Between The Rock and a Hard Place

It occurred to me twice this week
that I ran my hand along the bottom hem of old shirts and found
a hole.
Nothing major, worth concern
Except that it was…see I’d managed to put holes in my clothes
From pathologically tugging and pulling
trying to become unseen.

We all have those things that we do without even trying
Some twist hair into intricate curlicues
Some “…like…” and “…um..”
During conversations formal and non
Not because they don’t know answers
but rather because the world taught them that to be
a woman self assured was to be dangerous.
I…I’ve tugged  on shirts and sweaters
Rarely in the past did I like the way I wore them
Clothes were nothing but a draping on a body
that I fed in shame, sadness, and boredom
Unable to speak my feelings, so I baked them away
In midnight hours
Cooking major meals thirty minutes before bed
Knowing that a healthy cutoff was 3 hours and
just as many self deprecating thoughts ago.

I stopped with the realization of how far I’d come
How much I’d come to love me since I came to love the Son
Still on this journey
Call this stuck between The Rock and a hard place
A glance backward at the hate
A look forward at how His love erases shame
There isn’t a mistake that I can make
Or a pound that I can gain
That can overshadow his Calvary
That can mimic His pain
You mean to tell me Lord
That when you hung you did so
So I’d never have to question my creation again?

What has had you stuck?
Between self harm and healing
Between subjugation and victory
Between hiding your face behind your hair and showing your face for all to see?
Is your hard place regret
Is it racing to stay so busy that you forget that you aren’t married yet?
Is it questioning His judgement
Is it doubting how much He cares
Is it getting frustrated and not stopping for prayer
Because you really don’t get why He hasn’t intervened if He’s there?
Let me remind you that THE ROCK is waiting for you
From Him comes your help
You weren’t made then forgotten
You weren’t destined for the shelf.

OH….How He loves you.

So now, if I come across a shirt
With the tiniest of holes in the hem across the bottom
They serve as reminders that the Lord of all is
sovereign over my insecurities
Not the destruction of cotton
Rest assured that whatever your hard place
The Rock is able and He got them….

Psalm 139:14

The Presence of Presents

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Hey beautiful people!

I looked and realized that I have been on this blog journey for just over two months now…and I’ve been supported in a major way by friends, family, and complete strangers, receiving messages from people saying that a post resonated with them; there have been almost 150 visitors and over 200 views, and I really am humbled by the love. I remember when I first started this site, though, I mentioned that I’d put poetry on here. I haven’t yet, so that will be the next post!

 A little history: I have been writing poetry since the age of 14 (so almost 15 years). It started out with me, a pencil, and a composition book and eventually I got the chance to perform at hometown open mics and still do occasionally. Here’s the thing though: God will show you your gift, and then there is a process of figuring out, at least in my case, how that gift can be used for the glory of God. Because I started writing at a time when I wasn’t particularly close to God, a lot of my earlier work reflected that. There was a lot of lust, a lot of anger, a lot of longing (for various things) and a whoooooooole lot of profanity. I published online and wound up authoring two books of poetry: Far Above Rubies  and The Love Lessons. The second was less gritty than the first, but what they both had in common was that God was making brief appearances rather than being allowed to run the whole show. Eventually, I stopped writing for awhile altogether because people were complimenting my poetry and I had learned the art of cadence so that important thoughts took center stage, but I was being confronted with the enormous responsibility of a platform and was too afraid to say something that wouldn’t make God proud. It was the love of a friend (and a really pretty journal) that brought me back, and now I know that I’m not just writing some stuff on a page for a reaction, but I am walking in my gift. If you have no idea what you were created for, or even if you KNOW that you can write or sing or paint or dance but you think that you are doing it for the wrong reasons, I encourage you to:

Consider your SHAPE: Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church has been quoted as saying that a person’s shape: their Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences—are the group of things that God has given you that sets you apart. My church has a Spiritual gifts assessment, but in lieu of that, find a trusted, Godly mentor…they have a way of teasing out our destinies when we’ve let life get in the way. Another way that I have heard this stated is once you figure out what bugs you the most about the human condition, you’ve figured out your calling. In my case, my love of writing also branches out into a desire to help people learn to write effectively and passionately…nothing worse than a piece where you can’t get engaged because the message isn’t transmitted clearly.

