New Blog

My life has transitioned significantly. If you are interested in the ramblings of a rural farmer’s wife, check out my new blog:

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Community In Transition

Community and a sense of belonging are basic human needs. As I have been talking with several MKs (both former BFA students and other acquaintances), a recurring theme in transition is both the need for community and the difficulty in finding or creating it.

Community-figuresTCKs are used to short, intense relationships. They move to a new place and know that in order to survive, they must develop friendships quickly. They don’t have the luxury of spending time developing a long-term relationship slowly since they might be moving again soon. In order to survive, they (usually) prefer to go deep quickly. This is not to say that TCKs reveal their deepest layers completely to new friends – they just avoid superficial discussions and jump right to heart issues when forming friendships. There is no time to waste on small talk in a relationship that has a deadline. Every moment has value and must be filled with meaning and intensity.

When moving to a new place, TCKs may at first find it difficult to feel a sense of community because the people around them are not opening up as quickly as they would like. Yet it is not shallowness or an unwillingness on the part of the North Americans to form a community; it is simply a different understanding of the expected process of forming community. Expectations on “how” and “how long” differ, while the end goal may be the same.

Isolation-rainA BFA student who just moved to college in the South felt that the other students were unwilling to go deep and form community. Yet after a semester and a crazy ice storm, she noticed people starting to open up. She was feeling the need and lack of community for a whole semester, while the other students were probably approaching that semester with the understanding that deeper, rooted relationships take time to discover after they know who they can trust.

Isolation-childMy first exposure to these differences in forming community came at Black Forest Academy. Even among staff members, relationships were intense. Just like the students, we never knew whether our friends would be there for more than a year. Maybe they intended to come back the next year, but their support would run out, or a new job opportunity would present itself. There was no guarantee of longevity, so we made the most of every moment. I learned how to intentionally seek relationships and deepen community, but I also developed the expectation that relationships “normally” can form quickly.

This summer I’m getting married and moving to a place where people primarily experience relationships formed slowly over a long period of time. The concept of short, intense relationships is quite foreign. As I look ahead to being there for the foreseeable future, I find myself needing to adjust my own expectations. I cannot expect the people around me to respond to my desperate craving for community; I have to expect that community will form slowly (although thankfully I will already have a very deep relationship with one person – my husband!).

For those of you who are TCKs moving to college or a new place, try to align your expectations with the type of community you are entering. You may need to expect that your relationships will develop more slowly than your normal rate.

community-grow-slowlyJust as moving to a long-term community can pose its challenges, it can be even more frustrating to move to a new place for a short time. There is still a deep need for community, but it can be difficult for the locals who have lived there for generations to invest in a short-term relationship that is just a blip on the screen of their lives.

So what do you do when you are just in a place for a short time? Do you withdraw and rely on your long-distance, long-term friends? Do you expend all your energy trying to fit in and make social connections? Do you try to externally fit in while still feeling like an outsider on the inside? Do you scan your acquaintances and try to guess who might “get” you, and if no one does you just live an isolated life for a short period of time?


I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Isolation is never good. We were not created to live alone. We need community. We each need to do our part, whether that means seeking community for ourselves in transition, or providing community for those travelers and newcomers who enter our own well-established circles.


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Serving in Love

As Lane and I look ahead to marriage, we are setting ourselves up for a mindset of service. It all starts with our relationship with God, and spills over into our love for each other.

Christ must increase, I must decrease. Lane must become more important, I must become less important.

To live is Christ, to die is gain. I must die to myself and put Lane’s interests above my own.

To love is to lose
   In dying to my own ego,
   My love of self I lose 

To love is to gain

   In serving and loving him,
   His growth is my gain.


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Advent of The Kingdom

Advent: Waiting, longing, expecting, preparing, hoping for Christ’s coming. Am I eager for Christ’s return? Yes, mostly. Am I expecting Him to return soon? Not necessarily.

