Archive - April 2016

God is always by your side, but He’s not always on your side.

With five kids in the house some kind of conflict is inevitable. No matter how well they get along, fights still pop up from time to time.

As mothers, our instinct is often to rush to defend our children. But when you have multiple children, you’re forced to take a step back and find out what’s really going on.

A couple of years ago, my middle child came to me crying because his siblings wouldn’t let him play the board game they were playing. My first impulse was to march into the other room and tell the other children to let their brother play.

I couldn’t imagine why they would treat him this way. Middle Child is usually our most pleasant child.

And I know what it’s like to be excluded from a group.

But I went against my impulse. Instead I went to them and asked, “Why won’t you let Middle Child play with you?”

Their answer surprised me. But it shouldn’t have. Middle Child had been going through an unpleasant phase.

They told me that he was being excluded from the game because every time something didn’t go his way, he would knock all of the pieces off the board and onto the floor.

This wasn’t at all like him. This was the behavior we were desperately trying to cure our Foodie of. But there Foodie sat calm as a cucumber, while Middle Child stood accused of throwing a temper tantrum. I was in an alternate universe.

Again I wanted to question what they were saying. How could this be? But Middle Child didn’t deny it. What they said was true.

In that moment I couldn’t be on Middle Child’s side.

I wasn’t necessarily on the side of my other children either.

I had to be on the side of right.

Middle Child was wrong right then.

(WARNING: Stepping up on my soapbox.) This is why I get leery when we start calling excluding someone from a group bullying. I’m not making light of it. As I said I know what its like. Often though it’s just bad behavior that needs to be corrected. Sometimes it’s thoughtlessness. Occasionally it is a form of bullying. But other times the group is protecting itself. We need to learn to tell the difference before we start labeling children as bullies. (Stepping down now.)

I still loved my Middle Child. I still wanted to rescue him. But I also wanted, and still want, him to grow up to be a decent human being.

With that in mind I had to tell him that he was behaving badly. I had to tell him that his siblings were justified in excluding him. They were simply reacting to his bad behavior.

I wouldn’t want to play under those conditions either.

Sometimes we grownups behave badly too. Like on Tuesday morning when I was pouty and irritable with my husband. Oh I had my excuses. I hadn’t slept well, and woke up not feeling well. I had a pinched nerve in my arm… and so it went.

Basically I made it all about me. Again.

We are His daughters, and He loves us, but our husbands are His sons, and He loves them too. God can't have favorites. He can't be partial to one side or the other. He always stands for right. Just like I had to tell my son that he was wrong that day, when I am wrong God has to come along side me and say, "My dear daughter you're wrong this time."

 

Feminist ideology that makes all men bad and all women virtuous has crept into the sub-conscience of even the most conservative Christian women. When there’s conflict in our marriages our first instinct is often to defend ourselves, and to condemn our husbands.

But that makes things worse.

Sisters, we are not always going to be right. We are not always the victims in our marriages. Sometimes our husbands are going to react in unpleasant ways to our bad behavior. And we’re not being bullied or persecuted when someone is reacting to our bad behavior.

Please know that I’m not talking about abuse here. It is never okay for a man to react with physical violence. It’s not okay for us to react that way either, ladies.

I’m talking about things like avoiding coming home from work, or spending the evening on his computer. All those little things he used to do for you? Maybe he stopped because you didn’t express any appreciation. Maybe he withdrew emotionally because you withdrew physically.

Maybe he headed off to the showers without saying a word because you were pouty and irritable. Oh wait, that was me.

If we want God to fight for us, we have to be on the same side as He is. But when we’re behaving badly He can’t be on our side.

He’s always on our side in the larger sense, in that He wants what’s best for us, but when we are wrong that means He can’t take our side.

We are His daughters, and He loves us, but our husbands are His sons, and He loves them too. God can’t have favorites. He can’t be partial to one side or the other. He always stands for right.

Just like I had to tell my son that he was wrong that day, when I am wrong God has to come along side me and say, “My dear daughter you’re wrong this time.”

