for him, others not so much.

Finally, I could avoid it no longer, and confessed that I felt led to pray for healing for his very normal-looking nose.

He started smiling, and he said, “Believe it or not, I’ve actually had chronic congestion in my nose for years, and it bothers me a lot.”

What??! So I prayed for him.

And then for the next two weeks, I kept on praying for him, because his nose was continually brought to me mind.

If he had just asked for prayer for his nose, I would have done it, and then probably not thought of it again. But God had made that nose my nose. I owned that prayer need. I prayed like I’ve never prayed for any nose before.

Well, at the next prayer class, I couldn’t wait to ask about his nose!! And guess what – he said his nose was much better! Not completely healed, but much improved. I’m not sure why I doubted God’s answer to my prayers for this man’s healing – God told me to pray for it, so it would make sense that He would do it!

It wasn’t my nose getting healed, but my joy and faith increased because of that man’s experience.

That is my wish for all of us – that our joy and faith would increase as we see all that God is doing, everywhere around us.

I would obviously really, really love to be healed, and live a life free of all this pain, but if I remove myself from that, I realize there is just a growing desire in me to see Jesus glorified. If He wants to use me in that, awesome. If not, I’m sure He’ll find another way! But I don’t want to hinder Him in any way. I will share my story, and I will take leaps of faith, and put myself out there in scary and vulnerable ways, because really, all I want is for Him to be glorified. What else truly matters?

So thank you for your prayers, thank you for sharing in this with me, and thank you for standing with me as we all wait on Him to act in powerful, unexpected, awesome ways, whatever they might be!

Naming Our Pain

Ben and I deal with problems in very different ways.

I tend to talk about them and analyze for hours. I have serious, imaginary conversations with people in my mirror. I generally put a lot of energy into conflict.

Ben, on the other had, chooses not to think about it.

When he’s facing some tough challenges and I ask him how he’s feeling about it, he’ll think for a second, and then say, “Don’t know – haven’t really thought about it.”

And then carries on with life.

This last year, I decided to try facing problems Ben-style. There were some hurts and disappointments which I would normally have taken really hard, but I flexed my brain muscles, and didn’t allow myself to think about it.

I thought it was working out pretty well…until it caught up with me.

A friend asked about a difficult situation I had gone through, and not allowed myself to think about much after, and even though it was at least six months after the fact, I suddenly found myself crying. And crying and crying.

I was very surprised. I had no idea all that emotion was there.

Apparently, the Not Thinking About It approach works for Ben, but I was disappointed to find it didn’t go so well for me.

Now what?

Well, a few nights ago, I came across a strategy I like very much. So far, I’ve found it to be quite amazing, but we’ll see how things go with time.

The idea comes from the book Naked Spirituality, by Brian McLaren, and it involves naming our hurts and emotions before God.

Naked Spirituality

“Fr. Richard Rohr says it well: Pain that isn’t processed is passed on. Pain that isn’t transformed is transmitted. So we need to process our woundedness with God, and that processing begins by naming the pain and holding it — as we’ve been holding each of our simple words — in God’s presence:

Betrayed. Insulted. Taken advantage of. Lied to. Forgotten. Used. Abused. Belittled. Passed over. Cheated. Mocked. Snubbed. Robbed. Vandalized. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. Excluded. Disrespected. Ripped off. Confused. Misled.

…So, just as through confession we name our own wrongs and feel regret, through petition we name and feel the pain that results from the wrongs of others. And just as we rename our anxieties as requests to God, we translate our into requests:

Comfort. Encouragement. Reassurance. Companionship. Vindication. Appreciation. Boundaries. Acknowledgment.

It’s important to note that we are not naming what we need the person who wronged us to do for us. If we focus on what we wish the antagonist would do to make us feel better, we unintentionally arm the antagonist with still more power to hurt us. Instead, in this naming, we are turning from the antagonist to God, focusing on what we need God to do for us. We’re opening our soul to receive healing from God’s ever present, ever generous Spirit.”

Something happened to me when I read through that list of words describing pain and disappointment. Some of them perfectly described what I was feeling. By naming it, and taking the time to acknowledge it, I felt as though I was giving myself permission to admit I was hurt – to admit that something had happened which shouldn’t have happened.

I know there are many times when I mess up, and hurt other people when I make mistakes. I recognize the need to name and confess those things, too.

But I had never thought of confessing other people’s sins. I had no idea it would give me the permission to struggle – to allow myself to feel hurt and wronged, and not to try denying it.

But not to stay there! Rather, to name it, feel the pain, and then hold it up to Jesus. I love the second part – naming what I need from God, claiming the strength and provision I know He will gladly give, anytime, but which I don’t often take the time to receive, or even acknowledge my need to receive.