If I’m totally honest, I’ll admit that there’s a part of me that really doesn’t want Jesus to return until after Lane and I get married. Selfish, I know. The sentiments surrounding my wedding and Christ’s return should be related, though. If Jesus came today, there would be the greatest wedding feast in history. Preparing for my own wedding might give me a good analogy for the sense of anticipation for Christ’s return, but how do I actually feel that same excitement for something that doesn’t have a countdown? How can I eagerly prepare for something that could come at any time? I couldn’t even start planning my wedding before picking a date!!

Sometimes I feel like my hands are tied with regards to preparing Christ’s Kingdom because there isn’t a date – no one will know the day or the hour. But for the original advent, that didn’t stop all the prophets from waiting eagerly for the Messiah!  The story of Anna the prophetess is challenging and inspiring to me:

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Ahser. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour [when Jesus was brought to the temple] she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

She lost her husband so early, yet rather than moping around, she devoted her time to worshiping God, waiting for the redemption, and encouraging others who were also waiting. It sounds horrific to me, losing a husband (or my fiancé). It’s like losing the sense of home in a person. I would feel homeless. Maybe that’s why Anna basically lived in the temple. Anna’s life and dedication reminds me of David’s psalm, probably written while Saul was chasing him around the wilderness. David probably also felt homeless, on top of his sense of loss after Saul took David’s wife from him.

One thing have I asked of the LORD, 
   that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
   all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
   and to inquire in his temple.
Wait for the LORD;
   be strong, and let your heart take courage;
   wait for the LORD!
(Psalm 27:4, 14)

David’s life was marked by periods of waiting. He had been anointed king, but his time of “waiting” was being chased around by the lunatic jealous king Saul. Yet in the midst of that turmoil, David the man of God was content to spend time in God’s presence. He couldn’t build the temple; Solomon had to do that. David didn’t see the Messiah, but God’s presence was enough for him.

God has given us many promises. For most of us, the fulfillment of the Kingdom, the end of the waiting, anticipation, and expectation, will not come till after we die. But it will come. And He has given us the Spirit!

What do we do in the meantime? Build the kingdom. Prepare the way for our God. Unlike all the prophets before Jesus’ coming, we now have the Holy Spirit living in us, the down payment of our salvation. In the Old Testament, people were waiting and hoping for salvation. The difference now is that Christ’s kingdom is already here and spreading. With the Spirit living in us, we don’t just have to wait – we can spread Christ’s kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit.

As I work on a guest list for my own wedding, how many “guests” have I invited to the greatest Wedding Feast of all time? I’m convicted to say not nearly enough. There have been seeds planted, yes, but too many times I have held back. This Advent season, I want to be conscious of doors that the Holy Spirit is opening to invite people to His great wedding banquet!

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The “Real” world

MKs, PKs, and home- or private-schooled Christians who grow up in a Christian environment will probably experience a shock when they first move into a more secular environment. For some, this will come in college, even in many Christian colleges. For others, it may come with a career or a move to a new place. On the other hand, some MKs grew up in secular, perverse environments and will find the US a milder place. But for those who were more sheltered….

Example 1: Eastman

A former BFA student is now attending Eastman. Along with his adjustment to a competitive, challenging musical environment, he has been reminded of how shockingly vulgar people can be in the secular world.

Example 2: Professional Musician Community

An MK friend of mine from college is teaching music and freelancing in a secular environment. Unlike the Wheaton area, many of her colleagues are cutthroat, competitive, and dishonest in their dealings.

Example 3: Education

I attended a string teacher conference a few weeks ago. In my mind, music teachers are dedicated, friendly, hard-working people. They usually are in the classroom, but they are also bitter, complaining people who always have the short end of the stick and don’t mind using some colorful words to describe how unjust their situations are. I grew up in public schools, but going to Wheaton then BFA it had probably been a full 8 years since I had heard the kind of language some of them used in such a large quantity.