Just like Jesus had to get harsh with the moneychangers. (John 2:14-16) He didn’t love them any less than He loves us. Yet he made a whip with His own hands to drive them from the temple with.

Grace is a miraculous thing. But grace isn’t a license to do what ever we want. That’s turning the grace of our Lord into lasciviousness. (Jude 1:4)

And forgiveness doesn’t mean that we are free from the consequences of our actions.

There are many applications here. God can’t be on our side when we’re murdering innocents, Or when we’re celebrating a lifestyle He has said is sinful. Or when we are pridefully thinking we’re better than anyone else.

God’s primary characteristic is love, but His primary concern is justice. It would be both unloving and unjust to allow us to continue to behave in way that would harm us or someone else.

A parent must always act in the best interest of their child, and God must always act in our best interest. Even if it means He can’t be on our side.

 

Fighting the fear monster

What if the devil was right?

What if that Sunday two Octobers ago, when I had my really horrible mom fail that led to the fight, that led to the devil whispering that thing in my ear, that led to my curse-God-and-die moment, that led to never wanting to show my face again, the devil was right?

I think this when there’s another fight, and the devil comes whispering, “See, I told you this would happen. It’s all going down just like I said it would.”

The thought creeps in at other times too. Worming it’s way into my subconscious, a parasite that refuses to leave.

I hear couples say that their trials brought them closer together. But it hasn’t felt that way to me. Through this trial, I’ve felt a distance grow between us.

There have been so many times when I’ve felt myself pull away. And I’ve felt pushed away too. I’ve felt constantly needed, but not really wanted.

At least not in the way I wanted to be wanted.

But sometimes we need to let God change our wants. Oh yes, He can. If we’re willing to lay down our desires on the alter of His love for us, He will give us new desires that are so much better for us than we can even imagine.

But we get so afraid, don’t we? So afraid to let go of what we think should be, and just trust God for whatever will be.

And at the root of my urge to pull away is fear. 

Fear of the future, fear of the unknown; fear that the devil was right that day.

And what if he was?

What if it all really goes down that way?

Well, it may. It really may.

So what?

God is still God. He’s still the one that hung the stars. He’s still the one formed us from the dust of the earth. He’s the one that joined us into one flesh, for better and for worse. (Matthew 19:6)

And He’s still the one that purchased our souls with His own blood.

There is no power in heaven, or earth, or under the earth that can undo any of that.

The devil tells the truth sometimes.

But he doesn’t tell it with our best interest in mind.

When the devil whispered that thing in my ear, he had one purpose, to cause fear. The devil loves fear. He loves fear because it paralyses us.

This formless, shapeless monster pushes its way into our lives, and stops us in our tracks.

But we don’t have to let it. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The devil wants us to fear the pit in the road ahead. He wants us to be so afraid of the pit that we can’t go forward. Instead we turn back or try to find another path.

The devil tells the truth when it suits him, but mostly he makes stuff up. He’s the father of lies, and he’s a terrible prophet. He doesn’t know God’s plans.

There may not be any pit at all.

Even if there is, God still wants us to trust Him.

Trust is the cure for fear.

The cause of our fear is doubt and unbelief. When we doubt God’s love for us, and His plans for us, fear creeps in.

But He asks us to trust His love, and His goodness, even if we don’t understand.

Trust is moving forward even if the pit is there. Maybe God will make a bridge over it, or send a rope to climb out with. Maybe the bottom of the pit is exactly where He wants to meet us. 

When we trust Him enough to travel the road He’s laid out for us, no matter what lies ahead, He’ll meet us on that road and walk with us. We can trust Him with everything, and for everything.

We don’t need a backup plan.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were faced with a choice between bowing to an idol, and the fiery furnace, they didn’t make a backup plan, they didn’t hedge their bets. They stood before the king and said, “We’re all in. We’re taking the road God has for us. We believe He can save us but even if He doesn’t, we’re still going all in.”

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” ‭‭Daniel‬ ‭3:17-18‬

Of course they went to the furnace. What did they find there? The Forth Man in the fire.

The fire was exactly where God wanted to meet them. They would have lived if they had given in and bowed to the king’s idol, but they would have missed so much.