A passionate discussion with my reflection in the mirror may give me a private outlet for expressing what I truly feel, but it just bounces back to me, and doesn’t free me from the pain.

I want to rather hold it out to God and let Him heal it.

What do you think of the idea of naming your pain before God?

Three Things I Want My Girls to Learn About Pain and Suffering

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There are many times when I am not the mom I wish to be.

Beyond the fact that I’m just plain human, and I mess up on a regular basis, I’ve also been living with some physical challenges which hold me back from all I wish to be.

Although I’m doing much to improve my quality of life, and eliminate the amount of pain and suffering I carry with me, the fact remains that each and every day, my girls get front row seats to this “show” – my show of how I navigate a life of physical challenges.

I am fully aware that there are many people who suffer far more than I could ever imagine. In the big picture, the discomfort I experience is not that significant.

But in all honesty, the daily pain I experience can make me cranky at times. It tempts me to feel sorry for myself. It keeps me from bounding out of the house with unlimited energy and enthusiasm to spend time outside, or do all kinds of fun, adventurous things with my girls.

And it hurts my pride, because I never want people to pity me in my weakness.

So I used to wish it away. But I’m slowly changing my mind….

I don’t know if I will ever like experiencing pain and discomfort, but I have seen the results of it, and I really, really like those.

I have never met anyone who wished for more sickness, or more suffering. And yet, I have repeatedly come across amazing, joyful people with great spiritual depth who have pain and suffering somewhere in their life story, either past or present.

Struggles can bring such strength, if we let them, but who wants them?!

So as I live this life with difficulties I would never have chosen, how do I set a good example for these little girls who see it all?

How can I be grateful, each and every day for this life God’s given me?

If I can’t be the active, energetic wife and mom that I want to be, how can I be what God wants me to be, right here, right now, in the midst of the discomfort?

What is my life of pain teaching Anika and Kaylia?

1) Compassion for those who suffer.

Maybe having me as their mom will make them sensitive. Maybe the idea of people living with pain will be more present in their minds, and they will become aware of how to help others, to come alongside them in their pain. Maybe they will be more grateful for their own health, not taking it for granted, and allowing it to fuel their desire to help others.

2) Healthy choices for their future.

I spent many years making poor choices regarding exercise and diet.

When I was in junior high and high school, “sports” basically meant volleyball and basketball, both of which I couldn’t stand.

Turns out, I love yoga and cycling. But it took a major wake-up call for me to start exercising, and exploring what physical activity I enjoyed as an adult.

And food? Chocolate and carbs (ideally chocolatey carbs!) made up the majority of my diet in college. That same wake-up call got me eating peppers in every color, sweet potatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers in astonishing amounts.

I hope that our girls will learn to enjoy physical activity, eating well, and taking care of their bodies much sooner than I did.

They may not – everyone gets to make their own choices, and I made bad ones for many years of my life. But I’m hoping that Anika and Kaylia will make healthier choices because it’s what they see every day, and they get the “before and after” – they see firsthand what happens when someone does not take care of their body.

John Maxwell shares about his heart attack in his book Make Today Count. It dramatically changed the choices he made on a daily basis, and I love the following quote:

…Men who survive an early heart attack (and learn from it) often live longer and healthier lives than those who never suffer a heart attack.(Maxwell, p.24)

Hardships can cause us to rise up. We can become stronger as we face difficult challenges.

If my health came easy, my girls would not get to see the choices I’m making in this difficulty.

3) Acceptance for whatever God allows into their lives.

Every day, my attitude says something to my girls. I know they can’t possibly understand what pain or discomfort I put up with, and I don’t want them to, but they will know how I choose to face the day.

Do I search for the joy in it?

Do I enjoy the little bits of progress I’m making?

Do I stop to notice the sunshine, and the colors of vegetables or the blue of the sky?

Do I look into my girls’ eyes and truly listen to what they’re saying?

Do I choose to have a good attitude again and again, even when I’m tempted to give up and feel sorry for myself?

I want to live this life well, whatever it holds.

I want my Anika and Kaylia to look back on our home as being a wonderful, happy place, and know that I chose to make it that way, even if it was difficult sometimes. (But I definitely have a lot of work to do in this area!)

In her book, The Resolution for Women, Priscilla Shirer writes,

…You can trust that He has planted you right now in the place where you will be the most personally productive. Even it you may not be inherently pleased with the person He’s made you to be, even if you may not be abundantly happy with the circumstances you’re currently living, you can be sure that God has planted you here with design and intention. He has selected the “soil” where you’re presently growing. Every kind of season and weather you experience has had to pass through His fingers before coming into contact with you. It’s all been divinely designed to surround you with the conditions that allow your unique gifts and abilities to reach maximum potential. To grow. To yield. To produce. ( Shirer, p. 56)

I want to live this life to the fullest – right here in my present situation. It doesn’t matter at all that I wouldn’t have chosen it – it’s what I get for right now.

