To Read on the Journey

Friday, November 7, 2014

Smack-dab in the middle

The season of thankfulness is here!

I love November because people are intentional to take stock of all the good things in their lives.
I think it's no coincidence that I was born in the middle of this month filled with thanksgiving...
over the years God has shown me that He wants me to LIVE smack-dab in the middle of thanksgiving, AND that it is smack-dab in the middle of thanksgiving where I truly LIVE!
 Being thankful isn't my first instinct though. My first instinct is whining and complaining and worrying and demanding my way. Yep. All four. At once. I can be loads of fun to be around. ;)  If you don't believe me ask the four people who live with me.   
You all know the saying "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."  Well boy, does this ring true in our home?  This mama knows that she's typically the one that sets the emotional temperature of our home (click text- that's a good read); that it's often my attitude that determines whether the rest of the family is walking on egg shells in our home OR living smack-dab in the middle of grace and joy and love.

Let's be frank, because I set the temps I have a lot of power in this house. AND THANK GOD, He is in my life!  'Cause I knnnnnoooowwww that power would be used for uuuuuuugly around here if He wasn't. 
God's Spirit daily reminds me of His heart for me. This includes God reminding me of who I really am in Him. In fact, take a quick glance at the "About Me" section, at the top right of this page (web version), and you'll see it says "Praise is who I am, praise is what I do." THAT IS WHO GOD REMINDS ME I AM.  

 He reminds me that I don't want to model grumbling to my people, AND I don't want them to think of OR remember me as a grumbler.  He tells me "Praise is who you are, Denise, praise is what you do! Now get to it! Model that to your family."   

Psalm 100:4  says this, 
  "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise; give thanks to him 
and praise his name."    
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise"... I want in there, and more than that I NEED in there- smack-dab at the center of where God is? 

And God gives me (us) the key in! Through thanksgiving and praise.   

And what I've learned over time is that the more I practice thanksgiving and praise the more that becomes my first instinct!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That's deserving of an excessive use of exclamation marks, folks. That's a big deal!  Don't believe me... ask the 4 people who live with me ;)    


When I take stock of all the good things in my life I find myself smack-dab in the middle of where my God wants me: 

Remembering Who He is
My God, Who "works all things together for the good of those who love Him." 

I decrease and God increases- 
"And the things of earth grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." 

"I once was lost, but now I see"- 
My eyes are no longer zeroed in on me, they're focused on the AMAZING GOD of heaven of and earth, and His loving kindness. His loving kindness causes me to see all I do have in Him. All the #andicantafforditbutitsmine. 

I find myself LIVING where He wants me to be- 
Smack dab in the middle of His grace and joy and love. And LIVING in all that goodness causes that to spill out of me into others...
especially my sweet family.

I pray that you will be encouraged, whoever you are, where ever you are, and in whatever season you're in to thank Him and praise Him. There is always always always something to be thankful for. There is. 

Even if/when things are trying, ultimately, those that are in Christ have every thing we need because the LORD is our  God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And if anything ever deserved an excessive amount of exclamation marks it's that ;)

Are you counting all the good things God has done for you this month? 
Where can I follow you?
And to those of you who are counting keep it up!
I  delight in ALL your thanksgiving.

And I pray that as you count you'll find yourself smack-dab in the middle 
of where God wants you
LIVING
in the fullness of Him and His grace, joy, and love. 


 
Live in Peace!

 
If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart 
that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9


"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old things are passed away; 
behold, the new has come."
II Cor 5:17 


Photos taken at the Jerseydale Ranch Pumpkin Patch in Boot Jack, Ca

Saturday, October 18, 2014

And I can't afford it, but it's mine (pause and see)

It's easy to look at folks around us and compare.  I do that.  I compare what I have to what others  have.  I compare then want what they have.  I can get so consumed with wanting all I perceive they have that I miss out on all I do have.  And I'm done.  Done comparing and done missing all the good things God gives me.

Over the last year the words  "And I can't afford it, but it's mine"   (click text and read original blog post), have transformed my thinking. They have caused me to pause and see and celebrate how very blessed I am.