God wants to meet with us too. Maybe it will be in the fire, and maybe in the pit. But if we don’t want to miss Him, we have follow where He leads. And we have to trust Him.

When we trust with our whole hearts, there’s no room for fear.

I’m tired of the fear, and the distance. So I’m choosing to trust. I’m choosing to press in instead of pulling away.

Because when we’re finally out of this desert, I don’t want to look back on ashes. I don’t want to have missed meeting with The Master. Even if it has to be in the pit.

The devil loves fear. He loves fear because it paralyses us. This formless, shapeless monster pushes its way into our lives, and stops us in our tracks. But we don't have to let it. It doesn't have to be that way.

To the wife wishing for romance: 5 ways to find that spark again

A common complaint I hear from wives, is that their husbands aren’t romantic enough.

They feel date nights are too boring and routine, or there’s no date night at all. Maybe he doesn’t flirt with her the way he used to, or he doesn’t hold her hand anyone. One woman says her husband never brings her flowers anyone, while another says he only brings her flowers when she’d rather he did something else.

Whatever the reason, many wives are unsatisfied with the level of romance in their marriage.

I’m familiar with all of the complaints, because I used to be one of those wives.

I remember crying over a box of chocolates one Valentine’s Day, because it wasn’t what I wanted. I don’t remember what it was I did want; I just know it wasn’t the chocolates.

Another year it was the way the chocolate was delivered that set off the tears. Or rather, the way it wasn’t delivered. He said “There’s chocolate in the truck for you if you want it.” Hrmph. It turned out to be a fifty cent Hershey bar from the gas station. Hrmph. More tears.

I feel your pain ladies. I understand where you’re coming from.

While a gas station candy bar is legitimately not romantic, the truth is we women can often just be hard to please. In fact women are kind notorious for being fickle. It’s a reputation we’ve earned I’m afraid.

Most days I would say my love language is touch, but sometimes maybe it’s acts of service. On other day I might want words of affirmation, or some quality time. And sometimes he just needs to buy me something. Not out of obligation either, (e.g. gas station Hershey bar) it needs to be because he wants to. There is a difference, am I right?

All that to say: if I don’t know what I want, how is my husband supposed to know what I want?

Answer: he can’t. He’s human and he doesn’t read minds. I’m glad mine doesn’t. He’d probably be terrified if he did.

Does that mean there’s nothing you can do? Does that mean you have to give up on romance?

Not at all, but pouting and complaining won’t help. In fact it might make things worse. If he’s really trying, complaining will only hurt him and make him feel like his efforts aren’t appreciated. I deeply regret all of the “constructive criticism” I gave my husband in my efforts to make him more romantic.

But there are actually constructive things you can do.

If you’re looking to revive the romance in you’re marriage, here are five ways to find that spark again.

A common complaint I hear from wives, is that their husbands aren't romantic enough. They feel date nights are too boring and routine, or there's no date night at all. Maybe he doesn't flirt with her the way he used to, or he doesn't hold her hand anyone.

1. Learn to recognize and appreciate the way he expresses love.

Our default is to express love in the way we feel loved. It’s what we know so it’s what we do. Our husbands are no different.

Observe what he does do. Does he put gas in your car, make the coffee in the mornings, or take responsibility for pulling the kids teeth since it make you queasy? Those are all acts of love.

Maybe it’s getting up every morning and driving an hour in a car he hates, to a job he hates, so he can put food on the table.

Learn to see the value in the things he does, even if it’s not on your top ten romantic ideas list. Take note and you might just get that warm fuzzy feeling you’re looking for. Make sure you let him know you appreciate what he does.

2. Romance him.

There’s no rule that says our husbands are solely responsible for providing the romance in the marriage. In fact if your husband feels the responsibility for romance is all on his shoulders he may burn out, and stop trying all together, especially if his efforts aren’t being appreciated.

Instead of complaining, be the romantic you want him to be. If you feel like holding hands, hold his hand. You won’t be breaking any rules. Your husband might even like it.

Wish he would flirt with you? Flirt with him. He’ll probably flirt back. Unless he’s concentrating on something else right then. Timing is everything.