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Read Gods view on gifts: 1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV says that we are “managers of the gifts that God has given” us…and that “they may be great or small” in our eyes but “they matter to God”. How humbling and cool is that?! The gifts that we have are not really ours. Think of the manager of a store. They may have the keys, they may hire and fire, and they may hold a fair amount of authority, but at the end of the day, that Rite Aid, Radio Shack, or Forever 21 doesn’t belong to them,…however, they were put in authority by a higher power to make sure things stay shipshape, and they are responsible if something goes wrong. You were put in place to steward your gift and you will answer to a higher authority if it isn’t taken care of, but your name is NOT on the deed to that house, honey! You are merely a renter.

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Not be discouraged:  The above verse says that our gifts may be great or small in our eyes. We have a way as humans of being our own worst critics and because of that we act as roadblocks that stick out as God is desperately trying to curate our gifts of be of use to a broken world. Move out of His way….I don’t care if your gift is beatboxing, plate painting, math or making diminutive nativity scenes out of shoeboxes and toothpicks…God can use it somewhere.

Let Him work, y’all. Stand and watch as your muse and your ministry connect and ignite a passion that you didn’t even know you had. I look forward to hearing about your gifts!

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

HWJD (How Would Jesus Deal?)

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Hello beautiful people!

I hope that this post finds you having had some time to enjoy the warm weather, bask in the sunshine, and enjoy some gorgeous sunsets. But while you are enjoying your pineapple snowball with vanilla ice cream (or maybe that’s projection/wishful thinking), I’m going to talk about my experiences dealing with conflict as a Christian–with friends, with family, and in the workplace.

A lot of people, Christians included, feel that the moment that they accept Christ into their life, drama subsides. Flowers bloom in the meadows of our imagination, bunnies scamper to and fro, and all is right with the world, so when conflict happens, as it inevitably will, we feel taken aback.

Lord! This wasn’t supposed to happen to me…was it?”

It was, though. Sometimes, the way we handle these types of situations says more about our faith than any church service invite, cross necklace, or well placed hallelujah ever could. People are watching to see how we react, how we move forward, and how we resolve the situation.

I recently went through a situation of my own at work…a parent was unhappy about one of the decisions I’d made for his child and decided to let me know–loudly and profanely–outside—in front of other students. Sigh. I wouldn’t be transparent NOR staying true to my goal of honesty always if I didn’t tell you that I saw red and wanted to return the favor and hurt this parent like he hurt me. I can’t promise that the Christian in you won’t want to hop into the backseat and deal with things the worldly way that we know how, just as I can’t promise you that no one will ever make you mad when you start to walk with God, but I can promise you that the Word provides examples of how we as believers ought to behave when the world does us wrong.  I am sure that all of us beyond a certain age bracket remember those catchy, DayGlo colored bracelets that Christian kids and young adults wore back in the day (and by the day, I mean the 90s):

wwjdbraceI had a keychain and a binder and a shirt and a…….

We prided ourselves on carefully considering what Jesus would do before reacting in a given situation (and gleefully reminding others how we prided ourselves on this lol), and so my question, especially these past week or so, has been a modification of this

Not What Would Jesus Do,  but HWJD–How Would Jesus Deal?

What Jesus would do is kind of a no-brainer right? He would forgive. He would overlook offense (Proverbs 19:11). I don’t know about you, but when I am going through things with somebody, I NEED practical, doable steps that will ease my heart and handle the mess without compromising my soul. I need to know how to deal.

Step One: Pray FIRST

A large portion of the time, our first reaction when someone has wronged us is either to find the nearest sympathetic ear and blast it with all of the gory details or else to clam up and simmer low and slow about the indignities that we have suffered. It’s not easy, but before we do anything else of record, our first move should be to go to God in prayer? Why?

  1. Because it is God’s greatest desire to advocate for us
  2. Because left to our own devices, we might do something that wouldn’t honor Him
  3. Because someone prayed for us when we were at our most unloveable.

