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Real. Talk. – Supporting Each Other.


encourage each other daily, Hebrews 3: 13

 

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Food for Thought


Act relationaly, instead of religiously.

 

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Three Things I Learned From My Baptism


baptism

So this past Sunday I got baptized. That’s me in the middle with my bald-headed self coming up from the dunk.

This was a watershed event in my life because it was a public profession of my faith – our baptisms are held at the ocean front in Virginia Beach!

In reflection, here are the three things I’ve realized from my baptism-

1.   Accountability

I’ve been accountable to my Lord since I was born again. On the other hand, this outward profession of my faith seemed a little out of my comfort zone. Probably because I realized that now my actions, words, and thoughts may be judged by my peers – everyone who surrounds me. You know, the Christian who talks the talk but has a harder time walking it?

What I think, do, and say has the possibility of being put under a microscope and analyzed to see whether or not I’m walking my talk. And that is good. I like this idea of being held accountable by my peers because it will help me be a better person.

It will take me to the next level of humility. It will teach my when I don’t act in accordance with a God whom I now believe loves all…no matter their story, hurts, failures, and brokenness. This is the Lord I’ve come to know in the past several years. And I want to be held accountable against His bar of

love

joy

peace

patience

kindness

goodness

faithfulness

gentleness

and self-control.

These can be difficult ideals to live up to at times, but with the help and support of ALL my friends, the process will be a worthwhile journey.

2.   Self analysis

This is the perfect time for me to take a personal inventory. How have I done to this point? What changes do I need to make moving forward? What are my goals in life? Are they in alignment with His will? How have I treated others? Have I held people up, or brought them down? Have I spoken life enhancing words to someone, or have my words been toxic to their ears?

Answering these questions will lead to an honest assessment of my life to this point. The answers will help me understand my performance. The answers may not be things I want to hear, but they will help me to empathize and understand the impact I’ve had on people’s lives – whether helpful and positive, or hurtful and negative.

3.   Desire to grow

I was born with an innate desire for self-improvement. Maybe it’s because I was also born with a harsh superego that thrashes me each day. Either way, this event marks a new stage in my life.

Baptism doesn’t make you a new person, it’s just an outward act for an inward decision.

Baptism doesn’t make you a kinder or happier person.

It doesn’t make you personable with everyone you meet.

It doesn’t give you the patience to weather the DMV lines, or go the extra mile for someone that’s wronged you. That’s what the Lord does in your life.

Me, I have a long ways to go. I am selfish. I say hurtful things. I say things out of anger or defensiveness. I act carelessly.

Not all the time.

But I have my fair share friend, believe you me. It is the Lord’s mercy, grace, and compassion that has turned me into any of the good things I am today. They are for His glory and due to His will.

He has blessed me with things like patience (through many, many, MANY trials), and my own life after I hanged myself last September.

He has also blessed me with the things He has taken away – toxic relationships, a failed marriage, a decreased streak of anger and resentment.

This event was a milestone in my growth as a man, as much as it was an event in my growth within my faith.

Thank you for taking your time to read this post. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the Comments section. Do you have a particular way in which your baptism (or other life event) has positively effected you?

 

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“Save My Life”, Sidewalk Prophets | [VIDEO, LYRICS]


image of two friends hugging on a park bench.

I heard this song today and the words just struck me to the heart.

I’ve been there so many times.

Thought someone else might need to hear them, too.

https://youtu.be/4L28WL-_vjU

“Save My Life”

We’ve met half a dozen times
I know your name I know you don’t know mine
But I won’t hold that against you

You come here every Friday night
I take your order and try to be polite
And hide what I’ve been going through

If you looked me right in the eye
Would see the pain deep inside
Would you take the time to

[Chorus:]
Tell me what I need to hear
Tell me that I’m not forgotten
Show me there’s a God
Who can be more than all I’ve ever wanted
‘Cause right now I need a little hope
I need to know that I’m not alone
Maybe God is calling you tonight
To tell me something
That might save my life

I’m the pastor at your church
For all these years you’ve listened to my words
You think I know all the answers

But I’ve got doubts and questions too
Behind this smile I’m really just like you
Afraid and tired and insecure

If you look me right in the eye
Would you see the real me inside
Would you take the time to

[Chorus]

Save my life

I am just like everyone
Jesus I need You, I need Your Love
To save my life

[Chorus]

 

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I Tried To Do What Was Right


Image showing child and two parents arguing.

The fracture of visitation

Visitation.

That word says it all for me.

It’s usually a battle. And I never look forward to it.

