The Joy of Giving to Others

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

Mother Teresa

In my early twenties I was struggling with life. Some days, getting out of bed to face the world was just not something that I wished to do. I wanted to stay in a cocoon – in the safe environment of my own home, hiding from the world. Talking to others about these overwhelming feelings, it seems they are all too common.

Everyone’s experience is different and this blog relates to how I found joy by making some changes in my life. If some ideas I write about help somebody, it has been worth sharing.

I was living alone near London. I had many lovely friends but I was finding that, with the long hours that I was working in my IT sales job, it was very difficult to connect with anyone during the week. I would leave home in the dark of the cold English winter and return home in the dark to an empty house. I felt lonely, unfulfilled and my life seemed meaningless.

I spent hours (and a lot of money as it was the days before Skype) on calling home to Kenya, to hear the familiar voice of my beautiful mother. She would listen patiently to my woes and tales of loneliness and she comforted me with spiritual ideas. My very loyal father (who is known to never beat around the bush) would give me some tough love and, in no uncertain terms, tell me to pull myself together. Living in Kenya, my parents were seeing immense challenges daily, and compared to the life others endured, I knew I had a lot to be grateful for. Intellectually I was fully aware that I had little reason to be unhappy, but emotionally I couldn’t seem to find my way out of the melancholy. In hindsight I am thankful for both my parents’ approaches, which helped pull me through a very dark time of my life. My parents and I have continued to be best friends and we have helped each other through some very challenging times since my London days.

I was brought up with an unwavering trust in God. However, when I arrived at university, I tried to find my own way in life, on my own and without God. However, after the break up of a difficult relationship and when the going got tough, I returned to my spirituality. I found it was a safe place, a sanctuary. I had the poem, “Footprints in the Sand” (http://www.footprints-inthe-sand.com/index.php?page=Poem/Poem.php), on my wall and somehow I felt this related to my life: God was walking with me and then when I was at my lowest, He carried me.

It was at this time that I decided to look outside of myself and find ways to help others. Giving to others less fortunate has always been part of our family culture. My mother has touched the lives of literally hundreds of people in Kenya. From a small child, I remember her walking purposefully down to the bottom of our garden when she noticed street children squeezing under the fence to take macadamia nuts that had tumbled from the trees. The children looked surprised (and rather unnerved) to see her, but she soon put them at ease and negotiated an excellent plan (which would go on to change their lives): they could have the nuts if they promised to come to Sunday School. She told them that a trust in Mungu (God in Swahili) was the answer. They agreed (they were very hungry!). So our ritual of taking a Toyota Landcruiser full of children from a slum area of Nairobi each Sunday morning started, and continued for many years after that. Some of the children went on to be educated in America and carved out careers for themselves there. My mother has since founded a school in Kenya, Sunrise of Africa, giving hundreds of children an education, some of whom may not otherwise be able to go to school (I am now very involved with the project and I will talk more about it in subsequent blogs). The school’s motto is “Strive and Trust”. Strive for excellence and trust in God. We believe Africa has a bright future if the next generation are educated and are taught to love and protect the incredible resources that it has. As Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

My father has also done a lot to help Kenyans by sharing his knowledge and by giving them technical training in the family business. He spends hours showing and explaining how things are done, to those who work for him and customers who come in to see him. Some of his staff have been with him for more than 30 years; one started by cleaning the bathrooms and is now his right hand man. They have absolute respect for him as they know they would not be where they are without the years of guidance he has given. He very much lives by the English proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

With my parents as role models, I contacted a local voluntary organisation to find an elderly person whom I could visit. I was paired up with a wonderful Indian lady, Mrs K, who had lost her husband and rarely left the house (except to go the doctor). I started visiting her several times a week and we struck up a special friendship. We had many conversations about her family, life, her husband and spirituality while she made me delicious curries. She told me about how she was too unwell to travel, although she longed to visit her family in India. I became like a daughter to her and we both looked forward to my visits.

In 2000, I made the decision to emigrate to New Zealand and it was a very sad parting when I said goodbye to Mrs K. However, I could see how her confidence had grown in the two years since we had first met. We promised to keep in touch.