Read another "And I can't afford it, but it's mine" post here.  
Follow my hashtag #andicantafforditbutitsmine on instagram here

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Here are some recent "And I can't afford it, but it's mine"  moments.
Oh, He really is so incredibly good to me!

Skipping across a field of whimsical hot air balloons with Josie, each of us with a camera in hand, ready to capture beauty. Photography is worship- it causes us to pause and see and celebrate.  And sharing this with my girl ~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine.     


 Listening to Michael, Noah, and Emilie share about their backpacking adventure.  Hearing about the vastness of beauty they experienced in creation AND in each other~  and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 


An exciting opportunity was offered to Michael.  I'm beyond thrilled for him.  My guy works hard, does so much for us, faithfully, never grumbling, never complaining.
And something "wild" for my good man~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine.  


While washing dishes, out of the corner of my eye I watch Emilie and Josie sitting together at the kitchen counter. I see Josie generously share her yummy treat with Emilie.  I watch Emilie thank her, then lean over and kiss her sister's cheek. I see Josie smile, take in that she is beloved.  Oh, the way they adore each other~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 


 Michael and Noah seated beside each other on the couch in the early mornings, reading their bibles, sharing what they've learned~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 


An old classmate becoming my dear dear friend.  Our friendship is long-overdue, and yet right on time.  Our friendship is changing me. And the deep love God has filled my heart with for her~  and I can't afford it, but it's mine


One early morning a week, with a few women who are wild about God and His word; sharing how it's teaching and nudging and changing us, while drinking the best coffee this side of the Mississippi~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 

18 teenagers at our casa for an epic Nacho Libre night...and that my kids want their amigos here~  and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 

Michael and Josie in the kitchen making Cinnamon scones. The gentle way he teaches her, the delight in her voice just being with her daddy, the smell of scones baking.  So much yummy happening in our kitchen~ and I can't afford it but, it's mine. 
  A health issue surfaced.  The physical discomfort was rough.  But God.  His Spirit kept bringing to mind, "In me you have Peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33. He kept reminding me that Peace is already mine, and if I want it then I must grab hold of it.  Want to know something?  Even though I wasn't improving physically, I felt so so so much healthier.  Instead of letting the usual guilt, anger, sadness, bitterness, and frustration grab hold of me- I grabbed hold of Peace. Oh, sweet Peace~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine.  


After realizing there weren't dinner plans-
Noah: girls what do you want me to make you for dinner?
Girls: speechless due to SHOCK! 
Noah: Waffles. I can make you waffles (not Eggos, not from a box, from scratch folks).
Girls: Uhhhhh, okaaaayyy.
And Noah taking care of his sisters~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 

A friend coming over, just to be with me, interrupting the nagging pain with her sweet presence for a few hours~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine.



18 married years to Michael-  we had sweet plans for our 18th anniversary, plans that were disrupted by my health issues. So I laid down all day while he shampooed the carpets and upholstery (which by the way is exactly how we spent our 1st anniversary).  And we were both so okay with it.  At one point during the day I was thinking about our wedding day and the vows we made- "To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; for as long as you both shall live," and realized how very very blessed I am to be married to a man who cherishes me and delights in keeping those promises~  and I can't afford it, but it's mine.


Noah's hugs- He's taller than me now, and I just love being able to rest my head on his shoulder and nestle into him.  Our roles here have swapped.  And he likes that. He's likes being my young man, caring for, and holding me. The way this kid expresses his love for me ~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine.


Live in Peace!


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. 
Colossians 3:15

Friday, October 10, 2014

Rattling Around


"I’m really hating that I don’t have time to write much anymore. I write half a blog post
 in my head while I’m making coffee or driving the girls around, 
but I just can’t seem to make it back to the computer and take the time
 to actually write the whole thing out. I don’t know what’s worse—not writing, 
or having all those words rattle around in my head all the time. 
There’s enough stuff loose up there already."