Psalm 34:17 says that when the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers. What does He deliver, you may ask? The simple act of prayer is calming, first–I can’t tell you how many regrettable things I haven’t said because I closed my eyes and simply said Lord, I can’t. Also, the simple act of going to God in prayer communicates our trust that His reactions are better. Praying first symbolizes that we are receptive to what God wants us to do rather than charging in, guns blazing.

We see evidence in Luke 6 of Jesus even taking the time to pray before making a decision. Jesus prayed all night before choosing His disciples–and these weren’t just his homies, but the men that He poured into, that He taught, healed, and ministered beside, and that eventually honored Him at His lowest. Surely we can then pray for how to proceed with the big and small things then, right?

Step Two: Consult Wise Counsel

Proverbs 10: 13 says that wide words come from the lips of those with understanding!! It is so crucial to have people in your life to talk to when things go awry. Now listen to me, I didn’t say that it was important to have people to gossip to, or even to vent to without the ultimate goal of finding solutions to the problem. That’s why it is sooo important to have some folks around you that not only know and love you, but know and love God first. We have all had that friend in the past ( and some of us may still have them–no shade thrown) whose first way of handling a problem or tell you to handle it IS to fly OFF the handle. While a good old fashioned freak-out might feel fun on the surface temporarily, it won’t feel good to your spirit in the long run. Also, Romans 14:21 says not to do anything that will cause your brother to stumble. We are a reflection of the Most High….and if they (friends, coworkers, family) see you acting impulsively, what kind of representation are we?

With this parent at work, I admit that I was too shaken up to even think straight enough to pray…all I could get out was “God…” before the tears came. But the next best thing happened: a coworker prayed for me! She’d followed me into the bathroom sensing that I’d be hurt, rubbed my back and interceded on my behalf and when I tell you the tears stopped falling, my breathing slowed down and I could reason again. Approaching someone for advice who wasn’t connected to Godly peace would’ve left me with “solutions” that really did no more than exacerbate the problem. Say some of those things back. Call someone to strike fear into his heart. Refuse to even acknowledge his presence. And I can’t even lie and say that my flesh wouldn’t have liked anything more, but I sensed even then that people were watching to see how I’d react. I make no secret of the fact that I love God and try my best to live according to His will for my life. I run around this place with invite cards and spend most mornings blasting worship music as I get ready for my day, so I know that the devil would have liked nothing more than to put me in a situation that tempted me to lose it just to see if I would.

After I got myself together, I knew I had to talk to my mom. She is always my first source of wise counsel, because though I know she loves me to pieces and wants to see me come out of every situation well taken care of, she knows how important my faith is to me and desires to see me live that out.

Step Three: Go With Peace

God confirms his will through His word, His people, and His peace.  Back in the day when I found it my duty to drive my mother crazy in all of my teenaged mouthiness, I would always hear her singing one particular song after I exasperated her to her breaking point and got sent away. The song is by Donnie McClurkin and one lyric in particular says “what do you do when you’ve done all you can and it seems like you can’t make it through? Child, you just stand.” God will give you a word that you can’t ignore and the peace and calm that follows is a sure indication of what to do next. For some situations and people, that might involve a conversation with them that isn’t petty or insulting but that makes it clear that you were hurt. For other situations and people, that may just be God saying to let it ride. Again: you’ll know when it is from God. In my case, I felt God saying that I wasn’t going to get past what happened until I approached this parent myself. Once I made that decision, I literally felt weight lift off of me, and sure enough, talking to that parent in a way that was GOD ORDAINED left me with an apology that surprised everyone around me–and a sense of such joy! I did it! I handled myself in a way that God would be proud off–but the best part is that I didn’t actually do it. God lives in me…and He lives in you too.

Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. There is absolutely nothing like the peace of God.

For anyone going through something, I hope this helps. As always, I want my experiences to be your map, and if I’ve forgotten anything that you feel is important, hit me up and let me know. Remember, you ARE made in His image. A little bit of conflict doesn’t change that.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

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What God Can Do With A Mason Jar

Before I write anything else, inspiration for this post goes to two special  women: Derricka and Krystal. You remind me daily that my mason jar has purpose.

Hello beautiful people!

It has been quite the weekend! Chilly, but I feel inexplicably warm inside.