One morning in 2001 she called me in New Zealand to tell me that she was going to India; she said our conversations and my encouragement had made her realise that she could indeed make the trip. I felt incredibly grateful for the time we had spent together and how our conversations had helped her to fulfill her dreams. She had a fabulous time visiting with many relatives and friends. Not too long after her return, her son called me to say she had passed away peacefully. However, he had seen such a change in her since her visit to India – she was vibrant, happy and at peace. He thanked me warmly for what I had done for her.

I didn’t take credit for this change as I know God puts people in our lives when we need them most, and the friendship I had with Mrs K had encouraged her to do something which she thought she would never be able to do again. That was the biggest blessing.

I lived in New Zealand for three years and met my husband there.  We decided to move back to England soon after our wedding in 2003.  I again joined the same voluntary organisation and I was introduced to Alice. Alice was from Wales and spoke with the most beautiful sing-song Welsh accent. Her husband had also passed away many years before and she lived on her own. She had a very loving daughter and son-in-law who did not live too far away, but they wanted her to have other company during the week. We had a common interest of singing, and we would listen to Pavarotti, Domingo, Mario Lanza, among others. We would sing and laugh together over cups of tea and marble cake. She had a slight memory loss and I heard the same stories each week about her youth and her husband’s and brothers’ experiences down the mines. Her life had been one of service to family – her father, brothers and husband. Although she could have furthered her singing career, they needed her to look after them and so she put their needs first.

After we had our first baby, Joseph, he became the apple of Alice’s eye. She adored him from the moment he was born. It no longer mattered whether I was at our afternoon teas; as long as Joseph was there, she was happy! They had the most beautiful friendship. He has always had a very happy temperament and would smile at anyone. Alice spent hours cuddling him and she would shower him with gifts. On one occasion, I found them jumping up and down on the bed together, both giggling like school children.

One sad day we arrived at her house for afternoon tea, as planned. I rang the door bell and there was no reply. As I looked through the window, I saw her lying, lifeless, on floor. I handed Joseph to a neighbour and clambered through the back window. She had had a fall and was not able to reach the phone for help. I called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital. She had broken her arm on a previous occasion and unfortunately she had fallen on the same arm.

She never fully recovered from the fall. We spent many happy times after this before she passed on just a few months before we moved to Australia. She had been extremely excited when she found out I was having a second baby boy and couldn’t wait to meet him. I was grateful that I had never told her that we were planning to leave as she had such a special relationship with Joseph, and it would have broken her heart. As it was, she had her Joseph near her and another little brother was on his way.

Both the friendships I had with Mrs K and Alice blessed both them and me. I learned a lot about love and giving from these two beautiful souls. They were both a blessing to me, as I was to them.

Until I had my third child in Australia, I continued to visit those in their senior years. My second baby, Matthew, came with me to visit my next two companions – Mavis and Merle. It was always interesting listening to them talking about their lives growing up on farms in far north Queensland. I arranged a few music mornings at their aged care home, and sang show tunes, spiritual songs and Christmas carols. It was wonderful to see the faces of those attending light up when they started singing along to familiar tunes. Music is medicine for the heart and soul. As Maria Augusta von Trapp (upon whom the Sound of Music is based) once said: “Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”

Isn’t life a colourful place made up of so many wonderful people who have so much to offer the world? I am so grateful for the friendships I made through all these experiences. Three of these four ladies have since passed on but the love, laughter and joy I felt while I was with them will always be with me. I continue to love helping others and now my main ways to serve is through being a mother, helping to educate children at Sunrise of Africa School and through my various activities with my church.

As the great English prime minister, Winston Churchill, once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Blessings to you all.xx

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A prayer for my homeland, Kenya.

God made such perfection in the place where I call home,
Majestic wild lions and an expanse for them to roam.
Pink ribbons of flamingos and hippos in their midst,
And beautiful, peaceful palm trees - and a beach I can't resist.

The sunrise is spectacular with its stunning orange light
And monkeys playing happily that make a joyful sight,
The elephants saunter thoughtfully across the sun kissed plain,
And an expectancy of plenty when the heavens send the rain.

