Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: The Wonder-Working God:Seeing The Glory of Jesus in His Miracles by Jared Wilson

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From the very beginning of Jared Wilson's The Wonder-Working God: Seeing The Glory of Jesus in His Miracles, I was enthralled.  Wilson did such a great job of pointing the listeners (the copy I have is audio) to Jesus.  He read the Biblical account of the miracle then offered a thorough explanation that revealed numerous truths about the character of Jesus. And to aid in our understanding, he also offered  personal anecdotes throughout that I found helpful and interesting.

 I have been a Christian for many years and I have been in church my entire life, so I have heard many Sunday School lessons and sermons that reference any number of Jesus' miracles- feeding the five thousand, water to wine, raising the dead- I've even taught about them myself.  But this book goes beyond just a basic understanding of what took place during each event and explores the very nature of Jesus as he is performing the miracles.  These miracles that we have heard about for years and years lose the complacency with which we view them and instead they become amazing examples of an amazing God, so that our focus when reading about these miracles becomes about the miracle worker, and not just about the miracle.


 The book is read by the author, Jared Wilson who has an engaging voice.  And because Wilson narrates the book himself, you can hear the emotion in his voice through the reading of his personal stories as well as the love he has for Jesus Christ.  This book is for everyone who wants to know more about The Wonder-Working God, non-believer, seasoned believer, or new believer. I highly recommend this book and the audio version of it to everyone. For many people, audio isn't your thing, and that's perfectly fine. I didn't think it would be for me either, but I love it. I listen to it on the way to and from work. 

Already, last week I shared something I learned from this book while leading the devotion at our church's Women on Missions meeting.  And I've found myself referencing this or that in the book in conversations with my husband, who reminds me that he hasn't read it yet, to which I respond, "Well you really need to, because it is so good." 

And I say the same thing to y'all- you really need to read (or listen) to this book, because it is so good!

You can buy it here on Amazon or here on christianaudio.com

* I would like thank christianaudio Reviewer's Program for the audio version of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I'd love to hear from you: If you have read the book, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Love in Christ,

Alyson

Monday, August 25, 2014

Music Monday- Only Jesus from Charles Billingsley

I am so excited to tell all of y'all about the Music Monday selection today: "Only Jesus" from Charles Billingsley.


Oh man, I have been listening to this CD non-stop since I got it.  It is seriously THAT GOOD! I was chosen to be part of the Launch team for this CD and as part of that we were asked to share items that were shared with us.  For example, there was a behind the scenes video that I shared of the recording of "Jesus, Only Jesus" that features Charles (of course) and Travis Cottrell, Guy Penrod and Michael O'Brien.

That right there was enough to make me super excited about this CD!  I've been a fan of Charles Billingsley's since my first Women of Joy conference in 2009 at which he led the worship.  He has such a rich voice.  And then there is Travis Cottrell who leads worship at the Living Proof Live events with Beth Moore and who was at Women of Joy the second year I went.  And I have to say that I follow both of these gentlemen on Twitter, so I feel like we're best friends anyway (not in a creepy stalker way, but because they share snippets about their lives that are humorous and also you can see that they both have such a heart for Jesus!)  And then Guy Penrod who sang with the Gaithers (who aren't my favorite, but my husband just LOVES them).  So all that on one song- that is just fantastic anyway- was very thrilling...

But now that I have listened to the entire CD, I have to say that every song is just SO GOOD!  There are the familiar ones "Jesus, Only Jesus", "Mercy Tree", and "10,000 Reasons" but even the ones I didn't know have been easy to pick up and are already becoming stuck in my head.  It feels very much like a worship service on my way to work now! ;-) 

These songs are saturated in the Gospel and have already offered encouragement to me as well as times of praise.

Only Jesus is available for pre-order today on iTunes, Amazon, and www.charlesbillingsley.com and will be released for direct purchase tomorrow!  I highly recommend you pick-up (or download) this CD and when you do, I'd love to hear from you! You can let me know what you think in the comments below.


Love in Christ,

Alyson


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Part 3- 12 Ideas For Saving Money



This is not the conclusion post to this series(though I wish it were) because we aren't out of debt.  When we reach that amazing freedom- I will share it with you.  But until then, I will offer a mini conclusion outlining some of the things we have been doing to save money and some of the resources we've used to get discounts and free items! 




