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Category Archives: Vibrant Life

Life is beautiful. Let me tell you how I know this.

Surely goodness and mercy are following me.

 

A few minutes ago, there was a knock on our door.

My husband looked at me and said, “Who could that be?” People don’t usually just pop over to see us (which reminds us of the time a policeman showed up at our door…I might tell you that story later). I answer it, and our associate pastor and his wife walk in, carrying boxes full of the most beautiful thing I have seen in a long time.

Now, some of you know that my husband lost his job two months ago, and that it has been rather stressful to watch our carefully saved up emergency fund (thank you for baby step #1, Dave Ramsey!) slowly sink lower and lower. My husband, especially, has felt discouraged in job hunting for something suitable for him. This is what our fridge looked like today.

fridge

Not exactly as full as I, the chef of the house, like to keep it.

So imagine our surprise as we saw that the boxes were full of groceries. Really, SO much food!!! Groceries

There was chicken and beef, canned veggies, grapes, bananas, strawberries, blueberry muffin mix, mixed nuts, and so much more! God bless them, they even got us a bag of little chocolates filled with caramel. I’m sure by now my mother is crying as she reads this. I am pretty sure it was the equivalent of three weeks of groceries for us.

Apparently, someone in our church who knew we were going through a rough time wanted to help us. Anonymously.

To that person/couple/family, we say thanks.

And I think God is smiling.

 

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
All the days of my life,
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” ~Psalm 23:6

 

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Vibrant Life

 

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Three Things I Learned In My First Year of Marriage

I have been married to Mr. Smith for a whole year now. It went by both quickly and slowly–you know how that is. I thought this would be a good time to reflect on what I have learned.

1. If I don’t want him to eat my dinner, I should cover it with mushrooms.

My husband can’t stand those. Actually, this reminds me of a lesson that was hard to learn that first month: “What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.” Anything that I eat or drink or possess is not really “mine,” but “ours.” When we got married, we joined our hearts, but we also joined our bank accounts. It was like I was a kid learning to share all over again, constantly being reminded that there is nothing I can really call “mine.” This is true of our Christian walk, as well. Everything we “own” is given to us by God, who is the Great Provider. This is a reason that married life is like being a monk, who can’t say he owns anything either. Every time my husband was thirsty, I would let him drink from my cup (and he didn’t mind me drinking from his). Everything we have is meant to be shared with whoever needs it.

2. There is no more hiding.

I am an emotional person. I also don’t like to get in other people’s way. So sometimes I hide my feelings or opinion because I want to save other people from dealing with my crap. That doesn’t work when you live with someone. Especially if you are married to that someone. I can’t cry without him seeing and persisting until I tell him what is wrong. I can’t be down in the dumps without him wanting to help. No more pity parties for this lady. I can never face something alone again, because I have this man who will fight for me.

3. There is no more pretending to be perfect.

All of that stuff, all of the crazy, all of the wierdness, that you were able to hide when you were just dating, comes out in the open when you get married. The Tourettes Syndrome tics that only come out when he is at home, I married those. The anxiety and IBS problems I have, he married those. Your spouse becomes a mirror that shows how you really are. Every time you would rather choose the selfish option instead of choosing to love reflects the darker tendencies that a lot of people do not get to see. But it can be a blessing. Married people every day have the choice to grow in holiness, to choose love, to become more like Christ. It is rough, yes. It is real, yes. All of the ways I would rather be passive-aggressive and not deal with problems–my husband loves me too much to let me pick that route.

 

In other news, I get to officiate my first wedding next week! I am such a fan of marriage, especially when it is entered into not “unadvisedly, but reverently, discreetly, and in the fear of God” like Nazarenes like to say at weddings. When a couple thinks and prays hard over a period of time, and mentoring Christians in their lives think it is a great idea, and when the couple is passionate about serving and glorifying God–it is a beautiful thing. That is the kind of couple I get to pronounce husband and wife next week.