The people of my Kenya are loving, warm and kind,
A smile, a laugh and then a joke is never far behind,
Even in some challenging times, their faith is always strong,
A trust in God, prayerful days and a loud and praise filled song.

The shootings in Garissa, at the East of the country,
Should just not have happened and were a total tragedy,
I pray that God gives comfort to all those involved,
And the fear and hate can, at last be resolved.

Let's live and love as brothers, despite our varying thoughts,
Let's understand each other - and not let wars be fought,
Like our spiritual leaders, let's choose a path of peace,
So all these terrible happenings can at last begin to cease.

My prayers are with you, Kenya, that comfort God will bring,
My deepest love I send you - that once again you'll sing,
Let's unite in prayer across the world for all those in strife,
And make the decision no more death - but always choosing LIFE.

Blessings.xx
 

Gratitude and Spirituality

I have been having a few “deep and meaningfuls” recently with some lovely friends. It is interesting how many people are searching for meaning in life and are delving deeper into spirituality. For me, God has almost always been at the centre of my life, and for the short time when I rejected Him, I came running back pretty quickly when the going got tough. I often wonder how I would cope with life without Him. On my mobile phone cover, I have had printed one of my favourite quotes from Philippians: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (4:13). It is a great reminder.

I have enormous respect for everyone’s views. I understand that some people believe in God (or at least a higher power), others believe in something, but don’t know what it is. Some people don’t know if He exists or are looking for proof of God’s existence. We are all on our own journey of discovery and for me, it is one of the most exciting journeys!

I have witnessed a lot of hardship growing up in Africa. Although I have never experienced poverty myself (unlike my father, who lived through the Second World War and was a refugee after escaping during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution), I was always in awe of the joy expressed by so many Africans, despite their situations. I remember seeing them emerge from slums around Nairobi on a Sunday morning in the most beautiful clothes, smiles on their faces and a spring in their step as they purposely walked miles to church (with their many children in tow). Their faith gave them hope and they clung to it through all the difficulties of life.

Following my move to England, I noticed how many people were unhappy. This seemed to be (and still is) very prevalent, despite the fact that we are living in a consumer society where it is possible to purchase any material possession. And yet, this “stuff” is not bringing lasting joy. I was also not immune to these feelings of inadequacy and also wondered what life was about. I found my faith gave me strength in some challenging times.

One of my intentions in starting this blog was to explore ways of finding this joy through a holistic way of life – being thoughtful in the way we live, the choices we make and the positive contributions we make to the world around us.

I am sure everyone can remember times in their lives when they have felt a real sense of joy. I have a few definite ones which come to mind, but one in particular that I was reminiscing with a friend about yesterday was when I emigrated to New Zealand in 2000.

I had lived and worked around London for two years; I was single and my close friends lived in other parts of the UK. I felt tired and overwhelmed by the idea of driving around the M25 motorway for years to come. So, on one cold winter’s day (when I had left home in the dark and arrived back in the dark – as I had done for many months), I made the decision to emigrate and start a new life. I looked at Australia and New Zealand, and at the time New Zealand was offering visas to those with my particular qualifications. I called my parents, told them I was going to emigrate and started the process the next day (Yes, I am from a family that doesn’t hang around when we make a decision).

The New Zealand immigration told me that it could take up to six months to obtain the visa (depending on wait times), but I wanted to move a bit faster.

I enrolled in a two week spiritual/prayer course and during the first week, I received the email that I had my visa and could move to New Zealand as soon as I wanted. I had really trusted that God had a plan for me and I felt this was an excellent decision. I gave notice at my job, I packed up my house and was going to a country where I knew nobody. That to me was a great adventure! What I found very interesting was – when I told colleagues, friends etc that I was doing this, a number of them said they would love to do it, but…and they reeled off many reasons why they couldn’t. Of course, many were valid, but there were some which came from fear. The fear of the unknown.

I remember a spiritual teacher once saying to me that FEAR stands for: False Evidence Appearing Real. i.e. What seems to be, actually is not. Fear can be such a show stopper. I was determined not to let fear prevent me from having one of the most amazing experiences of my life time.