I’m ashamed that I feel myself withdraw from my daughter because the torture I go through with her mother over the issue.

It’s NOT right.

I know this.

I am a poor dad for doing so.

“I’m human”, I plead to the masses ready to lead me to the desert of retribution outside the city gates for crucifixion.

“It hurts too much.”

“It’s too much to take.”

And my resolve collapses.

Shame on me.


This week I made a small stride…

“D”(aughter) went to Florida with her mom for 10 days.

She was to return today to spend 10 days with me.

She called last night to ask if she could stay in Florida for another four days.

I told her “yes” and to enjoy herself.

Some Lessons I Learned-

1.   Humility. In the grand scheme of things, “D” is the Lord’s child, not mine. I am merely His earthly representative to guide His child on her earthly journey. This has helped make these valleys of mine, “easier” to traverse. It helps me put things in perspective.

I had to let go of my pride and focus not on what would hurt me, but what would glorify Him. 

This. Can. Be. A. Tough. Lesson.

2.   Selflessness. I had to put someone else’s desires above my own egocentric wants. Was it the right decision? Did it answer the question “What Would Jesus Do”? I have faith that it did.

3.   Anger.  I was able to harness my anger and resentment towards “D’s” mother. This is a struggle I have, thanks to my anger-based personality. Last night, I won in the gladiatorial arena.

4.   Spirit Strength. It was not my inner strength and resolve that enabled me to take the high road. I don’t have that strength.

I am a person of retribution and vengeance.

I have cruel intentions.

I am a person that crumbles to getting even rather than understanding.

Totally opposite of what Christianity teaches, right? Yes, you are correct.

That’s why this situation wasn’t resolved because of my intestinal fortitude. The only reason I was able to traverse this river of Styx was through the Holy Spirit’s power.

Thank you for reading this post, my friend. What are your thoughts and suggestions in this situation? Maybe we could be support buddies 🙂

 

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Sunday Thoughts. [QUOTE]


I like quips and quotes.

…those little one-liners that speak volumes in my life.

I heard this one on K-Love and it struck me to the core.

I wanted to share it with my friends, in the hopes that someone feels moved in some way, and in their own life.

X Chris

Quote saying, "Satan knows our name and calls us by our sin. Jesus knows our sin and calls us by our name."

 

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Dad Issues, Part 2 – Me, My Dad, and Our Religion


dad_001

From left to right- my younger brother, me, our dad, my younger sister, & someone’s elbow.

This is the second part in a series of self discovery by looking at my dad, and our relationship. Be sure to check out the first post on the connection between our angerThese posts are a way of thinking out loud to discover if there is a connection between my dad and my depression. 

*     *     *

I don’t resent my dad. And I don’t intend for these posts to shame him on the www.

He always provided for our family. He never physically abused my mom and never cheated on her. He never drank and he never came home drunk. In fact he came home every day after work, whereas a lot of his friends probably took to the bar and the strip club…even if they were married. He conducted himself like a gentleman.

Dad was a family man. He took our family camping each year. He raised me in the Baptist church and modeled Godly principles. He served his country for 21 years in the US Navy as a submariner. He’s retired three times since then. Certainly a hard worker with a work ethic as impregnable as steel. He will always be an honorable man in my eyes.

*     *     *

This post is a narrative on the role religion played both in my life and in the relationship between my dad and I.

The Baptist Church and Hell-

DB-f108r-d2l

Dad and I had a tenuous relationship exacerbated with the issue of church. I grew up in the New England Baptist church. Yeah, you know, fire-and-brimstone, burn in hell if you do one thing wrong. Set those furnaces to BROIL for this guy! Start the barbecue, baby, this party’s about to get started!

Understanding this Baptist view of Hell is important because it was a major deterrent and tenet of my church.

So, also having a huge inner self-critic (Type 1 enneagram), really made things ride high on the scale of suckwad . I grew up with a huge guilt complex (still live with that, good times) and fearing my actions would earn me an eternity in napalm. You know that stuff has to extinguish itself, right? The jelly burns until there’s no more jelly.

Burns through clothes.

Through eyelids, lips, and scalps.

Down to the bone. I suppose it could disintegrate bone and teeth, too.

The cool thing I’ve learned about the fire in hell is that it never goes out. Kind of like those war memorials of the eternal flame – like the JFK memorial. You’re just doused in it. And you burn for the rest of your existence with no relief. Yeah that mess scared me as a child.

Even more as a grown man.