Inexplicable? What am I talking about? Of course I can explain why I have been smiling all day long. It’s because, once again, God showed up and showed out and is taking up residence in a human heart.

Yesterday, I went to help at setup for church. My church is portable takes place inside of a high school, so every weekend requires us to build our service experiences from the ground up. Being a part of setup gives you such a deep respect for the care and intentionality that goes into making sure that everything is excellent, by the way. But I digress.

I am positioning pipe-and-drape in one of the classrooms that the Children’s Team uses for Destiny Kidz when I hear my sisterfriend Derricka calling my name. I meet her in the hallway and she hands me a card. “OK, read it now!”, she said, so I pulled it out of the envelope as I headed back towards the classroom. I pull it out of the envelope and I see this:

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Derricka, who has SUCH a way with words (one of the many reasons that I love her), used this image on the front to equate her life to this mason jar: something that at first resembled a castaway and thought to have no worth becoming repurposed by placing both something beautiful and a means to nourish it.  She wrote something along the lines of God using me (me?) as those flowers and us both being not just sustained but relivened and revitalized by the living water that is Jesus.

And I cried. Well, not full on cried, but I definitely teared up and have without fail every time I read back over this card. Which has been about 5 or 6 times since last night. (I really love heartfelt cards, y’all. Is Hallmark/Papyrus/Mahogany/a piece of notebook paper with some lovin’ on it a love language? Somebody call Gary Chapman!)

It’s been somewhere along the lines of three years since I joined my church. I wasn’t outwardly broken into pieces, but inside, I was the perfect storm of reasons why people stray away from God or from the church. Growing up, I can’t honestly say I had any close friends in church…so there is a lack of connection. I didn’t feel like anyone explained the meaning behind some of the things that we just categorically do as Christians, and so I went through the motions…so lack of growth. Finally, generally, I grew up witnessing some meeeean folk in church–no joy, no life, just sarcasm and what seemed like a lot of hurt. The 28 year old me now knows to study people, ask for Holy Spirit guidance and see the why behind their what…but the teenage me was disillusioned, confused, and ready to go.

And I did. As soon as I got old enough, I left that church and never looked back. I tried other denominations and churches, feeling like the Goldilocks of congregation searching: Some were too large and others too small. Some were too loud, some were too quiet, and some felt like they were exactly what I was running from. Eventually, I adopted an “I don’t need church to have God” mentality. I was making my way in the adult world, dealing with father hurt, heartbreak, fake friends and more without the benefit of a church home to shelter, stretch and soothe me. By the time I made it to Destiny Harvest, I was in a holding pattern of defeat and moreover, insanity—doing the same thing and expecting a difference.

But what a difference a few years makes.

DHC has been like the baby bear of church homes–just right. I receive teaching as well as preaching, I have been drawn to heal friendships and familial relationships that were long dormant, I found purpose and friends and pure, “so intense it don’t make sense” kind of love. Best of all, my mason jar–this life of mine that I wasn’t altogether sure what to do with–has had some pretty spectacular flowers place in it. And just when I think that my jar is completely refurbished, some more living water is added, and I see a spot in need of His love…this process in incredible. It’s funny though. You get so busy watching God own and polish your mason jar that you forget how He’s using you to majorly affect other people’s jars as well.

I think about my sister–we aren’t actually related by blood, but she has been in my life since she was a pre-teen through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central MD. They officially dismissed us from the program just over two years ago because she aged out, but I told her long ago that I am here for as long as she wants me to be. Her mason jar has looked a lot like mine. Cracked, discarded, smudged, and more but guess what God can do?

IMG_7874 He can wash it clean and make it new.

Having God repurpose my mason jar and having her around for the process–as I pray first and pursue opportunities, as I ended a relationship with a man that she knew that I wanted to be with for the rest of my life because he didn’t submit to God, as I form and refine life giving friendships with strong, whole people that are also chasing God and whose lives are conspicuously absent of all of the hurt and drama and pain and anger that comes from an uneven yoke, and most recently, as I refuse to let her go, refuse to let her twist in the wind when she does things that don’t make sense–as I do these things, she is learning a little more about God. She is knowing who He is, and better yet, how He can change her life.

My sister got baptized today, y’all. I’ve been so busy asking God what He is going to do with my mason jar that I failed to realize how much He has already done.