All of you married folks! What are some things you have learned in marriage?

You single folks! What are some things God has taught you in being single?

~Mrs. Smith

Swept Off My Feet

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2014 in Vibrant Life

 

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30 Books I Have Read This Year

A normal tradition for Americans on New Year’s Eve is to make a promise, a resolution, in an attempt to improve their lives or self-discipline. After two or three weeks of very honestly trying to uphold the ideal, we listen to the excuses our minds tell us for why we really don’t need to go to the gym today. A day or two goes by, then a week, then two, without our touching whatever it is we promised. We recall our resolution with regret, and find comfort in the fact that none of our friends had kept their resolution, either. I think the problem here is that we either really don’t want to do whatever it is we promised, or that we didn’t put in place an accountability system in place to keep us on track.

This year, I picked something I do want to do (read) and then told people about it. I decided my resolution should be to challenge myself with the goal of reading 100 books in a year. Since I took a gap semester between college and seminary, I had plenty of free time to do this.

I have read (…wow, has it really been thirty?!)30 books so far. There are classics and newbies, science fiction, historical fiction, and biography, young adult fiction, cookbooks, and theology. As I went along, I kept notes. I thought maybe you would be inspired to pick up a new book.

One Hundred Books in a Year – 2014

Title, author, yearpublished, date I finished it, # of pages, my evaluation/thoughts

1. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks, Jan 2, 342 pg. A rather gruesomely captivating story, full of foul language, this book of eyewitness accounts contains the fictitious “history” of the spread of the undead infection and the living’s hard-earned journey to regaining control of dominion. Interesting to read once; won’t read it again.

2. The Island of Dr. Moreau, H. G. Wells, Jan 3, 185 pg. Another frightfully engrossing story, this parable by Wells explores the tension between humanity and animals. The animals which were distorted into a kind of human resemblance by Moreau’s vivisection stand as a reminder of our own more primal urges. Wells sought to express his own exasperation at the suffering and lack of purpose of the human race. Glad I read this classic sci-fi.

3. The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, Jan 4, 253 pg. This is a collection of funny and philosophical cartoons depicting a boy and his stuffed tiger. Calvin and Hobbes deal with many of the troubles of a six-year-old, like dealing with a babysitter, his girly neighbor, and the daily homework. Good stuff, rather delightful.

4. The Spymistress: a novel, Jennifer Chiaverini, Jan 6, 351 pg. This historical fiction follows the life of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Unionist living in the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia, during America’s Civil War. Using her power, wealth, and friendships, Lizzie supplied crucial information to General Grant about military and political movement in the city. A good way to learn historical facts in a narrative style.

5. A Good Neighbor: Benedict’s Guide to Community, Robert Benson, 2009, Jan 9, 92 pg. This short book looks at how some of the core principles of St. Benedict’s Rule (obedience, humility, suffering, confession, mercy, and serving) are also key to fostering community with those one is given to and those given to one. Written by a quiet Anglican layman who I could easily befriend; delightful read.

6. Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life, Margaret Kim Peterson, 2007, Jan 10, 165 pg.  “Of course housework is about making a home, but a Christian home, properly understood, is never just for one’s own family. A Christian home overflows its boundaries; it is an outpost of the kingdom of God, where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and there is room enough for everyone. […] Housekeeping is about practicing sacred disciplines and creating sacred space, for the sake of Christ as we encounter him in our fellow household members and in neighbors, strangers, and guests.” (pg xiii) This book contains a thoughtful theology of making a house a home. It rambles a bit, but is worth reading.

7. Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan, Sam Childers, 2009, Jan 13, 223 pg. A man once addicted to drugs and alcohol turns his life over to Christ and puts his fighting spirit to better use protecting orphans from the Lord’s Resistance Army. It is clear that he is a pastor from how he writes, and he is very down-to-earth. It was Childers who inspired the movie Machine Gun Preacher. This book made me rethink my opinion of NRA people.