For college students, perverse jokes and negative attitudes can seem like a “normal” part of adjusting to college life. If the transition to a secular environment happens just after college, it can have a double effect: While the young person is adjusting to functioning as an independent adult outside the structure of an education system, he or she is also navigating the challenges of facing negative and vulgar language in the secular environment. If not handled carefully, the vulgarity can seem like a “normal” part of growing up and becoming an adult. Swear words are a rite of passage even in some edgy Christian environments. The language used can also be shocking because those adults you formerly looked up to and respected are now your swearing, back-stabbing peers.

So what should you do if you’re in a secular environment or about to move into one?

  • Guard your heart and mind ahead of time by immersing yourself in wholesome patterns of thought (Philippians 4:8).  Soak your soul in prayer.
  • Decide ahead of time what kinds of words you will and will not use. Examine your motives. If you do choose to use some swear words, why? Are you swearing because it’s socially acceptable/encouraged, or to make a point that you can only get across with a heftier word? Or, are you choosing not to swear because you look down on the people who swear, or because you believe it’s wrong?
  • Don’t conform to this world.  You may be tempted to join in with the vulgarity or bitter talk so you can fit into this new environment. Don’t do it (Ephesians 4:29). Watch out for complaining cloaked as “venting.” It only makes everyone more dissatisfied. Couple constructive criticism with thankfulness.
  • Be transformed, and transform conversation where possible (Romans 12:2). I have found that a single positive comment in the midst of a downward spiral of complaint can change the flow of conversation from bitterness to thankfulness. Similarly, a statement full of grace and truth can reverse the flow from perversity to wholesome talk. Even simply not swearing can cause others to reduce their profanity in conversation with you.
  • If you can’t change a conversation and you can tell it is changing your thought patterns, try to get out as soon as possible.

Don’t avoid secular environments – people need to see Jesus shining brightly through you in those dark places. Just be prepared, and don’t be afraid of being different.

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Don’t Judge!

In college, people swap stories as they get to know each other. It can be easy for MKs to belittle the stories of “boring” monocultural Americans. An MK or TCK might scoff at the person who is praising the beauty of Mt. Pilatus as it towers majestically over the Swiss lake Lucerne. “You call that hill a mountain? It barely made it into the Alps!” While a first-time visitor to Switzerland would likely stand in awe of the mountain’s beauty, a well-traveled teen or twenty-something might think, “it’s nothing.”

On the flip side, MKs who don’t want to sound prideful about their exotic upbringing often feel the need to conceal the uniqueness of their growing up experience, or justify themselves when they say something that was ordinary in their lifestyle but extravagant to an someone who just grew up in the US. “Where was your favorite vacation place?” “We used to go to Italy every Spring…. I mean, it was only a two-hour drive! It’s like going to Wisconsin, but warm! Stop looking at me like I have two heads!”

People who have seen more and experienced more in life find it harder to be impressed. How impressed are we with landline phones when smart phones are in our hands? And how impressive is a Model T Ford to us with the latest Ferraris and BMWs on the road? Yet we can’t discount the impact the original inventions had on modern advancements. We also can’t discount the people who live in one location for lifetimes and generations. The foundation of multiculturalism is a set of unique, firmly grounded and rooted cultures, and each of those is worth exploring on its own terms.

My message to MKs and TCKs is this: Please don’t belittle people who have “boring” lives. And please don’t belittle other MKs who have experienced less than you have. Don’t turn your life experiences into a competition and comparison; it’s empty and hollow.

As an MK, you are generally good at slipping in and out of other people’s shoes, masks, and cultures. Take a minute to put yourself in the shoes of a monocultural North American.  If you make a belittling comment, how will that make this acquaintance feel? Will they want to get to know you better, or will they be turned off and think “Wow, that MK is such a snob!”