So what can God do with YOUR mason jar? He can:

M- Move: God has a knack for showing up in our lives and taking us and our purpose places that we never thought we’d go. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He has a plan for us to give us hope and a future. Often, that hope takes place in miraculous ways.

A- Answer: He will place people and situations into your mason jar, into your life that answer questions that you had about your purpose, your destiny that you hadn’t even thought to answer yet. Habakkuk 2:3 says that there is a vision–for an appointed time.

S- Save: This seems pretty much like a no-brainer–of course God is mighty to save and offers to make us as clean as driven snow. But you’d be surprised just how much else God has saved or is currently saving us from besides Hell. I’m talking doubt, sadness, fear, insecurity, isolation, lust, anger, chaos, the concept of “luck”, empty relationships, broken hearts, and the list just keeps on going. You’d be unwise to sleep on that good of a Savior. Isaiah 61:3 says that he is trading us an oil of joy for our mourning.

O- Overwhelm: Because of how He moves and How he answers and the extent to which He saves, it is quite easy if you don’t remain in a place of intentional gratitude to take all of what He does for granted. Like, no, homie. This is the God of Zion–the God that brought the persecuted out of persecution. He made science and religion connect–look at the Golden ratio. He made stars–and He made you.  And He sustains you. We SHOULD be overwhelmed. Jeremiah 10:12 says that by His understanding, He stretched out the Heavens. That’s a big God.

N- Nurture: He loves us. And those you love, quite frankly, you love ON. That takes different forms for different people, but the nexus of it all is that it is human nature to spoil the ones that you care about. Why would the same not be true for God? He desires to literally take our breath away and heal us from our broken. He heals us from the cracks and the crevices that come with a life lived searching for something greater. He is definitely a restorer. Joel 2:25-26 promises that God will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.

Darling, I promise you that when you grasp the idea of what He has done with your mason jar, it gives you a much deeper appreciation of what He is planning to do with other people’s. It promises to be amazing

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

Heart Check

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Hello beautiful people,

I am coming off of one of the most spiritually strenuous periods that I have had in awhile, and I am walking a fine line between 1Peter 4:8 (which encourages us to cover each other–and our lapses in judgment–in love) and Luke 8:39 (where the healed man was told to go home and tell of the great things that the Lord has done)

First, a moment of transparency. One of the things that I have fought the hardest against is the pothole of insecurity. There are some people who have never had second thoughts about what other people think of them or whether their current situation is all their fault, I am not one of those people, and after a lot of prayer and long roads, I can say that I don’t envy those people at all. I embrace the fact that it has taken me a while to learn to love myself warts and all because I believe that within that lies my spiritual gift: seeing other people currently entrenched in that struggle, encouraging them, and walking them through it. I am here on Earth to remind the masses that God loves them, that He has gone before them into every circumstance and that they were created for a purpose. Little did I realize how close to home that those conversations would get.

I have someone in my life who is my family not by blood, but by time. When I met her, she was very young, barely a teenager, but she already had a major distrust of people, and a lot of anger as a result. Flash forward to this past weekend, and she emerged from a volatile situation with an ex-friend angry and distrustful again, and saying that she was better off doing life alone. Initially angry at being pulled into the chaos, I tried to pour into her all the lessons that I have learned about dealing with heartbreak. As I was talking to her, I had the thought that this might be beneficial to someone else, so here we go.

Lesson One: We Have GOT To Deal With Our Pain.
Many of us are walking around with serious wounds from our pasts. Father/mother drama, assault, abuse, constant strife, and even pervasive and extreme poverty can leave us with scars that can’t be seen but that can definitely be felt. What often happens though, is that we don’t/won’t put in the footwork to see these issues through to complete healing for whatever reason, and instead we do what I described to my sister as a “Shawshank Healing”. If you have ever seen the Shawshank Redemption, then you know that Andy Dufresne escaped from prison by painstakingly digging a hole to the outside and covering it with a pinup poster. Similarly, a lot of us are not truly packing our issues, we are just covering them. It may not be with a poster, but it CAN be with money. Power. Notoriety. Sex. Relationships. Drugs. Just like the warden found the hole when he aimed a rock at the poster and it tore right through, stress or heartache or missed opportunities can expose the yawning hole in our spirits if we aren’t careful. How do we deal with the pain? You know what’s coming!! Revelations 21:5 says “He who was seated on the throne says ‘Behold, I am making all things new. Also He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” When we surrender these hurts to God, in its place we are given a freedom beyond compare.