That was such a great deterrent to being unsaved. Screw that mess! Burn in hell for eternity, or live in a place with no brokenness, sadness, hurt, or pain?

The answer was easy. SAVE ME LORD.

Now in reality I didn’t decide to be born again for this reason, but growing up in the Baptist church had a huge impact on my growing up.

Here’s a few ways- 

We always fought about church-

I remember that my dad and I argued pretty much every Sunday after church about things like-

♦  Why I had to go if I didn’t get anything out of it?

♦  Why I couldn’t wear jeans and had to tuck my shirt in (I HATE tucking my shirts in, call it slovenly, it works)?

By the time I signed up for the Marine Corps, I was ready to get out and live my own life, free from the guilt of Baptist Christianity.

I have a huge guilt complex-

I’m really glad you asked about that last part…you know…that part about guilt. Guilt is a HUGE part of my personality.

Just shy of 42 years old and I am starting to outgrow it and put it in its place. I don’t know where this came from but I have a feeling the answer lies somewhere between me being the oldest child and the tenets of that little Baptist church in southeastern Connecticut. I’ve talked to other “oldest children” and they seem to be able to relate to this idea.

I don’t think it’s the fault of my childhood church, rather it may have been the way I interpreted what was preached. There didn’t seem to be any raw compassion.

There was a lot of friendliness, but there wasn’t any talk of real world issues.

THAT’S IT! No. Talk. Of. Real. World. Issues.

real talk_if you really knew me_001

No talk of struggles with porn.

No talk of suicide.

No talk of brokenness.

No mention of…

“I’m hurting and I need your help”

“I can’t pay my electric bill and don’t have food for my kids”

“my wife cheated on me and I can’t handle these feelings”

“I am constantly angry”

You know…no talk of real talk. It was all so perfect and I never felt like I fit in.

So I just suffered inside.

I felt like the black sheep-

I felt like a circle trying to fit in a square.

I never felt a connection between church and my life. I felt so OUT OF TOUCH with it all. It seemed SOsososososo isolated to me.

I felt outside and evil for thinking, acting, and being something that was SO out of touch with my church. In actuality, I probably thought things that a lot of other folks there thought and struggled with.

I felt shame because of my lust.

I felt evil because of my language.

I feel like a let down to the people around me. 

In fact, if you REALLY knew me…

I always felt like I was either hiding something. Or faking something because I felt it would earn my dad’s approval. It wasn’t his fault. I always thought my dad and mom were perfect. They never hit each other and I don’t remember them fighting until their separation. They never cussed at us or berated us. They never had affairs. They never drank. They were both good, good parents.

And along with the Baptist upbringing, I never felt like I could measure up to their example. In fact I remember one day my mom told me that I woke them up cursing at the top of my lungs in my sleep. I remember my mom saying something like that meant I do it in when I’m awake. And she was right.

[“I hear the secrets that you keep…when you’re talking in your sleep”]

I felt a huge amount of shame and guilt. That afternoon, after I got home from school I wrote my first suicide note at my desk with a razor blade out.

That’s what my religion did for me.

“The opiate of the people”.

Thanks Karl Marx.

Lessons Learned-

Let’s wrap this up F Troop

♦  Openness and input. I don’t want to force my daughter to go to church. I’d like to think of it as encouraging her and explaining the benefits to her. I don’t want to it to be a “you’re going as long as you’re living (visiting) under this roof.” She should be able to see some importance in going. Some goodness in her life. It ain’t easy getting up to an alarm clock on Sunday. But amen brother, it helps me to be a gentler, self-sacrificing human. I also want her to feel her input is welcome and regarded. If she doesn’t feel she is getting anything out of it, I would prefer to have a discussion with her, instead of some mandated directorate sent down from me to her.

♦  Try not to give up. As a child, my religion reinforced my already huge guilt complex. For the past several years, I have become a member of a church where I feel like my needs are being met. We call it our hospital. It feels good. I’m glad I found my way there.

♦  Admit your humanity and imperfection to your kids. I try to remember to tell my daughter my imperfections whenever I can. I don’t want her to grow up with the guilt complex I had and still struggle with. I tell her when I’m wrong and I apologize. I give her examples of times I’ve jacked things up. I constantly tell her it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and don’t repeat them. She’s seen me give a reckless driver the bird and has heard me cuss. She knows I have a temper. I slip. She knows that. And she knows it’s wrong. She also knows that I’ve been humbled because I try to admit my imperfection to her.

Thank you for taking your time to read this post, my friend. How has religion impacted who you are today? I welcome your thoughts in the Comments section. 