Instead, try to see the experience through their eyes, as they tell you of the most exciting thing they ever did. If they’re telling you something you genuinely do not find impressive, don’t jump in and say something more impressive – listen to them! Remember the wonder and excitement you yourself first had when you saw the snowy peaks of the Alps for the first time, or smelled the hot, rotten-fruit and dirt smell the first time you landed somewhere on the continent of Africa. Remember your own excitement, and don’t crush theirs. The more you belittle others’ excitement about “normal” things, the more jaded you will become about your own experiences.

Another good question for reflection before you start telling of your own exotic adventures is this: Why are you saying what you’re saying? Is it to encourage someone else, or to puff yourself up? Examine your motives.

Don’t be afraid to share your stories. They’re a part of who you are! Some MKs are afraid that monocultural Americans won’t understand them or don’t want to hear their weird stories. If you think they’re too prideful to listen to you, is it possible that they think you’re too stuck-up to listen to their “boring” stories?

If you follow up a story with a question about your friend’s traditions or vacations, you’re taking interest in their lives the way they took interest in yours. Americans are not as boring as you may think! Give them a chance, see what they have to share with you, and don’t be afraid to open their eyes to some of the things you learned by living in other parts of the world. You just might learn something from them.

To close, here’s a snippet of an article written by a TCK:

I unfortunately have to admit that I do struggle with prejudice. From the world’s perspective, I am far more cultured, well-rounded, and traveled than my peers; I have been to multiple continents, countless countries, and numerous cultures. And yet I struggle with loneliness. I don’t know what it’s like to have a close group of friends and I can’t appreciate how special it is to walk through every stage of life with the same friends because I’ve never experienced that.

What I may have gained from scattering my life throughout cultures, I equally may have lost. And what someone may have lost from living in a sleepy, small town their entire life, they may have equally gained. We can learn from non-TCKs and they can learn from us – but not as long as we stubbornly cling to the belief that travel equals success, that living overseas trumps staying in one location, that being a TCK is better than being a non-TCK.

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Why gruesome sacrifices?

Lately I’ve been reading through the end of Exodus and the beginning of Leviticus. Chapter after chapter, I’m seeing dying cattle, sheep and goats, smelling the stench of blood, fire, meat, and dung, and hearing the awful crack of bones. Truthfully, it’s grossing me out. The other times I’ve read through the Old Testament, I normally come to terms with the ickiness of this section by reminding myself, “Jesus died once for all so we don’t have to do these kinds of sacrifices any more.” But a few questions still linger.

Back in Genesis, God created man in His image, breathed His living Spirit into us, and all was great in the world. Then Adam and Eve sinned. God had warned them that by disobeying Him the consequence would be death (Gen. 2:17). Why did God set it up that way? I don’t know, but from then on, the death of something else was required for the sinful humans to continue living a half-life on this earth. Animal skins covered Adam and Eve’s shame (Gen. 3:21); the Levitical law set up animal sacrifices to cover sin and uncleanness; Jesus ultimately died so humans could live a perfect eternal life in Heaven. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

But what does it say about God if not only animal sacrifices, but a single horrific human sacrifice, His own Son no less, was what God demanded? Does this make God blood-thirsty if He would only be satisfied with a blood sacrifice (an acquaintance asked me this once)? Why does the beauty of grace and salvation have to come through something so ugly and downright repulsive?

As I’ve talked with a few other people, pondered this more, and wrestled with these questions, here are a couple of my thoughts:

1. Sacrifices and blood are gross because death is repulsive to us. Blood in particular is a sign of life (when it’s still inside the body, being pumped through arteries and veins as it’s supposed to). God Himself speaks of blood when He says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Leviticus 17:11). Death is repulsive to us because we were created for life. Therefore, blood is also gross. So why did God require a gross sacrifice?