Lesson Two: What We Think, We Create
One of the things that I spoke to my sister about was her desire to never open up to people because people had hurt her in the past. I spoke to her about being angry and resentful in the past; most don’t believe me when I say that I used to have a mouth like a sailor on shore leave. I began cursing my freshman year in high school, and despite many attempts to stop, the habit continued well into my mid-twenties. What this meant was that my love of cussing, fussing, and kicking up dirt made people who also enjoyed these things attractive. We enjoyed being raucous and dramatic–but what I found was that as I came back to Christ, a process called sanctification took place seemingly without my help. Some of the things, people, and places that I used to enjoy began to not only lose their value, but they made me downright uncomfortable. When I wouldn’t release these things and people that weren’t aligned with the changes taking place in my life, often some really upsetting event would take place to leave no doubt in my mind that this person had to GO. The job that was stressing me out would start feeling unbearable or an argument/blowup would start with the person I’d been tiptoeing around and not wanting to formally detach from. However, I started noticing that I wanted to be around genuinely joyful people–in fact, I craved it. There was nothing in me that wanted to spend time around people that did my soul no good. What I told my sister is that life is a process of taking people one interaction at a time, and that the more that her heart heals, the more that she’ll find her self being willing to step out on faith and meet other healed people. 1Peter 3:8 encourages us to be like-minded, sympathetic, compassionate, and humble. What we are, we attract.

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Lesson Three: We Can’t Nourish Others When We Are Starving
One of the final things that we talked about during her refusal to open up was about how important it is to have your own heart in triage and being take care of before you go looking for others to rescue. My sister has burst fully grown into the adult world of job hunting, and she is finding that the process can be difficult. Being a jobless young adult can often mean that your pockets are not at the level that you would want them to be, so I explained this walk of healing as an emotional bank account. A lot of us are walking around with overdrawn emotional bank accounts perpetrating like ballers. We are trying to load other people onto a back that is bruised and broken, and sooner or later, the bough breaks. I asked her “what happens if your account is -1000.00 and you get a check in the mail for $1000.00?” to which she replied,
“if you put it in, the bank is going to take it all!” I said, “that’s true, but what is your balance now?”
Her: “it’s ZERO!!!”

She had this look of confusion on her face, because who wants a bank account with a balance of zero, but what I wanted her to understand is that this is the process of healing. We go from having this abyss of shame and anger and hurt, and then Christ comes in, and with our permission (because Christ won’t change our hearts if we resist Him too hard) He wipes that clean.

She was still looking at me in utter bemusement, so I decided to take it a step further. “Ok”, I said, “so your account is at zero, but what happens if you get a $2000.00 check in the mail now?” She said, after some thought “Now I have $2000.00!”

Exactly love, now you have 2000 dollars. Take away the concreteness of money, and replace it with a spirit and feelings. God has taken away the bad stuff and left us clean so that when we have positive interactions with hope, with peace, with joy, and with salvation, they aren’t eaten alive by the negativity that reigned in our lives for so long. We have MORE now. And how about this: what reigns supreme in your life now is double or MORE what you had to give up and let die.

Final thought: I asked her “what can you do with money that you couldn’t have done before?” Being the recent post-teenager that she is, she excitedly said “SHOP!”…to which I asked “only for yourself?” Off to the races, she said ” nah I can buy stuff for you and Jord–ohhh! I get it!”

Yup, sis. Now you get it. Not only are you filled up, but you have the joy, actually the responsibility, to go spend it on others. Don’t keep all that love to yourself: we serve a God that fills us to overflowing, so we can pour out as we are poured. Psalms 23:6 says that He anoints our heads with oil and our cups run over.

It is never easy to get a heart check, loves, but I promise you that what He reveals in your wilderness season is exactly what someone needs to hear. I learned that all over again this past weekend, and I pray that what I told my sister can also help you.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

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