1-Coupons- I know this word makes some people cringe- I used to be the same way.  Admittedly, there are some people who are ALL about the couponing and know all the ins and outs of it.  I don't. Basically, my dad saves the coupon inserts that come out in the Sunday Paper that he used to just trash and I sit down during my lunch break and "shop" through the coupons. And also we pass them around at work!  The coupons aren't like days of old where you bought 5 of the item so you could get 1 free, most coupons offer a savings of $.25 to $1 for purchasing one of the item.  Sure there are the save $0.50 when you buy 3- but if I don't need three of them then I don't clip it because I don't clip just to clip even if they are good deals.  If they aren't things we will actually use, then I skip them. I store my coupons in a cute organizer that my husband bought me at Food Lion.  And while I am filing them I go ahead and remove expired ones or move ones that are about to expire to the front- if we need them. I do not buy stuff just because I have a coupon unless we are in need of it soon. As I mentioned before- we don't have space enough to store a lot of bulk. I know $0.25 or $0.50 doesn't sound like much, but I have saved over $30 on a single grocery trip after all the coupons were scanned!


 2-Moneysaving Apps  Ibotta, SavingStar and Checkout 51 are similar to clipping coupons, except it is all kept in your app on your phone.  And if your store has a loyalty card like VIC or MVP, you can link your card to the SavingStar and Ibotta apps so when you purchase the items you have selected in the app, and scan your card at checkout, you get the savings!  But keep in mind that the savings aren't reflected at the time of purchase, they are "banked" in the app.  When you get $5 in Saving Star you can cash it in for a $5 Amazon gift card code or another option and in Ibotta when you get $10 you can cash it in for a $10 iTunes gift card code (you can also do Starbucks, Regal Movies, and PayPal).  And if you are shopping at a store without a discount card, you can submit a picture of your receipt, like you do with Checkout 51.  Ibotta and SavingStar also have other ways, you can "shop" and save not just for grocery items but with online shopping and other stores and items.  What I love about this is that we love Amazon and iTunes, and now we can shop there for free!

3-Helpful Organizational Apps-
A:
Our Groceries- Basically, it's a grocery list- I know paper and pens do still exist.  But for me- I (pretty much) always have my phone.  Pen and paper- I lose or forget at home.  But with this app, I can just open it on my phone and type in items as I think of them that we need.  Then I check my coupon stash and take out the coupons of items I'm buying either putting them in my wallet or holding them in my hand, so I make sure I get the right thing.  And as you tap the item in the app it gets crossed off.  Another great feature is that my husband has it on his phone, and they are synced so if he adds or deletes something it shows up on mine. Occasionally, we have gone shopping together, so this has worked well in our divide and conquer- get it and get gone approach to shopping!  The best benefit to this, is that it decreases my splurge purchases- that cost extra money.  And if you pair this app with the money saving apps above and the meal planning described below- it really is so useful!

B: Key Ring app is a place to store all of your cards you keep on your key rings.  For example, CVS, Food Lion, Walgreens, Harris Teeter, Rite Aid, Sheetz, Hallmark... they can seriously bog down a key ring, but if you keep them in this app (take a picture of the front and back of the card) they can be scanned from here in the store.  Another great feature of this app, is it shows sale "papers" from stores in the area, and also special offers from businesses- from oil changes to savings at shoe stores or restaurants!  This is great if you are looking for an item and want to quickly see if a store has it on sale!

C- The Coupon Sherpa app- I don't make a purchase without consulting! There are MANY stores listed within for online and in store coupons and/or specials that are current.

4- Meal planning-  This is something I don't do enough, but when I actually do it, I really do save money.  It does take time and with a one year old and full time job, plus life, sometimes it just doesn't happen.  But the reason this is on the list is because during the meal planning phase, I discovered some quick meals that I can make with just a few ingredients.  Like tortillas for a Mexican pie or for a Parmesan chicken wrap that I discovered on Comfy in the Kitchen, Mix and Match Mama and/or Pinterest.  And the sauce used in the wrap can be used for spaghetti.  And I get the chicken strips to use in the wraps so we can use them for just a chicken strip dinner with a side of rice or something.  And there you go four meals with same main ingredients that you can use the leftovers for, instead of them being thrown out- which I think is the benefit to meal planning. And with meal planning, I use my Our Groceries app to list all the ingredients so I can make sure I don't forget something!
 