8. Monk Habits for Everday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, Dennis Okholm, 2007, Jan 14, 137 pg. Okholm is a Protestant professor who fell in love with the lifestyle of Benedictine monks. He writes about how all Christians can implement St. Benedict’s Rule guidelines: meditation on the Word, disciplined speech, common goods, submission, humility, hospitality, stability, and balance in all areas of one’s life. I appreciated his natural sense of humor.

9. Man of Blessing: A Life of St. Benedict, Carmen Acevedo Butcher, 2006, Jan 15, 167 pg. Starting with what little we know about St. Benedict’s life, Carmen fills in the details with what we know was going on culturally and politically in Italy during his life. She tells miraculous stories about him that have been passed down, which all point to Benedict’s peacefulness, grace, and humility. It made me want to become an abbess.

10. Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome and Wanted, Karen Mains, 1976 and 1997, Jan 20, 208 pg. This book is perfect for any Christian who has been gifted with hospitality! This pastor’s wife goes into Biblical examples and exhortations of hospitality, the necessary humble attitudes that must accompany it, and the ministries that are possible when a person offers an open heart and welcoming home. Good for my soul.

11.The Hidden Art of Homemaking: Creative Ideas for Enriching Everyday Life, Edith Schaeffer, 1971, Jan 22, 214 pg. This book is written with the foundational idea that “a Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively” (pg 32). Because God, the great Creator, has created humanity in His own image, Christians should strive to make the most of their creative giftings, whether it is in decorating, growing plants, cooking, writing, or reading aloud. The author filled the book with ink illustrations she drew herself, which add character and prove that she is not just talking the talk. It is filled with good ideas.

12. Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot, 1976, Jan 23, 175 pg. This easy read is Elliot’s letter to her eldest daughter Valerie, about biblical womanhood and marriage. Her tone is gentle and wise. I’m going to recommend this to other Christian women.

13. Austenland: a Novel, Shannon Hale, 2007, Feb 12th, 194 pg. Here is a fiction about a thirty-some year-old woman who is obsessed with Mr. Darcy and Jane Austen’s romances, but she has never found a good man herself. Her great-aunt leaves her an Austenian vacation in her will, but what a strange place! She battles feelings of confusion, shame, interest, and wonders if she is ready to give up on her fantasy—and even on men! Surprising ending. Great for getting me out of my reading slump.

14. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, Kathleen Flinn, 2011, Feb 17th, 272 pg. Flinn tells the story of how she took nine women who had almost no cooking skills and taught them how to feel at home in the kitchen. She records what everyone says and how her basic classes changed their lives. I learned a lot about cooking in just reading the book! It has recipes in it, too.

15. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932, Feb 18th, 259 pg. In this dystopian novel, Huxley paints a picture of a completely hedonistic world, where promiscuous sex and drugs are demanded by the culture which mass produces humanity with the goal of blissfully ignorant happiness. A man named John is born in a “savage reservation” and is introduced to the modern London. The clash of mocking and meaningless philosophy climax in suicide, which I suspected all along. A very intriguing book indeed.

16. Bread and Wine: a love letter to life around the table with recipes, Shauna Niequist, 2013, Feb 23rd, 280 pg. Shauna tells stories about life—precious memories and lessons learned—all entwined around food, tastes, and smells. She reminds me of my mother.

17. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1866, March 13th, 551 pg. This old classic follows what happens in a few weeks in the life of a Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, who commits murder in St. Petersburg. Though it is a rather long story, by the middle, I was hooked. I had no idea how it would end. Surprisingly, one could say that it ended with resurrection and the story of Lazarus. Totally worth it.