Instead of waiting for him to plan a date night, go ahead and plan one. Incorporate things you know he likes so that it’s about both of you. Surprise him. It’s surprising how easy it is to run out of ideas when you’re the one doing all the planning. Maybe your creativity will inspire him.

Take turns and make it fun.

3. Adjust your expectations.

Romance changes as our seasons of life change. When you were dating and first married, a night on the town might have been your ideal date.

A few years, and a couple of kids down the road, and the ideal date might be eating junk food in bed while you watch a movie.

Maybe one day when the kids are older, and you have a little more freedom, the nights on the town might come back into the picture. Or maybe something else will appeal to you then.

Learn to love the season you are in now. Embrace it, and make the most of it.

Realize also that life is not a romance novel, and your husband is not Fabio. The hero in an average romance novel or movie is seducing the heroine to get her in bed. Real life romance is meeting each others needs regardless of what we get in return. Which is pretty much the exact opposite.

4. Meet his needs.

Marriage is not just about having our own needs met. It’s about seeing that out husband’s needs are met.

It’s not our job to make sure they know what we need. It’s our job to find out what our husbands need and want and do that. There’s nothing wrong with lovingly letting him know your needs, (See number 2.) but do it in a way that doesn’t devalue what he’s already doing. (See number 1.)

Meeting our husband’s needs should be our primary focus. Whether it’s keeping the kids quiet on a Saturday morning so he catch up on his sleep after a long workweek, or stocking up on his favorite snack foods. Maybe there’s something he’s been putting off doing that you could do for him.

Or it could be just making sure to keep up with his laundry. Nothing says, “I love you” like clean undies. My husband would tell you I’m not very good at the laundry thing, but I’m trying. I promise I am.

When you see him smile because you made his favorite meal, you’ll get those warm fuzzy feelings again.

5. Realize he can’t meet all of your needs.

Our husbands are human just like we are. We can’t meet all of our husbands needs, and they can’t meet all of our needs. The only one who can meet all our needs, and satisfy us completely is God.

One thing He keeps reminding me of, is how thoroughly and completely he wants to meet our needs. He created us for companionship, and He wants to be our number one companion. All other relationships flow from this primary relationship.

If we’re walking with God, and letting Him water our souls, we’ll be able to pour some of that life giving water back into our relationship with our husbands.

Don’t rely on your husband to supply what only God can.

While none of these tips will guarantee a perfect marriage, applying these truths will go a long way toward making you both happier. God intended marriage to be picture of His love for the church, but it can only be that if both husband and wife are willing to put the other first and let God take care of their own needs.

A Godly marriage takes the power of the Holy Spirit. And to have the power of the Holy Spirit we must give our lives to Christ. If you would like to know more about that you can contact me, or click here.

I’m linking up at Tell It To Me Tuesdays, A Little R & RThe Reading List, and Grace & Truth.

 

GraceTruth-Featured

Marriage is tricky. I can’t write about that.

I had an idea for a post on marriage.

But I hesitated.

I’ve never written anything about marriage. It kind of scares me.

I’m not any kind of expert on the subject. I don’t really think I’m very good at this marriage thing at all. Some days I think I’m failing at it in every way.

Not that I think I’m an expert on anything else I write about. I’m learning as go through this life, and I’m sharing what I learn with you here.

Maybe I’ve learned something about marriage too? Maybe what I’ve learned is also worth sharing?

I had an idea for a post on marriage. But I hesitated. I've never written anything about marriage. It kind of scares me.

There’s something else too. Something I’m not sure I want to admit.

I’m a little bit afraid of myself.

I’m afraid I’ll be tested on what I say, and I won’t be able to live up to it. I’m afraid I’ll fall short. I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes.

The thing is though, no one really does. A Biblical, God honoring marriage is something that is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

If I try to do anything for God without the help and guidance of The Holy Spirit, then I’m sure to fail. Or at least only see minimal fruit, if any.

I still have to reminded of that occasionally often.

Marriage is no different. We need to walk with the Spirit daily. The Holy Spirit must be the third strand in a cord of three.

Maybe that’s the most important thing I’ve learned.