5-Pinterest- Is any list complete any more without Pinterest?! In addition to the recipes that I find from Pinterest, there are also many tips for saving money, that link you up to money saving blogs - two of my favorites are Money Saving Mom and Passionate Penny Pincher! These websites exist with the sole purpose of saving money!  I also follow their pages on Facebook, so that in my daily perusal of Facebook, I can see the great deals, discounts and strategies they share each day as they post them!  And Pinterest also provides organization hints and tips for re-purposing items and do-it-yourself things which can save quite a bit of money in the long run.

6- Collecting Change- This sounds like a no-brainer, but my husband and I have jars in our bedroom where we put our loose change. I thought we would have to roll it and all that jazz but gone are the days of counting and stacking pennies and then rolling them and taking them to the bank- it's so easy now! We took the jar to a Coinstar machine at the grocery store and simply poured the change into it and it sorted and counted it for us.  And you can get cash back with a small fee, or you can get a gift card to numerous places including restaurants (we chose Amazon, of course) and there is no fee.


7- Online Surveys: I tried other survey websites, but decided to stick predominately with Pinecone Research-  This and other sites reward you for taking surveys.  Pinecone Research is a market research company that sends surveys about new products. You can choose to cash out or save up points- I am saving up for some Duke car mats! They send one to two surveys a month (so it's not a big earning venture) but it also doesn't take a lot of time. They have a wide assortment of items- movies, gift cards, and many other rewards in their catalog.  They only have enrollment a few times a year and should I get an email about that, I'll be sure to post the link here.  Another program similar to this is Swagbucks, though it isn't just a survey company, they reward you for watching videos and searching through their search engine.  Many people have had success with Swagbucks, I just don't have the time.

8-Rewards Programs- Huggies, MyCokeRewards, Kellogg's Family Rewards and many more companies have codes that are placed on their products.  It takes a few seconds to type in the code in the website and then you begin to bank up the rewards points towards free gift cards/products.  And some programs are available through texting- so in 5 seconds you can send a text with the code without having to log into the computer.  Admittedly, I'm not as diligent about this as I should be, but I just mention the opportunity because if you are a Coke-aholic like someone I know, then you could bank up some serious rewards very quickly!  And a lot of people use rewards from programs like these and Swagbucks to buy Christmas gifts.  Think of the amount of money you spend on Christmas each year- then think of the amount you could save by giving gifts or gift cards that you got for free!

9- Launch Teams- Launch teams are a group of people who are chosen to help promote a product.  You do have to apply for this opportunity, but so far I have been part of 3 launch teams- 2 for books and 1 for a CD. I have been sent a free copy of the books and CD just for my willingness to promote it on my blog and/or social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest).  I will be sharing more about the CD "Only Jesus" on the blog later, but I am so excited about it- and not because it was free!  I am excited about being on the launch team because I get it for free, but I would have bought it anyway!

10-Email Subscriptions- Just being willing to sign up for company's promotional emails has helped me earn a lot of percentage discounts, be notified of upcoming sales and even receive offers for free or discounted products(Carter's, Lifeway, Shutterfly, etc send 20% off and 30% off emails frequently).  For example from MyCokeRewards, Kellogg's Rewards, Burlington Coat Factory and Huggies I have received email offers for a free 8x8 photo book from Shutterfly.  Obviously you have to pay shipping, but I was able to make a yearbook of Bug's first year for less than $10 total- and it was only that much because I added extra pages!  And because I had additional book orders, I made a book for each set of grandparents!  I get it, you don't want your email filled with promotions-- well that's why I created a free gmail account strictly for those type of emails.  Any time I go into stores that ask for my email, or sign up for free products, or giveaways I use that email.  And because I know that that is the only email I get there, I can quickly go on my Gmail app every day and delete the ones that don't interest me and keep the ones that do!