18. Til We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, C.S. Lewis, 1956, March 15th, 309 pg. Jack rewrote this ancient Greek story of Psyche and Cupid through the eyes of her older sister, Orual. Psyche makes Aphrodite jealous with her beauty, but is saved by her son, Cupid, who marries her. Orual does not understand everything, and convinces Psyche to disobey her husband and look upon his face. This causes consequences which include much suffering, as well as Orual finally coming closer to understanding the intentions of the gods. A bit of a strange story, but one filled with wonderings about things that are beyond human understanding.

19. Divergent, Veronica Roth, 2011, March 17th, 557 pg. Set in a dystopian future in Chicago, this teen-fiction novel tells the story of Beatrice, who must choose her own faction. There are five, which are based on the virtues of bravery, honesty, knowledge, harmony, and selflessness. What Tris doesn’t know is that she will not fit into any one box, because she is divergent. I read this because the movie comes out next week; it was rather enjoyable, and I finished it in about 5 hours.

20. Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? Gary Thomas, 2000, March 19th, 268 pg. Gary’s point is that marriage can be a tool to make us more Christ-like, more forgiving, and more selfless. He tells great stories. A must-read for married Christians.

21. Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families, Cokie and Steve Roberts, 2011, March 26th, 180 pg. Written by a Jewish man and his Catholic wife, this book is the product of decades of having the Passover meal with friends. It explains traditions and includes both Hebrew and transliteration of blessings as well as the English translation. There are also Seder recipes in the back. Good resource.

22. How God Became King: Getting to the Heart of the Gospels, Tom Wright, 2012, April 3rd, 276 pg. In this book, N.T. Wright digs deep into the Scriptures, explaining the over-arching story the Bible. God reigning as king over God’s people has always been the goal. The last third of the book is about how the Kingdom of God is related to Jesus’ death on the cross—perfect reading during Lent. Takes some perseverance to get through it, though.

23. Emma, Jane Austen, 1816, April 15th, 320 pg. This is the story of a young woman who thinks she knows everything about love. Her attempts at matchmaking fail as she finds out she doesn’t know anything. But she realizes she is head over heels herself and finds true love in the end. Good stuff for a girls’ soul.

24. Life of Pi, Yann Martel, 2001, April 18th, 319 pg. The story of a 16-year old boy who is shipwrecked and survives over seven months on a lifeboat with an adult male Bengal tiger. In the end, he retells the story with people instead of animals, letting the reader decide which of the two versions to believe. A fascinating story recently made into a movie.

25. Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld, 2009, April 21st, 440 pg. This is a steampunk novel, reimagining World War I as a battle between “Clankers” who fight with enormous machines and “Darwinists” who use genetically-engineered animals. Alek, who must hide the fact he is heir to the Austrian empire, meets up with the airshipman Deryn, who must hide the fact she is not a man. A quick read teen novel set in a very creative world.

26. Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld, 2010, April 22nd, 485 pg. This is the second book of the Leviathan trilogy. This one covers Alek and Deryn’s adventures in Istanbul. A very good read. Looking forward to the third.

27. Goliath, Scott Westerfeld, 2011, April 25th, 543pg. Deryn’s secret gets out in the midst of escalating war tensions. It was good stuff, seeing how WWI could have gone (in a Darwinist/clanker reality). I read all three books in three days.

28. Jane Austen’s World: The Life and Times of England’s Most Popular Author, Maggie Lane, 2013, April 27th, 140 pg.  This educational book is full of pictures; each pair of pages tackles a topic related to Jane Austen. There are five chapters; they are entitled “Jane Austen’s Life,” “Who was Jane Austen?,” “Daily Life in Jane Austen’s England,” “Society and the Spirit of the Age,” “The Visual World,” and “The Immortal Jane Austen.” That just tells you how in-depth this book is! Sheesh.  I quite enjoyed learning about Regency England, though.