2. Sin is gruesome. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that God is far more repulsed by our disobedience than I am by cute little birds being dipped in each other’s blood. After all, the Father did turn His face away from His own Son when Jesus had all our sin on him on the cross. God wouldn’t require something repulsive if He hadn’t already been pushed away, separated from us by something far worse than a bunch of little lambs – the chasm of sin.

3. Butchers do this every day. Maybe it’s not so gross. This point won’t help vegans and vegetarians, but for anyone that loves a good steak, the scenes of sacrifice in the temple might actually be a little more acceptable. Plus, the priests were supposed to kill the animals in the most humane way possible (i.e. not make them suffer). It’s not animal cruelty.

4. These are livestock, not pets. Sacrificing a cow is kind of like taking your first paycheck of every month and burning it. It seems wasteful, but it’s that concept of giving the firstfruits to God. It makes a statement – “I’m not relying on my income (or my livestock), I’m relying on God to provide.”

 Feel free to comment other ideas or insights you may have, or corrections if you think I’m way off!

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Holding Fast

A paradox of the Christian life: In order to have, we must let go. And yet we also must hold fast.

Rather than grasping things, creatures, ideas, and idols, we need to hold fast to God, the Creator and sustainer of all truth, life, and love who breathed life into the dust, the clay of our bodies.


Adam and Eve grasped the forbidden fruit. Yet even now, our family relationships are patterned after their example of marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Wedding HandsAs Christians, we have a similar kind of unity with one another through Christ. We are one body because we “hold fast” to the Head (Colossians 2:19). We cling to God, and as we do so, we might actually get along with others.

We are also commanded to hold fast to God (Deuteronomy 10:20), to the Word of Life (Philippians 2:16), to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21), our confession (Hebrews 4:14), and what we have until Jesus comes (Revelation 2:25). There’s a tenacious quality to our faith. No, we  don’t squeeze Truth to death or grasp what we know so it can’t breathe; rather, we hold fast to our lifeline, the truth of Jesus Christ. Our lifeline pulls us up for air, breathes the Spirit into our lives. Like roots that hold to the soil, we abide in Christ so that we can bear fruit in the Spirit.

Holding Fast

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As I listened to Gungor’s latest album “I am Mountain,” the theme of grasping kept coming to mind, both grasping in the knowledge sense and grasping with a tight fist. Lyrics to all the songs can be found here.

The second track, “Beat of her Heart,” has been fascinating me ever since I heard it.  This song is based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. I love a good song that tells a moving story. The icing on the cake is that it’s in a minor key with interesting instrumental parts!

Here is an excerpt from Michael Gungor’s blog post  about it:

If you don’t know the story, here’s the gist of it… There’s this musician named Orpheus who deeply loves his beautiful wife, Eurydice.  One day, Orpheus is playing his lyre and she is so moved by his music that she begins dancing through a meadow.  She is watched and pursued by a satyr. (Which I guess is some sort of freak-goat-man-thing) She runs from him, steps on a viper, gets bit and dies. Orpheus is deeply grieved and begins to sing so beautifully and mournfully that the gods weep and convince Orpheus to travel to the underworld to retrieve his beloved wife. On his arduous journey, he uses his music to convince the powers that be to give her back. Consent is given but only on the condition that he must walk in front of her without looking back until both had reached the upper world.

All he has to do is walk out of there and not look back.  Sounds easy enough, right?

Yet, how you can he not look…? . . .

“My mind was a tempest, my doubt was a storm
I turned back to see if she really had come
Just as our eyes met, she faded from sight
That’s when I knew I would never find the beat of her heart
Or the song in mine”

Man.  What a story.

I get it.  I too have a hard time trusting authority figures. . . . And I have experienced great loss as a result of that part of my skeptical soul.”

To grasp, to understand and know that his wife was behind him, Orpheus looked back. In looking and knowing, he lost.


Disclaimer: These are my own impressions based on the album, not necessarily Gungor’s own intended message. 