11- Write Reviews- I have received 2 free audio books just for my willingness to share an honest review of it.  I love reading reviews before I purchase items, and was doing just that on Amazon, when I saw the statement, "I received a free copy of this book for my truthful and unbiased review from christianaudio.com."  I thought this sounded like a great idea!  Already, I was "purchasing" books for my Kindle whenever they were on the free list.  So I applied to be a reviewer with christianaudio.com- and I was accepted!  The beauty about this is I get to listen to these books on my way to and from work (45-50 min drive each way) and I am listening to Christian authors. Win!  
 12- Read Blogs- The majority of the items on this list I discovered on various blogs here and there.  Blogs are a great way to find out things.  There are blogs devoted to recipes and saving money, and there are also blogs that are about people's lives and adventures.  And yes there are a LOT of blogs.  But many partner together to do guest blog posts or host giveaways (I have won a book and a set of  scripture tattoos just by entering a giveaway).  It was through blogs that I found out about two of the launch team opportunities.  And all the apps I mentioned above were discovered by recommendations on blogs.  People can be a great source of information!  This is the main reason I wanted to write this post.  I know that I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination at saving money, but what I do know is that one or two of these ideas may be something you didn't even know was out there and may contribute to your saving money efforts or your inclination for getting free stuff!




So there you go, these are the things we have been doing to save money here and there and also get items for free.  I know there are so many more options and I'd love to hear them so please share them in the comments below.




You can read the other parts of this story here: Part 1- New opportunity and Part 2- Why We Care About Debt.


Happy Saving!

Love in Christ,

Alyson

Monday, August 11, 2014

Part 2- Why We Care About Debt

 In my last post (that you can read here), I shared that my husband and I were trying to get out of debt and that I had become an Independent Consultant for Jamberry as a way to help pay off our debt faster.

Now I'm going to share with you why we want to be debt free.  First though, I want to make clear, that I am not speaking negatively about borrowing money or saying that at times it isn't necessary.  There are people who pay for cars and houses and all sorts of large items in cash.  I think that is AWESOME, but I don't think it is realistic for my husband and I.  

Here is our reality:  We have credit card debt, and 2 car payments.  We are currently renting a house, but we hope to buy or build a house within the next five to ten years.  We have looked at houses and dreamed, but when we realistically look at mortgage payments in light of our income and spending currently, we just can't swing it.  But, if we could remove the hundreds of dollars we pay each month to credit card and car payments we would easily be able to make a mortgage payment!

However, we don't only want to be debt free for a house, but also because it would free us up to give more.  We believe completely that tithing a portion of what God has blessed us with back to him is a way we honor and worship him.  And we also give monthly to other areas, sponsorships and programs as well as special offerings above what we tithe.  BUT, we would still love to give more.  We would love to be so financially free that we could sponsor numerous children from Uganda, and sponsor multiple mission trips and missionaries, and just be able to do more to further the Gospel and glorify God. 

So those are our main reasons.  Are we planning to buy our house in cash- No!  So I realize that there will be debt again.  But our goal is to get control of all the "snowballs", eliminate some and manage them better in the future! 

 

I think Dave Ramsey has a great philosophy.  But we aren't looking to be incredibly wealthy- you can't take a cent with you when you leave this earth!  We do, however, realize the importance of living within our means and giving to others.  And in Part 3, I'll share with you some of the tips and things we have been doing to save money.  Some, just may surprise you and some, may make you wonder why you didn't know about it in the first place!

And please feel free to share your success stories with me, I'd love to hear them!



Love in Christ,

Alyson

Friday, August 8, 2014

Part 1-New Opportunity


About a month after my husband and I were married we attended Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.  A small group from our church watched the videos together and discussed them.  And I would love to say that we actually listened to good ol' Dave from the beginning of our marriage... but we didn't.  Sure we tried to get an emergency fund, but we kept the credit card debt that I brought into the marriage from the lovely trips I'd taken as a single lady and the HUGE debt from buying a new Jeep- the vehicle I had always wanted- even though the Tracker I had was paid off and had had NO problems.
 
BUT, hindsight is 20/20 as they say, and had I known that I was going to be getting married within a year, I probably wouldn't have bought the Jeep.  And I would have paid more on my credit card and stopped using it.  Last year, we did get rid of the Jeep (and I cried) but it really was the best thing.  We aren't any less in debt, but the payments are less and it's better on gas, newer (by 2 years) and less miles-- a deal we thought and still think is pretty good.