My longtime friend, Melanie, shared this on her blog yesterday.  This is so me, except I usually write half a blog post while I'm drying my hair or washing the dishes. Sometimes the other half of the post wakes me at 3:30 a.m. and I lie in bed writing when what I need to be doing is catching some z's.

Melanie, I agree " I don't know what's worse- not writing, or having all those words rattle around in my head all the time."  And you know me well enough to know that, like you, "there's enough stuff loose up there already." 

So today, I'm writing. I'm removing the words from the noggin and putting them on this page. Maybe you'll see them, maybe you won't (because much of what I do write is never published).  But maybe by doing so when 3:30 a.m. rolls around I'll sleep through it like a baby, but not like Melanie's baby.   Because apparently, her little one is currently "training for an Olympic event for not sleeping."
  
Anyway... 

Here are some of the things that have been rattling around in my head. Oh, and to entertain you I'm including photos from a backpacking trip Michael, Noah, and Em went on weeks ago, which also happen to be on my mind begging to be blogged. 

I've been thinking about a Facebook post I saw weeks ago. A friend was tagged in it, so it showed up in my news feed.  The post was about an elderly woman, Margaret, who'd passed away (stay with me, this isn't a sad story).  Some words written about Marge have stuck with me, "She lived her life devoted to Jesus, she loved and lived Scripture." 

Wow.  "She loved and lived Scripture." 

What a legacy And could there be a higher compliment? 

Margaret, you inspire me.

I want people to see that and say that of me. I want them to say "Denise loves the Word and lives the Word." 



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One scene from a couple weeks ago keeps rattling around in my mind.  It was a weekday morning, and I'd just finished reading a chapter from the Bible to the kids. I was in a world of pain at the time, and didn't have it in me to pray, so I asked Emilie to pray for the day.  Emilie always says the sweetest things to God.  I hurt too much to say anything to Him.  After she prayed Michael, Noah, and Emilie kissed me goodbye then gathered their things to head out the door. As they gathered their belongings I made my way down the hall to my room. I was hurting so much that I couldn't hold back the tears. I moved slowly down the hall crying.  And then I heard the LORD whisper in my ear, "Jesus?"  

Jesus. We speak His name to each other every single day.  We've spoken, whispered, sung, hollered, cried, claimed, clung to His Name since before Josie was born. For 13 years.  But would I today?  

Maybe today I wouldn't.  Maybe today I'd cry and hurt and cling to the little bit of strength I could muster up myself.  Maybe today I'd hurt too much to say anything to God. 

Or maybe through the pain and the tears, as my family made their way out the door, I'd give them the Name that is all that I am and all that I have...

 "Jesus."   

And one by one they hollered back, "Jesus!" 

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I talked to my dad on the phone a few weeks ago.  He told me he's happy at the new facility he's in. He asked me, as he usually does, if I smoke crack? I don't even know what crack is.  I had to Google it.  He asked me what drugs I'm on?  I told him none. I tell him I've never done drugs, not even when he offered them to me when I was a little girl.   He tells me he liked using drugs, and that he will if he gets out because he likes feeling "up."  I didn't tell him that while he was "up" everyone else was down.  He still couldn't believe that I'm not using and asked what I'm on.  I answered, "Jesus."  He laughed.  Then he said he didn't want to talk about Jesus.
He went on to say that until 8 years ago he was an atheist, then he began believing there's a God. He thinks God created the Big Bang, that there is no such thing as the devil or hell, and that all people go to heaven when they die. 

I told him that sounds like just the kind of thing man would make up. Isn't that how we'd want it to be if we were God?   


"That is one reason I believe Christianity.  It is a religion you could not have guessed. 
If it offered just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up.  But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up." 
C.S.Lewis

My dad also thinks Jesus is a myth. 

It's too bad. He'd like Jesus if he knew Him. 
Jesus is the only reason I talk to or visit my dad. My dad has been awful to me. But Jesus puts His own love and compassion for my dad in me. It is not from me.  Nope, if I had it my way I'd hate my dad.  And no one would blame me for it.  It's a miracle that I love him.  Proof that Jesus is not a myth. 