Not to rely on my own strength and my own wisdom, but to seek God’s wisdom and His strength.

It’s God who ordained marriage, and God who holds our marriages up as examples of His love for His people.

Every trial, and every hardship is there to perfect our example.

Another thing I’ve learned is the devil hates marriage. He hates your marriage, and he hates mine. He hates it because God created it and ordained it. He hates it because it represents Christ’s love and sacrifice for the church.

That’s why he loves it when we put our needs ahead of our husband’s needs. He loves it when we hold grudges and punish each other.

He’ll look for any opportunity to sneak in and plant seeds of bitterness and resentment.Don't set a place for the devil at your dinner table. He has no place in your marriage.

But we don’t have to let him in.

We are not the devil’s daughters. He has no ownership, and no authority over our lives. We don’t have to wallow in the mud with pigs, and eat their slop. We are God’s children, sanctified and set apart, a royal priesthood.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; 1 Peter 2:9

We are called out of the darkness to live in the light. The darkness has no place in our homes. Don’t invite it in.

Don’t set a place for the devil at your dinner table.

We invite darkness when we are ungrateful, when we let our anger simmer, when make our emotions more important than they should be, and when let our own needs take first place. 

Am I guilty of those things? Yes, I am. But my mistakes don’t have to define my marriage. The grace of God is greater than all my weaknesses.

If I am willing to set aside my pride, admit that I need God every hour of every day, then my life and my marriage can stand as testament to the truths of God, and to His might, and His sovereignty, and His power over Satan, sin and death. He conquered them all two thousand yeas ago, and His victory still stands.

So I’m polishing my armor. I’m getting it ready. I may be tested, but God is the owner of this household, and the powers of Hell have no authority here.

I’m linking up with Grace & Truth.

 

 

Is there one sin that’s worse than every other sin?

Is there one sin that’s worse than every other sin?

If there were, what would it be?

Murder?

Adultery?

Homosexuality?

Lying?

Idol worship?

Taking God’s name in vain?

 

All sin separates us from God. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what that sin is, we’re still cut off from enjoying a relationship with Him while we are living in our sin. But is there one sin that God finds particularly annoying?

 

Until the other day I had never seriously considered that question. All sin separates us from God. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what that sin is, we’re still cut off from enjoying a relationship with Him while we are living in our sin.

But is there one sin that God finds particularly annoying?

This thought crossed my mind while was reading recently in Matthew.

I’ve been studying the Gospels a lot recently. Lately I’ve had an intense desire in me to truly know My Savior. Not just the many great works He did while He walked this Earth, but who He is. No matter what else I might be studying, I find I just keep coming back to these four books.

Modern teachers like to paint Jesus as a happy-go-lucky, peace-nick who staged hug-ins between healing services and fish fries.

But that’s not the Jesus I find when studying the gospels.

Yes, He healed the sick. Yes, He fed the hungry. But He was so much more than just what He did. 

And He wasn’t happy all the time.

I see Him getting frustrated with His disciples when they were unable to cast out a demon. (Luke 9:41)

I see Him calling Peter Satan. (Matthew 16:23)

There’s the well-known incident in the temple. (John 2:14-16) If that happened today, Jesus would be arrested for assault and destruction of property, and made to attend anger management classes. Twitter would blow up with cell phone videos and people wondering why He had snapped, and hopping He got help.

Clearly Jesus had a full range of emotions.

But, as I was reading in Matthew twenty-three, I was struck by Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees. Over and over, these men tried to trip Jesus up by asking Him trick questions. Of course they never succeeded. After they had finally given up, Jesus lit into them big time, calling them hypocrites multiple times. He even called them vipers.

In the modern picture of Jesus, how can this be? Did Jesus not love the Pharisees? How could He verbally abuse them that way if He loved them?

Of course Jesus loved the Pharisees. He loved the moneychangers too. Just like he loves you and me.

But, loving someone doesn’t mean you approve of every thing they do. If you have children you know this is true.

Jesus experienced all of the same emotions we do. The difference is, He didn’t act on them in the uncontrolled way we do. And He was never angry without cause.