 

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Do You Need Peace Right Now? [JESUS CALLING, DEVOTIONAL]


So to me, these two devotionals are what Jesus is all about.

As a child I grew up to believe that the Lord was some sort of angry God waiting to cast judgment on my every decision. The Jesus Calling app has led me to a different understanding.

He is a Lord who cares and is empathetic. He laughs when I laugh and he hurts when I am sad.

These devotionals have helped bring me through my valleys…my times of worry, anxiety, and pain.

I’ve posted these devotionals from my journal in the hopes that they touch the hearts of my friends who feel like I used to (and sometimes, still) feel-

♦  I grew up, and still struggle with shame and guilt

♦  I still struggle with my self-image

♦  I was angry, especially at God – sometimes my current circumstances

♦  I felt lost 

♦  I hated going to church, and I hated when other Christians judged me and pressured me

♦  I struggle with depression and feelings of worthlessness

If you need peace in your life RIGHT NOW, I encourage you to get the Jesus Calling app and search “Peace”. Thank you for taking the time to read this and passing it along to others.

-Chris

Peace devotional from the Jesus Calling App, 19 March

Peace devotional from the Jesus Calling App, 19 March

Peace devotional from the Jesus Calling App, 19 March

Another devotional on Peace from the Jesus Calling App, 2 April.

 

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Who is Chelise and Why is She One of My Angels? [GUEST BLOG]


Trigger Warning – this post discusses the events of the night I hanged myself. Please do not read it if this is a trigger. 

Guest blogger, Chelise and the author of Surviving the Specter.

Our guest blogger, Chelise and I, at her birthday party, two months after I attempted to take my life.

Several weeks ago I started asking fellow bloggers if they’d guest post for me and it’s been nothing but an enjoyable experience for all of us. If you missed the first two posts in this new series please read Who is Sassafrass the Feisty? and Who is Morgueticiaatoms?

Today I’d like to introduce the angel who saved my life last September when she took me out of the belt I was hanging from for 45 minutes. You can read the long version or the shorter version of that night when I decided to take my life.

Her name is Chelise (pronounced shuh-lease) and I’ve mentioned her before in my posts. She is a kind and selfless person, deeply devoted to the Lord, and does anything to help those in need. While I was in the hospital, she even paid my water bill so it wouldn’t get shut off. We go to church together and we play Rock Band together, along with my girlfriend who was also there that night.

Though she is not a blogger (yet…) she has a style of writing that I just couldn’t keep to myself. So without further hesitation, here is what Chelise had to say.

UPDATE: Since Chelise submitted this post to me, she has started blogging as of last night! Please visit her site and welcome her at https://caterpillarandthebutterfly.wordpress.com/ She will be blogging about boundaries, codependence, and relationships, and her Faith.

1.   How long have you been blogging?

I don’t have a link to a personal blog but as far as how to find me….probably at the nearest Sushi joint! Haha

2.   Where do you get the inspiration/ideas for your blog posts?

I don’t blog, but if I did it would probably be from my past experiences and my growth through hard times.

3.   What mental conditions (“illnesses”) do you survive with? E.g., depression? PTSD? anxiety? self-harm?

I can’t say that I suffer from genetic mental illness but like most of us, I haven’t had the easiest life…I’ve just learned to cope and grow from it. That being said, I’ve experienced serious situational depression from childhood trauma, which has long since turned into estrangement from my mother and most recently a divorce after being married for 15 years.

4.   For each condition, what is at least one coping mechanism you have found to be successful?

There is only one for me…God. If it were not for me turning to God and refueling my faith I don’t know where I’d be. After my husband left me, then shortly being involved with a sociopathic rebound boyfriend, the silence from my mother and the downward spiral of my job because of the previous three issues just mentioned…I felt I had nothing….until I realized I had everything and that was my Creator. I turned to Him for comfort, healing and peace and ultimately He has given that to me plus so much more. If I’m allowed to name a close second, it would be my friends who have essentially become my family. They refuse to let me fall and I know within each and every one of them resides a value and strength that I hold dear to my recovery every single day. That again, ties back to God. He allowed each of them to cross my path during healing process and for that I’m grateful.

5.   Do you have a personal story you would like to tell? One of success? One of growth? A story that tells about your rough stuff?