Anyway, like my dad said, "until 8 years ago I was an atheist, then I began believing there's a God."  So maybe it's not entirely impossible that he'll come around and believe in Jesus too.


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I was talking to Emilie, who's in Cross Country, about running.  Now, I don't know a thing about actual running. To prove my point, Emilie came home yesterday thrilled that she had run a mile in 6 min. 48 sec. I shared that when I was in jr. high we had to run the mile-and-a-half for P.E., and that I would set out at the beginning of my first period P.E. class (we ran off campus) and not return until sometime after my second period class had started. I think my time was 58 min. 34 sec. So...

However, there is another type of running I've had quiet a bit of training in- 

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame"
Hebrews 12:1-3 
 
I told Emilie to run like this. And to keep running.  Keep running no matter what. I told her rough seasons will come. I told her I've found myself in some dark allies; off course. I told her stay the course. Walk. Limp. But whatever you do fix your eyes, fix your eyes, fix your eyes on Jesus, and stay the course. 

I told her I know people who use to run. I admired how focused they were.  Like Margaret, they inspired me.  And then they got mad.  Mad at the church.  Mad at God because He doesn't do things their way. They started fixing their eyes on that instead of on their First Love. And then their eyes wandered to all sorts of things. They live for themselves now.  They're off course.  And I miss them.  I loved running with them. 

A guy on Emilie's Cross Country team told me that when Emilie's running with the team, and "everyone is exhausted and wants to drop dead," she enthusiastically shouts, "come on guys!"  I told him, "Emilie's tired too. She wants to quit too. But she listens to that other voice telling her to keep going."  Emilie, keep listening to that other Voice. And Emilie, keep encouraging those around you to run and stay the course, too. 


I think another way we encourage people to stay on course is by being like Margaret- by "living a life devoted to Jesus, loving and living Scripture."  I also think it's really something that Margaret was elderly and  that this was said about her.  So many many many things are nipping at our heels, and I think it's really something that Margaret stayed the course; fixed her eyes on Jesus until He took her home. 

 I really want to be like Margaret.
I want be like Emilie, too. 


 
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Last night I got in bed before everyone else and shouted to them, "if you want a kiss goodnight you have to come to me to get it!!"  Within a few moments Noah and Emilie had jumped onto my bed and were snuggled up on each side of me.  Josie arrived a few minutes later, but Noah and Emilie staked their claim on me, and were barricading their little sister from her mama. However, in classic Josie fashion when she arrived she shimmied her way between them.  Josie likes being at the center of attention and affection in our family. She thrives there.

We could each learn to be more like Josie, especially when it comes to our relationship with Jesus.  We should shimmy, squirm, and squeeze our way through anything that tries to barricade or keep us from Him.  We thrive when we're planted in the center of His attention and affection.   
 After goodnight kisses were shared the kids skipped off to their rooms. And as the lights went out and the bedroom doors closed I could hear the sweetest name being sung down the halls -the Name that is all that we are and all that we have "Jeeeesuuuus!"

 
Live in Peace!





Thursday, August 28, 2014

#tbt

It's  Throwback Thursday!
Where I take a walk down memory lane and share something from 
the archives of my lit'l ol' blog.  

Today, we're revisiting the  31 Days of God-giving series,
and the blog post- 

 Get to Know God.  
 
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When I was a young teen I didn’t want to know God.  My life was miserable and my attitude was 'If there is a God then why did he give me this life? I had done nothing to deserve it.'

As my relationship with God grew, I realized that that was precisely why He wanted me to get to know Him.  He wanted to be Comforter, and the Light that would lead the way out.


Get to know God as friend. 

You know when you get to know someone, and by simply being with them you feel at home, and free to be who you really are.  No masquerading, no having-it-all-together, because that person delights in quirky, wonderful you!   That's what it is like being friends with God, except a million times better. 


 God has the best sense of humor.  The stories I could tell about things I've prayed, and the ways He has responded are comical!