29. Women of Excellence, Delores L. Kendrick, 2012, May 5th, 86 pg. Probably the best part of this short guide can be found on page 20: “I believe there is a woman inside waiting to come forth, a woman who is healed emotionally as well as physically[…] who has discovered her identity at the foot of the cross, and is ready for all God wants her to be. She does not have to imitate or mimic anyone. […] She is comfortable in her womanhood and does not have to impress anyone by placing a mask over her emotions and becoming something she is not in order to be accepted[….] she can be just that—a woman of excellence.”

30. Without Apology: Sermons for Christ’s Church, Stanley Hauerwas, 2013, May 13th, 169 pg. This is a collection of an American theologian’s sermons. Each one is short and thought-provoking, though I have never encountered sermons that had such a familiar tone before. It has inspired me to read more of his work.

Book Count: 30                Page Count: 8,160

 

If I had to pick a top 5, here is what I would choose:

5. The Spymistress, because I am a sucker for a good historical fiction.

4. Sacred Marriage, because I really believe that mutual self-sacrifice is the key to a good marriage.

3. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, because it made me want to start teaching people how to cook, though I’m no pro myself.

2. Brave New World, because though it is fiction, it dealt with real-world issues.

1. Crime and Punishment, because in the end, he finds a kind of resurrection through another’s love.

 

I’m a little behind if I want to read another 70 books in the next 7 months.

Hey, looks like 43% of these books were written by women! Woot! Go ladies!

What are you reading? Or what is a book that changed your life/way of thinking?

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Vibrant Life

 

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New Mexico

I got married close to 3 months ago to my true love.

Best decision ever.

We worked at a Christian camp in New Mexico for the summer, and in a week we are returning to Oklahoma City. I have just one semester left before I graduate with my bachelor’s degree.

After that, I am hoping to attend seminary and continue in ministry.

I have no idea what that will look like. But I’m okay with that.

Maybe it will look like teaching in Mongolia, like my friends the Troutmans. Or serving in Papua New Guinea, like my friends the Stephensons. I must admit, I am a little jealous of their adventures. Maybe my physicist  husband and I will travel the world, living out the love of Christ to others.

Or, maybe we will stay right here in America. Who knows? We are just waiting on a dream, praying for a vision. I know God will guide us in all things.

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In other news…

Do you know what the nosiest vegetable is?

The pepper! Cuz it gets jalapeno business!

(You might have to read it out loud to get it)

Grace and peace,

Mrs. Smith

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2013 in Vibrant Life

 

And…nearly half over again.

So I’m not the most faithful blogger. I’m okay with that.

Here is what you missed in my life.Bridal showerI had a bridal shower at my church. It was the fanciest shindig I have ever had thrown for me.Tea with FriendsI turned 21 and went out for drinks with my friends. We went to a tea house. And drank tea. T’was fantastic.

Our PianoI also received an old piano for Christmas!! Isn’t it beautiful? It gets to stay with my parents until my true love and I have a more permanent home.

But you know, that is not why I have come back to you, dear reader. I have decided to use this blog as a place to journal my Lenten experience. If you are not a Christian, or you are a new Christian, or you do not attend a mainline church, perhaps you have no idea what the word Lent  means. Well let me tell you!

Lent is a season of the Christian calendar, just like the Advent season is the month before Christmas. Coming from an old English word for springtime that sounds like lengthen, Lent is the forty days (minus Sundays) before Easter, the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son, from the dead. During those forty days (which starts with Ash Wednesday), Christians focus on the death of Christ and the serious call he gave his disciples to give up everything holding them back in order to follow him.

Because of that, many Christians “give up” something for Lent in order to renew their focus on God. It is like spring-cleaning for the soul, removing the junk of your life so that God has special space to work in your life. It is not us trying to make God happy, and God does not necessarily need us to do anything so that God can work in our lives; we do this because we know we need this practice and it is good for us to not always please ourselves.

Sometimes people give up bad habits for Lent, treating it like it is a New Year’s resolution. I think this is missing the point. You should work to take harmful things out of your life anyway. Lol   But go ahead, quite cussing, complaining, and drinking soda for 40 days. That’s still a good thing.