So, what cause did he have to be angry with the Pharisees?

In the gospel of Mark, there’s a clue. In the third chapter, Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath, when He encounters a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees were there watching to see if would heal the man on the Sabbath, hoping to find something to accuse Him of.

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so He asked them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days?” But the Pharisees didn’t answer. Jesus looked at them with anger, “being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” (Mark 3:1-5)

It was the hardness of their hearts that caused Jesus to be grieved, and angry.

But is a hard heart a sin?

No, a heard heart isn’t a sin. It’s a symptom of sin. There was one sin in particular that was the cause of the Pharisees hard hearts.

Pride.

So, why would pride be worse than any other sin?

First, it sets us above God in our own minds. We become our own idols, and worship ourselves instead of God. What was the first commandment God gave when giving Moses the Ten Commandments?

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3

This was serious enough to God to make it the first commandment. He didn’t mean, “no other gods, except yourself.”

This is exactly what got Satan dismissed from the presence of God.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: Isaiah 14:12-13 (Emphasis added)

The second reason is the one that caused Jesus to grieve that day. Our pride keeps us from coming to Him. Our unwillingness to humble ourselves keeps us at a distance.

If we’ve made ourselves gods, we don’t need the one true God. If we can’t admit wrongdoing, we won’t ask for forgiveness. And if we can’t admit that we need a Savior, our path to salvation is blocked. Jesus said it this way:

he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. Matthew 9:12

Another reason God may find the sin of pride so abhorrent is that our pride can keep others from coming to Him. The Pharisees stubborn clinging to their own ideas, kept people in darkness. For us, our pride puts a barrier, not only between us and God, but between us and those around us.

We damage our testimony when we, won’t ask forgiveness. Or when we continue in sin, which is declaring that we know better than God. Or when we claim we are enough on our own.

We are supposed to be shining our light for Christ, not for ourselves. We are supposed to be pointing others to him. If we are pointing anywhere, but to Christ, we’re pointing in the wrong direction.

In the next couple of weeks I hope to write a post or two on what the sin of pride looks like and why I think it is the most common sin.

Did I really just ask to go back to Egypt?

Yeah, I think I did.

I just asked to go back to Egypt.

I didn’t use those exact words of course, but close enough.

Alone in my bathroom, trying to collect myself in an emotional moment, I asked God to just put things back the way they were.

Just like the Israelites begged God to send them back to slavery in Egypt when things got hard in the desert.

I knew immediately that I shouldn’t have said it, even if it was only in my head. I knew I was being bratty again. But I did think it. in that moment, I really did just want the old life back.

This place we’re in feels like something I’m not equipped for.

While the Israelites were headed for the promised land, if I’m being honest, this just feels like wandering in desert. A journey with no destination and no point. It feels like whatever progress there was has been lost, and we’re going backwards now.

But there’s always a point, isn’t there?

My grace is sufficentGod always has a plan. Even if we don’t know what it is.

Even the wanderings of the Israelites had a point.

All of the doubt, the fear, and the unbelief had to be fleshed out. It had to be replaced with faith, trust, and hope.

I want so much to understand. I want to know God’s purpose. I want see what’s up ahead on this long and frightening road.

But we’re not called to understand, were called to trust. It’s not my job to figure things out. It’s my job put myself in the Savior’s hands, and trust Him to carry me through the mess.

The Holy Spirt gently reminded me that He’s doing a work here. All this messy, and all of this hard, serves a purpose.

And the way things used to be was just a different kind of hard.

I might not be equipped for this journey, but that’s kind of the point. It takes going though the hard places to see how much we need Him.

While the devil says “you can’t,” God gently whispers “My grace is sufficient.”

God wants to be glorified in us and through us. He said if He is lifted up He will draw all men to Him. That’s our ultimate purpose here, to draw them to Christ.

But if we’re relying on our own strength, God can’t get the glory. We lift ourselves up instead of pointing to Christ.

If I’m honest with myself, I always knew that was the point of the desert. That’s always the point.

I want so much to understand. I want to know God's purpose. I want see what's up ahead on this long and frightening road.

 

 

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