Like any friendship your going to get ticked at God because he won't always do what you want, or think what you want him to.  He won't explain himself either.  You'll be good and mad at Him because you'll want to take a turn being God, and He won't let you.  If you stick with him (and oh, I pray that you will)  hind-sight will be 20/20, and you will see that he always has what is best in mind.  Always.


Nowhere else will you find a friend as wild about you as God~

He thinks you are amazing, gifted, capable, and delights in being your own personal cheerleader rooting you on! 

When you get knocked down, God whisper's truth to you (listen), is protective of you, and fights for you.

Because He loves you, He tells you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear (you won't like this, but you'll trust Him more for it).  

He's generous in so many ways, even when you don't deserve it (I now find myself joyfully exclaiming to God, "why did You give me this life, I've done nothing to deserve it!")

His friendship stands the test of time AND the test of grace.

Photos of Emilie and Josie on the homemade swing on our old hillside, 2010.

 
It is my prayer that you will be purposeful about getting to  to know Him.  You will find the God of the universe to be your greatest companion as you journey through life.


"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future.  Then you will call on me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.  I will be found by you,"  declares the Lord. 
Jeremiah  29: 11-14


Live in Peace!

 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summa Summa Summa-Time


We've polished off our first week of back-to-school here, and we're already missing the lazy days of summer.  Typically I'm one of those folks that enjoys her some routine, but instead I'm feeling "routine shmoutine! the long days of summer that we can fly by the seat of our pants are the best."

Speaking of "flying by the seat of our pants," here's how our summer 2014 flew by~

Our summer took off the usual way beginning with Maycation.
From L-R; Lily, Noah, Gabriel, Brook /Emilie, Christian, Blake, Josefine/ Benjamin, Ruby, Sampson, Eli
These rockers "fight for their right to party!" And are the #1 reason I {heart} Maycation!



 Maycation fun included the usual campfire music and S'mores, Air-Soft (Obviously, Michael was an easy target), as well as biking the 007 Trail, and a Flume Hike.  

The Maycation gals and I also ventured off to the annual Peddler's Fair, where I met this Elvis-loving lady, Buelah, who sold me this fantastic lamp for $8, which I also named "Buelah."


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The moment we returned home from Maycation, Josie got to serious summer business- making the annual paper-chain to count down the days 'til camp at "the home of the world's greatest campers."
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In the meantime Emilie was gearing up to host an end of the school year "Slumberless Party!"


Emilie has the sssswwweeetest gal pals!  Seriously wish I could make them all Marty McFly and go "Back to the Future" to be my high school pals!

Here they are playing Messy Twister, which involves Twister, shaving cream, food coloring, and a willingness to get giggly and messy!




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Both Michael and Noah had the  super cool opportunity to participate in a Bear Grylls Survival Academy for free-firty-free!  They'd tell you how they made and slept in their own shelter, skinned a rabbit and ate it, ate meal-worms and grubs too.. ick!  My photographer husband was even invited to photograph on two occasions... One of those times this happened-
Yep. Bear broke away from his time filming with Channing Tatum only to find himself in the company of an even hotter guy, Michael. ;) 

When my people weren't bunkin' outdoors with the BG folks, they were bunkin' here in our backyard. 
See that hammock back there...that's where Noah bunks.    


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This summer there were lots of tears. Lots.  Noah graduates high school in less than 2 years... in 655 days.  Time flies.  Between the tears I stocked up on all the fun I could get with my three. 

We loaded up the bikes and headed to Yosemite Valley to ride and hike and just be together.  


Yosemite is majestic. Hands down the highlight of our day was riding though the meadow. Emilie shouted, "It's so beautiful! I wish I could take a photo with my mind and keep it!"
 I made a decision this summer to get over my hatred of myself in a swimsuit and wear mine. In water.  With my hair wet.  I did it 5x folks. That's Guinness Book World Record worthy 'round here.  The first time was at a water-park.  Want to know something, my kids were having so much fun that I totally forgot I hate myself in a swimsuit.  And It was awesome.  So awesome that I rewarded myself with my first Sonic experience.  Dear Sonic Guy On Skates Who Delivered Our Milkshakes, You better believe we'll be back!! Yuuu uumm!  