I once heard someone saying that he was driving around Sydney looking for a car park. He said that he saw a sign which said, “Don’t even think about parking here.” He laughed with his wife about it, but he said it had a big impact on him. Whenever a negative thought entered his thinking, he blocked it and said, “Don’t even think about parking here.” Such a simple and yet powerful concept.

One of Mary Baker Eddy’s greatest quotes is: “Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously.”

On my new adventure to and in New Zealand, I “stood porter at the door of thought”. I made the decision to LOVE it! I rejected fear: that emotion which can be so paralyzing; all the concerns about what I was going to do, whether I would find a good job or not, where I was going to live – and I affirmed that God had a plan for me. I knew wholeheartedly that everything would work out. If Oprah Winfrey had asked me what I “knew for sure” (as she does in her book), I would say that I was so convinced of God’s love that I knew for sure that everything was going to be OK.

Arriving at Auckland airport, I had a real sense of excitement, freedom and wonder. I had booked a place to stay for the first week, but I had no other plans. I hired a car and drove between Auckland and Wellington several times. I told nobody where I was (except for occasional calls home to my parents in Kenya) and I listened to spiritual tapes in the car (yes, it was the time of old fashioned tape decks).

Everything was so beautiful and, although I would have loved to have shared this experience with a partner, I felt complete. I felt happy. Complete with my own company and the company of God.

Of course, everything did fall into place and Wellington was where I met many beautiful friends and my wonderful husband just a year or two later – and the rest is history. I have had challenges at times over the years (as we all do in life), but I never forgot that feeling of absolute joy and freedom.

What I learnt from this lesson was that, if I trusted wholeheartedly and completely, I could enjoy the moment, live in the now and be grateful for everything I experienced.

Gratitude is very powerful.

Blessings.

My Influencers on my Spiritual Journey

My blog is all about wellness. For me, there is a strong connection between my mental and my physical health. I have always delved deeply into spiritual ideas – and when I have found peace within myself, my body automatically responds with health and vitality. I also believe in the importance of treating my body with respect – feeding it nutritious food and being active and energetic.

I call the way I try to live my life:  Mindful and Respectful Living.  It is a journey for me and one which I am still far from mastering.  I endeavor to listen for the ideas of Divine Mind, God, and respect those around me, and whom I come into contact with on a daily basis.  I am also mindful of what I cook and feed my family.  I try to buy as much organic food (meat/vegetables) as I can, and ensure I know where it has been grown and that it has been reared sustainably and in a humane manner.

It is in no way my intention to convert anyone to a religion or way of thinking, but just to inform and introduce my readers to ideas that have helped me. I myself am a very free thinker and I love to read and study the ideas of many different spiritual, nutrition and wellness teachers.  My ideas are continuously evolving.

On my spiritual journey I have had many wonderful influencers, starting from when I was a young child. My mother has always had a undeviating trust in God, and with many challenges our family has had living in Africa, I have seen the power of prayer in action. The positive outcome of many of the instances simply could not have been chance or coincidence. Even my father – a practical engineer, who has never taken anything on face value (always diligently researching and questioning) claims that there must have been divine intervention.

I was listening to a podcast of Oprah interviewing Wayne Dyer about his book, “Change your Thoughts, Change your Life” and he said, very eloquently, “… There’s no coincidence. In fact, coincidence itself is a mathematical term. Remember in geometry, they would say that two angles that coincide, fit together perfectly – so now we’ve taken a term that means ‘two things that fit together perfectly’ and interpreted it to mean ‘something that fits together accidentally.’ We’ve just reversed the whole concept of coincidence – it’s co-in-side.” (https://potentialwithin.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/coincidence-god-winks/). This is how I feel about the blessings my family and I have experienced. I do not believe they were just chance.

My darling husband and three beautiful children are also influencers on a daily basis. I always strive to learn, discuss, and teach them about many different things. It is an ongoing journey – both for them and for me, and I don’t always get it right. Recently, my husband and I sat and discussed what “angels” were over a cup of tea. This is just one of many discussions we have had about such things.