Throughout the rest of Gungor’s album, I hear the band expressing how far we really are from grasping knowledge of everything in the universe, yet holding on to God when the knowing seems out of reach. In this fallen world we have an obsession with many things; we often go to war to gain what we want. We kill and destroy human life to gain, we grasp material resources that slip through our fingers as we lose the most valuable resource – human life. We destroy what we love, want, and already have by grasping too tightly.

Adam and Eve grasped the fruit, grasped knowledge of good and evil. In grasping, they lost the Knowing of the Creator, their God. They lost the walks with God in the cool of the day, the knowledge of an innocent trust in the One who formed them out of dust. How many times have we expressed a fruitless anger at them? Yet wouldn’t we, too, have picked the forbidden fruit?

My boyfriend told a story from his childhood when his mom gave him a cute, fuzzy baby chick to hold. She told him to make sure he didn’t drop it. Instead of holding gently and firmly, he grasped tightly. The poor chick didn’t stand a chance in his hands. In grasping, in holding too tightly, he lost what he was trying to protect. He still mourns the poor chick’s life, and learned that when he grasps too firmly, he destroys what he loves.

We humans are in the habit of grasping and letting go at the wrong times. Yet Jesus, the perfect human, knew when to let go and when to hold fast.

Philippians 2:5-7 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

Jesus was God. He was equal with God. Yet He did not grasp His authority so tightly that He would lose it. Reading the passage of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4, I see a Jesus who knew so firmly that the world was already His, that He did not need to greedily grasp His divine authority to prove it.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matt. 4:8-10).

The devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms and their glory, but Jesus refused to prematurely take them by underhanded means. He had the right and authority to have bread, angels, kingdoms and glory, but did not grasp them by bowing to Satan. Instead, He obeyed the Father’s will, ultimately submitted to a disgusting, painful death, “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

That throne shows that Jesus has glory and authority. He didn’t need to bow to Satan’s whims to obtain it; He already had it – He just had to wait, endure, and suffer to obtain it.

We, too, are supposed to run with endurance (Heb. 12:1). Not grasping doesn’t mean we have a lazy faith, or a blind faith that accepts easy Sunday school answers, but a faith that allows us to wrestle while resting in the knowledge that God knows all.

The Christian faith is a paradox. To live, we must die. To be first, we must be last. To have, we must let go.

Open hands

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Summer’s gone

Fall has officially begun. Fall is my favorite season. This time of year normally means it’s time for BFA to start – but not for me any more. The change of season reminds me of the change in my own life season.

The summer’s gone, and all the flow’rs are falling
‘Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow

You might recognize that snippet from Danny Boy. The words echo my own feelings as other BFA staff members have left the US to return to Germany. It’s their turn to go and mine to stay. It is true, though, that they will come back for summer break, or at Christmas time when the valley is hushed and white with snow. As I see stories popping up on Facebook and BFA staff members’ blogs, I miss them, and I miss doing life with them in the little valley of Kandern.

At the same time, I have been experiencing intense feelings of joy about being in the Midwest again for this Fall season. The air smells different in every location, and there’s something about the crisp, dry Fall air in Illinois that I have missed! I have missed raking leaves, lying in the cool grass in the yard, and watching squirrels collect their store of nuts (and other odd things). I have missed seeing yellow school busses, my dog sleeping in the sun, and family dinners on Sundays after church.

The summer memories of seeing BFA people are fading. Reflecting back, I realized that I have been blessed to see BFA people in every state I visited. I’ve seen my BFA friends in Wheaton & West Chicago IL, Minneapolis MN, Denver CO, Louisville KY, New Albany IN, and Seattle WA. Travel has tired me out. I’m ready to settle down and stay here in Illinois (and Minnesota!!!)

Chicago Wheaton Minnesota Wedding reception in Kentucky/Indiana

Juggling multiple jobs and taking trips to Minnesota mean I’ll always be busy, but I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow to greet any BFA person that comes my way.

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