The catalyst of the “rough stuff” in my life centers around my mother, unfortunately. I’m not lucky enough to have a healthy mother/daughter relationship. I recall much of my growing up a painful experience because I had to learn to survive at the hands of what was supposed to be my protector, but essentially was an abuser. I have enough compassion today to realize that “hurting people, hurt people” so it was more about her than me. To this day, although a recovering alcoholic, my mother and I have a very toxic relationship so I choose to love her from a distance. I have forgiven my mother and learn to accept the love from those who have come into my life as “adopted mothers” and who have graciously accepted me into their family. One whom I am most grateful for, Chris’s mother….my NorMa…stands for Northern Mama, haha. God puts those in our life that we truly need in order to heal and grow from past hurts. God has picked roses from his garden to give to me to help me on my journey. I feel that I have survived a lot in my 40 years….a rough childhood (which I’m finding is common more and more these days), a divorce as well as loss of friends and family. That is life and it happens but you either see the lightning in the storm and become afraid or you let the lightning illuminate your path to move forward. It’s all about perspective.

6.   From your experience, what three pieces of insight/wisdom can you give to others surviving with mental illness?

♦   As mentioned above, I believe strongly in having a relationship with God to get you through the day to day “stuff”.

♦  I sought counseling just to be able to talk things out and allow a professional help me sort out my feelings and all that I had been through.

♦  Friends – this is the staple during those inner battles we all face. To have at least three close friends you know you can call on is pivotal. Do I know that I can call on at least three people that are closest to me and they will be there anytime of the day or night? Yes and I am blessed. Even if you have just that one friend that stands out above the rest….it’s important to have someone. Don’t get locked inside your head. Reach out. Talk. Ask for help. Chances are….those friends are eager and willing to get you out of a dark place and not think twice.

7.   Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’m sure many of you have read Chris’s account of his suicide attempt on September 14th.  I’d like to share with you my account….as I was one of his friends that received his text that night and found myself removing the belt from his neck.

That Sunday was an “off” day for me as I recall. Just a low point for whatever reason…most likely memories from my failed marriage….or a fight with my mother…it seems so insignificant now. I withdrew and shut my phone off after I’d gotten home from church. I had it off all day. I recall spending time reading The Word and praying for God to show me significance in my life. I was struggling that day and I know my quiet time with God helped but I was still questioning what my purpose was in life. Work comes early for me so I remember heading to bed around 10pm. Before I fell asleep I decided I really needed to turn my phone back on.

10:12pm…”Do you have sleeping pills? I want to die tonight” was the text that came in from Chris. My immediate reaction was not to text back but to call him at that moment. As the phone rang with no answer I jumped out of bed and got dressed. Left a message and called again. I don’t remember how many times I tried to get him to answer but with each unanswered call I knew in the pit of my stomach that this was not good. The friend that was always there for everyone else was needing help that night. What would normally take me 45 min to get to his house took me 20. I never quit calling hoping he’d get sick of the ringing and just answer. Didn’t happen. I arrived to a locked door and very loud music blasting through an open window. Shades were drawn and it was dark.  As dark as the lyrics to the song that played in a loop over and over. An upstairs neighbor had a key to his apt and she let us both in. As his neighbor called 911 I walked toward my friend to do my best to rescue him from the mode he chose to ultimately leave this world. My hands shook so bad as I grappled to get the belt loose from his neck. I acted out of the strength and lack of fear that God had given me at that moment. Nothing else mattered….Chris may not have known anyone was there to save him but we were not going to let him die.

The coming days were roller coasters of emotions for all involved. I remember the next day staying home from work and camping up at the hospital where he was taken. I was in some state of shock but functioning nonetheless. He was restrained for his own safety and completely out of it for days. One day at a time he slowly came around and I was one of many visitors that came to support him. He was loved and I think to this day he’s fully aware of that.

Even though rough patches still come from time to time he knows he can count on several friends for help in a crisis.

Depression is serious. It takes over and will completely consume you. My feeling is this….never take for granted those people that are important. There may not be a tomorrow. Never EVER assume someone is just “crying for help” and not serious….you could be that one person that allows tomorrow to come and be given a second chance.

And finally…never assume God doesn’t have a purpose for you in life….I asked to be shown what it was for me and that night my purpose was to be a lifeline and the best friend I could be and for that I’m truly grateful I could be His soldier to fight on the front lines for one that was wounded.

Again, thank you Chelise for being a guest blogger and taking your time to write this wonderful post! 

Readers, do you have a comment you’d like to add? Or a question for Chelise? Please post them in the Comments section below. I know she’d love to hear from you.

 

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My Anchor Point.


I’m not perfect because I’m a believer.

I follow because I am so imperfectly broken.

20150607_092056_001

 

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