One of my early spiritual teachers (and whom I believe has had one of the greatest impacts on modern thought) was, and still is, Mary Baker Eddy. Eddy lived between 1821 and 1910 and was a true scholar – studying the Bible Scriptures from a very young age. She had an immense trust in God and her ideas about the connection between spirituality and health were groundbreaking. In her time, she was arguably the most powerful and famous woman in America. Some of her healings were on a par with Christ Jesus, and she wrote many books, including her most celebrated best seller – Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The book is based on the Bible and the teachings of Christ Jesus.

Mary Baker Eddy had wanted the teachings to be accessible to everyone – within or without a church organisation – and it is my greatest desire to see her given credit for being one of the biggest influencers of the wellness movement. Joel Goldsmith studied her writings for many years before writing his own books and starting his own movement called “The Infinite Way”. Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, among others, give credit to Joel Goldsmith as being one of their influencers.

As I stated in my first blog, I have met many people who are on a spiritual/wellness journey independent of actual “religion”, and all these ideas can be incorporated into a way of life which helps them to progress and meets them where they are on their journey.

For me, my spiritual journey has gone through many stages and I believe that wellness comes from a trust in God and the purifying of my mind and body (what I accept in to my thoughts and in to my body). This is such a wonderful quote which sums up the connection between the mind and the body: “Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously.” – Mary Baker Eddy

It always amazes me how a spiritual teacher like Mary Baker Eddy, who was so radical, avant-garde and progressive, is now little known in modern society. She proved how, by changing and spiritualising one’s thought, it led to a change in one’s life experience. She showed her students, through demonstration, how healing was as applicable now as it was in the time of Jesus. Einstein showed a great interest in her teachings and it is said that, at a church service which he attended, he apparently stated “”Do you people realize what a wonderful thing you have?”

Two other statements from Mary Baker Eddy which have always resonated with me are: “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” and “The time for thinkers has come” (Science and Health, vii). The importance of turning to God in any situation and not accepting what others are telling us (which isn’t very easy to do in the modern age of internet and TV), but to really think and research for oneself.

I believe God talks to all of us and great inspiration comes from listening. There have been many spiritual books and movies which have “spoken” to me in different ways. These are just a few of them – I could write forever on these as there are many more, but I have just chosen a few:

  1. The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruez. These agreements are: Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions, Always Do Your Best. How great and freeing life would be if we followed all of them!

  1. “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. As the Amazon review of his book states: “Ekhart Tolle’s message is simple: living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment.” Ekhart Tolle had hit the depths of despair when he found this enlightenment and the book articulates beautifully how he found joy by living in the moment – by not being dragged into regrets of the past or fears of the future.

  1. The works of Wayne Dyer, including the movie “The Shift”. On Google Books it says that this movie “Explores the spiritual journey from ambition to meaning. “ A really beautiful movie with so much meaning and truths. He has also written 31+ other books and his talks and interviews are available on You tube.

  1. “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrnes. Both the book and the movie explain the Law of Attraction – how being grateful, changing one’s thought and choosing a path in life, can bring wonderful benefits into one’s experience. For me, it focused too much on getting “things” instead of giving. But overall, it did give readers and watchers an idea of how to attract good into their lives.

  1. “The Power is Within You” and other books by Louise L. Hay – and her wonderful box of gratitude cards.

  1. “365 Thank yous – The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed my Life” by John Kralik. This is such a great example of how powerful gratitude can be to transform one’s experience.

  1. Books by Ann Beals of The Bookmark (www.thebookmark.com). She states on the front of her web page: “Welcome to a new adventure of the mind. Never before has the Word of God been presented with such power to heal, protect and transform your life.” Ann delves deep into the works of Mary Baker Eddy and others, and has also written many books of her own.

  1. The Movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. There are so many beautiful quotes from the movie, but some of my favourite are: “Life offers a thousand chances; all we have to do is pick one”…“Regrets are a waste of time. They’re the past crippling the present.” ….“Never lose your childish enthusiasm and things will come your way.” A wonderful movie in every way.