I choose to accept and appreciate all that’s happened in my past.

I choose to embrace today.

I choose to work at making tomorrow different.

And even if it’s not different, I still want to choose a good attitude.

What impact will that have on my girls?

I have no guarantees, but it seems as though it should be a good one.

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What’s your area of difficulty and struggle? Are you learning from it? Any lessons you hope to pass along to those around you?

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And a quick reminder that you still have a few days to enter the draw for Priscilla Shirer’s book The Resolution for Women. Leave a comment about someone who inspires you. Who do you look up to you? Who do you admire, and why?

34 Days of Favorites: Sleeping Habits

Okay, everybody, ready for some more weird favorites?! Here we go….

Sleep has not always come easy around here. Ben and I are completely opposite in our sleep issues. He falls asleep in about two seconds, but wakes up many times in a night.

I take a looooong time to fall asleep, but once I’m asleep, absolutely nothing will wake me up again. I am blissfully unaware of Ben getting up to answer the girls’ calls for nighttime potty breaks or bad dreams.

I consider sleeping soundly to be a great gift. But I’ve had my struggles with insomnia at different points in my life, which is one of the more miserable things I’ve gone through. I get a little bit crazy after being awake for too many hours. And I get really tired of myself by morning. Sleep is a good way to have a break from yourself.

Anyway. Once I am sleeping soundly, it appears as though I have some self-destructive habits. I clench my teeth like crazy, and without knowing it, move into positions that have resulted in pain and tension in my body. I used to wake up with wicked headaches every morning, until I started seeing a new chiropractor and massage therapist.

Which sounds very normal, but that’s because you haven’t met Nigel Jeffers. I’ve written before about his extremely unconventional methods. He has a suggestion for absolutely any problem you could throw at him. And all of suggestions are weird.

So when I complained to him about my headaches, he sent me out to buy a buckwheat pillow. (You can buy them for $30 at Dania Down.)

How do I describe the strangeness of a buckwheat pillow? It’s a little bit like sleeping on a bean bag. It’s very heavy (because it’s filled with grain), and once you get it molded into place for the night, it holds it’s position quite well.

This is what makes it wonderful. It provides excellent support for the neck, and since using it, much of the tension in my neck has been relieved.

I take it with me everywhere. I cannot sleep without my buckwheat pillow.

My other big bad sleep habit is lying with my arm up over my head. I never did this while I was awake, and I didn’t know I did it in my sleep, until Nigel asked about it. I told him I didn’t, but he was pretty sure I did, since my shoulders and neck were so tense.

And sure enough, after he started asking me about it, I would wake myself up during the night by putting my arm over my head.

So I had to go back and confess to Nigel that I had been wrong. But what on earth can be done to stop myself in my sleep?

Nigel’s answer was simple: Sleep with your arms in your shirt.

What??!!

I felt like a complete idiot that evening as I stuffed my arms into my shirt. Ben thought it was hilarious. He liked to think about what I would do if there was a fire, and I was trapped in my shirt.

That first night was awkward. I kept waking myself up in a complete panic, fighting violently with my shirt, trying to be free. It took a few nights before I stopped waking up in a struggle, and then sleep was absolutely wonderful. I noticed a huge improvement.

Nigel said to keep sleeping with my arms in my shirt for three weeks, and then try going without it, but immediately, those arms popped up above my head again. So, back in the shirt they went.

I’ve tried to go without the entrapment method a few other times, but this is a stubborn habit which appears to be going nowhere.

So I sleep with my arms in my shirt every night. I’m so used to it by now, I really like it. It makes me feel all snug and cozy, to which Ben said, “I could swaddle your whole body in a blanket like a baby, if you like.”

No, thanks. We’ll just stick with the shirt.

It feels a little ridiculous even asking if anyone wants to try these favorites, but if you do, you really must come back and tell us all about it! If you have head or neck aches, I’m telling you – a buckwheat pillow and arms in the shirt. Tried and true Nigel techniques, right there.

And other weird but wonderful sleep suggestions out there? Feel free to share – obviously, I’m up for trying just about anything!

(To read more about “34 Days of Favorites”, click here.)

And, in case you missed some favorites and want to catch up, here are the links!

Body Brushing

Pinterest

New Camera

New Friends

Serious Music

Happy Music

Apple Cider Vinegar

Movies

Smiling

TV Show

Books

Clothing