And overall, we haven't been ignoring the fact that we are in debt, but finally, my husband and I have really decided to get serious about it.  We are putting every extra dollar we can towards the first snowball (all you graduates of Dave Ramsey's program know what I'm talking about) and once that's paid we are rolling all that over to the next and the next. We started at the beginning of this year, by making a budget and making a plan.  And we have had a snag here and there but we're trucking along.  However, one of the things that Dave recommends is the option of finding additional income to help in the process.  My husband and I both work full time jobs and my husband is also helping out at the local high school as an Assistant Football Coach.  So in looking at our options, I needed to get to work! ;-) 

Our time is pretty limited and our schedules are busy, but I know of several wonderful ladies who are involved in direct sales companies like Scentsy, Thirty-One, Mary Kay, etc on top of their full time jobs and their jobs as wives and mothers who are making some profit. I wanted something that wouldn't take too much time away from my family and something that would be fun. I don't mind talking in front of groups, so I figured parties wouldn't be a problem. But space is pretty limited at our house, so I wanted something that I didn't have to keep much inventory in and above all, I wanted to make sure this was something that God was leading us toward. So after much prayer and consideration I thought of Jamberry. Then I talked to my husband and we prayed.  Then I talked to a friend who is a consultant with them and asked many questions and looked up info online and I prayed. Then I hosted a Facebook party and prayed some more and then finally we decided that God wasn't closing the door on this and we could proceed, so I used my hostess rewards from the party to reduce the cost of my starter kit and now I am an Independent Consultant for Jamberry!  In my last post, I mentioned that there was a new development for our family that I wanted to share and that is it.

These are a couple of wraps that I have used this summer- Little Patriot and Watermelon Tip (Short).





The only reason I gave a teaser and didn't share it in that post was because I wanted to write this post- haha-- because I wanted to give you all the information in one place! So for some of you, the first question you have is, what is Jamberry?  Well, they are a Direct Sales company that specialize in nails and nail care products.  The main item that is associated with Jamberry are their nail wraps.  The wraps are made in the US, they are non-toxic, latex free solid film coverings that are applied directly to the nail using both heat and pressure. In addition to the nail wraps, they also have nail lacquers (that are like polish but are free from the toxic chemicals that regular polishes have), hand and nail lotions, application kits, and heaters to make the application process easier.
You can host in home or Facebook parties; mix and match the different styles thanks to Buy 3 get 1 free option(Lavender Sparkle, Emerald Palm, Teal Sparkle) ; and they have Jamberry Juniors for the little girls!

The reason I chose Jamberry over all the other many direct sales careers that are out there is:
1- as I mentioned, I don't have to keep inventory.  I choose to keep a few sheets and application kits because I like to give them away as prizes at parties or to have them on hand should someone need some wraps without waiting the week or two it takes for their order to arrive. (Two weeks really isn't a long time and mine are usually here in more like a week- but some times you've gotta have them now!)
2- There is a market for it. Where I live most people don't know about Jamberry at all, so there are all new people to share them with!
3-Because I LOVE having my nails covered!  I keep something on my toes year round.  I know no one but my husband and I see my toes in the winter, but it makes me feel pretty when my toes are pretty!  And the reason I love Jamberry is because I don't have to constantly do touch-ups, the wraps last over a month on my toes.  And I am I am horrible at applying polish which is why I never have my fingernails done but I love the Jamberry wraps on my fingers because when I have them on- I don't bite my nails!  It is a horrible habit that I have had for as long as I can remember and polish has never kept me from biting them, but the wraps do! Plus, one sheet of nail wraps is much cheaper than going to a salon (hello trying to get out of debt)!

And another great feature of Jamberry is even though they have over 300 different designs (and yes solid colors too, for those like my mom) you can go into their Nail Art Studio and design your own.

I designed these to wear during Football season to support my hubs!

So there you have it- the new path that the Tamer family is walking so we can one day be in the land of Debt Free! 

If you are interested in checking out the many designs that Jamberry has, you can shop around here: alysontamer.jamberrynails.net

And you may want to check out this list of wraps that are being discontinued after August 31st to make room for the new wraps in the Fall/Winter Catalog.  (The Watermelon Tip, Lavender Sparkle, Teal Sparkle, and Emerald Palm that are shown above are on the list!)