  1. The great Oprah Winfrey. I have enjoyed her interviews with many great spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle and Wayne Dyer. My husband recently gave me her book, “What I know for sure” as a Birthday present. He knows me well as it is exactly the sort of book that I enjoy reading on a warm summer’s day (we have many of those where we live in Brisbane!). This is just one of the quotes which I loved from the book:

“What I know for sure is that every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and step out and dance – to love free of regret and filled with as much joy, fun, and laughter as you can stand. You can either waltz boldly onto the stage of life and live the way you know your spirit is nudging you to, or you can sit quietly by the wall, receding into the shadows of fear and self-doubt.

….And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”

So very true. Let’s always make the choice to dance!

Blessings.xx

Taking the first step….

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase – Martin Luther King

The world is a beautiful place, made up of billions of wonderful souls. I believe we all have an amazing story to tell, which is unique to each one of us. We all have our trials and triumphs and we make choices for many different reasons. I don’t have all the answers, but after many years of observing, contemplating and experiencing everything life has to offer, I have decided it is time to start blogging about my ideas.

I was born and brought up in Nairobi, Kenya – a country with incredible beauty and wonder, and also intense poverty and challenges. My mother spent her childhood in Africa, born to an English father (who came to Kenya in 1907 as a baby in arms) and her mother hailed from a German aristocratic family, who escaped from Nazi Germany in 1936. My father, half Hungarian and half Austrian, lost his father when he was a young child, and was brought up by his mother and very strict grandfather.  He escaped from his home country during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. A university student himself, he marched, with thousands of others, through Budapest to the parliament building, after being suppressed by the government for many years, with its Soviet imposed policies. The revolution was the first chink in the armour of Soviet rule, which eventually brought down Communism across Eastern Europe.

My father has many grueling, emotional and triumphant stories to tell of his experiences during the revolution, and throughout his childhood (part of which was during the war years) and it has certainly made him a wonderful (and at times, a somewhat eccentric) character. My brother and I are very blessed to have had two outstanding role models in our parents.

Many of my family’s experiences have had an influence on the way I think, where I want to go and where I would like my future to be.

I am a mother myself (of three beautiful children) and this, in itself, changes one’s perspective on life. Life isn’t about what I want, but it is about thinking about the needs of others. My mother has always been such a great example of putting others first and her vision led her, 10 years ago, to start a school in Kenya to help children get a good education, and thus help lift them out of poverty. Another one of her strengths is to use her never ending charm to rally around a support team to help her – hence my father (being a very experienced engineer) has designed and overseen all the building work and I am now a Director of the school. As a family, we are all very committed to helping Africa.

Over the years, my desire to travel has led me to many different parts of the world to live, and in 2007, my husband and I decided that Brisbane would be a wonderful place to bring up our family – and we are certainly very happy with our decision! We love the outdoor, sunny climate and it has a relaxed, friendly atmosphere

While I have been formulating my ideas over several years, I have made two main observations after reading widely around the web, talking to friends and family and taking a keen interest in “self help” books (I am sure these ideas will evolve when I start blogging and of course I always welcome feedback):

1) Many people are searching for something to depend on – whether they call it God, a high power or the Universe – and they don’t want to be tied in to a religion. They want to explore and experience their spiritual journey independently, without being part of an organisation.

2) Unhappiness seems very prevalent in the world. Even in places where there is affluence, this money doesn’t bring happiness, and people turn to temporary means of finding peace (whether it is through drinking, gambling, drugs etc).

On this blog, I will explore ideas on how we can “Nourish the Body and Heal the Soul”.

I believe that there is a strong connection between what one puts into one’s mind and body, and the health of the body. If we only accept positive thoughts into one’s mind, put nourishing food into our bodies and be active and vibrant, our bodies will respond positively, with less disease. With less DIS-EASE.

I will share my journey on how I am working to nourish the body (and be the best my family and I can be physically), as well as how my spiritual journey is helping me to find joy and peace for me and my loved ones. I hope these ideas can help you too. I welcome your feedback.

Please come along with me on the journey.

Blessings.xxx