People also give up okay or good things for Lent, in order to get an experience that grows them. People give up using Facebook, eating chocolate or red meat, sleeping on their bed or wearing shoes (in solidarity with the poor), using utensils, listening to the radio (to remember the value of silence), sleeping in, or a myriad of other things they think up. This discipline teaches humility, reminding them that they are super rich in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of people who live on $2 a day. It creates a space of listening to God and being aware of what God is doing in one’s life.

So that is Lent.

This year, as much as a college kid can, I have decided to simulate the life of a Benedictine monk.

Yeah, yeah, I’m crazy. And since I’m a woman, it would technically be the life of a nun. But let me tell you what it looks like, and over the next couple of weeks, I will tell you what it is like and what I am learning.

For one, it means drinking only water or tea for a beverage.  I’m already Nazarene, which means I do not drink alcohol.

For another, it means not eating the meat of four-footed animals (beef, pork, venison) or any sweets.

It means pausing several times a day to pray. Fifteen hundred years ago, they stopped 7 times a day. I’m just doing 3, reading from a Benedictine prayer book called “The Little Book of Hours: Praying with the Community of Jesus” by Brother Benedict Young. I have to wonder if he was born with the name Benedict, or if he changed it when he entered the orders…

It means taking a vow of silence each night after the last “amen” is said in prayers, lasting until the first “Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim Your praise” in the morning.

It means serving those around me, being careful with my words, meditating on Scripture, confessing when I am wrong, loving my enemies, and praying for anyone in my life that God brings to mind.

I haven’t changed what I wear, in order to not attract attention. I am not engaging this practice while living with others who are committed to the same thing; in this matter, I have lost a large part of what it means to be Benedictine. Sigh. But my roommate gave up listening to secular music while she is in the car (she drives a lot as part of her work), so we will have something to talk about.

It is six days into Lent, and things are going great so far. I am hoping that the increased level of discipline will help all of the areas of my life, including my senior year of college and my ministry. My goal, though, is to add meaningful practices in my life that will help my other goals–listening daily to God, being free from procrastination, and having a more healthy life.

Here we go! I will check in with you later!

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Vibrant Life

 

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I love weddings!

Okay, so I’ve only really been to three, and I only really remember one of them.

But that is number is about to change.  In an hour, I shall be at the wedding of my supervising pastor Stefany, who is getting married to one of my favorite people in this state, Jason.  And I could NOT be happier for them than I am now.  Soooooo excited to watch the ceremony.

That’s about it.  I just had to talk about it somewhere.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2010 in Vibrant Life

 

Thank you, Lord, for Sabbath

I love the weekend.

No classes, no assignments usually to worry about turning in (though I do have an online essay to write this weekend), and the fleeting sense of having free time.  I almost never schedule my weekends.  I do my laundry and the next week’s assignments, but any overflow of time is all mine.  This leaves me with the freedom to do something spontaneous with my friends.

Take yesterday, for example. My school has a Sadie-Hawkins type of costume party every fall, where the girl asks the guy out and pays for the date.  This year’s theme is “Big Kid Day,” where everyone is supposed to come dressed as something from their childhood.  For me and my boyfriend, that means dressing up as Westley and Buttercup from The Princess Bride. The party is this Friday.

But, as of yesterday, I did not have my costume together.  Seeing as I had free time, I called up two of my best friends and we went “thrifting.” But since the one with the car had locked her keys in her room, we decided to walk.  Now, I did not know that the nearest Goodwill  and then Hobby Lobby was so far away.  We ended up walking a good 21 blocks before calling up another friend to drive us the rest of the way to the second location.

But I now have my costume! I’m excited.  Now I just need to help with Brenden’s “man in black” costume, and we’ll be set.

This is my life.  ❤ And I’m loving it.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2010 in Vibrant Life