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

You can read Part 2 of our debt story here.  What are some tips/resources that you have used to get out of debt?  Or what are some questions you may have about saving money, debt, coupon-ing, etc?  I'd love to know so I can get that information together for the next post.

If you have any questions about Jamberry or debt, or thoughts you would like to share feel free to leave a comment or send me an email coveredlifeblog@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Love in Christ,


Alyson






Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer Time


Today is August 1st!  Can you believe it?  I know I can't.  Seems like it was just May and the whole summer lay ahead.  But now summer is almost over!  Now don't get me wrong, I love Autumn.  It is my absolute favorite season. But there is a lot to be said for Summer, too.  Summer means watermelons, baseball games, fireworks, family time, cook outs, ice cream, Vacation Bible School, beach, pool, flip-flops... the list goes on and on.

And though the summer isn't over yet, I have decided to share with you some of the things we have been up to, starting with the first picture which is Bug's first baseball game.  He did great- just sat in this person's lap or this person, taking everything all in- and he helped Papa eat his ice cream cone, which may have been his favorite part of the game!
 In June, TJ, Bug and I went to youth camp with our church to Myrtle Beach.  We rose early each morning for breakfast then some fun songs to make sure the youth were really awake.  Then we had small group devotions and then came back together for a time of Bible Study.  After that was lunch and free time.
After free time there was worship time and large group devotion.  It was much different chaperoning a youth camp with a one year old! But he had a buddy there to play with since another couple had taken their son- and the youth were great with them.The focus for the week was to make the decision to stand for Jesus.  Don't be a Zode in the road! (It's based on a Dr. Seuss book, see the video here.) Don't stand at the crossroads and debate back and forth about which way to take.  Don't choose the wrong path.  Choose Jesus!

While we were at camp, we got the news that TJ's brother and his wife had welcomed our precious little niece into the world! So we drove across state to go see that beautiful gift from God.  And she is so sweet, and no I did not get baby fever! ;-)

On July 4th, our family put up corn.  If you don't know what this entails, I will give the quick explanation- it is many hours (depending on how much corn you want) of de-silking the ears of corn, then washing them, then boiling them, then cooling them, then cutting the corn of the cob, if you want it loose, then bagging either the loose corn or the ears.  Basically, it took us all day.  But oh, that corn will taste so good this fall, winter and spring!

 The next week our family went on vacation to the beach for a week.  While we were there, we went to the aquarium, that Bug was just not all that impressed with yet.  But it was still neat pushing his stroller up to each tank and oohing and aaahing over all the pretty fish-ies!  This is the first time ever that my family has gone on vacation for a week and it was so much fun! My sister came in from out of state for a few days, my cousin who lives out-of-country was in town for the month, and of course the rest of us who live within 30 minutes of each other were there.  We did miss my brother-in-law who is deployed and my cousin who was taking some amazing grad school class out-of-state.  I'm thinking next time everyone has to be there and we should go Disney resort?  ;-)


Obviously, vacation is different with little ones, but with an improvised baby gate we didn't have to sit quite so on edge! And the float in the picture above made pool time lots of fun. Bug was able to get in the water and be shaded!  I got it from Amazon (of course).


A few weeks ago we were able to pack meals after church one Sunday morning, that were sent to Nicaragua. Stop Hunger Now is a great organization that is committed to ending world hunger and they are also working to provide wells in Uganda so the people there can have fresh water.    I encourage you to visit their website: www.stophungernow.org and their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/stophungernow. There is such staggering statistics and opportunities for you to be able to volunteer, please check them out!  Kids can help out... though not quite as young as Bug.  But it is a great opportunity to teach your kids about helping others.


And throughout the entire summer, I have been doing the "You Are Loved" Bible study from Good Morning Girls- and it has blessed my soul! I can't wait until their Esther study this fall! 

And there has been another new development that has occurred for our family this summer...but I'll share more on that in another post. ;-)


So, what have y'all been up to?  Have you taken vacations? Stored up fresh veggies? Served those in need?
I'd love to hear about it in the comments or you can email me at coveredlifeblog@gmail.com.

Love in Christ,

Alyson