This date to pizza, bowling, and the arcade was a blast... literally.  If you're local check out Blast 825 Pizza. Order Chipotle style, Chipotle prices, but it's delicious pizza ready in literally a few minutes.  Also check out the Arcade in Riverpark. There's an arcade "ride" that simulates being on a roller-coaster. $2 to laugh and scream and "woahhhhh."  Also, we recommend our new bowling rule: Loser has to return all shoes. ;) 


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Needless to say, going to camp remains THE HIGHLIGHT of summer for our kids. 

Every evening of the 2 weeks the kids are at camp (Yes, 2 weeks kid-free!!) we get to see glimpses of their day at camp through pix.

Years ago the kids decided to communicate they love me in the pix by giving me two thumbs up. 
 Emilie, who turned 15 during camp, showed me BIG LOVE after dropping 80ft from the King Swing!!  

 While the kids were away the parents did play.  We headed over to California's Wine Country, where we didn't drink wine because it tastes icky. Instead we tasted ice cream. 
We take ice cream tasting seriously. Lappert's Hawaiian Salted Caramel is a MUST if you're in Sausalito. A must. And if you're "lactarded" like me it won't... you know.. make you... well.. you know. 

We also enjoyed some leisurely time on the in-laws boat, as well as  perusing Sonoma, Petaluma (which is now my favorite place for vintage shopping),Tiburon, and Angel Island. 

On my fridge I have a magnet that says "I'd rather do nothing with you than something with anybody else."  I feel that way with Michael. I don't care what we're doing or not doing as long as we're together.  I just like Him, and I like who I am when I'm with him.  

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Back from camp we spent some time with the Maui cousins, Luke and Nicholas. Noah especially enjoys this part of summer because the guys in the house finally outnumber the girls.  
One day Noah lead us to this great waterfall/swimming hole that he learned about during camp. If you're a local it's super eeasssy to get to. If you're not come visit! We'll take ya there!  

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There is only one reason other than camp that Josie loves summer- Emilie's home. To say she adores her big sister is an understatement!  Thankfully, Emilie is just as wild about Josie. I'm blessed Y'all! 

The girls scoured Pinterest and came up with a plan to fill the "lazy days of summer." 


They baked, sewed, crafted, baked, made a music video, baked, played games, and even played with their AG dolls (Emilie isn't too cool or too old or too above playing AG with her sister. Seriously, she. is. a. keeper!) 
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Finally, we took our annual family camping trip to Sunset Beach.  

I neeeeeeeeeeeeed this shirt for next time we go camping. It's true- "I love NOT camping," but I do it for the children, and the S'more French Toast. 

This camping trip we treated the family with a kayaking adventure in the Elkhorn Slough just outside of Monterey, where we kayaked beside seals, sea lions, otters, jellyfish, and more.


A moment from our camping trip that I don't want to forget was when Noah, who I'd been having a rough time with, asked me to do a short hike with him at sunset to look out over the beach. It was cold, and I hate being cold as much as I hate being in a swimsuit, so he coaxed me with the promise of a hug, and I loooovvve Noah's hugs more than S'more French toast.  Once we arrived I took in the beauty and the quiet and the magnitude of the ocean. I thanked Noah for inviting me.  And he reached over grabbed me and gave me the hug he'd promised.  It was the best hug, the best "hold you;" a long embrace, one his mama really needed from him. I stood there wrapped safe in the arms of the youngman who towers over me. I laid my head on his shoulder, closed my eyes, and breathed in that moment; breathed it in deep. And he let me. #andicantafforditbutitsmine. :) 


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And that was our summer 2014 in a nutshell. 

Our days are already being swallowed up by school and work and activity. I'm thankful for all our days, but these days of summer filled my mama-tank... and I'm pretty sure they filled Michael, Noah, Emilie, and Josie's tanks too. They're days we never want to forget.

What was a highlight from your summer 2014?? 


 Live in Peace,